CREATING LONG-TERM ENERGY ALTERNATIVES FOR THE NATION ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - June 20, 2007)
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Louisiana.
AMENDMENT NO. 1658
Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise in strong support of an amendment I filed at the desk some time ago, Vitter amendment No. 1658, and I would like to briefly explain what that is.
At its core, this amendment would allow Louisiana to use more Federal coastal impact assistance dollars, which are already going to the State under preexisting law, a law we passed a couple of years ago, to be used specifically for one of our top priorities in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and that is a hurricane protection effort.
By way of background, in 2005, we passed the Energy Policy Act, and that did a very important thing for the State of Louisiana and other producing States. It established a Coastal Impact Assistance Program for the six States in the United States that produce offshore energy, particularly oil and gas. Obviously, that includes Louisiana. Under that 4-year Coastal Impact Assistance Program, certain Federal dollars flow to those producing States in light of the enormous work they do producing energy for our country and the negative impact that activity has in many cases on our coastline.
Back at that time, a provision was made to restrict the amount of those funds that could go specifically to infrastructure projects, and that cap was established, with the work of Senator Bingaman and others, at 23 percent. Back in 2005, I argued strongly and worked with Senator Bingaman and others to say that cap should be lifted with regard to hurricane protection work, at least in Louisiana, because that work was absolutely so vital, so essential for our very existence. Unfortunately, that argument did not hold the day. The cap was not lifted, and an exemption was not put in place for hurricane protection efforts.
I am trying to get that cap lifted for hurricane protection work in Louisiana now. My argument that we should do it comes down to two words--two words that happened, that devastated our coastline between then and now, and the two words are ``Katrina'' and ``Rita.'' Since that original act in 2005, Katrina and Rita struck, and they struck literal death blows to the Louisiana coast. If hurricane protection was a big priority before that, it has only grown enormously with those two hurricanes coming upon our shores.
I think there is every rationale, every reason to allow us to use more of that coastal impact assistance money for hurricane protection efforts and to lift that arbitrary ceiling of 23 percent for infrastructure projects, specifically when we are talking about hurricane protection efforts.
I have been in contact with Senator Bingaman about this issue. We have just discussed it on the Senate floor. I know he is considering these arguments. Perhaps in wrapping up my discussion, I could invite the Senator to engage in a brief colloquy and ask him again to focus on the extreme needs of the Louisiana coast in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and to continue consideration of lifting this cap in light of those extreme needs and to see where we are in that discussion.
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Mr. VITTER. Reclaiming the floor, I will put that down as an ``undecided,'' and ``maybe.'' I want to continue these discussions with the Senator from New Mexico. He is essentially the key to clearing this amendment, probably without objection.
Again, I restate that because of the devastating impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I think there is every reason in the world to lift this arbitrary cap of 23 percent, specifically and only for hurricane protection work on our coast. It is absolutely vital for our survival. It will not mean we are not doing everything else we have been talking about. That is moving forward for a number of reasons, including the revenue sharing piece we were able to pass into law late last year. That will give significant new revenue to our coastal restoration efforts and other things. I again urge the Senator to continue to look at this and hopefully clear this so it can be adopted without even the need for a vote on the floor, adopted by unanimous consent.
AMENDMENT NO. 1776
Now I wish to move to a second very important amendment I have at the desk, which is amendment No. 1776. I just happened to get that number but I think it is a very appropriate number for this amendment because this goes to our very important, patriotic efforts to increase our energy independence and to get away from our enormous reliance on the Middle East, including very dangerous countries and regimes in the Middle East that are clearly not friends of ours at all. This amendment is straightforward. It would allow increased domestic production of minerals or renewable energy in Federal areas that are not allowed now, if and only if all four of these things happen--really five.
No. 1, the national average gasoline price would have to exceed $3.75 a gallon at the pump.
No. 2, in addition, foreign imports of oil would have to exceed 65 percent of all oil use.
No. 3, in addition, the President would have to determine that an ample supply of renewable fuels is insufficient to meet fuel demand domestically at that time.
No. 4, in addition, the President would have to determine that continued and growing reliance on foreign oil imports is a threat to national security.
If all of those four preconditions were met, then and only then, No. 5, the Governor of a State, with the concurrence of the State legislature, could petition the Secretary of the Interior to initiate leasing activities on specified Federal lands within the State or within the administrative boundaries of the Outer Continental Shelf related to that State for oil and gas or alternative energy production. So if everything I mentioned happened, then and only then a State itself, through its Governor, through its State legislature, can say: Yes, sir, Mr. President, we want to be part of the solution. This is a dire, extreme case. This is a real national security threat. We want to be part of the solution by producing, safely and in an environmentally friendly way, more oil and gas, more renewable energy for America.
I think this is an utterly commonsense and very much needed amendment to increase domestic production, decrease reliance on foreign sources. That goes to energy security. As such, it goes to economic security. It goes to national security.
Again, none of this would happen unless all of those things happened first: gasoline prices at $3.75 at the pump, foreign imports over 65 percent of everything we are using in this country, the President saying renewables cannot make up the difference, the President saying this is a real national security issue, the Governor of the State saying we want to do this, it is our home, we can do it responsibly, and the State legislature of the State concurring. All of those things would have to happen before opening up either land within the State or part of the Outer Continental Shelf off the State to leasing activity, in terms of Federal land.
It is very important that we do a balanced approach, all sorts of things, to decrease our reliance on foreign sources. This is a very commonsense part of that menu.
With that, I understand there may be objection, but I ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment so that this very commonsense amendment, which goes to the heart of this debate and the heart of the bill, Vitter amendment No. 1776, can be called up and made pending.
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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I was happy to do that.
Reclaiming the floor, all of that is interesting. It is also what is commonly referred to as ``inside baseball.'' For the sake of the insiders here, let me translate for you what the American people just heard. To quote Charley Brown, ``Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.''
The fact is, what Americans are faced with is an energy crisis and we have all this ``inside baseball'' tangling us up in the Senate, in the House, and we are not doing a darned thing about it.
The other fact is there is no objection on the Republican side to calling this amendment up, No. 1776, to making it pending, to considering it. There are all sorts of debate and all sorts of discussions about other amendments. There is certainly no objection on our side to this amendment. Why should there be? Why shouldn't we allow individual States to say: Yes, we want to be part of the solution, particularly when all of the following events occur: average price of gasoline reaches $3.75 a gallon, foreign imports top 65 percent of everything used in the country, the President certifies that renewables can't make up the gap, the President certifies there is a continuing reliance on foreign oil, which is a national security threat? If all of those things happen, shouldn't we be allowing a State, through its Governor, through the State legislature, to be part of the solution in a safe and environmentally sensitive way to produce more energy in this country that doesn't take away the need for alternative fuels, that doesn't take away the need for conservation or everything else?
But the clear and simple fact is, this problem is so big we need to do all of the above. Certainly this commonsense approach should be on that menu, should be among all of the above.
Let's get beyond the Washington insider ``Wah, wah, wah,'' all the running around, all the objections, all the being tied up in knots, and present some reasonable, commonsense solutions to this growing national energy crisis.
I hope those who control the floor and leave the floor, starting with the distinguished majority leader, to whom I deferred a few minutes ago on the floor, can be part of that.
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