Hearing on lands conservation bill delayed in Senate

Posted: Tuesday, June 27, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has delayed action on a nationwide land conservation bill championed by Alaska Rep. Don Young.

The committee was scheduled to start work on the proposed Conservation and Reinvestment Act on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

But it put off the effort until after the July 4 recess after talks between Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski, the committee chairman, and the panel's top Democrat failed to settle disputes.

The measure calls for spending about $45 billion over a 15-year period to buy and conserve land, conduct environmental research and build coastal projects to deal with the effects of oil development. Alaska would receive about $165 million each year.

Last month the House, under urging by Young, passed the bill, which would be paid for out of revenue received from offshore oil and gas activities.

Murkowski, a leading sponsor of the Senate version, said he and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., have differing opinions on several components of the legislation.

Those differences include the amount of coastal impact aid Alaska and other states with offshore drilling should get, and whether the president should have a discretionary fund for federal land purchases.

''We've tightened this thing up so that there's no free ride by the administration or anybody else to go out and buy public land,'' Murkowski said Tuesday. ''It requires the appropriators to actually appropriate the money, so there's the balance of Congress associated with this.''

Murkowski said he wants to bring the bill before his committee by July 21.

The bill faces staunch opposition from Westerners and budget hawks on Murkowski's committee, but the chairman said he's optimistic that it will be approved in the end.

''We know where the votes are, and there's enough votes for it,'' he said.

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