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Update on FY2003 Interior Appropriations (9-25-02)

The fiscal year (FY) 2003 Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Act provides funding for the federal programs within the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy, the Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service, and other smaller federal agencies. President Bush's budget request for the Interior bill totalled $18.9 billion, with $13.2 billion going to DOI (with $867.3 million for the USGS) and $904.3 million for the DOE Office of Fossil Energy. Key programs in the Interior bill for the earth sciences are found in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Parks Service (NPS), the Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), the Minerals Management Service (MMS), and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) within DOI; the Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy; the U.S. Forest Service; and the Smithsonian Institution. In the normal progression of the budget process, congressional committees hold oversight hearings after the budget has been release to determine appropriate funding levels for federal program.  Hearing summaries of these events are available on the hearings summary website.

Most Recent Action
Senate consideration of the FY2003 Interior bill (H.R. 5093) began on September 4th and is making very slow progress through the Senate. The major hurtle seems to be S. Amdt 4480 introduced by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) to provide additional funding for firefighting accounts in the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. Adding to the complication and aiding to slow down consideration are the two secondary amendments to S. Amdt 4480. Both amendments -- S. Amdt 4481 and S. Amdt 4518 --were offered last week and have been the topic of discussion for days. A cloture vote, which would put an end to debate and require a vote on the amendment, failed by a very thin margin on September 17th. Few other amendments have been considered, with the expected of one (S. Amdt 4573) by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to prohibit funds from the bill to be used by the Department of the Interior to forward open-pit gold mining claims in Imperial County, California. Boxer's amendments was approved via voice vote on the 18th. A second attempt to end debate on S. Amdt 4480 failed on September 23rd. (9/25/02)

The Senate has begun a second week of debate on the FY2003 Interior bill (H.R. 5093) and is making slow progress. By unanimous consent, the Senate passed Senator Tom Daschle's (D-SD) amendment (S. Amdt 4481) to provide drought relief to farmers affected by drought over the past two years. A dollar figure was not initially included in the amendment but in the final version, which was accepted by the Senate, would recommend $5.9 billion in FY2002 emergency funding for drought aid to farmers. The chamber is still considering Senator Robert Byrd's (D-WV) amendment that would provide additional funds to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service for firefighting needs. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced an amendment (S. Amdt 4518) to Byrd's provision that would allow these agencies to prioritize areas with high fire risks within the federal lands for fuel reduction and would not require the agencies to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Craig's amendment would allow these two agencies to treat areas not just at urban/wilderness boundaries but also near municipal watersheds and areas susceptible to reburn. Several other amendments were introduced on the 10th. The Senate accepted Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) "Sense of the Senate" amendment (S. Amdt 4523) that notes objection to the development of 36 oil and gas leases off the southern California continental shelf. Also accepted was another "Sense of the Senate" amendment (S. Amdt 4525) regarding adequate funding for the National Park Service. The Senate will continue consideration of H.R. 5093 for the remainder of this week and most likely into next week. (9/11/02)

The Senate began floor consideration on September 5th and is expected to complete its work at the end of next week. On the first day of debate, a few amendments were offered, including one by Senator Robert Bryd (D-WV) that would provide funds to the BLM and the Forest Service in order to reimburse accounts within these agencies for firefighting needs. The amendment (S. Amdt 4480) would provide a total of $825 million in emergency funding to these agencies. Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) then added an amendment (S. Amdt 4481) that would provide drought relief to farmers affected by drought over the past two years -- the amendment did not include any specific dollar amount for drought aid. The Senate has not yet voted on either bill but did pass a cloture vote that would force a vote by late Monday. The chamber did accept a technical amendment (S. Amdt 4474) that corrects an error in the bill regarding the total for the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy. The Appropriations Committee had recommended a total of $640,965,000 but the bill text indicated a total for the program as $10 million more than recommended. S. Amdt 4474 corrected the bill text to read the correct amount for the Office of Fossil Energy. Floor debate will continue this week. (9/5/02)

Both the House and Senate Appropriations committees are working to quickly move the Interior Appropriations bill through the funding process. On July 17th, the House passed H.R. 5093 in a 377-46 vote. The full House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Interior bill (H.R. 5093) on July 9th in a closed session. The House report (H. Rept 107-564) states that the committee recommends a total of $928.4 million for the USGS, which is a 7% increase from the budget request and a 1.6% increase from last year's allocation. Within this amount, $234.7 million would go to geologic programs, $135.1 million would go to mapping programs, $209.7 million would go to water resource programs, and $170.4 million would go to biological resource programs. The House committee restored the funding for the Toxic Substances Hydrology program and the Water Resources Research Institutes, both slated for elimination in the president's request, as well as provided an 11% increase above the request for the national water quality assessment program. National Streamflow information programs would also receive an increase over the request, to bring it back to last year's level, for a total of $14.3 million. By a 30-22 vote, the committee also included an amendment by Ranking Member David Obey (R-WI) making clear that the bill does not contain funds "related to potential energy development within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." According to E&E Daily, the amendment was in response to the inclusion of funds for ANWR development in the president's request for BLM. A separate amendment by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) extends a current moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Finger Lakes National Forest in New York. Details from the House reports are available below. (7/12/02)

On June 28th, the Senate Appropriations Committee filed its report (S. Rept. 107-201) after it held a markup of S. 2708, the FY 2003 Interior and Related Agnecies Appropriations bill. The Senate would provide $928 million to the USGS under its version, an increase of $14 million over the last year's allocation and 6.8% over the budget request. Funding for the DOE Office Fossil Energy (FE) would increase 21% over the budget request, providing $641 million under the Senate plan. The Senate proposal would continue the conservation funding category that began two years ago, often referred to as Titale VIII funds. Details from the Senate report are available below.


 House Action   Senate Action   Conference Action 

House Action
On June 25th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior held its markup of the FY 2003 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. According to the subcommittee press release, the total funding for the Interior bill would come to $19.7 billion, an increase of $486 million above the FY 2002 funding level. The House version would restore close to $55 million in program cuts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and also restored cuts to the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE). In total the USGS would receive $928 million, an increase of just under 7% from the president's request. The committee would continue to fund the conservation spending category (originally referred to as Title VIII funds that began in the FY 2003 budget, by providing $1.4 billion for conservation activities. Funding for the Everglades restoration project would come to $96 million. A subcommittee statement that was handed out at the markup noted the recommendation of $1.9 billion for energy programs within the Interior bill. It states: "The Committee's recommendations are responsive to those goals and to the underlying National Energy Policy. . . . The recommendations reflect a balanced approach to handling both the supply and demand sides of the energy issue."

The full House Appropriations Committee marked up the Interior bill (H.R. 5093) and filed its report (H. Rept. 107-564) on July 9th. One of the opening paragraphs of the House report chides the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for its proposal to reduce funding and eliminate several programs within the USGS:

For the third year in a row the Committee has restored a number of high-priority research programs that were proposed for reduction or elimination by the Office of Management and Budget during the budget process. Officials at the Office of Management and Budget seemingly believe that the Department of the Interior no longer needs science on which to base natural resource policy decisions. This is not the position of the Congress as articulated in previous Interior bills, nor is it the position of the National Academy of Sciences which has provided recommendations on a program by program basis detailing the need to expand not eliminate the very programs that the Office of Management and Budget has targeted as unnecessary. The Committee strongly urges the Department and OMB to continue to fund these critical science programs in the base budget in future years.

Under the House proposal, the geologic division would total $235 million, an increase of 4.5% over the budget request and a slight increase over last year's allocation. Report language indicates that funding for energy assessment activities would come to $1.2 million and the Alaska minerals project would receive $1.5 million. The House version would maintain the funding level for light distancing and ranging (LIDAR) technology -- a technology that will dovetail with the proposed EarthScope initiative at the National Science Foundation. The report also indicated that the House was including funds "to begin the process of expanding the Survey's coastal program consistent with the National Academy of Sciences recommendations for a comprehensive national program."

The proposed cuts to USGS water programs were fully restored in the House version. In total, the water programs would receive $138 million. Funding for ground water resource programs would come to $6.4 million, a slight increase from the budget request and an increase of nearly 19% over last year's allocation. The toxic substance hydrology research program would be restored in the House version and would provide a slight increase from last year's level, for a total of $63.6 million. The national streamflow information programs would receive a 17% increase over the request to provided $14.3 million, level with last year's allocation. Also receiving a slight increase from last years funding level would be the Water Resources Research Institutes that faced elimination in the budget request.

In other USGS numbers, the House would provide $170 million for biological research activities and $135 million mapping activities. The report language urges the administration to place the National Map, an updated-digital map that would integrate several types of information into a single online document, as a top priority. It states that "digital spatial data are essential to almost all sectors of the national economy."

Office of Fossil Energy
Similar to the water programs within the USGS, several of the programs within the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) were hard hit in the president's budget request. At the beginning of the House report is a section entitled "Energy Research -- Responding to the National Energy Policy" that states: "The Committee also has recommended restore most of the reductions proposed in the budget request foe energy conservation research and for research to improve fossil energy technologies. We need to do all these things if we are to have a balanced and rational national energy strategy."

The House proposal would provide a total of $664 million, an increase of 35.7% above the budget request and 14% above last year's funding, for FE activities. Included in these funds is $42 million for the sequestration research and development activities, a 22% decrease from the budget request and a 30% increase above last year's allocation.

Funding for natural gas exploration and production was nearly doubled from the budget request -- the House provided $22.2 million (up 8% from last year). The report noted the inclusion of funds to continue the National Laboratory/industry partnership program. Also under the natural gas program is research on gas hydrates, which would be funded at $10.8 million, more than double the requested amount. Funding for petroleum exploration and production was hard hit in the budget request, with a request of less than half of the FY 2002 allocation. The House was able to restore a majority of the cuts but not able to provide any increases above last year's allocation. The House recommendation totaled $30.4 million for petroleum exploration and production activities.

Other Agencies
In other Department of the Interior agencies, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would receive a total of $826.9 million, an increase of nearly 2% above the budget request and more than 6% above last year's allocation. Within this amount, $36.1 million would go towards soil, water, and air management programs and $106.8 million would go towards energy and mineral resource activities. The funding level for oil and gas activities within the energy and minerals account would increase by more than 13% above last year's level, providing a total of $86.9 million for these programs. The National Park System would receive a total of $1.6 billion, an increase of 8% above last year's allocation and slightly more than one percent above the budget request. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) would receive a total of $164.7 million, just above the request and 9% above last year's funding level. Within MMS, the only program to receive an increase over the budget request were regulatory activities for outer continental shelf (OCS) lands. The leasing and environment account would receive the requested $37.6 and the OCS resource evaluation account would receive $25.3 million. Report language would support MMS's program to use royalty-in-kind payments to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Funding for the National Forest System within the Department of Agriculture would receive a total of $1.4 billion, a slight increase above the request and nearly 3% above last year's allocation -- included in this amount is $51.6 million for minerals and geology management. The Smithsonian Institution would receive a total of $436.7 million, a slight increase from the request and nearly 4% more than last yea.

The Administration's Response
On July 16th, the White House Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) noting the administration's concern with several provisions in the House bill. The SAP begins by noting the administration's objection to the inclusion of a $700 million FY 2002 supplemental for fire suppression efforts by stating that "the Administration has a contingency plan for funding a record year of fire suppression spending if needed." Within the section regarding the Department of the Interior, the letter urges the House to fully fund the president's Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI), the flag-ship of the administration's conservation efforts. Also in the DOI section: "The Administration is also disappointed that the Committee ignored the proposed transfer of $10 million for the toxic substance hydrology research funding from the U.S. Geological Survey to the National Science Foundation." As for the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy:

While the Administration appreciates the full funding for the President's Clean Coal Power initiative, the Administration objects to the lack of support for reforms to consolidate the coal research program, which is necessary to improve the performance of these programs within the Office of Fossil Energy, and to the $175 million (36 percent) increase over the President's request for fossil energy research programs."


Senate Action
The Senate Appropriations Committee held its markup and filed its report (S. Rept. 107-201) on June 28th before heading out of town for the July 4th recess. In total, the Senate bill (S. 2708) would provide $19.3 billion for the FY 2003 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The Department of the Interior would be provided with $9.6 billion, with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) receiving $927 million. In regards to the USGS funding, the report begins with:

The Committee is dismayed that the budget estimates for the USGS once again recommends large reductions to valuable ongoing programs. Proposals such as the elimination of the Toxics Substances Hydrology program, a significant reduction to the National Water-Quality Assessment program (NAWQA), and the elimination of Federal funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes are but a few of the recommendations included in the budget estimate. The Committee does not agree to the termination or weakening of programs for which there is strong support from a broad constituency, and a demonstrated value through the significant amount of non-Federal funds that are leveraged through most USGS program. In the Committee's view, it will remain difficult to find the resources to support new directions for the Survey as long as the annual need to restore large amounts to base programs continues. As budget planning gets underway for fiscal year 2004, the Committee urges those involved in the process to bear in mind the expressed public support across the United States for the Survey's programs.
The report goes on to provide more details for the agency. The mapping programs would receive a total of $131 million, and increase of just over one percent from the budget request and close to two percent less than last year's allocation, and the biological programs would receive $172 million, an increase over both the budget request and last year's allocation. Funding for the geology programs would total $238.6 million, an increase of more than 6% above the budget request. Report language notes that the National Cooperative Geological Mapping program would receive $5.99 million. Increased funding for this program in the last couple of years has come from the Title VIII conservation program funds, but this year Congress has effectively incorporated those funds into the general funding category. The geological hazards assessment category would receive an increase of 3% for a total of $76.5 million, which includes $3 million for the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The budget request has included additional funds for oil and gas assessments, but the committee recommends that these activities can be accomplished within the current allocation. Other geological resource numbers: $500,000 for the Central Great Lakes Geological Mapping Coalition, $500,000 for coastal erosion studies in North Carolina, $500,000 for land subsidence studies in Louisiana, $1.3 million for regional aggregate materials programs, $1.5 million to complete the Alaska Mineral-at-Risk project, $750,000 for the minerals information team, and $474,000 for geological surveys at the Yukon Flats.

The water resource programs were the big winners (if you can call it that) with an increase of close to 18% over the budget request, bringing the funding to $209.6 million, a slight increase from last year's level. The report states:

The Committee does not concur with the proposed reductions and has restored programmatic funds as follows: $5,796,000 for the NAWQA program; $13.919.000 for the Toxic Substances Hydrology program, which was proposed for elimination in its current form; $2.096,000 for streamgaging activities; [and] $6,000,000 to restore the Water Resources Research Institutes program, which was proposed for elimination; . . . In agreement with the budget request, $1,000,000 is included to initiate a United States-Mexico border health initiative.
Funding for other Interior agencies include: $1.9 billion for the Bureau of Land Management; $2.4 billion for the National Park Service, $172 million for the Minerals Management Service, and $297 million for the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

The Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) also received good news from the Senate markup, or at least what looks on the surface to be good news. "More than [$93 million] in programmatic increases above the budget request were necessitated by the Department's proposed early termination of valuable research projects, many of which, in the opinion of the Committee, are central to our Nation's energy security." In total, the $641 million for fossil energy research is close to 35% above the budget request. Funding for carbon sequestration would decrease by close to 19% from the budget request to total $44 million, which is 36% above last year's allocation. Natural gas exploration and production activities, which were hard hit in the budget request, would end up with $23.5 million, a 14% increase above the FY 2002 funding level. Funding for gas hydrates would be more than doubled budget request, for a total of $10.5 million. Petroleum exploration and production supporting research funding would increase by 6.7% to total $27.4 million.

Also funded under the Interior bill are the Smithsonian Institution, which would receive $538 million, and the U.S. Forest Service, which would receive $4.0 billion. Details on these agencies and other specific Interior agencies are available from the Senate report (S. Rept. 107-201).

The Administration's Response
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) on September 4th, noting the administration's objections to provisions within the S. 2708. The SAP begins by stating that the administration "strongly opposes" the total discretionary spending level indicated in the Senate bill, then goes into more detail about objections to funding for the USGS and the DOE Office of Fossil Energy:

The Administration is disappointed that the Commitee ignored the proposed transfer of $10 million for toxic substances hydrology research funding from the U.S. Geological Survey to the National Science Foundation. The quality and effectiveness of this research would improve through NSF's expertise in funded competitive research. . . .

While the Administration appreciates the full funding for the President's Clean Coal Power initiative, the Administration objects to the lack of support for reforms to consolidate the coal research program, which is necessary to improve performances in the Office of Fossil Energy. The Administration also objects to the $162 million (33 percent) increase over the President's request for fossil energy research programs. Many of the items funded above the request are for research that is more appropriately performed by the private sector. The President's request targets funding to projects that have clear public benefits and projects that would not otherwise be supported by the private sector. . . .


Sources: E&E News, Department of the Interior website, House Appropriations Committee website, the Library of Congress, Senate Appropriations Committee website, and the Office of Management and Budget website.

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by Margaret A. Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs.

Posted April 4, 2002: Last Update September 25, 2002

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