More than four decades ago, Congress made a promise to the American people: In exchange for letting oil companies drill offshore in federal waters — with the inevitable environmental harm involved — the people would get oil-company funding to build parks and preserve environmentally sensitive lands.
That was the promise. But in the decades since, Congress has forked out the $900 million a year only one time. Instead of spending about $31 billion, Congress has come up with just $15 billion, a Congressional Research Service report states.
That could change. We’ll see if it’s just windmill-tilting, but this week U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Max Baucus of Montana filed legislation to fix that. Their bill would theoretically obligate Congress to fork over the full $900 million every year. It’s a little unclear how a current Congress could obligate a future Congress — that’s a no-no constitutionally, the way I understand it — but color me interested.
According to a New York Times editorial (the only MSM article I could find; if you’re going to have just one article in the MSM about something, that’s not a bad one to have… but still, this deserves more coverage) U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall is pushing the same idea in the House.
Now, we’ll have more to say about the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the next little while, but for now just know that we’re keeping an eye on this. If you have some information about how this is going in D.C., or how LWCF money could be — or is — used in your community, please get in touch. I’m at rmcclure (at) invw.org. This pot of money has provided more than 42,000 grants to state and local governments, and protected more than 5 million acres. Let me know how it’s going out there.