BLM budget focuses on fuels oversight

The president’s proposed Bureau of Land Management budget includes increased spending on the agency’s oil and gas management program even though the overall budget for the BLM is down slightly.

The spending plan, which will be taken up by the House, also includes $15 million for efforts to prevent listing two species of sage grouse.

The $1.1 billion plan for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 is $5.6 million below the level enacted for 2014. The largest portion of the plan is $954 million for lands and resources management.

The proposed budget includes an increase of $20.3 million to $134 million for the BLM’s oil and gas management program that contains $5.2 million more than 2014 spending for staffing, training and “other resources needed to strengthen operational guidance to BLM units,” the agency said. It also includes $4.6 million to keep up with industry demand and workload.

The proposal is intended to allow the BLM to fill vacancies and expand staff in key locations and to expand the agency’s inspection and oversight functions, using fees comparable to those assessed for offshore inspections.

The proposal calls for an inspection fee schedule estimated to generate $48 million.

The budget proposal suggests that “decade-long project approvals, a non-existent leasing program and slow play and delay practices should become relics of the past,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “We look forward to assessing details of the proposed budget and how the resources might help to get western Colorado’s energy economy back on track.”

The budget would set aside $15 million for preserving the greater and Gunnison sage-grouse, both of which are under consideration by another Interior Department agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, for listing as threatened or endangered.

The plans include amending or revising 98 land-use plans to designate priority habitat, restore and map habitat, and monitoring activities.

The overall budget proposal met with approval from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who praised its full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and greater budget discretion for the agriculture and interior departments’ ability to fight wildfires.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said he was concerned that President Barack Obama’s proposal would increase the national debt.

“I am concerned that it grows government, fails to address the staggering national debt, and will further increase the income disparity that has become the hallmark of his presidency,” Tipton said in a statement.


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