Public Issues Committee: Geosciences and the Federal Budget

Title: Public Issues Committee: Geosciences and the Federal Budget
Author: Larry Anna, Chairman
Publication: The Outcrop, November 2002, p. 22-23

Although President Bush proposed a 9% increase in science and technology funding from $52.3 billion in FY 2002 to $57.0 billion in FY 2003, most of the increase comes in homeland security and health programs.  The House has passed and the Senate is considering appropriations legislation that restores funding for the USGS and DOE’s fossil energy research program, both the subject of significant cuts in the President’s request for fiscal year (FY) 2003. Funding for the USGS: House version is up 6.6% over the President’s request and in the Senate version funding is up 6.8% over request. Water and geologic programs that were proposed for large reductions, elimination, or transfer in the President’s request were completely restored in both bills. Both House and Senate bills are accompanied by strong language chastising the administration for failing to adequately support the important work of the USGS. In the Department of Energy, funding for natural gas exploration and production was nearly doubled from the budget request. Petroleum research, which was threatened with a 50% cut, is still down but not as much. The House recommendation totaled $30.4 million (down 6% from last year), and the Senate recommended $27.4 million (down 15% from last year). Both the House and Senate thought a strong investment in the geosciences is the best approach. For more information on geoscience appropriations, including other geoscience-related programs in the Interior bill, see

Coalbed methane is still getting a lot of press, most recently on Colorado’s western slope. Local governments are recognizing the importance of talking about the issues, although they’re apparently not ready to tackle the issues. The American Planners Association, Colorado Section, had a Coalbed Methane session at their state convention last month in Grand Junction. ‘Not in my back yard’ and water issues were the main topics of discussion. Their national convention is in Denver next year – an opportunity for us to educate some government officials.

Congressional Budget Hearings for the Department of the Interior

For Fiscal Year 2003, the Interior Department budget requested $18.9 billion, committees recommended $19.7 Billion.

Subcommittee Interior Budget Markups [selected departments]:

  • $1.6 billion for National Park Operations ($117 million increase)
  • $368 million for NPS Backlog Maintenance 1 ($33 million increase)
  • $458 million for National Wildlife Refuges ($60 million increase)
  • $933 million for Bureau of Land Management operations ($51 million increase)
  • $928 million for US Geological Survey ($14 million increase)
  • $1.4 billion for National Forest System ($39 million increase)
  • $2.2 billion for Wildland firefighting
  • $377 million for Federal land acquisition
  • $154 million for Stateside land acquisition grants

House Markup: The House proposal would provide a total of $664 million, an increase of 35.7% above the budget request and 14% above last year’s funding. Included in these funds is $42 million for [CO2] sequestration.

Funding for natural gas exploration and production was nearly doubled from the budget request — the House provided $22.2 million (up 8% from last year). The funds would continue the National Laboratory/industry partnership program. Also under the natural gas program is research on gas hydrates, which would be funded at $10.8 million, more than double the requested amount. Funding for petroleum exploration and production was hard hit in the budget request, with a request of less than half of the FY 2002 allocation. The House was able to restore a majority of the cuts but not able to provide any increases above last year’s allocation. The House recommendation totaled $30.4 million for petroleum exploration and production activities.

Senate Markup: For the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE) were more than [$93 million] in program increases above the budget request, and in the opinion of the Committee, are central to our Nation’s energy security. In total, the $641 million for fossil energy research is close to 35% above the budget request. Funding for carbon sequestration would decrease by close to 19% from the budget request to total $44 million, which is 36% above last year’s allocation. Natural gas exploration and production activities, which were hard hit in the budget request, would end up with $23.5 million, a 14% increase above the FY 2002 funding level. Funding for gas hydrates would be more than doubled budget request, for a total of $10.5 million. Petroleum exploration and production supporting research funding would increase by 6.7% to total $27.4 million.