RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The governor made the laws official late this afternoon at a bill signing ceremony at the capital. While these laws are now on the books, it doesn't mean the drills hit the ocean floor immediately. There's still more work that needs to be done.
Making good on a campaign promise, today Governor Bob McDonnell ushered in a new era for energy policy.
"The official policy of the Commonwealth of Virginia is to allow for offshore exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas. In the past it had been limited simply to natural gas," said McDonnell.
The governor signed two bills he says will position Virginia as the energy capital of the east coast. The bills permit drilling and sharing revenues from any oil and gas that is discovered off the Virginia coast. In theory, the money would eventually fund transportation projects - and benefit Virginia's crumbling roads, but critics say it's not that simple.
"It would probably be 10 or 12 years before any oil would actually be pumped and revenue would flow," said Glen Besa, the director of the environmentalist "Sierra Club of Virginia"
Besa called the bills a publicity stunt, and in a stunt of his own - handed out monopoly money to make a point.
"This is premature and we think it really misleads people into believing that somehow or other there's gonna be a steady stream of revenue for transportation dollars," he said.
Offshore drilling is still not a done deal. Approval must later come from the federal government. The bill signing was only a first step.
"It's gonna be a while. It's gonna be a fight. But every Atlantic coast state like Virginia that's interested in offshore drilling is facing the same thing. So we'll have a lot of allies on Atlantic coast," McDonnell said.
McDonnell encouraged leaders on the federal level to push this through by 2011. Critics say even if that happens; it is highly unlikely that Virginia will see the financial windfall while this governor is still in office.