Here's the letter:
The Honorable Kenneth Salazar
Secretary of the Department of Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Mail Stop 7229
Washington, D.C. 20240
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are writing to state our support for the development of oil and gas resources off the coast of Virginia, specifically for the Minerals Management Service’s (MMS) Lease Sale 220, scheduled for 2011. In the 110th Congress, then-Senator John Warner and Senator Webb jointly sponsored legislation (S.3147) to allow the Commonwealth of Virginia to conduct energy exploration activities in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), with revenue-sharing provisions, a view that we share today.
Support among Virginia's political leadership for the development of oil and gas resources is strong. Virginia's governor, Robert F. McDonnell, as well as members of the General Assembly from both parties, recognize the potential benefits to the Commonwealth and to our nation. Therefore it is understandable that recent media reports highlighting additional delays are a source of frustration to Virginia and to a nation that is looking to turn around the economy while simultaneously addressing energy security.
In October 2008, months after S. 3147 was introduced, the 26-year federal moratorium on OCS oil and gas exploration expired. We believe the time has come for implementing the intent of this legislation by going forward with Lease Sale 220 in a more expedited manner. We understand that additional steps must be completed for this sale to occur, including the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Sale 220, and potentially a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement that would allow seismic surveys of the Atlantic OCS by private entities. But we would urge you to promptly commence these steps in order to ensure that the Virginia Lease Sale is conducted in a manner that is timely and consistent with the interests of the environment and our national security.
If accomplished with a fair and equitable formula for sharing of revenues between the federal and state government, Lease Sale 220 will attract well-paying jobs to the Commonwealth to support a range of projects, from the transportation sector to coastal restoration. Further, it holds significant promise for boosting needed domestic energy production. The MMS estimates that the Sale 220 area could contain 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 130 million barrels of oil.
Over the next 20 years, U.S. demand for energy is expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.4 percent. Lease Sale 220 would be part of a comprehensive approach to meeting our critical energy challenges. The offering of 2.9 million acres 50 miles off the coast of Virginia would significantly improve Virginia’s and America’s energy security, as well as assist in meeting growing energy demands. Improved technology that allows for minimally invasive drilling techniques many miles off shore and out of sight from Virginia's coastline can provide oil and natural gas in an environmentally sustainable manner.
We look forward to working with you to ensure that this resource is developed in a timely fashion, through a fair distribution of revenues between the federal and state government, and in an environmentally sound manner.