LWCF … Reauth. Push Continues During Lame Duck Session

PUBLIC LANDS

Bishop aims to have LWCF deal ‘tied up’ early next week

Reports: LWCF Not Likely Considered in Lame Duck Session

Reports indicate it’s increasingly unlikely that the LWCF reauthorization will be addressed before the current lame duck session of Congress adjourns in mid-December.   Though the related bills cleared committees earlier this year in both the Senate and House, there doesn’t seem to be the necessary appetite to address it this late in the session as you  will note in the three reports below.  Appropriations appear to be the items most likely addressed.  However, some continue to strive to have the proposed LWCF legislation heard … so it’s never give up … or maybe as Will Rogers once referenced, … Congress in session is as when a baby gets hold of a hammer — you never know the direction it will go.

PUBLIC LANDS

Republicans object to House bipartisan LWCF bill

Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter

Six House Natural Resources Committee Republicans have filed objections to legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which the GOP-led committee reported out in September.

In addition to their concerns about approving the program on a permanent basis and the $900 million annual authorized spending level, dissenting Republicans want a more aggressive overhaul than the current pending legislation advocates.

Dissenting views from the minority are not uncommon on majority-sponsored legislation reported out of committee but are not frequent among members of the same party.

“While we support many aspects of LWCF, including increasing sportsmen’s access and consolidating checkerboards of lands, we have become frustrated over the years that extremist groups have hijacked parts of LWCF to lockup more land and water and prohibit such properties from multiple-use,” wrote the GOP dissenters.

Signers included Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar of Arizona; incoming Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming; and Reps. Doug LaMalfa and Tom McClintock of California, Daniel Webster of Florida, and Louie Gohmert of Texas.

Their wish list includes specific language limiting new federal land acquisition, a proposal to direct some LWCF revenues to the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes program and a provision ensuring private property rights are “properly protected.”

Similar unsuccessful amendments to the LWCF bill, H.R. 502, were offered during the September markup.

The six lawmakers added that failure to include their reforms in a reauthorization of LWCF “may result in the loss of support from dissenting views signers and other colleagues in the House.”

It’s unlikely the views of six Republicans are enough to make much difference to LWCF’s already uncertain fate during the lame-duck session. Still, their opposition doesn’t help.

A broad constituency, from Republican mayors to major conservation groups, has steadily exerted pressure on Congress since the summer to reauthorize the program before certain provisions expired Sept. 30 (E&E Daily, Nov. 26).

But a crowded lame-duck legislative agenda as well as two different LWCF bills circulating through Congress have imperiled the odds that lawmakers can muscle reauthorization over the finish line by year’s end.

  1. 569, sponsored by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s top Democrat, Maria Cantwell of Washington, would fully fund and permanently reauthorize LWCF.

Last week, the independent Congressional Budget Office released a report estimating the bill would raise the federal deficit by billions of dollars over a 10-year budget window (Greenwire, Nov. 21).

H.R. 502 would permanently renew the program but does not address funding. Also, the House bill, the result of a carefully crafted deal between Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and ranking member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), would allocate 40 percent of money to the fund’s stateside program, 40 percent to the federal government and 20 percent for other necessary activities that could include deferred maintenance needs.

The six Republican dissenters took issue with the 40-40-20 split.

The original 1965 law mandated a 60-40 percent divide between states and the federal government, respectively, but over the years the stateside allocation has fallen below that level, a situation that “has proven erroneous,” the dissenters said.

“State and local communities on the ground are in most instances better stewards of the taxpayer dollar than a faraway bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.,” wrote the group. “The percentage of LWCF revenues allocated to stateside programs should be further increased.”

The members also objected to the LWCF bill being added to the September markup at the last minute, criticizing committee leadership for giving them “a little over 12 hours’ notice” to review the bill’s text and draft amendments (Greenwire, Sept. 13).

“This deviation is all the more striking for being out of character for the committee,” they said. “We request such breaches of protocol not be repeated.”

Murkowski: Finishing LWCF this year ‘challenging’

By Anthony Adragna

11/27/2018 11:25 AM EDT

Senate Energy Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said today that completing work on a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund looked like a long shot this year since lawmakers had made no progress in addressing spending concerns.

“It’s challenging because of the offset,” she told POLITICO. “Is it possible? Everything’s possible.”

Ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) told reporters she was not giving up on getting her bill S. 569 (115) across the finish line this year, but acknowledged it might be easier to find support for mandatory spending in the Democratic-led House next year. She pointed out that many Republican senators support her bill with the spending included.

“We’ll have to team up those Republicans with the House members in the new Congress to really get the level of investment we want to see,” Cantwell said.

“I do think we’re going to have more of a favorable environment,” she added. “You’ll have the majority in the House believing in investing in public lands.”

She summed up the state of play: “We just don’t know what we can get out of [Speaker] Paul Ryan before he leaves.”

House lawmakers previously expressed optimism they can get something wrapped up before the end of the year. Their bill H.R. 502 (115) that cleared the House Natural Resources Committee did not include mandatory spending.

PUBLIC LANDS

CBO delivers bad news on Senate land and water bill

Geof Koss and Jeremy Dillon, E&E News reporters

Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2018″

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) have been working on legislation to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Backers of the bipartisan Senate bill that would permanently dedicate funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund must find more than $7 billion in spending-offsets to get the measure through the chamber, giving the House’s competing version a boost in lame-duck negotiations to revive the expired program.

The Congressional Budget Office yesterday confirmed what was long been assumed: The LWCF bill, S. 569, authored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), will raise the federal deficit by billions over the 10-year budget window that the independent office uses to score legislation’s deficit impact.

Under pay-as-you-go (pay-go) budgeting rules, any bill that adds to the deficit within 10 years of enactment must be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere in the federal government or raising new revenue.

The inclusion of mandatory spending in the Senate bill will cost the federal government $7.2 billion over 10 years, requiring offsets to cover that amount if the bill comes to the Senate floor.

CBO’s review also found that the Senate bill would raise the deficit by more than $5 billion in each of the four decades after 2029, although those funds do not have to be offset.

Originally created in 1965, the LWCF is a politically popular program that has touched nearly every congressional district in some manner using funds derived from offshore oil and gas activities. The fund has a balance of about $22 billion that can still be used by appropriators to continue LWCF-related activities.

Overhauling the LWCF has been a perennial concern for some Western conservative lawmakers. Those efforts caused the program to lapse for the second time in a five-year period on Sept. 30. The program previously lapsed in 2015, but was ultimately resolved with a three-year authorization patch in the year-end omnibus spending bill.

While there’s broad bipartisan support for permanently reauthorizing the LWCF, Cantwell’s proposal to make funding for the program mandatory — largely removing it from the annual appropriations process — is opposed by key Senate Republicans.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who also chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that funds LWCF, doesn’t support Cantwell’s proposal, nor do Gulf Coast lawmakers, who fear that the bill could limit revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling that their states are entitled to under a 2006 law. Both programs are funded largely by federal oil and gas revenues from the Gulf of Mexico (E&E Daily, Nov. 13).

Murkowski hinted at those budgetary concerns when her committee advanced the bill during the Oct. 2 markup, in which a collection of five Republican committee members and every Democrat voted together to move the Cantwell bill.

“I want to figure out a way to get [to permanent reauthorization], but I have express concerns about the mandatory spending side of what has been offered today as the main bill from Sen. Cantwell,” Murkowski said at the time. “I have a very serious reservation that with this bill, we provide for permanent mandatory funding without providing for an offset. That is something that we really haven’t had the big discussion about.”

Murkowski and Cantwell included a permanent reauthorization in their broad energy policy bill that passed the Senate in 2016. That provision didn’t contain mandatory spending.

By contrast, the bipartisan House bill, H.R. 502, would permanently authorize the LWCF but continue to have appropriators determine annual spending. As a result, CBO found that bill would have no deficit impacts over 10 years.

CBO’s review of the Senate bill highlights an obscure but important budgetary quirk over LWCF. By statute, appropriators are authorized to spend up to $900 million annually on the program — in theory, a pay-for that is mostly provided by drilling revenues in the outer continental shelf. Some senators have argued that the Senate bill shouldn’t trigger pay-go rules, given that there’s already an existing funding source.

But making that annual spending a mandatory function also ultimately adds to the deficit under CBO’s scoring process, which is a perennial source of frustration for lawmakers.

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who opposes Cantwell’s bill, noted the budgeting issue last month. “It is a fig leaf of a pay-for, because you got to pay for the pay-for,” he told E&E News last month.

Lame-duck push

CBO’s score comes as LWCF backers on both sides of the Capitol are aiming to extend the program, which expired Sept. 30.

Outside groups and key House and Senate lawmakers are pressing furiously for an extension, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t list LWCF among the outstanding issues he wants to finish in the lame-duck session, which include appropriations and the farm bill.

Additionally, Murkowski is pushing a broad public lands package that includes dozens of stand-alone bills. It’s unclear whether that package could also include LWCF and separate bipartisan legislation that would provide billions to address the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog. The parks bill also contains mandatory spending that will need to be offset.

Cantwell told E&E News before the Thanksgiving recess that she expects LWCF will be extended either in the lame duck or early in the next Congress.                                Rich Innes  Senior Fellow, Meridian Institute

America’s State Parks and REI #OptOutside For a Better Black Friday

For Immediate Release November 19, 2018
Contact:  Linda Lanterman (620) 672-0742, linda.lanterman@ks.gov

America’s State Parks and REI #OptOutside For a Better Black Friday

PRATT – America’s State Parks and specialty outdoor retailer REI Co-op are opting for a better way to spend Black Friday (November 23); one that gets families and friends reconnected with nature and spending time outdoors. They’re choosing to #OptOutside.

On October 23 REI announced that it “will close all 153 stores, process no online payments and pay more than 12,000 employees to #OptOutside with friends and family.” – for the fourth year running. And there are no better or more beautiful places for REI employees – and the nation – to spend time outside than at America’s State Parks.

“As millions of Americans get ready to #OptOutside again this Black Friday, state parks provide a great, close-to-home option for recreation. Kudos to all of the states waiving entrance fees to help people get outside this year, or just encouraging folks to enjoy their state parks” says Marc Berejka, REI director of community and government affairs.

The U.S. is home to some 8,565 state parks, all unique, that offer healthy, stress-free alternatives to crowded Black Friday shopping. From hiking, biking, camping and more, there are countless ways to enjoy time outdoors with family and friends at America’s State Parks. And many state parks across the nation will offer special programs and incentives on Black Friday to make your visit more enjoyable, convenient and affordable.

As of today, the following special #OptOutside promotions will be offered on Black Friday:

  • Arizona – limited free park admission passes at all Arizona REI stores
  • Arkansas – Green Friday – scheduled events at many state parks
  • Colorado – free day admission to all state parks
  • Delaware – free day admission to all state parks
  • Georgia – more than 20 programs being held, all open to the public
  • Indiana – free day admission to all state parks, reservoirs, state forest recreation areas and off-road vehicle riding areas; scavenger hunt; free #OptOutside knit hats; REI prize package giveaway; and, 20% off meal coupons
  • Kansas – free day admission to all state parks, and free cabin stay drawing
  • Minnesota – free day admission to all state parks
  • New Mexico – free day admission to all state parks
  • Oregon – free day admission to all state parks
  • Rhode Island – 1.5–mile guided hike in Chepachet
  • Tennessee – Ranger-led hikes at all 56 state parks
  • Virginia – free day admission to all state parks for customers at REI and other select outdoor retailers; photo contest with gift certificate prizes
  • Washington – free day admission to all state parks
  • Wyoming – free day admission to all state parks 

 “America’s State Parks truly are some of the most beautiful places we have to explore and enjoy nature in the U.S. Nowhere else will you find landscapes so untouched by man. And to think you can visit some of these remarkable places for free is even more amazing,” said National Association of State Park Directors president Linda Lanterman. “America’s State Parks add to our quality of life in ways you can’t even imagine – unless you’ve been there. And once you go, you’ll never forget them.”

###

For more info on

America’s State Parks and activities on

Black Friday, click here   

 

 

 

 

Vela Sails Through Senate Confirmation Hearing

David Vela encountered little turbulence Thursday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, pledging to set the standard for accountability and transparency as director of the National Park Service.

On issues ranging from sexual misconduct and other forms of harassment to addressing the nearly $12 billion backlog of maintenance needs across the National Park System, Vela, currently Grand Teton National Park’s superintendent, essentially said the buck stops with him.

More

NC’s “Ask a Ranger” Podcast

Check out North Carolina State Parks’ new podcast, Ask a Ranger here.  Nicely done.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

In stormy markup, U.S. House panel OKs parks, drilling and LWCF bills

from Greenwire:

NATURAL RESOURCES

In stormy markup, panel OKs parks, drilling and LWCF bills

Kellie Lunney, E&E News reporter   Thursday, September 13, 2018

 

The House Natural Resources Committee today marked up legislation dealing with revenue sharing, national parks, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other matters. Natural Resources Committee

image002

Despite last-minute fireworks from a Louisiana Republican, a House committee this morning advanced three major bills, including one that permanently reauthorizes a popular land and water conservation program before it expires on Sept. 30.

Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and the panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, hammered out a bipartisan agreement that extends the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a major win for many of the program’s supporters who are tired of 11th-hour scrambles over the years to temporarily authorize LWCF.

The voice vote on the deal came as a surprise during a markup that initially was only supposed to consider one bill: the “Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act,” H.R. 6510.

But a decision by House leadership to cancel tomorrow’s session, as well as pressure from Louisiana Republican Rep. Garret Graves to take up his bill boosting the share of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues for Gulf Coast states, forced a doubleheader session on the three bills, as Bishop put it.

The committee also advanced Graves’ bill — H.R. 6771, which would increase the revenue-sharing for Gulf states from the current level of 37.5 percent to 50 percent — and the parks bill by voice vote.

The LWCF bill would allocate 40 percent of money to the fund’s state-side program, 40 percent to the federal government and 20 percent for other necessary activities that could include deferred maintenance needs, for example.

Under the legislation, Washington, D.C., and the U.S. territories would be treated as individual states with equal shares for the purposes of LWCF.

Another provision would give a 3 percent set-aside for recreation access, requiring the Interior secretary to put together a list of priority projects.

“This is a taste of what’s possible when people work together in good faith,” Grijalva said today. “Days like these are far too rare in Congress, and if we keep this up, we might just restore public trust in Congress’ ability to get things done.”

Bishop added, “My reservations about the program have never been about the goals of LWCF, rather I’ve been frustrated that the implementation of the program fell short of the law’s intended purpose.”

Bishop stuck to his agreement with Grijalva, rejecting several ultimately unsuccessful amendments from other Republicans, including one from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, seeking to decrease the annual authorized $900 million LWCF amount by half.

Another from Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) would have required the Interior secretary to sell an equal number of acres for land acquired by the federal government under LWCF.

LWCF still has a way to go in the face of an abbreviated congressional calendar: The full House needs to take up the measure, and the matter remains in limbo in the Senate. Members there continue to struggle to find a vehicle for reauthorization.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the program’s longtime champion who has been pushing in recent weeks to permanently reauthorize it, said he’s “been closely following” the House bill.

“There is strong, bipartisan support in both chambers for permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” Burr said in a statement. “With the program’s expiration deadline quickly approaching, I will not let up my push for a vote on LWCF to save America’s most popular and successful conservation program.”

Burr has not yet taken a position on the House bill, said his spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll.

Outside groups were pleased with today’s outcome.

“We’re thrilled that Chairman Bishop and ranking member Grijalva are working together on a compromise that advances the Land and Water Conservation Fund in a meaningful way. We’re now one step closer to permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” said Julia Peebles, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ government relations manager.

However, Peebles acknowledged that the fight wasn’t over. “BHA and our partners will redouble our efforts in support of LWCF to ensure that this bill crosses the finish line — and we also will continue our work to secure dedicated funding for America’s most popular and successful conservation and access program,” she said.

Bipartisan parks bill

The parks bill would create a five-year, $6.5 billion fund for four Interior agencies to address long-standing maintenance and construction backlogs at the nation’s parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education schools.

“I recognize this won’t stand alone, but ultimately there will be other pieces that have to go forward with it,” said Bishop, specifically mentioning revenue-sharing with states and the authorization of the LWCF as “elements” that ultimately will have to be dealt with in some way.

The money for the proposed “National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund” would be made up of 50 percent of all otherwise unallocated revenue from energy production on federal lands and waters.

Interior’s largest agencies — the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the Bureau of Indian Education — would benefit from the fund. The legislation, similar to a bipartisan bill introduced in June in the Senate, is a combination of existing proposals.

But today’s markup devolved into a debate over where precious oil and gas drilling revenues go and which lands and waters benefit from those conservation dollars.

Graves and Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) unsuccessfully introduced several amendments — more than 20 — to H.R. 6510. All the provisions essentially tried to protect the Gulf Coast states from losing out.

Lawmakers from those states, which produce the lion’s share of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues, are concerned the parks bill would take money meant for them.

GOMESA

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, passed after Hurricane Katrina, allowed Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to share 37.5 percent of oil and gas revenues produced in federal waters off their coasts to assist them with coastal restoration and hurricane protection.

Graves used the markup to vociferously fight for his state’s share of oil and gas drilling money, which Louisiana uses for coastal restoration and other conservation projects.

While the panel rejected his amendments to the parks bill, no one voiced objection to his GOMESA reform legislation, just introduced yesterday.

Kevin Roig, Graves’ deputy chief of staff, said his bill “brings revenue-sharing from offshore production more in line with onshore. While state producing energy onshore federal lands get to retain 50 percent of the energy revenues, coastal states have received a small fraction.”

Roig said Graves’ bill would also ensure new revenues would go to coastal restoration projects that help communities better weather hurricanes and other disasters. The proposed 50 percent in sharing would be for leases issues after December 2006.

California Democratic Rep. Jared Huffman said he wanted to focus on areas of agreement to restore important wetlands in Louisiana and elsewhere.

“We’ve got a lot of grievances we can bring to these conversations,” Huffman said to Graves, responding to the Louisianan’s remarks over how other states benefit greatly from his state’s energy development.

“I want to see the right thing done, but without punishing other states,” Huffman said.

Twitter: @klunney Email: klunney@eenews.net

 

President Names Vela to Lead National Park Service

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela has been nominated to serve as the next director of the National Park Service.

Ending two months of speculation on Friday, President Donald Trump named Vela as his pick to head the agency, which has not had a permanent director since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised the move in an official release.

“David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for,” Zinke said, “and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job.”

 

 

 

 

Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela has been nominated to serve as the next director of the National Park Service.

Ending two months of speculation on Friday, President Donald Trump named Vela as his pick to head the agency, which has not had a permanent director since Jonathan Jarvis retired in January 2017.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke praised the move in an official release.

 “David Vela has demonstrated all of the ideals that the National Park Service stands for,” Zinke said, “and his long track record of leadership on behalf of the people and places of the National Park Service distinguish him as the right man for the job.”

5b89a60188e24.image

Full story

 

National Discussion: Maintenance Backlog of NPS, Video

 

 

image

Department of the Interior Press Release:  National Parks Infrastructure Discussion   here

Maintenance Backlog, National Parks:  A Love Story  video  

New Cottages and $55 mil in Bond Funds for WV State Parks

Three new cottages were opened July 16 at Chief Logan State Park in West Virginia.  Construction dollars came from gas and oil bonus funds directed to State Parks.  More detail on cottages here.  Additional projects are scheduled to begin as funds become available.

 0717_park_24997.JPG

Also, on July 18, the RFP was went out to release $55M in bonds for repairs and improvements to West Virginia State Parks.  Most of the funds will be used to address  infrastructure repairs, lodge and cabin upgrades and other deferred maintenance needs.