STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - April 28, 2005)
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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, today I rise with the Senator from Tennessee, Mr. ALEXANDER, my colleague from Louisiana, Mr. VITTER, and the senior Senator from South Dakota, Mr. JOHNSON, to introduce legislation which we believe is a new and enhanced version of one of the most significant conservation efforts ever considered by Congress.
The Americans Outdoors Act is a landmark multi-year commitment to conservation programs directly benefitting all 50 States and hundreds of local communities. It creates a conservation royalty earned from the production of oil and gas found on the Outer Continental Shelf, OCS, and directs it towards the restoration of coastal wetlands, preservation of wildlife habitat, and to help build and maintain local and state parks for our children and grandchildren.
By enacting this legislation, we will be making the most significant commitment of resources to conservation ever. It will ensure a positive legacy of protecting, preserving and enhancing critical wildlife habitat, open green spaces and the opportunity for Americans to enjoy their outdoors today and for generations to come. Our legislation builds on an effort made during the 106th Congress that was supported by governors, mayors and a coalition of more than 5,000 organizations from throughout the country.
Unfortunately, despite widespread support, our efforts were cut short before a bill could be signed into law. Instead a commitment was made by those who opposed the legislation to guarantee funding for these programs each year through the appropriation process.
However, as we have painfully witnessed since then, that commitment has not been met. What has happened is exactly what those of us who initiated the effort always anticipated. Each of these significant programs continues to be shortchanged and a number of them have been left out altogether or forced to compete with each other for Federal resources.
The legislation we are introducing today provides reliable, significant and steady funding for the urgent and worthy conservation and outdoor recreation needs of our states and rapidly expanding urban and suburban areas. What makes more sense than to take a portion of revenues from a great but depleting capital asset of the Nation--offshore Federal oil and gas resources--and reinvest them into sustaining our Nation's natural resources: wetlands; parks and recreation areas and wildlife?
The Americans Outdoors Act dedicates assured funding for four distinct programs and honors promises made long ago to the American people. They include:
Coastal Impact Assistance--$450 million to oil and gas producing coastal States to mitigate the various impacts of states that serve as the ``platform'' for the crucial development of Federal offshore energy resources from the OCS as well as provide for wetland restoration. This program merely acknowledges the impacts to and contribution of States that are providing the energy to run our country's economy.
Since the 1.76 billion acre energy frontier of the OCS was officially opened to significant oil and gas exploration in 1953, no single region has contributed as much to our Nation's energy production. In fact, the OCS supplies more oil to our Nation than any other country including Saudi Arabia. Today, the OCS represents more than 25 percent of our Nation's natural gas production and more than 30 percent of our domestic oil production--with the promise of reaching 40 percent by 2008. It is estimated that 60 percent of the oil and natural gas still to be discovered in the U.S. will come from the OCS.
An average of more than $5 billion in revenues from oil and gas production are returned to the Federal treasury each year from the OCS--$145 billion since Production began. That is the second biggest contributor of revenue to the Federal treasury after income taxes.
Our legislation seeks to address a historical inequity. The Mineral Lands Leasing Act of 1920 shares automatically with States 50 percent of revenues from mineral production on Federal lands within that State's boundaries. These funds are distributed to States automatically, outside the budget process and not subject to appropriations. In fiscal year 2004, the State of Wyoming received $564 million as a result of this law and the State of New Mexico received $365 million. But, there is no similar provision in law for coastal producing States to share Federal oil and gas revenues generated on the OCS.
For both onshore and offshore production, the justification for sharing with the State is the same: The
State serves as the platform which enables the Federal Government to support a basic element of our daily lives--turning on our lights, heating our homes and running our commuter trains.
In light of the OCS's vital contribution to our Nation's energy needs, economy and national security, it see only fair and logical that we should return a share of these revenues to the few States that are providing this crucial supply of energy. The revenues should be distributed automatically based on what is produced off a State's coastline and a portion of each State's allocation should be shared with coastal counties and parishes. They battle every day with the forces of nature that are steadily undermining our energy security by washing away the barrier islands and marshes that protect critical infrastructure necessary to deliver it.
When Hurricane Ivan struck back in September, it should have been a wake up call to us all. Although the storm did not hit Louisiana directly, its impact on the price and supply of oil and gas in this country could still be felt 4 months later. One can only imagine what the impact would have been had Ivan cut a more Western path in the Gulf. How many more hurricane seasons are we going to spend playing Russian roulette with our oil and gas supply? Returning a portion of OCS revenues to Louisiana and other coastal producing States is crucial to restoring and preserving these vital wetlands and the billions in energy investments they protect.
This bill will provide $450 million for the State side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, LWCF, to provide stable funding to States for the planning and development of State and local parks and recreation facilities. The allocation to States would be 60 percent equally among all 50 States and 40 percent based on relative population. This program provides greater revenue certainty for State and local governments to help them meet their recreational needs through recreational facility development and resource protection--all under the discretion of State and local authorities while protecting the rights of private property owners.
This bill would provide for Wildlife Conservation, Education and Restoration. A total of $350 million is allocated to all 50 States through the successful program of Pittman-Robertson for the conservation of non-game and game species, with the principal goal of preventing species from becoming endangered or listed under the Endangered Species Act. By taking steps now to prevent species from becoming endangered we are able to not only conserve the significant cultural heritage of wildlife enjoyment for the people of this country, but also avoid the substantial costs associated with recovery for endangered species.
Allocations to States would be based on a formula of two-thirds relative population and one-third relative land area and the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program, UPARR--$125 million in the form of matching grants, 70 percent, to provide direct assistance to our cities and towns so that they can focus on the needs of their populations within the more densely inhabited areas around the country where there are fewer green-spaces, playgrounds and soccer fields for our youth.
I would also like to acknowledge our interest in several programs that are not part of this initial package but will be considered as the bill moves through the process. For example, the Federal side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which focuses primarily on Federal land acquisition. The goal of the Federal side of the LWCF was to share a significant portion of revenues from offshore development with States to provide for protection and public use of the natural environment. It is our intention to discuss this program with our colleagues on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with the goal of developing a compromise that will garner broad support. In addition, other worthy programs that are not part of the legislation we are introducing today but ideally would be part of a larger more comprehensive effort include Historic Preservation, Payment in Lieu of Taxes, PILT, and the Forest Legacy program.
While we confront a time of war, budget deficits and a struggling economy, setting aside a portion of oil and gas royalties to our States and localities for initiatives such as outdoor spaces or recreation facilities for our children to play could not be more crucial. Programs such as the State side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund are in fact the economic stimulus that our States and cities need in these times. It is time we take some of the proceeds we extract from our earth and reinvest them into conserving our great outdoors for generations to come. To continue to do otherwise, as we have done for the last 50 years, is not only environmentally and fiscally irresponsible. It ignores our American duty of stewardship to our Nation, our planet and our children.
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