Democratic News

“This morning the Committee is reviewing the President’s proposed budget for the Department of the Interior for fiscal year 2013.  We are very pleased to have Secretary Salazar back with us in his old Committee room.

“The Department’s proposed budget of $11.7 billion in appropriated funds represents a slight increase over current funding levels.  In my view, it’s a reasonable proposal, reflecting the difficult choices the President is required to make given the current fiscal environment.

“There are a number of programs, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which I wish were funded at higher levels, but I understand the budgetary constraints the Administration is facing.

“I want to take a minute to express my support for the Secretary’s determination to adequately fund and carry out the Interior Department’s responsibilities for safe and environmentally sound oil and natural gas production on Federal lands and particularly in the Outer Continental Shelf.  The Department has a challenging responsibility to allow appropriate development of these oil and gas resources, and at the same time to ensure the safety of that development.  I believe that, especially given the challenges of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Department has performed properly in continuing to focus on safety issues.

“Obviously, lots of people are concerned with high gas prices.  I do believe that robust domestic production is important and needs to be pursued in a responsible way.  And that clearly is happening.  Domestic production of both oil and natural gas are up since 2008 and are projected to continue to increase over the next 10 years to near-historic levels.  Our oil imports continue to decline and were down to about 49% of consumption in 2010 – an impressive improvement over where we were 4-5 years ago.

“I am pleased that the budget includes increased funding for renewable energy development on public lands as part of the Department’s New Energy Frontier Initiative.  I understand that the Department has approved 29 commercial-scale renewable energy projects and associated transmission since 2009.  I believe that these efforts hold great promise and that renewable projects can yield important energy for our economy in an environmentally-responsible way.

“I am also glad to see that the budget proposes enactment of a hardrock abandoned mine land fund for the reclamation of mine sites that threaten human health and safety and cause environmental degradation.  I am particularly concerned with the legacy of unreclaimed uranium mine sites on Indian lands and in states such as mine in New Mexico.  Mr. Secretary, I hope that you will work with me to seek funding to address this very serious issue.

“Finally, I am pleased to see that the Department’s budget request demonstrates a strong commitment to implementing the Indian water rights settlements around the country, including funding for a number of settlements in my state of New Mexico.

“With that, let me defer to recognize Senator Murkowski for her opening statement.”

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