U.S. Secretary of the Interior to Push for Significant Increase in Spending on Tribal and Climate Programs
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland will ask a US House spending panel to increase funding for the department’s tribal programs and climate resilience efforts, according to written testimony released ahead of a hearing scheduled for Thursday.
That of the administration budget request for fiscal year 2023 would increase significantly expenses for the Ministry of the Interior. Its agencies oversee onshore oil and gas drilling, tribal assistance, national parks and wildlife policy, and manage public lands representing 10% of land area across the country.
Haaland’s written testimony to the House Appropriations Energy-Environment Subcommittee was posted on a House website ahead of the hearing.
The budget “sets ambitious goals, but they are achievable,” read Haaland’s written testimony to the committee. “Working together, we have the opportunity to invest now to strengthen our nation for all Americans, protect our environment and ensure that our future generations not only continue to enjoy, but also improve our way of life.
Haaland is due to appear before the panel on Thursday. His opening statement will likely be abridged from the written version. The members of the panel will be able to question him.
Although President Joe Biden issued a budget request last month, Congress has exclusive power to write spending bills. Cabinet officials typically show up on Capitol Hill to defend the spending request as part of the process.
Biden’s request included a 19% increase for Interior — nearly four times the 5% increase for all national discretionary spending. Haaland’s written testimony summarizes some of the most important positions in the proposal.
At several points in the testimony, Haaland characterizes the fiscal year 2023 request as a supplement to the bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Act that included billions for domestic programs to clean up abandoned mines, reduce risks of forest fires and to build hydraulic infrastructures.
His remarks call for the passage of a funding bill for 2023 that “completes this investment”.
Biden’s budget request includes big boost for tribal programs
Biden’s request for fiscal year 2023 includes a significant increase in several sources of funding for tribes.
Haaland, who is the first Native American to serve in cabinet, wrote that it was “deeply meaningful” to her to promote the budget proposal, including the demand for tribal programs.
The administration has proposed to increase spending on Indian Affairs programs by nearly 25% to $4.5 billion, a sum Haaland called “unprecedented.” The request would prioritize sovereignty and advance equity and opportunity for tribal communities, Haaland said.
The Infrastructure Act provides $2.5 billion to help provide water resources to tribes. These expenses are included in the request, as is an additional $340 million over 10 years to support the operation and maintenance of this effort.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs would receive $2.8 billion, an increase of more than $500 million from fiscal year 2022. A significant portion of this funding would go to operating costs for Tribal Self-Governing Federal Programs .
Funding for the Office of Indian Education would increase from $1.3 billion in fiscal year 2022 to $1.6 billion under Biden’s request. Construction money for tribal schools would see a nearly 60% increase to $420 million.
Climate change priorities include transition to renewable energy
Haaland will seek funding to facilitate the transition to renewable energy and take other steps to mitigate climate change, while emphasizing the need to adapt to a certain amount of climate change that is already unavoidable.
“Wider drought, increasing weather hazards, more extreme wildfires, deep threats to wildlife habitats, warming water temperatures and new threats from invasive species are some of the challenges tangible challenges that land and resource managers are currently facing,” reads his testimony.
The request includes $1.4 billion for Bureau of Reclamation water projects to address droughts that are expected to worsen in coming years. This funding would be based on $8.3 billion in the infrastructure act.
A separate appropriations committee, the energy-water subcommittee, is responsible for this part of the ministry’s funding.
The request also includes $1.2 billion for wildfire management, an increase of nearly $175 million from the fiscal year 2022 level.
The request would also target climate resilience expenditures for tribal communities. The administration has requested $61 million for a tribal climate resilience program, nearly double the $32 million passed for the current fiscal year.
The request includes funding for several interior agencies for restoration and conservation.
“Healthier lands are more resilient to the effects of climate change, and investments that are made now will help ensure that the unique and spectacular lands and resources the Interior stewards endure for future generations,” the testimony reads.
The ministry is also continuing its initiative to protect 30% of land and water by the end of the decade. Haaland’s testimony does not mention specific funding for the program.
Home Department supports 1.9 million jobs
The Home Office supported about 1.9 million jobs in 2019, according to Haaland’s testimony.
These jobs were mainly generated by the ministry’s energy programs.
The 2023 request includes additional funding to spur job creation with money from the Infrastructure Act and the Great American Outdoors Act, a 2020 law that provided permanent funding for infrastructure on public lands, a Haaland said.
The administration’s request is to expand renewable energy sources, but spending on wind and solar energy is still overshadowed by oil and gas programs.
The request would provide approximately $101 million for renewable energy programs for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and Bureau of Land Management programs. He would also send $11 million to the BLM to plan renewable energy projects on public lands.
Meanwhile, the request is asking for $477 million for oil and gas programs, 13% more than the same programs received in 2022.
The administration’s climate and conservation programs will also create jobs, Haaland said, including in a civilian climate corps and through new jobs in clean energy.
Still, the interior plays a role “in balancing conservation and development,” Haaland will tell the committee.
The budget request includes funds to expedite the permitting of clean energy infrastructure and for a Fish and Wildlife Service program to support development that protects migratory birds.