Looking to expand, grow the Gulf Coast

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 27, 2016

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

I am so proud to live on the Gulf Coast. From our delicious food to the abundant natural resources, our part of the country is unlike any other.

My family has called this area home since the 1780s. My family has always enjoyed fishing, swimming, boating and just spending time on the Gulf. It has become a way of life for my family, just like it has for so many others.

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For some people, the Gulf also provides for economic well being, whether through the commercial seafood industry or our booming tourism industry.

This is why I am always on the lookout for policies or proposals that might make life harder for families living and working on or near the Gulf. Our area faces unique challenges, and I wanted to share two specific areas where I am looking out for the Gulf Coast.

First, President Barack Obama proposed in his annual budget to take off-shore energy revenue away from the Gulf states, and instead spend it all around the country to advance his radical climate agenda.

The President’s proposal would take money from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006. GOMESA is the federal legislation that creates a revenue sharing agreement for off shore energy revenue between Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Under GOMESA, each state receives 37.5 percent of federal oil revenue from drilling of their coasts.

This money is critical to our coastal counties because it is used for important purposes like coastal restoration and hurricane preparedness. I have even suggested using a portion of Alabama’s GOMESA money to help fund the I-10 bridge project, given that Interstate 10 serves as a hurricane evacuation route.

GOMESA was structured to benefit Gulf states because we are the ones who provide a significant share of the infrastructure and work force for the industry. Gulf states also have inherent environmental and economic risks posed by off shore energy production.

The President’s proposal simply defies logic and is a slap in the face to all of us on the Gulf. So, I offered an amendment to the annual Department of Interior funding bill that would block any efforts to transfer GOMESA money away from the Gulf states. I’m pleased to report my amendment was adopted and included in the final bill.

Secondly, I also stood up against President Obama’s efforts to implement a “National Ocean Policy.”

Created through an executive order, the “National Ocean Policy” requires various bureaucracies to work together to “zone the ocean,” which would significantly affect the ways in which we utilize our ocean resources.

The “policy” would restrict ocean activities while also redirecting money away from Congressionally-directed priorities. Numerous and varied industries will suffer as a result of this ill-conceived policy, including but not limited to agriculture, energy, fisheries, mining, and marine retail enterprises.

Those who are affected most by the policy don’t have a say or any representation in the rule making process – there is no current system of oversight in place for the regional planning agencies created as an arm of the National Ocean Council.

So, again I went to bat for the Gulf Coast and offered an amendment to block any funds from being spent on the “National Ocean Policy.” My amendment passed by a vote of 237-189.

These are just two examples of my efforts to stand up for the Gulf Coast. I will continue to do everything I can to protect our coastal communities and make life easier for families all around the Gulf Coast.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne represents the 1st Congressional District of Alabama, which includes Escambia County.