GOP chairman: Interior funding request 'underwhelming'

The new chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee sees the Interior Department’s budget as a way to inject creative thinking into issues like oil drilling on federal land and offshore.

Rep. Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopLooking to the historic leasing program to alleviate the maintenance backlog in national parks Overnight Energy: House panel approves park funding, offshore drilling bills | Green group putting M into races | Perry applauds Russia boosting oil production Committee votes to let states receive more money from offshore drilling MORE (R-Utah) will hear next week from Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on her agency’s budget request for 2016, and he’s optimistic that he and his colleagues can come up with a better plan than the Obama administration on energy and other priorities.

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“We’re going to welcome Sally Jewell, because I think she’s a different kind of Interior secretary. She has a different background, she thinks differently than some who have come around before, and I’m excited to try and work with her,” Bishop said in a Tuesday interview with The Hill.

“At the same time, there’s a difference between what she does and what the president has as far as whom he has surrounded himself in the White House and [Office of Management and Budget].”

Bishop blamed White House officials for submitting a 2016 budget request that he found “underwhelming.”

“There is nothing creative or new or exciting about it,” he said. “And obviously, if the White House is going to leave a void in creativity, that’s where my committee’s going to stand up.”

Bishop said one of his top priorities as chairman and in overseeing Interior’s budget will be to establish an energy portfolio that encourages more oil and natural gas drilling on federally owned lands and offshore.

Bishop spoke with The Hill Tuesday hours after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on Interior’s budget.

Republicans on that panel, led by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), blasted the Obama administration’s limitations on drilling and proposal to reduce payments to states for offshore drilling, among other policies.

Bishop said federal energy production is a significant issue, and found it “striking” that the Obama administration hasn’t figured out how to increase production.

“We have already surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia in energy production, but if we actually want to be a leader in the world in energy production and provide jobs from it, we’re going to have to develop our resources that are on federal land and offshore and that’s the purview of my committee,” he said.