Losing All Common Sense on the FAIR Act

Taxpayers for Common Sense has no sense of what this bill would mean.

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Taxpayers for Common Sense seems to have lost all common sense with its opposition to the FAIR ACT ("The FAIR Act Is Bad Fiscal Policy," July 23).

The Gulf Coast produces 30 percent of the domestic energy our country needs, runs the largest port system in the nation and contributes $3 trillion a year to the U.S. economy, all while acting as a natural barrier for inland areas against the ravages of hurricanes and rising tides. With our coast eroding at the rate of 25 to 35 square miles each year – or a football field an hour – we are at a crisis point and these vital national interests are in jeopardy. Addressing this now is all about common sense.

It is shocking to me that, after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and subsequent levee breaks that left 1,400 people dead, Taxpayers for Common Sense could argue against increasing revenue sharing to invest in coastal protection. This is not only about the destruction of communities and the pain and suffering of the survivors, it is about smart use of taxpayer funds. 

It's estimated that before Katrina, it would have cost the federal government $1 billion to secure the levees that broke and inundated the region. Instead, the federal cost to repair damage after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Gustav and Ike is estimated at $120 to $148 billion. We should be acting now to save billions of dollars in the future.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the economy.]

The FAIR Act would address this crisis by allowing coastal states to keep up to 37.5 percent of revenues from all offshore energy produced to invest in restoration and protection to save this vital working coast. According to the federal government's own estimates, for each dollar it spends on mitigation, it gets $3 to $4 back in savings. Despite this, the federal government continues to chase storms at the back end, when investing now through a fair revenue sharing partnership makes much more sense.

Revenue sharing is not a new idea – in fact, Harry Truman supported it more than 60 years ago. Onshore producing states have been keeping 50 percent of the revenues from energy produced on federal lands within their borders since 1920 to invest in infrastructure, schools, water projects etc.

Taxpayers for Common Sense has no objection to this policy – and neither do I – so why do they object to coastal states benefitting from a similar partnership. Do they think that only onshore states bear the risk and damage associated with meeting the national energy need? Or perhaps they do not understand that without coastal states' pipelines and other infrastructure, we could not get this energy to refineries to meet U.S. energy needs?

Energy receipts from the Outer Continental Shelf are $7 billion a year, the majority of which are from the Gulf of Mexico. Allowing our nation's working coast a portion of the revenues we produce will support these valuable assets to the country. Such a policy will strengthen - not weaken - our ability to meet the nation's growing demand for energy and will ensure growing revenues to the U.S. taxpayer as well.  Now that is common sense!

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.