Virginia Leads the Way for East Coast Offshore Drilling

Offshore drilling legislation was signed into law yesterday by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is positioning Virginia to be the first East Coast state to drill for oil and natural gas in Atlantic waters, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

However, the bills' future will ultimately be determined by the federal government and Congress' support to drill on the outer continental shelf.

Ahead of the Interior Department's decision on whether to approve the sale of oil and gas leases off the Virginia coast, the signed legislation signals the state's endorsement of offshore exploration and its desire to create more jobs tied to the energy industry.

One of the bills signed into law would direct royalties from offshore drilling back into the state's coffers, with 70% of the funds earmarked for transportation and the remaining amount allocated to a renewable energy consortium and to localities, the AP report noted.

"We're sending an important message that Virginia is ready to go -- and there should be no reason for Washington to delay approval of the offshore lease sale and eventually exploration and drilling," McDonnell said.

Potentially up for auction by the Minerals Management Service, the triangular tract of oil and gas leases situated offshore Virginia and totaling 2.9 million acres is estimated to hold some 130 million barrels of oil and 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.