Republican News

Republican News

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee today held a hearing to review the President’s FY 2008 budget request for the Department of the Interior. During the hearing, the Honorable Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior testified before the committee.
 
Below is the prepared text of Senator Domenici’s statement:
 
“Thank you, Chairman Bingaman.  Good Morning, Mr. Secretary. I want to thank you for coming to testify on the Department of the Interior’s Budget Request for FY2008. It is your first opportunity to testify before this Committee on an Interior budget, and it’s great to have you here.
 
“Let me begin by saying that we are confronted today by a critical need to reduce this nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources.  As we seek solutions in science and technology to move us away from fossil fuels, we must acknowledge that our energy security still rests on the vitality of domestic oil and gas supplies in the near term. 
 
“In December, we took a very important step to enhance our energy security with the enactment of the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006. This law opened 8.3 million acres in Lease Sale 181 and the area south of 181 of the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas leasing.
 
“The implementation of this law holds the potential to bring an estimated 1.26 billion barrels of oil and 5.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas to market over the next several years. This is enough energy production to heat and cool approximately six million homes for 15 years.
 
“Mr. Secretary, it has been two months since the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act was signed into law.  The law provides that the Administration will begin leasing in the newly-opened 181 area within one year of enactment.  I was disappointed by MMS’ announcement yesterday that they expect to begin leasing in March 2008. I had expected you would be able to meet the one-year requirement set forth in the law. However, I understand the importance of and share your interest in completing all necessary environmental work.  I am pleased you are moving forward and I hope you will keep me apprised of your progress as you move toward the goal of beginning the leasing process.  I am confident that you share my interest in getting this domestic energy on-line as soon as possible.
 
“On another topic, as you know, I am looking forward with great anticipation to this country taking advantage of its tremendous oil reserves from oil shale.  The Department of Energy estimates that technically recoverable oil shale in the United States is roughly equivalent to three times Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves.  Section 369 of EPAct directs the Secretary of the Interior to undertake several actions in order to promote the development of unconventional resources such as oil shale.  I am very pleased that you included $4.4 million for ongoing oil shale activities.  This is an increase of $1 million from the FY2007 request.  I am looking forward to working with you to continue to spur development of this resource.
 
“Next, I want to note that while I recognize many areas in your request to implement provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, I am disappointed that you have requested the repeal of several provisions of Section 365, related to oil and gas permitting and development. 
 
“We felt that Section 365 was necessary to give you the resources to expedite oil and gas permitting.  EPAct authorized the establishment of pilot offices for expedited processing of Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs).  So far, this program has yielded progress in getting APDs out the door more quickly.  The number of APDs received and processed in 2006 was an increase over 2005. 
 
“The repeal of these Section 365 provisions would cause oil and gas permit applicants to incur fees to fund the pilot offices.  It concerns me that you would seek to burden the applicants with this additional cost when Section 365 provided a way to fund the pilot offices without new fees.
 
“Finally, I want to reiterate my concern about the Department’s lack of progress in resolving Indian Water Settlements, particularly in New Mexico.  Un-adjudicated Indian water rights claims in the western United States pose a serious impediment to effective water management in the West. 
 
“During your confirmation hearing before this Committee, you committed to Senator Bingaman and me that you would make New Mexico Indian water rights settlements a priority.  These include the Aamodt, Abeyta and Navajo settlements. I want to say for the record that your proposed budget of $34 million for the Indian Land and Water Claims Settlement Fund is not adequate, particularly considering that the Aamodt, Abeyta, and Navajo settlements will require a federal contribution of approximately $1.1 billion. We want to work with you to find a solution to funding these very important settlements.
 
“Again, thank you for being here, Mr. Secretary.  I look forward to working with you on these issues.”
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