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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
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~ In a letter to Sec. of the Interior, Attorney General Herring cites threat to coastal communities, environment, and military assets in opposing proposed plan to allow drilling off Virginia's coast ~


RICHMOND (February 1, 2018)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring today urged U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to terminate his plan to allow offshore drilling off the coast of Virginia, citing the objections of the state and local governments and the unacceptable risk to the Commonwealth's coastal economies, environments, and military installations.


"The Commonwealth of Virginia and our coastal communities have made it abundantly clear that we are not interested in putting our economy and citizens at risk as part of President Trump's giveaway to oil and gas companies," said Attorney General Herring. "Oil and gas spills could threaten the Chesapeake Bay, tourism, aquaculture, and military operations in Hampton Roads, all industries and assets that are vital to the success of our entire Commonwealth. Moreover, the reasons that Sec. Zinke supposedly exempted Florida from the drilling plan apply equally to Virginia, and yet the Trump administration is still planning to force drilling on us. I can't help but wonder what would be happening if President Trump's golf course was on the Atlantic instead of the Potomac. We are making our objections abundantly clear now, and I will be prepared to take further steps, including legal action if necessary, to protect our coastal communities."


The proposed drilling program would, the AG's letter states, "create multiple problems for nearly everyone who participates in or benefits from our states' coastal and maritime economies. At a minimum, three million jobs across America depend on the ocean and coastal economy, which generated more than $350 billion in gross domestic prosperity of our states. It also endangers the unique ecologies of our shores and state ocean waters."


Specifically, in Virginia, the proposed plan would threaten the Chesapeake Bay, military installations including Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia's $1 billion coastal tourism industry which supports 45,000 jobs, and its seafood industries which support thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in economic activity.


Not only does this plan put at risk jobs and our environment, it also demonstrates disregard for the voices of the people of Virginia. Governor Ralph S. Northam and local governments including Virginia Beach and Norfolk, as well as private citizens in Virginia have made their opposition to this plan clear, including through the Department of Interior's commenting process. Meanwhile, the State of Florida has apparently received a carve-out from this plan from Sec. Zinke, via Twitter, for supposed reasons that would apply to Virginia, as well.


Joining Attorney General Herring on today's letter are 11 other attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Rhode Island. Attorneys general on the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Maine have signed on to the letter.


Earlier this week, Attorney General Herring joined his colleagues from Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, North Carolina, and New York in submitting comments to the Department of Interior's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement opposing proposed weakening of the agency's regulations governing safety systems for offshore oil and gas production.  The purpose of the regulations, updated and implemented in 2016 after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, was to reduce the environmental and safety risks associated with offshore drilling.


"Even as we work to prevent drilling off our coast, one thing we should all agree on is that any offshore drilling, no matter where it's done, should be done in accordance with the highest safety standards to protect workers, waters, and coastlines," said Attorney General Herring. "The Deepwater Horizon disaster is still fresh in our minds, and its effects will be felt for generations. There is absolutely no reason to rollback these important protections less than two years after they went into effect."