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Summary of FY 2003 Interior Appropriations Hearings


Hearing Summaries

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Hearing on Department of the Interior FY 2003 Budget Estimates
June 13, 2002

The Bottom Line
On June 13, 2002, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies held a hearing on budget estimates for the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the fiscal year (FY) 2003.  The principal witness was Interior Secretary Gale Norton, who outlined the Bush Administration's DOI budget request of $13.2 billion.  Included in the $13.2 billion total is $2.9 billion for shifting a pension and health benefits program for current employees to the agency.  Without the pension and health benefits proposal, the FY 2003 request is $10.3 billion, which is $12.7 million less than FY 2002 appropriations for DOI.  Most of the discussion in the hearing centered on two main issues: management of Indian affairs and management of forests and forest fires.

Members Present
Robert Bennett (R-UT) Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Conrad Burns (R-MT) Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Pete Domenici (R-NM) Patty Murray (D-WA)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)  

Hearing Summary
Opening Statements
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), acting as chair in the absence of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), opened the hearing by expressing concern over DOI's general handling of American Indian affairs.  Staying with Indian issues, which was a major theme of the hearing, Sens. Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO) expressed concern over DOI's mismanagement of Indian trust funds.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said that Indian tribes have not been consulted enough when it comes to Indian issues.  Shifting gears, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) pointed out the high cost of litigation at DOI.  Bennett said that, although the department wins the majority of cases brought against it by differing groups, he is concerned over the money it takes to fight these legal battles.  Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), touching on another major theme of the hearing, expressed concern about DOI's forest fire prevention programs, or lack thereof.  He stated that the government is not doing enough to prevent forest fires, and noted that fire is a problem in Alaska.  Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), advised that DOI should not be afraid to manage forests and prevent fires, even when such action would bring a lawsuit from environmental groups.  Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) raised two issues with Sec. Norton in her opening remarks.  First, Feinstein noted the importance of reducing the amount of water taken from the Colorado River.  She subsequently expressed concern over the Cadiz Groundwater Project that will fill aquifers with Colorado River water and make that water available to Los Angeles and southern California.  Feinstein says she will oppose the Cadiz project until the United States Geological Survey (USGS) determines recharge rates for the aquifer.  Second, Feinstein was upset that the FY 2003 budget proposal for DOI has only a 1.5% increase in funding for California parks, which Feinstein contends is not enough to keep up with costs.  In support of her argument, Feinstein pointed out that East Coast parks receive better funding than West Coast parks.

Witness Testimony
Secretary Norton highlighted the FY 2003 budget proposal for DOI by reading portions of her prepared testimony.  The budget request, she said, is centered around the "Four C's: conservation through consultation, cooperation, and communication" that employ the assistance of local landowners and governments.  She focused on a new $100 million Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI) that will both continue existing conservation programs and fund new ones.  One-half of the initiative ($50 million) will go to the Land and Water Conservation Fund State Assistance program while the other half will be split between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service for other projects.  In support of President Bush's National Energy Policy, $10.2 million would go to BLM, $3 million for the North Slope of Alaska, $5 million for the Mineral Management Service (MMS), and $2.7 million for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) for energy related activities.  Norton said that the budget request continues robust funding for the Wildland Fire Management program at $675.5 million.

Question and Answer Session
During the question and answer session,  Dorgan again voiced his concern over DOI's general handling of American Indian affairs and cited a $2 million cut to tribal colleges as an example.  Dorgan then asked that Norton visit an Indian college in North Dakota during her planned visit there, which Norton agreed to do.  Campbell, who has worked closely with Indian schools, added that more money for Indian schools is needed and pointed out that tribal colleges are a good opportunity for everyone.

Bennett asked Norton to comment on the high cost of litigation at DOI.  Sec. Norton agreed that litigation costs are indeed too expensive, but legal challenges to DOI decisions cannot be avoided.  Bennett also asked why funding for local and county governments that have federal lands within their boundaries, known as Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT), has been low in the past two years.  He noted that local law enforcement units are ill-equipped to deal with the thousands of tourists who visit federal lands in their jurisdiction.  Norton answered that PILT has increased in the past year and that DOI is looking for ways to help local law enforcement.  Bennett also stressed the need for independent peer review of scientific decisions made by DOI.  He said that peer review by independent experts is the best way to insure that decisions are made with sound science.  Norton agreed that peer review is preferable and said that DOI is peer reviewing more of its scientific work, but the sheer number of DOI decisions prevents comprehensive peer review.

Management of forests and prevention of forest fires was a major concern of many of the senators, especially those who hail from dry western states.  Stevens first raised the issue in his opening comments and some senators revisited the issue during the question and answer session.  Campbell asked how DOI obtains funds to fight unexpected forest fires.  Norton answered that money can be borrowed from other programs, which elicited a "but that money must be paid back so that is not a solution" response from some of the senators.  Norton also noted that forests are 10 times as dense as they were 100 years ago.  Some of the senators, most notably Domenici, supported this statement with their own observations.  Norton finished by saying that fundamental changes to forest management are needed.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) asked Sec. Norton why there is no coal production in Montana, which contains some of the same coal-bearing deposits that Wyoming actively mines.  He also asked why snow shoveling in small Montana towns is done only a few days out of the week, as opposed to all workdays.  Norton had no immediate answers for Burns.

Feinstein concluded the question and answer period by asking Norton to reconsider buying back 36 offshore oil leases in California.  Feinstein argued that, in light of DOI's recent buybacks of offshore oil leases in Florida, California deserves buybacks after 30 years of trying to convince the federal government to act on its behalf.  Norton, who had decided the previous week not to buy back the California leases, responded that the Florida and California situations are different.  California, she argued, wants drilling in the leases while Florida did not.  She also argued that gridlocked litigation in Florida over the leases was interfering with other Gulf of Mexico projects while California's litigation over its leases had just begun.  Feinstein disagreed on California's wishes, saying that Californians don't want drilling off of their coast.  Feinstein pledged that California would not stop raising the issue.

-- DBV


House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Hearing on the FY 2003 budget for the Smithsonian Institution
March 20, 2002

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies met on March 20, 2002, to discuss the FY 2003 Smithsonian Institution budget request.  The subcommittee heard testimony from Lawrence M. Small, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.  Small briefed the subcommittee on four major projects: the National Air and Space Museum's new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the National Museum of the American Indian, renovation of the Patent Building (housing the National Portrait Gallery and the American Art Museum), and complete renovation of the National Museum of American History.  Under the proposed budget request, the FY 2003 Smithsonian Institution budget would be $528 million, an increase of $32 million.  An additional $21.7 million was provided in the FY 2002 supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 2217). Of this year's budget request, $5.2 million would be allotted for the National Museum of the American Indian and $3.3 million would be for the new Udvar-Hazy Center.  A recent National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) report concluded that $1.5 billion would be needed over the next ten years for repairs, restoration and alteration of the Smithsonian facilities.

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) noted that 70 percent of the Smithsonian Institution's budget is from public sources.  He expressed concern over the apparent corporate selling-out of the Smithsonian Institution calling it a "crass commercialization of the institution."  Hinchey recognized examples like renaming the Langley Theatre the Lockheed Martin Theatre and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.  Hinchey remarked on the seemingly backwards way this country funds the Smithsonian Institution, saying that Congress sends large amounts of money to the Department of Defense who contract corporations, who then give back donations to institutions like the Smithsonian.  Hinchey said that some decisions seemed to be based on money donated and that this procedure is downgrading the Smithsonian Institution.

Alternatively, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) stated that he would encourage corporate donations to the Smithsonian Institution.  Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) added that corporate donations could be done with taste and resulting in good public works.  Nethercutt asked Hinchey if he was concerned only with corporate donations or if he had issues with individual donations as well.  Hinchey stated that he believed the Smithsonian Institution is losing its identity by renaming facilities after corporations.

Rep. Norman Dicks (D-WA) inquired about the decreased amount of research done at the Smithsonian Institution.  He directly asked Small if he thought that the Science Research budget was adequate.  Small responded by saying that there has been a decrease in federally funded research as a result of budget cuts.  Dicks also asked Small if there was a plan for a proposed transfer of the Astrophysics Program to the National Science Foundation.  Small said that the transfer was never discussed with him and that he knew of no such plan.

-HRG


Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Hearing on FY 2003 Budget for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy
March 7, 2002

Bottom Line
On March 7, 2002, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies held a hearing on the Department of Energy's (DOE) budget estimates for FY 2003.  Department of Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham remarked on the FY 2003 budget released by the Administration.  Despite some budget cuts, Abraham was enthusiastic about future DOE programs and goals.

Hearing Summary
Chairman Robert Byrd (D-WV) opened the hearing by stating his concern about the DOE budget and the fact that it does not reflect the rhetoric of the Bush Administration's National Energy Policy.  Byrd continued by remarking on the large cuts in energy conservation, fossil energy, oil technologies, clean coal research and natural gas programs.  The DOE Office of  Fossil Energy (FE) budget would be cut by 5 percent to $816 million.  The FE Research and Development proposed budget would be cut to $494 million, a drop from $587 million in the FY 2002 enacted budget.  The oil technology budget would decrease 37% to $35.4 million.  The natural gas technology programs request of $22.6 million is down from $45 million in FY 2002. The budget for the Clean Coal initiative would receive $325.6 million, down from the FY 2002 level of $2 billion.   Byrd stated, "Rather than respond to the challenges we face by increasing our research and development activities as a way of securing our nation's energy independence, this Administration has instead chosen to retreat.  Now is not the time to walk away from the type of research that will secure our nation's energy independence."

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham opened by addressing the importance of the nation's energy diversification, specifically referring to new clean coal technologies.  Abraham was enthusiastic about the advances in hydrogen fuel cell technology and the Freedom Car.  Abraham noted a substantial increase in weatherization funding, which is an energy policy focus for the administration.  Abraham introduced his newly appointed Assistant Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy, Michael Smith, and reaffirmed the agency's commitment to review of the programs within this office.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) questioned Secretary Abraham about the deep cuts in funding for oil and gas research and development.  Burns stated that this funding supports partnerships between oil production research and federal agencies.  Oil and gas research funding also provides a means for the government to influence the industry.   Specifically, Burns expressed his interest in research on the oil recovery potential of small oil wells as well as coal bed methane technology.

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) brought up the issue of the clean coal research initiative.  He also added his enthusiasm over new technologies of cleaning the coal during the mining process by separating the coal horizons that contain more pollutants.  Domenici stressed the importance of advancing the exploration process of coal and ultimately decreasing environmental effects.

-HRG


House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Hearing on FY 2003 Budget for the Department of the Interior
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton
February 27, 2002

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies held a hearing on February 27, 2002, to discuss the FY 2003 budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI).  Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and Assistant Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett testified before the subcommittee.  In her testimony, Norton highlighted several new administration initiatives such as the Cooperative Conservation Initiative (CCI), which encourages landowners to participate in conservation by working with Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land managers.  CCI was created to stimulate new voluntary environmentalism initiatives and would be funded at $100 million in the request.  The DOI budget request would also provide a $28.6 million increase for energy-related activities within the BLM and Minerals Management Service.  This portion of the budget expands rights-of-way processing, the permitting process, research on oil and gas resources on public lands, and oversight of oil and gas operations.  It also is indended to  increase the responsiveness to stakeholders needs for post-lease actions.  The FY 2003 budget would allocate $3.1 million for North Slope funding on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and includes $2.4 billion from proposed lease sales.  Norton added that alternative energy funding in the BLM budget would receive an increase of $750,000 to expand opportunities in geothermal, hydropower, and wind energy production.

Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) expressed concern about the proposed $30 million budget cut for the Offices of Surface Mining Reclamation & Enforcement.  He asked Norton about the funding and development of energy programs such as the Clean Coal Technology.  Peterson commented on the usage of coal by stating "shouldn't we be sending the message that we're going to clean up the evils of the past and do it right in the future?"  Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA) asked Norton if DOI could foresee any funding help with the Klamath Basin issue.  Norton admitted that DOI is uncertain about the future funding levels and the legislative aspect of the Klamath Basin issue.  More inter-agency communication needs to occur to ensure good decision making and for determining future funding levels.

Rep. James Moran (D-VA) asked Norton about the Interior Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act, an employee reform act intended to evaluate DOI's efficiency.  The FAIR act was rumored to be re-evaluating 25,000 Interior jobs.  Norton pointed out Lynn Scarlett as the leader of this initiative.  She said that the number of jobs under consideration was not 25,000 but rather 3,300 jobs.  Norton said that 250 jobs from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) earth science and biological agencies would be lost.  The Secretary added that the elimination of these positions could be absorbed in the existing structure of the agency.  Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) asked if the role of the USGS was changing -- in light of the proposed Toxics Hydrology Program transfers to the National Science Foundation.  Norton stated that the proposed transfers would be a multi-year process affecting 90 employees.  Rep. Moran added that USGS may find new positions for the 250 employees, however, the positions would be out of their areas of expertise.  Norton said that the stream gaging program would not be lost, however its budget would be cut by 14 percent.  Norton stated that the focus of the USGS, land management, and state government should be to enhance partnerships.  She added that there needs to be evaluation on any overarching analysis of federal scientific activities within these agencies.

-HRG


House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
Hearing on FY 2003 Budget for the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service Energy
February 14, 2002

On February 14, 2002, the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on the FY 2003 budgets for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the Forest Service (FS) Energy and Mineral program.  Ranking Democrat Ron Kind (D-WI) opened by expressing concern about the proposed 5 percent budget cuts for these programs.  Kind questioned the administration's proposed budget for assuming that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) lease sale would be authorized by Congress.  Kind stated, "at a time when there is little public support and no consensus in the other legislative body for opening ANWR to oil and gas development, this assumption makes no sense."  Kind added that even industry appears to be less enthusiastic about the huge price tag on developing ANWR. He also stated that with the FY 2003 proposed budget, "it would continue a dangerous and misguided over-reliance on fossil fuels."

BLM Director Kathleen Clarke and Deputy Chief of U.S. Forest Service Tom Thompson testified before the subcommittee.  Clarke stressed that BLM would be a critical component of the implementation of the Bush Administration's National Energy Policy due to the fact that 35 percent of coal, 11 percent of natural gas, and 5 percent of oil are located on BLM lands.  Clarke highlighted the requested increase of $10.2 million for BLM Energy and Minerals budget.  BLM coal programs request an increase of $500,000 and geothermal funding requests an additional $350,000.  The FY 2003 budget requested an additional $3 million to begin developing ANWR.

Thompson stressed that the FS Energy and Mineral Program will also play an important role in the National Energy Policy.  He listed the amount of leasable minerals located in National Forests -- composed of 79 million tons of coal, 8.3 million gallons of oil, 12 billion cubic feet of CO2, and 101 billion cubic feet of natural gas.  The locatable minerals under Forest Service management include 529,000 ounces of gold, 10 million ounces of silver, 94,000 ounces of platinum, and 178 million pounds of copper.  Thompson also added that the saleable minerals from FY 2000 included 13 million tons of aggregate, 56,000 tons of gypsum, and 4 million tons of limestone within the program's jurisdiction.   The U.S. Forest Service request for FY 2003 would be $56 million, which includes $5 million for the implementation of the National Energy Policy.

Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) inquired about the geothermal budget and whether it was adequate considering 148 geothermal leases exist in the Pacific Northwest covering 258,000 acres.  Gibbons also questioned Thompson about geothermal lease applications that were never processed by the Forest Service.  Deputy Chief Thompson stated that $500,000 was adequate to cover the permitting for the geothermal programs, but there are some things that will not get done. Kind responded by saying that the increase in funding from $350,000 to $700,000 is a step in the right direction, but small compared to the huge increase of $85 million for the BLM oil and gas program.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) stressed the need for the BLM and FS to move toward increasing alternative energy.  Thompson agreed and added that currently 95 percent of the nation's energy comes from fossil fuels compared to only 5 percent from renewable resources.

-HRG

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

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Contributed by AGI/AAPG 2002 Spring Semester Intern Heather R. Golding, and AGI/AIPG 2002 Summer Intern David B. Viator.

Posted July 17, 2002


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