The full U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will meet on Thursday, May 16, to consider 30 bills, including S.B. 486, which would overturn the Park Service’s off-road vehicle plan on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
The bill, introduced by U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., along with Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., on March 7 is called the Preserving Public Access to Cape Hatteras Beaches Act. It would reinstate the Interim Management Strategy governing off-road vehicle use on the seashore and set aside current mandates and requirements that prevent off-road vehicle and citizen access to a significant portion of the seashore.
If the bill is enacted, the National Park Service’s Interim Management Strategy will go into effect immediately and end upon the National Park Service establishing a long-term off-road vehicle management plan for the seashore.
The Senate Subcommittee on National Parks accepted testimony last month on 13 pending pieces of legislation, including S.B. 486 to overturn the ORV plan that became effective in February 2012.
An identical bill was introduced last year in the Senate by Burr and Hagan. It had a hearing before the full Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but the legislation died there. The committee never “marked up” the bill and sent it to the full Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, for a vote.
The committee has 12 members who are Democrats and 10 who are Republican.
A companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives will be voted on Wednesday, May 15, by the full House Committee on Natural Resources. Last year, that bill was favorably reported out of committee and passed the House, mostly along party lines.
The bills to overturn the plan are generally looked upon more favorably by Republicans than Democrats, though advocates for more reasonable beach access do have a Democratic member of the Senate committee who supports S.B. 486. He is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has been an outspoken critic of the ORV plan at committee and subcommittee meetings.
The Outer Banks Preservation Association and the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association are urging members to contact senators on the committee to urge that they support the legislation.
Members and their contact information can be found at the Senate committee’s website, http://www.energy.senate.gov/.
The committee meeting will also be webcast live on the website. Go to http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/live-webcast.