Murkowski wins vote on conservation bill

Controversial measure would fund parks with oil money

Posted: Wednesday, July 26, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Sen. Frank Murkowski was successful Tuesday in gaining passage of a controversial measure that would reallocate federal offshore oil drilling revenues into parks and conservation.

The Alaska Republican chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and he was able to move the measure out of committee even though it had some meager support from his fellow Republicans.

The bill, called the Conservation and Reinvestment Act, passed 13-7 with four Republicans joining all nine Democrats. The vote came after 11 hours of debate over five days.

``This is the most significant commitment of resources ever made to conservation by the Congress,'' Murkowski said.

Western Republicans and other critics vowed to continue fighting the bill, which they termed a federal land grab and ``pile of pork.''

The measure would create a $3 billion-a-year fund for 15 years to pay for an array of conservation activities, from restoring beaches to creating urban parks. The money would come from oil and gas leases, primarily in the Gulf of Mexico and off Alaska.

More than 5,000 national, regional and state organizations are supporting the measure because it will pump guaranteed sums of money into popular programs for 15 years. Every state would get something. But a third of the money would go to five states: Alaska, California, Texas, Louisiana and Florida.

Critics contend the measure would provide limited congressional say over most of the spending. They're also concerned about the federal government taking more land out of private ownership.

Mike Hardiman, a lobbyist for the American Land Rights Association and bill opponent, said critics would step up efforts to defeat the measure in the Senate.

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