The move to open the US Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas drilling is gaining momentum. The latest action comes from Scott Rigall (R-Virginia), who on April 26 filed a bill that would require the federal government to hold a lease sale offshore Virginia and include the area in the five-year oil and gas leasing program. After the US government receives its share of new leasing revenue, the bill would allocate 37.5% of revenue – derived from not only from oil and gas exploration, development, and production but also wind, tidal, and other forms of energy – to effected Mid-Atlantic states within 322 km (200 miles) of the leased tract. These states include Delaware, North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia. The bill also contains a section that would prohibit activity that conflicts with any military operation. There have been some concerns from the US Department of Defense in this regard. Rigall’s bill comes after other efforts, including a similar one by South Carolina Congressman Jeff Duncan, who introduced a bill in February that would add South Carolina to the five-year offshore E&P plan, and a Feb. 14, 2013, letter written jointly by governors Pat McCrory (North Carolina), Nikki Haley (South Carolina), and Robert F. McDonnell (Virginia) urging US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to support Atlantic OCS energy production. “Safely developing our natural resources not only creates jobs, but is also a step toward reaching the goal of North American energy independence,” Duncan said in a news release. “Developing our resources along the coast can help make South Carolina a model for an all-the-above approach to energy.” He referenced a 2009 study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute that revealed there could be an estimated 3.5 Tcf of gas offshore South Carolina. Operators should be given a chance to responsibly tap these resources. It would be another step toward helping the US become less dependent on others for energy. It also would add to bountiful shale gas supplies, possibly boosting the nation’s chances of becoming a future major energy supplier for foreign markets. In addition, opening the Atlantic to drilling could create thousands of jobs. It appears that the current administration may be open to considering the possibility. The Department of the Interior is already updating outdated information on the Atlantic, hoping to gain insight to make better informed decisions about the area’s future. But the effort is facing some opposition. In a blog post April 20, the three-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon accident, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Chris Carnevale called drilling off the southeast Atlantic coast a bad idea. His reasons included that the use of seismic airgun testing would result in the death or injury of up to 138,500 marine mammals by 2020, offshore drilling would not lower gasoline prices, and jobs created “would represent a direct threat to our bread-and-butter industries of tourism and fishing.” Both sides can argue the pros and cons of the issue. However, coexistence remains necessary. As long as drilling is done responsibly and safely with needed regulatory checks and public scrutiny in place, it is possible to continue exploring for and producing the hydrocarbons that everyone presently relies on without severely harming industries and the environment. Contact the author, Velda Addison, at