January 3, 2013

The Dec. 28 editorial “Unearthing America’s resources” carried a somewhat cynical comment about the efforts of coastal states to receive a good portion of the revenue of offshore oil and gas development “even though the territory and those who regulate it are both federal.” It is true that coastal states have no constitutional claim to the bonuses and royalties that come from drilling in waters more than three miles offshore, but there is a larger policy issue to wrestle with.

Two policy commissions on oceans within the past decade — one private and one public — and a follow-up joint-commission initiative have all recommended the establishment of an ocean investment fund in the Treasury Department that would be capitalized by a reasonable portion of the rents received for the use of public resources by private companies.

It is clear that the United States is going to continue to lease areas on its outer continental shelf for oil and gas development, which the editorial endorsed. Consequently, it makes sense to take a modest portion of the revenue received by the federal government for the development of nonrenewable offshore resources and direct it to a dedicated fund for the conservation of our estuaries and coasts.

Thomas R. Kitsos, Bethesda

The writer was executive director of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy from 2001 to 2004.