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Bill on Energy Policy Threatens National Park System

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Bill on Energy Policy Threatens National Park SystemPhoto via Cuyahoga Valley National Park Facebook Page.
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Local environmentalists are rallying support in opposition to an energy bill currently moving through the U.S. Congress.

The Energy Policy Modernization Act would “create or improve several programs designed to increase energy efficiency in buildings, require significant upgrades to the electrical grid… expedite liquid natural gas exports, loosen permitting rules for construction of natural gas pipelines on federal lands, provide subsidies for hydropower…” according to the bill summary.

Katelyn Coghlan, an organizer with the Protect our Parks campaign, said the main issue with the bill is the amendments that have been added on that threaten the Antiquities Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

“There are dozens of parks in Franklin County that have been created with grants from the LWCF, and there are numerous sites in the state of Ohio that have been declared national monuments due to the Antiquities Act,” Coghlan said. “We risk losing access to these places, as well as the ability to continue to protect culturally significant and historically significant places, as well as green space and parks in our community if we see attacks on these two fundamental programs win. Our park system shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips for renewable energy.”

Both of these programs have had bipartisan support since their conception. The Antiquities Act, established by President Roosevelt in 1906, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1965, work together to protect and preserve access to national parks and monuments like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. If repealed, what that would mean for Ohioans is limited or no access to places like the Wayne National Forest, Cuyahoga Valley and the Buffalo Soldiers National Monument.

“Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund,” according to the LWCF website. “The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.”

The bill garnered both bipartisan support and dissent, and passed out of committee 18-4 in September. Opposition to the bill included Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Earlier this month, Sen. Rob Portman voted in favor of the amendments, triggering backlash from environmentalists, hunters, local business owners and community organizations.

Hundreds of people participated in a call-in day, urging Portman to vote to uphold the Antiquities Act and reauthorize funding for the LWCF. More efforts are synthesizing in the coming weeks, but Coghlan said the main way anyone can get involved is to call or write Portman.

“We are doing a coalition release in a few weeks here where we will release a coalition of local businesses and local community organizations that have signed on to this campaign to protect our parks,” Coghlan said. “We’ll also, later on in March, be doing a petition delivery to Senator Portman’s office.”

To get involved, email Katelyn Coghlan at [email protected].

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