Gonzalez: American Energy Protecting Our Environment

Western Wire | Rep. Vicente Gonzalez | September 13, 2018

There is an unnecessary divide between those who advocate for conservation and those who promote American energy independence. Some claim that supporting one dooms the other. But they are not diametrically opposed. Legislation like H.R. 6510, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, demonstrates that energy production and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand. The energy renaissance has helped revitalize our communities and underwrite our country’s efforts to preserve precious parks and historical sites for future generations.

Many know Texas as the largest producer of crude oil, natural gas, and wind energy in the country. What you might not know is that the Lone Star State also boasts 14 of our nation’s 417 beautiful national parks and several wildlife refuges, including the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge, located in the Rio Grande Valley. Santa Ana and others are some of our state’s crown jewels, attracting visitors from all over the world. Our ability to maintain the integrity of these sites, preserve their indigenous flora and fauna, and keep up with the volume of visitors requires robust federal funding.

Unfortunately, the National Park Service, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education are facing a maintenance backlog. In our western states alone, which hold some of our most cherished parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon National Park, the cost of repairs is estimated to be $4.6 billion dollars. The nation as a whole desperately needs $11.7 billion dollars for this critical maintenance. H.R. 6510 would put us on a path forward and out of the backlog.

The Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act would create the National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund, enabling us to maintain our national parks and lead the way in energy production.  The legislation proposes to deposit fifty-percent of the unallocated revenues from oil, gas, coal, or renewable energy sources obtained on federal property into this new National Park Service and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund.

Oil, gas, alternative and renewable energy production already does so much for our country, from powering our homes to creating jobs and even ensuring national security. By passing the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, we can add preserving and protecting our national parks to that list.

Vicente Gonzalez is a Democratic U.S. Representative from the state of Texas and chair of the Oil and Gas Congressional Caucus.