Hearing This Wednesday Will Focus on Interior Department Budget Request, Severe Costs of Admin Attacks on Agency Missions and Professional Staff

Washington, D.C. – The House Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing at 10:00 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, March 4, examining the Interior Department’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 and assess the impacts of the Trump administration’s ongoing attacks on agency missions and career staff morale. The administration witness will be Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Susan Combs. 

The hearing comes shortly after the Trump administration – without adequately consulting agency staff or Congress – ordered Bureau of Land Management employees based in Washington, D.C., to move to Grand Junction, Colo., or face termination. Democrats at Wednesday’s hearing are likely to scrutinize that move and others the administration has made to undercut staff morale and effectiveness at multiple agencies.

Notable cuts in the administration’s proposed fiscal year 2021 budget include:

    • Radical reductions to National Park Service (NPS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land acquisition programs, including a virtual elimination of the discretionary portion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular bipartisan program that Congress permanently authorized last year. 
    • A 16.1 percent cut to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would undermine its ability to effectively implement and manage critical programs under the Endangered Species Act and the National Wildlife Refuge System.
    • An overall 10 percent BLM funding cut and a significant simultaneous increase to the coal leasing program.  
    • Zeroing out the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The move is an attempt to convince the public that the administration will not immediately open the Atlantic or eastern Gulf to new leasing. In fact, if reelected, President Trump will very likely attempt to open both regions in 2021. 
    • A 14 percent cut to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s oil spill research program – an especially inappropriate way to mark the 10-year anniversary of theDeepwater Horizon disaster. 
    • Huge cuts to U.S. Geological Survey research programs that help the country prepare for climate change, including a 48 percent cut to species management research, a 64 percent cut for climate adaptation science centers and a 30 percent cut to the water resources availability program. The same budget request proposes an increase for the USGS energy and minerals program.
    • Drastic cuts to western drought funding at the Bureau of Reclamation, including an 86 percent cut to the WaterSMART Grants program and a 95 percent cut to the Title XVI Water Reuse Program. 
    • The lowest levels of funding for both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Indian Education in nearly two decades when adjusted for inflation.
    • Cuts to the Office of Insular Affairs, which will be disastrous for U.S.-affiliated insular areas already recovering from catastrophic storms and struggling after years of constrained budgets.

At the May 2019 hearing on that year’s Interior budget request, Secretary David Bernhardt said he “hasn’t lost any sleep” over the news that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels hit an 800,000-year high. Bernhardt declined Chair Grijalva’s request to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.

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