Move ahead with offshore drilling

Published 9:41 pm Thursday, November 20, 2014

By Bryan K. Stephens

The global energy renaissance that is lifting local economies elsewhere, creating high-paying jobs and lowering energy bills could pass right by the Hampton Roads region.

For nearly a decade, Virginia’s political leaders at the local, state and federal level and on both sides of the aisle have agreed that responsible access to natural gas and oil off the coast of Virginia would be a good addition to a growing region.

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Polling from the Pew Research Center echoes the position of our elected officials (“Poll: Support for Offshore Drilling Rises,” The Virginian-Pilot, March 20, 2012) and shows drilling offshore of Virginia is supported by nearly three out of every four Virginians.

In the past, most of us have been ambivalent about this issue, since the economy in our region was doing well by most standards. Now however, with Department of Defense budget cuts and sequestration starting to take full effect, there needs to be a new sense of urgency.

What used to be seen as a “good addition” now should have greater appeal and acceptance as Hampton Roads seeks regional job growth and economic diversification.

Hampton Roads must aggressively leverage this opportunity as other regions in the nation are doing very successfully. We need to support leaders of vision here in Hampton Roads, such as Congressman Scott Rigell, who sees energy exploration as an emerging fourth pillar of our regional economy, joining defense, tourism and the Port of Virginia.

Setting the conditions that help businesses succeed is a cornerstone philosophy for the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. We are also committed to fostering conditions that improve the quality of life for all residents. For both those reasons the coastal energy initiative is a good idea.

Here’s the bottom line: It provides new sources of energy, it creates great new jobs, it’s revenue for the commonwealth, and it helps the nation secure energy independence. And let’s not forget a smaller energy bill each month.

The coast energy initiative is a great vision and a solid business case. You can’t beat that combination.

Bryan K. Stephens is president and chief executive officer of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Visit the Chamber’s website at