Alexander pushes use of offshore drilling money to pay for National Park repairs

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says he’s hopeful for passage this year of “the National Park Restoration Act” that could wipe out about $7 billion of backlogged maintenance in the National Parks Service over the next decade, reports the Times Free Press.

The senator touted the bill in a visit to Chattanooga on Tuesday morning, where he visited the Point Park branch of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, learned local Civil War history and met with local park officials and members of the media.

“This could be the most important piece of legislation for national parks in decades,” Alexander said.

The bill was introduced to Congress in March by a group of bipartisan senators and representatives led by Alexander. It attempts to help with the $11.6 billion backlog of maintenance projects at national parks. It is the only bill addressing deferred maintenance that has the full support of President Donald Trump and his Office of Management and Budget, which has refused to support similar bills due to funding concerns. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has claimed it would be the largest investment in national parks in history.

The fund will use money from energy leases for onshore and offshore federal land to pay for park maintenance and repairs. If approved, 50 percent of energy production revenue from federal lands not already allocated to other purposes will go toward the fund, with the other 50 percent going toward reducing the federal deficit.

“It’s an old principal,” he said. “You use an environmental burden and turn it into an environmental benefit.”

Note: An Alexander press release on the legislation and groups supporting it is HERE.

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