Proposed budget puts focus on energy sector

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the Bureau of Land Management anticipates spending more on coal, natural gas and oil and less on solar and wind energy.

In all, the BLM would spend $11 million more in fiscal year 2018 than was budgeted in 2017, as well as employ 33 more people, in energy and minerals management, under the president’s budget proposal.

The total spending on energy and minerals management would be $177.4 million, up from $166 million included in the 2017 continuing budget resolution, and full-time equivalent employees would increase from 1,101 to 1,134.

Those increases come despite a greater-than-50-percent cut in the management of lands for renewable energy and other mineral resources, according to the BLM’s budget justifications document.

The budget request “funds an ‘all of the above’ energy development approach to fulfill the administration’s promises to facilitate domestic energy production, generate revenue, and support jobs in the energy sector,” the agency says in its request.

Oil, natural gas, coal, and other minerals generate the highest revenue from any uses of federal lands from royalties, rents, bonuses, sales and fees, the agency noted.

Still, lands managed by the bureau are small players in the new energy economy, the BLM said.

Sales volumes from federal onshore lands accounted for 9 percent of the nation’s natural gas production and 5 percent of oil in 2016. Federal coal accounted for 41 percent of the nation’s production and federal lands provided 40 percent of the nation’s geothermal capacity, the bureau said.

The budget proposal calls for the addition of $16 million and 82 full-time equivalent positions to handle drill-permit applications and related work.

It also anticipates an increase in spending on onshore inspections from just under $48 million to $48.4 million with a 17-employee decrease.

The proposal forecasts 3,902 drill-permit applications and approving 3,833 in 2018.

The budget proposal “recognizes that significant production potential is not being fully exploited or optimally utilized,” the BLM said.

BLM’s budget proposal also addresses a Government Accountability Office report that the Interior Department had no reasonable assurance it was collecting a fair share of revenue from oil and gas produced from federal lands.

The agency has “adjusted its workload priorities to place an emphasis on the recommendations” of the GAO and other agencies, the document says.

The BLM anticipates spending $8 million in new funding and 48 new employees in its coal-management program. Federal coal in 2016 accounted for 30 percent of the nation’s generation and accounted for 41 percent of all domestic production.

The coal-management program is proposed to have a $19 million budget with 117 employees, up from a $10.8 million budget and 69 employees in the current spending plan.

The renewable-energy management program would see a budget reduction of $13 million with 65 fewer FTEs, leaving the program with a $16.3 million budget and 56 employees.

The BLM “will continue the permitting of renewable-energy development on public lands as part of the administration’s ‘America First Energy Strategy’ and the ‘all of the above’ energy development approach,” the agency said.


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