Governors send welcome note to Interior nominee: Open Atlantic for drilling

President Barack Obama’s new Interior Secretary nominee hasn’t been confirmed by the Senate yet — much less sworn in — but she’s already facing pressure to expand offshore drilling.

Three East Coast governors wrote Sally Jewell on Thursday, making clear that they want to hear the nominee express her support for oil and gas development in Atlantic waters during her confirmation hearing.

“Energy production from the Atlantic outer continental shelf could create more than 140,000 new jobs within the next 20 years, and we hope you will ensure that the administration is a partner with the states on this issue,” said North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell.

“We will be listening intently to your answers regarding energy exploration off the coasts of our states and hope you will signal your willingness to revise the administration’s current policy to one that is committed to safely harnessing our coast’s vast natural resources,” they added.

Read more: Lawmakers ask Obama to halt seismic surveys along East Coast

If confirmed, Jewell would succeed Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary, a position that would put her at the forefront of the Obama administration’s decisions on oil and gas development on federal lands and waters.

The Interior Department’s five-year plan for selling offshore oil and gas leases from July 2012 through June 30, 2017 does not include any planned auctions of Atlantic waters.

However, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is on track to unveil a final environmental study of possible seismic research program from Delaware to Florida that could help identify potential oil and gas in the region. Any data indicating potential big untapped resources could add pressure for future administrations to lease Atlantic tracts and help plan any auctions in the area.

The governors noted that they aren’t alone in wanting to see changes in offshore energy policy “so that states can safely and prudently take advantage of abundant offshore resources.”

“We look forward to engaging in a conversation with you about framing a new offshore energy policy that encourages economic growth and job creation,” they said. “Let us work together to continue encouraging the energy revolution that will play a pivotal role in our country’s economic and energy security for decades to come.”

The trio also highlighted the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee’s recommendation for a revenue-sharing plan that would ensure states nab a share of the royalties for offshore oil and gas development that otherwise flow into federal coffers.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mary Landrieu, D-La., are developing such a revenue-sharing plan; a narrower proposal has been introduced by Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska.

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, praised the governors’ push.

“Unlocking the resources off the Atlantic Coast would create 140,000 jobs, generate much-needed revenue for the government and fuel major investments in state and local economies,” Gerard said in a statement.

East Coast Governors’ letter on Atlantic OCS drilling by