Trade groups voice support for leasing off Virginia

The National Ocean Industries Association and seven other industry trade groups issued a statement supporting the US Mineral Management Service's formal solicitation of comments about leasing off Virginia.

Paula Dittrick
Senior Staff Writer

HOUSTON, Jan. 14 -- The National Ocean Industries Association and seven other industry trade groups issued a statement supporting the US Mineral Management Service's formal solicitation of comments about leasing off Virginia.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and other state officials indicated an interest in limited development off Virginia's coast. For decades, federal law limited Outer Continental Shelf leasing to parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

The public comment period for initial information gathering for a proposed OCS Shelf Lease Sale 220 ended Jan. 13. The comment period had been extended 15 days from an initial deadline of Dec. 29, 2008.

The call for information does not indicate a decision to hold a lease sale, MMS said. Rather, the comment period marks the first step in a multiyear leasing process to decide whether to hold a sale, which is proposed for 2011.

During that comment period, NOIA and other trade organizations suggested MMS consider including the entire Mid-Atlantic OCS Planning Area for lease.

Trade groups involved
The comment was signed by representatives from NOIA, American Petroleum Institute, American Exploration & Production Council, Independent Petroleum Association of America, the International Association of Drilling Contractors, Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association, International Association of Geophysical Contractors, and the US Oil & Gas Association.

"While we support leasing in the area identified in the notice, we strongly urge that the area identified for analysis be increased to include all of the Atlantic OCS planning areas, or at least the entire Mid-Atlantic planning area," said a Dec. 14 comment to the MMS from the groups.

An expansion of the area identified for analysis in the notice would allow MMS to gather information for the entire Mid-Atlantic planning area, the groups said. This information would be useful to MMS, to communities involved, and to industry in making decisions on future resource allocations, the groups said.

They also urged that the 50-mile coastal buffer zone be eliminated and that any future environmental impact statement to be done on proposed Lease Sale 220 consider what the groups called the oil and gas industry's "exemplary environmental and safety record."

There has not been a major spill of any type from an OCS production platform in nearly 30 years, the groups said.

The MMS 5-year leasing plan includes a setback of 50 miles from the coast. But the industry groups said they believe all areas of the OCS should be available for leasing and development of oil and gas.

"These areas can be developed in an environmentally safe manner with a minimal impact on coastal communities. The industry uses advanced technologies to minimize the impact of offshore oil and natural gas developments on coastal areas," the groups said. "By using improvements in technology related to subsea completions and directional drilling, the industry is able to minimize or eliminate potential visual impacts associated with permanent offshore platforms and structures."

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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