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March 10, 2020

King Advocates for Restore Our Parks Act and Permanent Funding for LWCF

Senator King emphasizes Maine’s opposition to offshore drillings to Interior Secretary

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, today advocated for his legislation that would address the nearly $12 billion backlog at U.S. National Parks and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) during a hearing featuring U.S. Secretary of Interior David Bernhardt. This week, Senator King led a bipartisan group of senators, in introducing the Great American Outdoors Actlandmark legislation that will preserve and protect America’s public lands. The legislation includes the King-led Restore Our Parks Act, and would permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“I want to thank you for your commitment to the Restore Our Parks Act you stated that at your confirmation hearing. There has been a lot of work recently as you know,” said Senator King. “The President has come out firmly in favor of this proposal, as well as permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, I know that you had a role to play in that… I think we are close – we are not there, we’ve got some legislative consideration – but we can see the light at the end of the trail. And I really appreciate the work – the attention that you’ve paid to that issue. Look forward to continuing to work with you.”

The Restore Our Parks Act, which was led by Senators King, Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), would establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” to reduce the maintenance backlog by allocating existing revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development. This funding would come from 50 percent of all revenues that are not otherwise allocated and deposited into the General Treasury not to exceed $1.3 billion each year for the next five years. This consensus legislation was passed on a bipartisan basis by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November. In September 2018, Senator King joined Acting NPS Director Dan Smith on a tour of Acadia National Park to assess the park’s critical maintenance need; the backlog at Acadia alone is estimated to be approximately $60 million. Senator King strongly supported the LWCF’s permanent reauthorization as part of the public lands package in March 2019, and in June 2019 called for the program to be permanently funded. As part of the Great American Outdoors Act, the Restore Our Parks Act has been expanded to address the deferred maintenance backlog across all land management agencies, and provides $1.9 billion per year for five years into the “National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund” from half of unobligated on and offshore energy revenues. 

Later in the hearing, Senator King highlighted his concern with drilling for natural resources off of the coast of Maine, asking “Straightforward, yes or no question, are there plans within the Department to proceed with exploration, research, or drilling off of the East Coast of the United States?”

Secretary Bernhardt responded that there is no “present plan” to drill in the Atlantic Ocean off of the East Coast.

Senator King has repeatedly pushed back against a Department of Interior proposal that would open up the Gulf of Maine to offshore drilling. In the months after then-Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke announced a proposal that would allow offshore drilling in the vast majority of federal waters. he joined with Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) in sending a letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke expressing their opposition to the plan. Then, he joined his New England Senate colleagues in introducing the New England Coastal Protection Act to bar offshore drilling along the region’s coast. He spoke against the proposal on the Senate floor and highlighted the threat drilling poses to key sectors of the Maine economy.

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