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Virginia Lawmakers Still Support Offshore Drilling

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By Sabri Ben-Achour

The environmental impact of offshore oil exploration will be the subject of public meetings held by the federal Mineral Management Service in Norfolk today. Environmental groups are expected to make clear their opposition to drilling.

J.R. Tolbert is with Environment Virginia, he points to the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and says drilling off the coast of Virginia would be disastrous.

"We don't want to see a situation where 42,000 gallons of oil are being spilled a day into our ocean ecosystem, threatening the economy of coastal Virginia and the plants and animals and everything else that rely on that ocean habitat," says Tolbert.

Virginia's republican governor and both democratic senators continue to support the idea. Senator Mark Warner:

"Because there was an accident in the Gulf, to suddenly say that means we're no longer going to look at any offshore oil and gas drilling, would be short sighted," says Warner.

Warner says the spill highlights the need for safety inspections and environmental impact studies - and actual drilling requires multiple assessments. Right now Virginia is on track to be the first state to see new oil and gas exploration off its shores.

The Department of the Interior plans to lease close to 3 million acres of seabed out to a private bidder. That process is expected to start in 2012. Actual drilling is an estimated 7 to 10 years away.

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