Lawmakers propose boosting park funding with oil money

Lawmakers propose boosting park funding with oil money
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled a bill Wednesday to increase funding for national park infrastructure, using money from energy produced both offshore and on federal land.

The bill, backed by Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: EPA questioned safety of rolling back fuel efficiency rule | Zinke blames 'environmental terrorist groups' for wildfires | Illinois sues Chicago Trump hotel for violating water rules Zinke blames 'environmental terrorist groups' for scale of California wildfires Overnight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate MORE, is meant in part to implement the Trump administration’s proposal last month for a new National Park Service (NPS) infrastructure fund paid for with money from oil drilling, wind, solar and other federal energy sources.

Dubbed the National Park Restoration Act, the bill would take half of the money that the federal government gets from energy production that is above 2018 forecasts and not dedicated for another use.

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“The good news is we love our national parks. The bad news is we love our national parks. We’re loving them almost to death as we face infrastructure challenges,” Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSanders: Public should be ‘very concerned’ about election security in 2018 Senate Democrats block resolution supporting ICE Republican bill aims to deter NATO members from using Russian pipeline MORE (R-Mont.), one of the sponsors of the proposal, told reporters Wednesday.

“Congress is rightfully accused of kicking the can down the road all the time,” he said. “We have a chance this moment to step forward and address this issue for future generations.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGovernor's race grabs spotlight in Tennessee primaries A single courageous senator can derail the Trump administration GOP worries trade wars will last as Trump engages in temporary tiffs MORE (R-Tenn.), the bill's lead sponsor, said tackling a maintenance backlog would bring visitors and create jobs for people in his state.

“We must continue to work together to find solutions to the many challenges facing our public lands, and this legislation takes an important step toward doing that,” Alexander said.

The NPS had an $11.6 billion maintenance backlog as of last September, about half of which comes from roads and bridges.

The idea of using oil money to fund parks is not new. Many of the backers of the Wednesday bill have previously floated similar proposals.

In addition, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has operated for decades, relies on offshore drilling money. It doles out money not just to federal park programs, but also to local and state programs, with a focus on acquiring land and building recreational facilities.

The bill unveiled Wednesday would take an additional step to protect the funding it sets aside. The money would become mandatory, and not subject to the annual appropriations process.

In the Trump administration’s budget proposal released last month, officials estimated that a similar funding idea would raise $7 billion over 10 years.

“Americans deserve to have a park system that’s well-funded, that’s well-operated, and visitor experience in our parks should remain sacred,” Zinke said Wednesday.

“It’s a fair proposition to say if you’re going to raise wealth on public lands … you should also invest in the future of public lands, particularly our national parks.”

The proposal’s initial backers include Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingThe Hill's 12:30 Report Sen. King ‘reasonably confident’ Russia is behind fake Facebook accounts A single courageous senator can derail the Trump administration MORE (I-Maine.)​, Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith Simpson'Minibus' spending conference committee abruptly canceled Five things to know about efforts to repeal Obama's water rule Key conservative presses for shield law after seizure of NYT reporter’s records MORE (R-Idaho), Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderDems reverse course on White House parks plan Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog won’t drop Pruitt probes | Exxon leaves conservative advocacy group | Lawmakers offer changes to Endangered Species Act Western lawmakers introduce bills to amend Endangered Species Act MORE (D-Ore.), Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate GOP battles for leverage with House on spending Lawmakers, media team up for charity tennis event The Hill's Morning Report — Trump picks new fight with law enforcement, intelligence community MORE (R-W.Va.), Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichGary Johnson launches New Mexico Senate bid Hillicon Valley: 'QAnon' conspiracy theory jumps to primetime | Senate Intel broadens look into social media manipulation | Senate rejects push for more election security funds | Reddit reveals hack Lawmakers warn that social media manipulation is 'bigger than a single election' MORE (D-N.M.), Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerSenate GOP campaign arm asking Trump to endorse McSally in Arizona: report When it comes to drone tech, wildfire officials need the rights tools for the job Rubio slams Google over plans to unveil censored Chinese search engine MORE (R-Colo.)​ and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOrrin Hatch: Partisanship over Kavanaugh nomination 'dumbass' Kavanaugh tells senators Mueller’s appointment was appropriate: report Senators restart talks to fix family separations MORE (R-N.C.).