Spanberger Leads Push to Prevent Offshore Drilling in Virginia, Highlights Threats to Commonwealth’s Economy

The Congresswoman is Leading an Amendment to Block Potential Oil and Gas Leasing Off the Coast of Virginia

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today led a charge in the U.S. House of Representatives to prevent offshore oil and gas drilling that would be disastrous for Virginia’s economy.

Legislation considered on the U.S. House floor this week — the Strategic Production Response Act — would prevent use of America’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) until the administration agrees to drill more oil and gas on federal lands — potentially including offshore leases — by an equal percentage of the amount taken from the SPR. If offshore leasing is opened across the Atlantic seaboard, this change would mean damage to Virginia’s economy, coastal communities, and environment.

To make clear her concerns about this proposed policy, Spanberger introduced an amendment to the legislation that would block new oil and gas leasing in any tract located off the coast of Virginia.

Ahead of the U.S. House voting on the Strategic Response Act, Spanberger spoke on the Chamber’s floor to express her opposition to offshore leasing for oil and gas near the shores of the Commonwealth. Click here to watch her remarks, and a full transcript of her comments is below.

As a proud Virginian, I rise today in defense of our region’s coastal communities, our nation’s military and defense equities, the Chesapeake Bay, and the economy of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

I am concerned that the legislation under consideration today would open the door to drilling of oil and gas off the shores of Virginia – something that has never been done before and something staunchlyopposed by Virginians.

Offshore oil and gas drilling poses a grave threat to our economy, our natural resources, and America’s military infrastructure along Virginia’s coast.

Virginia’s economy relies heavily on deepwater port commerce — and offshore drilling operations would severely impact these industries. 

According to one report, offshore drilling could jeopardize approximately 86,000 Virginia jobs, as well as roughly $4.8 billion dollars in Virginia’s GDP from coastal tourism, commercial fishing, and aquaculture alone.

And according to NOAA, in 2016, Virginia’s commercial seafood industry collected more than 440 million pounds of seafood with a value of close to $300 million dollars. This driver of Virginia’s economy could be threatened under the overarching legislation considered here today.

I also want to point out that Virginia’s Wallops Island could come under threat. Wallops Island is home to space infrastructure that enables NASA missions — but offshore drilling could undermine decades of federal, state, and local economic development efforts related to our space program.

Virginia’s spaceport has bolstered the local economy to the tune of $820 million dollars annually — and it has provided thousands of jobs in our Commonwealth. Back in 2015, NASA raised the alarm bells about offshore drilling, releasing a statement that read, and I quote, “The presence of either temporary or fixed structures at or below the sea surface…would have significant detrimental effects on our ability to conduct aerospace test activities.”

Offshore drilling in Virginia has been shown to be a critical national security risk. According to a study published by the United States Department of Defense, anyoil and gas leases off the coast of Virginia would disrupt military operations, training, and testing activities considered to be vital to U.S. national security and readiness.

Finally, I am deeply concerned about the environmental impacts that offshore drilling could have in Virginia. As the largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake Bay has been recognized by Congress as a “national treasure” and has been under federally funded clean-up efforts since 1965. The Bay is home to more than 3,600 species of plants, fish, and animals — several dozen recognized as threatened or endangered.

Over the last several decades, we have made tremendous progress in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Virginians do not want to risk a disaster like the Deepwater Horizon Spill.

What’s more, I am also concerned about more regular releases of crude oil that occur in offshore operations. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports that spills from platforms, pipelines, and other offshore oil infrastructure release, on average, 157,000 barrels of oil annually. These releases would destroy many of the environmental gains that have helped revitalize Virginia’s economy, Virginia’s coastal communities, and the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

I urge my colleagues — from those in Virginia to those across the country — to vote to protect Virginia’s fishermen, farmers, coastal towns, beaches, and natural beauty — and importantly, our national security — by voting yes on my amendment.

Spanberger’s push to prevent offshore leasing off the Commonwealth’s coasts is supported by organizations focused on Virginia’s economy, environmental interests, and long-term commitment to the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.

“Offshore drilling would expose Virginia to potentially devastating threats,” said Peggy Sanner, Virginia Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “A major spill would shatter the local economy, decimate marine life and sea bird populations, and pollute the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay, undoing decades of restoration efforts. Communities up and down the coast and across Virginia are opposed to offshore drilling. We thank Rep. Spanberger for making it clear that oil and gas drilling should never be allowed off Virginia’s coast.”

BACKGROUND

Spanberger has long worked to protect Virginia’s natural resources, economy, military installations, and coastal communities from the impacts of offshore drilling.

In 2020, Spanberger joined a majority of the Virginia delegation in pressing then-President Trump to extend a moratorium on offshore oil and grill drilling to the Commonwealth of Virginia. This letter followed former President Trump’s decision to exempt three states led by Republican governors from his administration’s plan to open more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing. Additionally, it followed more than 20 Virginia communities officially voicing their opposition to offshore drilling — including the cities of Virginia Beach and Norfolk.

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