02/14/2011 - The Obama administration this morning proposed significant new funding for land and water conservation and offshore drilling oversight that would be counterbalanced by cuts to agency construction, the U.S. Geological Survey and some tribal programs.
The Interior Department's $12 billion request would roughly flat-line the agency's spending in fiscal 2012 as part of the administration's recent pledge to freeze discretionary spending for the next half decade.
Under the Obama proposal, new Interior revenues would be generated through mineral royalty reform and increased fees for oil and gas permitting, inspections and non-producing leases.
The Obama request also proposes a new royalty for gold, silver, copper and other hardrock minerals -- the only extractive industry that pays no royalty to mine on public lands.
"As Washington works to reduce the deficit, we're very glad to see the Obama administration calling for a royalty on the billions of dollars of gold and other hardrock minerals that up until now have been taken from public land virtually for free," said Jane Danowitz, U.S. public lands program director at Pew Environment Group. "This means that mining would finally compensate taxpayers under a federal leasing program similar to the one that has governed oil, gas and coal for decades."
Danowitz added that new royalties and leasing, along with a reclamation fee to help clean up abandoned mines, would help reform an 1872 law that still governs hardrock mining and provide much needed revenues.
Read the full article Interior's Budget Request Would Boost Conservation, Increase OCS Oversight on The New York Times' Web site.