Obama Wants Projects in Parks, More Onshore Drilling

YOSEMITE NTL PARK, CA - AUGUST 28: A view of Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley on August 28, 2013 in Yosemite Nationall Park, California. As the Rim Fire continues to burn on the western edge of Yosemite National Park, the valley floor of the park remains open. The Rim Fire has charred more than 190,000 acres of forest and is currently 30 percent contained. 
National Journal
Clare Foran
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Clare Foran
March 4, 2014, 10:32 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama’s budget pro­pos­al for fisc­al 2015 high­lights con­ser­va­tion as a pri­or­ity while lay­ing the ground­work for ex­pan­ded oil and gas drilling on pub­lic lands, re­flect­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tion be­lief that it can pro­mote en­ergy de­vel­op­ment without sac­ri­fi­cing en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion.

The budget blue­print un­veiled Tues­day by the White House would provide per­man­ent fund­ing for the Land and Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Fund, a fed­er­al pro­gram that di­verts rev­en­ues from off­shore oil and gas pro­duc­tion to con­ser­va­tion ini­ti­at­ives. The pro­gram has been around since 1964, but as In­teri­or Sec­ret­ary Sally Jew­ell poin­ted out dur­ing a press call on Tues­day, “ever since the fund has been around, with the ex­cep­tion of one year, it has been shor­ted in the ap­pro­pri­ations pro­cess.”

Obama’s con­ser­va­tion re­quests fol­low an an­nounce­ment by the pres­id­ent dur­ing his State of the Uni­on ad­dress that he would “use [his] au­thor­ity to pro­tect more of our pristine fed­er­al lands for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.”

But the budget makes clear that the pres­id­ent also sees un­tapped po­ten­tial for en­ergy pro­duc­tion on pub­lic lands.

Obama is call­ing for a nearly 20 per­cent in­crease in fund­ing for the Bur­eau of Land Man­age­ment’s oil and gas pro­gram re­l­at­ive to the 2014 en­acted level. BLM over­sees per­mit­ting for oil and gas drilling on fed­er­al lands. The re­quest also calls for BLM to im­ple­ment a faster per­mit­ting pro­cess for on­shore drilling. Taken to­geth­er, the pro­pos­als in­dic­ate a will­ing­ness on the part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion to ex­pand fossil-fuel pro­duc­tion on pub­lic lands.

When asked if the pro­pos­al would lead to a boost in pro­duc­tion, Jew­ell in­dic­ated that the funds would at least open the door for ex­pan­ded on­shore drilling.

“Our budgets have been chal­lenged in places like BLM with in­creased de­mand for ex­plor­a­tion and per­mits and we haven’t been able to match that de­mand with per­son­nel,” Jew­ell said. “Wheth­er we ac­tu­ally have more oil and gas de­vel­op­ment is of course de­pend­ent on in­dustry and what it chooses to do, but we don’t want to be a bar­ri­er to that, and this aligns bet­ter the sup­ply of the people we have with the de­mand of in­dustry.”

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