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Virginia Offshore Drilling Bill Passes U.S. House

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This bill, H.R. 1230, is part of a broader set of bills to promote drilling.

H.R. 11230 passed on Thursday, and requires the Department of the Interior to open Virginia's coast to drilling. Two remaining bills being considered in the house would make permitting for offshore drilling significantly faster (HR1229) and more expansive (HR1231).

Supporters, including Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman, say the timing of this push is all about the price of gas.

He says that in the long run, drilling will help with energy security and gas prices, and that lessons have been learned from the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year.

"We can do this responsibly from an environmental standpoint, a safety standpoint," he says. "We have to have this comprehensive energy policy for this nation."

Environmental groups argue the opposite. They say that the bills would make substantive environmental review offshore drilling operations impossible. In addition, they say, for its risk, drilling would have no immediate impact on oil prices.

Nat Lund with the Southern Environmental Law Center says even in the long term, gas prices would scarcely budge -- if at all.

"Oil is sold as a global commodity and increasing U.S. supply by this modest amount is only going to affect prices by a couple of cents over a couple of decades," he says.

JR Tolbert is with The Virginia Sierra Club also opposes the bill. "Drilling for more oil is not a solution," says J.R. Tolbert, a representative for the group. "It's a false hope and false bill of goods being sold to the American people."

HR 1229 is expected to come up for a vote next week. None of the bills have yet been passed by the U.S. Senate.

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