The automatic spending cuts expected in Friday’s sequester may hold back progress in both conventional and renewable energy development on public lands. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar addressed the issue while keynoting a Boston energy industry meeting on Tuesday.
“The potentially devastating impact of budget reductions under sequestration could slow our economy and hurt energy sector workers and businesses,” Salazar told about 300 industry leaders.
Some of the mandatory budget cuts could delay Interior’s ability to issue permits for new conventional and renewable energy development, plan for new projects, conduct environmental reviews, and lease more federal lands in future.
In addition, the sequester could reduce federal government revenues if it impedes DOI’s fiduciary responsibility for leasing public land rights for oil, gas, coal, and minerals and overseeing national recreation areas.
Fossil energy activities the sequester may affect:
- offshore oil and gas permitting in the Gulf of Mexico (delays of 500 expected applications),
- nearly 300 oil and gas leases issued for public land in western states (production delays and deferred payments), and
- revenue sharing from coal leasing ($50-60 million for states and the Treasury)
“We have made impressive gains, approving dozens of utility-scale solar, wind, and geothermal projects in the West and transitioning from planning to commercial leasing for offshore wind,” Salazar said. However, the sequester may also have serious consequences for the U.S. renewable energy industry:
- fewer studies,
- fewer opportunities to obtain meaningful stakeholder input, and
- delays in identifying and resolving conflicts between existing land and water uses.
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers energy and environmental issues in conventional, solar, wind, biomass, large and small hydroelectric, and geothermal energy. She detailed events and policy at last fall’s 18th UN climate change summit meeting in Doha, Qatar. Sandy has also reported on extreme weather disasters, including superstorm Sandy, winter storm Nemo, and the massive summer wildfires of the past decade.
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