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FY2009 Department of the Interior Appropriations (02-27-09)

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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 the Interior appropriations, click here.

Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 Department of Interior Appropriations Process

Account

FY08 Enacted
($million)

House Action
($million)

Senate Action
($million)

U.S. Geological Survey (total)

1,006.5
968.5
 
 
1,044.0 

Geological Programs

243.5
208.0
 
 
 
242.1

-- Earthquake Hazards

53.7
49.1
 
 
 
56.2

-- Volcano Hazards

22.2
21.8
 
 
 
24.2

-- Landslide Hazards

3.3
3.3
 
 
  not specified

-- Global Seismographic Network

4.4
4.0
 
 
 
5.9

-- Geomagnetism

2.1
2.1
 
 
  not specified

-- Earth Surface Dynamics

13.3
0
 
 
  not specified

-- National Cooperative Geologic Mapping

26.6
27.4
 
 
  not specified

-- Coastal and Marine Geology

40.6

47.4
 
 
  not specified

-- Mineral Resource Assessments

50.8
26.3
 
 
  not specified

-- Energy Resource Assessments

26.4
26.6
 
 
  not specified

Geographic Progams

77.7
73.1
 
 
 
72.3

Water Resources Programs

220.5
203
 
 
 
221.4

Biological Resources Programs

179.9
180.3
 
 
 
185.3

Enterprise Information

110.4
112.1
 
 
 
112.5

Facilities

100.0
98.1
 
 
 
102.1

Science Support

67.2
67.2
 
 
 
67.4

Bureau of Land Management (total)

1,007.9
977.4
 
 
1038.6

Energy and Minerals Management

109.9
132.0
 
 
99.4 

Minerals Management Service (total)

118
160.4
 
 
 
116.6

Outer Continental Shelf Resource Evaluation

30.4
32.7
 
 
 
33.7

National Park Service (total for park system)

2,390.5
2,404.3
 
 
 
2,525.6

NPS Resource Stewardship

373.0
410.4
 
 
 
410.4

Smithsonian Institution (total)

682.6
854.0
 
 
 
731.4

U.S. Forest Service (total)

5.4
4.5
 
 
 
4.75

Minerals and Geology Management

0.084
0.071
 
 
 
0.085

**Numbers represent the approved Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105) in the 111th Congress from February 25, 2009. The full House has approved the bill and now the full Senate is now considering the omnibus.

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 2009

On February 4, 2008, Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Department of the Interior (DOI), unveiled the President's fiscal year (FY) 2009 budget, totaling $10.7 billion. The Department's FY09 request is a 3.5 % decline compared to last year's enacted level, but a 1.8 % increase compared to the President's FY08 request. Secretary Kempthorne stated that "like all federal agencies, we face tight budget times;" but he concluded that the requested budget will sustain core conservation and stewardship programs and address emerging environmental and resource management challenges.

Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, was less optimistic about DOI's budget request stating "this was the President's last chance to end the recurring budget nightmare that has set the Interior Department on a steady path of neglect and deterioration."

Rahall said. "This budget axes forest programs, undercuts our wildlife refuges, puts programs to save endangered species under the knife, neglects the needs of our National Parks, and puts a stopper in important water programs."

Indeed the budget request for DOI in FY09 is almost the same as the Department's enacted budget of $10.675 billion in FY03. The Department is clearly suffering even more than other federal agencies.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The total funding request for BLM is $977.4 million, a decline of 3% compared to FY08 enacted levels. The President's Healthy Lands Initiative got a boost of $10 million; the healthy lands program focuses on landscape-scale restoration across eight western states. The Energy and Minerals Management program also saw an increase of $22.1 million compared to last year, with a total request of $132 million. The boost is due to continued efforts to remediate legacy wells on Alaska's North Slope.

The funding request for Minerals Management Service (MMS) is $160.4 million, 0.4 % below FY08 enacted levels. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) resource evaluation program increased by 7.6% compared to last year, totaling $32.7 million, highlighting the Administration's continued interest in energy and mineral resources in the OCS. The budget also calls for the repeal of offshore royalty incentives that were approved in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The House attempted to repeal these royalties in their energy bill in 2007, but the repeal was not accepted in the final version that was signed into law.

The National Parks Service (NPS) budget request totals $2.4 billion, a decline of 1.9% from last year. While the overall NPS budget is lower, there is an increase of $160 million in the park operations account, in preparation for the President's National Parks Centennial Challenge.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
On February 4, 2008, USGS Director Mark Myers, announced a 3.8% decline in the agency's budget request, $968.5 million for FY09 compared to the FY08 enacted level of $1 billion. The budget includes program increases of $34.9 million, a $15 million increase for fixed costs and offsetting program decreases totaling $87.8 million. USGS will play a central role in two new Administration initiatives, the Water for America Initiative and the Ocean and Coastal Frontiers Initiative. The Survey will continue its role in the President's Healthy Lands Initiative, which targets western states and will also re-structure its climate change activity, putting most of this work into a new account entitled the Global Change Program.

Myers stated that "the proposed budget will also strengthen our efforts in climate change studies, priority ecosystems research and the development of a National Land Imaging Program." Myers also emphasized the role USGS will play in addressing large-scale challenges of data integration, data preservation and data accessibility. He emphasized that the USGS provides valuable and objective information to help the nation manage and sustain its resources.

Geologic Programs
The Geologic Hazards, Resource, and Processes account is marked for a 14.6% decrease; the proposed budget is $208 million, with large losses in the Mineral Resources, Earth Surface Dynamics, Earthquake Hazards, and Global Seismographic Network programs. The Mineral Resources' budget is reduced by $24.5 million, the Earth Surface Dynamics program is eliminated, including the remaining work on the Great Lakes geologic mapping, and the Earthquake Hazards program is reduced by $5 million, retaining $49.1 million for only the highest priority earthquake research projects in FY09.

The programs slated for increases include the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program, which would provide additional support for the water census by increasing knowledge related to groundwater resources and the Coastal and Marine Geology program, which has an increase of $7 million, $4 million for the collection of data for the extended Continental Shelf of the Arctic Ocean, $2 million will be used to conduct merit-based ocean research projects, and $1 million will complete funding for efforts in seafloor mapping, and modeling of extreme weather events.

Water Resources Programs
The Water Resources programs as a whole, also suffer a decline the FY09 proposed budget totaling $203 million, a reduction of $17.5 million from the FY08 enacted budget. The 2009 budget includes a net increase of $8.2 million in support of the water census component of the Water for America Initiative. The National Streamflow Information Program is funded at $23.8 million, which includes an increase of $3.7 million to upgrade 350 stream gages with real-time telemetry and to reinstate 50 discontinued stream gages in 2009. Also in support of the water census, the Ground-Water Resources program would receive an increase of $3 million, for a total of $10.6 million in FY09. The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program would be cut by $10.9 million, for $54.1 million in FY09 and the Hydrologic Research and Development program would be cut by $3.5 million for a proposed budget of $11.9 million in FY09. The FY09 budget will also eliminate all federal support for the State Water Resources Research Institutes, which support an institute in each state and four U.S. territories; this will result in the loss of support for over 250 research projects and more than 600 students.

Geographic/Mapping Programs
Land Remote Sensing is funded at $62.6 million, an increase of $1 million compared to FY08 levels. Also included is a programmatic increase of $2.0 million to develop a National Land Imaging Program. The program will assess the future need for land imaging data and develop a plan for the acquisition of satellite data to supplement Landsat 7 imagery. The Geographic Analysis and Monitoring account is marked for a reduction of $5.7 million for a total of $73.1 million in FY09.

Biological Programs
The Biological programs would receive a slight increase compared to FY08 levels for a total proposed budget of $180 million.

Global Change
The global change activity of USGS was restructured in the FY09 budget, creating a new program area, Global Change, which retains $5.0 million of the $7.4 million allocated by Congress in FY08. The small increase would be added to a steady budget of $21.6 million for climate change research, giving the new Global Change Program a total budget of $26.6 million for FY09. An additional $5 million for climate change work would remain disbursed within the Geographic and Biologic divisions. So the USGS's total contribution to the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) would be about $31.4 million in FY09.

House Action

Omnibus Appropriations Considered by the 111th Congress
On February 25, 2009, the House quickly approved of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 (H.R. 1105), which would provide appropriations for most federal agencies for fiscal year 2009 (FY09). Currently most agencies are operating under a continuing resolution (CR) from the 110th Congress, which essentially sets budgets at FY08 levels. The CR expires on March 6, 2009, so Congress must either pass the omnibus or propose a new continuing resolution in order to avoid a shut down of the federal government. The quick action on the omnibus in the House means that the 111th Congress plans to pass an omnibus providing new appropriations for most federal agencies.

The House has sent the measure to the Senate, which will consider it during the first week of March. Significant changes are not expected as the House and Senate Appropriation Committees appear to have worked out differences left by the committees of the 110th Congress from 2008 before introducing H.R. 1105. The 111th Congress must work fast to compromise any remaining differences in order to get the bill to the President by March 6.

House of Representatives of 110th Congress Do Not Complete Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009
The House was unable to complete deliberations within the appropriation subcommittees for nine appropriation bills. Instead Congress approved a continuing resolution to keep much of the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels. See the summary of the continuing resolution below for more details.

The House of Representatives considers funding for the Department of the Interior 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), Emerson (R-MO), Goode (R-VA), Calvert (R-CA) and Lewis (R-CA).

Senate Action

Senate of the 110th Congress Does Not Complete Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2009
The Senate was unable to complete deliberations within the appropriation subcommittees for nine appropriation bills. Instead Congress approved a continuing resolution to keep much of the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels. See the summary of the continuing resolution below for more details.

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), Allard (R-CO), Craig (R-ID), Stevens (R-AK), Cochran (R-MS), Dominici (R-NM), Bennett (R-UT), Gregg (R-NH), and Alexander (R-TN).

Conference Action

 

Science Agencies Left Deflated as Congress Passes Continuing Resolution

On September 27th by a vote of 78-12, the Senate passed a continuing resolution, funding the majority of the government at fiscal year (FY) 2008 levels until March 6, 2009.  Senate action followed after the House passed the measure (H.R. 2638) on September 24th by a vote of 231-198. The continuing resolution package contains three FY 2009 spending bills – Defense funded at $488 billion, Military Construction and Veteran’s Affairs funded at $73 billion and Homeland Security funded at $40 billion - plus $23 billion in disaster relief funding.  The spending package also includes funding of $2.5 billion for the Pell Grant program, $75 billion for a domestic automakers and battery makers new technology loan program, and $5.1 billion for the low-income heating assistance program.

The continuation of FY 2008 spending levels for federal agencies which support the geosciences, means a significant decrease in real dollars for research relative to rising costs. There will be increasing competition for decreasing research funds, delays for some programs, deferments of new initiatives, uncertainties in budget planning, uncertainties in workforce levels (with potential layoffs) and fewer resources for education and training. 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) may weather the funding storm better than other science agencies because although the President requested a decrease in the survey’s budget from $1 billion in FY 2008 to $968 million in FY 2009, the CR means that the survey’s budget should hover close to $1 billion. The USGS may need to shift some funds for an unfunded civil servant pay increase in the CR.  

The USGS budget will remain within the now controversial Department of the Interior appropriations bill. The bill contains the moratorium on new offshore drilling and because Congress could not reach any agreement on the moratorium as gasoline prices were rising, they elected to stop the appropriation process dead in its tracks in the summer.  The CR removes the controversy for now by allowing the moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling to lapse on October 1, 2008.  A separate ban on offshore drilling within 125 miles of Florida’s gulf shores remains in affect because the area was excluded in a separate law. It is unclear what the next Congress might do about offshore drilling and public statements from legislators on both sides of the issue suggest controversy ahead, which may stall appropriations for Interior and others in the future.

President Bush has indicated that he will sign the stopgap measure, funding the government past the end of his administration.  It is unclear how the next Congress will address spending for the remainder of FY 2009. While the next Congress and the next administration have the option to consider a different budget for FY 2009, the recent economic storm leaves any prediction on future appropriations very murky.

More details about the research budgets of specific science agencies in the CR is available from AAAS.

Appropriations Hearings

 

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.

Last update February 27, 2009.


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