U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today praised President Bush’s signing of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act. The legislation will increase the nation’s natural gas supply by allowing new drilling in the Gulf while establishing a permanent conservation fund to help create athletic fields, parks and open spaces.
“For 40 years the conservation community has been trying to establish a permanent fund from offshore drilling that would go to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF),” Alexander said. “Now, 12½ percent of the royalties from the new drilling will create a conservation fund which will be shared by every state to help build parks, athletic fields, and preserve open spaces. To begin with the dollars will be small, but they eventually could amount to as much as $100 million a year.”
Alexander said that since its creation in 1964, the LWCF stateside program has improved parks and forests and helped to create more than 40,000 athletic and playing fields, 12,000 hiking trails, 5,000 campgrounds, 10,000 swimming and boating facilities, and 600 hunting and nature areas.
Since 1965, Tennessee has received LWCF grants totaling $69 million in federal dollars to help fund parks and facilities such as Centennial Park in Jackson, Steele Creek Park in Bristol, the Nashville Riverfront, Kennedy Park in Memphis, Chattanooga’s Lookout Valley Park, and many more across the state.
Alexander said the final passage of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act earlier this month was a bi-partisan effort including House supporters as well as Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM).
Earlier this year, Alexander, chairman of the Senate Energy Subcommittee, and Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) introduced the Land and Water Conservation Fund Investment Act, legislation to provide funding annually from future Gulf revenues to the LWCF stateside grants program. They led efforts to get similar language included in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.
In the mid-1980s, Alexander served as chairman of President Reagan’s Commission on the American Outdoors, which recommended a permanent conservation royalty.
The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act opens more than 8.3 million acres in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing. The bill passed the Senate December 9th and was signed into law today by President Bush as part of H.R. 611, The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006.