Trump budget would fund Interior projects by selling energy from public lands

Trump budget would fund Interior projects by selling energy from public lands

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump faces high stakes in meeting with Erdoğan amid impeachment drama Democrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report MORE's fiscal 2019 budget unveiled Monday would use energy sales on public lands to help fund infrastructure projects for the Department of the Interior (DOI).

Overall, the blueprint from the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) proposes cutting Interior's budget by 14 percent, from $13.2 billion in 2017 to $11.7 billion in 2018.

The proposed cuts are almost identical to last year's OMB request, which called for cutting the department's funding by 12 percent.

Many of the same cuts were highlighted this year, including zeroing out Abandoned Mine Land Grants, the Centennial Challenge Fund, the Heritage Partnership Program and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund.

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The latest budget, though, increases funding for DOI programs that "support safe and responsible development of energy on public lands and offshore waters," according to its text. It includes a proposal for creating a fund that would be financed by sales of energy resources on DOI-managed parkland.

The Public Lands Infrastructure Fund would aim to provide up to $18 billion to address what Interior calls the department's "deferred maintenance backlog," according to a press release from the agency. The fund would support necessary infrastructure projects for building roads and visitor centers in national parks.

On a press call Monday, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Senate eyes nixing 'forever chemicals' fix from defense bill | Former Obama EPA chief named CEO of green group | Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Senate reviews Interior, FERC nominees criticized on ethics Overnight Energy: Perry to step down as Energy secretary | Future of big-game hunting council up in the air | Dems lose vote against EPA power plant rule MORE said the fund would be filled "exclusively from new energy developments on public lands."

"Sovereignty should mean something — so we're focusing on that," he said of using offshore and onshore drilling leases to fund infrastructure projects. "Without a strong and steady stream of revenue we cannot afford to do everything we need to do."

Interior's Bureau of Land Management announced in February that the agency’s current lease sales brought in nearly $360 million to the federal government last year.

“Oil and gas lease sales on public land directly support domestic energy production and the president's energy dominance and job growth priorities for America,” Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said at the time. “2017 was a big year for oil and gas leasing on federal lands, and these sales provide critical revenue and job growth in rural America.”

DOI recently proposed a strategy for leasing offshore oil and gas, a move that has faced criticism from the governors of nearly every coastal state. The administration is also taking steps to start energy leasing in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was recently authorized by the Congress.