Today, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a subcommittee hearing to consider U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy’s, M.D. (R-LA) legislation, the Reinvesting in Shoreline Economies and Ecosystems (RISEE) Act, to strengthen gulf revenue sharing program. The bipartisan RISEE Act would amend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) and create a new dedicated stream of funding from future offshore wind development for coastal protection and resiliency. This legislation will also allow for more equitable resource sharing between states, the federal government and conservation programs. During the hearing, testimony was presented demonstrating widespread support from national, state and local organizations and the need to pass this legislation in light of recent storms.
“In the last two years, Louisiana has been hit by several hurricanes and tropical storms. These storms exacerbate a land loss crisis that threatens ecosystems, communities, local economies, ways of life, and increases the risk of flooding. Coastal communities use the resources from offshore revenue sharing to restore our coastlines,” said Dr. Cassidy.
The RISEE Act also received bipartisan praise during the hearing.
“I want to emphasize the point that Senator Cassidy just made—that talking about mitigation and resiliency is a hell of a lot cheaper than talking about rebuilding after a disaster,” said Senator Angus King (I-ME).
“[I] urge my colleagues to support this important bipartisan legislation, and I certainty appreciate the work that has been done on this. It is really needed in our Gulf states,” said Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS).
“I very much support this legislation that Senator Cassidy, and Senator Whitehouse, Senator King have all put so much effort into. And I do think there is an equity issue here—we just haven’t done enough for our coastlines and our oceans,” said Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NV).
This hearing came on the heels of a September letter to Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY), in which Cassidy and U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Angus King (I-ME) requested a hearing to consider the RISEE Act. Read the full letter here.
Senators Hyde-Smith, Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), King, Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are co-sponsors of the bill. It is also supported by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, American Sportfishing Association, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, Ørsted, American Clean Power Association, National Wildlife Federation, National Marine Manufacturers Associations, Coastal States Organization, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Shore & Beach Preservation Association, National Ocean Policy Committee, Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, City Parks Alliance, National Recreation and Park Association, and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
The bill amends GOMESA by:
- Eliminating the state revenue sharing cap, currently at $375 million.
- Increasing the amount of GOMESA revenues shared with states from 37.5% to 50%.
- Lifting the Land & Water Conservation Fund’s state side funding cap of $125 million.
- Adding the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund as a fourth GOMESA equity (12.5%).
- Making oil and gas leases from 2000-2006 eligible for future GOMESA payments to Gulf coast states and the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund. Currently, only leases from 2007 to present are eligible for GOMESA payments. EIA reports 11 new oil and gas fields in the Gulf of Mexico will contribute to the overall growth in U.S. production are GOMESA eligible under current law. Another eight would also qualify under this proposed change.
- Protecting GOMESA revenues from sequestration.
Louisiana constitutionally dedicates revenues from offshore energy production to pay for conservation, restoration, and environmental projects to preserve and restore its eroding coastline.
Current law requires all revenues generated from offshore wind leases and production beyond state waters be deposited in the U.S. Treasury. The RISEE Act sends 50% of offshore wind revenue to adjacent states where offshore wind farms are developed. The state share is based on a formula developed by the Secretary of Interior to ensure states are receiving revenues from wind energy development off their coasts. By sharing offshore wind revenues with nearby states, the RISEE Act will offer budget incentives for state and local governments to facilitate successful siting processes, balancing the needs of different ocean users and getting turbines up and running.
The state funds can be used:
- For coastal restoration, hurricane protection, or infrastructure;
- To mitigate damage to fish, wildlife, or other natural resources, including through fisheries science and research; and
- To implement a marine, coastal, or conservation management plan.
In addition, 37.5% of offshore wind revenues would serve as a further dedicated funding source for the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund. This Fund includes dollars to States based on a formula and also provides competitive grants to coastal and Great Lakes communities to respond to coastal erosion and sea level rise, restore coastal habitat, and make improvements to coastal infrastructure.