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Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today convened a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior. Senator Feinstein chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies and presided over the hearing.  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar appeared as the primary witness.

During her opening remarks and in her questions, Senator Feinstein focused on the following topics: an overview of the department’s proposed FY 2010 budget request, including full funding for fire suppression, as well as increases in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for the National Park Service, for energy development and for a climate change initiative. Senator Feinstein also discussed with Secretary Salazar the Department’s plans for renewable energy development, abandoned mine cleanup, and the eradication of marijuana on public lands.

Following is the text of Chairman Feinstein’s prepared remarks:

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the third, and final, budget hearing before the Interior Subcommittee. This morning we’re honored to have our distinguished former colleague and now Interior Department Secretary, Ken Salazar.  Good morning, Mr. Secretary, and welcome back.

Joining the Secretary at the witness table this morning is Pam Haze, the department’s Director of Budget.  Good morning Ms. Haze, it’s a pleasure to see you again too.

Mr. Secretary, the budget request you’re presenting today totals $10.98 billion.  That’s an increase of $904 million, or 9 percent, over last year’s level of $10.0 billion.  This is the largest budget increase over the past several years and represents a real push in the right direction is several important areas.

First, I would like to thank you for requesting full funding for the fire suppression account.  The $445 million in the Interior budget, along with the $1.4 billion in the Forest Service budget, brings the administration’s total fire suppression request to $1.8 billion.

That’s the same amount actually spent, on average, over each of the last three fiscal years.  This means that, if we’re lucky, neither agency will have to borrow from its non-fire accounts and then hope that the Congress replenishes those funds.

That’s a terrible way to do business and I applaud this administration for stepping up to the plate and acknowledging head on what fire suppression really costs.

I would also like to thank you for allocating for full fixed costs within your budget.  As a former mayor, I know that setting aside funds to pay for such things as increased rent, utilities, and employee health care costs and not the fun things we like to put in our budgets.

But the fact is that over the past eight years, the Department has absorbed more than $500 million in unfunded fixed costs.  That money came out of programs just the same as if the cuts had been proposed up front.  So congratulations on reversing that trend.

There are also substantial increases in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, for the National Park Service, for energy development and for a climate change initiative.  All in all, you have presented us with a robust budget, that I think in whole will be favorably received.

In the interest of time, Mr. Secretary, I won’t go through every line item in your budget, but I will say that I hope to engage in questions with you on renewable energy development, abandoned mines, and what you’re doing about drugs on public lands.

Before turning to the Secretary, let me recognize my distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Alexander.”