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ICYMI: US Energy Dominance Can Fix Our National Parks

By: Washington Examiner Editorial Board

Washington Examiner 

The House Natural Resources Committee will take up a bipartisan proposal this coming week with well over 100 cosponsors. Its purpose is to pay for the enormous $16 billion maintenance backlog at facilities controlled by the National Parks system, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, which the Trump administration supports, has a simple premise, as House Natural Resources Chairman Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, put it in a recent interview with the Washington Examiner: "What we raise on federal lands will help us to maintain federal lands." For the next five years, it dedicates half of the profit that the government makes from energy leases (mostly oil and gas leases) on federal lands and in federal waters, and uses it to pay for the much-needed backlog of expenses involved in keeping up public lands.

"This is a creative way of actually funding a longstanding problem that has to be addressed," said Bishop, who added that his proposal will produce $1.3 billion per year for this purpose over the next five years. There are only two other ways he could think of to deal with the problem: "Raising taxes, or else getting rid of national parks."

An original version of this proposal, floated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, was better in our opinion. It would have tied future oil and gas revenues to this much-needed outlay. But to bring Democrats on board, specifically to satisfy committee ranking member Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., it was agreed only to dedicate funds to this purpose from oil and gas leases already signed, so that there's no direct inducement to initiate new leases.

This odd-sounding concession is based on some left-wing Democrats’ opposition to any drilling for oil and gas on federal land. They can think whatever they want. We think this proposal is a rare positive and salutary example of hypothecation of revenue, with or without the sop to soothe green nerves. This bill will still set a welcome precedent by tying cash for a much-needed expenditure to the collection of energy revenues that represent not only a boon for Uncle Sam, but also for the entire economy.

This bill, about the future of which Bishop was optimistic, will further President Trump's goal of energy dominance — it has a much more invigorating ring to it than the old "energy independence" — at a time when oil prices are high and the export of liquid natural gas is just starting to take off.

Natural gas from fracking has done more than any environmental activism to cut greenhouse emissions. And America's exports to the rest of the world have increased more than twentyfold in just three years, with a new export terminal coming online this summer. The U.S. is also poised to become the world’s largest oil producer. These are both positive changes for humanity. Not only will the energy produced on federal lands warm homes, transport people, and mollify fears about the trade deficit, but they will also loosen the grip of the despotic Russian President Vladimir Putin on nations he menaces, and help defuse a major historic cause of tension and conflict in the Middle East.

Obviously, this topic's significance extends far beyond maintenance of the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac, or of welcome centers, campgrounds, hiking trails, and paved roads in national parks, to name just a few expenses that need to be covered.

Given that government oil and gas revenues are currently dumped right into the U.S. Treasury along with most other revenue, it makes sense to dedicate the money produced by the capital we call public lands to the many and varied projects needed for their maintenance. Bishop and Grijalva have done a good thing in coming together across party lines to solve a serious long-term problem, and we encourage members of the House to move forward and make it a reality.