The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

After Long Delays, Obama Takes Tiny Steps Toward New Drilling


Credit where it is due: President Obama’s Interior Department has taken a tiny step toward exploration for oil and natural gas off the coast of the Eastern seaboard from Delaware to Florida:

For the Atlantic, the administration released a draft environmental review outlining a 330,000-square-mile area from the Delaware Bay to Cape Canaveral, Fla., where seismic surveys could be conducted. The administration has no current plans to allow drilling in the Atlantic, though Mr. Salazar said that could change in light of the surveys.

Of course, this is after about a year’s delay. You can hear the “about time, guys” tone in the statement from Virginia governor Bob McDonnell:

It is encouraging that Secretary Salazar visited Virginia today to announce a small step forward in the development of our offshore energy resources. Unfortunately this small step forward follows many previous steps back. Virginia was poised to become the first state on the east coast to produce oil and natural gas offshore. This breakthrough would have led to the creation of thousands of new jobs in our state, generated significant new revenues for state and local governments, and led to more domestic energy production. Instead, this Administration cancelled Virginia’s scheduled lease sale for 2011, and pushed any possible lease sales to 2018, at the very earliest. With gas hitting $4 a gallon that seven-year self-ordered delay is more noticeable than ever. We should be looking for every opportunity to safely produce more domestic energy. Our citizens need the jobs; our nation needs the energy. Instead, the Obama Administration declared a seven-year timeout. That was the wrong decision. There is broad bipartisan support in Virginia for developing our offshore energy resources and Virginians support this common sense policy. We will continue to aggressively seek the lifting of these federal limitations on offshore oil and gas development. These decisions are leaving private capital that could be invested in expanding our domestic energy resources on the sidelines at a time when private investment in business expansion and job creation is so urgently needed to heal our ailing economy.

While we continue to be incredibly disappointed by last year’s decision, I do want to thank the Obama Administration for their announcement today.

Of course, seismic surveys are only the first step in developing any energy resources off the Eastern seaboard. Actually, I shouldn’t say any energy development; Virginia’s just given approval to another form that is supposed to be a source of bipartisan agreement. Now it’s up to the federal government:

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has voted unanimously to approve proposed construction of a 479-foot-tall, 5 MW offshore wind turbine generator prototype in the lower Chesapeake Bay, three miles off the coast of Cape Charles, Va. The construction of the prototype turbine is scheduled to be completed in late 2013, which could make this project one of the first offshore wind energy prototypes in the U.S.The wind power project now requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and review by the U.S. Coast Guard.

And one other bit of reasonably good news:

Separately, the Interior Department approved Royal Dutch Shell’s oil spill response plan for Alaska’s Beaufort Sea on Wednesday.Shell is working to begin drilling off Alaska’s coast this summer after repeated regulatory delays for the company’s Arctic exploration program. Shell will still need well-specific permits before it starts drilling. Interior approved Shell’s response plan for Alaska’s Chukchi Sea earlier this year.

So, after weeks of insisting that the U.S. can’t drill its way out of its gas-price problems, the administration takes a step to approve drilling in one previously verboten area and a tiny step towards drilling in another one. Why, it’s almost as if the line the president was touting on the trail proved to be erroneous, and suddenly reached its expiration date . . .

Tags: Barack Obama , Gas Prices , Ken Salazar


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