December 14, 2012

In this Issue

BUDGET: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES REQUEST ACTION TO DETER 'FISCAL CLIFF,' SPENDING CUTS

On Dec. 7, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) joined a host of other scientific societies, universities and business leaders in sending a letter, spearheaded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), urging President Obama and Congressional leadership to reach a compromise deal that averts the “fiscal cliff” while preserving federal investment in scientific research. ESA had sent the White House and Congress a similar letter late last month.

The fiscal cliff includes a series of automatic discretionary spending cuts (sequestration) set to occur in January, if the Congress does not come up with an alternative plan to lower the deficit by $1.2 trillion before then either through spending cuts or revenue increases. Defense discretionary spending programs would be cut by 9.4 percent while non-defense discretionary spending programs would be cut by 8.2 percent under the automatic cuts. The fiscal cliff also includes expiring tax cuts and unemployment benefits that, if left unaddressed, collectively threaten to plunge the economy into another recession. The letter encourages the president and congressional leaders to come up with a balanced approach to deficit reduction, noting the important role of science and technological investment.

“It is important to recognize that federal research and development (R&D) investments are not driving our national deficits,” the letter notes. “These investments account for less than one-fifth of the current discretionary budget, but discretionary spending is the only place where deep cuts will be made. Placing a significant burden on these crucial areas, as sequestration would do, is nothing less than a threat to national competitiveness. We recognize that the United States faces severe fiscal challenges, and we urge you to begin to address them through a balanced approach that includes tax and entitlement reform.”

Both sides have put forward general plans that propose increased revenues and cuts to entitlement programs. However, despite several face-to-face meetings between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in the weeks since the election, Congressional Republicans and Democrats remain deadlocked over the particulars of a compromise proposal. Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are opposed to the White House plan for tax increases on the highest income earners, though both sides have indicated they are somewhat flexible as to the specific revenue amount. The White House, however, asserts that the $800 trillion in revenue proposed by the GOP cannot be achieved by merely closing loopholes and deductions without unduly burdening the middle-class.

Meanwhile the president and Congressional Democrats are opposed to the level of discretionary spending cuts proposed by Republicans, which some advocacy groups contend are nearly as high as the automatic non-defense discretionary cuts would be under sequestration. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has declared that raising the Medicare eligibility age is off the table. Democrats are also calling for the package to include an increase in the debt limit, which Republicans oppose unless it is offset with spending cuts.

With the holidays fast approaching, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has repeatedly asserted that the House will not adjourn until issues related to the fiscal cliff are resolved. The White House Office of Management and Budget has already begun directing federal agencies to begin planning for the sequester.

To view the joint society letter, click here: http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2012/media/AAAS%20Interorganizational%20Sequestration%20Letter%2012-07-2012_2.pdf

To view the ESA letter, click here: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Budget_Sequestration_Letter_11.27.12.pdf

DISASTER RELIEF: SENATE PROPOSES SANDY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS LEGISLATION

On Dec. 12, Senate appropriators released a bill to provide emergency funding to states affected by Hurricane Sandy. The bill’s total amount of $60.4 billion matches the White House funding request, sent at the end of last week.

Like the White House request, the bulk of the bill is dedicated to transportation and infrastructure investment. The bill allocates $11.5 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster response and recovery efforts. The measure includes $17 billion in community development block grants for housing needs and $11 billion for transit repairs, which includes funding for the Federal Transit Administration (receiving the bulk of the funding), the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The US Army Corps of Engineers would receive $3.4 million to repair coastal projects. The bill also includes $810 million intended to address concerns about clean water programs and $1 billion for flood control and coastal emergency programs. The Senate bill also includes $810 million for Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water State Revolving Programs, $482 million for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, $348 million for the National Park Service, $125 million for the Emergency Watershed Protection Program, $78 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service, $58 million for the Emergency Forest Restoration Program and $25 million for the Emergency Conservation Program.

Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the primary proponents of the relief funding, would like to add tax relief for individuals affected by the storm. They maintain that doing so would mirror actions taken on behalf of Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005. Nonetheless, Congressional Republicans have suggested that the funding be offset by cuts to other areas of discretionary spending. Democrats counter by pointing out offsets were not sought when the Republican-controlled House, Senate and White House enacted emergency funding assistance during Katrina.

The Senate intends to take up the bill next week, using a House-passed military construction and veterans appropriations bill as a vehicle. House Republicans, meanwhile, are researching whether specific requests for billions in aid are necessary. House appropriators would like to break the bill into parts, one addressing immediate needs and another supplemental addressing other projects.

Congress’s preoccupation with “fiscal cliff” matters in the closing days of the current session brings the notion of House consideration and enactment of the legislation before the end of the year into question. Nonetheless, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) signaled late last month the possibility that the House might take up a Sandy relief bill and potentially also legislation to reauthorize the farm bill, if enough Republican votes are secured to guarantee passage.

For additional information on the bill, click here: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=fa7aebb6-62d5-49fc-8e78-6ad7f69261d5

NOAA: LUBCHENCO TO DEPART AT START OF OBAMA'S SECOND TERM

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco announced this week that she will exit NOAA at the end of Feb. 2013 after four years of service in one of the Obama administration’s key science agencies.

During her tenure as NOAA administrator, she worked to implement NOAA’s National Ocean Policy, further the agency’s scientific research into climate change and was among the major players in coordinating the federal response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster of 2010. While the National Ocean Policy was successfully implemented, the agency’s attempt to coordinate a national climate service was stifled legislatively by House Republicans, namely outgoing House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX), a vocal climate science skeptic.

A former president of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Lubchenco was among a team of scientists selected by President Obama to head agencies with significant science policy roles, including Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh and United States Geological Survey Director Marsha McNutt. Lubchenco spoke at this year’s ESA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon and encouraged scientists to engage with policymakers and even consider public service in policy themselves.

Lubchenco’s departure could be the proverbial tip of the iceberg as presidential administrations elected to a second term often witness a mass exodus of key cabinet officials and bureau chiefs during the transition to a second term. DOE Secretary Chu and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, repeatedly sought after by House Republicans to testify before Congress, are among those on the watch-list for potential departures.

Lubchenco received her Ph.D. in ecology from Harvard University. She taught at Harvard and Oregon State University before being tapped by Obama in Dec. 2008 to head NOAA. A successor has yet to be named.

WHITE HOUSE: REPORT REQUESTS INCREASED INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH

On Dec. 7, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report requesting that the government increase investment in agricultural research in order to cope with a number of environmental changes that affect agriculture in the United States.

The report concludes that the current state of agriculture research remains ill-equipped to address many challenges facing the United States in the 21st Century. The report cites seven major priorities including the “need to manage new pests, pathogens, and invasive plants; increase the efficiency of water use; reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture; adapt to a changing climate; and accommodate demands for bioenergy-all while continuing to produce safe and nutritious food at home and for those in need abroad.”

According to PCAST, the economy has gained at least $10 in benefits for every $1 invested in agricultural research. The report recommends increasing investment in agricultural research by $700 million a year by expanding competitive programs within the Department of Agriculture. It also calls for an increase in the National Science Foundation’s budget for agriculture research and increasing the number of graduate and post-doctoral fellowships awarded to agricultural researchers.

To view the White House press release, click here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast_ag_release_20121207.pdf

View the full report here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast_agriculture_20121207.pdf

EPA: NEW RULES ISSUED FOR SOOT

On Dec. 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new air quality standards for fine particles that come from auto tailpipes, power plants, drilling operations and boilers.

The new fine particle standards lower the limit from 15 micrograms per cubic meter averaged over a year to 12 micrograms. According to EPA, less than 10 counties in the nation will need to consider any local actions to reduce fine particle pollution in order to meet the new standard by 2020, as required by the Clean Air Act. The remainder can rely on air quality improvements from existing federal rules to meet the new standard.

EPA’s existing soot standards were set in 1997. EPA’s science advisers had requested new standards in 2006 during the Bush administration, but the agency elected to let the existing standard remain in effect. After continuous court litigation, spearheaded by the American Lung Association, the National Parks Conservation Association and others, EPA tightened its standards in accordance with a court-ordered deadline.

A number of industry groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute, oppose the new rules, asserting that they will hinder economic growth, restricting counties’ abilities to issue permits for new facilities. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), James Inhofe (R-OK), Rob Portman (R-OH), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Mike Lee (R-UT) recently sent a letter to EPA urging the agency to maintain the existing standards.

For additional information on the new standard, click here: http://www.epa.gov/pm

EPA: GRANTS ANNOUNCED FOR ENVIORNMENTAL JUSTICE PROJECTS

On Dec. 6, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it was awarding $1.2 million in environmental justice grants for projects intended to address environmental issues faced by minority and low-income communities.

This year’s grants were awarded to 50 non-profit and tribal organizations in 26 states and Puerto Rico. Projects receiving funding this year include efforts to educate low-income individuals of the dangers of gardening in contaminated soil, improve air quality/ventilation in older homes, promote the use of safe pesticides in low-income housing and promote environmental stewardship in diverse communities. Environmental justice programs seek to bring parity to environmental policy decision-making that includes all races and income levels.

Additional information on EPA’s Environmental Justice Small Grants, including how to apply for the 2013 grants is available here (applications due Jan. 7): http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/grants/ej-smgrants.html.

The full list of 2012 grant recipients is available here: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/resources/publications/grants/ej-smgrants-recipients-2012.pdf

HOLLYWOOD: 'TERMINATOR' DUO REUNITES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE DOCUMENTARY

Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, who collaborated on the first two installments in the Terminator film franchise, are teaming up again – this time in an effort to save the world from the detrimental impacts of climate change.

The two have reunited to produce a documentary series on Showtime in 2013 that will focus on how humans are impacting Earth’s climate. The series, entitled “Years of Living Dangerously” will explore the issue in six to eight one-hour episodes.

Schwarzenegger, signed the nation’s first cap on greenhouse gas emissions during his term as California Governor. He has urged Republicans and Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions to address climate change and continues to promote efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and invest in green jobs through his own non-profit organization, the R20 Regions of Climate Action.

Cameron has been active in several conservation causes and has stated that his recent film “Avatar” was in part a message for humanity to stop damaging the environment. Cameron had also met with Environmental Protection Agency and BP leaders during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The spill was eventually stopped using techniques similar to what Cameron recommended.

No word on whether Linda Hamilton, who starred with Schwarzenegger in the aforementioned films (and is also Cameron’s ex-wife), will cameo in the documentary.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA GRAD STUDENT POLICY AWARD HILL EVENT DATES FINALIZED

Dates are now set for the Congressional visits events in which recipients of the Ecological Society of America (ESA)’s 2013 Graduate Student Policy Awardees will participate. This annual award, offered to up to three ESA graduate students, provides hands-on science policy experience including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials, and others engaged in science and public policy.

GSPA winners participate in the annual Congressional Visits Day, a two-day event that will be held on April 10 and 11, 2013. ESA covers travel and lodging expenses associated with this event for all GSPA recipients. ESA is co-organizer of Congressional Visits Day, sponsored by the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition to promote federal investment in the biological sciences, particularly through the National Science Foundation.

The application deadline is January 7, 2013. For more information, click here: http://www.esa.org/member_services/fundingGrants.php

CURRENT POLICY

Passed Senate

S. 3294, the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2013 - the annual bill reauthorizes Department of Defense (DOD) programs. Among its provisions, it authorizes $150 million in energy conservation projects and includes various reforms to DOD energy and environmental policies. The Senate-passed bill includes provisions to allow the military to invest in alternative energy sources and build commercial-scale biofuel refineries (provisions absent in the House version of the legislation). It passed the Senate Dec. 4 by a vote of 98-0. It is currently in the conference with the House. The House and Senate must pass conference report legislation before it can be sent to the president and signed into law.

Cleared for White House

H.R. 6582, the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act – the bill includes several pieces of legislation proposed this Congress to ease federal regulations on the manufacture of freezers, air-conditioners, water heaters and other appliances. According to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the bill’s changes to the Department of Energy appliance efficiency program will reduce national electricity demand 12 percent by 2030. The bill also requires research into how to further deploy energy efficient technologies in the industrial sector. The bill passed the House Dec. 4 by a vote of 398-2 and subsequently passed the Senate by voice vote. The president is expected to sign the measure.


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Christian Science Monitor, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, POLITICO, Senate Appropriations Committee, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the White House

November 30, 2012

In this Issue

BUDGET: FISCAL CLIFF TALKS CONTINUE, NO SOLUTION IN SIGHT

As the fiscal cliff negotiations continue, leaders in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate have sketched out their broad goals, yet neither side has put forward a specific plan.

Included in the “fiscal cliff” are a series of automatic discretionary spending cuts (budget sequestration) and the expiration of a multitude of tax cuts and unemployment benefit extensions. The discretionary spending cuts include significant spending reductions to science agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Geological Survey. The negotiations between policymakers seeking to avert the cliff have become a proverbial chess game between the two parties where each side sketches out their general position and waits to see who blinks first. What remains unclear is which of the publicized political demands from each side amount to political positioning or concrete unwavering positions.

On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have declared that Republicans are open to revenue increases, yet are unwilling to raise specific income rates. At the same time, several notable Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), Saxby Chambliss (GA) and Rep. Peter King (NY) have made public statements either outright supporting some form of revenue increases or renouncing anti-tax increase pledges. Comments from Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), suggesting that Republicans should go ahead and vote to extend middle-class tax cuts before debating the tax cuts for the wealthy have prompted Speaker Boehner to urge his conference to remain unified in keeping income tax rates frozen for all Americans. Republicans have called on Senate Democrats and the White House to outline what specific discretionary spending cuts and entitlement reforms they would embrace. Speaker Boehner has also declared that cuts to the Affordable Care Act need to be part of any deficit reduction effort.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, have called on Republicans to outline specific revenue increases and changes to the tax code. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has stated that simply closing loopholes will not generate the necessary revenue. The president has all but drawn a line in the sand that a deal must include tax increases for the wealthiest earners. Although he has stated that must include everyone making above $250,000 during the 2012 presidential campaign, he has been less firm on a specific income level in the days after the election. Senate Democratic leaders claim that any deal must not include cuts to entitlements and should also raise the debt ceiling, which the federal government is expected to reach early next year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated he would accept Medicare cuts that did not affect beneficiaries. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) contends that Medicare and Medicaid reforms should be part of a long-term deficit reduction effort, but not part of a short-term deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

On Nov. 29, the White House offered an initial plan that would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue and $400 billion in spending cuts. The first $960 billion in revenue would come from allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for the highest income earners. Another $600 billion in revenue would come from changes to the tax code. The proposal, put forward by Treasury Secretary Geithner, would also grant the president more latitude to raise the debt ceiling with a required two thirds vote from Congress to prevent it. As part of the plan, the White House also is requesting $50 billion in new stimulus spending and a $30 billion extension of unemployment benefits. The $400 billion in savings comes from changes to healthcare and entitlement programs. The plan also calls for extending the payroll tax cut or providing a similar tax cut targeted towards working families. The Administration’s proposed revenue increases alone are a non-starter for Congressional Republicans (and some Democrats) with both Speaker Boehner and Senate Minority Leader McConnell soundly rejecting the proposal.

Congress last averted a budget sequestration by enacting the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-508). As in the 1990 deal forged between President George H.W. Bush and the Democratic Congress, there will likely be dissenters who seek to obstruct acts of pragmatism. The Budget Enforcement Act established the PAY-AS-YOU-GO rule that required spending increases to be offset by spending reductions or revenue increases. It also included a number of tax increases and limits on itemized deductions that drew the ire of a number of conservatives led by then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-GA). Ultimately, only 10 House Republicans, including former Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), joined 217 House Democrats in supporting that deal while 163 Republicans and 40 Democrats opposed it. This time around, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is potentially eyeing a presidential run in 2016, could be among those leading an effort to spoil a potential deal. The 1990 agreement passed the Senate on a significantly less partisan vote of 54-45. Both Reid and McConnell were serving then with Reid supporting the deal and McConnell opposing it.

Any deal will likely come down to two key players: President Obama and Speaker Boehner. Minority Leader Pelosi’s and Majority Leader Reid’s roles will be to sell whatever final deal emerges to the House and Senate Democratic caucuses. Senate Minority Leader McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2014, may actually end up bucking the final deal, leaving the key to Senate passage in the hands of a few pragmatic moderate Senators.

A number of organizations who benefit from non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending have come together to form “NDD United,” a broad effort to inform policymakers on the multifaceted detrimental impacts NDD cuts would have on communities nationwide. The organizations have called upon lawmakers to endorse a balanced approach to deficit reduction along the lines of what has been proposed by the National Commission of Fiscal Responsibility, commonly known as “Simpson-Bowles.” The Simpson-Bowles plan outlined a series of discretionary spending cuts, reductions of tax loopholes (referred to in the report as “tax earmarks”), reductions in mandatory spending programs and outlined various health care cost savings.

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is among the scientific societies that participate in these efforts. ESA has joined in NDD United activities and recently spearheaded a letter to lawmakers highlighting the impact non-defense discretionary spending cuts would have on investments in science and conservation efforts. To view the ESA letter, click here: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Budget_Sequestration_Letter_11.27.12.pdf

HOUSE: GOP NAMES COMMITTEE CHAIRS

House Republican leadership has announced its committee chairs for the 113th Congress for 20 of its 21 committees.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will be chaired by Lamar Smith (R-TX). While Smith has supported climate skeptics having an increased role in climate change discussions, he is viewed as the least hostile towards climate science among the three who sought the slot. These included Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI). Current chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) is term-limited under Republican rules that allow for only six years of service in a chairman or ranking member position. Like Chairman Hall, Smith intends to make the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and space exploration a priority. He also supports Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education investment as essential in remaining competitive in the modern global economy.

The House Transportation Committee, which has primary jurisdiction over the Water Resources Development Act, the Army Corps of Engineers and Clean Water Act legislation, will be chaired by Bill Shuster (R-PA). Current Chairman John Mica (R-FL) had sought a waiver, but was refused. The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Environmental Protection Agency laws, will continue to be chaired by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI). The House Appropriations Committee will continue to be chaired by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY). Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) is also returning to chair the House Natural Resources Committee, which has oversight over various US Department of Interior laws and initiatives.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been granted a waiver to continue on beyond his six year term limit, likely attributable to his rising status as a party leader, having been on the GOP’s vice presidential ticket during the 2012 presidential election. It is expected that Ryan will eventually move on to chair the exclusive Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax laws, Medicare and Social Security reform. Along with the Appropriations and Energy and Commerce committees, Ways and Means is viewed as one of the most powerful and sought after committees in the House.

The roster of House committee chairmen thus far includes no women or racial minorities. If the next chair of the Committee on House Administration is male (a likelihood given that all current GOP members are males), this will mark the first time there have been no female House committee chairs since the 109th Congress adjourned in 2006. Before that, the last female chairwoman was Nancy Johnson, who chaired the House Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) Committee during the 104th Congress (1995-1996). Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the current chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee, is term-limited. Ros-Lehtinen is the most senior Republican woman in the House. She is also the first Cuban American and first Hispanic female elected to Congress, serving since 1989.

ENERGY DEVELOPMENT: SENATORS ADVOCATE APPROVAL FOR KEYSTONE PIPELINE

Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Max Baucus (D-MT) spearheaded a letter on Nov. 16 requesting a meeting with President Obama on moving forward with the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

“With the elections of 2012 behind us, we write to remind you of the continuing importance of the Keystone XL Pipeline. We want to work together to keep creating jobs, and Keystone XL is one vital piece of the puzzle,” the letter states. “We would like to meet with you in the near future to discuss this important project.” Asserting that the pipeline will create thousands of jobs, the signers maintain that existing portions of the pipeline have been built with “sound environmental stewardship and the best modern technology.”

Environmental groups have opposed the pipeline out of concern for greenhouse gas emissions, forest damage and the potential oil spills along the pipeline’s path. The administration had postponed a decision until early 2013, citing that it required the additional time to review alternative route proposals from TransCanada.

In total the bipartisan letter carries 18 signatories, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sens. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Mark Pryor (D-AR), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim Webb (D-VA), Jon Tester (D-MT), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mark Begich (D-AK), Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rob Portman (R-OH).

To view the full letter, click here: http://www.hoeven.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/news-releases?ID=a9a3bd9e-68b4-4dd5-ad08-fbc91d2f5656

ENDANGERED SPECIES: FWS REPORT OUTLINES CANDIDATES FOR FEDERAL PROTECTION

On Nov. 20, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its annual Candidate Notice of Review, an update on the current status of plants and animals considered candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Three species have been removed from candidate status, two have been added and nine have garnered a change in priority since the last review was conducted in Oct. 2011. The two new candidate species are the Peñasco least chipmunk of New Mexico and the Cumberland arrow darter, a freshwater perch-like fish in Kentucky and Tennessee. The three species removed include the elongate mud meadow springsnail of Nevada, the Christ’s paintbrush flower of Idaho and the bog asphodel lily in New Jersey. Priority status was raised for five species, the Sonoran desert tortoise, Black Warrior waterdog salamander, Nevares Spring naucorid bug, Goose Creek Milkvetch plant, and whorled sunflower. Priority status was lowered for the Sonoyta mud turtle, Page springsnail, Stephan’s riffle beetle, and Siskiyou mariposa lily.

According to FWS, 192 species are currently recognized as candidates for protection under the Act, the lowest in over twelve years. Though candidate species do not garner full federal protection, the FWS does take action to conserve them.

The complete notice and list of proposed and candidate species appears in the Federal Register and can be found here: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/cnor.html.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: NOAA RECONSIDERS PROTECTION FOR PUGET SOUND ORCAS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is considering whether to remove a small population of orcas/killer whales in Puget Sound, WA from protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Upon reviewing a petition filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF), NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service concurred that new information warrants a review of the orcas’ protected status in the region. Officially known as Southern Resident killer whales, the area’s population of 86 killer whales was first listed as endangered in 2005. The Southern Resident killer whales spend time in Puget Sound and nearby waters, leaving for the open ocean in the winter.

PLF argues that the population is not distinct from larger populations of killer whales in the Pacific Ocean. The Center for Biological Diversity, which has sought to retain the populations’ federally protected status, counters that scientific literature highlights differences between this group of killer whales and others.

The opportunity for scientific comment extends through Jan. 28, 2013. For additional information, including the regulations.gov comment link, click here: http://www.nwr.noaa.gov/Marine-Mammals/Whales-Dolphins-Porpoise/Killer-Whales/ESA-Status/delist.cfm

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: FWS PROPOSES FEDERAL PROTECTION FOR AFRICAN LION

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is considering listing the African lion (Panthera leo leo) as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act.

In March 2011, FWS received a petition from animal welfare groups, including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Born Free Foundation/Born Free USA, Defenders of Wildlife and Fund for Animals, requesting the African lion be added as a federally protected species. Species may be considered for protection under the ESA regardless of whether they are native to the United States.

According to IFAW, African lions have disappeared from “over 80 percent of their historic range, and their population declined by nearly 50 percent from just 1980 to 2002.” The groups contend that the lions are increasingly threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation, disease, loss of traditional prey species as well as trophy hunting and commercial trade. The African lion is the only big cat not listed under the Act. Its close relative, the Asiatic lion was first listed in 1970.

Comments must be received by January 28, 2013. Written comments and information concerning this finding can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Electronic mail: Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025]
  • Regular mail: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203

FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY: EPA AWARDS $5.3 MILLION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES

On Nov. 14, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced $5.3 million in research fellowships to 126 students pursuing degrees in environmental studies, including 39 Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) fellows and 87 Science to Achieve Results (STAR) fellows.

According to EPA, the awards encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue careers as environmental specialists and further their education into master’s and doctoral degrees. The fellowships seek to encourage leadership in areas including environmental research, restoration, pollution prevention and sustainability.

EPA’s STAR Graduate Fellowship supports master’s and doctoral candidates in environmental studies. The Greater Research Opportunities Undergraduate Fellowships are geared to support students in their junior and senior year of undergraduate study in environmental fields. GRO students also receive an internship at an EPA facility during the summer between their junior and senior years.

Applications for the fiscal year 2013 GRO program are due Dec. 5, 2012 while the STAR fellowship deadline was Nov. 27, 2012. For additional information on the GRO program and STAR fellowships, click here: http://epa.gov/ncer/fellow/

ESA GRAD STUDENT OPPORTUNITY: APPLY NOW FOR ESA GRAD STUDENT POLICY AWARD

ESA invites applications for its 2013 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). This award, offered annually to up to three winners, provides graduate students hands-on science policy experience in Washington, DC including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials, and others engaged in science and public policy.

ESA covers travel and lodging expenses associated with this event for GSPA recipients. The two-day event will occur between mid-March and early April, contingent on the yet-to-be-determined 2013 congressional schedule. Application deadline is January 7, 2013. For more information, click here: http://www.esa.org/member_services/fundingGrants.php

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.Res. 815, declaring the Year of the Federal Lab - Introduced Nov. 16 by Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PAJ) and Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the non-binding resolution designates 2013 as the “Year of the Federal Lab,” recognizes the important role federal labs play in maintaining United States innovation and urges the US House of Representative to find ways to increase investment in federally sponsored research.

Considered by House Committee

On Nov. 29, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the following bill:

H.R. 511, to prohibit the importation of various injurious species of constrictor snakes - Introduced by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), the bill would ban the importation and interstate transportation of the reticulated python, green anaconda, Beni or Bolivian python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, boa constrictor, the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, northern African python and southern African python under the Lacey Act, formalizing an existing Department of Interior rule for the last four species.

Passed House

H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act – Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill would eliminate a visa program for countries with low rates of emigration to the United States, and hand those visas to foreign students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Democrats opposed the bill because it eliminates the diversity immigrant program that makes immigrant visas available to certain individuals from countries with low rates of immigration. Proponents for the program contend that it is vital to ensuring a broad array of legal immigrants of all races and ethnicities have access to the United States. The bill passed Nov. 30, by a vote of 245-139 with 27 Democrats joining all but five Republicans in supporting the bill. The White House issued a statement opposing the bill and the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to act on it before the 112th Congress adjourns.

Introduced in Senate

S. 3649, Superfund Emergency Response Act of 2012 - Introduced Nov. 29 by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the bill would allow Congress to provide emergency funding to contain pollution at Superfund sites following a natural disaster. The bill would also require the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study on the vulnerability of Superfund sites to extreme weather events and develop a plan to better protect these sites from future natural disasters.


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, POLITICO, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Post

November 9, 2012

In this Issue

2012 ELECTION: RESULTS PRODUCE SAME PLAYERS, ADDED POLARIZATION

The 2012 elections resulted in the continuation of a divided government with both parties more or less playing with the same hand they held before the election. President Obama remains in the White House, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) retains control of the Senate (albeit with a slightly more cushioned majority) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) retains control of the House with a substantial majority of over 230 Republican members.

White House

The re-election of President Obama generally means no significant policy changes for federal agencies. The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continues its National Oceans Policy, the Department of Interior’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative remains intact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will continue its regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions and its current Clean Water Act and mountain-top removal mining policies will be sustained. The Department of State will continue its review of the Keystone XL pipeline with its early 2013 date on whether it will approved.

The great unknown is who among the federal agency heads will be staying on to implement these policies. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among a list of cabinet officials who insiders have speculated may exit their posts either before or not too long after the start of President Obama’s second term in January 2013.

House

In the 112th Congress, the US House of Representatives was arguably at its most polarized in recent memory. With most of the tea party and progressive Democratic players expected to return, this is unlikely to change. If anything, partisan state redistricting efforts controlled by Democrats in Illinois and Maryland and by Republicans in North Carolina and Texas, among other states, have left the lower chamber slightly more partisan than before, siphoning off even more blue dog Democrats and moderate Republicans. These redistricting efforts have led to the loss or retirements of a few members who were particularly friendly to science issues: Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), and Brad Miller (D-NC). All three had served on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee at some point during their tenures. House Members friendly to science who lost primaries earlier this year include Reps. Hansan Clarke (D-MI) and Russ Carnahan (D-MO).

US House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to retain his role as is House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Congress’s first order of business, upon returning for its lame-duck session next week will be to address the fiscal cliff, a combination of automatic spending cuts enacted under the Budget Control Act and a series of expiring tax cuts enacted under Presidents George W. Bush and Obama. Speaker Boehner has declared that House Republicans are prepared to embrace a deficit reduction deal that includes revenue increases so long as those increases are coupled with further non-defense discretionary spending cuts and mandatory spending reductions. The Speaker has forewarned, however, that any revenue increases should be made through reforms to the tax code that closes loopholes, not through tax increases on the wealthiest Americans or small businesses.

House Republican Committee leaders have a six-year limit on chairmanships, regardless of whether Republicans are in the majority or minority at the time. This means that some members, including House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX), will be stepping down this year. To date, three Republicans have announced their desire to serve as Science Committee Chair: Lamar Smith (TX), Jim Sensenbrenner (WI) and Dana Rohrbacher (CA).

Members need a waiver from leadership to serve beyond the six-year limitation. One committee chairman who may obtain such a waiver is House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), in lieu of his increased national stature and after running on the Republican 2012 presidential ticket. Absent a waiver, potential candidates for the new chairmanship could include Scott Garrett (R-NJ) or Jim Jordan (R-OH).

The leadership make-up among House Democrats remains somewhat more of a mystery. Most committee leaders are expected to retain their post. The open question is who will lead the party at large in the House. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has postponed leadership elections until after Thanksgiving break, fueling speculation that she is, at the very least, considering whether or not she wants to retain her post. Net gains for the Democrats in the House fell far short of the 25 seats they needed to win back the House and the 2010 redistricting makes it unlikely they will retain the majority again before the next president takes office.

A decision by Pelosi to step down would pave the way for current Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to run to succeed her as well as open opportunities for other Democrats to seek open leadership positions. Heath Schuler (D-NC), who ran against Pelosi after the last election, is retiring this year. The House Democratic caucus will hit a new milestone in January 2013 – for the first time – its white male members will be in the minority while women and racial minorities will make up a majority of the party. Tulsi Gabbard, elected to Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, will be the nation’s first Hindu Member of Congress.

Republican control of the House means that many of the attempts to legislatively delist species from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, prohibit funding for NOAA’s proposed climate service, roll back Department of Interior and EPA regulations intended to protect the environment and cut or limit discretionary spending on certain science initiatives, will also continue over the next two years. House committee oversight hearings that are highly critical of various administration regulations and initiatives will also continue under the current majority.

Senate

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) retains control of the Senate, partially due to a weak field of gaffe-prone tea-party driven Senate candidates, who also stifled significant gains for the Senate GOP in 2010. Like the House, the Senate also reaches a diversity milestone with a record 20 women elected to the chamber next year. These include Senators-elect Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the nation’s first openly gay Senator. Hirono will be the first Asian-American female Senator.

Most of the committees retain the same leaders, although the overall make-up of the committees and the Senate itself stands to be slightly more polarized with the loss of crucial pragmatists with a history of effectively reaching across the aisle. These include Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), who was pivotal in securing bipartisan support for reauthorization of the America COMPETES Act in late 2010. Other notable departing pragmatists include Sens. Dick Lugar (R-IN), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Also leaving is Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND). Conrad is expected to be succeeded by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who also co-chaired the failed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, commonly known as the “super-committee.”

On the one hand, the replacement of pragmatic Republicans like Lugar and Scott Brown (R-MA) with Democrats gives Reid a few more reliable votes on certain party-line issues. However, it also decreases the number of Republican members he can lean on to reach across the aisle and help him deliver the 60-vote threshold necessary to move more contentious bills through the Senate. Reid’s padded majority gains have also led to speculation that the majority leader may seek to limit the ability of the minority to filibuster in the next Congress.

For a full listing of departing House and Senate members in the 112th Congress, click here:
http://www.rollcall.com/politics/casualtylist.html

For a profile listing of all the newly elected House and Senate members, click here:
http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress-legacy/the-new-faces-of-the-113th-congress-20121105

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE TO GET NEW CHAIRMAN

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee is expected to have a new chairman the first time it gavels in next year. Nonetheless, the list of top contenders suggest existing Chairman Ralph Hall’s (R-TX) tenure, defined in part by a war with NOAA over its climate service proposal, persistent skepticism on scientific climate change data and increased regulatory oversight, will continue regardless of who secures the chairmanship.

The three main contenders are Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who previously chaired the committee for four years between 1997-2001. Ralph Hall is forced to step down under the House Republican conference’s six year term limit rules (Hall served as the ranking Republican for four years when Democrats held the majority).

Both Sensenbrenner and Rohrabacher are vocal climate skeptics. Rep. Smith, however, appears to be more moderately conservative on climate science. On his website under the environmental tab is the following sentiment: “Like many Americans, I am concerned about the environment. The Earth has undergone tremendous change in the past and is experiencing similar change now. Climate change has the potential to impact agriculture, ecosystems, sea levels, weather patterns and human health. It is our responsibility to take steps to improve the quality of our land, water and air for ourselves and for future generations. We can do this by developing and expanding clean energy technologies, relying less on foreign oil, and utilizing a common sense approach to conservation.”

Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) is expected to continue on as the ranking member. However, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC) is retiring.

SENATE: ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEES WILL SEE SLIGHT LEADERSHIP SHIFT

Several key environmental committees will see changes, brought on by Republican self-imposed six-year term limits and retirements from both parties.

Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-ID), is expected to be succeeded by David Vitter (R-LA). To the dismay of many concerned about global warming, Inhofe will nonetheless remain a member of the committee. Vitter does not hold Inhofe’s reputation of being a vocal climate skeptic, however, has consistently opposed Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Vitter is expected, however, to continue Inhofe’s bipartisan collaboration with Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) on working to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act.

Retiring Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Hutchinson will be succeeded by Jim DeMint (R-SC), an ardent tea party supporter. The committee has oversight over National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration issues. It is not yet known which Republican will succeed Olympia Snowe (R-ME) as ranking member of the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard subcommittee. Immediately next in line are Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Johnny Isakson (R-OK).

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) is among the leading contenders to succeed retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) as chairman of the Select Committee on Indian Affairs. Udall’s father, the late Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, was a major advocate for tribal rights. Other prospective successors include Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jon Tester (D-MT).

Retiring Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is expected to be succeeded by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who currently serves as chairman of the Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee.

NATURAL DISASTERS: SANDY SPURS CLIMATE DEBATE, CONSERVATION EFFORTS

The issue of climate change, mentioned in none of the three presidential debates this election season, was brought to the forefront when Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.

The hurricane caused an estimated $30-$50 billion in damages to the East Coast. Repairing New York City’s infrastructure, predominantly its subway tunnels, electricity grid and communications network is going to make up a significant chunk of the cost. But flooded, burned-down and wind-torn residences along the Northeast Coast will make up the majority of insured losses. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency has $7.8 billion in reserve funds to help address the storm, some lawmakers representing affected areas in New York and New Jersey contend that additional emergency spending may be necessary. Congressional aides from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill, though have stated that, given the current reserve funding, talk of additional funding may be premature.

While climate change connection wasn’t emphasized on the campaign trail by either of the two leading presidential candidates, prominent New York officials maintained that the link was irrefutable. “Anyone who says that there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality,” stated New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). “I told the president the other day: ‘We have a 100-year flood every two years now,’” he continued.

“Our climate is changing,” stated New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be – given the devastation it is wreaking – should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Rush (D-IL) issued a letter to committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) requesting a lame-duck session hearing on links between Hurricane Sandy and climate change. The letter is among a series penned by Waxman urging for hearings on climate science, yet Upton has, thus far, not responded.

Climate scientists caution against tying any individual hurricane or natural disaster to global warming while noting that human influences on climate change does lead to an overall increase in extreme weather events.

New York farmers impacted

Road closures and power outages from the storm temporarily hindered agricultural commerce in the state of New York. The strife to consumers in urban regions dealing with the impacts of the hurricane has meant that growers are experiencing a drop in customers. According to Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, damage to actual crops was minimal due to the fact that the harvest period had passed for most crops. However, had the storm occurred just a few weeks earlier, the damage could have been significant. New York state agriculture is worth about $4.4 billion in sales and the state is the second largest apple producer in the country. Other important crops include grapes, various row vegetables, corn for animal feed and greenhouse-grown flowers.

National Park Service employees dispatched

The National Park Service (NPS) had over 200 federal employees from across the nation on the ground in New York and New Jersey to assist in recovery efforts in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Among the parks and sites hardest hit by the storm were the Gateway National Recreation Area, the 10 national parks of New York Harbor, the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, Fire Island National Seashore, Morristown National Historical Park and Thomas Edison National Historical Park. NPS teams were also sent to assess damage to the Statue of Liberty National Monument.

USGS Scientists collect geographic data

United States Geological Survey scientists have been deployed across Sandy-impacted areas to evaluate various ecological implications of the hurricane. The data collected will be used in part to forecast the broad changes a storm has on natural land and waterways surrounding communities and assess the effectiveness of cleanup efforts. This monitoring will include sampling water quality and tracking nutrient continent in run-off. Excessive nutrients from farms and suburban areas can create dead-zones in the nation’s waterways that can be detrimental to plant and animal life.

NFWF launches ecological impacts fund

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) launched the Hurricane Sandy Wildlife Response fund with $250,000 to research the storm’s ecological implications for wildlife. The organization is also concerned about potential impacts of raw sewage, sediment and pollution seeping into waterways. NFWF will provide small grants to federal agencies, states and conservation groups to assess impacts to natural habitats ranging from Delaware Bay to Long Island Sound. For additional information on the program, click here:
http://www.nfwf.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Hurricane_Sandy_Response

To view the Waxman letter, click here:
http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Upton-Whitfield-Hurricane-Sandy-Climate-Change-2012-10-31.pdf

BUDGET: REPORTS OUTLINE IMPACTS, OPTIONS REGARDING FISCAL CLIFF

New reports outline potential options to postpone or cope with the pending fiscal cliff, a combination of automatic discretionary spending cuts and tax increases, set to go into effect in January.

Partially due to 2010 redistricting, Republicans retained their significant hold on the House with increased polarization among members on both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile Democrats have buttressed their majority in the Senate and the President won the electoral college and the popular vote with a fairly resounding majority. These political dynamics will make the effort to come up with a compromise that can sail through both the House and Senate a steep hill to climb. The chief wedge in compromise is over whether and how to extend the Bush tax cuts.

A report from OMB Watch suggests that the federal agencies may be able to buy Members of Congress a few weeks to come up with a deal in January that averts the discretionary spending cuts, commonly referred to as budget sequestration. According to the report the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has apportionment authority that could enable it to accelerate spending for programs over a brief period in 2013, which would temporarily offset sequestration’s impacts. Accelerating funding could also temporarily prevent furloughs and layoffs of federal workers for the first few weeks of the year.

The government could also delay the announcement of new contracts and federal grants, as well as prioritize existing grants. Further, the report notes that most education funding to the states, including Title I, is advance-funded. The administration has already indicated that these types of education programs will not be affected by sequestration until July.

Overall, the effectiveness of these efforts would still all be contingent on Congress coming to an agreement within the first few weeks of the new year that nullifies sequestration for the remainder of the year. According to a report released Nov. 8 from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), it would be better for the country for Congress to address the overall fiscal cliff sooner rather than later.

According to CBO, allowing the scheduled tax increases and spending cuts to go into effect would cause the economy to shrink by 0.5 percent in 2013. The unemployment rate would rise again to 9.1 percent, up from the current 7.9 percent. The report concludes that If Congress blocked the spending cuts and extended all of the expiring tax cuts, excluding the payroll tax cut, the economy would grow by 2.25 percent next year. Including the payroll tax cut and an extension of unemployment benefits would push growth closer to three percent.

Republicans will likely make note of the reports’ contention that preventing the tax cuts for all Americans would save or create 1.8 million jobs. Democrats may make note of the fact that extending the tax cuts just for those making under $250,000 would save or create 1.6 million jobs, an arguably not entirely different picture than extending the rates for the wealthiest Americans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already asserted that the difference in growth through extending tax cuts for the wealthy is a difference of a tenth of a percent. Fiscal concerns aside, the report affirms that extending all the tax cuts would give the biggest boost to the economy.

To read the OMB Watch report, click here:
http://www.ombwatch.org/files/budget/mitigating_impact_of_temporary_sequester.pdf

To view the CBO report, click here:
http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43694

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: INPUT SOUGHT ON GULF COAST RESTORATION EFFORTS

On Nov. 8, the Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees announced the release of a draft restoration plan to recover habitat for nesting birds and sea turtles that were impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The plan includes two proposed projects totaling $9 million. The first project intends to protect nesting habitat for beach-nesting birds from disturbance caused by oil spill response activities. The project would be conducted on beaches along the Florida panhandle and on the Alabama and Mississippi coasts. The second project proposes to reduce artificial lighting impacts on nesting habitat for loggerhead turtles, also affected by oil response activities.

Comments will be taken through Dec. 10, 2012. For further information or to comment, click here:
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/pdfs/Press_Release_Draft%20Phase%20II_FINAL_7Nov%2012%20(1).pdf


Sources: Congressional Budget Office, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee, National Journal, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the New York Times, OMB Watch, POLITICO, Roll Call

October 26, 2012

In This Issue

BUDGET: REPORT FINDS SPENDING CUTS POSE THREATS TO PUBLIC SAFETY, CONSERVATION EFFORTS ON PUBLIC LANDS

A recent report from several conservation organizations concludes that the automatic spending cuts, set to take place in January 2013 under the Budget Control Act, would adversely impact efforts to protect public health and safety in public parks, forests and natural recreational areas.

For National Parks, the study concludes that budget sequestration would force a loss of park rangers, jeopardizing public safety for park visitors and hindering the promptness of emergency response personnel. The cuts could also spur increases in vandalism and looting in public parks and impede efforts to monitor endangered species.

For the Forest Service, the cuts would decrease the agency’s ability to respond to wildfires. Inadequate campground maintenance would also lead to park trail closures, increasingly unkempt bathroom facilities, halted restoration projects and unprocessed recreational permits. All of this would adversely impact revenue brought in from tourism. The automatic cuts would also hinder the agency’s ability to manage invasive species.

For Environmental Protection Agency research, the report found that the cuts would threaten the agency’s ability to determine to what extent certain industrial development practices negatively impact public health or introduce harmful toxic chemicals into the environment. At the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the report noted that the cuts would hinder the agency’s efforts to preserve fish habitats that are essential in sustaining fish species that are important both ecologically and economically to local communities.

The report was led by the Wilderness Society, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the National Parks Conservation Association and Defenders of Wildlife.

View the full report here: http://wilderness.org/resource/threats-wilderness-budget-sequester

ENDANGERED SPECIES: INTERIOR VACATES CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATION FOR SEABIRD

Department of Interior officials have agreed to vacate nearly four million acres of critical habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet until 2018 as part of a settlement agreement with the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC), a prominent timber industry advocate.

The designation would have included parts of California, Oregon and Washington states. The agreement must be approved by the US District Court for the District of Columbia before it is final. According to court documents, defendants agreed that vacating critical habitat would not significantly impair conservation efforts for the species. Conservation groups, however, differ with this opinion.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), marbled murrelets have been declining by roughly four percent per year since 2002. This decline is mainly attributed to continued habitat loss due to logging, particularly on state and private lands. On Oct. 24, CBD joined with several environmental groups in sending a letter to the Obama administration requesting that it withdraw from the agreement before it becomes final.

“The murrelet was protected under the Endangered Species Act because of the loss of mature and old-growth forests to logging, the letter states. “It has continued to lose habitat and to decline, making protection of critical habitat essential to its survival.” Additional letter signers included the American Bird Conservancy, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice.

The timber industry advocate group AFRC further argued that the bird should be delisted from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that aspect of the case will be pursued by the group in subsequent court proceedings. The US Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that removal from federal protection for the bird is “not warranted” due to “a broad range of threats, such as nesting habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, and predation.”

To view the CBD letter, click here:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/marbled_murrelet/pdfs/Mamu_Letter_Obama.pdf

For more information on federal conservation efforts for the marbled murrelet, click here: http://ecos.fws.gov/speciesProfile/profile/speciesProfile.action?spcode=B08C

GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT: SCIENCE EXEMPTION SOUGHT FOR TRAVEL BAN LEGISLATION

A legislative effort to curb participation of federal employees at national conferences has spurred an effort from several organizations to seek an exemption for scientific organizations.

In September, the US Association for Computing Machinery, Computing Research Association, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics sent a letter to policymakers expressing their concern over a number of bills moving through Congress (H.R. 2146, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act and S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act), which include provisions intended to limit government employees’ ability to attend meetings and conferences. The travel provisions in the Senate bill were adopted through the amendment process, specifically by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK).

“Scientific and technical conferences already have review processes and regulations in place. These limitations are designed to help control spending on both the event and travel to the event, particularly when government funding is involved,” the letter notes. “We therefore request that you consider exempting recognized scientific, technical and educational meetings from the proposed travel expense limits in these pieces of legislation.”

In May, the Ecological Society of America joined 50 other scientific societies in sending a similar letter to Congress, noting that the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival included participation from 40 federal government agencies and offices. The letter, which also referenced the aforementioned legislation, contended that this level of collaboration might not be possible if the bills were enacted. “We recognize that Congress has a responsibility to prevent wasteful government spending,” the letter noted. “We are concerned, however, that the language in the amendments would inadvertently impede the free flow of scientific information and the professional development of scientists and engineers. This would potentially work against critical national goals related to national security, public health, science education, innovation, and competitiveness.”

The 21st Century Postal Service Act has already passed the Senate while the DATA Act has passed the House. One of the two bills must pass both chambers in the same form before either could be sent to the president. The Obama administration has already imposed limits on the amount of funding that can be spent on travel to attend conferences in lieu of the recent General Service Administration scandal, but has not taken a position on the aforementioned bills.

To view the Sept. scientific society letter, click here:
http://usacm.acm.org/images/documents/GSAAct2012Letter.pdf

To view the May scientific society letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Senate_Intersociety_Letter_on_Travel_Restrictions__May_21__2012_.pdf

NUCLEAR WASTE: HOUSE DEMOCRATS REQUEST UPDATE ON URANIUM CLEAN UP EFFORTS

On Oct. 18, several House lawmakers, including Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA), and Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA), sent a letter to federal agencies requesting a new plan to continue clean up of uranium, a byproduct of mining, on Navajo Nation lands.

The current five-year plan is scheduled to conclude at the end of this year, despite the fact that hundreds of sites still need to be cleaned. “Although the last operating mines on the Navajo Nation closed in the mid-1980′s, mining activities on the Reservation left behind hundreds of abandoned uranium mines, inactive milling sites, former dump sites, contaminated groundwater, and structures that contain elevated levels of radiation. These sites pose environmental and public health risks to the Navajo community,” the members write. “We believe that a second five-year plan will be necessary to continue this enormous task.”

The October letter also requests an audit from the Government Accountability Office on these clean-up efforts. In August, Ranking Members Markey and Waxman also spearheaded a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for an update on an ongoing study dealing with the effects of pollution on the Navajo lands. The letters request that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy and the Indian Health Service respond with a status update on these clean-up efforts by Jan. 1, 2013.

To view the Oct. letter to federal agencies, click here:
http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/press-release/markey-house-dems-ask-agencies-new-plan-report-uranium-cleanup-navajo-nation

To view the Aug. letter to the CDC click here: http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Frieden.CDC_.UraniumMiningNavajo.8.16.12.pdf

NOAA: NINE COASTAL COMMUNITY PROJECTS ISSUED GRANTS TO ADAPT TO CLIMATE CHANGE

On Oct. 19, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of New Hampshire announced $4.9 million in grants for nine research projects geared towards helping coastal communities deal with various impacts of climate change.

The grants are made possible through NOAA’s National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative through its partnership with the university. The NERRS Science Collaborative was established by NOAA’s Estuarine Reserves Division in cooperation with the University of New Hampshire in 2009 to inform costal community decision-making with science.

States receiving the project grants include Alabama, California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina. To view the specific recipients, view NOAA’s full press release here:
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20121019_climatechangegrant.html

TECHNOLOGY: WILDLIFE WATCHING OR WATER MONITORING, THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT

Federal agencies have unveiled new tools that can help monitor conditions in the natural world through smart phones.

Chesapeake Bay Wildlife Refuge App

Visitors to the Chesapeake Bay can use their iPhones to post photos of plants and animals they encounter on national wildlife refuges onto a global network for information about the species. The accumulated data will help scientists and refuge managers identify where and when individual species inhabit specific locations. The app was developed in partnership with the Chesapeake Conservancy, the National Geographic Society and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

How’s My Waterway App

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a smart phone app to help individuals find the condition of the waterways within their communities. The app employs GPS technology or a user’s zip code to pinpoint information on the condition of local water bodies such as lakes, rivers and streams. The information will include descriptions of each type of water pollutant, likely sources and potential health risks.

For additional information on the National Wildlife Refuges Chesapeake Bay app, click here: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/news/FreeAppVirtual%20ButterflyNeton11NWR.html

For additional information on the EPA How’s My Waterway app, click here:
http://www.epa.gov/mywaterway


Sources: Center for Biological Diversity, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wilderness Society

October 12, 2012

In This Issue

EDUCATION: SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN REQUESTS GAO REVIEW OF REGULATORY IMPEDIMENTS TO UNIVERSITY RESEARCH

On Oct. 3, House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of regulatory actions that may hinder research at the nation’s universities.

The letter comes following a recent report from the National Research Council of the National Academies entitled Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to our Nation’s Prosperity and Security. Among its recommendations was a call to “reduce or eliminate regulations that increase administrative costs, impede research productivity, and deflect creative energy without substantially improving the research environment.”

“While it is necessary and imperative that research universities maintain transparent and accountable systems to track the use of federal dollars, I am concerned with the amount of time and resources being spent on duplicative and burdensome paperwork and red tape in the conduct of federally funded scientific research,” Brooks’ letter states. The letter goes on to request answers from GAO regarding specific federal reporting and record requirements that could be modified by Congress to reduce the overall regulatory burden on federally funded research universities.

The National Academies report also recommends raising government, industry and philanthropy support for Research and Development (R&D) to three percent of Growth Domestic Product, fully funding the America COMPETES Act and “doubling the level of basic research conducted by the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.” The report recommends strengthening federal partnerships with businesses to advance research, improving the capacity of graduate programs to attract students and taking action to increase participation among women and minorities in the fields of science, technology, mathematics and engineering.

To view Rep. Brooks’ letter, click here:
http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/Letters/100312_brooks_GAO.pdf

The full National Academies report and a PDF summary is available here:
http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13396

FORESTS: SUPREME COURT SUSTAINS ROADLESS RULE

On Oct. 1, the United States Supreme Court stated it would not review a Clinton administration roadless rule that protects 45 million acres of national forest from road construction and logging. The decision ends a decade of legal challenges that began when the rule was first finalized in January 2001.

Petitioners had asked the Supreme Court to overturn a decision last year by the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the Clinton rule and reversed a US district judge’s determination that the rule had created de facto wilderness and violated the National Environmental Policy Act. Petitioners included the state of Wyoming, the Colorado Mining Association and the American Petroleum Institute. After the ruling, Gov. Matt Mead stated that while he had concerns about what the decision would mean for economic opportunity in his state, he intends to work collaboratively with the US Forest Service to address these issues.

Earthjustice, which led the argument for the conservationists, released the following statement: “The ten-plus years of our legal campaign to defend the Roadless Rule have seen many twists and turns in the legal process, but one thing hasn’t changed-the undeveloped forest lands at issue remain some of the most environmentally important public lands in our country. They produce clean water and clean air, offer a last refuge to imperiled wildlife across a warming, changing landscape, and provide world-class recreation opportunities for campers, hunters, hikers, fishermen, and bird watchers. Americans love these lands, and it has been an honor to represent those American values before the courts for the last decade.”

While leading congressional Republicans were largely silent on the issue, Democrats hailed the decision: “It’s been a long road since this decade-old conservation proposal was put forward, but today’s announcement by the Court means that millions of acres of our forests will be protected. The timber industry’s legal obstructionist tactics have failed to undermine the public’s strong support for protecting 50 million acres of pristine forests,” stated House Natural Resources Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA).

INTERIOR: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADVISERS

The US Department of Interior (DOI) is seeking nominations for a new panel to be composed of outside scientific experts to help inform the agency’s work on the impacts of climate change on natural resources.

Those nominated would serve on DOI’s Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science. The committee will advise the US Geological Survey’s National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center (NCCWSC) and the Interior’s network of regional Climate Science Centers. The group’s mission is to provide input on the “contents of a national strategy identifying key science priorities to advance management of natural resources in the face of climate change.” The group will also be charged with advancing scientific integrity and evaluate the performance of individual Climate Science Centers before re-establishing expiring agreements.

Nominations should be sent to:

Robin O’Malley
Policy and Partnership Coordinator
National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center
US Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mail Stop 400
Reston, VA 20192
romalley@usgs.gov

Written nominations must be received by November 19, 2012. For additional information, click here: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/10/04/2012-24478/establishment-of-the-advisory-committee-on-climate-change-and-natural-resource-science

GAO: STUDIES HIGHLIGHT POTENTIAL RISKS OF SHALE DEVELOPMENT

Two new studies from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlight the challenges faced in properly monitoring energy development through hydraulic fracturing and the potential risks to the environment and public health.

The study entitled “Information on Shale Resources, Development, and Environmental and Public Health Risks,” concluded that “oil and gas development, whether conventional or shale oil and gas, pose inherent environmental and public health risks, but the extent of these risks associated with shale oil and gas development is unknown, in part, because the studies GAO reviewed do not generally take into account the potential long-term, cumulative effects.”

The study concluded that wildlife could also be affected by oil and gas due to land degradation during the construction of roads and other new infrastructure in previously rural areas. The study noted that ecosystems could be at risk from toxic spills and underground fluid injections. Potential public health risks include diminished air quality caused by engine exhaust from trucks moving to and from drill sites, emissions from diesel-powered machinery, flaring of excess natural gas and emissions from impoundments or pits that store wastewater or chemicals.

The report qualifies, however, that it was impossible to quantify the level of these risks due to a number of factors, including that most studies do not track health impacts on communities over a long period of time and that such studies tend to be localized to one particular site or process. These independent variables made it difficult for the GAO study to reach an overarching conclusion. The report also noted a lack of baseline data, making it difficult for researchers to compare and contrast post-development conditions with pre-development ones.

The second report highlighted statutes that limit EPA’s regulatory authority over shale development. In one example, GAO cites that while the Clean Water Act generally regulates stormwater discharges by requiring industrial and construction facilities to obtain permits, oil and gas well sites are generally exempt from this requirement. It also noted that oil and gas exploration and production wastes are exempt from Resource Conservation and Recovery Act hazardous waste requirements due to an EPA regulatory determination issued in 1988.

Though there have been several legislative attempts by Democratic lawmakers to improve EPA’s regulatory authority over hydraulic fracturing, none have been able to advance in the politically divided 112th Congress. The GAO report was requested by House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA), House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA), E&C Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) and four Senators.

To view the environmental and public health risks report, click here:
http://gao.gov/products/GAO-12-732

To view the regulatory challenges report, click here:
http://gao.gov/products/GAO-12-874

To view the Ranking Member Waxman statement on the reports, click here:
http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?q=news/markey-waxman-degette-loopholes-in-federal-oversight-of-oil-and-gas-drilling-demand-congression

>GAO: INDUSTRIAL DISCHARGE REGULATIONS NEED IMPROVEMENT

A recently publicized report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) contends that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could do more to strengthen its process for reviewing effluent guidelines for reducing water pollution from industrial facilities. The report was requested by House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (D-NY).

The GAO study found that “limitations in EPA’s screening phase may have led it to overlook some industrial categories that warrant further review for new or revised effluent guidelines.” The study concluded that while EPA has made “great strides” in reducing the pollutants in wastewater discharged from industrial facilities and other point sources since enactment of the Clean Water Act, numerous effluent guidelines for industrial polluters have not been revised in decades and could benefit from improved data collection and the agency’s reliance on incomplete hazard data during the screening phase has limited its ability to comprehensively regulate industrial discharge pollution.

In recent years, EPA’s regulatory focus on this issue has shifted from point sources, such as the industrial facilities covered by these effluent guidelines, to nonpoint sources, including agricultural and urban runoff, which are now responsible for most of the pollution making its way into waterways. EPA stated that staff levels for the effluent guidelines program have been cut 40 percent. To improve its capability, the GAO recommended the following actions:

  • Identify and evaluate additional sources of data on the hazards posed by the discharges from industrial categories.
  • Identify and evaluate sources of information to improve the agency’s assessment in the screening phase of treatment technologies that are in use or available for use by industrial categories, including better use of NPDES data.
  • Modify the screening phase of its review process to include thorough consideration of information on the treatment technologies available to industrial categories.

EPA concurred with the first two recommendations, but stated the third is not practical, given the agency’s currently limited resources. View the full report here:
http://www.gao.gov/assets/650/647992.pdf

NOAA: REPORT OUTLINES MANAGEMENT PRACTICES FOR INVASIVE LIONFISH

On Oct. 9, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Science (NCCOS) released new guidelines to help coastal managers control the spread of invasive lionfish.

Entitled “Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management,” the manual purports to use the latest in science and management practices to mitigate invasive lionfish in conservation areas. According to NOAA, NCCOS scientists collaborated with a wide variety of partners, including the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, Reef Environmental Education Foundation, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, Simon Fraser University of Vancouver, the United Nations Caribbean Environmental Program, and Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas, to develop the publication.

Lionfish were first detected in Florida coastal waters in 1985. The animals have no natural predators. The densities of lionfish have surpassed some native reef fish in many locations in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean waters. The prevalence of lionfish only adds to the stress of reefs, which are also being impacted by ocean acidification, overfishing and pollution.

View the full manual here: http://lionfish.gcfi.org/manual/

EPA: NEW E-FILING SYSTEM IMPLEMENTED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENTS

On Oct. 4, the Environmental Protection Agency announced e-NEPA, a new online system that allows federal agencies to submit environmental impact statements (EISs) electronically. The new method reduces paper waste and eliminates the traditional need to mail in or hand deliver hard copies of EISs.

EISs were originally mandated under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to ensure federal agencies take environmental considerations into account when implementing a new federal policy. EPA reviews, provides comments, and maintains a national filing system for EISs.

All agencies are required to use e-NEPA as of the first of the month and EPA no longer accepts paper copies or compact disks of EISs. For additional information on e-NEPA, click here:
http://www.epa.gov/compliance/nepa/submiteis/index.html

BIOFUELS: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER ON INVASIVE ARUNDO DONAX

ESA President Scott Collins signed a letter to the White House Office of Management (OMB) that requested that OMB not approve an Environmental Protection Agency rule which would allow Arundo donax, an invasive species, to qualify as an “advanced biofuel feedstock” under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Noting the non-native plant’s propensity to invade, the organizations argued that the plant should not be included as one for which the EPA provides production incentives. According to a recent assessment by the US Department of Agriculture, Arundo can alter the hydrology, nutrient cycling, and fire regimes in areas where it becomes established and can also displace native plants and negatively impact rare animals.

The letter stated that: “Given the high risk of invasion, providing incentives under the Renewable Fuel Standard for the cultivation of Arundo donax has the potential for serious unintended ecological and economic impacts. Under Executive Order 13112, EPA should not provide production incentives for high risk feedstocks such as Arundo donax without determining that the benefits “clearly outweigh” the costs. Given the difficulty of eradicating Arundo donax and the extent of potential environmental damages, it is highly unlikely that the benefits would clearly outweigh the costs.”

To read the full letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/ArundoDonax.pdf

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: EPA RELEASES PLAN FOR NY GRASSE RIVER CLEANUP

On Oct. 1, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) put forward a plan to address contaminated river sediment at the Grasse River Superfund site in Messena, NY.

For decades, the Aluminum Company of America (Alcoa, Inc.) West facility in Massena, NY released cancer-causing chemicals and other hazardous wastes from its aluminum production and fabrication activities into the Grasse River. These chemicals, primarily polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), accumulated in the fatty tissue of fish and mammals. Under the new proposed plan, approximately, 109,000 cubic yards of PCBS-contaminated sediment would be dredged from near-shore areas of the river and replaced with clean material.

In 1989, the EPA issued an Administrative Order that required Alcoa to investigate the extent of contamination in a portion of the river, to evaluate cleanup options and to design and implement a cleanup plan to be selected by the EPA. Over the years, EPA and Alcoa have reevaluated and tested several cleanup options for the site.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for cleanups, rather than passing the cost to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The investigation and cleanup of the Grasse River Superfund site is being conducted and paid for by Alcoa, Inc. with oversight by the EPA. The estimated cost of the proposed cleanup is $243 million.

Written comments on EPA’s proposed plan may be mailed or emailed by Nov. 15 to:

Young S. Chang, Remedial Project Manager
US Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10007-1866
Email: chang.young@epa.gov

Additional information on the effort can be found here:
http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/aluminumcompany/

CURRENT POLICY

Signed into law

The Billfish Conservation Act (P.L. 112-183) – Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the bill prohibits the sale of several species of billfish. The International Union for Conservation of Nature released a report noting that several species that will be protected under the bill, including the blue marlin, white marlin and the striped marlin, are endangered. The president signed the bill into law Oct. 5.

The Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act (P.L. 112-195) – Sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) – the bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish an electronic manifest system to replace its existing carbon-copy manifest. According to EPA, the new system will save agencies and users roughly $75 million annually. The president signed the bill into law Oct. 5.


Sources: Earthjustice, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, Government Accountability Office, the Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, National Wildlife Federation

September 14, 2012

In This Issue

BUDGET: HOUSE PASSES SIX MONTH FUNDING BILL, AUTOMATIC CUTS STILL PENDING

This week, Congress took up a six month continuing resolution (CR), an omnibus appropriations measure (H. J. Res. 117) that would fund government agencies through the end of March 2013. The funding is necessary as the current fiscal year 2012 ends on Sept. 30. The bill passed the House Sept. 13 by a vote of 329-91. Seventy Republicans and 21 Democrats opposed the measure.

The agreement between House and Senate leaders of both parties uses funding based on the original Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) agreement, the ceiling level of $1.047 trillion. Among its provisions, the bill adds about $800 million in funding for the Department of Interior (DOI) and the US Forest Service for wildfire suppression. The bill also continues a provision to deny funding for a provision in a 2007 energy law that would enforce light bulb efficiency standards. The measure also extends the current pay freeze for federal workers.

The spending bill is free of any new partisan riders, though House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) has indicated that any spending measures taken up during the post-election lame duck session may include such riders. Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Jim Moran (D-VA) indicated he was pleased with how DOI and the Environmental Protection Agency made out in the bill and praised the increased spending to mitigate wildfires.

Sequestration threat still looms

While passage of the measure will ensure that government programs can continue to be funded through the opening months of the new calendar year, whether or not these funding levels will be sustained remains in limbo due to another provision of the Budget Control Act which would initiate a budget sequestration in January. The sequestration would mean an eight percent cut to all discretionary programs (defense and non-defense) unless Congress takes action after the election to either find an alternative $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction or pass legislation to postpone or nullify the proposed discretionary spending cuts.

Budget sequestration was enacted as an incentive to get lawmakers from both parties to develop a meaningful plan to address the burgeoning federal deficit. However, it is expected that lawmakers will not take on the politically contentious issue until after the November elections, at the earliest. Among prospective proposals in the works, a group of bipartisan Senators including Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Mark Warner (D-VA), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) are working on a plan to delay the sequester for six months by providing a “down payment” of a $55 billion deficit-reduction plan to allow Congress more time to come up with the full $1.2 trillion mandated by the Budget Control Act.

On Sept. 14, the White House released a detailed account of how sequestration will impact federal agencies, as mandated by the Sequestration Transparency Act, passed by Congress last month. Read the report here: http://media.bloomberg.com/bb/avfile/rlocIUABWbr0

A few weeks ago, the Ecological Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the American Mathematical Society teamed up to craft an action alert to their respective members, encouraging them to make their voices heard to their congressional representatives. To go to the AIBS Legislative Action page where you’ll find more information on the fiscal cliff and budget sequestration as well as a letter to Members of Congress, click here: http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61759666

FWS: WYOMING GREY WOLVES REMOVED FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES PROTECTIONS

On Aug. 31, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced that gray wolves in Wyoming no longer require protection under the Endangered Species Act.

According to FWS, there are 328 wolves in Wyoming, 230 of which live outside the park. Under the delisting plan, Wyoming has agreed to maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in a trophy game area near Yellowstone covering 10 percent to 15 percent of the state. Wolves will be labeled predators in the rest of the state and could be shot without a hunting license. Existing federal law prohibits hunting in Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the National Elk Refuge, and the Wind River Reservation in 2012, though hunting could occur in future seasons. There are currently over 1,774 wolves throughout the greater Yellowstone National Park region and these numbers have exceeded recovery goals for 10 straight years.

Several environmental organizations, including Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Natural Resources Defense Council, have filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the Department of Interior over the decision. The groups contend that the delisting plan fails to ensure genetic viability of wolves in and around Yellowstone National Park and that Wyoming has not guaranteed it will maintain a viable population of the species. FWS contends Wyoming’s wolf management plan sufficiently addresses these concerns.

Wyoming is the last state in the region to delist the animals because of legal challenges to its management plan. The animals were delisted by Congress in April 2011 with passage of a rider to an appropriations bill that let Idaho, Montana and parts of three other states establish their own management plans. The rider was championed by House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

FWS will continue monitoring the state’s wolves for a minimum of five years and can consider an emergency relisting, if data demonstrate sustainment efforts are in jeopardy. The rule becomes effective Sept. 30, 2012.

To view the official Federal Register notice, click here:
http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/77FR55530.pdf

For more information on FWS’s wolf conservation efforts, click here: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/

KEYSTONE PIPELINE: TRANSCANADA SUBMITS NEW ROUTE PROPOSAL

On Sept. 5, TransCanada submitted a supplemental report to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that would propose a new route for the Keystone pipeline.

The newly proposed route would avoid the Sandhills region, which sits atop the Ogalla Aquifer, an important drinking water source for Nebraskans. According to TransCanada, the new route avoids areas similar to the Sand Hills, areas with erodible soils that put public drinking water resources at risk. Nonetheless, environmentalists and some local landowners along the proposed route remain opposed to the pipeline.

According to Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska, a leading local organization opposing the pipeline, allaying the environmental concerns of any route in the northern portion of the state is nearly impossible. Kleeb asserts that if a pipeline must be built, it should run parallel to an existing TransCanada pipeline in eastern Nebraska. However, rerouting the Keystone pipeline as Kleeb suggests would force TransCanada to modify its route through South Dakota, necessitating additional reviews as well as cost increases.

The Nebraska DEQ intends to send a finalized report to Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) by the end of the year. The governor will have 30 days to then rule on the new route. The Obama administration delayed a decision on approving the Keystone pipeline until early next year, citing a need for an alternative route to undergo the proper environmental review process.

In contrast to the White House, Congressional Republicans have repeatedly put forth legislation to expedite the approval of the pipeline and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has declared that he would approve the pipeline immediately upon taking office.

For more information on the TransCanada report, click here: https://ecmp.nebraska.gov/deq-seis/

INTERIOR: MIGRATORY BIRD CONSERVATION GRANTS ANNOUNCED

On Sept. 12, Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced that the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission has approved nearly $11 million in revenue from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to add an estimated 10,640 wetland acres to seven units of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The purchase and lease of wetland habitat parcels are funded in part with proceeds from sales of the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the Federal Duck Stamp. The commission also approved $18.4 million in federal funding to conserve more than 95,000 acres of wetlands and associated habitat in the United States under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). The combined acreage includes the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and numerous species of waterfowl.

The seven units of protected wetlands include Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (MT), San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (TX), Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (TX), Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (NY), Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge (OR), Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area, (CA), Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge (SC), Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (MT), San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge (TX) and Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (TX).

The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission includes Senators Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), Representatives John Dingell (D-MI) and Robert Wittman (R-VA), Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, as well as state representatives as ex officio members who vote on projects located within their respective states. Additional information on NAWCA grant projects and wetland conservation grant opportunities is available here:
http://www.fws.gov/birdhabitat/Grants/NAWCA/index.shtm

EVERGLADES: FLORIDA ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR WATER RESTORATION PROJECTS

On Sept. 11, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced $880 million in new Everglades restoration projects agreed to earlier this year in negotiations with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The projects build on the $1.8 billion Florida has invested to clean up Everglades waters and pushes back the deadline to clean up the waters to 2025, a move state and federal officials assert is more realistic. The move was prompted in part by a Sept. 2010 federal judge order for the state of Florida to act on long-stalled clean-up plans. According to DEP, core project components are intended to be designed, constructed and operational within six years.

According to Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), the $880 million will come from a combination of revenues from the state and the South Florida Water Management District. The district manages water for 16 counties running from Orlando to the Keys and collects a share of property taxes. The investments will go toward efforts that include expansions to the state’s 45,000-acre network of artificial, pollution-filtration marshes and new water-storage features designed to combat pollution in the Everglades caused by farm and urban runoff.

Last October, Gov. Scott directed DEP Sec. Vinyard and South Florida Water Management District Executive Director Melissa Meeker to work collaboratively with EPA to expand water quality improvement projects necessary to achieve the state water quality standard established for the Everglades.

More information on the initiative can be found here: http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/FLDEP-516d48

-Greenwire

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: FWS PROPOSES CRITICAL HABITAT DESIGNATIONS FOR SALAMANDER, SAN FRANCISCO SHRUB

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced it is seeking comments on critical habitat designations for a New Mexico Salamander and a San Francisco plant long thought to be extinct. Both species were recently designated as ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act.

Jemez Mountains salamander

On Sept. 12, FWS announced the Jemez Mountains salamander (Plethodon neomexicanus) was given federal protection and has proposed a rule to designate 90,789 acres in Los Alamos, Rio Arriba, and Sandoval Counties, NM as critical habitat for the species.

The Jemez Mountains salamander is one of two North American plethodontid salamander species geographically isolated from all other salamander species, the other being the Sacramento Mountains salamander. Threats to the salamander cited by FWS include wildland fires, forest silvicultural practices, livestock grazing, habitat fragmentation as well as residential and recreational development. According to WildEarth Guardians, which petitioned the listing, the species is now found in only 38 percent of historically occupied sites.

Comments will be accepted until November 13, 2012 and can be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS-R2-ES-2012-0063) or by mail to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R2-ES-2012-0063
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203.

To view the full Federal Register notice for the Jemez Mountains salamander, click here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-09-12/pdf/2012-21882.pdf

Franciscan manzanita

On Sept. 5, FWS announced the Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) was given federal protection and the agency has published a proposed rule to designate approximately 318 acres as critical habitat for the plant in San Francisco City and county.

According to the agency, the last known wild Franciscan manzanita, a low-growing evergreen shrub, was discovered in 2009 during a road renovation project and moved to the grounds of the Presidio for protection. Specifically, the FWS is seeking historical information on the past range of the plant as well as probable economic impacts of designating critical habitat for the plant to help the agency reach a final determination on the proposed rule.

Comments will be accepted until November 5, 2012 and can be submitted online at the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FWS-R8-ES-2012-0067) or by mail to:

Public Comments Processing
Attn: FWS-R8-ES-2012-0067
Division of Policy and Directives Management
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203.

To view the full Federal Register notice for Franciscan Manzanita, click here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-09-05/pdf/2012-21744.pdf

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

 

H.R. 6362, the Revitalizing the Economy of Fisheries in the (REFI) Pacific Act of 2012 – Introduced Sept. 10 by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) the bill would direct the Secretary of Commerce to issue a fishing capacity reduction loan to refinance the existing loan funding the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Fishing Capacity Reduction Program. The bill has been referred to the Natural Resources Committee. The bill has 10 bipartisan original cosponsors.

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On Sept. 11, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on the following bill:

H.R. 4255, the Accountability in Grants Act – Introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the bill would prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from awarding grants, contracts or partnerships in foreign countries to deal with air pollution. The legislation’s advocates believe spending money on projects abroad goes beyond the scope of EPA’s core mission and is not fiscally sound policy in light of the growing federal deficit.

Passed by House

S. 710, Hazardous Waste Electronic Manifest Establishment Act – Introduced by Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the bill would shift EPA from using paper manifests to an electronic manifest system for the tracking of hazardous waste. The bill has five bipartisan cosponsors, including Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK). It passed on Sept. 11 by voice vote after having passed the Senate early last month by unanimous consent.

H.R. 4631, the Government Spending Accountability Act – Introduced by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), the bill would require agencies to publicly post reports on their conference spending every three months, including details on travel expenses, justification for the locations and an explanation of how they furthered the agencies’ missions. The bill also would prevent federal agencies from spending over $500,000 on a single conference and would reduce federal travel budgets to 30 percent below Fiscal Year 2010 levels. The bill defines a conference as an event that an employee travels 25 miles or more to attend, whether for consulting, education, discussion, or training. The bill passed by voice vote on Sept. 11.

H.R. 5544, the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act - Introduced by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) the bill would authorize the exchange of 86,000 acres of land in the Superior National Forest in Northern Minnesota for educational trust lands owned by the State of Minnesota that are located within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The bill passed Sept. 12 by a mostly partisan vote of 225-189 with two Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in supporting the measure.

The exchange would allow the state to manage these lands to generate revenue for local schools by allowing mining and logging, but the legislation’s opponents contend that the bill fails to acknowledge that Minnesota counties are already compensated for the presence of federal land within their boundaries. Opponents of the bill are also concerned that the exchange could impair recreation opportunities in the Superior National Forest. They also point out that the bill does not identify the specific lands that would be traded and opened for development.

H.R. 6213, the No More Solyndras Act – Introduced by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), the bill would set a cutoff date on applications for new loans, place greater reporting requirements on DOE for existing loans, spell out administrative penalties for violating the 2005 Energy Policy Act and disallow the practice of loan subordination when managing struggling loans. The bill passed Sept. 14 by a vote of 245-161 with 22 Democrats joining all but four Republicans in supporting the bill.

Considered by Senate Committee

On Sept. 12, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the following bill:

S. 3469, the Nuclear Waste Administration Act – Introduced by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the bill would reform the nation’s nuclear waste program through the establishment of a new organization to manage nuclear waste, provide a consensual process to oversee the siting of nuclear waste facilities and ensure adequate funding for managing such waste.

Approved by Senate Committee

On Sept. 13, the Select Committee on Indian Affairs approved the following bill:

S. 1684 – Indian Tribal Energy Development and Self-Determination Act Amendments of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to provide Indian tribes with technical assistance in planning their energy resource development programs. Specifically, the legislation would streamline the approval process for tribal energy resource agreements, which are meant to give tribes direct authority over lease reviews, approvals and business agreements. Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) is an original cosponsor of the measure.


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Greenwire, the Hill, POLITICO, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House

August 17, 2012

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS AVOIDS FALL SHUTDOWN, SEQUESTRATION CUTS STILL LOOM

On July 31, congressional leaders announced an agreement on federal appropriations funding that would avoid a government shutdown when current funding runs out at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 on Sept. 30. The deal has the benefit of punting a contentious debate over federal spending levels for FY 2013 until after the November elections.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that Congress would take up a continuing resolution in September, reportedly free of riders, to fund the government through the end of March. Overall, the agreement would fund the government at $1.047 trillion for the six months beginning after Sept. 30. Politically, the move would give whichever party is in control of Congress and the White House next year the ability to set funding levels for the remainder of FY 2013. Given the closeness of the presidential election, both parties feel this works in their favor.

The deal also takes an issue off the table for what could be a potentially busy and contentious lame duck session. In addition to needing to address a swath of tax cuts set to expire at year’s end, Congress has still not yet reached agreement on how to handle across-the-board sequestration cuts instituted under the Budget Control Act. If Congress does not act before January, discretionary spending programs will receive an eight percent cut in funding totaling $109 billion.

As the deadline nears, the White House is working to determine which federal resources are legally exempt from sequestration. Thus far, the White House has issued a letter exempting military personnel from the sequestration cuts, placing additional fiscal strain on the remainder of the defense budget and other federal programs. On Aug. 7, the president also signed into law legislation requiring the administration to outline within 30 days how it would implement the $109 billion sequestration cuts.

SENATE: COMMITTEE HEARING REVIVES CLIMATE CHANGE DEBATE

On August 1, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee convened for a hearing on climate change science. The hearing marked the first time the committee had dedicated a hearing specifically focused on the issue since 2009.

In her opening statement, Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) referenced the National Academy of Sciences as well as reports from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautic Space Administration that state that humans are impacting climate change and that these changes are already having detrimental impacts on the environment including extreme weather conditions, droughts and melting glaciers.

“Climate change is real, human activities are the primary cause, and the warming planet poses a significant risk to people and the environment. To declare otherwise, in my view, is putting the American people in danger – direct danger,” stated Chairwoman Boxer. “The body of evidence is overwhelming, the world’s leading scientists agree, and predictions of climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes.”

In her statement, Chairwoman Boxer also referenced a New York Times article by former climate-skeptic Professor Richard Muller who stated: “Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.” In the article’s opening sentence, Muller proclaims “Call me a converted skeptic.”

In contrast, Ranking Member James Inhofe’s (R-OK) opening statement highlighted Congress’ failure to enact cap-and-trade legislation as a sign that “the global warming movement” has lost its popularity. His statement outlined a series of quotes from prominent newspapers, ranging from the New York Times to the Washington Post that suggest the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was flawed. During the hearing, Inhofe also referred to a statement by Roger Pielke Sr. discrediting Muller as “an attention getter.”

“In 2009 with a Democratic President, and overwhelming Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate, global warming alarmists were on top of the world – they thought they would finally reach their goal of an international agreement that would eliminate fossil fuels. Yet the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill didn’t happen,” stated Ranking Member Inhofe. He further criticized the administration’s efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, lamenting that “President Obama is doing through his bureaucracy what he couldn’t do legislatively.”

“We’ve been through this now for the past 3 and a half years and the results are clear: President Obama’s green energy agenda has been a disaster,” Inhofe continued. “The time has come to put these tired, failed policies to rest and embrace the US energy boom so that we can put Americans back to work, turn this economy around, become totally energy independent from the Middle East, and ensure energy security for years to come.”

Witnesses testifying included James McCarthy with the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and Christopher Field, Professor of Biology and Environmental Earth Science at the Carnegie Institution for Science. McCarthy noted how new measuring tools implemented in the 2000s have perfected analyses of how sea levels have begun to rise and how glaciers are melting. Field emphasized that the changing climate leads to a change in the risk of extreme weather conditions and long-term higher temperatures.

Also testifying was John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville. A climate change skeptic repeatedly invited by congressional Republicans, Christy asserted that there had been less extreme weather in the past decade than in previous decades and that a scientific consensus around climate change does not exist. “Climate change alone is a weak leg on which to stand to justify a centrally planned, massive change in energy production, infrastructure and cost,” he stated. Christy and Inhofe also charged that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has actively excluded scientists who do not represent the consensus viewpoint on climate change. During the question and answer portion, however, Christy admitted to Chairwoman Boxer that his reference to a research study claiming bias in station temperature readings had not been peer-reviewed.

“What we’re trying to do is provide sufficient information for policymakers to make good decisions to try to figure out ways to avoid the damages that come from climate change without providing unacceptable costs to the rest of society,” stated Field. “And we’re really trying to find smart ways to move forward, recognizing what’s happening, recognizing what the risks are and that there are consequences of using the atmosphere as a dump for greenhouse gasses just the same way there are consequences of making changes in the economy that are intended to alleviate those damages.”

The hearing’s second panel included Margo Thorning, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist for the American Council for Capital Formation, who asserted that businesses are taking a “no regrets” approach, preemptively preparing for the possible effects of climate change the way they would for any eventuality. While declining to comment on climate science, she cited several examples of what businesses are doing to cope with environmental changes, including the development of drought-resistant seeds that could be used if droughts become more prevalent as well as hardening their infrastructure to cope with extreme weather events. Chairwoman Boxer responded that Congress should join businesses in adopting a “no regrets” strategy on climate change.

Read Chairwoman Boxer’s full opening statement here:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Majority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=e2bab1e9-802a-23ad-4fdc-aa5616f99d2a&Region_id=&Issue_id=

Read Ranking Member Inhofe’s full opening statement here:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=e28fa0e1-802a-23ad-41d1-4fc2d95c8e89&Region_id=&Issue_id=

View the full hearing here:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=c0293eca-802a-23ad-4706-02abdbf7f7c3

Richard Muller’s New York Times op-ed is available here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html

CLIMATE CHANGE: CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR LAUNCHES CLIMATE WEBSITE

This week, Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) launched a new website entitled “climate change: just the facts.” The new site provides a clearinghouse of scientific data targeted towards informing visitors on the issue of climate change.

“The fact is that on the key issues, the science is clear: climate change is real and happening now; human-made greenhouse gas emissions are affecting our planet; and we need to take action,” the site’s main page states. “Just as we reached a point where we stopped debating whether cigarette smoke causes cancer, we need to end the climate change debate and focus on how to solve the problem.”

The website includes a list of 198 national and international scientific organizations, including the Ecological Society of America (ESA), that assert climate change is caused by human activities. In addition to the list, the website’s “scientific consensus” page includes links to climate change reports from the International Panel on Climate Change, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

View the full page here:
http://www.opr.ca.gov/s_climatechangefacts.php

A link to ESA’s position statement on climate change is available here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/ecosystem_management.php

INTERIOR: EFFORTS UNDERWAY TO COORIDNATE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN THE ARCTIC

On July 30, the Obama administration announced two new efforts that seek to strengthen the role of science in management decisions related to energy development in Alaska.

Through the administration’s Interagency Working Group on Coordination of Domestic Energy Development and Permitting in Alaska (commonly known as the Alaska Interagency Working Group), will work towards to create a centralized hub on scientific information to inform policymakers and the general public. The working group will also work on a framework for evaluating potential infrastructure development in the Alaskan Arctic.

The science hub will be developed by the working group in partnership with the Arctic Research Commission and other members of the scientific community. Scientists and policymakers involved in the Alaska Interagency Working Group include Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes, Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, United States Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt, National Science Foundation Director Subra Suresh, and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Science Advisor to the Director Alan Thornhill.

According to the Department of Interior, the working group will outline its efforts in a report to the president by December 31, 2012. For additional information on the initiative, click here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/07/12/coordinating-safe-and-responsible-energy-development-alaska

Northwest Reserve Management Plan Outlined

Interior has subsequently announced a management plan for the 22.5-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve in northwest Alaska (NPR-A).

According to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the plan would provide special management protections to 13 million acres while allowing access to the “vast majority” of oil and gas reserves and allowing consideration of a future construction of a pipeline to transport crude to market. The proposal has been praised by environmentalists who assert that the plan identifies most critical wildlife habitat in five recognized special areas while allowing oil and gas leasing on 11 million acres of the reserve.

The federal agency’s move has been met with skepticism among Alaska lawmakers. “I am very concerned about this choice by the Department of the Interior. The new preferred alternative still seems to close off several options for building a pipeline across the NPR-A,” said Mark Begich (D-AK) in a press statement. “We’ve known since the beginning that a pipeline across the NPR-A is a critical piece of the puzzle for successful Arctic development…However, today’s decision creates many more questions than answers about how we are going to get billions of barrels of oil from the Chukchi Sea into TAPS.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who currently serves as ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, was also critical of the effort in a press statement. “Today, The Obama administration picked the most restrictive management plan possible. The environmentally sensitive Teshekpuk Lake area was already under a 10-year deferral for additional study, but this alternative goes vastly beyond that, putting half of the petroleum reserve off limits,” she said. “This decision endangers not only further exploration of the NPR-A, but also development of existing offshore leases in the Chukchi Sea.”

A finalized management plan is set to be published in Nov. 2012. More information on the NPR-A plan can be found here: http://www.blm.gov/npra/index.html

ENDANGERED SPECIES: REPORT TOUTS CITIZENS' ROLE IN PRESERVING WILDLIFE

A study published in Science magazine this week reinforces the important role of citizen involvement in buttressing US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) work to identify species eligible for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Authored by academic researchers Berry Brosi and Eric Bibler, the study found citizens’ ability to petition to list species for federal protection substantially aids the work of FWS, which is limited by budget and staff size. It found that citizen-initiated protected species actually face higher levels of biological threats, are more likely to be in conflict with development and include a greater portion of subspecies than those proposed by FWS.

The study comes amid attempts in the US House of Representatives to limit what some view as excessive petitions and litigations to list species. The report states that “calls to streamline the ESA and to rely exclusively on FWS to identify and list species might mean that a significant number of species that deserve legal protection – especially those that are politically unpopular because of the potential to obstruct development projects – would be left out in the cold.”

For more information on the study, click here:
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2012/esa-petitions-08-16-2012.html

The complete study is available here:
http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6096/802

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

 

On July 31, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 6089, the Healthy Forest Management Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill would give states broad new authority to designate logging projects on federal lands to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. The bill would allow governors to designate “high-risk areas” where the Forest Service would be required to implement emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects within 60 days. The bill passed by a vote of 28-19.

H.R. 2706 Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the bill would ban the sale of billfish, which include marlins, spearfish and other prized game fish with pronounced bills. The measure exempts billfish caught in Hawaii and Pacific insular areas. The bill was approved by unanimous consent.

H.R. 5319 the Nashua River Wild and Scenic River Study Act – Introduced by Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), the bill would designate parts of the Nashua River and its tributaries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire as wild and scenic. The committee adopted an amendment from Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) to require the report to also study how the designation would affect existing commercial and recreational activities, energy production and transmission, local zoning regulations and the authorities the Interior Department can use to condemn property. The bill was approved by unanimous consent.

H.R. 5544, the Minnesota Education Investment and Employment Act – Introduced by Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN), the bill would authorize and expedite a land exchange in the Superior National Forest for about 86,000 state-owned acres in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Conservationists oppose the bill, stating that it undermines the existing environmental review process. The bill was approved 25-19.

H.R. 6060, the Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Bishop, the bill would reauthorize funding for the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs, which expired in fiscal 2011. The bill was approved by unanimous consent.

On August 1, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the following bills limiting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations:

H.R. 2541, the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act – Introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), the bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from requiring a water pollution permit for silviculture. EPA is planning to issue a rule stating that discharges from logging roads do not require National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits because they’re not included in the definition of “storm water discharge associated with industrial activity.” The bill, which is cosponsored by several moderate House Democrats, was approved by voice vote.

H.R. 4278, the Preserving Rural Resources Act – Introduced by Rep. Robert Hunt (R-VA), the bill would eliminate limits on Clean Water Act regulatory exemptions for agricultural activities. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 30-19.

H.R. 5961, the Farmer’s Privacy Act – Introduced by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the bill would amend the Clean Water Act to prohibit EPA from conducting aerial surveillance of farmland without voluntary written consent, public notice and a certification of reasonable suspicion that a violation has occurred. The measure was approved by voice vote.

Passed House

H.R. 6233, the Agricultural Disaster Assistance Act of 2012 – Introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill authorizes $383 million for supplemental agricultural disasters assistance for Fiscal Year 2012. The bill offsets the cost of the funding by changes and funding reductions to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program. The bill passed Aug. 2 by a vote of 223-197 with 35 Democrats voting with all but 46 Republicans in supporting the legislation. The bill is considered a non-starter in the Senate, whose Democratic leaders oppose the offset cuts to environmental programs.

Introduced in Senate

S. 3475, the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act of 2012 - Introduced Aug. 1 by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the bill would authorize $10 million in Fiscal Years 2013, 2014, and 2015 for National Science Foundation (NSF) grants to nonprofit organizations and university departments that seek to increase participation among women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The bill has been referred to the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

S. 3512, the Coal Ash Recycling and Oversight Act of 2012 – Introduced Aug. 2 by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND), Kent Conrad (D-NT) and Max Baucus (D-MT), the bill would pre-empt Environmental Protection Agency regulation of coal ash disposal and create a state-led oversight system. The bill is meant to be more of a compromise in comparison to H.R. 2273, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, which passed the House last fall. The Senate bill includes additional requirements dealing with permitting, monitoring and inspections. Environmental groups contend the bill would still hinder federal regulators’ ability to shut down violators or enforce structural integrity. In addition to the three lead sponsors, the bill has 21 bipartisan cosponsors, including most of the Senate’s moderate Democrats and has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 3509, the Everglades for the Next Generation Act – Introduced Aug. 2 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would provide for expedited project implementation relating to the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan authorized under the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2000. The lack of a new WRDA bill (which is supposed to be reauthorized every two years) has been cited by Everglades advocates as hindering the project’s implementation. Congress last passed a WRDA in 2007.

Signed into law

H.R. 205 – the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Homeownership (HEARTH) Act – Introduced by Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the legislation allows native tribes to lease restricted lands for residential, business, public, religious, educational, or recreational purposes without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. The president signed the measure July 30.

H.R. 5872, the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the bill gives the White House 30 days to provide a detailed report on how it plans to address a required $109 billion cut to discretionary spending programs beginning in Jan. 2013, enacted under the Budget Control Act. The president signed the measure on August 7.


Sources: AAAS, Center for Biological Diversity, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the New York Times, POLITICO, Sacramento Bee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Stanford Report, the White House

July 27, 2012

In This Issue

SENATE: COMMITTEE REVIEWS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON NATIVE AMERICANS

On July 19, the Senate Select Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on the impact climate change is having on Native Americans and tribal lands as well as what resources are available to adapt to changes in the environment.

Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-HI) spoke of the importance of “Malama Aina,” which is Hawaiian for “caring for the land.” Chairman Akaka said that Native Americans hold the oldest record for being environmental stewards of the nation as it has been a foundation of their culture and world view “over thousands of years” and “hundreds of generations.”In his opening statement, he noted that “while environmental changes are widespread, studies indicate that native communities are disproportionately impacted because they depend on nature for traditional foods, sacred sites and to practice ceremonies that pass on cultural values to future generations.”

Testifying on behalf of the Obama administration was Joann Chase, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) American Indian Environmental Office who is also a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. She noted that the agency has had “over a hundred consultations with tribal governments.” During consultations, tribal leaders said that the agency staff need to better understand federal Indian law and policy, which has led to new staff training for EPA employees. Tribal leaders have also called for better interagency coordination between federal bureaus. Chase cited the various impacts of climate change on tribes, including rising sea levels, loss of species, habitat degradation and relocation of entire communities. She also noted that EPA has established an adaptation work group at the request of tribes to enhance the agency’s efforts to develop climate adaptation strategies to aide tribal communities in sustaining their natural resources.

Also testifying was Margaret Davidson, Acting Director of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management. She noted that NOAA is working with tribal leaders to anticipate and adapt to the risks and vulnerabilities associated with climate change. In her testimony, she said that in 2013, the National Climate Assessment “for the first time ever” will include a chapter specifically on the impacts of climate change on “tribal, indigenous, and native lands and peoples.” She also discussed NOAA’s collaborations with state and local governments, NGOs (including the Nature Conservancy) to develop training programs for tribal communities to help mitigate impacts of climate change.

Indian Affairs Committee Vice Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) asserted that federal regulations can have unintended consequences that “unduly burden the economy” and “interfere with economic growth.” These sentiments were seconded by Tex Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation of the Fort Berthold Reservation, who called for restoration of full tribal authority over tribal lands. He also urged EPA and other federal agencies to let tribal lands make their own rules on oil and gas development on their lands. In stark contrast, Billy Frank, Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, called for more federal assistance in aiding salmon recovery in the state of Washington. In his testimony, Frank noted that disappearing glaciers, ocean acidification and increased violent weather conditions have diminished the cold, clean water that salmon and other fish populations need to thrive.

Most of the other witness testimony focused on the impacts climate change is having on their specific communities. Chief Mike Williams of the Yupiit Nation noted that 86 percent of indigenous Alaskan villages are threatened by flooding and erosion due to warming temperatures. Malia Akutagawa, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii – Manoa said that climate change has reduced the number of good fishing days for Native Hawaiians, led to a 15 percent decline in rainfall, drying of forests, crop loss, beach erosion from sea level rise, increased destruction from wildfires, and increased surface air temperature. She also noted that climate change has affected plant flowering and animal migration cycles. Akutagawa called for federal assistance for increasing Hawaiian food security, family farms and coastal zone management programs.

There was a general consensus from the witnesses representing indigenous communities that the federal government needs to increase or improve consultation with tribal leaders. Frank called for more congressional field hearings on tribal lands to better understand local issues.

View the full hearing here:
http://www.indian.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?hearingID=ed1ca187907141debc619b3e0e11e923

>HOUSE: COMMITTEE REVIEWS FEDERAL DROUGHT MONITORING EFFORTS

On July 25, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing to review the status of federal drought forecasting efforts. The hearing comes as the existing authorization for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) is due to expire this year.

In his opening statement, Chairman Hall (R-TX) sought to keep the focus on drought mitigation efforts and steer clear of climate change discussions. “Debating the causes of drought is not in front of us today,” he said. “The real question is: What can be done to provide better and timelier information to help enable federal, state and local governments, and individual citizens better deal with droughts’ impacts, and how to afford better forecasting and quicker reactions by governmental entities?”

Committee Democrats, nonetheless, maintained that a discussion on drought conditions and mitigation efforts must account for environmental changes. “We cannot have a comprehensive approach to drought research and mitigation without exploring the potential linkages with a changing global climate,” asserted Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “While I will be the first to urge caution in jumping to conclusions about the present-day impacts of a warming planet, I know that climatologists around the world are coming to a much better understanding of this complex relationship. We should leave the science to the scientists.”

NIDIS was established in 2006 following a Western Governors’ Association report two years earlier that urged for one centralized, comprehensive source of detailed and accurate information. It was established under the National Integrated Drought Information System Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-430), introduced by Chairman Hall. A new draft reauthorization bill to be introduced by the chairman requires NOAA to submit a report to Congress within 18 months of enactment that illustrates the agency’s progress in implementing the program and details specific plans for its continued development. The report must also show research, monitoring and forecasting needs for improving the ability to predict droughts. The language includes $13.5 million in funding per fiscal year for 2013 through 2017.

All the witnesses praised the multiple ongoing efforts of NOAA and expressed appreciation for the NIDIS US Drought Monitor, which maps updated drought conditions and is relied upon by farmers, city planners and the media, among others, as a source of detailed and accurate information. Testifying on behalf of the administration was Roger Pulwarty, Director of NIDIS. In his written testimony he asserted that “key to the future success of NIDIS is an improved understanding of the drivers of drought onset, severity and duration from seasonal to yearly to decades. Success will also be heavily dependent on a sustained national system of credible, consistent, and authoritative observations.”

J.D. Strong, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board expressed support for the NIDIS program and referred to droughts as “arguably the nation’s most menacing and costly natural disaster, as evidenced by the billions of dollars each year attributed to the impacts of all too common drought episodes.” Strong also endorsed the monitoring of environmental changes as essential to effective drought monitoring. “Specific to development of a drought early warning system, which is a key goal of the program and central to effective drought preparedness and response, NIDIS should work to advance climate observation. Scientists at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and elsewhere should focus efforts on evaluation of such things as sea surface temperature variations and La Niña events to forecast, with the greatest accuracy and most advanced warning time possible, the onset and severity of particular drought events.”

To view the hearing, click here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-drought-forecasting-monitoring-and-decision-making-review-national

>BUDGET: ORGANIZATIONS RALLY ON CAPITOL HILL FOR FISCAL COMPROMISE

On July 25, several hundred individuals representing organizations that benefit from federal non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending met for a rally that sought to highlight the importance of NDD funding and call for a balanced approach towards addressing the rising national debt.

The rally was convened by the NDD Summit, which consists of 60 delegates representing a broad swath of federal interests including healthcare, education, science and infrastructure. Organizers sought to promote the importance of NDD spending in lieu of scheduled across-the-board federal spending cuts scheduled to be implemented in January 2013 unless Congress takes action. The cuts were mandated under the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) and can only be avoided if Congress passes a bill that either outright nullifies the cuts or, in accordance with existing law, passes legislation that will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion, an amount roughly equal to the indiscriminate cuts to discretionary spending.

According to a recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), not only will implementation of the cuts lead to a loss of over one million jobs over the next two years, but it will not have a substantial long-term impact on the deficit, which is primarily driven by factors other than discretionary spending. “Our unsustainable fiscal situation is driven by health care inflation, the retirement of the baby boomers, and an inefficient tax code that raises too little revenue,” the report notes. “Yet the sequester does nothing to address these problems, instead cutting almost exclusively from defense and non-defense discretionary spending, which are already projected to decline substantially as a percentage of the economy over the coming decade.”

Members of Congress speaking at the rally included Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA), House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA).

For additional information on the rally, see the recent post on ESA’s blog
http://www.esa.org/esablog/ecology-in-policy/time-to-restore-balance/

To view the BPC report, click here:
http://bipartisanpolicy.org/library/report/sequester

EDUCATION: WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES STEM MASTER TEACHER CORPS

On July 17, the Obama administration announced its plan to create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Master Teacher Corps, which it says will consist of the nation’s top STEM educators.

The White House reports that the STEM Master Teacher Corps will begin with 50 exceptional STEM teachers established in 50 sites and will be expanded over four years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. The selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and be rewarded with an annual stipend of up to $20,000 added on to their base salary. Key aspects of the effort include the following:

  • A rigorous selection of the best and brightest math and science teachers nationwide
  • National recognition and rewards, including compensation to keep Corps members in the profession
  • Corps members will function as a national resource for their schools and other STEM educators

The president immediately dedicated $100 million in funding for the program through the existing Teacher Incentive Fund. However, the $1 billion for the program outlined in his Fiscal Year 2013 budget request must first be approved by Congress. The STEM Master Teacher Corps would be incorporated into the administration’s proposed RESPECT Project, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching, a broader effort to improve teaching in the United States.

The STEM Master Teacher Corps initiative is part of the administration’s effort to advance STEM education to enhance student skills to increase their success in the current job market as well as boost the nation’s overall global standing in innovative competitiveness.

View the full announcement here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/07/17/president-obama-announces-plans-new-national-corps-recognize-and-reward-

ENDANGERED SPECIES: FEDERAL PROTECTIONS ANNOUNCED FOR SOUTH AMERICAN BIRDS

On July 24, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a final rule providing federal protections for six South American bird species. Under the rule, the ash-breasted tit-tyrant, Junín grebe, Junín rail, Peruvian plantcutter, royal cinclodes, and white-browed tit-spinetail, native to Peru would be listed as “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act. The ash-breasted tit-tyrant and the royal cinclodes are also native to Bolivia.

According to FWS, there are currently 600 foreign species listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, compared to 1,390 native to the United States. While FWS has no regulatory jurisdiction in foreign countries, their federal listing places restrictions on the importation of the animal and raises awareness, prompting research and conservation efforts on the species’ behalf. The Act also provides limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries.

FWS reports that the bird species’ habitats have become highly-fragmented as a result of forest clearing for agriculture, grazing and wood extraction. The Junín grebe and Junín rail’s water habitats have been adversely impacted by hydropower generation, mining activity and diseases caused by lake water contamination. These birds are also considered endangered due to their extremely small population sizes, which makes them particularly vulnerable to human activities or unexpected events.

The final rule was published July 24 in the Federal Register and will become effective on August 23. The document is available online at http://www.fws.gov/policy/frsystem/default.cfm by clicking on the 2012 Final Rules under Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants.

Information on grant opportunities for critically endangered species can be found on the FWS’s Wildlife without Borders-Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Fund website:
http://www.fws.gov/international/DIC/global/critically_endangered_animals_conservationfund.html.

For more information on the agency’s efforts to aid foreign endangered species, click here:
http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/international-activities.html.

SOLAR: AGENCIES FINALIZE PLAN FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT ON PUBLIC LANDS

On July 24, the Department of Interior (DOI) and the Department of Energy finalized a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

The Solar PEIS will serve as a roadmap for solar energy development by establishing solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission, the fewest resource conflicts and incentives for development within those zones. The planning effort sought to identify locations on federal lands that had “excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources,” DOI reports. It is expected that ultimately, the 17 Solar Energy Zones identified in the PEIS will develop enough energy to power over seven million homes.

Additionally, the plan establishes a framework for regional mitigation plans, including an initial pilot project for the Dry Lake zone north of Las Vegas. It also finalizes a process for identifying future solar energy zones, including efforts already underway with California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation Area and Arizona’s Restoration Energy Design Project.

To view the final PEIS, click here: http://solareis.anl.gov/documents/index.cfm

For a copy of the executive summary of the PEIS, click here:
http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=310791

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On July 19, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held a hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 3906, to amend the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act to allow recreational fishing for Atlantic Striped Bass in the Block Island Sound transit zone – Introduced by Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY), the bill would allow increased recreational fishing in Block Island Sound, located off the coast of Rhode Island.

H.R. 6007, the North Texas Zebra Mussel Barrier Act of 2012 – Introduced by Reps. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX) and Sam Johnson (R-TX), the bill would allow water transfers by the North Texas Municipal Water District and the Greater Texoma Utility Authority to keep invasive zebra mussels from entering the state’s waterways.

H.R. 6096, the Atlantic Fisheries Statutes Reauthorization Act of 2012 – Introduced by Reps. John Runyan (R-NJ) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the bill would reauthorize the Anadromous Fish Conservation Act, the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, the Interjurisdictional Fisheries Act and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Convention Act. The bill would authorize $4.5 million a year through Fiscal Year 2017 for the National Marine Fisheries Service in its efforts to preserve salmon, smelt, shad, striped bass and other species that live in the ocean, yet return to freshwater to spawn. The bill also sets a deadline for survey and assessment of the Atlantic sturgeon, which was listed under the Endangered Species Act in Feb. 2012.

On July 20, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands considered the following wildfire bills:

H.R. 5960, the Depleting Risk from Insect Infestation, Soil Erosion, and Catastrophic Fire Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), the full committee ranking member, the bill would amend the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 to extend the bill’s authority beyond the wildland-urban interface to include beetle-killed trees. The bill would allow agencies to designate sub-watersheds experiencing an insect or disease epidemic and to carry out projects to improve forest resiliency. It would also permanently extend a popular stewardship contracting authority set to expire in 2013 that allows the US Forest Service to use timber sale revenues to fund forest restoration projects.

H.R. 6089, Healthy Forest Management Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill would allow state governors to designate “high-risk areas” and “emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects” that agencies must implement within two months, which critics, including the Forest Service, contend would inappropriately erode federal authority. The bill also allows National Environmental Policy Act reviews to be waived for projects within 500 feet of utility or telephone infrastructure, campgrounds, roadsides, heritage sites, recreation sites, schools or other infrastructure.

Passed the House

H.R. 6082 – the Congressional Replacement of President Obama’s Energy-Restricting and Job-Limiting Offshore Drilling Plan – Introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), the bill would significantly expand drilling access in the nation’s waters, allowing development along most of the East Coast and Southern California and in a salmon-rich Alaskan bay and overturn the Obama administration’s 2012-2017 leasing plan. Specifically, the bill would allow access to the north and mid-Atlantic, the southern Pacific and parts of Alaska’s Bristol Bay, each of which is off-limits in the administration’s leasing plan. It also roughly doubles the number of sales in the administration’s plan and pushes up by three years sales that Interior scheduled in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort seas in 2016 and 2017, respectively. The bill passed the House July 25, by a vote of 253-170 with 25 Democrats joining all but nine Republicans in supporting the bill. The White House has issued a formal statement of administration policy declaring it would veto the bill.

Introduced in the Senate

S. 3400, the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2012 – Introduced July 18 by Sens. Michael Bennett (D-CO) and Mark Udall (D-CO), the bill would protect 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek Watershed, an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango, CO. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S. 3450, Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act – Introduced July 26 by Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN), the bill would block the Obama administration from issuing new standards to protect waterways from coal mining. The bill has 19 original cosponsors, all Republican, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On July 25, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the following bills:

S. 847, the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), the bill would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 to require industry, not the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to prove chemical substances are safe before they go on the market. Under current law, the EPA can call for safety testing only after evidence surfaces demonstrating a chemical is dangerous. As a result, EPA has been able to require testing for just 200 of the more than 80,000 chemicals currently registered in the United States, and has been able to ban only five dangerous substances. The bill places the burden of proof on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of their chemicals, requiring manufacturers to develop and submit safety data for each chemical they produce while avoiding duplicative or unnecessary testing. It would prioritize chemicals based on risk, so that EPA can focus resources on evaluating those most likely to cause harm while working through the backlog of untested existing chemicals. It restricts the use of chemicals that cannot be proven safe. The bill was approved in a partisan vote of 10-8. The bill has 23 cosponsors, all Democrats with the exception of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

S. 357, the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act – Introduced by Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), the bill authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to declare a wildlife disease emergency in one or more states for a disease that affects wildlife within the United States or has the potential to enter the country. It would also establish a Wildlife Disease Emergency Fund to understand and address disease emergencies, and provide for a coordinated response across state and federal agencies, including White-Nose Syndrome, a deadly fungal disease affecting bats.

S. 810, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act – Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill would, with certain exceptions, prohibit invasive research on great apes (including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons), prohibit the use of federal funds for great ape research in and outside the United States and permanently retire all great apes owned by the federal government. A companion bill (H.R. 1513) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD).

S. 1494, the National Fish and Wildlife Reauthorization Act – Introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bipartisan bill would reauthorize funding for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally created nonprofit that also provides matching habitat conservation grants. Original cosponsors include Sens. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and John Thune (R-SD).

S. 2071, the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act – Introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Mark Pryor (D-AR), the bill would make permanent and extend to all states a pilot program issuing electronic federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps, whose sale supports wetland and waterfowl protection within the National Wildlife Refuge System.

S. 2282, the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act – Introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) and Chairwoman Boxer (D-CA), the bill would reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act of 1989 (NACWA) until 2017. NACWA provides matching grants to organizations that develop partnerships to carry out wetland conservation projects benefitting migratory birds and other wildlife.

S. 3370, the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Federal Land Conveyance Act of 2012 – Introduced by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), the bill would authorize the Administrator of General Services to convey a parcel of real property in Albuquerque, New Mexico to the Amy Biehl High School Foundation.

Cleared for White House

H.R. 5872, the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the bill gives the White House 30


Sources: Bipartisan Policy Center, Department of Energy, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Senate Indian Affairs Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House

July 13, 2012

In This Issue

WILDFIRES: FEDERAL MANAGEMENT EFFORTS CONTINUE

A number of federal agencies, including the US Forest Service (FS), the Department of Interior (DOI), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Defense, are continuing to support community recovery efforts from wildfires in Colorado and across the western US.

As of this week, there are 40 large wildfires reported in the states of Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Kansas, Montana, California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Alaska, according to DOI. Federal officials report that wildfires nationwide have burned over three million acres, slightly above the 10-year average for this time of year.

According to the FS and DOI, the federal agencies respond to about 16,500 wildfires per year that occur on land under their jurisdiction and assist state and local agencies in responding to a significant number of the approximately 60,000 wildfires per year that occur on land under state jurisdiction. Currently, 20 large airtankers as well as 71 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) are available nationally to combat fires burning in a number of western states. More than 9,200 personnel, 530 fire engines and 85 helicopters are also fighting wildfires around the US, supporting state and local efforts.

President Obama formally declared Colorado a federal disaster area on June 29, upon a request from Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and the state’s entire congressional delegation. The designation will offer federal money for assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including temporary housing, debris removal and repairs to public facilities. The president toured the state in late June and DOI Secretary Ken Salazar visited Colorado Springs in July to survey damage and meet with first responders and other local officials.

The FS is also working with FEMA to aid communities impacted by flooding, an aftereffect of the wildfires. The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-141) increases access to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for some residents impacted by flooding on federal land resulting from wildfires. The legislation was enacted into law July 6, as incorporated into the recent surface transportation reauthorization bill.

To view western fire updates from the US Forest Service, click here: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases.shtml

The FS has also opened a public comment opportunity to seek input on its broader forest conservation efforts. The comment period ends Aug. 13. For more information, click here: http://www.fs.fed.us/news/2012/releases/06/comments.shtml

To view the National Interagency Fire Center’s recently released National Wildland Significant Fire Potential Outlook for July – October 2012, click here: http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/outlooks/monthly_seasonal_outlook.pdf

BUDGET: ESA JOINS EFFORT TO PREVENT NONDEFENSE DISCRETIONARY CUTS

On July 12, the Ecological Society of America joined nearly 3,000 national, state and local organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to nondefense discretionary (NDD) spending. The organizations are representative of a wide breath of fields that benefit from federal NDD programs including science, education, health and civil rights.

The letter comes ahead of a potential across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending in Jan. 2013 that the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) stipulates. Under the current law, the $1.2 trillion in cuts would come 50 percent from defense spending and 50 percent from non-defense discretionary spending. The letter notes the important role NDD programs play and urges Congress to work to reduce the deficit in a manner that prevents further significant cuts to these programs.

“In total, if Congress and the President fail to act, between fiscal 2010 and 2021 NDD programs will have been cut by 20 percent overall. Such indiscriminate cuts threaten the entire range of bipartisan national priorities,” the letter warns. “For example, there will be fewer scientific and technological innovations, fewer teachers in classrooms, fewer job opportunities, fewer National Park visitor hours, fewer air traffic controllers, fewer food and drug inspectors, and fewer first responders.”

The slated cuts were intended to motivate Congress to take on a comprehensive approach to deficit reduction that included politically unpopular areas of revenue increases and entitlement reductions, similar to what has been recommended by several bipartisan deficit reduction committees. However, there is concern among organizations that benefit from NDD programs that Members of Congress seeking to protect defense spending and unwilling to deal with revenue or entitlement reform, will introduce measures that force NDD programs to bear 100 percent of the sequestration instead of half.

In 2011, NDD spending represented less than one-fifth of the federal budget and 4.3 percent of US Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Under strict discretionary caps in the bipartisan Budget Control Act (BCA), by 2021 NDD spending would decline to just 2.8 percent of GDP, the lowest level in at least 50 years. If sequestration is allowed to take effect, cuts to NDD programs will be even deeper.

“America’s day to day security requires more than military might. NDD programs support our economy, drive our global competitiveness, and provide an environment where all Americans may lead healthy, productive lives,” the letter continues. “Only a balanced approach to deficit reduction can restore fiscal stability, and NDD has done its part.”

View the full letter here:

http://publichealthfunding.org/uploads/NDDLetter.Final.July2012.pdf

CLIMATE CHANGE: FORMER GOP REP LAUNCHES CONSERVATIVE CLIMATE INSTITUTE

On July 10, 2012, former Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) announced the formation of the Energy and Enterprise Institute (E&EI), a new organization aimed at “presenting conservative solutions to America’s energy and climate challenges.”

Inglis has been vocally critical of “climate deniers” and has repeatedly called upon incumbent Republican lawmakers to join the overwhelming majority of scientists who say that humans are contributing to climate change. Inglis has famously used the analogy “Your child is sick. Ninety-eight doctors say treat him this way. Two say no, this other way is the way to go. I’ll go with the two,” to express his frustration with his party on the issue of climate change. He also worries that other countries that are taking steps to address climate change will leave the US behind in innovative approaches to tackle the issue. He has lamented that being vocal with his views on climate change contributed to his primary loss to a more conservative Republican in 2010.

E&EI would seek consensus on conservative approaches to address climate change. The organization criticizes approaches that “expand the size or scope of government” and “fickle tax incentives” while emphasizing a “free-enterprise approach.” As an incumbent, Inglis voted against the Democrats’ American Clean Energy and Security Act, the 2009 cap-and-trade bill that sought a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change. In summarizing its formal position E&EI notes “We don’t subscribe to apocalyptic visions of climate change. We do believe, however, that the best science available indicates that America faces substantial risks in a changing climate.”

The website’s official news release also seeks to brandish Inglis’s credentials as an overall true conservative. It notes he has scored perfect 100 percents from the Christian Coalition and the National Right to Life, a 93 from the American Conservative Union and an “A” from the National Rifle Association.

View the full announcement here: http://energyandenterprise.com/eei-launched/

EDUCATION: HOUSE COMMITTEE REVIEWS STUDY ON RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES

On June 27, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Education convened a hearing entitled “The Role of Research Universities in Securing America’s Future Prosperity: Challenges and Expectations.” The hearing examined a recent report from the National Academies, “Research Universities and the Future of America.”

There was a consensus among members on the importance of sustaining research institutions. “Particularly in today’s tough economic times, research universities play a vital role in America’s ability to maintain its competitiveness in an increasingly technologically developed world, and the knowledge and skills produced by our nation’s research graduates provide the fuel for these endeavors,” stated Research and Education Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). In a subsequent press statement, the chairman noted that research universities “provide the backbone for the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce essential for US prosperity.”

These sentiments were seconded by Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL). “Research universities’ contributions to the health, security, and prosperity of the American people cannot be overstated,” he noted. “Advances in the fields of medicine and biotechnology, the development of critical new military technologies, and countless economically important companies and products can be traced back to research conducted in university labs.” Lipinksi also called for “sustained and predictable support” for scientific research and affordable education.

In his testimony, the National Academies’ Charles Holliday, Chair of the Committee on Research Universities said that the United States remains a leader in research and innovation noting that  “35 to 40 of the top 50” research universities in the world are in America. He also cautioned that public universities “are on thin ice” with state funding cuts that occurred from 2002-2010—some as high as 50 percent—putting a strain on the effectiveness of these institutions.

A former Chairman and CEO of Dupont, Holliday noted the key role research and patents have played in helping businesses. He cited Dupont’s focus on collaborations with research universities as key to his company’s success. He urged businesses and research universities to improve collaboration to help students better compete in the workforce as well as increase STEM investment

Committee members also heard from various university leaders on the role their institutions play in advancing economic success for the nation. Jeffrey  Seeman, Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University and Chief Research Officer for the Texas A&M University System outlined several goals of the report, including the continued (if not increased) support from federal agencies and increased efficiency and transparency in how universities utilize resources. Leslie Tolbert, Senior Vice President for Research at the University of Arizona noted that over the past ten years, state investment in her university went from 32 percent to 15  percent in FY 2012. She also seconded recommendations from the report that regulatory controls on federally funded research should streamlined as much as possible to minimize the administrative burden on the federal government and universities and maximize the impact of funding spent on university research.

The National Academies report was requested in 2009 by then-Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) (now retired from Congress), current-Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX), as well as Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who serve as the Chairwoman and Ranking Member respectively of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families.

View the full report here: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/bhew/researchuniversities/index.htm

View the House subcommittee hearing here: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-science-educatoin-hearing-role-research-universities-securing

NOAA: COMMITTEE EXAMINES GAO REPORT ON SATELITTE PROGRAMS

On June 27, the House Science, Space and Technology subcommittees on Energy and Environment as well as Oversight and Investigations convened for a joint hearing on two of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) satellite programs. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that rising costs could reverse the progress of NOAA’s Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – R Series (GOES-R). 

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) expressed concern with the satellite programs’ growing costs, scheduling lapses and data gaps. “Even more frustrating is the fact that this program still does not have a baseline for cost and schedule, he said. “To quote the GAO report, not having a baseline ‘makes it more difficult for program officials to make informed decisions and for program overseers to understand if the program is on track to successfully deliver expected functionality on cost and schedule.’”  

Oversight and Investigations Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) noted that “the group that sits before us today is not responsible for the mess.  Rather, we are counting on them to get us out of a mess they inherited.  It is our job to probe the answers they offer, assess whether the programs appear robust, and offer whatever advice and support we can to get these satellites launched and operating.”

Kathryn Sullivan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Deputy Administrator at NOAA agreed with GAO’s assessment. Noting the progress that has been made with both satellite programs, Sullivan cautioned that stable and sufficient budgets for the satellites are required to minimize disruptions that could increase launch delays and cost increases. When asked by Chairman Hall about the Senate’s plan to shift control of NOAA’s four satellite programs to NASA, Sullivan only acknowledged that the administration is reviewing the proposal, but has not yet taken an official position.

GAO contended that data gaps from the lengthy and ongoing process of updating satellites could adversely affect the ability of NOAA satellites to provide accurate and timely weather forecasting data. While acknowledging the persistent cost overruns and potential forthcoming data gaps, GAO praised the current administration’s management efforts. “I think there’s strong program management there. We’ve seen many program managers over the years testifying before this committee and clearly, when you look at where the program is now, it’s in a much better position than where it’s been in the past,” said GAO Director of Information Technology Management David Powner.

Click here to view the full hearing: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-investigations-and-oversight-hearing-continuing-oversight-nation%E2%80%99s-weather

EPA: GRANTS ANNOUNCED FOR URBAN WATERS

On June 26, 2012 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is awarding $2.7 million to 46 organizations in 32 states and Puerto Rico for urban waters restoration and community revitalization.

The funding grants, which range from $30,000 to $60,000, would go to urbanized areas with waterways that include canals, rivers, lakes, wetlands, aquifers, estuaries, bays and oceans. The funding is aimed at boosting community efforts to improve their water resources, which can be damaged by sewage, runoff from city streets and abandoned industrial facility contaminants.

The Urban Waters program supports the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, a partnership of 12 federal agencies working to reconnect urban communities with their waterways. Additional information on the Urban Waters Federal Partnership can be found here: http://urbanwaters.gov/

A list of projects that will be funded through EPA’s Urban Waters program can be viewed here: http://www.epa.gov/urbanwaters/funding.

For additional information on EPA’s urban waters program, click here: http://www.epa.gov/urbanwaters/index.html

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On July 10, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the following bill:

H.R. 6060, the Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill would reauthorize the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs.

Approved by House Committee

On July 11, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 3641, the Pinnacles National Park Act – Introduced by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Jeff Denham (R-CA), the bill would upgrade Pinnacles National Monument in central California to a full-fledged national park. The measure was amended to include a proposal by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) that eliminates a planned 2,905-acre wilderness designation.

H.R. 4606, to authorize the issuance of right-of-way permits for natural gas pipelines in Glacier National Park – Introduced by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), the bill would allow the National Park Service to issue a right-of-way permit for maintenance of a natural gas pipeline that crosses into Glacier National Park’s southern boundary for 3.5 miles. The legislation clarifies a question of authority for NPS to issue permits for natural gas pipelines.  Currently, NPS has the authority to issue permits for electricity and communication lines. 

H.R. 4100, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2011 – Introduced by Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), the bill would strengthen the government’s authority to crack down on illegal fishing.

H.R. 4484, the Y Mountain Access Enhancement Act – Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would sell an 80-acre parcel along the Y mountain trail in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah to Brigham Young University.

H.R. 5958, to name the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Contact Station of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in honor of James L. Buckley – Introduced by Rep. Bob Turner (R-NY), the bill renames the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center in honor of former New York Sen. James Buckley. The National Park Service asserted that there was not enough of a link between the refuge and Buckley, a member of the New York Conservative party.

H.R. 5987, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act – Introduced by Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA), Reps. Charles Fleischmann (R-TN) and Ben Lujan (D-NM), the bill would establish a national park at sites in Hanford, WA; Oak Ridge, TN; and Los Alamos, NM to commemorate the Manhattan Project, the 1940s effort that produced the first atomic bomb. The bill passed the House Natural Resources Committee by unanimous consent.

On July 12, the House Agriculture Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 6083, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 – Introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), the comprehensive $957 billion farm bill reauthorization cuts spending by $35 billion, with most cuts coming from the food stamp program. In contrast, the recently Senate-passed $969 billon bill cuts $23 billion by restructuring and consolidating various programs. The House bill’s conservation title, which provides farmers assistance to fund environmental improvements, would slash this funding by $6.1 billion. The House bill also lacks the Senate’s $800 million mandatory funding for rural energy programs that help landowners invest in biofuels, renewable energy and make energy efficiency improvements.

The House Agriculture Committee approved the bill by a vote of 35-11, including all but three Republicans and eight of 20 Democrats. The 11 dissenters included Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-OH),  Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Marlin Stutzman (R-IN),  Joe Baca (D-CA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), James McGovern (D-MA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME),  David Scott (D-GA), Terri Sewell (D-AL). The House and Senate bills must either be reconciled or Congress must past an extension bill before Sept. 30, 2012, when current farm bill authorizations expire. Additional information on the bill is available here: http://agriculture.house.gov/singlepages.aspx?NewsID=1227&LSBID=1271

Passed House

H.R. 5892, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act – Introduced by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the bill would streamline the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) process for permitting small hydropower and conduit projects. The bill would allow FERC to extend the life span of preliminary permits for developers to investigate sites for new projects. It would also direct the Department of Energy to study whether pumped storage could be used to back up intermittent renewable energy generation such as wind and solar. The bill passed the House July 9 by a vote of 372-0.

H.R. 4402 – the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act – Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill reclassifies certain mining operations as “infrastructure projects” to streamline the permitting process for mining on federal lands. The bill also requires federal agencies to expedite environmental reviews of proposed mining process and limits the judicial review process for challenges to approved mining permits on federal lands.

Critics of the measure charge that the bill drastically reduces or eliminates environmental reviews, gives mining companies control over the timing of permitting decisions for virtually all mining operations on public land and elevates mining above all other uses of public lands, including hunting, fishing, grazing, and recreation. The bill passed July 12 by a vote of 256-160 with 22 Democrats joining all Republicans in support of the measure.

Introduced in Senate

S. 3375, a bill to designate the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Conservation Area in the State of California – Introduced July 11 by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bill would designate as a national conservation area 319,000 acres of federal land to protect the Berryessa Snow Mountain region in Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Yolo counties in northern California. Companion legislation (H.R. 5545) has been introduced by Mike Thompson (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Signed by President

H.R. 4348, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP 21) – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), the $105 billion bill would reauthorize federal surface transportation programs for 27 months. The comprehensive bill includes a provision to allow Deepwater Horizon spill penalty money to the Gulf Coast states to pay for economic and environmental restoration. Despite inclusion in the House-passed measure, Republicans were unsuccessful in including any provision related to the Keystone pipeline.

The comprehensive legislation also includes the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, a bill reauthorizing the nation’s flood insurance program. The words “global warming” were stripped from the legislation before it was passed, but the change is not expected to alter the program’s consideration of climate change. The bill still requires FEMA officials to ascertain the effects of sea level rise, intensifying rainfall and hurricane-driven ocean surges.

The final legislation was a compromise bill agreed upon by leaders in both chambers, which included much of the language of the bipartisan Senate transportation bill introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK). The legislation passed the House June 29 by a vote of 373-52 and the Senate 74-19 with one “present” vote from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Opposition in both chambers came solely from Republicans. President Obama signed the measure into law July 6.


Sources: Department of Interior, Energy and Enterprise Institute, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, NDD Summit, U.S. Forest Service

June 22, 2012

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE MOVES AGRICULTURE, INTERIOR SPENDING BILLS

This month, the House Appropriations Committee has continued work on its Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 spending bills. Most recently, it has released legislation funding environmental and agricultural federal programs. On June 19, the committee approved its Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY 2013. That day, the committee also released its FY 2013 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which was marked up by subcommittee the following day.

The House appropriations bills must be reconciled with and approved by the Democratic-controlled Senate before being sent to the president to be signed into law. To date, the Obama administration has released statements of administration policy opposing House appropriations bills, citing that they violate funding levels agreed to under the Budget Control Act.

Agriculture

In total, the Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY 2013 includes $19.4 billion in discretionary spending, a $365 million reduction from FY 2012 and $1.7 billion less than Obama’s FY 2013 budget request.

Agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, would be funded at $2.5 billion, a $35 million reduction from FY 2012. The Natural Resources Conservation Service would receive $812 million, a $16 million decrease from FY 2012. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would receive $787 million, $33 million below FY 2012. A funding program to help farmers make environmental improvement on their lands was cut by $500 million compared to the current farm bill’s authorized levels.

Interior

The House Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for FY 2013 contains $28 billion in funding, a cut of $1.2 billion below FY 2012 and $1.7 billion below the president’s FY 2013 budget request. The bill funds the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service and related environmental initiatives.

EPA funding undergoes a particularly high number of cuts in the House bill. The bill funds EPA at $7 billion, a $1.4 billion (17 percent) cut from FY 2012. This brings total funding in the bill below FY 1998 levels. The legislation continues a cap on EPA’s personnel at the lowest number since 1992 and cuts the office of the EPA administrator by over 30 percent. The EPA Congressional Affairs office receives a 50 percent cut.

Overall, the Department of Interior (DOI) would receive $10.3 billion in FY 2013, $57 million less than FY 2012 and $79 million below the president’s budget request. FY 2013 funding numbers for specific departments under DOI include the following:

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – $1 billion, $57 million less than FY 2012.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – $1.2 billion, $317 million less than FY 2012. The House bill prioritizes invasive species and mitigations of fish hatcheries over unauthorized programs.
  • National Park Service – $2.4 billion, $134 million less than FY 2012.
  • U.S. Geological Survey – $967 million, $101 million less than FY 2012. The House majority contends energy and minerals, mapping and water programs are prioritized over climate change and ecosystem research as well as administrative accounts.
  • Office of Surface Mining – $150 million, level with FY 2012. The bill prohibits funding being used to implement the “stream buffer rule,” which the administration contends is necessary to protect waterways from coal mining.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs – $2.6 billion, a $37 million increase from FY 2012. This includes funding for federal government contractual obligations to tribes under a recent Supreme Court ruling on tribal self-governance.

Additional agencies and environmental program initiatives of interest include the following:

  • U.S. Forest Service – $4.7 billion for FY 2013, $86 million above FY 2012 and $169 million below the president’s budget request. The bill includes a provision prohibiting the Forest Service or BLM from issuing new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting, except in the case of public safety or extreme weather.
  • Land and Water Conservation Funding – $66 million, an 80 percent cut from FY 2012.
  • Wildfire Fighting and Prevention – $3.2 billion, $6 million above FY 2012.
  • National Ocean Policy – the bill includes a provision prohibiting funding for the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy.

For additional information on the Agriculture bill, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=298229

For additional information on the Interior bill, click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=299989

OSTP: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS WHITE HOUSE PRIORITIES

On June 20, 2012, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hosted White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren for a hearing entitled “Examining Priorities and Effectiveness of the Nation’s Science Policies.”

During the hearing several Republicans inquired if the U.S. was maintaining investment in certain areas, including space technology and high-energy physics, relative to other countries. Holdren responded that the U.S. remains “on the cutting edge” and “unmatched” leading in these areas, but current budget constraints make maintaining that lead increasingly difficult. Republican committee members criticized the Obama administration’s research investments in a host of areas including research to study hydraulic fracturing, the president’s proposed clean energy standard, green jobs and various Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

“I remain concerned about a number of this administration’s science and technology policy issues, ranging from an unprecedented emphasis on clean energy at the expense of other priorities to a larger focus on applied research at the expense of basic scientific research to the lack of a clearly defined and compelling long-term mission for human space flight,” stated Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX)

Holdren maintained that overall, the United States is leading the world in science investment, noting that the nation’s combined public and private sector investments in science constitute 30 percent of the world’s investment in research and development. Holdren noted that while China has not yet reached the moon, the U.S. did in 1969. He also noted that while China put its first woman in space only this week, “we did it in 1983.”

However, Holdren also said that “across the board, we cannot afford to be complacent” in order to remain competitive. He cited Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education as a critical area where the U.S. needs to invest more to both foster a competitive workforce and sustain the nation’s presence at the forefront of innovation in the sciences globally. Holdren’s sentiments regarding the need for investment in STEM education garnered vocal bipartisan support from a number of committee members, including Reps. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA).

A testy exchange occurred between Holdren and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) over the administration’s science engagement with China. Rep. Rohrabacher inquired if OSTP was following language from a GAO report stating the administration may not use appropriations funding to collaborate with China. Holdren said that the language related to a past fiscal year appropriations bill, clarifying that the most recently enacted language states only that the administration shall not collaborate with China in a way that puts national security at risk or compromises U.S. technology. Rohrabacher then inquired why the administration is  willing to work with countries who commit human rights abuses. Holdren countered that the U.S. takes every opportunity to critique China’s human rights policies when they visit the country.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) struck a more empathetic tone, noting OSTP’s multifaceted responsibilities. “The truth is that OSTP has been asked to do a lot by both Congress and the President.  In addition to your more visible initiatives, I know that you have to carry out necessary interagency coordination—a job that probably goes underappreciated and undervalued by all of us,” she said. “I think we forget sometimes that your actual authority is limited and that much of what you accomplish you do through leadership, persuasion, and persistence.  You have an important responsibility, and we want you to succeed.”

View the full hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-examining-priorities-and-effectiveness-nation%E2%80%99s-science-policies

WILDLIFE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS ROLE OF HUNTING IN SPECIES CONSERVATION

On June 19, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight held a hearing entitled “The Science of How Hunting Assists Species Conservation and Management.”

While there was consensus among committee members and witnesses that hunters can play a significant role in conservation efforts, opinions differed over whether the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and implementation of the Endangered Species Act has stymied hunters ability to play a greater role in wildlife conservation.

Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) noted that several of the hearing’s witnesses, including FWS Director Dan Ashe, have repeatedly highlighted the positive impacts of hunting. Broun however, expressed concern with how the agency handles permit applications for the importation of legal hunts, citing “paperwork delays.” One witness,  Al Maki, Conservation Committee Chairman at Safari Club International, went as far as stating that the FWS “has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand.” He maintained that the agency has relied on the Endangered Species Act to resolutely refuse to allow US hunters to play a role in species conservation.

FWS Director Ashe countered that the permit application, at six pages long (two pages of which are instructions) is hardly tedious or difficult. Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) defended implementation of the endangered species law, stating “the Endangered Species Act, the Lacey Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty, our system of wildlife refuges and national parks – all of these play an essential role in maintaining that balance.” He went on to say that the law is “an important statutory structure to guide management decisions for those species that are attractive to hunters.”

View the full hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-investigations-and-oversight-hearing-science-how-hunting-assists-species

HYDRAULIC FRACTURING: NEW STUDY LINKS SEISMIC ACTIVITY TO WASTEWATER INJECTIONS

A recent report from the Natural Research Council concludes that the underground injection of wasterwater produced by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can cause earthquakes that people can feel. Fracking, the process of extracting natural gas by injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals in short bursts at high pressure into deep underground wells, is a relatively new technology.

The report qualifies that “very few events” of earthquakes have been documented relative to the large number of waste disposal wells and that the actual method of hydraulic fracturing itself “does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events.”  It surveys injection activities related to geothermal energy, conventional oil-and-gas development, shale gas recovery enabled through fracking, and carbon capture and storage. The report was requested by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and was the subject of a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. 

The study finds that big carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects, which could be a future way to keep greenhouse gas emissions from power plants out of the atmosphere, need more analysis to gauge quake potential as there are no such large scale CCS projects yet in operation. Overall, the report correlates with similar federal agency studies of fracking that conclude additional research is necessary to accurately predict the full magnitude of earthquakes caused by energy development.

For additional information, including the full report here:
http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=13355

View the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing here: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=2c908340-a9bb-40b4-bf7f-8308b272893d

EPA: NEW CLEAN AIR STANDARDS PROPOSED FOR SOOT

In keeping with a court-ordered deadline, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced new national air quality standards for harmful fine particle pollution, which includes soot from power plants, boilers and car tailpipes. According to EPA, the microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and have been linked to many serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, strokes, acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma in children.

EPA’s proposal would strengthen the annual health standard for harmful fine particle pollution to a level within a range of 13 micrograms per cubic meter to 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The current annual standard is 15 micrograms per cubic meter. EPA asserts that the proposed changes are consistent with the advice from the agency’s independent science advisors and based on an extensive body of scientific evidence that includes thousands of studies, including large studies that show negative health impacts at lower levels than previously understood.

EPA states that 99 percent of the nation’s counties will meet the new requirement without taking any additional steps by the 2020 deadline, as long as other air pollution rules for power plants, boilers and diesel engines, some of which are being challenged in Congress, are implemented. The agency’s analysis found two areas, southern California’s Riverside and San Bernardino counties, could not meet a 13-microgram standard by 2020, while four others would fail to meet a 12-microgram limit: Santa Cruz County, AZ; Jefferson County, AL; Wayne County, MI; and Lincoln County, MT.

As with many EPA regulations, reaction from Capitol Hill leaders was decidedly partisan. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) praised the rules: “The EPA’s proposed rule on deadly toxic soot is an important step forward in protecting our families and children. Continued exposure to this very dangerous form of air pollution leads to asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, and even premature death. When the rule to reduce soot pollution is finalized, there will be far fewer of these harmful health impacts, and it will have substantial health benefits in California and communities across the nation.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), who had submitted a letter to EPA urging the agency to retain current standards in its proposal, issued the following joint statement: “We are disappointed that EPA did not heed our request to include retention of the current annual standard as an alternative in its proposal. Any change to these regulatory standards could result in significant adverse economic consequences and job losses,” read the statement. “Particulate matter standards should be based on a full scientific and economic review, and proper consideration of reasonable alternatives. Before ramming through new standards that could threaten jobs and our economy, we need to be sure of the science and the costs. Overly strict standards could force local economies into non-attainment, stifle economic growth, and lead to further job losses.”

EPA will accept public comment for 63 days after the proposed standards are published in the Federal Register. The agency will issue the final standards by December 14, 2012.

Click here for more information: http://www.epa.gov/pm/

CANADA: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES URGE PRESERVATION OF EXPERIMENTAL LAKES AREA

On June 13, the Ecological Society of America joined the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography, the International Society of Limnology, the Society of Canadian Limnologists and the Society for Freshwater Sciences in sending a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other government leaders concerning the potential closure of the Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) in Kenora, Ontario. The Canadian government maintains that lake manipulative experiments are better carried out by universities and NGOs.

 

Since 1968, ELA experiments have helped to shape both Canadian and international environmental policies.  ELA experiments further understanding of human impacts on lakes and fishes and encourage the development of strategies for promoting the sustainability of natural and commercial freshwaters.  “ELA has been a cornerstone facility for           the study of inland waters,” the letter states. “This unique research facility has been the genesis of several important whole ecosystem experiments that have completely changed the course of research in the discipline of limnology (inland water research). Results from these experiments have been instrumental in establishing public policy, including guidelines to protect freshwaters and reduce air pollution.”

“People rely on freshwater resources and the many services these ecosystems provide. Facilities like ELA are essential to help researchers understand how these systems work and identify the factors that threaten their long-term sustainability,” the letter continues. “Scientific research in the environmental sciences is not an impingement on economic progress but rather is an essential part of it. We must protect the resources humanity relies on, freshwater being among our most basic needs.”         

To view the letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Society_ELA_letter.pdf

To sign an online petition against the closure, click here:
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/355/851/152/save-the-experimental-lakes-area/

SCIENCE: NEON ANNOUNCES GROUNDBREAKING FOR TWO DATA COLLECTION SITES

On June 18, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) announced that it had broken ground on its first two sites that will serve to collect information on a continental scale on issues such as climate change, land use, invasive species and biodiversity.

The first ground breaking was at Domain 1, Harvard Forest, in Petersham, Massachusetts; and the second at Domain 3, Ordway-Swisher Biological Station in Melrose, Florida. Both sites are now officially under construction.

NEON’s construction funding is provided through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Major Research Equipment and Facilities (MREFC) budget account. In order for a project to qualify for MREFC funding, NSF requires that it represent an exceptional opportunity that enables research and education and advances scientific understanding.

To view the official NEON press release, click here:
http://www.neoninc.org/news/neonbreaksground

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 5959, the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act – Introduced June 19 by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), the bill would place a moratorium on permitting for mountaintop removal coal mining until health studies are conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill has 13 original cosponsors, all Democrats.

Considered by House Committee

On June 19, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held a hearing on the following fishing bills:

H.R. 2706, the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the bill would prohibit the sale of billfish, which includes marlins, spearfish and other prized game fish. The bill has 24 bipartisan cosponsors. Companion legislation (S. 1451) has been introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

H.R. 3472, the Pirate Fishing Vessel Disposal Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AL), the bill would allow the Coast Guard to use abandoned vessels, which can include illegal fishing boats, in sinking exercises. These boats could also be sold to a developing nation, donated to a nonprofit or government agency for education or research. Companion legislation (S. 1890) has been introduced by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK).

H.R. 4100, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Madeline Bordallo (D-Guam), the bill would strengthen the government’s authority to deter illegal fishing. Companion legislation (S. 52) has been introduced by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI).

Approved by House Committee/Subcommittee

On June 20, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved several bipartisan bills intended to foster domestic energy development and job creation, including the following:

H.R. 4273, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act – Introduced by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), the bill would protect power companies from penalties for complying with Department of Energy emergency orders that may conflict with environmental laws. The bill passed by voice vote.

H.R. 5892, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act – Introduced by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), the bill would direct the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the feasibility of a streamlined two-year permitting process for pumped storage projects and nonpowered dams and allow the commission to extend the life span of preliminary permits for developers to investigate sites for new hydropower projects.

Passed House

H.R. 2578, the Conservation and Economic Growth Act – Introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), the comprehensive bill includes 14 bills reported by the Natural Resources Committee. Among its provisions, the bill waives numerous environmental and public lands laws in an effort to improve Department of Homeland Security operations within 100 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders and on tribal lands. The bill authorizes the hunting of sea lions in the Pacific Northwest and doubles the duration of grazing permits on federal lands. It also allows the use of off-road vehicles in the Cape Hatteras Seashore Recreation Areas along the North Carolina coast and provides for the expansion of hydropower projects and for the conveyance of federal lands to local authorities for the purpose of economic development. The bill also includes legislation that would allow a native Alaskan corporation to acquire prime timberlands in the Tongass National Forest outside of the lands it was entitled to select under a 41-year-old settlement. The bill passed June 19, by a vote of 232-188 with 16 Democrats joining all but 19 Republicans in supporting the bill.

H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the comprehensive bill is made up of the text of seven bills, two reported from the Energy and Commerce Committee and five reported from the Natural Resources Committee. The legislation aims to increase domestic energy production as well as reduce regulations for industry with the greater intent to spur economic growth and lower energy prices. Among its provisions, the bill delays Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality and fuels regulations and creates an interagency committee to review the impact EPA regulations have on energy prices and the economy. The bill requires the Department of Interior to develop a strategic plan for the nation’s energy needs over 30 years, increases the amount of federal land available for energy production and streamlines the process for approving drilling permits. The bill passed June 21 by a vote of 248-163 with 19 Democrats joining all but 5 Republicans in supporting the bill.

Passed Senate

S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act – the $969 billion bill reauthorizes farm programs for the next 10 years. It passed the Senate June 21 by a vote of 64-35. Votes in favor of the bill included 46 Democrats, 16 Republicans and both Independents, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Lieberman (I-VT). The bill cuts funding for agricultural programs by $23 billion by restructuring commodity programs, capping most commodity payments at $50,000, consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13 and eliminating nearly 100 program authorizations. Most of the bill’s savings are achieved through changes to crop assistance programs that have been in place in some form since the Great Depression. The bill had bipartisan support from Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS). It is unknown whether the US House of Representatives will take up the bill due to opposition from conservative Republican members. Additional information on the measure can be found here:
http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill


Sources: CNN, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, National Research Council, National Ecological Observatory Network, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee