Five senators joined Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) Tuesday in asking the White House to increase, rather than reduce, the funding for domestic oil and natural gas research and development (R&D) in its upcoming fiscal year 2006 budget request. They also urged the Bush administration not to cut funding for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) onshore oil and gas management activities.

“We hope that the president’s budget for fiscal year 2006 will reflect the importance of these activities to enhance oil and gas production and that it will contain a substantial increase in these areas,” wrote Bingaman, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the five senators in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolten.

“Given [the] current high energy prices, the president’s stated policies in favor of increased oil and gas R&D and increased domestic production, and the strong support in Congress for both [the Department of Energy] and BLM programs, there would seem to be no reason why these activities should not be proposed for funding at levels well above those appropriated by Congress for FY 2005.”

Last year, the Bush administration attempted to slice nearly $17 million from the DOE’s natural gas technologies program, $20 million from its oil technologies program and $3.5 million from the BLM’s onshore oil and gas leasing program, but Congress rejected the request and increased funding, the letter said. Lawmakers also opposed the White House’s proposal to increase lease and permit fees.

Bingaman began trying to elicit support from his fellow senators last week to pressure the Bush White House to reinstate funding for oil and gas R&D and BLM onshore activities as part of its forthcoming budget request for FY 2006 (see Daily NGI, Jan. 7).

Joining Bingaman in signing the letter were Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Ken Salazar (D-CO).

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