U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the president’s budget request for the Department of the Interior for Fiscal Year 2022.
The hearing featured testimony from the Honorable Debra Haaland, secretary of the Department of the Interior and Rachael Taylor, the principal deputy assistant secretary for Policy, Management and Budget at the Department of the Interior.
For more information on witness testimony click here.
Senator Barrasso’s remarks:
“Before I start my statement, I’d like to extend an invitation to Secretary Haaland.
“Madam Secretary, this past weekend Governor Gordon and I were in Wyoming, and we were discussing the tragedy of missing and murdered indigenous people.
“As you know, it is a serious issue facing members of the Northern Arapaho and the Eastern Shoshone tribes on and outside the Wind River Reservation.
“It’s something we’re dealing with in Wyoming, and I know you are deeply concerned and care about this issue.
“I’d like to invite you to come to Wyoming with the governor, with me, to get your valuable insights.
“It is very timely that Secretary Haaland is here today to testify on the president’s FY 2022 Department of the Interior budget.
“The West faces many challenges.
“Wildfires and drought are threatening our communities.
“Rural communities – ranching and farming families, face a real water crisis this year.
“The West is where most of our federal lands are located, yet so many of the policies of this administration seem to be distinctly anti-western.
“Last month, a federal court issued a nationwide injunction on President Biden’s so-called ‘pause’ on oil and gas lease sales.
“Under the court’s order the department is required to hold new oil and gas lease sales.
“To date, it has not noticed any new oil and gas leases sales.
“It is past time for the administration to comply with the law and hold new lease sales.
“Energy production on public lands is the engine of Wyoming’s economy.
“It creates good-paying jobs.
“It provides tremendous revenue for the state, our schools and critical services.
“The Biden administration seems intent on destroying the livelihoods of oil, natural gas, and coal workers in the West.
“It is tearing away all the advantages that traditional energy production brings our states, local communities, and families.
“The department needs to change course and get back to an American energy dominance agenda.
“An agenda that creates jobs and provides energy independence from foreign adversaries.
“Much of the West is also facing a historic drought.
“Drought is contributing to a number of issues, including wildfires.
“According to the National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires in the West have already consumed around 2 million acres and we are early in the fire season.
“In addition to drought and extreme temperatures, the lack of proactive forest management has created the perfect storm for catastrophic wildfire events.
“These fires threaten the safety of our local communities and the safety of our wildland firefighters.
“We can, and should, do more to make our public lands less susceptible to such devastation.
“This can be done in part through thinning forested lands.
“Drought also highlights how critical water is to all aspects of western communities.
“We have not been building significant or sufficient water storage for western communities for years.
“As the West grows, so does our demand for water.
“Yet our water supplies are dwindling.
“In Wyoming and many parts of the West, that means less water for ranchers and farmers.
“For communities in the West, the negative economic impact is significant.
“The administration has not prioritized water development in the West.
“The Bureau of Reclamation is the only Interior department agency within this committee’s purview that receives a cut in the administration’s budget.
“The department could help our western ranchers who graze cattle on federal lands by making temporary pasture available, and assisting with water storage development.
“Bureau of Reclamation programs to build more water storage are expiring this year.
“I have introduced legislation, the Western Water Infrastructure Act, to extend those programs.
“Existing Bureau of Reclamation water storage infrastructure is also crumbling.
“The Bureau needs the funds to repair and modernize these facilities.
“My legislation addresses these critical issues.
“The Biden administration can, and should do more, to make America energy independent and maintain and create more jobs in the West.
“Much more needs to be done to make our public lands more resilient to the threat of wildfires.
“The Bureau of Reclamation also needs to be a higher priority for this administration, if we are to maintain and grow a viable rural western economy.
“I look forward to exploring these and other issues with the secretary today.”