Value of energy and minerals production from US Forest Service lands worth billions of dollars
In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources today, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said the proposed FY 2013 Forest Service budget was below last year’s level.
“The Forest Service is committed to effectively managing mineral resources, to facilitating energy transmission in a responsible manner, and to the sound development of both renewable and non-renewable energy,” said Tidwell. “Given this budget decrease, the Forest Service will focus on non-discretionary activities such as processing mining plans and surface use plans on leased areas.”
The FY 2013 President’s Budget requests $73.4 million for the Forest Service’s Minerals and Geology Management Program, a $10.1 million decrease from the FY 2012 enacted appropriations bill. One of the ways the Chief suggested efficiencies can be made is through enhancing an already-close working relationship with the Bureau of Land Management.
The U.S Forest Service Minerals and Geology Management Program supports the provision of jobs, minerals and energy for the American people, while ensuring that watersheds are protected, threats to human safety are minimized and contaminated sites—especially abandoned mines—are restored.
Tidwell emphasized that over five million acres of Forest Service lands are currently leased for oil, gas, coal and phosphate mining operations. At any given time, the agency administers operations on approximately 160,000 mining claims and manages approximately 2,600 mineral material sale contracts.
The value of energy and minerals production from these operations on National Forest System lands typically exceeds $6.5 billion per year.
Tidwell’s testimony highlighted numerous areas of the Mineral Program’s responsibilities. The budgets he’s proposing includes the Minerals Applications Process, where he’s requesting $19 million to fund the processing of an estimated 7,260 energy mineral applications in FY 2013.
Last year the Forest Service processed approximately 200 permits for drilling or development plans across the nation. The energy component of this applications processing will continue to focus on increasing opportunities to develop and offer oil, natural gas, coal, and geothermal resources from federal lands. Approximately 20 percent of all U.S. coal is produced from National Forest System lands with an annual market value in excess of $3 billion.
Another large portion of the Chief’s budget request is $26.8 million to fund the administration of an estimated 10,824 active mineral operations in FY 2013. The program will emphasize meeting demands to ensure compliance with environmental standards for protecting resources.
Mineral and energy development on National Forest System lands support, on average, over 110,000 jobs, often in areas or communities where employment opportunities are limited. In addition, receipts from lease rentals, royalties and mineral material sales are returned to the U.S. Treasury, states, and counties.
“An issue on the minds of many environmentalists and those who live near former mining sites is how the Forest Service is working to clean up these sites. That’s why I’m requesting $6.9 million to fund the mitigation of an estimated 489 abandoned mine sites,” said Tidwell.
The Abandoned Mine Lands Program’s work includes closing underground mine openings and vertical shafts; re-contouring open pits, trenches and associated roads; and removing or stabilizing abandoned buildings, equipment and hazardous materials.
The Geologic Resources and Hazards Management Program received a $5.6 million funding request from the Chief. The program management activities inform land management decisions, project design and protect sites that have scientific or educational value and use.
In his testimony the Chief emphasized that a priority for the Forest Service is improving America’s ability to deliver electricity and transport oil, gas, and hydrogen, as well as broadband deployment.
“These land use projects increase the capacity of the power grid for renewable energy, improve both energy reliability and access to energy generation, and finally, advance broadband service for thousands of communities across the United States,” said Tidwell.
Renewable energy also received attention in the Chief’s testimony.
“The Forest Service will continue to help increase the supply of renewable energy by promoting wind and solar energy, engaging in hydropower licensing, development and geothermal operations, and encouraging use of woody biomass from forest service lands,” said Tidwell.