WASHINGTON, D.C.–Naming one of Mississippi’s snakes as an endangered species could end up hurting Mississippi’s economy, said Sen. Thad Cochran Wednesday. He said he will oppose that and redirection of some of the money from oil production in the Gulf states, including Mississippi.
Cochran serves on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that Wednesday heard testimony from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on the FY2016 budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Within that budget request, the administration proposes to end revenue sharing with Gulf states for energy production in the Gulf of Mexico.
“It is hard for me to understand why the administration would propose to redirect only the revenue from Gulf States when the money is being used to fund projects that support environmental activities which are often in line with the goals of the Department of the Interior,” said Cochran in a news release from his camp. “This proposal is offensive to many members of this committee, and I will be among those who oppose it.”
Cochran said he first pressed for information on the administration’s interpretation of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (GOMESA). Under GOMESA, coastal counties in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas receive 37 cents of every dollar earned from certain offshore oil and gas drilling leases. The FY2016 budget request asks Congress to redirect these funds from coastal states to nationwide programs—a proposal which would harm the economy of coastal states in service of advancing the Interior Department’s national agenda.
The Black Pinesnake
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposal would list the black pinesnake as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The snake is primarily found in heavily wooded areas near the coast. Cochran said the proposed protected status will have a detrimental effect on timber production in the region.
“While it is important to protect and preserve American’s indigenous wildlife, such efforts should not create unnecessary and excessive economic hardships on people and surrounding communities. Mississippi’s forestry industry is a major contributor to our state’s economy, and it is especially important along the Southern pine belt. As the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews public comments on its proposed rule, I hope it will keep this in mind, in addition to using the best scientific and commercial data available in any further rulemaking,” he said.