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 ZinkeTrump extends Florida offshore drilling pause, expands it to Georgia, South Carolina Conspicuous by their absence from the Republican Convention Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet 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 DainesOn The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump faces backlash after not committing to peaceful transition of power Credit union group to spend million on Senate, House races 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 AlexanderPelosi urges early voting to counter GOP's high court gambit: 'There has to be a price to pay' Graham: GOP has votes to confirm Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Washington on edge amid SCOTUS vacancy 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 KingHopes for DC, Puerto Rico statehood rise Government watchdog recommends creation of White House cyber director position Democrats step up hardball tactics as Supreme Court fight heats up MORE (I-Maine.)​, Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonDuring a time of uncertainty, Great American Outdoors Act deserves our support Dentists want coronavirus testing kits before reopening MLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues MORE (R-Idaho), Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderHouse members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes The 14 Democrats who broke with their party on coronavirus relief vote House votes to condemn Trump Medicaid block grant policy MORE (D-Ore.), Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress must finish work on popular conservation bill before time runs out Second GOP senator to quarantine after exposure to coronavirus GOP senator to quarantine after coronavirus exposure MORE (R-W.Va.), Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Senate Democrats seek removal of controversial public lands head after nomination withdrawal Five takeaways from final Senate Intel Russia report MORE (D-N.M.), Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerBreaking the Chinese space addiction Trump dumbfounds GOP with latest unforced error Billionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden MORE (R-Colo.)​ and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Energy: Trump officials finalize plan to open up protected areas of Tongass to logging | Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium | Dems question EPA's postponement of inequality training On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami Feds say offshore testing for oil can proceed despite drilling moratorium MORE (R-N.C.).