Virginia senators ask Trump Administration for offshore drilling meetings in Hampton Roads

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2013, file photo, a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter flies over the Kulluk, the Shell floating drilling barge off Kodiak Island in Alaska's Kiliuda Bay, as salvage teams conduct an in-depth assessment of its seaworthiness. Citing the disappointing results from an exploratory well in 2015, and challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment, Shell abandoned drilling in U.S. Arctic waters. The Trump administration is pursuing petroleum lease sales in Arctic waters but an analyst says potential bidders may find other areas more attractive. (James Brooks/Kodiak Daily Mirror via AP, File)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Democratic Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner to hear from Hampton Roads residents on offshore drilling.

The senators are calling for meetings in Virginia Beach and on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, so that residents voice their opinions on a proposal from the Trump Administration to expand drilling.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D- Va.), left, speaks WAVY reporter Chris Horne on Jan. 15, 2018 at a public forum on offshore drilling. (Credit: WAVY/Walter hildebrand).

The senators say these two areas would be directly impacted by this move. The Trump Administration’s new five-year plan could open new areas of gas and oil exploration off the East Coast.

Drilling in those areas has been blocked for decades.

The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Republican Govs. Rick Scott of Florida and Larry Hogan of Maryland asked President Donald Trump to remove their states from consideration in the plan.

Kaine has voiced opposition to the plan, saying offshore drilling would detract from the key presence of NASA on the Eastern Shore.

Earlier this week, Kaine and Warner sent a letter to the Trump Administration to add Virginia Beach and the Eastern Shore to be added to a list of places where the Department of the Interior have planned in-person meetings.

Kaine on Monday met will local leaders in Hampton Roads, including Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms. Read the full letter below:

Dear Secretary (Ryan) Zinke:

We request you add public meetings in Virginia Beach and on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as part of the public comment period for the Draft Proposed Program of the proposed 2019-2024 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program.

While we appreciate the scheduled meetings in Richmond and in close proximity to Northern Virginia in Washington, D.C., it is important for residents of Virginia’s coastal areas to have the opportunity to attend meetings in their own communities. The Hampton Roads region is a major population center. Virginia Beach is in fact Virginia’s most populous city, followed by its neighbors Norfolk and Chesapeake (Richmond is 4th). This region has no currently scheduled public meetings, and the Eastern Shore is even more isolated from the announced meetings.

The regional economy in Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore relies heavily on sectors potentially affected by offshore drilling – Department of Defense installations, the Port of Virginia, tourism, outdoor recreation, fishing, oyster and clam aquaculture, and other federal facilities like NASA-Wallops. Residents of this region would be most directly impacted by a change in offshore drilling policy, and their significant concerns deserve to be heard in person.

You stated in your announcement removing Florida from consideration for offshore drilling that “Local voice matters.” We strongly agree. That is why we request Virginia coastal localities be granted the opportunity to make their voices heard.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Warner

Tim Kaine