US House Appropriations Committee restores research funds

The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday restored funds to oil and gas research programs that would have been cut under the US Department of Energy's latest budget proposal. The 2002 spending bill now moves to the full House for consideration. Senate budgetmakers are just starting their appropriation process.


Maureen Lorenzetti
OGJ Online

WASHINGTON, DC, June 13 -- The House Appropriations Committee Wednesday restored funds to oil and gas research programs that would have been cut under the US Department of Energy's latest budget proposal.

The 2002 spending bill now moves to the full House for consideration. Senate budgetmakers are just starting their appropriation process. The House committee kept the recommendations of an Interior subcommittee that voted on funding levels last week.

That bill would give $56 million to DOE's fossil energy program for oil research and development, a $26 million increase from the White House's request, and $1 million above the 2001 fiscal year funds. For gas, $40 million is earmarked, $19 million over the White House request but $5 million below last year's spending levels (OGJ Online, June 7, 2001).

The bill also preserves pending plans by the US Department of Interior to move forward with Lease Sale 181 in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Some industry officials and their backers in Congress feared that the chairman, Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) might seek to block the sale given the state's governor, Jeb Bush (R), the brother of the president, opposes drilling in federal waters offshore Florida.

But congressional sources said the lease sale remains in the legislation for now at least. A lawmaker still could seek to change the spending bill before it is voted on by the full House; the Senate during its review process may also consider blocking the sale.

The White House has not indicated what it will decide to do, but time is running short given the sale is scheduled for December. One compromise being considered by lawmakers would be to keep the sale but amend the auction so tracts off Florida would not be available until further environmental reviews were taken.

The bill continues ongoing moratoriums that apply to the federal offshore area, except parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

Other parts of the bill mirror the subcommittee version as well.

Along with restoring funding to fossil energy research, lawmakers added back money for energy efficiency and conservation. There was no mandate to sell oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and appropriators would boost the SPR budget to $179 million, $10 million over the president's request and $19 million more than last year. And it does not allocate funds for assessing oil and gas resources in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Instead of earmarking funds for ANWR, budget makers gave the money to the Bureau of Land Management so it can clear a backlog of coalbed methane production permits. BLM's overall budget would also increase to $93.5 million, $16 million above last year, to help the agency complete an inventory of the oil and gas potential of public lands.

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at maureenl@ogjonline.com

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