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Oil and natural gas industry trade association in the US American Petroleum Institute (API) has formed a new coalition called ‘Explore Offshore’ to encourage offshore exploration and development in the eastern Gulf of Mexico region.

The new coalition comprises around 100 community organisations, associations, businesses and leaders from the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

The Virginia effort will be led by former delegates Winsome Sears and Mike Watson, while former US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb will be bipartisan national co-chairs of the coalition.

Winsome Sears said: “The potential benefits of developing Virginia’s offshore oil and natural gas resources could be a game-changer for communities throughout the Commonwealth, generating tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and hundreds of millions in much-needed state revenue.

“As a veteran, I know how important energy security is to national security as it lessens our dependence on foreign nations.

“Responsible offshore oil and natural gas development can make our nation more secure, while growing our economy here in the Commonwealth.”

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“Responsible offshore oil and natural gas development can make our nation more secure, while growing our economy here in the Commonwealth.”

The new coalition will emphasise safe and environmentally friendly access to the offshore energy resources in the eastern coastal states to ensure affordable energy supply to the consumers and businesses.

It will also work to encourage offshore exploration and surveys in the region to identify the potentiality of discovered and prospective reserves.

API stated that offshore oil and gas industry can facilitate an investment of nearly $1.5bn in Virginia and boost state revenues by $230m annually.

It can also help to create more than 25,000 new high-paying jobs in the state.

Last year, nearly 50% of electricity was generated with the use of natural gas in Virginia.

According to federal government estimates, oil and natural gas will continue to be the dominant source of electricity for a minimum of 30 years.