US Senate panel approves bill earmarking OCS revenues

The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday approved 13-7 a bill to earmark $2.99 billion/year of the federal government's Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas revenues for conservation programs. Senate sponsors plan to bring their Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) bill to the floor in September, but it faces a filibuster threat from western US senators.


Washington, DC�The US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday approved 13-7 a bill to earmark $2.99 billion/year of the federal government's Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas revenues for conservation programs. The House of Representatives has passed a similar bill.

Both measures would provide an automatic revenue source for a number of federal programs that now are funded through annual appropriations.

Senate sponsors plan to bring their Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) bill to the floor in September, but it faces a filibuster threat from western US senators. They claim the legislation would enable the federal government to buy even more land in their states, sometimes from unwilling sellers.

Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alas.), committee chairman, said, "This is the most significant commitment of resources ever made to conservation by the Congress. This legislation provides a dependable source of funding for several very important federal programs and preserves the constitutional role of Congress in determining the use of federal funds."

Responding to the western senators, Murkowski said the bill would not fund any federal land acquisitions except those by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. He said the $450 million earmarked for that is only slightly above the average appropriation for the past 5 years.

Oil groups have supported the bill in the hope it would broaden public support for offshore exploration and production.

Murkowski stressed, "When all is said and done, this bill can only come about from a healthy Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas development program."

Senate bill
The committee's bill would earmark $430 million/year to for coastal impact assistance to the seven states with offshore oil and gas production. Funding would go for human, resource, and infrastructure programs.

It allocates $350 million to all coastal states for shoreline, marine, and fisheries programs and $25 million for coral reef restoration and protection.

It earmarks $450 million for federal funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which agencies use to buy land. And it would spend $450 million for matching funds that allow for the planning and development of state and local parks and recreation facilities.

State wildlife programs would get $350 million, urban park and recreation programs $75 million, and urban and community forestry programs $50 million. The bill allocates $150 million for historic preservation and $125 million for restoration of National Park Service and Indian lands.

A program to protect farm and ranch lands from development would get $50 million, as would a program to protect timber land threatened with development. And the bill earmarks $50 million for a program to help rural areas strengthen and diversify their economies and $60 million for the Youth Conservation Corps.

Federal lands are exempt from local taxes, but the bill would allocate $325 million to compensate communities for those lost revenues.

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