Administration Favors Clean Coal, Arctic Development

Development of clean coal and Arctic oil and gas are running high on the Bush Administration's list, according to FY 2002 budget proposals released last Monday, which followed on statements by Vice President Dick Cheney.

The Interior Department's proposed budget for FY 2002 --- part of the total federal package sent to the Congress last Monday --- includes funds to plan for leasing parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) --- if leasing authorization can get past the Congress. The funding measure showed up a day after Vice President Dick Cheney told a Sunday broadcast of NBC's "Meet the Press" that despite strong environmental opposition, the administration would continue to pursue opening ANWR to oil and natural gas exploration and development. He labeled as "garbage" the idea that drilling on 2,000 acres would cause massive damage to the 19 million acre reserve. Cheney also said he would be interested in exploring the possibility of reviving the nuclear power industry with new plants to help solve the energy crisis.

The ANWR funding is part of a $15 million increase in program funds for the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, which is responsible for oversight of oil and gas production on federal lands. Part of the additional monies would go toward expanding energy and mineral activities including energy resource surveys, coalbed methane permitting preparation, and preparation for lease sales in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

Interior's other leasing arm, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), which oversees offshore leasing, also would come in for a $14.7 million program funds increase to meet a heavier workload brought about by Outer Continental Shelf program services and to implement a royalty-in-kind program.

On the other side of town, the U.S. Energy Department took a different tack with its budget, making wholesale cuts in oil and gas research and development programs, at the same time it funded a major clean coal initiative, allocating $150 million in federal matching funds for innovations in coal-fired power technology. Some renewable energy programs for wind and solar technology also lost some support.

The budget proposal "signals our intention to rethink a host of programs while we craft the Bush Administration's policy," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Also awaiting a policy review is the department's environmental management program for disposal of nuclear materials and wastes, which was cut by $246 million, to $6.5 billion. The energy budget maintains the flexibility to respond to changes in policy, Abraham added, noting that the administration's energy policy is still being formulated. "Budgets must follow policy, which in turn must follow strategic thinking. On-going policy reviews will evaluate the department's critical tasks and will impact the department more than any other in government," Abraham said.

©Copyright 2001 Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news report may not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in any form, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.