Mar 17 2009
Coburn Insists on Debate and Amendments
Dr. Coburn’s key policy and process concerns:
1) The omnibus lands package is an “anti-stimulus” that will erect new barriers to energy exploration and squander billions of taxpayer dollars on low-priority parochial programs and frivolous earmarks.
2) The bill is another direct challenge from Congress to President Obama’s pledge to clean up the earmark process. Last week, President Obama pledged to eliminate earmarks that did not serve a legitimate public purpose. He also said that each earmark must be scrutinized at public hearings. None of the individual earmarks in the bill were subject to public hearings nor would many Americans describe earmarks like a $3.5 million birthday bash for St. Augustine, Florida a legitimate public purpose.
3) The omnibus lands bill should be subject to a full and open amendment process. For months, Senate Majority Leader Reid has argued that the bill is “non-controversial” and should pass by a voice vote with no amendments and no recorded roll call vote. Yet, last week, 144 members of the House voted against the bill because it needs major revisions. More than 100 organizations ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Wildlife Refuge Association have expressed their opposition to this package.^
• The bill blocks the development of both renewable and oil and gas energy resources. One bill in the package locks up at least 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and more 300 million barrels of oil in a single field, which is equal to nearly twice as much natural gas as all American homes use in a year.
• The bill includes 92 National Wild and Scenic River designations covering 1,100 miles that will prohibit any pipeline or transmission crossing.
• In 19 cases, the bill permanently withdraws federal lands from future mineral and geothermal leasing.
• Since the Senate last considered the lands bill, Secretary Salazar has withdrawn major energy leases in Utah (77) and Wyoming (8) that were the subject of a coordinated lawsuit brought by extreme anti-energy groups. Secretary Salazar specifically delayed offshore drilling and the development of oil shale.
Examples of wasteful spending and egregious earmarks:
• An estimated $1 billion for a water project in California for the restoration of 500 salmon.
• $3.5 million to celebrate the 450th Anniversary of St Augustine, Florida in 2015.
• $250,000 for the Park Service to study whether Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood estate at St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands is suitable for designation as a new National Park unit.
• $5 million for the National Tropical Botanical Garden to operate and maintain gardens in Hawaii and Florida.
• A new ocean exploration program that is tasked with conducting “scientific voyages to locate, define, and document historic shipwrecks.”
Dr. Coburn has filed the following amendments to the bill:
Amendment 675: Prohibit the use of eminent domain for any provision authorized in the bill. Complete background can be found here
Amendment 677: Require annual report detailing total size and cost of federal property. Complete background can be found here
Amendment 680: Bar new construction (not including necessary replacement construction) until all current sites are certified by the Secretary as fully operational, ensuring full access by the public, and posing no health or safety threat. The National Park Service is currently facing a $10 billion maintenance backlog. Complete background can be found here
Amendment 682: Clarify Section Subtitle D to protect park visitors and scientists from criminal penalties for taking stones that may contain insignificant fossils. Complete background can be found here
Amendment 683: Strike out frivolous waste in the bill (St. Augustine birthday party; botanical gardens in Hawaii and Florida; California salmon restoration; Alexander Hamilton’s boyhood estate in the Virgin Islands; and shipwreck exploration program). Complete background can be found here
For general talking points and extensive background click here
To read more highlights of the Omnibus Lands Grab and Energy Restrictions Act click here
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