April 19, 2018

Warner, Kaine Call On Trump Administration To Examine Risks Of Offshore Drilling On Military Assets In Hampton Roads

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis sharing Virginia’s concern over the risks of offshore drilling on military assets in Hampton Roads. In the letter, Warner and Kaine raise concerns about how drilling would affect military activities in Hampton Roads, given the region’s deep national security footprint. They also ask if the Department has conducted a comprehensive study assessing the specific challenges the proposed five-year drilling plan may create for military activities in the region. They highlight that Hampton Roads is home to the largest naval installation in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, and has more than a dozen other DOD installations across all service branches.

“We are concerned that allowing offshore drilling in this area would create new challenges for the region’s DOD installations and the activities taking places on and around these waters. In late 2015, we were briefed by DOD on a new map that showed three types of areas impacted: 1) areas that definitively would conflict with military activities, 2) areas that could accommodate drilling with certain stipulations, and 3) areas that are all clear. According to that brief, the Virginia OCS has more acres that meet the first two categories than the third,” the Senators wrote.

Kaine and Warner have also raised concerns about the threat of offshore drilling on the environment and tourism 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. Kaine has traveled to Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore to meet with local elected officials and military personnel, as well as industry and community leaders, to talk about their concerns over the Administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling.

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

April 19, 2018

The Honorable James Mattis

Secretary of Defense

1300 Defense Pentagon

Washington, D.C. 20301-1300

Dear Secretary Mattis:

We write to share our concerns regarding the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Draft Proposed Program to authorize drilling leases on the mid-Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Virginia.

Though we have shared our concerns with BOEM and the Interior Department, we would also like to share with you some particular concerns related to the Department of Defense. In particular, we would like to inquire whether you have conducted a comprehensive study assessing the specific challenges the new 5-year plan may create for military activities in the Hampton Roads region and the Virginia offshore.

As you know, the Virginia coastal region of Hampton Roads has a deep national security footprint. It is home to the largest naval installation in the world at Naval Station Norfolk and more than a dozen other DOD installations across all service branches. Along with tourism and international port commerce, national security is a longstanding pillar of the regional economy.

We are concerned that allowing offshore drilling in this area would create new challenges for the region’s DOD installations and the activities taking places on and around these waters. In late 2015, we were briefed by DOD on a new map that showed three types of areas impacted: 1) areas that definitively would conflict with military activities, 2) areas that could accommodate drilling with certain stipulations, and 3) areas that are all clear. According to that brief, the Virginia OCS has more acres that meet the first two categories than the third.

To further illustrate this point, we are enclosing a presentation from the former commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk summarizing the complexities that offshore drilling rigs would create for military activities on the Virginia OCS. We would also note that Florida, a state with similar geography and a similar DOD footprint, was previously removed from the drilling lease schedule.

We have concern that drilling in the region would overall create unnecessary risks. We hope DOD will carefully scrutinize what allowing Virginia OCS drilling would mean for regional military assets.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner                                                                                Tim Kaine

U.S. Senator                                                                                       U.S. Senator

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