Dear Senator Udall,
Thank you for co-sponsoring the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2009 (S. 2747). During the upcoming Senate debates on comprehensive energy and climate legislation, along with efforts to reform offshore drilling, the members of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), Rocky Mountains, respectfully urge you to:
- Re-affirm your support to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); and
- Strengthen protections for public lands from onshore oil and gas production.
As you know, the LWCF, established by Congress in 1964, provides monies and matching grants to state and local governments for park, trail, and recreation projects. The fund also provides monies for federal conservation easement purchases. The fund’s primary revenues are from offshore oil and gas drilling fees. The fund is intended to reinvest proceeds from development into conservation. The LWCF is authorized to receive up to $900 million a year, however, over the years Congress and various Administrations have diverted these funds from their intended purpose. Consequentially, the fund has received only a fraction of its authorized appropriations, which has limited the program’s reach and impact on national conservation and recreational initiatives.
E2 Rocky Mountains represents over 80 leaders of diverse businesses in Colorado. Nationally, E2 represents a community of 850 business leaders who promote strong environmental policy to grow the economy. We are entrepreneurs, investors and professionals who collectively manage over $82 billion of venture capital and private equity. Our members have started well over 1,100 businesses, which in turn have created over 500,000 jobs.
As business leaders, we recognize the value outdoor recreation activities contribute to local and state economies. Outdoor recreation, which includes hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, paddling, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and other activities:
- Contributes $730 billion annually to the U.S. economy;
- Generates $289 billion annually in retail sales and services across the U.S.;
- Generates $88 billion in annual state and national tax revenue;
- Supports nearly 6.5 million jobs across the U.S.; and
- Stimulates 8 percent of all consumer spending (Report: “The Active Outdoor Recreation Economy,” Outdoor Industry Foundation, Fall 2006.)
Senator Udall, by co-sponsoring S. 2747, you demonstrated your support for full and dedicated LWCF funding. We ask that you continue to show leadership and support for the LWCF during the upcoming Senate efforts to transition the nation to a clean energy economy.
In that spirit, given your seat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, we ask that you take the lead in advancing critical initiatives to ensure that onshore resources, such as the public lands that we cherish in Colorado, are safeguarded from unsafe oil and gas exploration and production practices. Threats to human health and the environment from oil and gas operations take place onshore as well as offshore. Across the West, healthy communities, wildlife habitat, clean air and clean water are at risk from irresponsible energy development. Protecting our public lands is essential for Colorado’s economy. They are a critical resource for clean drinking water, vital wildlife habitat, spectacular outdoor recreation opportunities, tourism dollars, and more. In many cases, oil and gas operations onshore are exempt from important environmental protections with which most other industries must comply. Protecting Colorado’s air, water, wildlife habitat and communities from irresponsible development will restore balance to their use and is the right thing to do for Colorado, and for our economy.
Specifically, we hope you will lead efforts to:
- End oil and gas exemptions from foundational environmental laws and require public disclosure of chemicals used in exploration and production.
- Require the Bureau of Land Management to mandate Best Management Practices which are currently voluntary.
- Require reclamation bonds that cover the full costs of reclamation.
- Authorize an Inspection and Enforcement fee that covers the full costs of the program.
- Provide landowner protections.
- Reform the royalty system by ensuring a fair return to the taxpayer and strong compliance through increased penalties and independent oversight.
These reforms are essential to ensure a healthy environment and economy for Colorado and the West. We believe the oil and gas industry has the technology and resources to innovate and operate in ways that are cleaner and safer for our communities and natural resources.
Moving towards the duel goals of protecting our public lands from unsafe drilling practices while seeking permanent funding of the LWCF program will benefit all in our region.