Republican News

WASHINGTON, D.C.– With the addition of $150 million in coastal impact assistance to the Commerce, Justice, State funding measure for fiscal year 2001, an abbreviated version of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) has been approved. “The full CARA bill is our goal, but providing many of the elements in appropriations bills is a good first step,” said Chairman Frank H. Murkowski. “This will be an example to the Nation. It will provide a taste of a very good idea that could lead to a full plate in the next Congress.” Many of the CARA programs were put into the Interior Appropriations bill already signed into law. Coastal impact assistance and the wildlife conservation program have been put into Commerce, Justice, State bill to complete the package. The earlier compromise on CARA, worked out by appropriators, put some $400 million into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The change in language in the Commerce funding bill allows $150 million of that amount to go to the states most directly impacted by offshore oil and gas production off their coastlines. Some 35 percent of that amount will be passed through to local communities within the coastal zone. “When I went into this process, one of my goals was to right a longstanding wrong that states with outer continental shelf oil and gas development do not reap a reward from the royalties collected on that production. Inland states that have oil and gas development on U.S. public lands receive 50 percent of the royalties generated,” explained the Chairman. In addition, the Commerce funding bill provides $50 million to wildlife programs in the states for both game and non-game conservation programs. Another Murkowski priority in CARA was full funding for the payment in lieu of taxes program or PILT. “The program has never been funded at the full authorized level of $325 million. With help from the appropriators, we have moved this program from $150 million for FY 2001 to $200 million in the final Interior spending bill. Many communities will see benefits to schools and other services from these additional funds,” said Murkowski. “As passed by the Energy Committee, CARA was a 15-year program with dedicated funding. Our focus was to take the royalties from a non-renewable resource–oil and gas, and reinvest them in the nation. I still believe this is a good idea. One year of funding and authorization is a first step but it doesn’t provide the level of certainty to states and communities that allows them to plan and invest wisely. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, for example, is supposed to be split between money for the purchase of federal lands and funds for recreation use in states and localities. Unfortunately, the history in recent years has been that only the federal side received the funds,” the Chairman commented. In CARA there were important private property right protections for federal land acquisition to provide greater local involvement and oversight leading to a better and more well-informed process. It included consulting with the Governor of a State before the federal government acquired land in that State. Unfortunately, none of those protections have been put into the Appropriations bills. “We have a lot of work to do in the next Congress, but today it is time to count our successes and thank the appropriators.” ###