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CFTC, BOEM Get Funding Hikes in 2011 Budget Accord

The fiscal 2011 budget deal approved by Congress Thursday and forwarded to the White House has some good and bad news for agencies overseeing the energy industry.

The House and the Senate each approved funding of $202.67 million for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), which is about $35 million more than what originally had been approved for the agency in the current fiscal year. Confronted with the daunting challenge of implementing part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act, the CFTC at one point faced the prospect of having its 2011 funding slashed to $112 million (see Daily GPI, Feb. 21).

The budget agreement calls for about $2.6 billion in cuts for the Interior Department, but it increases funding for Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM), according to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. He said Democrats failed to raise BOEM's spending last year.

"This will increase oversight of offshore drilling operations and hopefully lead to the approval of permits in a more timely and efficient manner so people in the Gulf can get back to work," Hastings said.

He said the budget deal bars Interior from using federal funds to implement its wild lands order (see Daily GPI, Dec. 27, 2010), which he called a "back door attempt to implement de facto wilderness [lands] and potentially place millions of acres of land off-limits to public recreation, energy production and job-creating activities," without first getting the consent of Congress.

There was considerable controversy over the scope of the budget cuts for 2011. Republican congressional leaders claimed that the agreement would cut more than $38 billion in budget authority, which takes away the administration's license to spend that money. But a report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the actual amount of the reductions would be less, ranging from $20 billion to $25 billion. The discrepancy has yet to be adequately explained.

According to the House Appropriations Committee, the agreement would slice funding for the Department of Transportation, which oversees interstate natural gas pipeline infrastructure, by $2.1 billion.

And funding for the Environmental Protection Agency would be down by $1.6 billion. This is 16% below what the agency received in fiscal 2010.

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