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The Southern Environmental Law Center applauds Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Dist. 11) for voting against a measure in the House of Representatives that would mandate drilling off of Virginia’s coast. This legislation, which has unfortunately moved forward, threatens coastal communities and ecosystems that rely on clean water for everything from tourism to fishing. Statewide, tourism in the Commonwealth alone generates more than $17 billion annually. It’s a core component of the economy that deserves our protection.

And yet, Congress has done nothing to address the safety and environmental concerns raised by the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico more than three years ago — a disaster that claimed 11 lives and caused billions of dollars in damage to coastal economies. Rather than ensuring the very real threats from offshore drilling are addressed, this bill steamrolls current laws that at least require careful consideration of the effects of drilling in the Atlantic and alternative proposals before there are rigs in the water.

Thank you for standing up for your constituents’ right to enjoy the legacy of vibrant coastal communities in the South. We stand with you in working to see that this misguided effort never makes it to the president’s desk.

Cale Jaffe

The writer is director of the Virginia office of the Southern Environmental Law Center.