Washington, D.C.– The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) appreciates that the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (DPEIS) for the Mid- and South Atlantic G&G Activities announced by the Department of the Interior is an important first step toward potential energy exploration and development in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
“Since the areas have been largely unexplored for over two decades, due to executive and Congressional bans, the chance to conduct G&G activities there using modern-day technology is a welcome step,” said NOIA President Randall Luthi. “However, when it comes to oil and gas exploration, it appears the Department has given the offshore industry a canoe with no oars, since there are no lease sales planned anywhere off the East Coast in the upcoming 2012-2017 OCS leasing plan.”
In the case of Virginia, despite the strong bipartisan support for offshore oil and gas exploration from the Governor, the Legislature, both Senators, and a majority of the Congressional delegation, the administration cancelled lease sale 220, originally scheduled for 2011, and left the planning area off the coast of Virginia out of the 2012-2017 plan altogether. The DPEIS also does not include the North Atlantic Planning Area at all.
“With no hope of conducting even exploratory drilling anywhere in the Atlantic OCS until 2018 at the earliest, it is tough to envision a high level of industry investment in costly G&G activities,” said Luthi. “With $4+ gasoline at the pump and growing public support for offshore drilling, including 80 percent of Virginians, according to a recent poll, the administration’s policies may leave many American citizens and businesses adrift for at least 5 more years. It is long past time for the administration to join the majority of Americans and the majority of Virginians and stop blocking a Virginia lease sale.”
Despite the absence of a Virginia lease sale in the Administration’s 2012-2017 OCS Leasing Plan, several bipartisan legislative efforts in Congress are underway to authorize a Virginia lease sale, including legislation which has already passed the House. If directed by Congress, a lease sale could be authorized earlier than 2018, despite its exclusion in the administration’s leasing plan.