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Gulf Coast Oil Spill Prompts Skepticism of Va. Drilling

By: Liz Palka Email
By: Liz Palka Email
The Associated Press

In this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning Wednesday.

The Associated Press In this aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning Wednesday.

April 29, 2010

Residents along Louisiana's coast are rushing to prepare for a disaster they can see and smell coming.

The giant oil slick from an exploded well is making its way to shore, giving new fuel to critics of plans to drill for oil off Virginia's coastline.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has been pushing for drilling off the coast of Virginia, not just to make the Untied States more energy independent, but also to create more jobs in the commonwealth.

Some say the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is proof that drilling so close to home isn't wise.

Drilling 50 miles from the Virginia coast is a move President Barack Obama approved about a month ago.

"This announcement is part of a broader strategy that will move us from an economy that depends on fossil fuels and foreign oil to one that relies more on homegrown fuels and clean energy," Obama said on March 31.

McDonnell says money gained from offshore drilling could be used to help the state's transportation needs. He said on a Richmond radio show Thursday morning that the oil rig explosion in the gulf is a setback, but that safety issues will be addressed.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., agrees.

"We're at just the beginning of what will be a seven- to 10-year process, and so I think [we need to learn] the lessons of what went wrong in the Gulf and how to prevent that from taking place in the future," Warner said.

The Charlottesville-based Southern Environmental Law Center remains skeptical of the drilling, saying the oil spill in the Gulf is an example of what could happen in Virginia.

"The fact that this could occur gives great pause because most of the federal government has been saying that our techniques have been so much more advanced that the risk of spills are much much less," said Kay Slaughter of the center.

McDonnell said the drilling could begin off the Virginia coast in 2012 and added that the oil rig and drilling technology will have to be looked at to make sure it is as safe as possible.

Reports came out Thursday that the oil spill in Louisiana could affect Obama's offshore drilling plane that includes Virginia, but nothing officials has come from the White House yet.

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