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The Congressional Green Sheets Environment and Energy Daily Report 


The House Resources Committee Wednesday voted 29-12 to approve a popular and controversial bill to use federal oil and gas receipts to fund impact aid to coastal states as well as land conservation, wildlife and recreation programs.

Supporters of the Conservation and Reinvestment Act Fund (HR 701) fended off numerous attempts by property rights advocates to restrict the scope of the bill. In the day's most procedurally convoluted action, the committee reconsidered and finally rejected an amendment it had earlier approved to block money from CARA from being used in lawsuits.

CARA would dedicate $3.135 billion to impact aid and conservation annually. The measure is similar to legislation (also HR 701) that passed the House (H. Rpt. 106-499) and the Senate Energy Committee (S. Rpt. 106-413) last year. Supporters were unable to overcome the resistance of many Westerners and fiscal conservatives to bring that bill to the Senate floor.

On Wednesday, the Resources Committee adopted an amendment by former Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), the lead sponsor of the bill, to correct the bill's total and add language defining what sort of contributions can be counted towards a state's share of matching funds.

The committee okayed by voice vote an amendment by Chairman Jim Hansen (R-Utah) to provide "such amounts as are necessary" to fund the payments in lieu of taxes and refuge revenue sharing programs at their fully authorized amounts. The bill language as introduced authorizing $320 million for PILT and $30 million for RRF did not reflect a recent agreement to index the payments to inflation, Hansen said.

The committee also agreed to an amendment offered by Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) to require that state legislatures appropriate the money granted to them under CARA, after Hefley agreed to specify only the six states÷Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Delaware÷where current court rulings seem to give that power only to the governor.

Also adopted was an amendment offered by Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) to add the Civil Service and Foreign Service retirement and disability funds and the Department of Defense Military Retirement Fund to the group of trust funds that are protected by language directing that no money "shall be transferred under this act if such expenditure diminishes benefit obligations" of those trust funds.

And Rep. Thomas Tancredo (R-Colo.) agreed to withdraw an amendment requiring that any congressional earmarks of state grant money be counted against the federal portion of CARA funding, after bill supporters agreed to include report language clarifying that stateside funds would be distributed by formula without congressional interference, as stateside grants are currently under the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Early in the markup, the committee voted 20-17 to adopt an amendment offered by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to bar the use of CARA funds "to initiate, make motions in, settle, implement a settlement of, or otherwise carry out any lawsuits." Bill supporters argued the amendment would prevent use of the money to purchase habitat as part of a settlement of a suit over endangered species.

But several hours later, ranking Democrat Nick Rahall (W.Va.), who changed his vote to favor the amendment when it became apparent it would pass, moved to reconsider the vote (only a member who voted on the prevailing side may move to reconsider). A Thornberry motion to table reconsideration was defeated 17-20; Rahall's motion to reconsider was approved 20-18, and the amendment was finally rejected by voice vote.

The committee also rejected amendments by:

Among the amendments withdrawn or ruled not germane was language authorizing an extra $100 million to be used to acquire conservation easements to protect open space and traditional uses, such as ranching, in areas that are rapidly urbanizing. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) agreed to withdraw his amendment after Young and other bill supporters promised to work the provision in as part of a manager's amendment on the floor. Young said adopting the amendment in committee might trigger a referral to the Agriculture Committee.

Also withdrawn was an amendment prepared by Walden that would have allowed the declaration of an economic disaster if "any application of the Endangered Species Act ... in the determination of the president, causes economic hardship of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant major disaster assistance."

[ALRA color chart of votes]

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