Feb. 13 (UPI) — The U.S. agency tasked with offshore energy said the 2019 budget plan helps ensure energy dominance, but its funding is only a small fraction of the outline.
A multi-trillion dollar budget plan outlined Monday by President Donald Trump seeks to repair and replace U.S. highways, bridges and airports by committing $200 billion in federal funding during the next decade. For federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Interior gets $11.7 billion that it will use in its oversight of land territories and the entire Outer Continental Shelf.
Of that, the bulk of the funding, $233 million, will go to strengthen fossil fuel programs, while $73 million targets renewable energy. The $348 million for offshore development is a $9 million increase that the department said was necessary to update the five-year offshore lease plan.
Up to $18 billion of the department’s budget allocation will help repair and improve national parks, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has $179.3 million proposed in the 2019 budget, which the agency said supports executive action supporting a stronger U.S. energy sector.
“It recognizes BOEM’s vital role in advancing responsible offshore energy development as part of the administration’s comprehensive effort to secure the Nation’s energy future, benefit the economy, and create jobs,” acting BOEM Director Walter Cruickshank said in a statement.
Cruickshank stoked the controversy over Trump’s offshore energy agenda when he testified to lawmakers that Florida is on the list, weeks after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said from Tallahassee the state was removed from consideration.
Several coastal governors have raised objections to the proposal and, last week, California moved ahead of the federal government by calling for a ban on sending oil from offshore rigs to state land.
Private companies would foot the bill for offshore development. U.S. energy company Hess Corp., the operator, announced production started last week at the Stampede field in the Gulf of Mexico. The company has about $240 million set aside for development of a field that has a capacity of around 80,000 barrels of oil and 40 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
By contrast, the 2018 budget request calls for $686 billion for the U.S. Defense Department.
Advocacy groups were critical of the 2019 budget proposal, noting the agency tasked with environmental oversight, the EPA, is expecting cuts of more than 30 percent.
“Without strong EPA enforcement of our bedrock environmental safeguards, communities impacted by mining, oil and gas operations will be left virtually defenseless, as President Trump and EPA Administrator Pruitt clearly intend,” Earthworks Policy Director Lauren Pagel said in a statement.
Randall Luthi, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association, said the budget proposal envisions offshore energy reserves as an investment in the future.
“Specifically, the budget proposal maintains a sensible offshore revenue sharing program,” he said in a statement. “Continued revenue sharing with coastal states is not only fair, but also important as states make their budgets.”
The federal government estimates the Gulf of Mexico will produce an average 1.7 million barrels of oil per day, compared with more than 8 million bpd in the Lower 48.