A bipartisan amendment is expected to be offered Thursday as part of the broader energy bill (HR 6) to provide $1 billion in coastal impact assistance funds over four years to six offshore producing states.

The amendment, to likely be offered by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and others, would provide $250 million annually in direct spending between 2007 and 2010 to the four Gulf Coast states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama), California and Alaska, said Landrieu spokesman Adam Sharp.

Other co-sponsors include Sens. David Vitter (R-LA), Trent Lott (R-MS), Jeff Sessions ((R-AL), John Warner (R-VA) and Thad Cochran (R-MS).

The direct funding would not be subject to Congress’ annual appropriations process, and would be allocated based on each state’s share of energy production on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). Through the formula, by which each state would receive funds based on the amount of OCS energy leases within 200 miles of its coast, Louisiana is expected to receive about $540 million over the four-year period, or 54% of the total $1 billion.

The amendment would authorize funds to be used for the conservation, protection and restoration of coastal areas and wetlands; the mitigation of damage to fish, wildlife and other natural resources; and the implementation of federally approved marine, coastal and other conservation management plans. Up to 23% of the funds may also be spent each year on mitigating the impact of OCS activities as well as planning assistance and administrative costs related to these coastal projects.

The proposal calls for the governor of each coastal producing state to submit a coastal impact assistance plan to the secretary of the Interior Department by July 1, 2008.

“This is the closest the Senate has ever been to passing mandatory spending to address Louisiana’s eroding coasts,” said Vitter. “We have been able to convince our Senate colleagues that this is not just a Louisiana problem, but a national one.”

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