Doesn’t Harry Reid know that Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest? A day for NFL playoffs. Apparently not, since he’s calling for a special Sunday vote on an omnibus lands bill that removes public land that would be available for recreational, commercial, and private ownership use by designating such land as wilderness areas, heritage areas, conservation areas and wild and scenic rivers. Furthermore, the bill places restrictions on existing federal property.
It gets worse; the bill restricts energy exploration and is loaded with wasteful earmarks. Over 3 million in total acreage would be withdrawn from energy leasing, including areas with enormous potential to extract new oil and natural gas. For example, 331 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas would be taken out of exploration in Wyoming. The total amount of energy that would be restricted is equivalent to the amount of natural gas the entire U.S. produces in 15 years.
It also includes wasteful spending projects such as $3.5 million to help celebrate the 450th birthday of St. Augustine Florida and $3 million for a “road to nowhere” through a wildlife refuge in Alaska. Another gem in this bill is a “$1 billion water project in California intended to settle a lawsuit with environmental groups. The minimum measurement of success outlined in the settlement is the restoration of 500 salmon.”
The omnibus bill will require $10 billion in new government spending and contains over 150 separate bills , which means that even though the omnibus is an extremely bad bill, most states have some sort stake in the game. Translation: it is very difficult to defeat.
It also means that many groups adamantly oppose the bill. According to Senator Tom Coburn’s office,
“More than 100 organizations ranging from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the National Wildlife Refuge Association have expressed their opposition to this package due to its wasteful earmarks, anti-conservation provisions and anti-domestic energy production provisions. In addition, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service has released a report calling the package ‘controversial.’”
Dr. Coburn, who took the led the charge blocking the omnibus bill last year, is making his case again, saying,
“The decision by Senate leaders to kick off the new Congress with an earmark-laden omnibus lands bill makes a mockery of voters’ hopes for change. This package represents some of the worst aspects of congressional incompetence and parochialism.”
Domestic energy off limits. Private property rights restricted. More land in the hands of the federal government. And now groups like the National Wildlife Refuge Association oppose the bill because of its anti-conservation provisions. This bill wasn’t a good idea in 2008 and it’s certainly not the right way for the new Congress to kick off 2009.