McDonnell welcomes Obama’s “change of heart” on offshore drilling 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday said he welcomed President Obama’s call to expand domestic oil production — though the direct impacts on Virginia and the potential for oil and gas exploration off its southeastern coast remain unclear.

Facing political pressure and ever-increasing prices at the pump, Obama on Saturday said he was directing the Interior Department to conduct annual lease sales in Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve and speeding up the evaluation of oil and gas resources off the Atlantic coast.

He also called for an end to $4 billion in annual taxpayer subsidies for the oil industry.

McDonnell, speaking from Seoul, South Korea, as he finishes up a trade mission to the Far East, said he was “very disappointed” in the Obama administration’s decision to institute a moratorium on off-shore drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year, but said that to extent Obama’s remarks indicated a change of heart, “I’m happy about that.”

Virginia had been first in line to take advantage of the administration's decision to open up parts of the eastern seaboard for oil exploration before the oil spill scuttled the plans.

McDonnell said he thought recent actions of the House of Representatives – which passed three bills that would re-open oil exploration in the Gulf and off of Virginia’s coast – helped drive the president’s position.

“I think he’s coming to both the political and economic realities that responsible offshore drilling has got to be part of the mix,” he said.

McDonnell has consistently favored an “all of the above” energy approach, noting also that offshore wind development is developing too slowly, and that the last time a nuclear power plant was built in the U.S. was 25 years ago.

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David Sherfinski

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