VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — “No upside” and “unconscionable” were just two of the comments Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) heard Monday morning at a meeting regarding the possibility of offshore drilling off the Virginia coast.
The Trump administration wants to expand offshore exploration and drilling in virtually all waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, however Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced last week that he would grant Florida’s request for an exemption. Kaine wants the same for Virginia.
Kaine met at the Hilton Garden Inn with leaders from local government, the military, tourism and environmental groups. All of the participants oppose offshore drilling.
Two local military experts say all five service branches use our waters as a training range, so offshore oil platforms could have a devastating effect on our ability to maintain our military presence.
“Any sort of a crimp or a compromise in that training is an adverse effect,” said Craig Quigley of the Hampton Roads Military Federal Facilities Alliance.
Joe Bouchard is a homeland security consultant and former commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk. Bouchard says if Virginia gets drilling while Florida has an exemption, Florida will use that leverage against Hampton Roads. Bouchard says Florida has been trying to take away one of our carrier battle groups for years.
“The economic loss from losing a carrier battle group greatly exceeds any conceivable economic gain from offshore drilling.”
Representatives from the Virginia Aquarium warned against the potential damage to whales, turtles and other sea life.
The city’s Revenue Commissioner Phil Kellam told Kaine that tourism accounts for more than $100 million each year, about a quarter of all tax revenue.
Long time owner of the Breakers Resort, Jimmy Capps says he fears the unknown.
“What happens if one of them bursts or has a leak? If it were to happen in the middle of our tourist season, it would be devastating.”
Kaine left the meeting with his own opposition to drilling reinforced.
“It just puts too much of what makes Hampton Roads work at risk to contemplate offshore drilling.”
Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman (R-Montross) supports drilling as a means to boost jobs and promote energy independence.
The US Interior Department will hold hearings in Richmond on January 17 and in Washington on February 22. Kaine says he will try to get two more hearings scheduled – one each for Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore. The public comment period will last until March 9.