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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: Political appointee taking over as Interior IG | Change comes amid Zinke probe | White Houses shelves coal, nuke bailout plan | Top Dem warns coal export proposal hurts military Top House Armed Services Dem says Trump coal export plan could hurt military HUD political appointee to replace Interior Department inspector general 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 DainesTrump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas McConnell: No one is going to beat Murkowski in Alaska Murkowski brushes off GOP backlash: 'I'm good with' Kavanaugh vote 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 AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans 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 KingCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel People have forgotten 'facade' of independent politicians, says GOP strategist Senate poised to confirm Kavanaugh after bitter fight MORE (I-Maine.)​, Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonOvernight Energy: Trump reportedly set to weaken methane rule | Exxon appeals climate case to Supreme Court | California commits to 100 percent clean energy | Tribes sue over Keystone XL pipeline Overnight Energy: EPA watchdog to probe Superfund panel | Zinke opens more wildlife refuges to hunting | House to vote on energy spending bill next week GOP shrugs off Trump shutdown threat 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 CapitoThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Dem path to a Senate majority narrows GOP shrugs off dire study warning of global warming Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths MORE (R-W.Va.), Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia For everyone’s safety, border agents must use body-worn cameras Electric carmakers turn to Congress as tax credits dry up MORE (D-N.M.), Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDemocrats must end mob rule GOP senators praise Haley as 'powerful' and 'unafraid' Democrats won’t let Kavanaugh debate die MORE (R-Colo.)​ and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisDems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October Kavanaugh tensions linger after bitter fight GOP fractured over filling Supreme Court vacancies in 2020 MORE (R-N.C.).