Virginia is facing various forms of energy development activities offshore and in the territorial waters of the Commonwealth. These include possible proposals for wind and wave energy, liquefied natural gas transport, and natural gas drilling on the outer continental shelf, among others. State laws and policies must deal with these activities and their anticipated impacts. Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program has provided support for this project by the Environmental Law Institute to examine the law and policy framework in place to deal with potential activities. We examined the environmental impacts of expected offshore energy development, the applicable federal laws and policies that govern development and permitting, the laws and policies of other coastal states dealing with current or anticipated offshore energy development (focusing especially on states that have undertaken spatial planning for uses of marine waters, and on states considering alternative wind and wave energy proposals), and the laws and policies of Virginia that would apply to offshore energy development in either state or federal waters.
We found that Virginia’s laws and policies are generally sufficient to address anticipated environmental impacts from proposed offshore energy development, and are comparable to those of other coastal states that anticipate such development on a case-by-case basis. However, Virginia has not adopted laws and policies that affirmatively assist in facilitating offshore energy development review. Virginia also could benefit from information gathering and from policies that could allow advance identification of suitable areas for offshore energy transmission and support facilities. In addition, Virginia has a number of articulated energy policies that are not reflected in enforceable legislation or regulations in ways that would ensure the desired outcomes in federal or state permitting. Specific recommendations for legislative, administrative, and policy improvements are offered in this study.