|Chairman Simpson's I&E Report|
|The I&E Report: an Interior and Environment Appropriations Update from Congressman Simpson
Simpson Holds Hearing on Department of Interior Budget Proposal
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, today held his first subcommittee hearing of the year, as Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar testified before the subcommittee regarding the Department of Interior’s FY2013 budget request. During the hearing, Simpson questioned Salazar on a wide variety of issues, including PILT, the Department’s national sage-grouse conservation strategy, oil and gas exploration and permitting, and wildland fire.
“It’s important to note that, while that authorization expires at the end of this fiscal year, the federal government’s obligation to fund PILT does not,” said Simpson. “If Congress is unable to reauthorize mandatory spending for PILT in the coming weeks, we are going to have to pay for it out of this budget, and it will require cutting money from the Department’s other priorities.”
“Reducing the threat of catastrophic wildfires is always a top priority for Congress and the Department. Last year, however, the Committee was very concerned about the constraints put on the use of hazardous fuel dollars. These funds help clear brush and prevent forest and rangeland fires…The problem [with the requirement to spend 90 percent of funds in the wildland urban interface] is that much of the land managed by the Department is not in the wildland urban interface,” said Simpson. “The FY12 bill specifically directs the Department to remove this requirement and instead allow the agencies to allocate funds based on the highest priority projects in the highest priority areas, and I was dismayed to hear that the Department and OMB are still pursuing this requirement despite the report language. I hope you will work with me to ensure that we are complying with the FY12 language.”
“We’ve hardly scratched the surface in meeting our full potential in oil and gas exploration and production—both onshore and on the outer continental shelf,” said Simpson. “The [newly created Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement] now have both the funding and the tools you told us they need. With gas prices on the rise again, the public and Congress will have no patience for more delays. It’s time for the bureaus to get to work.”
In coming weeks, Chairman Simpson will hold hearings on agency budgets, during which many of these issues will be visited in more detail.
Simpson Questions Forest Service Chief on Budget Priorities
On Friday Chairman Mike Simpson examined the U.S. Forest Service budget proposal for FY13. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell testified on the budget before the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. Simpson questioned the chief on resource management proposals, trail maintenance, and fire suppression.
Chief Tidwell replied that he shared concerns about the current trail maintenance backlog and was very interested in working with Chairman Simpson on a proposal that would provide incentives for volunteers, youth, and land users to partner with the Forest Service to meet this need.
Upcoming Committee Action
At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28, Chairman Simpson will hold a hearing on the Bureau of Indian Affairs budget proposal for FY13. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echohawk is scheduled to testify.
At 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 29, Chairman Simpson will hold a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency budget proposal for FY13. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson is scheduled to testify.
At 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 1, Chairman Simpson will hold a hearing on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget proposal for FY13. FWS Director Dan Ashe is scheduled to testify.
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