Green Cities

Virginia prohibits leases for offshore oil and gas drilling

Jim Deppe is a resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is an advocate with Lynnhaven River NOW and the Virginia Coastal Alliance.

In an important victory for environmental policy, this week the Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that prohibits leases for offshore oil and gas drilling in Virginia waters. With this bill, Virginia joins New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Florida in standing against the detrimental effects of Atlantic oil exploration and drilling.

The Virginia Coastal Alliance — which includes many national, state and local organizations, as well as Earth Day Network — has worked tirelessly to engage legislators nationally on the importance of preventing offshore drilling. A lot of carbon is under coastal Virginia’s seabed, and our goal is to ensure it stays there.

Offshore drilling is not only a threat to Virginia’s tourism economy, the integrity of U.S. Naval offshore operations and the growing spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Island. It also endangers the delicate marine and estuary ecosystems of the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, as well as the recreation and commercial fishing industries. 

Coastal Virginia is particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change. Already, the region experiences increased coastal flooding from sea level rise. It’s time for the state to make bold moves against fossil fuels, and this bill is a vital first step.

The bill also sends a strong message opposing offshore drilling, hopefully inspiring lawmakers of other coastal states to pass drilling prohibitions. Legislators in South Carolina and Massachusetts have introduced similar bills, and Virginia’s actions may provide the necessary momentum for these bills to pass. In Virginia, we will continue to encourage lawmakers to pivot to renewable energy sources such as solar and offshore wind.

That said, our climate and coastline remain in danger as the current administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management considers selling drilling leases off the Atlantic Coast.  Virginia, and our neighbors on the coast, must continue to pressure our national government to ban offshore drilling and move toward a future of renewable energy. 

On April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, millions will take to the streets to demand change from legislators. Where will you be? Register to join the EARTHRISE movement for the future of our planet, and sign up to receive updates.