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McDonnell: Let Virginia drill, baby, drill

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Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell hasn’t even moved into the governor’s mansion yet, but he’s already putting the heat on the no-drill establishment in Washington. Developing Virginia’s offshore resources – including wind farms - will be a top priority in his administration, McDonnell said in a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazer.

Pointing out that 15 months have elapsed since Congress allowed the Bush-era moratorium on offshore exploration and drilling to expire, McDonnell said that “virtually no progress has been made at the federal level” to allow Virginia “to be the first state on the Atlantic seaboard to explore and drill [for oil and natural gas] beginning in 2011.”

“Virginia is eager to get started,” McDonnell added. Especially since the extra royalties represent one of the few ways to raise revenue that still honor the Republican’s pledge not to raise taxes.

A 2005 Old Dominion University study predicted that offshore natural gas production alone would create 2,578 jobs in Virginia over the next ten years and result in $271 million in state and local taxes – at a time when the commonwealth is facing a $4.2 billion budget deficit. And that’s not even taking into account the 500 million barrels of oil also believed to lie off Virginia’s coast.

With other states in similar financial straits, McDonnell likely won’t be the only governor pressuring the Obama administration to let them harvest their own natural resources.