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Policy: Environment & Energy

Terry McAuliffe's choice: Economic growth or a major donor?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Terry McAuliffe,Ashe Schow,Energy and Environment,Oil,Offshore Drilling,Tom Steyer

Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe has a difficult choice: Does he sign a bill that would create jobs, boost state revenue and reduce energy prices, or does he kill the bill and side with his billionaire campaign donor?

Right now, a bill to lift the ban on offshore drilling in Virginia sits on McAuliffe's desk, passed by the state House and Senate in February. The bill would not only create jobs and boost the economy, it would also reduce the state's dependence on imported oil and gas.

Not only that, but the bill would set aside a $50 million emergency fund in the event that oil or gas leaks occur. Some of the revenue made from oil and gas drilling would also establish a fund for supporting community colleges that teach energy exploration and development. The fund would also be used for financial assistance for students seeking energy-related degrees.

"This is an enormous opportunity for Virginia, not only will it create new jobs in the commonwealth, it will increase revenue for our state that helps us keep our books balanced and make smart spending decisions," the bill's sponsor, Virginia state Sen. Bryce Reeves, a Republican, wrote in the Washinton Examiner.

Even though the bill gained bipartisan support, it has been sitting on McAuliffe’s desk for a month.

The reason may have something to do with Tom Steyer, who spent $11 million helping to elect McAuliffe and is dead-set against fossil fuels — well, unless he can profit off them.

But Steyer’s campaign for global warming reduction policies complicates McAuliffe’s decision, as environmentalists argue that oil and gas are the leading causes of carbon emissions. That, and the ocean would be damaged in the event of a leak.

McAuliffe has until April to sign the bill – leaving him just three more days. After that, he’ll have to tell the people of Virginia why he chose a billionaire donor over jobs, lower energy bills and revenue for the people who elected him.

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Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:20 p.m. to include a different quote from Sen. Reeves and link to an article he wrote in the Washington Examiner.

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