Republican News

Republican News

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee today held an hearing on the Department of Energy FY 2008 budget.
 
Below is the prepared text of Senator Domenici’s statement:
 
“Chairman Bingaman I want to thank you for scheduling this hearing.  I would also like to welcome Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, Mark Rey, and the new Chief of the Forest Service, Gail Kimbell.
 
“Gail, this is your first hearing before this Committee as Chief of the Forest Service and we appreciate your willingness to lead the Forest Service during this time.  I am also hopeful that you will fully implement your predecessor’s plan to reduce the costs of the Washington Office and Regional Offices by 25 percent so that funding can be shifted to the forests and Districts where it is so desperately needed.
 
“I do want to mention three issues in this budget that concern me.
 
“First, I am increasingly concerned by the Administration’s decision to fund the Valles Caldera Preservation Trust at only $850,000 in FY 2008.  This level is unacceptable, and in my view, penny wise and pound foolish.  Congress and the Administration passed the Valles Caldera Preservation Trust Act and invested $100 million to establish that Trust.  It makes absolutely no sense to me that we would risk the success of this program because we are unwilling to provide 4 or 5 million dollars for several years to maintain the annual operations at the Caldera.  
 
“I understand that in the long run the Trust will need to become financially self-sufficient, but we are going to have to give them some time to accomplish that.  It is my view that the Administration is going to have to find ways to increase their budget for the Valles Caldera Trust until the Trust gets up and running.
 
“Second, I note the proposals to add a line item for fire fighters’ salaries ($219.7 million) and to reduce fire preparedness by an additional $90 million.   I also note that your budget justification lacked any discussion on these two line items.  I find this troubling and will have a number of questions about fire preparedness. 
 
“I noticed a survey of federal fire fighters suggests that many are strongly considering getting out of fire fighting because they fear the liability they might face if investigated by the Office of Inspector General.  I will have a couple of questions on the cost of liability insurance for your key employees and what you are doing to address this situation.
 
“I hope this budget will maintain the 98% initial attack fire suppression success you’ve produced in the past, although quite frankly, I don’t see how it can at these proposed funding levels.
 
“Third, I see that the FY 2008 budget proposal continues to include a proposal that failed to find much support on the Hill last year.  I am speaking about your proposal to sell land to pay for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act. 
 
“Your latest proposal on funding the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act will share half the revenues generated to purchase conservation lands in the states where those revenues are generated.  I am still skeptical that you will find sufficient support for this program when 75 percent of those payments go to Oregon, Washington and California.”
 
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