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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on Friday signed a series of green energy bills, including the creation of an authority to promote the development of offshore wind farms.
The signing event follows the federal announcement this week that Virginia will be the first East Coast state to explore for offshore oil and natural gas and complements McDonnell's ambitious goal to make Virginia a national energy power.
McDonnell noted that the challenge is daunting: Virginia is the second-largest importer of electricity in the U.S.
"We need to take immediate steps to produce more energy right here, and to do so in a comprehensive manner," McDonnell said in remarks prepared for the signing at Old Dominion University. The signing was attended by a large delegation of state legislators who sponsored the various energy bills.
The legislation will:
-- Create the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority to promote offshore wind energy. Proponents say Virginia's coastal area has ideal winds to turn the massive blades of offshore turbines. Two energy companies already have expressed interest in developing wind farms 12 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach.
-- Provide tax credits for the creation of green jobs. "Our green job tax credit will encourage more alternative energy entrepreneurs to make Virginia their home," McDonnell said.
-- Create the Virginia Universities Clean Energy and Development and Economic Stimulus Foundation, which would promote research and development of alternative fuels and green technologies.
-- Allows power suppliers to seek recovery of certain costs for projects with reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
-- Provides financing mechanisms for localities seeking clean energy improvements.
Earlier Friday, McDonnell met with U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Richmond and the two discussed the offshore decision and "the need to move forward on that issue," McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said.
Salazar said after the meeting with McDonnell that the governor stressed that point, but Salazar added:
"My own view is, when you look at the Atlantic we're still very much in a look-and-see mode."
He stressed environmental questions and other issues must first be addressed before any lease sales can occur.