President Barack Obama made an about-face today to block leasing for oil and natural gas exploration off of Virginia and the Atlantic Coast. And that has tourism groups, the seafood industry and the military smiling.
But it raises some questions about U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, who says he never heard about military objections to offshore drilling because it would interfere with combat maneuvers and test-firing missiles crucial to national defense.
Call it a “Timmy We Hardly Knew Ye” moment, just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.
Kaine says in a statement published by The Washington Post, “The Department of Defense has been relatively quiet during this public debate period and has never shared their objections with me.”
He must have missed all those comments in the fine print over years of debate and hearings.
Offshore drilling gained popularity in the late 1970s, when the Iranian Revolution spiked global oil prices. As many as 100 colliers lay at anchor in Hampton Roads waiting for their turns to take on coal which was subbing as a fuel for expensive oil.
It came up again, and leasing was about to go forward, when the Deepwater Horizon disaster and spill in the Gulf of Mexico nearly six years ago killed the plan.
Obama had a change of mind about a year ago. Kaine, fellow Sen. Mark Warner and Gov. Terry McAuliffe, all Democrats, were on board along with representatives of big industry in Virginia -- except, of course, for tourism and seafood. Never mind that coastal cities from Florida to Nags Head, North Carolina, were adamantly against drilling.
This time, Obama changed his mind because of strong defense objections, primarily from the Navy. Norfolk is the world’s largest naval base and is home to aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines.
All use spaces off of Virginia from the Eastern Shore to the waters of North Carolina for live fire exercises and maneuvering. The Air Force and Marine Corps also use the waters for ground attack simulation and mock dogfighting.
After all, depending on who’s counting, Virginia is either the No. 1 or No. 2 defense industry state in the nation. It butts heads with California in that ranking. So where has Kaine been? Good question.