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FY2008 Department of the Interior Appropriations (12-29-07)

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Geoscience-related agencies covered by the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations include the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Energy oil and gas research programs, Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Forest Service. For more information about the geoscience value of these agencies, click here.

For analysis of hearings held by Congress on Department of Interior appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 Department of Interior Appropriations Process

Account

FY07 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)

U.S. Geological Survey (total)

     
 
 

Geological Programs

     
 
 

-- Earthquake Hazards

     
 
 

-- Volcano Hazards

     
 
 

-- Landslide Hazards

     
 
 

-- Global Seismographic Network

     
 
 

-- Geomagnetism

     
 
 

-- Earth Surface Dynamics

     
 
 

-- National Cooperative Geologic Mapping

     
 
 

-- Coastal and Marine Geology

     
 
 

-- Mineral Resource Assessments

     
 
 

-- Energy Resource Assessments

     
 
 

Mapping Progams

     
 
 

Water Resources Programs

     
 
 

Biological Resources Programs

     
 
 

Enterprise Information

     
 
 

Facilities

     
 
 

Science Support

     
 
 

Bureau of Land Management (total)

     
 
 

Energy and Minerals Management

     
 
 

Minerals Management Service (total)

     
 
 

Outer Continental Shelf Resource Evaluation

     
 
 

National Park Service (total for park system)

     
 
 

NPS Resource Stewardship

     
 
 

Smithsonian Institution (total)

     
 
 

U.S. Forest Service (total)

     
 
 

Minerals and Geology Management

     
 
 

Geoscience Value of Agencies within the Department of the Interior Appropriations bill

Created by an act of Congress in 1879, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has evolved over the years, matching its talent and knowledge to the progress of science and technology. According to their website, the USGS serves the Nation as an independent fact-finding agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems. The value of the USGS to the Nation rests on its ability to carry out studies on a national scale and to sustain long-term monitoring and assessment of natural resources. Because it has no regulatory or management mandate, the USGS provides impartial science that serves the needs of our changing world. The diversity of scientific expertise enables the USGS to carry out large-scale, multi-disciplinary investigations that build the base of knowledge about the Earth. In turn, decision makers at all levels of government--and citizens in all walks of life--have the information tools they need to address pressing societal issues.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is responsible for managing 262 million acres of land--about one-eighth of the land in the United States--and about 300 million additional acres of subsurface mineral resources. The Bureau is also responsible for wildfire management and suppression on 388 million acres. Practices such as revegetation, protective fencing, and water development are designed to conserve, enhance, and develop public land, soil, and watershed resources. Keeping public lands protected from fire on all Department of the Interior managed lands in Alaska, and suppressing wildfires on the public lands in Alaska and the western States is a high priority for BLM since they are dominated by extensive grasslands, forests, high mountains, arctic tundra, and deserts. The BLM manages a wide variety of resources and uses, including energy and minerals; timber; forage; wild horse and burro populations; fish and wildlife habitat; wilderness areas; archaeological, paleontological, and historical sites; and other natural heritage values. The Bureau also has an active program of soil and watershed management on 175 million acres in the lower 48 States and 86 million acres in Alaska.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) is the federal agency that manages the nation's natural gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS). The agency collects, accounts for and disburses more than $5 billion per year in revenues from federal offshore mineral leases and from onshore mineral leases on federal and Indian lands. For FY 2005, the agency expects to collect and distribute about $9.5 billion from active Federal and Indian leases. There are two major programs within MMS, Offshore Minerals Management and Minerals Revenue Management.

Established in 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) has stewardship responsibilities for the protection and preservation of the national park system. The system, consisting of 388 separate and distinct units, is recognized globally as a leader in park management and resource preservation. The national park system represents much of the finest the Nation has to offer in terms of scenery, historical and archeological relics, and cultural heritage. Through its varied sites, the National Park Service attempts to explain America's history, interpret its culture, preserve examples of its natural ecosystems, and provide recreational and educational opportunities for U.S. citizens and visitors from all over the world, according to the NPS website.

The Smithsonian Institution is unique in the Federal establishment. Established by the Congress in 1846 to carry out the trust included in James Smithson's will, it has been engaged for over 150 years in the "increase and diffusion of knowledge among men" in accordance with the donor's instructions. With the expenditure of both private and Federal funds over the years, it has grown into one of the world's great scientific, cultural, and intellectual organizations. It operates magnificent museums, outstanding art galleries, and important research centers. Its collections are among the best in the world, attracting approximately 25,000,000 visitors in 2002 to its museums, galleries, and zoological park, according to the Smithsonian webiste. As custodian of the National Collections, the Smithsonian is responsible for more than 140 million art objects, natural history specimens, and artifacts. These collections are displayed for the enjoyment and education of visitors and are available for research by the staff of the Institution and by hundreds of visiting students, scientists, and historians each year. Other significant study efforts draw their data and results directly from terrestrial, marine, and astrophysical observations at various Smithsonian installations.

Congress established the Forest Service within the Department of Agriculture in 1905 to provide quality water and timber for the Nation’s benefit. Their website indicates that over the years, the public expanded the list of what they want from national forests and grasslands. Congress responded by directing the Forest Service to manage national forests for additional multiple uses and benefits and for the sustained yield of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, wood, and recreation. Multiple use means managing resources under the best combination of uses to benefit the American people while ensuring the productivity of the land and protecting the quality of the environment. National forests encompass 191 million acres (77.3 million hectares) of land, which is an area equivalent to the size of Texas. The Forest Service is also the largest forestry research organization in the world, and provides technical and financial assistance to state and private forestry agencies. Gifford Pinchot, the first Chief of the Forest Service, summed up the purpose of the Forest Service—"to provide the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people in the long run."

President's Request for FY 2008

 

House Action

 

The House of Representatives considers funding for the Environmental Protection Agency within the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Representative Dicks (D-WA), other members include Representatives Moran (D-VA), Hinchey (D-NY), Olver (D-MA) Mollohan (D-WV), Udall (D-NM), Chandler (D-KY), Pastor (D-AZ), Obey (D-WI), Tiahrt (R-KS), Peterson (R-PA), Doolittle (R-CA), Emerson (R-MO), Goode (R-VA), and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

 

The Senate considers funding for the Department of Interior in the Interior and Related Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Chaired by Senator Feinstein (D-CA), other members include Senators Byrd (D-WV), Leahy (D-VT), Dorgan (D-ND), Mikulski (D-MD), Kohl (D-WI), Johnson (D-SD), Reed (D-RI), Nelson (D-NE), Craig (R-ID), Stevens (R-AK), Cochran (R-MS), Dominici (R-NM), Bennett (R-UT), Gregg (R-NH), Allard (R-CO), and Alexander (R-TN).

FY08 Omnibus

The omnibus for fiscal year 2008 included significant cuts to science and engineering compared to the House and Senate approved bills. The competitiveness initiatives of legislators and the Administration were unable to compete with other fiscal priorities and perhaps some partisanship at the end. Although President Bush has allowed past Republican-led congresses to send him budgets that were significantly over the Administration's total spending limit requests, this year he demanded that legislators meet his spending limits and would not compromise on any details. Congress attempted and failed to override the President's veto of a mini-omnibus and then spent a few days rapidly cutting the extra spending of about $22 billion across 11 appropriation bills.

The outcome is a squeeze on funding of geosciences research across the federal agencies. The National Science Foundation, one of the largest sources of basic geosciences research, will receive a disappointing 2.5 percent increase in total funding after being slated for a 10 percent increase in House and Senate proposals. The Geosciences Directorate will have to cut research support because less funding will be available overall, the Directorate faces significant rising costs for operation, maintenance and infrastructure and any small increases distributed to the Directorate will not keep pace with the cost of inflation, meaning a decrease in funding in real dollars.

The Department of Energy's Office of Science, where additional basic geosciences research is funded also received a last minute reduction of about $500 million compared to funding levels in the House and Senate proposals. Again the geosciences will see real cuts to basic research support, continuing a trend in the Office of Science of decreasing funding for geosciences.

On a more positive note, NASA's Earth science division, Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and the U.S. Geological Survey will receive small, sustaining increases for geosciences research to keep a wide variety of programs and projects afloat. Over the longer term, these programs and projects will need real increases above the costs of inflation and basic operations and maintenance to ensure that these agencies meet their objectives. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provides a useful summary of federal investments in research and development (R&D) on an annual basis. According to AAAS, total R&D would increase about 1.2 percent to $142.7 billion for fiscal year 2008 and would be the fourth straight year of decline in real terms in federal R&D. The omnibus bill contains $927 million in non-defense R&D earmarks in 2008, down from $1.5 billion in non-defense R&D earmarks in 2006. The Defense Department budget includes $77.8 billion for R&D and $3.5 billion is specified for earmarks.

Among the major agencies of interest to the geosciences, NASA would receive $12.5 billion for R&D (a 5.7 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2007), the Energy Department would receive $9.376 billion for R&D (a 7.4 percent increase), the National Science Foundation would receive $4.53 billion for R&D (a 1.1 percent increase), USGS would receive $583 million for R&D (a 3.4 percent increase), NOAA would receive $573 million for R&D (a 7.6 percent increase), NIST would receive $514 million (a 4.7 percent increase) and the Smithsonian would receive $175 million for R&D ( the same as their budget for 2007). These numbers from AAAS are focused solely on R&D funding within these agencies and do not consider expenditures that might indirectly affect R&D.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
The USGS would receive $1.022 billion for fiscal year 2008, about a 3 percent increase over 2007. Of the total, $64 million was set aside for water resource investigations in cooperation with states and municipalities, $40 million was allocated to satellite operations and $8 million was allocated to maintenance and capital improvements. The join report also stipulated that no more than 50 percent of the costs of mapping or water resources will be shared with the states and municipalities.

The National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program would receive $1 million and the multi-hazard initiative would receive $3 million, Among programs slated for cuts in the President's request, Congress restored a $22 million requested cut for the Mineral Resources Program, giving it a total budget of about $50 million and provided $6.4 million for the Water Resources Research Institutes. Congress also provided the following increases above the President's request: An additional $2 million for earthquake hazards and the multi-hazard initiative, an additional $0.5 million for volcano hazards and the global seismographic network, an additional $1.5 million for the national streamflow information program and multi-hazard initiative and an additional $1 million for hydrologic networks related to the ocean action plan.

Congress also included $7.5 million for new climate change research at the survey and stated in their report: "The funds should be allocated for high priority research efforts, and up to $2,500,000 should be used by the Survey to establish the National Global Warming and Wildlife Science Center. The Survey is directed to notify the Committees on Appropriations of its allocation of global climate change research funds within 60 days of enactment."

Biological research would receive $143.5 million (a $5 million increase over 2007), while Enterprise Information would receive $112 million, Science Support would receive $68 million and Facilities would receive $101.5 million.

ADDENDUM: An across-the-board rescission of 1.56 percent will be applied to all of the programs at the USGS. The numbers given above do not reflect these reductions. (1/15/08)

For more details on federal R&D funding from AAAS, please visit their R&D Policy Web page.

For the full text of the omnibus and the related reports please visit Thomas and link to their extensive appropriations section.

Appropriations Hearings

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
Fiscal 2008 Appropriations: Interior and Environment

March 20, 2007

Witness:
Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, Department of the Interior

Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne met with Senate appropriators on March 20, 2007 to discuss the President's 2008 budget request for the Department of the Interior (DOI). As the agency responsible for managing one in every five acres in the US, the DOI's mandate is extensive, covering everything from conservation and restoration to law enforcement, fire fighting, and energy production. The President's budget request for 2008 is $10.7 billion, $35.4 million below the 2007 Joint Resolution. Like many other agencies, this decrease would mean reductions in funding for many programs within DOI. Four major initiatives -- the National Parks Centennial Initiative, the Healthy Lands Initiative, the Safe Indian Communities Initiative, and the Improving Indian Education Initiative - are the focus of the 2008 budget request.

Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) congratulated Kempthorne for his work in "one of the most difficult and diverse jobs in Washington." She commended DOI for ensuring that all $214 million in fixed costs are provided for, but expressed concern about decreases elsewhere in the budget, such as the 35 percent reduction to the construction budget and the 58 percent reduction in funds for land acquisition.

Ranking Member Larry Craig (R-ID) also congratulated Kempthorne for working successfully within a tight budget but expressed some reservations about cuts, especially to the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries. "The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) knows that's a program Congress likes a lot," he said, noting with irony that OMB deliberately cuts such programs knowing that Congress will put the money back into the budget. "I've seen that happen a lot."

In his testimony, Kempthore discussed the four major initiatives. One of the biggest challenges DOI faces is controlling the methamphetamine crisis in Indian country and stemming the flow of drugs across the border. Methamphetamine, said Kempthorne, is the "second small pox epidemic." Indian communities have become hubs for meth trading and "poison peddlers," which has resulted in an increase in violent crime that is nearly twice the national average. The DOI budget includes $16 million for the Safe Indian Communities initiative.

The DOI will also focus on resolving drug running issues on the US border, 40 percent of which it has jurisdiction over. Drug running has become a particularly serious issue in recent years as drug cartels have found public lands to be a particularly convenient place for trading, a development that has already resulted in the death of at least one park ranger.

The National Parks Centennial Challenge, budgeted at $2.4 billion, will enhance the nation's national parks as they approach their 100th anniversary in 2016. The budget is the largest ever for park operations and an increase of $219 million over the level funded in the 2007 Joint Resolution.

The Healthy Lands Initiative (HLI) will help provide increased access for energy and other uses "while simultaneously preserving important habitat corridors and sites for the benefit of species." Funded at $22 million, HLI will consider land management at a regional level, rather than the traditional parcel by parcel method. "We need to ensure that energy development and world-class habitat are not mutually exclusive," said Kempthorne.

"I think the Administration is quietly building up a conservation and environmental records that is underappreciated," Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) commented.

-EG

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
Hearing on the Administration's FY 2008 Budget Proposal for USGS
March 9, 2007

Witness:
Mark Myers, Director, U.S. Geological Survey

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies held an early morning hearing on March 9 to discuss the President's 2008 budget request for the US Geological Survey (USGS). As Chairman Norman Dicks (D-WA) pointed out, the Survey's research and monitoring of biologic, geographic, geologic, and water resources processes are "especially important" to our understanding of Earth. As such, he continued, he would "like to know why the Administration again wants to cut funding" to programs like the Minerals Resources Program when "Congress has repeatedly expressed interest in this program."

Not surprising, the majority of the hearing focused on the Survey's involvement in climate change research and Earth observation. "Climate change," Myers commented, "is like a huge ship" in that it will take decades for us to notice the impact of any emissions reduction measures. However, having integrated in-situ and remote sensing networks such as Landsat in place ensures a continuous, repeated stream of data that helps the USGS and other agencies identify changes and develop models with refined prediction capabilities. The USGS budget contains $24 million for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission's Landsat 8, the next-generation Landsat mission that is scheduled to be launched in 2011.

Asking a seemingly offbeat question, Rep. James Moran (D-VA) asked how often the insurance industry consults with the USGS. In response, Dr. Meyers noted that the USGS is consulted regularly by insurance companies for natural hazards information, particularly about flooding. "Well, it seems to me that private industry would be well served by discussing cuts with Administration," commented Mr. Moran, suggesting that pressure from outside interests, such as the insurance industry, would prompt more support for the USGS by the Administration.

Cuts to the recently authorized Water Resources Institute were also met with disbelief. Myers explained that, although the WRI is "a very good program" the decision to cut the program is "a matter of balancing a tight budget." "That's nonsense," Mr. Moran responded with disgust. "We don't have a tight budget, we just have misguided priorities." In a similar vein, he pointed out that the money it takes to put a single plane in flight in Iraq costs as much as the USGS's endocrine disruptor research. Water that produces intersex fish and alligators is one thing, he said, "but what if kids drink that water?"

Calling Myer's budget of compromise "an inadequate excuse," Moran apologized for the USGS not having "the resources it should be getting."

Mr. Moran's outspoken disgust for the budget was shared by majority of the committee. Rep. Tom Udall (D-NM) voiced concern about the Survey's Water Resources Division being able to meet the demand for water data under the President's budget. The Cooperative Water Program, for example is slated for a $2 million cut, a move Udall called "short-sighted." However, support for the National Streamflow Information Program remains strong. The budget includes an increase of $1.4 million for the program, which provides real-time streamflow and water quality data for rivers and streams across the nation.

Employee "attrition," as Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) put it, is also a concern for the USGS. In an effort to reduce costs, the government has been offering federal employees early retirement packages. Over the past several years, federal agencies including USGS have lost thousands of employees to "early out" options. Dr. Myers admitted to being "worried about losing high-quality people," but said that he is "hopeful" about the situation. The committee was less hopeful. "I'm very much opposed to the way the Administration is reducing support for domestic programs all across the board," commented Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY).

-EG

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power
Hearing on the Administration's FY 2008 Budget Proposal for the Bureau of Reclamation and USGS
March 8, 2007

Witnesses:
Robert Johnson, Commissioner, Bureau of Reclamation, Washington, D.C.
Dr. Robert Hirsch, Associate Director for Water, Water Resources Division of the United States Geological Survey, Reston, VA
Steven J. Wright, Administrator, Bonneville Power Administration, Portland, OR
Timothy J. Meeks, Administrator, Western Area Power Administration, Lakewood, CO
Jon Worthington, Administrator, Southeastern Power Administration, Elberton, GA
Michael A. Deihl, Administrator, Southwestern Power Administration, Tulsa, OK

Congress cast a critical eye over the President's proposed 2008 budget once again on Thursday, March 8. This time, the future of America's water resources was examined by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power. Characteristically brisk, Chairwoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) greeted the witnesses and promptly asked Commissioner Johnson why funding for the Title 16 water recycling program had received such a significant cut. "You haven't even asked for enough money to keep the program on life support - it is a death sentence," she said.

Like many non-defense agencies, the Bureau of Reclamation (BR) is slated for a budget reduction in 2008. The FY08 request for Water and Related Resources is $816.2 million, a $17.2 million decrease from the FY07 requested level. Programs such as the California Bay-Delta Program (CALFED), Water 2025, and activities on the Lower Colorado River, Middle Rio Grande, Animas-La Plata, and the Columbia and Snake Rivers will suffer cuts under the proposed budget but remain among the BR's top priorities, Commissioner Johnson assured the committee. The Title 16 water recycling program, however, is set to receive less than 1% of the budget. When asked why the BR opposes the program, Johnson could only say that water recycling poses plenty of opportunity for local communities and that it "provides a drought-proof water supply."

Proposed funding for Water 2025, however, is $11 million. A "high priority" for the Secretary of the Interior, the goal of Water 2025 is to prevent crises and conflict over water in the West by "increasing certainty and flexibility in water supplies." Funding for Water 2025 has not yet been formally authorized by Congress, however, raising questions about whether the BR can justify the program "when there is a huge backlog of authorized projects." In response, Johnson noted that Congress has funded the program in the past and that it has produced good results. "It's a matter of finding the right balance," he said.

The USGS is also searching for the right balance amidst budget cuts. The Presidential request for the Survey proposes $212 million to continue its water resources work "in areas of national importance." The budget includes a decrease of $6.4 million to eliminate funding for the Water Resources Research Act Program, a decrease in the Cooperative Water Program, and an increase of $4.2 million in the National Streamflow Information Program.

While cuts to programs that monitor water quantity, the committee was also concerned about water quality. Napolitano asked about groundwater recharge and whether the USGS is working to ensure that pharmaceuticals and other harmful substances are sufficiently filtered out. In response, Dr. Hirsch noted that the USGS's research focuses on understanding the physical, chemical, and biological issues surrounding groundwater storage, including the neutralization of harmful bacteria and pharmaceuticals. He commented that the future water demands will be met by a combination of above- and below-ground water storage and that hundreds of organizations across the nation are working together to address water availability concerns.

As the hearing came to a close, the committee asked about the impact of early leave programs on workforce expertise. In an effort to cut expenses, many federal agencies have been offering employees early retirement packages. Concerned that the loss of so many experienced employees will negatively impact the quality of science, Chairwoman Napolitano asked Commissioner Johnson how the Bureau is working to "ensure that there is depth in the organization." Referring to the Bureau's Managing for Excellence program, Johnson replied "I can assure you that, on my watch, we are not going to lose Reclamation's expertise."

-EG

House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources,
Hearing on the Administration's FY 2008 Budget Requests for the MMS, BLM, Energy and Minerals programs,
OSM, Minerals Geology Program of the Forest Service, and USGS

February 26, 2007

Witnesses:
Johnnie Burton, Director, MMS
Jim Hughes, Acting Director, BLM
Mark Myers, Director, USGS
Brent Wahlquist, Acting Director, OSM
Fredrick Norbury, Associate Deputy Chief, National Forest System, U.S. Forest Service

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss the FY 2008 budget requests for the Minerals Management Service (MMS), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Energy and non-energy mineral commodities constitute the nation's second highest source of revenue, generating approximately $10 billion annually. According to Mr. Hughes' testimony, "in 2008, public lands will generate an estimated $4.5 billion in revenues, mostly from energy development." The MMS manages oil and natural gas production activities that generate over $7 billion in revenue per year for the Nation, States, and American Indians, and minerals production on Forest Service land typically exceeds $2 billion per year, about $125 million of which fills federal coffers.

In his opening statement, Chairman Jim Costa (D-CA) stressed the subcommittee's oversight responsibilities, promising to "ensure accountability and transparency." He noted that "hardrock mining law has not changed since 1872" and that it is sorely in need of revision. However, the three representatives who attended the hearing were primarily concerned with whether the President's FY 2008 budget requests would be sufficient to meet the needs of the testifying agencies and how the funds would be used. They also asked about cuts in funding to certain programs, such as geothermal energy initiatives.

As one of the most lucrative federal agencies, a tight 2008 budget poses less of a concern for MMS than for the other testifying agencies. The 2008 request for direct appropriations is $161.5 million, $3.2 million above the FY 2007 continuing resolution level. The request includes funding to implement the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) 5-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program, facilitate the exploration and development of ultra-deepwater oil and gas reserves, enhance the management of mineral revenues, and fulfill the President's plan to double the Nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

However, concerns about MMS were less about budget woes than about the agency's audit system and ensuring a resolution to the 1998/1999 outer continental shelf (OCS) leasing debacle. Leases made during these years omit essential price threshold language that triggers royalty payments to the federal government, a mistake that has already resulted in a revenue loss of about $1 billion for the federal government. When asked, Ms. Burton recommended "enticing [the oil companies] with sugar to come to the table and re-negotiate the leases."

Also in question was the MMS's auditing system, which has decreased the number of audits by 22 percent and the number of auditors by 15 percent since 2000. In place of audits, MMS conducts so-called compliance reviews, which "ensure that people pay what they need to pay," said Ms. Burton. MMS has attempted to make the rules and regulations for compliance reviews clearer, making it easier for industry "to get it right." Compliance reviews also have a higher payoff: for every dollar MMS spends on a compliance review, it gets $3.27 in return. An audit, in contrast, only produces slightly over $2 in return.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM), which deals "with coal and only coal" and associated reclamation efforts, is also slated to enjoy a budget increase in the President's budget request. OSM's FY 2008 budget request totals $168.3 million in discretionary spending. Because State and Tribal grant funding is no longer subject to appropriation, the net increase over FY 2007 levels is $9.2 million. A full fifty percent of OSM's budget is passed on to the States and Tribes in the form of regulatory and reclamation grants, as well as watershed cooperative agreements and high priority project funding. The remaining portion of the budget provides funding for OSM's internal operations, which will include the implementation of a new financial system in 2008.

The FY 2008 President's budget request for BLM is $1.812 billion for major appropriations, which includes a $3.1 million increase to support oil and gas inspections and monitoring on BLM land. Among the projects planned for 2008 are the implementation of the Remote Data Acquisition for Well Production (RDAWP) Project and the Automated Fluid Minerals Support System, both of which will help streamline the collection and inspection of wellhead production data. Programs such as geothermal, however, are slated for budget cuts. When asked why, Hughes could only cite revenue concerns. Representative Louie Gohmert (R-TX) repeatedly asked Hughes if he had "a problem with the host counties getting 25 percent [of geothermal revenues] back." Hughes refrained from answering directly, but implied that the federal government would rather see a direct return for its investment. Chairman Costa asked whether the renewable energy technologies being developed on BLM lands are ever likely to do anything more than supplement the energy grid. Hughes replied with a firm "no," but noted that BLM operations currently power over a million homes and will soon have the capacity to power a million more with wind and solar technologies.

The fiscal year 2008 President's Budget requests $71 million for the Minerals and Geology Management program, a decrease from prior year levels that "reflects greater efficiencies." The Minerals and Geology Management program is responsible for the management of energy and non-energy mineral commodities, which generate over $2 billion a year. The program also oversees the restoration of hazardous waste sites located on Forest Service lands. According to Mr. Norbury's testimony, there are an estimated "2,000 abandoned and inactive mines on National Forest System lands requiring some type of cleanup."

The US Geological Survey also faces a number of budget challenges in the coming year, among them a $24 million decrease for the Minerals Resources Program. The President's FY 2007 budget request cut the Minerals Resources Program by $22 million. In preparing the FY 2008 request before the FY 2007 budget was completed in Congress, the administration used the FY 2007 request. Congress did not agree with the President's FY 2007 request however and in the final continuing resolution for FY 2007, Congress put back the $22 million in the Minerals Resources Program. This means that the President's FY2008 request is actually an even larger decrease for minerals. Although the program conducts a wide range of basic and applied research in national and international mineral assessments, the budget will "focus efforts in minerals resource assessments and research on projects that support the needs of Federal land management programs." In total, the USGS will absorb about $35 million in reductions to "lower priority programs." However, the budget provides funding for high-profile programs such as the Ocean Action Plan, the Natural Hazards Initiative, and the National Streamflow Information Program. Much to the relief of the committee, the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) will also receive increased funding. "Geospatial is one of our highest priorities," said Chairman Costa.

-EG

Sources: Department of Interior budget documents; USGS budget documents; National Park Service budget documents; U.S. Forest Service budget documents; White House Office of Management and Budget; CQ Budget Tracker; Library of Congress Congressional Record website; hearing testimony.

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

Contributed by Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs Staff, and Erin Gleeson, AGI/AAPG Spring 2007 Intern.

Last update March 29, 2007.


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