31 Mar 1999 Great Lakes Designated “Oceans” to Tap into Federal Dollars
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Issue #69 * March 31, 1999 * David A. Ridenour, Editor
* It Isn’t the Internet, But We’ll Let Mr. Gore Take the Credit for this One
* New Releases from The National Center for Public Policy Research
In politics, turnabout is fair play. At least that appears to be the opinion of a Rust Belt Congressman who is attempting to have the Great Lakes treated like oceans to tap into federal dollars that his state doesn’t deserve.
During the last Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) tried to have Lake Champlain designated a "Great Lake" to qualify his state for federal dollars earmarked for the Great Lakes. Now Representative John Dingell (D-MI) is sponsoring a bill that would allow the Great Lakes to be treated as oceans to help midwestern states like his own get their hands on a portion of $1.2 billion intended for coastal states.
Dingell’s bill, which he co-authored with Representative Don Young (R-AK), is the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 701). The idea of the bill and a similar bill in the Senate (S. 25) is to allow coastal states to keep a portion of oil royalties generated by drilling on the outer-continental shelf (OCS). These royalties currently belong solely to the federal government.
Sharing OCS royalties with coastal states seems to make a great deal of sense given that these states are the most vulnerable to the environmental risks posed by oil drilling. But the bill wouldn’t limit the revenue sharing to states with OCS drilling. The reason? The bill can’t pass with the votes of Congressmen representing OCS states alone. So for the purposes of H.R. 701/S. 25, the Great Lakes are considered oceans. By treating them as such, 103 additional members of the House of Representatives and 14 additional Senators from seven states now have a very good reason to vote in favor of the bill — cash for their states and districts. Michigan would receive an estimated $22 million, Ohio $7.5 million and Illinois $15 million even though there isn’t a single offshore oil rig in the Great Lakes and won’t be any time soon.
But Rust Belt congressman aren’t the only people the sponsors of H.R. 701/S. 25 are working hard to get on board. To enlist the environmental movement’s support, the bill would shift up to $900 million a year from the OCS royalties to the Land and Conservation Fund, a federal fund used to buy private land. Ten percent of the fund would be used for urban parks, 45% for state programs and 45% for federal land purchases. Although the sponsors of H.R. 701/S. 25 insist that their bill would require willing sellers for all land purchases, past experience with similar programs suggests that where government wants a willing seller it can create one. Given sufficient resources, governments can target purchases in a manner that gives remaining private landowners little choice but to sell.
For readers who may have missed it: Last March, Vice President Albert Gore proposed launching a spacecraft to supply the Internet with sunlit images of the planet 24 hours-per-day beginning in 2000. The cost of the craft, which he calls "Triana," has been estimated at between $20 and $50 million, according to Space News. The reviews of the proposal have been somewhat less than enthusiastic: "Agency scientists are now scratching their heads trying to decide how much the venture would cost and whether any nonpolitical rationale can be found to bolster its questionable scientific mission," noted the Scientific American. Says The New York Times, "…[T]his project might also remind voters of another one of Mr. Gore’s better-known attributes. Some people seem to regard it as — well, boring."
Message to the Vice President: Triana may not be the Internet, but it’s all yours.
New Releases from The National Center for Public Policy Research
* Global Warming Not Responsible for 1998’s Unusual Weather. National Policy Analysis #228 cites statistics from over 200 years of weather history to show that 1998’s weather wasn’t very unusual and unlikely to be linked to global warming. Copies may be obtained on the web at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA228.html.
* Clinton’s Urban Sprawl Program Threatens Freedom and the Environment. National Policy Analysis #231 explains why the President’s plan to save open spaces could have the opposite results. The paper also shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, the rate of suburban growth is declining. Copies may be obtained on the web at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA231.html.
* Jury Tampering in Exxon Valdez Trial Pollutes America’s System of Justice. National Policy Analysis #232 details how a court official repeatedly interfered with a juror’s deliberations in the Exxon Valdez case. Copies may be obtained on the web at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA232.html.
* White House Tries to Buy Support for Greenhouse Gas Reductions. National Policy Analysis #233 explains why some of the biggest names in American industry have endorsed the Kyoto global warming treaty. The article shows how some businesses are using government subsidies and regulations to gain an advantage over competitors. Copies may be obtained on the web at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA233.html.
* Behavior of World’s Glaciers Fails to Prove Global Warming Theory. National Policy Analysis #235 finds that, contrary to the predictions of global warming theory advocates, most of the world’s glaciers are advancing. Copies may be obtained on the web at http://www.nationalcenter.org/NPA235.html.
For copies of any of the above publications, contact David Almasi of The National Center for Public Policy Research at (202) 507-6398.