Interior Bill: USGS, DOE Fossil Energy

Conference is continuing on H.R. 2107 with resolution expected this week. A major difference between the House and Senate was resolved on September 23rd, when the House voted to instruct conferees to accept Senate amendments to restore $100 million in funding to the National Endowment for the Arts. The conferees are still trying to hammer out a compromise on the President’s request of $700 million for public lands acquisitions. Although details are still lacking, the House and Senate conferees have already agreed to funding levels for the agencies covered in this bill, including $759.1 million for the U.S. Geological Survey, an amount $0.9 million more than provided by the Senate bill, $3.3 million more than provided by the House bill, $13.7 more than requested by the President, and $19 million more than the agency received in FY97. The agreement includes the President’s request of $3.8 million for the Global Seismographic Network, and $22.2 million for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program, $1.7 million more than requested (and the same as FY97). The amount does not include requested fund transfers in the Water Resources Division to pay for the President’s Kalamazoo Initiative on water quality.

The agreement funds the Minerals Management Service at $143.6 million, down from $163.4 million in FY97. The National Park Service will receive $1.647 billion, up from $1.571 billion in FY97. The Bureau of Land Management will receive $1.136 billion, down from $1.386 billion in FY97. Outside the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service will receive $2.506 billion. The Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D Program will be funded at $362.4 million, down $2.3 million from FY97 but $16 million more than the President’s request.

The conference agreement includes a House provision to sell $207.5 million worth of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to pay for its operations and maintenance. The Senate had removed the provision, which was opposed by the Independent Petroleum Association of America and other groups.

A small but interesting item in the agreement is a $400,000 appropriation to fund marine minerals research centers in Mississippi, Hawaii, and Alaska. These were authorized by legislation sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Trent Lott (R-MS), which was enacted into law in the last Congress (S. 1194; Public Law 104-325) after an agreement was made with Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) to include his state.