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: House Science Committee hits EPA with subpoenas | California sues EPA over Trump revoking emissions waiver | Interior disbands board that floated privatization at national parks Interior disbands advisory board that floated privatization at national parks Overnight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics 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 DainesBullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate Senate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Perry replacement moves closer to confirmation despite questions on Ukraine 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 AlexanderRick Perry says Trump is the 'chosen one' sent 'to do great things' Impeachment will make some Senate Republicans squirm Crunch time for Congress on surprise medical bills 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 KingHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators urge FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (I-Maine.)​, Rep. Mike SimpsonMIchael (Mike) Keith SimpsonBipartisan group reveals agricultural worker immigration bill House passes Paycheck Fairness Act Press: Democrats dare to think big MORE (R-Idaho), Rep. Kurt SchraderWalter (Kurt) Kurt SchraderBlue Dogs issue new call for House leaders to abide by pay-go rule Caution for Democrats: Voters care more about drug pricing than impeaching Trump Here are the House Democrats who aren't backing Trump impeachment inquiry MORE (D-Ore.), Sen. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoCongress braces for chaotic December The job no GOP senator wants: 'I'd rather have a root canal' The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Trump calls into 'Fox & Friends,' talks impeachment MORE (R-W.Va.), Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenators urge FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics This week: House to vote on Turkey sanctions bill MORE (D-N.M.), Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerHillicon Valley: House passes anti-robocall bill | Senators inch forward on privacy legislation | Trump escalates fight over tech tax | Illinois families sue TikTok | Senators get classified briefing on ransomware Senators urge FERC to protect critical infrastructure from Huawei threats Senators sound alarm on dangers of ransomware attacks after briefing MORE (R-Colo.)​ and Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisNC rep explores Tillis primary challenge Republicans raise concerns over Trump pardoning service members Tillis challenger dropping GOP primary bid in North Carolina MORE (R-N.C.).