In Case You Missed It:
Would Help, Not Hurt,
Hampton Roads Economy
By: U.S. Sens. Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Rep. Scott Rigell
June 27, 2013
Objection! A response to editorials published on and .
The Pilot recently editorialized on efforts to develop coastal energy off Virginia's shores, including bipartisan legislation we've proposed in the House and Senate.
We'd like to address some of the concerns raised by this commentary.
First, no one wants to see another Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) affect any Hampton Roads installations, and we've received no indication from the Pentagon that expanding the energy industry in Virginia would put Hampton Roads, or any other area of Virginia, at additional risk. Further, Congress has clearly stated that a BRAC is not necessary, and no evidence has been provided to Congress to show why one is needed. Earlier this month, both the Senate and House Armed Services committees declined to authorize another BRAC round in the next fiscal year.
The truth is that military-related jobs in Virginia are at risk due to sequestration and a sluggish economy, not because we may soon develop our offshore energy resources. While federal defense dollars provide much of the foundation of the Hampton Roads economy, we're trying to create other industries that can keep our region competitive. We will continue to work closely with military partners to ensure that Hampton Roads remains the best place to move or grow a command or train for critical military capabilities.
Concerns regarding the impact on military training in our region are understandable but not irreconcilable. The bills we have proposed in our respective chambers specifically provide that no energy exploration may conflict with critical military operations. Pre-existing agreements between the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense already provide a process for removing tracts of the lease sale that would conflict with military operations, and our legislation includes a specific provision to address this issue by ensuring that the Pentagon must review any exploration (including wind, solar and fossil fuels) to ensure that there is no conflict. In the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, Eglin Air Force Base has figured out a way to work cooperatively with the industry to ensure that activities do not interfere with military training. We can do the same in Hampton Roads.
Finally, we agree that any energy development must include the necessary precautions to protect our environment. That is why Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) exploration, development and production are governed by several laws. The government plays an important role in ensuring that these laws are followed and conducts an average of 20,000 to 25,000 inspections each year on operations in the federal OCS.
We support this effort because it would diversify our local economy and create thousands of jobs for Virginians while generating tax revenue to improve our schools and roads. It's also supported by the local NAACP, the Hampton Roads Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, a Republican governor, an independent mayor, two Democratic U.S. senators, and a Republican congressman. We can't remember an issue that has attracted such broad, bipartisan support.
Unquestionably, there will be areas of concern to address as we move forward in developing coastal energy. If it were easy, it would have been done already. But we also know that the opportunity that comes with coastal energy is too great to ignore.