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Bingaman Tries to Head Off Budget Cuts for DOE, Interior Oil and Gas Programs

Bingaman Tries to Head Off Budget Cuts for DOE, Interior Oil and Gas Programs

Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is trying to elicit support from fellow senators to get the Bush White House to reinstate the funding for oil and natural gas research and development (R&D) that it proposes to cut as part of its forthcoming budget request for fiscal year 2006.

Bingaman currently is circulating a letter for other senators to sign and protest potential budget cuts for oil and gas R&D programs. The letter still was in draft form and had not been made public last week, but it was expected to be sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sometime this week, a Capitol Hill aide said.

The letter "is a work in progress. It'll have a lot of signatures" when it's sent to the OMB, he said.

The Bingaman effort came only a few days after an industrial group protested the Bush administration's plans to cut funding for programs overseeing minerals management leasing and permitting in its upcoming fiscal year 2006 budget request. "The United States is in the midst of a natural gas crisis that has cost consumers over $150 billion and there is no end in sight. The U.S. natural gas price is the highest in the world. We urge you to significantly increase, not decrease funding for agencies and programs associated with increasing the supply of natural gas, oil and coal," Paul N. Cicio, executive director of Industrial Energy Consumers of America (IECA), wrote in a letter to OMB last Monday.

The senator's letter stressed the importance of adequate funding for programs of the Bureau of Land Management overseeing minerals management, and for Department of Energy (DOE) R&D programs that are aimed at bolstering oil and gas supply, the aide noted.

The letter also recalled that the Bush administration "short-funded BLM and tried to push through raising leasing fees" in its fiscal 2005 budget, but Congress rejected both efforts.

The Senate Energy Committee, which has jurisdiction over both the DOE and Department of Interior's BLM, could impede the administration's efforts to reduce funding for the two agencies, the aide said.

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