(CNSNews.com) - Virginia's two U.S. senators, both Democrats, and the commonwealth's Republican governor are pressing the Obama administration to reconsider its decision to omit Virginia from its 5-year offshore drilling plan.
Some of the strongest criticism came from Gov. Bob McDonnell, chair of the Republican Governors' Association, who's been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate.
"Today's decision will prevent the creation of thousands of new jobs for our citizens," said McDonnell. "This is another glaring example of the abysmal failure of the Obama Administration to develop a comprehensive national energy policy. This failure is preventing our great nation from using all of its God-given natural resources and creating good jobs in the process; jobs our citizens desperately need and deserve."
McDonnell says Virginia is "poised to become the ‘Energy Capital of the East Coast’" by responsibly developing nuclear, natural gas, coal, biomass, wind, solar, and offshore oil and gas.
“I am hopeful that the administration will reconsider the inclusion of Virginia in its five-year lease plan,” said Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.). “Oil and gas exploration within the Virginia Outer Continental Shelf -- if coupled with an equitable formula for sharing revenues between the state and federal governments -- would boost domestic energy production, while benefiting the Commonwealth’s economy."
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the decision to omit Virginia "disappointing." “I will be strongly urging the Administration to take another look at including Virginia in its five-year plan," he said.
The Obama administration initially approved the sale of Virginia offshore leases in March 2010, then scrapped the drilling plan after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a proposal to hold 15 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico, including two off the Florida coast, and three off Alaska's coast between 2012 and 2017.
“Expanding safe and responsible oil and gas production from the OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) is a key component of our comprehensive energy strategy to grow America’s energy economy, and will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home,” Salazar said. “This five-year program will make available for development more than three-quarters of undiscovered oil and gas resources estimated on the OCS, including frontier areas such as the Arctic, where we must proceed cautiously, safely and based on the best science available.”
The proposed drilling plan will be open for "significant public comment and consideration," the Interior Department said.
While Virginia officials and many Republicans say the five-year offshore leasing plan does not go far enough, environmental activists are fuming that it goes too far.
Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the plan a "reckless gamble" and a "distraction from our clean energy future."
“Today, the Gulf region is still struggling to rebuild. This is not the time to put the region at greater risk. Nor is it the time to open the doors to drilling in the treacherous and remote Arctic, which is more than a thousand miles from the closest clean-up crew and home to pristine habitat for a range of endangered species,” Beinecke said.
(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)