Feds use offshore-drilling money for conservation, R.I. gets nearly $1M

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island is getting nearly $1 million in federal money – much of it from selling offshore-drilling rights – to pay for outdoor recreation and conservation projects, the Department of the Interior announced Tuesday.

The money is part of $100 million from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund going to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other United States territories.

The money comes from the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program revenues – gained from expanding offshore drilling for oil and gas in federal waters – and received through federal matching grants administered by the National Park Service.

The awards follow the distribution in June of $61.6 million in revenues to states from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, which increased offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

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“Together, these funds create major positive impacts for millions of Americans who have nearby opportunities for recreation in new and improved community parks and recreation areas,” said Secretary of the Interior Ryan K. Zinke in a statement.

President Donald Trump and his administration have drawn the ire of environmentalists for leading efforts to expand offshore drilling in U.S.-controlled waters, as well as for rolling back drilling-safety regulations, saying they posed an “unnecessary burden” on the industry.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to conserve outdoor recreation areas for pubic use. The funds enable state and local governments to upgrade existing parks, create new parks, develop and expand trail systems, among other projects.

The fund’s fiscal year 2018 appropriation for Rhode Island is $997,854. That was lower than appropriations for neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts, which received $1.5 million and $2.1 million, respectively.

However, Rhode Island received more money than nine other states, including Vermont, which received $873,017.

California received the most of any state ($8.5 million), followed by Texas ($5.7 million), New York ($4.7 million) and Florida ($4.6 million). The District of Columbia received $229,413. U.S. territories – the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Marianas – each received $75,000, the least amount awarded.

Scott Blake is a PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@pbn.com.