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Groups Applaud Drilling Hold off VA Coast

May 28, 2010

RICHMOND, Virg. - President Obama's announcement Thursday to cancel the proposed lease sale off Virginia's coast means that exploratory oil drilling will be put on hold for now. While it's still difficult to comprehend what the environmental and economic costs of the BP oil spill will be, the decision has many environmentalists cautiously optimistic.

Marilyn Heiman, director of the Pew Environment Group's U.S. Arctic Program, says that no new oil leasing, exploration or production should take place until the president's independent commission completes its process and reforms are implemented.

"What we learned from the Gulf spill is accidents can happen, and so we have to do everything in our power to make sure that prevention is the number-one priority."

JR Tolbert, advocate with Environment Virginia, says the president's decision is a step in the right direction, and the disaster in the Gulf should be a huge wake-up call for the people of Virginia.

"Virginia's coastal economy and our environment in that area is a driving force for the entire Commonwealth. The coastal tourism industries and the fishing industries generate more that two billion dollars for Virginia's economy on an annual basis."

Tolbert believes a permanent moratorium on off-shore drilling is the only way to ensure a disaster such as the Gulf oil spill will never happen in Virginia's coastal waters.

The Obama administration cited environmental concerns as well as concerns raised by the Department of Defense as reasons for the temporary moratorium. Similar action was taken for the Arctic coast and a six-month moratorium was put in place for all other off-shore areas. Gov. Bob McDonnell does not support the decision.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA