Passing the Domenici-Landrieu Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, S. 3711, when Congress reconvenes this week for the lame-duck session offers America a great opportunity.

Targeted toward increased energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, the bill was coauthored by Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and passed the Senate in August with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 71 to 25 vote. It would open 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to new oil and natural gas production. Experts believe this new area, now partially under moratoria, holds enough crude oil to keep 2.7 million cars fueled for 15 years and enough natural gas, a resource necessary for developing alternative fuels, to sustain 1,000 chemical plants for 40 years.

Of the revenues, 37.5 percent would be dedicated to coastal protection projects in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. Another 12.5 percent would fund the state side of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which benefits land conservation in all 50 states. The remaining 50 percent would be sent to the federal treasury. Inland states currently receive half of the revenues from energy generated on federal lands within their borders while coastal states receive virtually none of the revenue produced off their shores. The legislation fixes this inequity, creating an onshore offshore partnership for the Gulf Coast states that serve the nation by producing energy.

This bill is critical to the nation because it will for the first time in 25 years increase our domestic oil supply and increase jobs. Wetlands restoration will also protect the energy infrastructure in the Gulf, the backbone of the American energy industry.

The bill is critical to Louisiana, a victim of the worst hurricanes in American history, Katrina and Rita, because it creates a dedicated revenue stream to build levees and restore coastal wetlands that have been disappearing at an alarming rate: 25 square miles of land disappears into Gulf waters a year; an acre wastes away every 33 minutes. Restoring wetlands is the key to buffering Gulf Coast states against future storm surges.

The time to act is now. It is time to increase domestic energy while tying the proceeds to improving the environment. Otherwise, every American will lose out on the benefits of this sound public policy.