Walden introduces legislation to open access to America's great energy reserves
Measure would pay for county payments, PILT, substantial renewable energy production, conservation initiatives
Congressman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today led a group of 35 lawmakers to introduce a bill to provide a stable and legal long-term funding source for county payments and significantly invest in renewable energy production over the next decade.
The bill, the Security and Energy for America Act (SEA Act, H.R. 6779), has been endorsed by a bipartisan group of 64 commissioners from 26 Oregon counties. The bill, which would fund county payments and Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for five years, has also been endorsed by the Western Counties Alliance.
"The SEA Act provides the first real long-term funding solution to pay for the county payments program," Congressman Walden said. "If passed into law this year, the counties and schools could expect to receive their much-needed funding as soon as this fall. But this is much more than just a county payments bill. The SEA Act would finally put some walk behind all the talk about energy independence by committing a 10-year funding stream to the kind of renewable energy production that will comprise America's smarter energy future."
The SEA Act also will allow access to America's great energy reserves beyond 75 miles from the coastline in the deep ocean to address the staggeringly high cost of oil and natural gas. The United States imports over 60 percent of its oil, sending over $1.6 billion out of the country every day (about $160 million every day goes to Hugo Chavez and Venezuela alone). More energy resources are available in the areas of America's Outer Continental Shelf that are closed off than all the energy that's been produced domestically offshore, including the Gulf of Mexico, during the last 60 years combined.
"Everywhere I go in the Second District, Oregonians tell me how fed up they are with the cost of fuel and the fact that we are dependant on foreign oil," Congressman Walden said. "America's Outer Continental Shelf contains enough oil to power 60 million cars for the next 60 years, yet more than 85 percent of the area off the continental United States cannot be accessed because of federal law. The SEA Act will finally allow American companies to access American energy so we can stop writing billion dollar checks to foreign cartels and governments that don't like us very much."
What's in the bill
* Five-year commitment to county payments and PILT, starting this coming fall
* 10-year revenue stream for production of geothermal, wave, wind, solar, biomass, hydropower, and cellulosic energy production
* Heating assistance for low-income Americans
* Program to convert three million gas guzzlers to efficient natural gas or gas-electric hybrid vehicles
* Investments in high schools, career technology programs, community colleges, universities, and job training programs
* On- and offshore fish and wildlife habitat enhancement\
* Unconventional energy production research
* Reduction of the national budget deficit
Expanding state control over the coastline
The SEA Act would also expand coastal state authority over ocean resources. Currently, most states control all the resources out to just three miles off their shoreline the SEA Act would extend that control to 12 miles to include complete control over sand, wave energy, and viewshed resources. Additionally, states would control all decisions over energy production on the first 75 miles off their coastlines.
The SEA Act would share significant portions of the federal revenue from new offshore leases up to 50 percent with states (and their coastal county governments) that decide to allow production. For example, if Oregon decided to produce energy off its coast, it could expect to receive half of the royalties worth millions of dollars and then share significant portions with counties like Josephine and Jackson counties.
Beyond 75 miles, the federal government would sell leases for new energy production. All offshore energy production must adhere to all nine applicable environmental laws:
1. National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
2. Clean Water Act
3. Clean Air Act
4. Coastal Zone Management Act
5. Endangered Species Act
6. Marine Mammal Protection Act
7. Fishery Conservation & Management Act
8. National Historic Preservation Act
9. Oil Pollution Act
Congressman Greg Walden represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon. He is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and a member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.