(US) - A proposed state energy bill that supports oil and natural gas exploration off the Virginia coast was approved by a House subcommittee, lending more momentum to advocates seeking to lift an offshore drilling ban.
Most other coastal states, including North Carolina, want to leave the moratorium in place, imposed in 1990 because of environmental concerns.
Anti-drilling lobbying groups contend that the proposal is about leverage and that the oil industry is using Virginia to break the coastwide moratorium so that richer reserves off New England and North Carolina's Outer Banks might be accessible.
Local sources report that the state energy bill so far has moved easily through the House and Senate with only minor changes.
After being approved 5-0 by a House subcommittee, it will be considered by the House and Senate finance committee.
If the bill passes there, it will move to floor debate and votes.