Governors and other elected leaders from southern states, including Virginia, say the federal government is shackling energy companies with new rules at a time when the country and its economy can least afford it.
The 51st annual meeting of the Southern States Energy Board brought governors and federal lawmakers together in Alexandria to discuss all types of energy production and policy yesterday, but the common thread that ran through the day's talk was the sentiment that the United States needs to do more if it truly wants energy independence.
"I would argue that there will be more jobs and wealth created in the energy sector in the coming years than in any other sector," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) "And I don't believe our country is truly in the game."
Warner is working to get the Obama administration to lift the moratorium on offshore drilling, but he also may have been the administration's only political ally in the bipartisan group. Warner was just about the only politician who didn't spend time bemoaning what many perceive as onerous federal environmental regulations on the energy industry. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) served as the day's expert on nuclear energy policy, and he didn't stop there.
"It is a national disgrace to have this many gallons of oil -- barrels of oil and liters of gas -- untapped, because of irrational fears," Graham says.
That's a familiar refrain for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), who's currently chairing the energy board. McDonnell says he was excited to hear about legislation sponsored by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) that would force the Environmental Protection Agency to consider costs and job loss before implementing new rules.
"Right now they don't do that, and we're coming out of the worst economy in modern American history," McDonnell says. He adds the SSEB's members all care about the environment, but they believe the EPA has been going overboard in the last few years.
"30 new regulations, 170 new rules, and people are saying, 'whoa,'" McDonnell says. "If we're trying to get out of the worst economy, and trying to get people back to work, let's have a little reason involved." Unfortunately for the governor -- even if the Obama administration agrees with his definition of 'reason,' Warner, Graham, and Manchin all say getting enough consensus to pass any new legislation right now is a long shot.
Virginia's attorney general Ken Cuccinelli will face former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe in November to become Virginia's 72nd governor.