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Natural Resources Committee Press Release: September 26, 2007
Bill Offering Financial Assistance To Rural Communities Harmed By Clinton Forest Policies Approved By House Natural Resources Committee;
PILT Funding Also Approved By Committee for Four Years
Washington, D.C. – Legislation that would provide about $4 billion over the next four years to rural communities that were harmed by former President Bill Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan was approved by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources today.
The legislation – “The Public Land Communities Transition Act of 2007” (H.R. 3058) - also approved funding for the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program through 2011. The bill was approved by a voice vote.
“After former President Clinton implemented the Northwest Forest Plan many rural communities that relied on forestry for jobs and their local economies suffered dramatic economic problems due to the closing of most timber lands,” said U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), the Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee.
“As the Chairman of this Committee from 1995 to 2001, I saw firsthand the economic devastation that this anti-timber plan and lawsuits by some environmental organizations caused in many rural communities. Many Republican Members who represented these communities began working on a bipartisan basis to try to help these struggling counties make ends meet.
“I especially want to recognize the hard work of Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), a former Member of this Committee, who was a leader in this effort from the very first day.
“This has been a long and difficult process but I’m pleased that we’ve been able to move forward with a plan, that while not perfect, will offer some assistance to affected communities.
“The fact that this bill fully funds the PILT program is extremely important and I commend all of those involved in this process for including this important funding.”
Republican Effort To Provide Alternative Revenues To Finance Bill
Defeated In Committee
Young and the Republican Members of the Committee offered an amendment to the bill to generate new revenues to pay for the programs included in the legislation. The amendment was defeated on a partisan 10 to 17 vote.
The Republican amendment included new revenues from the following proposals:
- Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR): Oil exploration in ANWR would have provided $3 billion for the programs. It is the largest North American onshore oil field not in production with an estimated 10.4 billion barrels of oil available for production. This also would have created tens of thousands of new jobs throughout the nation.
- Salvage Timber Sales: This provision would have expedited procedures for timber sales to salvage dead trees in the West. In addition to providing new timber jobs, this program would have played a major role in the efforts to stop the widespread wildfires that have devastated hundreds of thousands of acres in the West.
- 50/50 Sharing of Timber Receipts With Local Counties: Current law allows forest-counties to receive 25 percent of timber sale receipts. This provision in the Republican amendment would have increased the share to 50 percent, beginning after the four-year transition payments end, to offer further assistance to the economically disadvantaged counties.
- Local Revenue Share for Oil Shale Development: The West contains large amounts of oil shale. Currently, counties have to fight States over how the 50 percent share of receipts from oil shale on federal lands is spent. This amendment would have give one-third of the State share directly to the affected local counties. This would have created more local incentive to develop resources which would have also increased receipts to the Federal Treasury. In addition, it would have provided fiscal stability to county budgets and promoted local job growth.
- Geothermal resources co-produced with minerals: The Republican provision would have authorized the leasing of geothermal energy that is co-produced with mineral development. Like the other provisions in the Republican amendment, this would have generated new royalty receipts for the Federal Treasury, increased jobs associated with alternative energy production, and diversified our national energy mix.
“Our amendment was more than just a revenue-generating proposal – it was part of a full recovery plan for the economies of these communities,” Young said. “Congress should do more than simply provide temporary transition payments to forest counties. Anything less is a dereliction of our duty to these economically suffering counties.
“We need to offer these communities long-term opportunities for job creation and expansion of their economic base instead of just a promise of four years of federal checks. I’m disappointed that our effort to do this was defeated on a partisan basis.”
For more information, access the Committee on Natural Resources’ Minority website at:
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