Natural gas and oil are integral to federal programs that support our nation’s magnificent national parks and conservation projects as well as state environmental programs from coast to coast, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund is no exception.
Recently, a bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers introduced legislation to guarantee $900 million in annual funding to the LWCF. That’s no small feat, given how hard it is these days to gain across-the-aisle agreement. Yet, the LWCF certainly is deserving of bipartisan support — for all the good the program does to protect and conserve public lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities in all 50 states.
As lawmakers consider the legislative options for this significant conservation program, it’s important they remember that offshore natural gas and oil production is by far the LWCF’s leading source of revenue. They also should recognize that increasing the LWCF’s revenue stream in the future depends on expanding access to offshore energy resources — creating opportunity for more leasing, exploration and development.
Conversely, proposals that would ban offshore natural gas and oil exploration and development directly threaten to undermine the LWCF’s primary revenue stream, hamstringing a program that enables state and local governments to create new parks and improve existing ones, and develop and expand trail systems and other recreation opportunities.
Access is key. The U.S. Energy Information Agency projects that natural gas and oil will continue to supply more than 60 percent of Americans’ energy for at least the next three decades. Yet, 94 percent of the United States’ federal offshore acreage is off limits to natural gas and oil development, leaving a majority of our homegrown energy resources on the shelf.
The LWCF is a compelling argument for the states to support energy development in new deepwater areas, and there really is no better time for it. The U.S. natural gas and oil industry has invested heavily in technologies and standards-setting to make offshore development safer than ever before — for workers, communities and the environment.
Over the past 10 years, industry has published more than 100 new or strengthened exploration and production standards while working with regulators to enhance federal inspection and enforcement at production facilities. The Center for Offshore Safety is an industry-led initiative to promote continuous safety improvement for offshore exploration and production through effective leadership, communication, teamwork, disciplined safety management systems and independent, third-party auditing and certification.
This commitment to protecting our communities and the environment is why the oil and natural gas industry strongly supports conservation partnerships. Energy revenue disbursements often are the second-highest federal revenue generator after taxes, and they fund important conservation programs across the nation. Federal offshore revenues that support LWCF grants are just a portion of the economic benefits to U.S. consumers afforded by offshore oil and natural gas development.
It’s important to remember that offshore oil and natural gas production is the primary funding source that makes this important conservation work possible.
Mark Green is the editor of the Energy Tomorrow Blog at the American Petroleum Institute.
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