Interior and Ag Departments Propose More Renewable Energy Funding
May 13, 2009
The U.S. Departments of Interior and Agriculture are proposing to boost funding for renewable energy programs in their budget requests for fiscal year (FY) 2010. The Interior Department is proposing $50.1 million for a new Clean Energy Future Initiative, which will facilitate responsible renewable energy development on public lands managed by the department and in offshore areas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The initiative will focus on areas with the highest potential for renewable energy development, including areas with significant wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy resources. The funds will spur renewable energy projects, facilitate the siting of new transmission facilities, assess renewable energy resources, and ensure adequate environmental protections.
The proposed funding for the offshore leasing program would help spur the development of offshore wind power in the United States.
As part of the initiative, the Minerals Management Service would receive an increase of $24 million for the development of a robust renewable energy leasing program on the OCS, while the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would receive an increase of $16.1 million for permitting and leasing activities related to renewable energy projects and for the planning efforts, environmental assessments, and analyses needed to develop new transmission facilities. The BLM would use $11 million of that funding to establish four renewable energy coordination offices, which will increase the BLM's capacity to process permits. In addition, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) would receive $5 million to support renewable energy development on tribal and BIA-managed lands; the U.S. Geological Service would receive $3 million for renewable energy resource assessments, and the Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $3 million to ensure the protection of fish and wildlife throughout the development process. See the Interior Department press release.
The proposed funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is more difficult to interpret, because much of the agency's funding is mandated by the 2008 Farm Bill, and discretionary funds are added to that mandatory pot of funds. Officially referred to as the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, the Farm Bill renamed the Renewable Energy Systems and Energy Efficiency Improvements Program as the Rural Energy for America Program. Discretionary funding for the former program was roughly $5 million in FY 2009, but the proposed budget for FY 2010 boosts that funding to $68 million, which exceeds the $60 million in mandatory funding provided by the Farm Bill. Together, the two funding sources would allow $65 million in grants and $459 million in guaranteed loans. Likewise, the budget requests $17 million for the Biorefinery Assistance Program, a new loan guarantee program that is already receiving $245 million in Farm Bill funds. The combined funds would finance $740 million in loan guarantees. The budget also requests $22 million for Value-Added Producer Grants, which help to develop markets for bio-based products, biofuels, on-farm renewable energy systems, and other value-added agricultural products. In FY 2009, that grant program was funded with $15 million in Farm Bill funds and $6 million in discretionary funds, but no Farm Bill funds are provided for FY 2010. See pages 56-58 of the USDA Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan for FY 2010 (PDF 1.5 MB). Download Adobe Reader.