Zinke On Interior Budget: Obama $15 Billion Revenue Cuts Enough to Pay for Entire Maintenance Backlog for National Parks

CQ Roll Call via AP Images
CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Calling President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 a “new foundation for American greatness,” Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke told reporters on a Tuesday conference call that the loss of revenue suffered under the Obama administration could pay for the “entire backlog” of maintenance for national parks, with about $3 billion to spare.

In fact, the revenue lost through Obama’s policies could pay for the agency’s entire $11.6 Billion budget and leave an almost $3 billion surplus.

“President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that’s exactly what this budget does,” Zinke said in the press release announcement of the agency’s budget.

“Working carefully with the president, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as addressing the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and increasing domestic energy production on federal lands,” said Zinke, who told reporters the budget plan would save taxpayers $1.6 billion.

Zinke told reporters that in 2008 the agency earned $18 billion from offshore energy revenues and after Obama put 94 percent of offshore resources off limits that revenue fell to “just north” of $2 billion.

Under the heading “American Infrastructure: Investing in Interior’s $300 Billion Portfolio,” the Interior budget outlined by DOI shows that $766 million (+$35M from the 2017 Continuing Resolution) to address the $11.3 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our National Parks, which accounts for 73% of Interior’s $15 billion deferred maintenance backlog.”

The Interior budget also reveals an “all of the above” energy strategy, Zinke said.

Specially, the budget calls for $189 million for onshore oil and gas production to “strengthen oil and gas and coal programs by improving the application and permitting processes”; $343 million (an increase of 7 million present in the CR) for the five-year offshore drilling plan; and $78 million for renewables “to keep pace with anticipated project interest for renewable energy development.”

The press release announcing DOI’s proposed budget also lists the “legislative priorities” that would save taxpayers $5.8 billion, including opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for energy development.

The introduction to the budget is informative of the massive mission the agency faces as the “steward of 20 percent” of the nation’s land and management of the Outer Continental Shelf.

“Interior’s budget covers a broad spectrum of activities … including operation of the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service; land management responsibilities of the Bureau of Land Management; delivery of quality services to American Indians and Alaska Natives; [Outer Continental Shelf] OCS management responsibilities of the Bureaus of Ocean Energy Management and Safety and Environmental Enforcement; research, data collection, and scientific activities of the U.S. Geological Survey; water management projects of the Bureau of Reclamation; regulatory responsibilities and reclamation activities of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement ; and support for U.S. Territories and other insular areas.”

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