E&E: Daines, Gardner double down on LWCF reauthorization push

A group of Republican senators are at odds with their House counterparts over a 5-decade-old conservation and recreation program.

Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana were part of a recent letter supporting permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in energy reform legislation (E&ENews PM, Sept. 26).

Both of them were members of the House during the last Congress and don’t appear shy about opposing House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and his allies, who are pressing to overhaul the LWCF.

“It’s all part of the process,” Daines said during a brief interview yesterday about signing on to the missive.

The conservation-minded Republicans asked senators working on reconciling House and Senate versions of the energy reform bill to make sure the LWCF, funded through offshore drilling revenues, is part of their final product.

The LWCF is currently authorized to receive up to $900 million annually for federal lands purchases, private land easements and state recreation grants, among other activities.

The program briefly lapsed last fall before Congress renewed it for three years in last year’s spending package. That temporary reauthorization included a sizable one-time funding boost.

But Bishop opposes language in the Senate energy bill that would permanent reauthorize and slightly tweak the program. He has floated a reform package that would redirect much of the program’s dollars to states and to educating oil and gas industry workers (E&E Daily, April 21).

Asked about why Daines — who previously served on the Natural Resources Committee — wasn’t willing to wait for Bishop’s reform bill to pass, he said that “the LWCF is critically important for Montana, and I’m going to continue to push for permanent reauthorization.”

Gardner was even more dismissive of the LWCF reform push. “Far too often in Washington people try to wait for that perfect moment and then eventually nothing ends up happening,” he said.

Both he and Daines now serve on Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Murkowski is also presiding over the energy reform conference committee.

“Now is a great time to act, and for people who have concerns about it, they can continue to be debated and incorporated to the extent that they have that support down the road,” Gardner said, referring to Bishop and other Republicans.

He added, “I do think it’s important to make LWCF permanent.”