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Brian Moran: Long Fighting to Protect our Coasts

by: Eileen

Mon Apr 27, 2009 at 08:00:41 AM EDT

bmoffshoreIn May 2007, Brian Moran held a press conference on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach to announce his opposition to drilling for oil and gas off Virginia's coast as included in the Federal 2007-2012 Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program announced by the Department of the Interior's Mineral Management Services (MMS) on April 30. He was joined by Mike Town, Virginia chapter director of the Sierra Club, Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorff, and former Virginia Beach council member and DEQ director (and now House of Delegates candidate) Peter Schmidt.  This press conference was held prior to a 60-day public comment period that concluded on July 1, 2007. "Great stuff, every Democrat should oppose drilling off Virginia's coast", wrote Lowell at Raising Kaine.  "In fact, EVERYONE should oppose this cockamamie idea".

Virginia's enrollment in the Federal 2007-2012 OCS program started in February 2005 when the Virginia General Assembly passed Sen. Frank Wagner's SB1054 calling for offshore natural gas exploration and urging lifting of the Congressional ban on OCS development.  It passed 37-0 by the Senate (Deeds voting in favor) and passed 54-43 by the House (Moran voting against).  But despite Governor Warner's veto of SB1054 in April 2005, it was still communicated to MMS that Virginia somehow supported offshore drilling in August 2005 and in early February 2006 it was announced that Virginia - alone on the entire Atlantic coast - had been enrolled in the proposed 5-Year Plan for OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

Eileen :: Brian Moran: Long Fighting to Protect our Coasts
Thus the offshore drilling train was already out of the station by the time Sen. Frank Wagner introduced SB262, establishing an energy policy for the Commonwealth.  This bill among many other things (including creation of the Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium which is currently studying Virginia offshore wind energy development) introduced in Jan. 2006 included provisions for both offshore natural gas and oil exploration.  In March 2006, SB262 passed 31-6 by the Senate (Deeds voting in favor) and passed 74-21 by the House (Moran voting against).  With passage too large to sustain a veto, Governor Kaine instead amended the bill, striking exploration and development of offshore oil from the bill.  Moran voted in support of the Governor's amendments to Virginia's new Energy Plan.

Nothing within Virginia's Energy Plan has had any effect on MMS who since Feb. 2005 has kept Virginia enrolled in the 2007-2012 program for OCS development of both oil and natural gas. The Final 5-Year Plan and Draft EIS for 2007-2012 OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program was released in April 2007.  Secretary Kempthorne then approved it effective July 1, 2007.

Then in August 2008, President Bush lifted the presidential ban on OCS drilling.  And effective October 1, 2008, Congress allowed the almost 30-year old moratorium on offshore drilling to expire.  On Nov. 12, 2008, MMS issued a Call for Information on Virginia Lease Sale 220, scheduled now for sale as soon as 2011.

As it is right now, there is absolutely nothing preventing Shell Oil from buying up Virginia Lease Sale 220 and drilling for anything it wants, oil and/or natural gas.  This continues despite pleas for exploration of natural gas alone from Gov. Kaine, in congressional testimony by Delegate Al Pollard, and by letter from various congressional representatives to include Rep. Jim Moran.  For there is no leasing scenario or regulatory framework that would permit development of natural gas and not simultaneously promote the development of offshore oil if it were discovered.

"Q15: The Commonwealth of Virginia indicated interest in possibly having gas-only leasing, as part of Virginia's Energy Policy as defined in Virginia Code ยง 67-300. Is that an option?

A15: No, gas-only leasing is not currently an option because the OCS Lands Act does not allow for leasing of and exploration for natural gas only, as it authorizes 'oil and gas leases' under section 8 (43 U.S.C. 1337). Additionally, there are technical and engineering challenges to gas-only leasing including maintaining appropriate reservoir development and determining what would happen if oil was found."

Source: Federal Minerals Management Service Virginia Q&A.

It is not only ridiculous to believe that MMS will change its policies, amend its laws, and abide by Virginia's mandated wishes, but it is also ridiculous to advocate for the lesser of what is two evils - natural gas.

The only thing positive about natural gas as opposed to oil is that it is a cleaner burning fuel, i.e., less global warming pollution.  Drilling offshore Virginia for it, however, is no less destructive to both the environment and our coastal economy.  The Accomack Board of Supervisors, the Navy, NASA, and Orbital all going on record in opposition to offshore drilling didn't stipulate its support of offshore gas.  They said "no" to all drilling off Virginia's coasts. Rigs are rigs.  Drilling activities are drilling activities.

From the Sierra Club's Fact Sheet "Myth of 'Gas Only' Leasing":

The adverse impacts of seismic testing for petroleum deposits using high intensity airguns in arrays towed by survey ships are well-established and would still occur whether the exploration is being conducted in a search for gas or for oil deposits. Studies indicate seismic surveys have led to whale beaching and stranding incidents and can also affect commercial fish distribution, abundance and catch rates over a large geographic area.

Once exploratory drilling commences, the toxic drilling discharges and other routine drilling impacts are similar for either oil or gas exploration and eventual oil or gas development. Drilling operations produce huge quantities of waste. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of drilling muds routinely discharge toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Produced water contains dangerous levels of carcinogens and radioactive materials such as benzene, toluene and arsenic.

The shoreline processing infrastructure for offshore natural gas requires industrialization within the coastal zones of affected states, using installations similar to onshore storage and processing facilities including miles of pipelines and roads and other industrial apparatus like ports, helipads, and dorms.

Sale of Virginia Lease No. 220 could occur on the next Governor's watch as MMS guns for 2011 as its anticipated auction date.  As Shell Oil comes in to Virginia with its permit applications, the next Governor will be a position to either deny or approve those applications. Considering his longtime fight against any and all offshore drilling, I know Governor Moran will throw every monkey wrench available to him to stop Shell Oil.  There is nothing in Sen. Deeds' history on the subject to prevent me from thinking he will not support both development of oil and natural gas.  Terry McAuliffe has voiced support of exploration for natural gas, which while compliant to Virginia law that the Federal government has deemed virtually irrelevant, it still runs contrary to the interests of environmentalists, the Navy, the Accomack BOS, NASA and Orbital as tremendously threatening to our coastal environment and economies.  

Fake Virginia also adds to the dynamic fueling McAuliffe's position on offshore drilling. Like I said, Virginia's offshore drilling train first started out of the depot in 2005.  It's been almost 4 years of a very public process in which repeatedly the public has been giving multiple opportunities to speak out on offshore drilling.  Where has Terry been?  Could the collection of campaign donations from Big Oil otherwise prevented his speaking out?

The choice is clear.  To protect our Virginia beaches from the ravages of offshore drilling, vote for Brian Moran on June 9, 2009.

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