Bush Threatens to Veto Interior Spending Bill

President Bush threatened yesterday to veto the fiscal 2008 appropriations bill for the Interior Department, U.S. EPA and Forest Service -- the latest front in the ongoing battle between the Democratic Congress and the White House over domestic spending.

The House is scheduled today to take up the $26.6 billion spending bill, H.R. 2643. Lawmakers on both sides are planning amendments on several key policy issues, such as natural gas and oil shale leasing (E&E Daily, June 25).

"It includes an irresponsible and excessive level of spending and includes other objectionable provisions," says the Statement of Administration Policy. The Interior bill is about $2 billion above the White House request. Bush has also threatened to veto the Energy and Water and Homeland Security bills.

On spending issues, the White House singled out EPA, which would get $8.1 billion under the House bill, $887 million above the administration request. The bill would also increase the Clean Water State Revolving Fund by $437 million above the request, to $1.1 billion.

Also at EPA, the administration opposes $50 million for EPA and the National Academies of Science to study climate change adaptation and mitigation, saying it would duplicate existing efforts by federal agencies and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"New resources should instead be directed to the development and deployment of important emissions-reducing technologies and implementation activities and strategies," the SAP states.

Offshore leases

The White House also "strongly opposes" language that would force oil and gas companies that signed flawed deepwater leases in the late 1990s to renegotiate their contracts or be barred from future federal leasing.

The provision, inserted in committee on a voice vote, addresses 1998 and 1999 Gulf of Mexico leases with the Minerals Management Service, which failed to include price thresholds requiring royalty payments if oil prices rose. Left uncorrected, the error could cost taxpayers about $10 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office.

"Although the contracts omitted a price threshold, the administration does not support their abrogation," the SAP states, noting the federal government is open to renegotiating the leases on a voluntary basis.

"The United States government unilaterally forcing renegotiation of contract terms nearly a decade after agreement was reached establishes a bad precedent for future U.S. government contract negotiations, and it does not meet the standards the United States expects from foreign governments in their business dealings with American firms," the SAP adds.

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