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
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.”

What We're Following See More »
After Wikileaks Hack, DNC Staffers Stared Using ‘Snowden-Approved’ App
1 hours ago

The Signal app is fast becoming the new favorite among those who are obsessed with the security and untraceabilty of their messaging. Just ask the Democratic National Committee. Or Edward Snowden. As Vanity Fair reports, before news ever broke that the DNC's servers had been hacked, word went out among the organization that the word "Trump" should never be used in their emails, lest it attract hackers' attention. Not long after, all Trump-related messages, especially disparaging ones, would need to be encrypted via the Snowden-approved Signal.

Freedom Caucus Members May Bolt the RSC
3 hours ago

The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.

FDA Approves Emergency Zika Test
5 hours ago

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.

Medicare Advantage Plans Overcharged Government
6 hours ago

According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.

Omnibus Spending Bill Likely Getting a Lame-Duck Vote
6 hours ago

"GOP leaders and House Democrats are already laying the groundwork for a short-term continuing resolution" on the budget this fall "that will set up a vote on a catch-all spending bill right before the holidays." As usual, however, the House Freedom Caucus may throw a wrench in Speaker Paul Ryan's gears. The conservative bloc doesn't appear willing to accept any CR that doesn't fund the government into 2017.