Young amends lands bill to ease critics, avoid floor amendments

Posted: Tuesday, May 09, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Rep. Don Young's massive Conservation and Reinvestment Act is scheduled for a vote on the House floor Wednesday.

The Alaska Republican has rewritten the controversial $3 billion lands measure to reduce incentives for offshore oil drilling and add another program for sending money to the states.

Some environmental groups had opposed the measure because of its perceived offshore oil drilling incentives.

The House Committee on Resources, which Young heads, modified the bill to address that concern.

David Golston, legislative director for Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New York, said the amended version will ''remove language that we thought could create new incentives for offshore oil drilling.''

The new version also will propose an ''additional program under which states could compete for funds,'' Golston said Monday afternoon. ''There's no funding for it, but the program would be authorized.''

The rewritten bill also contains language that would underscore the environmental purposes of the largest money program in the bill, officials said. That program would send $1 billion to the states.

The money is intended to ''mitigate the various impacts of outer continental shelf activities and provide moneys for the conservation of coastal ecosystems,'' according to the House Resource committee's report on the bill.

Steve Hansen, a spokesman for the House Committee on Resources, confirmed that a deal had been reached with Boehlert, who earlier had been expected to introduce an amendment on the floor.

That amendment would have allowed no more than 10 percent of the impact money to go for projects that dealt with oil leasing's effects on ''onshore infrastructure.''

Environmentalists worry that such language would allow governments to spend money on development projects, so they are advocating the 10 percent cap.

Golston said the cap didn't make the cut in negotiations and Boehlert won't be bringing up his amendment on the House floor. Instead, Young will introduce a bill that incorporates portions of the amendments Boehlert wanted, Golston said.

Also dropped in negotiations were Boehlert amendments that would reduce Louisiana's share of the bill's spending; increase pressure on appropriators to spend all the $900 million authorized from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the source of money for land purchases, and require more specific plans from state fish and game agencies, which are to obtain money through the bill.

The measure's spending is intended, in large part, to help coastal communities deal with the social, economic and environmental effects of offshore oil leasing.

Other provisions would provide money for land purchases, recreation projects, wildlife management, historic preservation work, urban parks and endangered species protection projects.

The share flowing to local, state and federal agencies in Alaska is estimated at around $165 million.

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