The Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced on Wednesday that it is ready for the leasing process to begin drilling off the coast of Virginia. The Boston Herald has this report:

WASHINGTON — Months after President George W. Bush and Congress lifted bans on offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, the federal government moved Thursday to pursue oil and natural gas exploration off the coast of Virginia.

The Interior Department began a public comment period on drafting an environmental-impact statement on offshore drilling. The environmental work is the first step in opening 2.9 million acres of waters to a lease sale scheduled for 2011. The area under consideration is at least 50 miles offshore.

The agency’s move probably will be followed closely by environmental groups and states in the Southeast, along with business groups that are eager for more energy development.

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