Democratic News

Opening Statement
March 2, 2011
 
On Department of the Interior FY12 Budget
 
“Before we begin, I would like to take a moment to note the passing of our former colleague, Jim McClure.  Senator McClure served the people of Idaho with great distinction and served as both the Chairman and Ranking Member of this Committee for many years.  He was Chair when I first came to the Committee.  We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.
           
“This morning we’re reviewing the President’s proposed budget for the Department of the Interior.  I’d like to welcome Secretary Salazar back to the Committee, who is always welcome here, of course, and look forward to hearing from him in just a few moments.
 
“I realize the President had to make tough choices in putting this budget together and I generally support the decisions he made given the current fiscal situation.  In my opinion, the budget request of $12.2 billion in discretionary funds for the Department is a reasonable proposal, and it is about even with the amount appropriated under the current continuing resolution and with the fiscal year 2010 enacted levels.   
 
“The proposed budget includes significant funding increases for a few key areas, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  I’d like to touch upon these key areas for just a minute.
 
“Oil and gas production from our Federal lands and particularly from the Outer Continental Shelf plays an important role in our economy.  Obviously, last year’s Deepwater Horizon disaster was a dramatic reminder of the risks involved in these undertakings and the importance of effective and efficient regulatory oversight.  I strongly support the President’s budget request for additional funding for these purposes, including his request for increased fees from industry to fund inspections of offshore operations.
 
“The budget proposes significant new funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which I strongly support.  For many years, I have advocated that this important conservation tool be fully funded at its authorized level of $900 million annually. 
 
“Regarding water issues, while not all of the priority water projects received funding, in my view the Department’s budget for the WaterSMART programs continues to demonstrate a commitment to addressing the nation’s water resource challenges.  WaterSMART implements many of the goals of the SECURE Water Act which was passed in Congress two years ago.  I am looking forward to receiving the Administration’s progress reports later this year. 
 
“I am also glad that the Administration’s budget includes funding for Indian water settlements.  The Indian water settlements account will help ensure the settlements are implemented within the timeframes required by Congress.  
 
“The budget also proposes sweeping changes in the allocation formula for the AML program under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.  I am concerned this may have adverse impacts on the States and Tribes and we will want to work with the Administration before anything else is done on this.”
 
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