IN A NUTSHELL: Before vacating their offices to allow for environmental inspections, the House and Senate passed a final version of the fiscal year (FY) 2002 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill (H.R. 2217). This bill will be the first of the 13 appropriations measures to be sent to President Bush, who is expected to sign it into law. The Interior bill is almost free of the legislative provisions, or "riders", that generally make this one of the most contentious -- and last to pass -- spending bills. As a result, it sailed through a House-Senate conference and passed by wide margins in both houses (380-28 and 95-3 votes, respectively). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will receive $914 million, more than was provided by either the House or Senate version of the bill and a 12% increase over the president's budget request. The Department of Energy's Fossil Energy programs will receive close to $583 million, a 30% increase above the budget request. Please write to your senators and representative (yes, mail is still being read!) to thank them for making a strong investment in the geosciences. For more information on geoscience appropriations, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#approps.
This evening, House and Senate office buildings are closed in the wake of Senate staff being exposed to anthrax contained in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). The House has gone out of session but will return October 23rd in time to keep the government operating by passing a third continuing resolution when the current one expires [Note: the third continuing resolution (H.J. Res 69), which goes to the end of August, actually passed just before the House recessed]. Half a month into the new fiscal year, none of the 13 appropriations bills have been signed into law, a record. Significant progress has been made in recent weeks as lawmakers sought to clear the decks for anti-terrorism and economic stimulus legislation. But partisan wrangling has slowed progress in the Senate. Thus, it came as something as a surprise when both chambers passed the conference report (H. Rept. 107-234) for the Interior bill on October 17th and sent it to the president.
U.S. Geological Survey
Overall funding for the USGS totals $914 million, an increase of 12% over the president's request and more than 3% above last year's level. Nearly every line item at the USGS is above the request, and in most cases also above last year's allocation with most of the increase going to cover uncontrollable costs adjusting for inflation. As in FY 2001, the Survey will receive $25 million in so-called Title VIII funds for conservation-related programs. That title was first added to last year's Interior bill as a modified version of the still-pending Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). Like last year, the conservation funds -- derived from federal Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas royalties -- are directed primarily at state cooperative activities, including geologic mapping by state geological surveys.
Geologic programs will receive close to $233 million, a 9% increase over the requested level and 3% over last year's level. Hazards assessment activities received an increase to total $75 million. According to the conference report, the Advanced National Seismic Network is marked to receive $300 thousand above FY 2001, and the volcanic hazards program activities at Shemya AK will receive a $1 million increase. Geologic resource assessment programs total nearly $80 million and landscape and coastal programs are close to $78 million.
Water resource programs, which faced the largest cuts in the president's request, are slated to receive close to $206 million, an increase of 29% over the president's request and just slightly above last year's level. Despite being zeroed out in the president's budget, the water resources research institutes not only were reinstated but also received a 10% increase from FY 2001 to total $6 million.
Mapping programs will receive $133 million, an increase of 8% from the request. Biological programs are also slated for a boost in funding: an 11% increase above the request to $166 million.
Other Department of the Interior Bureaus
Among other Department of the Interior (DOI) agencies, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will receive a total of $1.9 billion, a 6% increase from the budget request but a 13% decrease from last year's allocation. Within BLM, the energy and mineral activities will receive a little more than $95 million and the Alaska minerals program will receive $4 million. The National Park Service is marked to receive $2.3 billion, which is 8% less than the president's request but 9% more than last year's level. Funding for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) totals $157 million, a slight increase above the request. Activities at MMS related to the Outer Continental Shelf lands will be allocated $128 million. The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement will receive a little less than $307 million. The Department of Agriculture's Forest Service (FS) will receive $4.1 billion, including $313 million from the conservation fund. Geology management within FS received the requested $49 million, and the recently established Valles Caldera National Preserve received $2.8 million, more than double the budget request.
DOE Fossil Energy
There is more good news for the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) in the conference report. The president requested deep cuts for several of the FE programs. Not only did Congress restore these cuts but also several areas received increases over last year's allocations. Overall, FE programs in the Interior bill total close to $583 million, which is a 30% increase from the president's request and 35% above the FY 2001 allocation. Carbon Sequestration received a 56% increase from the request to total $32 million. Funding for both the natural gas exploration and production and gas hydrate programs came to $20.5 million and $9.8 million, respectively, more than double the president's request. Overall the natural gas programs are more than double the request, totaling $45 million, which is just above the previous year's allocation. Petroleum and oil technology programs saw a similar increase, with exploration and production research increasing by 59% over the request to total $32 million. Overall the petroleum and oil technology activities are up 84% from the request and close to 2% from last year's level. Cooperative research, which was to receive no funding under the budget request, received a 2% increase from last year to total $8 million.
Please Thank Your Senators and Representative
All too often, a member of Congress only hears from his or her constituents when they are upset. Please take a moment and write a note to your senators and representative to thank them for providing significant resources for federal geoscience programs. It is particularly important to do this if your members sit on the House or Senate Appropriations Committee. A list of committee members can be found at http://www.senate.gov and http://www.house.gov. The Interior Appropriations Subcommittee chairmen are Rep. Joe Skeen (R-NM) and Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV); ranking members are Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT). As a rule, hand-written notes are best, but in these troubled times, an e-mail message might not be a bad idea. Letters should be addressed to:
The Honorable ___________
Washington, DC 20510
-- or --
The Honorable ___________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Please send us a copy of anything you write: AGI Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703 379 7563; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources: E&E News, Greensheets, House Appropriations Committee, Library of Congress, Senate Appropriations Committee, USBudget.com.
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted October 17, 2001
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