January 18, 2018

Kaine & Warner Ask Trump Administration To Add Offshore Drilling Meetings In Virginia Beach & On Eastern Shore

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke asking him to add public meetings in Virginia Beach and on the Eastern Shore to give local residents the opportunity to share their opinions on the Trump Administration’s offshore drilling proposal. These two areas, which would be directly impacted by this decision, are not currently included on the list of 23 locations where the Department has announced in-person public meetings. Earlier this month, the Trump Administration decided to open nearly all of United States waters to new oil and gas drilling, and while Zinke has since announced Florida will be excluded because of local opposition, the Administration has made no such commitment to Virginia.

“While we appreciate the scheduled meetings in Richmond and in close proximity to Northern Virginia in Washington, D.C., it is important for residents of Virginia’s coastal areas to have the opportunity to attend meetings in their own communities,” the Senators wrote.

At these meetings, participants can talk to Department staff, ask questions, share concerns, and submit written comments, which the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) says it will take into consideration for its analyses of the program.

“The regional economy in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore relies heavily on sectors potentially affected by offshore drilling – Department of Defense installations, the Port of Virginia, tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, oyster and clam aquaculture, and other federal facilities like NASA-Wallops. Residents of this region would be most directly impacted by a change in offshore drilling policy, and their significant concerns deserve to be heard in person,” they added.

On Monday, Kaine sat down with Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, local elected officials, hotel and restaurant industry leaders, regional military advocates, and regional conservation leaders such as the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to listen to local concerns over the Administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling. Kaine and Warner have raised concerns about the threat of offshore drilling on the environment, tourism, and naval operations in Hampton Roads and have called on President Trump to listen to local voices in Virginia and exempt the Commonwealth from this proposal, as the Administration has done in Florida.

The full text of the letter appears below:

Dear Secretary Zinke:

We request you add public meetings in Virginia Beach and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as part of the public comment period for the Draft Proposed Program of the proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

While we appreciate the scheduled meetings in Richmond and in close proximity to Northern Virginia in Washington, D.C., it is important for residents of Virginia’s coastal areas to have the opportunity to attend meetings in their own communities. The Hampton Roads region is a major population center. Virginia Beach is in fact Virginia’s most populous city, followed by its neighbors Norfolk and Chesapeake (Richmond is 4th). This region has no currently scheduled public meetings, and the Eastern Shore is even more isolated from the announced meetings.

The regional economy in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore relies heavily on sectors potentially affected by offshore drilling – Department of Defense installations, the Port of Virginia, tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, oyster and clam aquaculture, and other federal facilities like NASA-Wallops. Residents of this region would be most directly impacted by a change in offshore drilling policy, and their significant concerns deserve to be heard in person.

You stated in your announcement removing Florida from consideration for offshore drilling that “Local voice matters.” We strongly agree. That is why we request Virginia coastal localities be granted the opportunity to make their voices heard.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner                                                                                           

Tim Kaine

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