Virginia governor asks Salazar to postpone scheduled OCS lease sale

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine asked US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to postpone a federal Outer Continental Shelf lease sale currently scheduled for 2011 in a Feb. 19 letter.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine asked US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to postpone a federal Outer Continental Shelf lease sale currently scheduled for 2011 in a Feb. 19 letter.

The US Minerals Management Service put an OCS lease sale off Virginia's coast into the 2007-2012 five-year plan after Kaine signed a comprehensive statewide energy plan into law. But the governor said in his letter to Salazar that the law supports "federal efforts to determine the extent of natural gas resources 50 miles or more off the Atlantic shoreline, including appropriate federal funding for such an investigation.

"Our policies do not support exploration for oil or production of gas or oil, which would be allowed under Lease Sale 220," he continued.

Kaine said that he applauds Salazar's decision to extend the public comment period by 180 days for a proposed five-year OCS plan which then-secretary Dirk A. Kempthorne launched at the end of July in response to record high crude oil prices.

"As I understand it, that five-year plan includes three areas off the Atlantic Coast. I have consistently called for [MMS] to consider the Atlantic Coast as a whole, rather than singling out a particular state for a lease sale," the governor told Salazar.

"I believe that no lease sale should be conducted in the Atlantic until the process that you have outlined for the five-year program is complete. During that time, I look forward to Virginia being able to continue a dialogue with MMS as we address the challenging issues related to production of offshore energy resources," he continued.

Kaine sent a copy of the letter to US House Resources Committee on Feb. 23, a day before the committee held the second of three OCS hearings, and asked that it be included in the hearing's record. Rahall mentioned it during the Feb. 24 hearing.

One of the witnesses at that hearing, Virginia State Sen. Frank W. Wagner, urged Rahall to work with Salazar to keep the lease sale in the current five-year plan. "I just drove up from Richmond where Virginia is attempting to close a $4 billion deficit. This Congress has authorized revenue sharing with the coastal states as part of opening up more areas of the [OCS}. We sincerely hope you continue the program," said Wagner, who led efforts to make an OCS lease sale part of the state's comprehensive energy plan.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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