WAVY: Bill to open up offshore drilling in some Atlantic waters passes House, heads to Senate


A bill currently on Capitol Hill, the Strategic Production Response Act, has passed through the House of Representatives on a party line vote and is now in the Senate.

It would offset drawdowns from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve with the opening of corresponding gas and oil leases on federal lands and in federal waters. That includes a grid of lease plots that extend between 200-300 miles from the Atlantic Coast.

Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-VA, 2nd District) of Virginia Beach voted in favor, but says an order made by the Trump administration known as the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act would protect Mid-Atlantic waters until 2032.

“The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) was designed for natural disasters and emergencies, not as a surplus when gas prices are too high,” Kiggans said in a statement. “I was proud to vote for H.R. 21 because draining our reserves does not reduce energy prices for working families in the long run.”

The bill passed 221-205 in the House Jan. 27. Every Republican voted yes, and every Democrat voted no except for one.

Kiggans stated that draining strategic reserves “shifts energy production overseas to countries like China and Russia. That emboldens our adversaries and drastically increases global emissions”.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA, 3rd District) said the potential risk with offshore drilling far outweighs the potential reward.

“That risk is real, and it’s not worth the modest if any economic value,” Scott said. “There was a lot of support (for offshore drilling) early on. But gradually as people have thought about it, it’s just not a good idea.”

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA, 7th District) also opposed the bill and doubts it will come to a vote in the Senate any time soon. She was able to get an amendment approved that “shall not include oil and gas leasing in any tract located off the coast of Virginia.”

Spanberger said offshore drilling would put the environment, the fishing industry and tourism in jeopardy, but that’s not all.

“It would be an absolute risk towards the United States Navy and certainly they’ve been vocal,” Spanberger said. “NASA and Wallops Island have been clear in the risk that comes from offshore drilling.”

The American Petroleum Institute gave 10 On Your Side this statement on the broader topic of off shore drilling in general:

“Maintaining a strong offshore leasing program is critical for advancing U.S. energy security and conservation, strengthening our economy and ensuring producers can continue to provide the reliable energy that our country needs. API will continue to work with policymakers to unleash access to our nation’s vast natural resources and support the responsible development of federal lands and waters.”

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) also oppose offshore drilling.

“I’ve heard again and again from Virginians connected with the military, tourism, and other industries across our coastal communities that offshore drilling in Virginia poses too great a risk to our economy and well-being,” Kaine said in a statement.

Said Warner in a statement: “The Senator is working in Congress to carry out the wishes of the people who represent and live in coastal Virginia, and therefore he is opposed to opening up coastal Virginia for offshore oil and gas production,” a statement read from Warner’s staff.”

Kiggans vice-chairs the House Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries.

“I am excited that I will be able to help shape policies impacting our environment in Southeast Virginia,” Kiggans said in her statement. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and our local partners to support common-sense solutions regardless of party that will help us ensure the health and prosperity of our treasured natural resources.”

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