Opinion – Unlock energy potential for Virginia and nation, Randall Luthi

With bipartisan passage of the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act, Doc Hastings and the U.S. House of Representatives charted a course for safely developing American oil and natural gas from our oceans. We can provide new jobs, increase state and federal treasuries and enhance our energy security.

The bill targets policies blockading the economic expansion of offshore energy and demands transparency. The bill's lease sale for offshore Virginia reflects bipartisan support, including Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and the Virginia Beach NAACP.

All states with energy production offshore will share the resulting revenue - the same opportunity enjoyed by Gulf states.

This state revenue-sharing is not a hit on the U.S. Treasury. Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, billions of industry-generated dollars are sent to the Treasury annually.

Currently, more than 85 percent of our federal offshore waters are closed to leasing. There is no federal or state revenue generated from offshore oil and gas production from royalties, rent or bonus bids outside of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

This bill changes that. More access means more revenue for states and the federal government.

To realize these national opportunities, we must allow industry to use modern seismic technology. The Interior Department is conducting an environmental review that will decide if these surveys in the Atlantic Ocean move forward.

Undertaken with extreme care to protect dolphins, whales and other marine life, seismic surveys use compressed air to create sound waves that reflect back to the surface. Seismic surveys are also necessary for siting of renewable offshore energy facilities.

Seismic surveys have been used around the world for more than 40 years without any documented harm to animals. We haven't surveyed the Atlantic in more than 30 years, so the existing data was gained in the era of the Walkman.

Thanks to an amendment from Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act calls for timely completion of Interior's review so Americans are no longer blindfolded from seeing the Atlantic's energy potential.

Alas, these lofty goals could be grounded before they ever take flight. The Obama administration's National Ocean Policy envisions ocean zoning, whereby prospective offshore energy resources could be locked away without congressional oversight.

The policy is redundant, since the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act already provides a clear, publicly driven process for determining offshore oil and gas leasing, requiring extensive coordination among federal and state officials and considering multiple uses of the ocean.

To date, the administration has not provided Congress with an accounting of taxpayer dollars spent on implementing this ocean policy. Rep. Bill Flores amended the bill to ensure that the agencies regulating the offshore industry don't spend another dollar on these activities and abide by the same transparency called for in OCSLA.

By encouraging modern science-based estimates of our offshore energy potential, opening new areas to possible development and halting policies aimed at limiting America's energy potential, the Offshore Energy and Jobs Act capitalizes on the extraordinary opportunity facing America.

Technological breakthroughs allow us to harness energy more safely and with less impact to the places humans and marine life call home.

While renewable energy enters the U.S. grid, we will continue to rely on traditional energy sources for decades. The Energy Information Administration estimates that by 2040 oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear will still account for 87 percent of our energy.

The good news today is that jobs and revenues are up, and oil imports are down. But this growth is in spite of - not because of - federal policies, with 96 percent of the recent increase in domestic oil production occurring on state and private lands.

Opening the Outer Continental for production would sustain 1.2 million jobs and generate $1.3 trillion over the next 30 years.

True energy security is within our grasp, if we're only willing to reach for it.

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