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Disappearing wetlands in Barataria Bay are marked with pipes in the wetlands of Louisiana, Friday, March 9, 2018.

WASHINGTON — An effort to give Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states a bigger cut of offshore energy revenues has cleared its first hurdle.

If successful, the effort that U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy ushered through the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on a 12-8 vote Tuesday, would significantly boost the amount of money Louisiana puts toward coastal protection and restoration.

“In the case of Louisiana, it is pay me now or pay me later," Cassidy, a Baton Rouge Republican, said, describing the significance for the state’s ability to curb the threat of catastrophic flooding and hurricanes. “It’s existential. … If we don’t restore our coastline, we are going to have more flood events that further draw down from the federal (budget).”

The bill seeks to update the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, through a revamp to increase revenue sharing to the amount that states with drilling on federal lands receive.

It would also lift the caps on money that states can receive and loop Alaska into the revenue-sharing program.

Under current federal law, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas split about 37.5% of the money made from drilling off their coastlines. States that have energy production sites on federal land receive a 50% share.

The proposal now heads to the full Senate for consideration, but it's unclear when the proposed change may get a vote in the full chamber. A similar proposal has been offered by members of the Louisiana delegation in the House, but it has not yet received a committee hearing in the Democrat-controlled lower chamber.

All of the money Louisiana receives through the revenue sharing program goes toward coastal protection and restoration. Louisiana coastal advocates have spent several weeks lobbying Capitol Hill in favor of the change.

“This is a matter of fairness and equity,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican who chairs the Senate Energy panel.

But members from states that have little or no energy production on federal land and water have questioned the existing program and argued that they want to tap into the money, too.

The 12.5 percentage point difference between inland and offshore revenues is because a portion of the money from the Gulf Coast is diverted to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to provide funds for national parks and forests. There is no requirement that inland energy revenues be treated the same.

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, said that by pulling down an additional 12.5% that otherwise goes to the general Treasury, federal funding could be constrained for programs that all states benefit from.

“I’m very sympathetic. I want to help," he said. “We get nothing. I’m just asking for a little bit of fairness.”

Email Elizabeth Crisp at ecrisp@theadvocate.com and follow on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.