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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I will spend some time tonight offering two amendments to the bill under consideration.
I begin by asking: Why is it in the midst of all the problems that face the country, the Senate is going to spend time on an omnibus lands package? It is no emergency. There is no crisis. There is nothing critical about it. Instead of working on the problems that are in front of this country, we will spend the next 2 1/2 days or next 1 1/2 days on a 1,243-page bill that has 170 separate bills in it that, in fact, for the average American doesn't come anywhere close to being a priority. One has to ask that question. Why are we doing this? We don't have anything better to do. We don't have anything more important to do. If that is the case, we probably should go on until we do have something that can make a significant change in the country.
I call up amendment No. 680.
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Mr. COBURN. I spent about an hour this afternoon talking about the problems of the National Park Service. They are severe. I introduced into the record the GAO report on the problems at the Department of Interior, as well as the testimony of the acting inspector general, Mary Kendall, about the significant problems that parks are experiencing. Our parks are falling down. The maintenance backlog, according to the Park Service, is $8.9 billion. But according to the testimony of the GAO, it is somewhere between $13 and $19 billion.
This is a very straightforward amendment. What it says is, before we start anything new and new parks, we are going to bring up-to-date what should be brought up-to-date in the parks we have today. That is important because they need to be fully operational. They need to be fully accessible to the public which many are not now because of maintenance backlogs. They need to pose no safety or health risk for both the employees of the parks and the Department of Interior as well as the American citizen, some 270 million who visit them every year.
This is a very straightforward amendment. It says we are going to do something we don't often do. We are going to prioritize how we spend money in the parks. What we are saying is, we are not going to do any new construction in terms of units of the national park system until the Secretary--and this is left to the Secretary, not us--determines that the existing sites, the structures, trails and transportation infrastructure of the National Park Service are fully operational, fully accessible to the public, and pose no health or safety risk to either the public or park employees.
We have thought about other things. We want to make sure there is an exclusion in there. If something is going to cost more to repair than to build something new, we say build something new. The other thing, anything that the Secretary deems is important for public safety that is new, we let them do that as well. All this is saying is with this $10 billion of new authorizations and $900 million of mandatory spending accompanying this bill, the first thing we ought to do is take care of what we have before we start off on another project.
The crown jewels of our national parks are fading. They are fading because we won't take care of them. The backlog since the last time we considered this bill has grown by $400 million. That is just what we know since the last time we considered this bill. The other thing we know from the GAO report is there is a marked risk to both employees and the public in many areas of our national parks. The other thing we know is many of our best parks, the Grand Canyon, for example, a large number of the trails are in such disrepair that they are closed. The people can't access them because we haven't said put the money where it needs to go to make sure we keep the things we have today operational and pristine. So it is straightforward.
What we also know is that the agency needs some help in terms of priorities. In spite of what we have had, oftentimes we are sending them messages to do something else that is not within these priorities. All we are saying is, we have these wonderful assets. Before we go create new assets and new things to enjoy, let's take care of the ones we have. We would not build a new addition onto our own homes when the whole rest of the home is collapsing from lack of maintenance. The first thing we would do is take care of the home, the maintenance of the home.
The bill in front of us actually has the potential to make the situation in our parks worse. It is because we are going to mandate certain things in the bill that will take away from true priorities of maintaining our existing structures.
A recent memo prepared by the Facility Management Division of the National Park Service reveals at least 10 States where the National Park Service backlog exceeds $100 million. At least 20 States have facilities with deferred maintenance exceeding $50 million. That excludes $4 billion that is sitting there for roads and bridges in our national parks. This is in spite of the historically high appropriations levels we have sent to the parks.
I listed earlier--and I will not list again--all the things the National Park Service is responsible for. But it is a litany that, when you look at it, is almost incomprehensible that one agency can take care of everything we have asked them to take care of.
The USS Arizona now faces a maintenance backlog of $33.4 million; the Gettysburg National Battlefield site, $29.4 million; the Statue of Liberty Park has a backlog of $196 million. Are we going to let it fall apart while we create something new or should we take care of what we have first?
What we do know from both the inspector general's report and the GAO is the Park Service is denying access in an increasing number of areas because of the growing maintenance backlog.
Representative Rob Bishop is from Utah. The Dinosaur National Monument is largely inaccessible due to its overwhelming backlog. The center is designed so a kid can go in there and see, within the mountainside, the fossils that are there and see what scientists say about those fossils and then be able to put all that together in their mind. Unfortunately, no one has been able to access this building for 10 years--for 10 years--because we do not have enough money to fix the building and it has been condemned.
So here is an area where there is great educational value, great historical value and for 10 years the building has been condemned and we have not put the money there. This amendment is meant to fix what is wrong now before we spend money on new things.
According to the inspector general of the Department of Interior, financial management has remained a top challenge for the Department, and their work--this is the inspector general--has documented decades of maintenance, health, and safety issues that place Interior Department employees at a health and safety risk, as well as the public.
A report by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees found widespread evidence of major problems that will be evident, including decreased safety for visitors, longer emergency response times, endangerment of protected resources, and dirtier and less well-maintained parks. The problem will only grow worse in the coming years if we pass this bill and do not prioritize the maintenance backlog.
It is noted that at the Grand Canyon, the cross-canyon water line is deteriorating so badly that it had 30 leaks this year and is in danger of failing entirely. Yet we did not spend any money on that in this bill. We did not authorize them to fix it. We are not about taking care; we are about solving our own political situation.
At Yellowstone, 10,000 gallons of raw sewage this past year leaked from a broken pipe and flowed into a trout-spawning stream in Yellowstone National Park. It is the absence of maintenance. We know the life expectancy of many of these infrastructures, and yet we have not done anything about it.
Carlsbad Caverns--a great experience. Sewer lines were actually leaking into the caves because of deferred maintenance. Superintendent Benjamin said: Believe me, if there's sewage dripping down into the cavern, people are not going to believe we are doing a good job.
No kidding. Well, that starts with us.
The National Park System has grown to almost 400 units, 84 million acres, and a $9.6 billion maintenance backlog. That is according to the Park Service. It is much higher if you look at the GAO's numbers.
We appropriated $540 million for new land acquisition from 2001 to 2008. We have increased the number of National Heritage Areas since 2000 from 18 to 40. We added 10 more in January of this year. In the 110th Congress, 35 bills were introduced to expand the National Wild and Scenic Rivers.
The National Park Service already manages over 3,000 miles of scenic rivers. This bill includes 1,200 miles. But yet the maintenance dollars, the dollars put there to take care of what we have, are not there.
In April of 2008, the Congress passed and the President signed the Consolidated Natural Resources Act. That was another big lands bill that impacted land and property rights in over 30 States. It authorized $380 million in new spending and not one way of paying for it and none of it for maintenance backlogs.
What we also know is this agency, the Department of Interior, is unable to prioritize the maintenance of existing obligations over new commitments. They get mixed signals. We say: Go do this new one. And then we send appropriations dollars and say: You have to spend it on this rather than taking care of a rotting sewage line.
Until we in Congress and the administration prioritize the maintenance of our existing national parks, these problems are going to grow. There is no excuse for it.
AMENDMENT NO. 679 TO AMENDMENT NO. 684
So I would put forward this is a simple amendment. It does not cost us anything. It actually saves us money because to repair something that is falling down--before it gets to that stage--is much cheaper than waiting until it is a catastrophe. Consequently, if we were to plan appropriately, and if we were to direct the funds appropriately, we would be repairing that which we need to repair so we do not spend extra dollars once they have failed.
My hope is we will get positive consideration of this amendment. This is a commonsense amendment. People at home would do the same thing. They take care of what they have before they go and add something else that is going to take away money that is required to maintain what they have.
I would say, again, individuals do not build additions to their homes when the roof and the foundation is caving in and neither should the Park Service and neither should Congress.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside and that amendment No. 679 be called up.
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I wish to read this amendment because it is very short and very straightforward:
At the appropriate place, insert the following:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, nothing in this Act shall restrict the development of renewable energy--
on public land, including geothermal, solar, and wind energy and related transmission infrastructure.
Very straightforward. We had a great experience with the harsh reality that we are energy dependent this past summer. It is going to come back again. Unfortunately or fortunately--depending on how you look at it--in the West, where the Government owns 1 out of every 2 acres, the vast majority of geothermal land resides.
What you will see--as indicated on this map--through this area, through southern California, along the coast of California, and Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, some areas of Montana, Wyoming, and Arizona, is where the vast resources of a clean renewable energy exists: geothermal.
The only problem is, in this bill we gut a large portion of that and say we can never touch it. Well, why would we, if we believe in climate change--and I am a skeptic, but I will take that point for a moment. Let's say we believe in climate change and we want to have energy produced that does not increase the CO2 content of the atmosphere. Why would we pass a bill that takes and restricts a large portion of this area from geothermal?
We know in Nevada and Arizona, for example, solar is a massive source for clean energy. Yet in this bill, in both the wilderness areas and the heritage areas and all these other areas, we are going to restrict not only the utilization of geothermal and wind and solar but also the ability to capture it and move it somewhere else.
Well, if we take all this area for geothermal, and if you concentrate Nevada and Arizona in terms of the solar and then you look at the wind corridor that comes up through here, as shown on this map, and say you cannot send a transmission line anywhere across any of these properties, what we are doing is shooting ourselves in the foot. We do not want carbon-based energy. And now, where the Government owns 650 million acres, we do not want wind, solar or geothermal. Why would we do that?
I guess we are going to go all nuclear. We do not see any nuclear coming from the President. We do not see any nuclear coming from anywhere else. So what are we going to have? We are going to have no energy.
So we are going to limit hydrocarbon energy, and then we are going to take our greatest sources for wind, solar and geothermal and we are going to say: Sorry, that is off limits. You cannot use it here. You cannot extract it.
Geothermal is so powerful because it is a direct conversion. We capture steam and we capture a temperature gradient that turns a turbine that puts off nothing but water vapor--no CO2, no nitrous oxide, no sulfur dioxide. It is free energy. Yet in this bill we are going to take 2.2 million acres out of these areas and say: You cannot touch it for renewable energy. Why would we do that? So all this amendment says is you can do whatever you want on all these areas, as what we have done in the bill, but you cannot exclude it from renewable energy.
I am reminded, everybody wants renewable energy, but they just do not want it in their own backyard. Everybody wants us to have wind. We love wind. We have turbines like crazy in Oklahoma, like they do in North Dakota and South Dakota and several other States. We are happy to have it. But if you applied the same thing to Oklahoma, in terms of wilderness areas, we would not have any of the windmills that are generating a significant portion of our alternative renewable energy today in Oklahoma. More importantly, you would not be able to transport the energy you are creating that is renewable, that does not create CO2, that does not supposedly contribute to ``climate change.''
We are going to pass a bill that is going to significantly restrict that.
What are we thinking? Why would we limit alternative renewable energy access in all these Federal lands, this extra 2.2 million to 3 million acres? Why would we do that? It is almost like we have a death wish. Either that or we are not thinking, we are not considering what we are going to need in the future. We are considering the short term, but we are not considering the long term.
So this map shows us specifically where geothermal is available. If you look down in southern California, we have heritage areas. Knock it out. If you look in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, we have heritage areas. We knock it out, saying: You can never utilize this land to capture clean alternative renewable energy. That is ludicrous.
So all this amendment does is say: Yes, you can. We are going to do everything else under the heritage areas, under the wilderness areas, under all the other restrictions we put in this bill, but we are going to capture renewable, clean energy for the American people.
We should do nothing, given the fact that we are in trouble on energy and we don't even know it right now.
What we know is the supply-demand glide is going like this and we are in a recession now, and we don't feel it, but as we lock in and cut exploration for natural gas in this country, we will see a twofold increase in natural gas within the next 18 months. We know that because we have built reserves every year until this year in natural gas. We know we consume 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas every year in this country. As they shut down the exploration for known areas of natural gas because the price is under $4, what we know is the demand is not going to decrease significantly over what it is because we have gone to alternative sources for power generation--a lot of it natural gas--that the demand is going to increase and the supply is going to become static.
What is going to happen? The price of natural gas is going to go up. What is that going to do to utility bills? Before we do a monstrous cap-and-trade that is going to severely raise everybody's electrical rates in this country, we are going to limit an alternative supply for electricity with this bill, because we are going to limit the access to geothermal, we are going to limit the access to wind, and we are going to limit the access to solar, and solar thermal electricity generation.
I have trouble figuring it out. It must be my commonness being from Oklahoma, but I can't figure out why we would--I know we are going to cut one leg off in terms of going green over the next 20 years. I can't figure out why we are cutting off the other leg. I am wondering what we are going to use for power in this country. If we are going to severely limit alternative renewable, nonpolluting energy that is clean and we are going to massively limit--as the Department of Interior is already--exploration for hydrocarbon-based fuels, and we are going to limit the significance of coal, of which we have over 300 years available to us, what are we going to use for energy? We are also going to slow down the permitting process and the loans for nuclear, so what are we going to use? What is going to keep the lights on?
This amendment is about keeping the lights on in a way that nobody should be able to object to. It is not carbon based. It is a renewable, it is essentially almost free, it is something we can capture without any significant greenhouse effect. Yet we are going to limit it with this bill. I think it is significantly foolish on our part.
What we know is that this 140 million acres we see here, if we add in what is already in wilderness areas, what is already off limits in terms of national forests and Federal lands, you add in--and this does not include except a small portion of Alaska--we are going to markedly limit our resources. Ninety percent of all the geothermal capability in this country--a clean source for renewable energy--is found on Federal lands. As we grow the limitations on Federal lands, what we are going to do is take that 90 percent and we are going to take anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of that and say you can't have it. There are 29 million acres with solar potential in six southwestern States--these six States. If you can't transmit the power through power lines, if you can't disturb the soil to build, whether you put it above ground or underground, if you can't cross a river with a power line either overhead or under the river, how are we going to transmit the power? What we are saying is we believe in renewable, clean energy, but we don't.
The other point I wish to make is we now have in this country in wilderness areas alone 108 million acres. Do you know how many acres we have in developed land in this country? It is 106 million. Not counting the Federal lands outside of wilderness, which is 650 million acres, we have 108 million acres of wilderness and only 106 million acres of developed land. Where do we stop to the point where we don't steal away from the future potential energy production in this country? I am not talking carbon based; I am talking noncarbon based. How do we get the power from geothermal from these concentrated areas to the west coast and back to the upper Midwest if we can't cross any of these areas? And then, what is the cost and what is the line loss load when we have to do something such as this and then go underground and then come back up? It becomes prohibitive, and then we lose all advantage from renewable energy.
The other area we know where we have tremendous potential in all of these areas and others is biomass. We have a tremendous source. Approximately one-third of the 747 million acres across the United States is covered in forest land. Fifty-seven percent of those forests are owned by the Federal Government. Also, 590 million wet tons of biomass are available in the U.S. annually--590 million tons. Sixteen percent of renewable energy generated right now from electricity comes from biomass and 3 percent of our total energy in the year 2000. I don't have the dates for where we are today.
Here is what the U.S. Forest Service says: ``The technology to generate energy from wood has entered a new millennium with virtually limitless possibilities.''
Yet, even if we generate it, we can't transmit it under this bill, or the difficulty of costs for transmitting it will be prohibitive.
Each of the designations in this bill--somebody challenge me on this--each of the designations in this bill specifically withdraw the land from future mineral and geothermal leasing. That includes the wilderness areas, the wilderness study areas, and the wild and scenic rivers. They are withdrawn. They can't be used. Right now, there are 708 federally imposed wilderness areas totaling 107 million acres of land in 44 States. That will go to 1.92 million acres with the passage of this bill. It is a small portion of the 2 billion acres in this country, but it still denies the fact that we have more land now in wilderness than we have developed. The prohibition from capturing clean energy, renewable energy, and nonpolluting energy is unfortunate.
One of the things that is wrong with this bill also is that we are viewing tomorrow's energy potential on all of these lands with today's technology. Just like when you go back and look at the old BLM studies and the Department of the Interior studies on the land, if you use old technology, you can say there is no energy there. When you use new 3D seismic and electromagnetic seismology, what we see is a whole great potential for all other sources, including geothermal.
The other concern I have with this bill, and the reason I have this amendment, is we recently had a Federal judge in Washington, DC issue a restraining order to halt the development of major oil and natural gas reserves on 100,000 acres of Federal land in portions of Utah, not because it was in a wilderness area, not because it was in a heritage area, not because it was along a scenic river, but because it was near there. So we are going to abrogate to the courts and the aggressive environmentalists the ability to stop even clean renewable energy sources by the wilderness area designations.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, a former colleague of ours, recently ordered a secretarial order calling for the production, the development, and delivery of renewable energy; that it would be a top priority of the Department of the Interior, but this bill restricts that order. So here we have the Department of Interior Secretary saying this is our priority
and we are going to pass a bill that undermines that authority and that priority.
Secretary Salazar claims that this effort will include the identification of areas of high potential renewable energy, including geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass. It also includes mapping out transmission infrastructure to connect power to consumers.
Well, as we create all of these wilderness areas and heritage areas, guess what we are doing. We are limiting the ability to map out power transmission lines. In total, the lands bill will withdraw over 3 million acres from energy leasing, placing them outside the scope of Secretary Salazar's endeavors.
Majority Leader Harry Reid summed up the difficulties imposed by these designations when he discussed energy resources in Nevada. He said:
We know that our State has immense clean energy resources. However, the Federal Government's management of 86 percent of Nevada lands makes it challenging to explore and develop our enormous renewable resources.
The only area in this bill that does not affect geothermal is in the State of Nevada. It is the only area.
If we are serious about alternative energy, this amendment should be accepted, should be voted for, allowing us to have a wilderness area, but at the same time utilizing clean energy as a way to bring us to energy independence in the 21st century. So this is a very simple amendment. It says, OK, let's have what we have, but let's don't restrict it as far as renewable, clean energy. Let's use the renewable, clean energy that is available. This happens to be geothermal, but we know where the solar is, we know where the biomass is, and we know where the wind corridor is in this country. Why would we restrict it?
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Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, that is a straightforward amendment. The authors of this bill said we are never going to use eminent domain for any of this, even though they reference two or three statutes that give eminent domain. Well, if that is the case, if we are never going to use eminent domain to accomplish the purposes of this, there should be no trouble accepting this amendment. This amendment just says we can't. On this bill, you can't use eminent domain to take the property away from somebody who doesn't wish to give their property.
Amendment 5 of the U.S. Constitution says:
No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall private property be taken without just compensation.
That is the Constitution. But the father of the Constitution said it a different way. He said, in a word:
As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his right.
Eminent domain is necessary and appropriate at times in this country for national defense, for the health and well-being of the country, for priorities that protect the public at large, and that makes sense. There are times when we have to use it. There is not a time associated with any of the parts of this bill that we should have to use eminent domain.
I have been assured by the authors of this bill that they have no intention of using eminent domain. If that is the case, then support this amendment, and we will never have a problem with it. The property rights folks in this country, of which about 100 support this amendment, would say that is great, so let's vote it up or down.
But if we vote against it, what is it going to tell them? What it is going to do is erode the confidence of landowners in this country. We say we are not going to take your land away from you without your permission, without there being a willing seller, but we have kind of a king's edge. We have our fingers crossed behind our backs because there may be some time when a bureaucrat has made a decision other than what we are saying tonight.
So the way to enforce that would be a straightforward message that says, according to this amendment, ``notwithstanding any other provisions of this act, or any amendment that is made to this act, no land or interest in land, other than an access easement, shall be required under this act by eminent domain.''
That is straightforward. Let's give them confidence that we are not going to take their land away against their will.
Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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