June 8, 2012

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE PASSES ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILL

On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill funds the Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior water programs for the fiscal year (FY) 2013. It passed by a vote of 255-165 with 48 Democrats joining all but 29 Republicans in supporting the bill.

In total, the bill funds the aforementioned federal agencies at $32 billion, an overall increase of $87.5 million in spending over the current fiscal year. The Obama administration, however, has pledged to veto the bill as it is part of an overall Republican budget effort to decrease spending by $19 billion for FY 2013. The administration reasons that the increase in this bill as well as a recently approved veterans’ appropriations bill, will lead to funding cuts for other appropriations bills that have not yet been taken up, which include Interior, Commerce Justice and Science, Transportation Housing and Urban Development and Labor Health Human Services and Education.

Amendments adopted on the House floor include the following:

Steve Scalise (R-LA) –adds $10 million for the Army Corps of Engineers Louisiana Coastal Area ecosystem restoration project, offset by a cut to the Department of Energy Salaries and Expenses account (adopted 216-177).

Rush Holt (D-NJ) – adds $2 million to the Corps of Engineers Construction account for flood control, offset by a cut to Army Corps expenses (adopted by voice vote).

Chip Cravaack (R-MN)  – prohibits funding to require DOE grant recipients to upgrade their light bulbs to meet certain efficiency standards (adopted by voice vote).

Michael Burgess (R-TX) prohibits funds from being used to implement or enforce energy efficiency standards regarding incandescent light bulbs and other incandescent light sources (adopted by voice vote).

Gerald Connolly (D-VA) – eliminates the Oil Shale research program ($25 million) and transfers the funding to the spending reduction account. (adopted 208-207-1 (present)).

Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) –increases funding for the Corps of Engineers Flood Control
and Coastal Emergencies account by $3 million to address natural disasters, offset by a cut to Corps expenses.

John Shimkus (R-IL) –increases funding for the Yucca Mountain licensing process by $10 million, offset by a cut to departmental administrative costs.

Peter Welch (D-VT) –allows DOE to use a website management system to encourage energy savings contracts.

Don Young (R-AK) –prohibits funds for introducing salmon into the San Joaquin River.

The bill must be reconciled with the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill before it can be sent to the president. The Senate version has been approved at the committee level, but has not yet been taken up by the full Senate.

For information on specific programmatic funding levels in the House and Senate Energy and Water bills, see the May 4 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0504.php

For additional details on the House-passed bill, click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=298625

View the Obama administration statement of administration policy on H.R. 5325 here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr5325h_20120531.pdf

AIR POLLUTION: SUBCOMMITTEE EXAMINES EPA’S COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS TECHNIQUES

On June 6, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “EPA’s Impact on Jobs and Energy Affordability: Understanding the Real Costs and Benefits of Environmental Regulations.” The hearing sought to weigh the costs and benefits of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

In his opening statement, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) questioned EPA’s methods. “Our witnesses today will describe a pattern of scientific and economic practices at EPA and OIRA that inflates health-based regulatory benefits, overlooks actual economic, energy affordability, and jobs impacts, and fails to reflect uncertainty in communicating risks.  All too often, major EPA regulations have been underpinned by secret science, hidden data, and black box models,” he stated. “More and more of these regulations are almost exclusively justified on the basis of incidental “co-benefits” from particulate matter reductions, raising the specter of double-counting, and private benefits on the assumption that all regulated entities are acting irrationally and against their economic self-interest and that EPA knows what is best for their bottom line.”

Hearing witnesses consisted largely of representatives from industry as no one from EPA was invited. The witness panel included representatives from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the Energy Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Trinity Consultants. Michael Honeycutt, chief toxicologist at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, asserted that EPA studies demonstrate no direct causation between particulate matter and premature deaths in humans. Health advocates have defended EPA’s calculation methods, asserting that the same formulas have been used in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Democrats criticized the format of the hearing, in which no witnesses representing EPA were called to testify. “If the Republicans question the EPA’s methods for assessing impacts of environmental and public health safeguards, then they should have EPA here to testify.  Then we might have left the hearing with a better understanding of this complex issue,” stated Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC).

Miller submitted several documents from organizations including the American Lung Association, the American Thoracic Society, the American Sustainable Business Council and the EPA that highlighted the economic health benefits of EPA regulations. One such report noted that “air quality improvements under the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion by 2020 and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually.” Another document noted that according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “the continental United States could pay an average of  $5.4  billion (in 2008 dollars)  in  health­related  costs due  to  the  increase  in  surface­level ozone associated with rising temperatures.”

View the full hearing here: http://democrats.science.house.gov/hearing/epa%E2%80%99s-impact-jobs-and-energy-affordability-understanding-real-costs-and-benefits

ENDANGERED SPECIES: HASTINGS REQUESTS INFORMATION ON AGENCY LITIGATION COSTS

On May 31, House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a series of letters to Obama administration officials inquiring how much the federal government spends on Endangered Species Act litigation.

The first of the four letters are addressed to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe while the other three are directed to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division Ignacia Moreno and Steve Wright, Chief Executive of the federal Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, Oregon.

“The goal of the ESA was to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species.  However, today the law is failing to achieve its primary purpose of species recovery and instead has become a tool for litigation that drains resources away from real recovery efforts and blocks job-creating economic activities,” states the letter to Salazar and Ashe. “At the Committee’s February 15, 2012 hearing to consider the Department of the Interior’s (“Department”) FY 2013 budget request, I asked how much the Department spends on litigation and settlements involving the ESA,” the letter continues.  “It is concerning that there was not a readily available answer to this question, and to date, the Department has yet to provide a response.”

The letters request information on court costs, attorney’s fees and also request information on how plaintiffs were awarded nearly $2 million in attorney and other litigation fees related to a biological opinion focusing on the Columbia River in Oregon. The letters all request a response by June 14, 2012.

To view the Chairman Hasting letters, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/LtrsOnESASettlements05.31.12.pdf

FISHERIES: MARKEY OPPOSES WTO RULING AGAINST ‘DOLPHIN-SAFE’ TUNA LABEL

On May 31, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) spearheaded a letter to President Obama urging him to defend a US law to protect dolphins of the Eastern Tropical Pacific in the wake of a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) Court decision. Ranking Member Markey was joined by 42 Democrats.

The WTO court recently ruled against the use of the voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna label, claiming that it puts Mexican fisherman at an unfair disadvantage. The labeling standard was created to protect Pacific dolphins threatened by tuna fishing. “The American people deserve to know whether or not the fish they eat was caught by killing Flipper,” said Markey in a related press statement. “Dolphin-safe labeling of canned tuna has been successful in protecting the species and giving consumers informed choices.” 

Dolphin and tuna tend to congregate in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region. ‘Fishing on dolphins’ is a technique used by Mexico and several other Central and South American countries by which dolphin schools are chased and encircled with nets in an effort to catch tuna swimming beneath. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the practice has killed an estimated seven million dolphins since the late 1950s. Advocates of the label maintain that it has saved thousands of dolphins since it was enacted by Congress in 1990.

“We cannot stress enough that the Mexican government has been given every courtesy, yet that government continues to refuse to compromise or find a resolution that protects US consumers and dolphins, based on the best available scientific information,” asserted Markey. “Any hardship that the Mexican government claims to be experiencing from its inability to comply with perfectly reasonable dolphin-safe requirements is certainly offset by the $33 million in development assistance Mexico is receiving from the US in FY 2012, and dwarfed by the nearly $200 million it has received since 1999.”

The White House has 18 months to either throw out the current standard or make an exception for Mexican fisherman. The US also has the option to help Mexican fisherman learn tuna-catching practices that minimize threats to dolphins.

View the Markey letter here:
http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/sites/democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/files/documents/2012-05-31_Dolphin_Safe_Tuna_MX_0.pdf

EPA: SCIENTIST PANEL APPOINTED TO REVIEW BRISTOL BAY WATERSHED ASSESSMENT

An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contractor has selected a dozen scientists with expertise in mining, water and native Alaskan culture to review the agency’s report on the potential impacts of large-scale mining in the southwestern part of Alaska. The mining is sought by the Pebble LP gold and copper project, which has the potential to become one of the world’s largest mines.

The twelve reviewers were selected out of 86 candidates by Contractor Versar Inc. Among the team members is Ecological Society of America  member Roy Stein, who works on fisheries and aquatic biology issues at Ohio State University. The other eleven members include David Atkins, Watershed Environmental LLC, Orcutt, CA; Steve Buckley, WHPacific Inc; Courtney Carothers, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Dennis Dauble, Washington State University; Gordon Reeves , U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station; Charles Slaughter, University of Idaho; John Stednick, Colorado State University; William Stubblefield, Oregon State University; Dirk van Zyl, University of British Columbia; Phyllis Weber Scannell Scientific Inc; and Paul Whitney, wildlife ecology and ecotoxicology expert.

The EPA study focuses on mining in the Bristol Bay watershed, which the draft report cautions would likely pose a threat to waterways and a thriving salmon fishery. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to all five species of North American Pacific salmon and the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. According to EPA, the salmon fishery and other ecological resources in the area help sustain 14,000 full- and part-time jobs and have an economic value of about $480 million annually. EPA scientists also assert that a large open mine would likely destroy more than 85 miles of streams and more than 6 square miles of wetlands.

The reviewers are scheduled to meet Aug. 7-9 at the Anchorage Convention Center. The first two days will be open to the public. EPA expects to have formal comments from the scientists two weeks later.

Click here for more information:
http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/ECOCOMM.NSF/bristol+bay/bristolbay

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: FOREST SERVICE UNDERTAKES LAKE TAHOE RESTORATION

On June 1, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft management plan for the Lake Tahoe ecosystem.

The plan consists of four alternatives that seek to address issues related to watershed health, aquatic ecosystems, forest health, hazardous fuels and terrestrial wildlife habitat, sustainable recreation and access to national forests via facilities, roads and trails. The final plan will guide management of 154,000 acres of National Forest System lands on California and Nevada surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin for the next fifteen years. The plan was last updated in 1988.

The draft Forest Service plan is intended to help local authorities maintain the natural landscape of an area in light of increased tourism, vacation resorts and recreational activity. The region draws over three million tourists who contribute over $1 billion to the area’s economy.

Comments will be taken through August 30, 2012. For additional information on how to comment on the plan, click here:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsinternet/!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjAwhwtDDw9_AI8zPwhQoY
6BdkOyoCAPkATlA!/?ss=110519&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&cid=FSE_003756&navid=130100000000000&pnavid=
130000000000000&position=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&ttype=main&pname=Lake%2520Tahoe%2520Basin%2520Mgt%2520
Unit-%2520Planning

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OPPOSE TRAVEL RESTRICTION LEGISLATION

On May 18, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) joined 50 other scientific societies in a letter spear-headed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science regarding  far-reaching legislation to limit federal government employees’ ability to travel and attend conferences. The House bill passed by unanimous consent, while the Senate language, which was incorporated into comprehensive postal legislation, passed by a filibuster proof 62-37 vote with the majority of opposition coming from Senate Republicans.

The legislative proposals cited in the letter (the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act, H.R. 2146) in the House and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) in the Senate) are intended to address the recent General Services Administration (GSA) scandal where the abuse of federal travel dollars had drawn bipartisan ire. The House bill specifically would cut the travel budgets of federal agencies by 20 percent from Fiscal Year 2010 levels, the year in which the GSA scandal occurred. Both bills place severe restrictions on travel and the number of conferences an agency can support.

The letter references the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival, which drew 150,000 attendees.  “Many non-profit scientific and engineering societies participated in the Festival, and almost 40 federal government agencies and offices provided hands-on science exhibits and/or public access to government scientists,” the letter notes. “It is unclear whether government scientists’ participation in this education-oriented activity would then preclude their engagement in any other scientific conference in the same year, under the current amendment language.”

Other signatories of the letter include American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Mathematical Society, American Society of Agronomy,  and the Geological Society of America. In addition to the scientific societies, groups such as the National League of Cities, National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures also opposed the bill for similar reasons.

View the full letter here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Senate_Intersociety_Letter_on_Travel_Restrictions__May_21__2012_.pdf

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in the House

H.R. 5826, the Coordinating Water Research for a Clean Water Future Act of 2012 – Introduced May 18 by Science, Space and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the bill would establish the National Water Research and Development Initiative at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for the purpose of improving coordination of federal water research projects to monitor the nation’s clean water supply.

H.R. 5827, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2012 – Introduced May 18 by Ranking Member Johnson, the bill would direct the Department of Energy to include water research in the agency’s future projects for the purpose of guaranteeing efficient, reliable, and sustainable delivery of energy and clean water resources.

Approved by House Committee/Subcommittee

On June 7, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 4965, to preserve existing rights and responsibilities with respect to waters of the United States. Introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), the bill would block the Obama administration’s effort to clarify federal jurisdiction over water pollution and wetlands regulation under the Clean Water Act. The bill passed June 7 by a vote of 33-18. 

On June 7, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power approved the following bipartisan bills:

H.R. 4273, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2012 – Introduced by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), the bill would shield utilities operating under an Energy Department-declared emergency from the threat of penalties for environmental laws, including civil or criminal penalties. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy has warned that the bill would deter power generators from working with state and federal regulators to comply with environmental rules during emergencies and would increase the likelihood that generators will violate federal regulations.

H.R. 5892, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act – Introduced by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), the bill would promote expanded development of hydropower. Companion legislation has been introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Introduced in Senate

S. 3228, the Sequestration Transparency Act – Introduced May 23 by Senator John Thune (R-SD), the bill would require the president to provide a detailed report on how federal spending will be cut through the sequestration “trigger” set for Jan. 2, 2013. The report would be due to Congress by July 9. Companion legislation (H.R. 5872) has been introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).

Passed Senate

S. 3261, to allow the Chief of the Forest Service to award certain contracts for large air tankers – Introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the bill would expedite the contracting process to allow the Forest Service to quickly increase its wildfire air tanker fleet. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent June 7 and has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee.

Cleared for White House

S. 292, the Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act – Introduced by Sen. Murkowski, the bill would resolve the claims of the Bering Straits Native Corp. and the state of Alaska to land adjacent to Salmon Lake in Alaska. The new agreement conveys 1,009 acres in the Salmon Lake area to Bering Straits, as well as 6,132 acres at Windy Cove and 7,504 acres at Imuruk Basin.

S. 363, to authorize the Commerce secretary to convey property of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the city of Pascagoula, Mississippi. – Introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the bill allows the Secretary of Commerce to sign off on a land transfer to the city of Pascagoula in order to develop a park with public water access.

The president is expected to sign both measures.


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the White House

May 18, 2012

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL CUTS NOAA, RESEARCH INITIATIVES

On May 10, the House passed H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among other agencies.

The bill passed by a vote of 247-163 with 23 Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in supporting the measure. Democrats supporting the measure included House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) and House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA). In total, the bill provides $51.1 billion in funding for FY 2013, $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 million below the president’s FY 2013 budget request.

The White House has released a statement of administration policy declaring that President Obama will veto the bill, if it is presented to him in its current form. The administration asserts that the bill’s overall funding level violates those set by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), agreed to in August of last year, and says  that the cuts included in the bill will be a detriment in furthering “economic growth, security, and global competitiveness” for the nation. While applauding the funding for the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the $7.3 billion funding level for NSF, the White House says that significant funding cuts to NOAA would adversely affect the agency’s ability to implement the nation’s fisheries and oceans stewardship programs.

In total, 36 amendments were adopted to the bill, including measures that diverted funding away from certain NOAA programs. An amendment from Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) that diverted $18 million from NOAA weather forecasting, satellite and other operations and research programs to fund regional information-sharing systems for law enforcement agencies passed by a vote of 209-199. An amendment from Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) to deny funding for implementation of the Obama administration’s National Oceans Policy was approved by a vote of 246-174.

An amendment from Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) would prohibit implementation of a rule that would require certain ships to use turtle excluder devices to protect sea turtles was adopted 218-201. Shrimpers have complained the devices, which function as escape hatches for turtles, reduce catches and make it hard for them to compete with foreign shrimpers that don’t have to use the devices.

Several amendments were also passed related to NSF.  An amendment from Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) to prohibit funding to implement activities of NSF’s Climate Change Education Program was passed 238-188. An amendment from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to prohibit funding  to carry out the functions of the political science program within NSF’s Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate narrowly passed 218-208 with 27 Republicans joining all but five Democrats in opposing the measure. Another amendment from Rep. Flake to cut $1.2 billion from NSF’s Research and Related Activities account failed 121-291.

An amendment by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) to increase funds for NOAA Operations, Research, and Facilities by $1,600,000 and reduce funds for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Salaries and Expenses by $1,900,000 was adopted by voice vote. Additionally, an amendment by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) to cut the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Program by $15 million was rejected 168-239.

The House bill must be reconciled with the Senate CJS bill approved in committee last month.  For additional background on the House and Senate CJS appropriations bills, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0420.php

To view the full White House statement of administration policy on the House CJS appropriations bill, click here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr5326r_20120507.pdf

HOUSE: SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERS POTENTIAL OF OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT

On May 10, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “American Jobs and the Economy through Expanded Energy Production:  Challenges and Opportunities of Unconventional Resources Technology.” 

“The amount of energy under own soil is striking.  With continued technological advances and the right policies to enable access to these resources, America could become the global leader in energy production for the next generation and beyond,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). “The Green River Basin, located in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, may contain up to three trillion barrels of oil, more potential oil than the rest of the world’s current oil reserves combined. If this energy, which is overwhelmingly on Federal lands, is made available, I am confident American ingenuity will find ways to responsibly explore and produce this resource.”

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), serving as the Ranking Member due to Rep. Brad Miller’s (D-NY) absence, asserted that Republicans demonstrate discrepancy in their support for oil shale over alternative sources of energy. “I have listened as many of my Republican colleagues questioned the wisdom and need for public investments in renewable energy resources either through support of research or through tax incentives,” he said.  “But when it comes to offering subsidies to one of the wealthiest and most profitable industries in the world – the oil industry – their generosity knows no bounds.”

Most of the witnesses sought to emphasize how oil shale development benefits local communities and the overall economy. “Despite the lack of efforts of some federal agencies, the unconventional energy industry is alive and growing in Utah” asserted Utah Office of Energy Development Director Samantha Mary Julian.  “Utah actively manages its lands to promote the responsible development of its energy resources as it produces the main source of funding for our schools,” she continued. “Simply put, Utah educators and students depend on responsible energy development.”

Representing the Obama administration were Charles McConnell, the Department of Energy’s  Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Anu Mittal, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). While noting that oil and gas production has increased annually since 2008, McConnell urged that energy development be implemented with safety and environmental protections and guided by the best available science.

In her testimony, Mittal urged that several environmental concerns and uncertainties be considered before implementing commercial oil shale development. “Developing oil shale and providing power for oil shale operations and other associated activities will require significant amounts of water, which could pose problems, especially in the arid West where an expanding population is already placing additional demands on available water resources,” said Mittal.   She noted that industry experts believe that oil shale development is at least 15-20 years away. 

Mittal also referenced a 2010 GAO report that found oil shale could have several negative socioeconomic costs on tourism and natural resources. It stated that the oil shale industry’s impacts on air, water and wildlife are unknown because the technology is in its infancy. The report recommended that federal agencies should prepare for oil shale development by investing in research and testing that establishes baseline environmental conditions.

View the full hearing here: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-energy-and-environment-hearing-challenges-and-opportunities-unconventional

SENATE: SUBCOMMITEE REVIEWS CORPORATIONS’ ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICES

On May 16, the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility convened for a hearing that examined how large companies have taken steps that both save money and protect the environment. During the hearing, witnesses representing businesses including FedEx Corp, Intel, Eastman Chemical Co. and Procter & Gamble discussed various steps they were implementing that take advantage of new technologies and reduce energy costs for business and consumers.

Procter & Gamble executive Len Sauers discussed his company’s Tide Detergent that clean clothes using cold water with the same type of efficiency expected from hot water. His company estimates that if every household in the United States used cold water for laundry, the country would save 33 billion kilowatt-hours a year. Todd Brady, Intel’s global environment director, discussed how his company implements a new manufacturing process for semiconductor chips every two years, allowing it to create faster chips with smaller features, ultimately leading to the use of less natural resources. Parker Smith of Eastman Chemical Co. touted his organization’s collaboration with both the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce energy use and become more efficient, partially by doing assessments of the company’s air and river water pumping systems.

There was a consensus among the subcommittee leadership that investment in corporate sustainability will have multi-faceted benefits for the nation. “Businesses need water, energy and raw materials, and they will need them on an ongoing basis, even after those of us in this room are gone,” said Subcommittee Chairman Tom Udall (D-NM). “If businesses harness market forces to reduce energy use, raw materials, emissions and waste, they will improve their own future and future generations…More and more businesses like the ones here today are recognizing that competitive advantage, market share and innovation lie in doing more with less.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) discussed what the federal government could do to support businesses with sustainable goals, including giving them incentives similar to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which is administered by the federal government in conjunction with private industry and designed to make U.S. businesses more competitive.

View the full hearing here:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=3708ac0d-802a-23ad-4de6-d525315a5936

-Energy and Environment Daily

ENDANGERED SPECIES: REPORT TOUTS SUCCESS OF FEDERAL RECOVERY EFFORTS

On May 17, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) released a report entitled “On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife,” documenting the successful recovery of federally protected species.
The CBD report concludes that 90 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act are on track to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists. The study analyzed population data for 110 species from the year each was placed on the endangered species list through 2011. CBD reports that each species’ actual population trend and trajectory was compared to the timeline for recovery set out in government plans and that nearly all the animals and plants are recovering on time to meet federal goals.

The report was published as a rebuttal to claims among leading Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives that the Endangered Species Act has not been effective.

In July of last year, Republican appropriators sought to pass an Interior appropriations bill that would have prevented any new species from being added for any level of protection under the Act. That effort failed as an amendment by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) to remove the language was adopted by a vote of 224-202 with the support of 37 Republicans.

The report notes that 80 percent of species have not been listed long enough to determine whether they will recover in the predicted time frame. Current species have been listed for an average of 32 years but their recovery plans have a typical expected recovery period of 46 years.

Additional information on the report can be found here: http://www.esasuccess.org/

EPA: COLLEGE STUDENTS ENCOURAGED TO ENGAGE IN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT

On May 16, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water announced a new design competition called the Campus RainWorks Challenge to encourage student teams on college and university campuses across the country to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management. 

EPA intends for the competition to raise awareness of green design and planning approaches at colleges and universities and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure practices. The project seeks to advance the idea that green infrastructure provides multiple environmental, social and economic benefits on college and university campuses.

EPA particularly encourages Minority Academic Institutions (MAIs) to apply. MAI’s are defined for the purposes of this competition as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities as defined by the Higher Education Act, universities with a full-time undergraduate Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent and universities that have a full-time Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander enrollment of not less than 10 percent.

Registration for the Campus RainWorks Challenge opens September 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14, 2012 for consideration. Winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013. Winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 – $2,500, as well as $8,000 – $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure.

Additional information can be found here:
http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/crw_challenge.cfm

GREEN JOBS: EPA, COMMERCE ANNOUNCE ENVIRONMENTAL TECH EXPORTS INITIATIVE

On May 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Commerce announced a new effort to invest in environmental technology exports. The Environmental Technologies Export Initiative builds on President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and support millions of American jobs. 

The web-based tool, scheduled to be launched this fall and hosted on export.gov, will offer U.S. environmental companies detailed information on federally supported activities including market research, scientific analysis, regulatory information and financial support programs. When launched, the online service will provide a more systematic approach for U.S. companies looking to expand markets for their environmental products and services abroad. 
The new initiative will build on the Obama administration’s efforts to help companies market more of their goods and services abroad, particularly in the area of renewable energy, where the United States faces stiffening competition from China. According to EPA, the U.S. environmental industry generates approximately $312 billion in revenues each year, with a global market of more than $800 billion. The industry employs nearly 1.7 million Americans and includes over 60,000 small businesses across the country. 

For additional information, click here: http://www.epa.gov/international/trade/

INTERIOR: CHEMICAL DISCLOSURE RULES ANNOUNCED FOR HYDRAULIC FRACTURING

On May 4, the Department of Interior released a plan to require companies to report the chemicals they use to stimulate oil and gas production. The rules would apply only to federal and tribal land although the vast majority of fracking operations occur on private land. 

According to the Department of Interior, existing regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal and Indian lands, where approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to greatly increase the volume of oil and gas available for production. The proposed rule would require public disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing within one month after fracturing operations have been completed.

Environmental groups contend that the plan is a major improvement over regulations last updated in the 1980s, but that it falls short of state regulations and will fail to protect human health and the environment. The groups are concerned that disclosure is only mandated after the fracking has occurred, not before. Industry critics said the new rules represent another disincentive to develop oil and gas on federal lands, where companies already face significant delays associated with well permits and endangered species compliance, among other requirements.

The reaction on Capitol Hill was also mixed. “The Obama Administration is imposing more regulation and more red-tape, and the result will be less American jobs and less American energy. Adding duplicate, burdensome regulations to the safe-practice of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands is the fastest way to drive away job-creating American energy producers,” stated House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). “This technology has the potential to revitalize our economy and provide an abundance of American energy, but that’s not possible if it becomes strangled in the web of bureaucratic rules and delays.”

“Natural gas on public lands holds tremendous potential to lower energy costs for businesses and consumers,” said Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA). “The Interior Department has a responsibility to ensure that oil and gas companies are accessing natural gas on public lands in a way that protects the safety of workers, local economies, water supplies and the environment. We already know that oil and gas companies are committing many serious violations when drilling on public lands and the regulations proposed by the Interior Department today will ensure that companies are not operating under outdated requirements and that they are drilling safely.”

Interior officials state that they plan to finalize the rules by the end of the year. Click here for further information on the rule as well as directions how to submit public comments:
http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=293916

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SPONSORS EXHIBIT AT CAPITOL HILL SCIENCE EVENT

On May 15, the Ecological Society of America participated in the Coalition for National Science Funding’s 18th Annual Exhibition and Reception entitled “STEM Research and Education: Underpinning American Innovation.”

ESA’s exhibit featured the research of ESA graduate student Sarah Roley of the University of Notre Dame. She spoke with numerous attendees, including federal agency and congressional staff, about her work on mitigating nutrient pollution in the agricultural Midwest. Roleyalso met  with congressional staff from the state of Indiana earlier that day to discuss her research and its application to Indiana. Nearly 40 exhibit booths presented a wide range of topics to policymakers including robotic sensors for monitoring water quality, social media and tweens, nanomaterials and environmental interactions and gender in STEM fields.

Read more at ESA’s blog, EcoTone: http://www.esa.org/esablog/research/showcasing-science-on-capitol-hill/ or view the photo album on ESA’s FB page:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.348600815206870.79215.133905383343082&type=3

CURRENT POLICY

Passed by Committee/Subcommittee

On May 16, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 4471, the Gasoline Regulations Act – Introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the bill would stall three Environmental Protection Agency rules setting limits on sulfur in gasoline, a new ozone standard and emissions curbs for refineries for at least 13 months while requiring the agency to consider costs when crafting future ozone standards.

H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the bill would block the president from selling oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve without also expanding oil and gas drilling on public lands.

On May 16, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 3973, the Native American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill would reduce the number of federal regulations governing energy development on tribal lands. The bill includes a provision that would  prevent BLM from implementing a controversial new rule requiring disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, among other steps, on American Indian lands unless requested by the tribe. The amendment would block the rule’s implementation on more than 50 million acres held in trust by the federal government (passed by voice vote).

H.R. 4381, the Planning for American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill would require the Interior secretary to develop a strategic plan every four years for meeting future energy demand through increased development of oil, natural gas, coal and renewable energy (passed 24-14).

H.R. 4382, the Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), the bill would set minimum thresholds for leasing, bar the administration from withdrawing or withholding leases, and nullify certain existing Obama administration oil and gas leasing standards from the Bureau of Land Management (passed 24-17).

H.R. 4383, the Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act – Introduced by Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the bill would give the Bureau of Land Management a 60-day deadline for approving oil and gas wells, funnel drilling and renewable energy application fees into agency permitting and charge a new $5,000 fee for citizens to challenge oil and gas decisions (passed 25-15).

H.R. 4402, the Natural Strategic and Critical Minerals Protection Act –  Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodie (R-NV), the bill streamlines the permitting process for mineral development by coordinating the actions of federal, state, local and Tribal agencies and sets time limits for mining permit reviews and legal challenges (passed 24-10).

Passed House

H.R. 205 – the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership (HEARTH) Act of 2011 – the bill extends to any Indian tribe the discretion granted under current law only to the Navajo Nation to lease restricted lands for business, agricultural, public, religious, educational, recreational, or residential purposes without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. (The Secretary must still approve the tribal regulations under which those leases are executed and mining leases still require the Secretary’s approval). The bill, which has 20 bipartisan cosponsors, passed May 15 by a vote of 400-0. Companion legislation (S. 703) has been introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).

H.R. 2621 – the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act – Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill designates the Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. The bill would maintain existing uses such as grazing near Chimney Rock, while protecting the area from mineral development and elevating its status as a tourist destination. The bill passed the House May 16 by voice vote. Companion legislation (S. 508) has been introduced by Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO).

Considered by Senate Committee

On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the following bill:

S. 2146, the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 – Introduced by Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the comprehensive bill would require large utilities to generate 84 percent of their electricity by 2035 from clean sources, including renewables, natural gas, and new nuclear and hydroelectric plants. Among its provisions, the bill requires utilities to obtain credits for each megawatt-hour of generation, beginning with a target of 24 percent from clean sources in 2015, and credits are distributed based on the carbon intensity of an electricity source. The Energy Information Administration predicts that the bill would cause carbon dioxide emissions to fall 44 percent by 2035.

Passed Senate

H.R. 4849, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Backcountry Access Act – Introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA), the bill would restore access to a roadless area in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for backcountry horsemen. Overall, the bill helps to ensure commercial tour guides can continue taking vacationers into Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park while the National Park Service (NPS) completes a wilderness management plan. An amendment offered by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) gives NPS discretion to set limits on pack guides until it completes a wilderness stewardship plan, which must be finalized within three years. The bill passed the Senate on May 17 by unanimous consent after passing the House in April by voice vote. The amended bill must now pass the House in its current form before it can be sent to the president.


Sources: Center for Biological Diversity, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, POLITICO, the White House

May 4, 2012

In This Issue

SENATE: APPROPRIATORS APPROVE ENERGY AND WATER, AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILLS

The week of April 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its Energy and Water Development and Agriculture Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.

Energy and Water

The Energy and Water Appropriations Act for FY 2013 is funded at $33.361 billion, $373 million less than FY 2012. The bill is primarily responsible for funding the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The legislation’s funding overall is slightly more than the $32.1 billion approved by the House in committee. For additional information on the House Energy and Water bill, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0420.php.

Unlike the House measure, the Senate Energy and Water bill does not include funding for the controversial nuclear waste site under Yucca Mountain, which is opposed by the Obama administration. The Department of Energy would receive $27.128 billion, $1.38 billion more than in FY 2012 to boost research related to clean energy technologies. Investment in the Senate Energy and Water bill in FY 2013 includes the following:

  • The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) – $312 million, $37 million above FY 2012.
  • DOE Office of Science – $4.909 billion, $35 million above FY 2012
  • Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy – $1.98 billion, $160 more than FY 2012.
  • Nuclear Energy – $793 million, $31 million above FY 2012.
  • Environmental Cleanup – $5.7 billion, $3 million below FY 2012.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – $5.007 billion, $5 million above FY 2012.

Agriculture

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY 2013 includes $20.785 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2013, an increase over the $19.565 billion FY 2012 enacted amount. Programs of interest in the agricultural funding bill include:

Agriculture Research Service: $1.101 billion, an increase from $1.09 billion in FY 2012.
Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service: $816.534 million, level with FY 2012.

National Resources Conservation Service: $828.498 million, an increase from $828.159 million in FY
2012.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS LOCAL EFFORTS ON STEM EDUCATION

On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a field hearing in Madison, Alabama to review science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs and partnerships at the local level and their impact on the economy. The hearing was entitled “STEM Education in Action: Local Schools, Non-Profits, and Businesses Doing Their Part to Secure America’s Future.”

Among the subcommittee leadership, there was consensus on the important role STEM education can play in boosting the economy. “Our commitment to STEM education is exemplified by contributions to STEM programs in the community by the University of Alabama-Huntsville’s Propulsion Research Center and related scholarships and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s educational programs, as well as many other local initiatives supporting STEM programs for students ranging from elementary school through high school,” stated Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) noted that fewer than 40 percent of college students who start in a STEM-related field obtain a degree in that field, leading to a shortage of qualified employees to fill positions in science and technology, for which there is growing demand in the economy.

Individual panelists touched on ways to further STEM education in schools. Robert Altenkirch, President of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, emphasized the need for educators to give students a broader view of how STEM education can become a foundation for high-tech jobs.  “At younger ages — elementary and middle school — we need to help students gain a better appreciation of what engineers and scientists do,” Altenkirch said. He noted that internships with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other outside training opportunities help students better understand how STEM education can be applicable beyond the classroom.

Camille Wright, Director of Secondary Instruction at Madison City Schools, spoke about the need for increased investment in educators, lamenting that the state of Alabama has cut funding for textbooks and teacher development initiatives. She also criticized the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which she said has forced school districts to focus on reading and math at the expense of  science education.

Several bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly called the No Child Left Behind Act). Many scientific societies and education groups point to the Senate legislation authored by Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY) as the legislation that most adequately addresses the need for STEM education.

Additional information on the hearing can be found here:

http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-science-education-field-hearing-stem-education-action-local

OCEANS: HOUSE GOP SEEKS TO BLOCK FUNDING FOR OBAMA ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVE

On April 25, a group of 23 Republican House Members sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) requesting that he prohibit funding for the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy.

The letter was spearheaded by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), who also serves on the House Natural Resources Committee. It expresses concern that funding for the National Ocean Policy will divert scarce discretionary funds and have detrimental economic effects on a number of industries including agriculture, fishing, energy development and tourism. Prominent signers include House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Chairman John Fleming (R-LA) and House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX). Several industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Recreational Fishing Alliance have also expressed concerns with the policy.

“The proposed policy guidelines and processes in the National Ocean Policy have the potential to change the permitting criteria and requirements for a large number of economic sectors including agriculture, fishing (recreational and commercial), development of traditional and renewable energy, mining, power production, inland river transportation, maritime shipping, manufacturing, housing development, recreational boating, and tourism, among others,” states the letter.  “At a time when we are looking at all opportunities to address our struggling economic recovery, it is important that we closely examine how this overly ambitious effort will affect jobs as well as ocean, coastal and inland economies.”

Administration officials maintain that the National Ocean Policy is necessary to increase coordination, streamline processes and reduce duplicity between more than two dozen federal agencies with jurisdiction over issues affecting the ocean, marine life and related commerce. The administration points out that the idea for the National Ocean Policy originated from recommendations of the George W. Bush administration’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a similar letter in early April. Chairman Hastings has voiced his criticism of the National Ocean Policy in previous hearings. For more information, see the November 4, 2011 edition of ESA Policy News here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/11042011.php

To view the Flores letter, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/LtrToChairmanRogers04.25.12.pdf

To view the Hastings letter, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/LtrToChairmanRogers04.02.12.pdf

For additional information on the National Ocean Policy, click here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/oceans/policy

EDUCATION: EPA AWARDS GRANTS TO COLLEGES FOR INNOVATION PROJECTS

On April 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an award of over $1 million in grants to 15 university and college teams from across the country for their work in environmental sustainability.  The teams participated in the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, DC. 

EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award competition was held at the expo, and featured more than 300 college innovators showcasing projects designed to protect the environment, encourage economic growth and use natural resources more efficiently.  Each P3 award-winning team will receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design, apply it or move it to the marketplace. Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing the technologies both across the country and around the world.

Following an initial peer review process, this year’s winners were selected from 45 competing teams after two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened to provide recommendations to the  American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  
For a listing of the winners and additional information on the program, click here: 
http://www.epa.gov/p3/2012winners
To view a fact sheet on the P3 program, click here:
http://www.epa.gov/ncer/p3/p3_factsheet.pdf

SCIENCE EDUCATION: ESA ENGAGES PUBLIC IN URBAN ECOLOGY AT SCIENCE FESTIVAL

On April 28 and 29, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) participated in the USA Science and Engineering Festival held at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.  The free event, hosted by Lockheed Martin, featured over 3,000 exhibits and drew thousands of people from the Metro-Washington area. 

ESA’s booth focused on urban ecology and children and adults alike were particularly drawn to the terrarium of pill bugs (Armadillidiidae), centipedes and other small creatures.  The booth also featured an urban ecology game, teaching visitors about the urban heat island effect, DC’s buried streams, and unexpected wildlife living in cities. 

ESA President Steward Pickett, who participated in the event both days, said: “Many people don’t think about ecology in the context of cities.  There’s still this notion that you have to go to a national park or other far-away places but, in fact, ecology happens everywhere–in rivers, agricultural fields and heavily developed urban areas.   

Photos can be viewed here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.337997659600519.77403.133905383343082&type=3

Read more here:
http://www.esa.org/esablog/ecologist-2/ecology-education/talking-urban-ecology-at-the-usa-science-festival/

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in the House

H.R. 4483, the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act – Introduced April 24 by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the bill would seek to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority groups earning degrees in Science Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) fields. The legislation also authorizes the National Science Foundation to award grants to colleges and universities that seek to expand minority participation in STEM fields. The bill has 10 original cosponsors, all Democrats.

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On April 25, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law held a hearing on the following bill:

H.R. 4377, the Responsibility and Professionally Invigorating Development Act – Introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), the bill would reform certain environmental review requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The bill would set the first-ever permanent deadlines to complete NEPA reviews. The bill proposes setting a 54-month deadline on the entire process that would including a maximum of 18 months for completing environmental assessments and 36 months for completing more complex environmental impact statements.

The bill also includes language to grant more control of the environmental review process to the respective business or entity seeking a federal review permit, which has earned the bill criticism from House Democrats and environmental organizations. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

On April 27, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on the following bill:

H. R. 4094, the Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act – Introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the bill would overturn a National Park Service (NPS) decision restricting vehicle access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. NPS made the decision with the intention of protecting nesting birds and sea turtles. The bill’s sponsor contends that the restrictions will impose hardship on the Hatteras Island economy and are unnecessary to protect wildlife. 

On May 3, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a field hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 1620, the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), the bill seeks to improve federal land management and resource conservation by requiring the Secretary of Interior to develop an inventory of all its real estate property.

H.R. 4233, the Map It Once, Use It Many Times Act – Introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the bill would establish the National Geospatial Technology Administration within the United States Geological Survey to enhance the use of geospatial data, products, technology, and services in an effort to increase the economy and efficiency of Federal geospatial activities.

Approved by House Committee

On April 24, the Energy and Commerce Committee marked up the following bills:

H.R. 4471, the Gasoline Regulations Act – Introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the bill would require an interagency study of how various Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules affect gas prices. The legislation would bar EPA from finalizing those three rules until six months after the study is complete.

H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act – Introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the bill would require any sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be matched by a plan to open an equivalent portion of federal lands and waters to oil drilling.

On April 25, the Natural Resources Committee marked up the following bills:

H.R. 460, the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act – Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would eliminate a requirement that a developer of hydropower along the Diamond Fork System of the Central Utah Project reimburse the Bureau of Reclamation $106 million for the cost of developing the project.

H.R. 919, the Mohave Valley Land Conveyance Act of 2011 - Introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bill would provide for the conveyance of certain public lands in Mohave Valley, AZ, administered by the Bureau of Land Management to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission for use as a public shooting range.

H.R. 1237, to provide for a land exchange with the Trinity Public Utilities District of Trinity County, California – Introduced by Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) the bill would provide for a land exchange with the Trinity Public Utilities District of Trinity County, CA, involving the transfer of land to the Bureau of Land Management and the Six Rivers National Forest in exchange for National Forest System land in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

H.R. 2621, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act - Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill would establish the Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado.

H.R. 3874, the Black Hills Cemetery Act - Introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), the bill would provide for the conveyance of eight cemeteries that are located on National Forest System land in Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.

S. 925, Mt. Andrea Lawrence Designation Act of 2011 - Introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bill would designate a peak located 0.6 miles northeast of Donahue Peak on the northern border of the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park in California, as Mt. Andrea Lawrence.

Considered in Senate Committee/Subcommittee

On April 24, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife held a hearing on several conservation bills, including the following:

S. 810, Great Apes Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, the bill would prohibit traumatic invasive research from being conducted on great apes.

S. 357, Wildlife Disease Emergency Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the bill would authorize the Secretary of Interior to declare wildlife emergencies, lead coordinated responses to emergencies, and establish a wildlife disease emergency fund.

S. 1494, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2011 – Introduced by Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bill reauthorizes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act through FY 2015.

S. 1266, Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the bill would establish a Delaware River Basin restoration program with competitive matching grants.

S. 2282, North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act of 2012 – Introduced by Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), the bill would reauthorize wetlands conservation programs through 2017. Chairwoman Boxer is also a lead sponsor of the bill.

Approved by Senate Committee

On April 26, 2012, The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved the following bill:

The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 – Introduced by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), the bill reauthorizes agricultural programs through 2017. 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. The bill passed committee by a vote of 16-5.

The committee approved an amendment by Sens. Kent Conrad and Dick Lugar (R-IN) that authorized $800 million in mandatory funding to the bill’s rural energy programs, which had previously received no mandatory funding in the original bill. The amendment also would create a new Rural Energy Savings Program to fund electric infrastructure. Additional information on the bill can be found here:
http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Agriculture Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the Huntsville Times, Senate Appropriations Committee, the White House

April 20, 2012

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: CJS BILLS SUPPORT SCIENCE, SENATE TRANSFERS SATELLITES TO NASA

The week of April 16, both the House and Senate Commerce Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittees approved their respective funding bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.

In total, the House CJS appropriations bill would provide $51.1 billion to all agencies under its jurisdiction, a reduction of $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 below the president’s request. The Senate bill would fund all agencies under its jurisdiction at $51.862 billion, a $1 billion reduction from FY 2012.  While the House bill’s funding levels are overall less than the Senate, both chambers supported increases in key science agencies in comparison to the current fiscal year.

The Senate CJS bill would also move funding for weather satellite procurement from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). There has been bipartisan, bicameral criticism directed at NOAA’s costly satellites. According to Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the move would save $117 million in FY 2013 and reduce duplicative federal activities. The bill was approved in a heavily bipartisan vote of 17-1. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), the sole dissenter, was concerned the bill’s spending reductions do not go far enough in addressing the national debt.

Enclosed are funding levels for key science bureaus outlined within the House and Senate bills:

The National Science Foundation
House: $7.333 billion, an increase of $299 over FY 2012.
Senate: $7.273 billion, an increase of $240 million over FY 2012.

 

NASA
House: $17.6 billion, $226 million below FY 2012
Senate: $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over FY 2012. (*The increase is due to the bill’s provision transferring weather satellite procurement from NOAA to NASA. Absent these funds, the bill would mean a $41.5 million cut for NASA.

NOAA
House: $5 billion, $68 million above FY 2012 Senate: $3.4 billion, $1.47 billion below FY 2012

For additional information on the Senate CJS bill, click here:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=6bc432b7-656b-4930-b0cf-bd3deef4fc3a

For additional information on the House CJS bill, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=290672

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE RELEASES FY 2013 ENERGY AND WATER BILL

On April 17, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee released its funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill, which funds federal programs for the Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water programs within the Department of Interior, would be funded at $32.1 billion, $965 million less than the president’s request, yet a slight increase from FY 2012.

Department of Energy (DOE) – DOE would receive $26.3 billion, $365 million less than FY 2012. DOE environmental management activities would be funded at $5.5 billion, $166 million below FY 2012. The bill increases funding for nuclear security by $300 million from FY 2012 and would direct funding towards the abandoned nuclear waste dump under Yucca Mountain. The administration has repeatedly opposed opening the Yucca Mountain repository.

For DOE science programs, the bill would provide $4.8 billion, a decrease from $4.9 billion in FY 2012 and also less than the $5 billion proposed in the president’s budget. The bill also includes $554 million for research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil and other fossil energy technologies, a $207 million increase from FY 2012. 

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – $4.8 billion, a $200 million decrease from FY 2012, although $100 million greater than the president’s FY 2013 budget proposal.

Bureau of Reclamation – $988 million, $89 million below FY 2012 and $47 million below the president’s request.

For additional information on the House Energy and Water bill, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=290398

AIR POLLUTION: EPA ANNOUNCES NATURAL GAS DRILLING REGULATIONS

On April 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules on  emissions  from the oil and gas industry.

According to EPA, the rules constitute the first federal air standards for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured and also include requirements for several other sources of pollution in the oil and gas industry that currently are not regulated at the federal level. The agency states that the rules would cut 95 percent of smog-forming and toxic emissions from wells developed with hydraulic fracturing.

Under the  rules, companies can comply with the standards until 2015 using flaring, which reduces harmful emissions by burning off the gases that would otherwise escape during natural-gas drilling. After 2015, companies will need to install so-called “green completions,”  technologies that capture harmful emissions. EPA estimates the combined rules will yield a cost savings of $11 to $19 million in 2015, arguing that the value of natural gas that will be recovered and sold will offset costs. 

The new regulations spurred partisan reactions from House committee leaders. “This rule is another example of EPA expanding its role in national energy policy. The president says he wants to promote American energy production, yet he continues to allow EPA to issue regulations that increase environmental regulatory requirements and impose more red tape for domestic producers of affordable energy,” stated Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI).

“These new EPA safety and environmental standards will ensure that less pollution escapes into our air and our atmosphere, and that the natural gas industry won’t be able to escape proper oversight of their practices,” stated House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA). “American natural gas will be a vital part of our economic and environmental progress, but only if the industry accepts the fact that the public wants assurances that drilling practices are done safely and don’t result in needless releases of pollution into the environment.”

For more on EPA’s air quality standards, click here:
http://www.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/actions.html

GULF SPILL: REPORT ANALYZES PROGRESS MADE AFTER DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER

On April 17, the Oil Spill Commission Action project released a report assessing the progress the federal government and industry have made since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The report’s publication came just three days before the two year anniversary of the spill.

In implementing the commission’s recommendation, the report gives high marks for the administration, yet low marks to Congress. “Overall, we conclude that, although much more needs to be done, the administration and industry are undertaking important enhancements to make offshore drilling safer and to improve the nation’s ability to respond to oil spills that may occur. Unfortunately, so far, Congress has provided neither leadership nor support for these efforts,” the report states. The report goes on to note that Congress has actually passed bills that would lease drilling in offshore areas without adequate review, an effort that runs “contrary to what the commission concluded was essential for safe, prudent, responsible development of offshore oil resources.”

The commission did praise Congress for moving on the RESTORE Act, which would place 80 percent of all administrative and civil penalties in a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund and establish a Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. Versions of the bill have been incorporated into the respective House and Senate surface transportation reauthorization bills.

The report compliments the administration on its efforts to improve safety and environmental protection, including the Department Interior’s separation of the leasing and environmental review functions from the regulatory activities and the agency’s decision to appoint a chief scientist to oversee its offshore development environmental review processes. However, the report also urged strengthening the administration’s National Environmental Policy Act reviews during planning, leasing, exploration and development.

Industry received a slightly lower grade than the administration, yet still rated better than Congress. The report commends industry’s establishment of a new Center for Offshore Safety. However, the commission urged that the center become fully independent of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s chief lobbying organization.

The report also calls for increasing funding for research into environmental conditions in the Arctic and further study into oil spill response capabilities in this region. “Although a great deal of Arctic research has been undertaken over the last several decades, many central unanswered questions remain about the unique and complex ecosystems, and how climate change is impacting those systems,” the report states.

The Oil Spill Commission Action project is an outgrowth of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, established by President Obama. While the commission issued its final official report in January 2011, its members have continued the Oil Spill Commission Action project in an effort to ensure the commission’s recommendations to policymakers are implemented.

View the full report here:
http://oscaction.org/topics/assessing-progress/

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: ARMY CORPS RELEASES OYSTER RESTORATION PLAN

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released a proposal to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s diminished oyster population.

Entitled the Native Oyster Restoration Master Plan, the initiative seeks to implement a “large-scale, science-based” approach towards oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. The bay’s oyster population has suffered from pollution, overharvesting and diseases. The Corps’ plan identifies 19 tributaries for assessment that could drive a population rebound for the oysters. 

The plan, estimated to cost up to $7.5 billion to implement, was developed in coordination with the states of Maryland, Virginia, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Environment Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Potomac River Fisheries Commission and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Congress has already authorized $50 million for the effort, over half of which has already been appropriated.

The Corps will be accepting public comments on the plan through May 19. The agency expects to release the final plan by Dec. 5. Comments can be submitted by mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District, C/O Angie Sowers, P.O. Box 1715, Baltimore, MD 21203-1715 or via email:
NativeOysterRestMasterPlan@usace.army.mil.

Additional information can be found here:
http://www.nao.usace.army.mil/news/20120329_PublicMeetingsOysterRestoration.asp

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee

On April 17, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 460, the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act – Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would facilitate hydropower development on the Diamond Fork System of Utah.

H.R. 2664, the Reauthorization of Water Desalination Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), the bill would authorize additional funding for water-desalination research and development.

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

H.R. 4043, the Military Readiness and Southern Sea Otter Conservation Act – Introduced by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA), the bill  would exempt the U.S. military from having to protect the threatened southern sea otter in waters off a remote Channel Island in southern California where the Navy tests weapons.

 

Passed by House

H.R. 4089, the Sportsman’s Heritage Act – Introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), the bill would require the Department of Interior and the U.S. Forest Service to provide access to certain federal lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. The bill also includes provisions that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to add ammunition and sport fishing equipment to the list of items that are exempted by TSCA.  Critics of the bill charge that the provision limits the authority of EPA to regulate bullets, angling lures and other hunting equipment with respect to toxic substances. The bill passed April 17 by a vote of 274-146 with 39 Democrats joining all but two Republicans in supporting the bill.

The rule under which the bill was considered also generated controversy as it incorporated a provision into the Sportsman’s Heritage Act that would fast-track enactment of the Ryan Budget’s funding levels. The rule was agreed to by a vote of 228-184 with four Republicans joining all Democrats in opposing the rule.

H.R. 4348, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2012, Part II – Introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) – the bill would extend the current authorization for surface transportation programs through September 30, 2012. The current authorization for surface transportation programs expires at the end of June under the previous extension enacted on March 30. The bill passed April 18, by a vote of 293-127. Sixty-nine Democrats joined all but 14 Republicans in supporting the bill.

Among its provisions, the bill would transfer authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline project from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). FERC would be required to issue the permit within 30 days of receiving an application regarding the process. If FERC takes no action to approve the permit, it would be deemed approved after the 30-day period. The measure also establishes a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, where 80 percent of penalties related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill would be deposited. The money would be available to states, pursuant to a future act of Congress, to restore the ecosystem and economy of the Gulf Coast region.

The Obama administration released a statement proclaiming that he would veto the bill in lieu of the Keystone pipeline provision. The administration’s statement is available here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr4348r_20120417.pdf


Sources: 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, Oil Spill Commission Action project, Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the White House

April 9, 2012

In This Issue

HOUSE: GOP BUDGET SETS FURTHER DISCRETIONARY SPENDING CAPS

On March 29, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposed budget resolution for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill passed by a vote of 228-191 with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against the bill.

The non-binding resolution sets discretionary spending at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion agreed upon during the compromise enacted under the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). The budget resolution typically serves as a maximum funding ceiling for congressional appropriators to work from as House and Senate appropriation bills are drafted and marked-up in the spring and summer.

Under the House-passed resolution, H. Con. Res. 112, environmental spending, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other agencies, would take a $4.1 billion hit, sinking to budget authority levels not seen since 2001. The funding cut is nearly double the $2.3 billion reduction proposed by President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request. At the same time, the House budget bill would seek to increase revenue by expanding oil and gas drilling.

The 10 Republicans voting against the budget were Reps. Justin Amash (MI), Joe Barton (TX), John Duncan (TN), Chris Gibson (NY), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Walter Jones (NC), David McKinley (WV), Todd Platts (PA), Denny Rehberg (MT) and Ed Whitfield (KY). The rationale for the opposition varied. Some members supported a more far-reaching resolution offered by the far-right conservative Republican Study Committee that claims it would balance the budget in five years through more severe cuts. Other Republicans objected to the proposed changes to Medicare. Rep. Gibson is in a tough re-election race this year, Rep. Rehberg is running for Senate against incumbent Jon Tester (D-MT) while moderate Rep. Platts is retiring.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to take up the House-passed measure. Congressional Republicans have continually chastised the Senate for failing to take up an annual budget resolution, which is traditionally (but not always) passed by both chambers. Senate Democratic leaders, however, point out that the Budget Control Act has already set into law funding ceilings for the next 10 years, making passage of a non-binding resolution redundant.

For additional information on Chairman Ryan’s budget, see the March 23 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0323.php

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NOAA WEATHER FORECASTING SYSTEMS

On March 28, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened to examine the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) weather forecasting methods. The hearing focused on the broad range of technologies available to gather weather and climate data and whether those technologies could improve weather forecasting methods.

In addition to representation from NOAA, the committee heard from several witnesses from the private sector who discussed how they could provide the same weather collection data for less money. Committee Republicans were critical of NOAA for allocating 40 percent of its proposed $5.1 billion Fiscal Year 2013 budget towards its two satellite programs, the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R), at the expense of cheaper observing systems based closer to Earth’s surface.

“NOAA’s ‘tough choices’ have resulted in placing nearly all of its weather-forecasting eggs in a single basket: satellite systems fraught with a long history of major problems. These decisions are causing trade-offs with other valuable weather measurement systems,” stated Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). “Rather than relying on the whims of an individual administration or the opinions of subject matter experts divorced from fiscal realities or program managers wedded to certain systems, NOAA needs to undertake comprehensive, objective, and quantitative evaluations of observing systems that incorporate cost.”

Committee Democrats said that there is bipartisan consensus to make NOAA’s satellite programs more cost-effective and efficient that pre-dates the current administration while emphasizing the unique role satellites play in advanced weather forecasting.  “From the deadliest tornado year in more than half a century, to the unprecedented heat wave this month, we are facing severe, life-threatening, and record-breaking weather events across the country.  Good weather data is more important than ever.  Yes, satellites are expensive, but they are essential to protecting life and property, and the costs of inferior systems could be far greater,” stated Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC).

According to Mary Kicza, Assistant Administrator of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, funding the Joint Polar Satellite System program, which plans to launch two satellites in 2017, is a high priority because the satellites provide the bulk of the data that go into weather forecasts. Polar satellites orbiting around the Earth every 90 minutes, 520 miles from the Earth’s surface, provide 84 percent of the data that allows forecasters to issue severe weather warnings two to five days in advance, she said.

Kicza also noted that her agency was already expanding collaboration with the private sector and emphasized the importance of sustaining a “network of networks” that includes working with local and regional observing networks. “NOAA will further expand the public-private partnerships to collect weather related data whenever possible, however, recognizing that a foundational set of observations are a critical national asset required to protect life and property. NOAA will explore and leverage all opportunities, while operating in a cost-effective manner,” she said. 

View the full hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-energy-and-environment-hearing-how-noaa-procures-data-weather-forecasting

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS OPEN ACCESS POLICIES

On March 29, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing that reviewed the issue of public access to research disseminated by scholarly journals.

Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Paul Broun (R-GA) said that “taxpayers rightfully expect access to research they have funded,” but also noted the issue’s  complexity. “This is no small matter.  There are more than 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, produced by over 2,000 publishers.  These journals publish more than 1.5 million articles a year, and earn revenues between $8 and $10 billion dollars from their subscribers.  This revenue funds over 100,000 jobs worldwide – 30,000 in the U.S. alone.”

Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY) noted the various interests at play. “On the one hand, the taxpayers who provide support for research through grants provided by federal science agencies have an interest in having the research they fund deliver maximum public benefit. On the other hand, the public is not only interested in quantity, they want quality. The scientific publishing enterprise, working with the research community, academia and the government traditionally has had an important role in ensuring that quality through management of the peer review process.” Tonko noted that there is a growing need for all publications to revamp their current models to accommodate the changing landscape, but cautioned about taking a broad sweeping “legislative approach.”

The committee heard from two representatives from scientific societies, Crispin Taylor of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) and Frederick Dylla of the American Institute of Physics.  Both of the witnesses expressed concern with various federal efforts to establish an open access mandate.  “Neither of these one-size-fits-all approaches is an appropriate solution for the diverse array of journals published across all the disciplines represented by federally funded research efforts,” stated Dylla.

“In ASPB’s case, the journals generate approximately 80 percent of the Society’s $6 million in annual revenue,” stated Crispin. “A little more than half of the total income derives from 2,000 institutional subscriptions, which we work very hard to sell to universities and corporations around the world, and another 20 percent from charges levied on hundreds of authors. By contrast, ASPB devotes about half of its operating budget to supporting the journals publishing operation, with the remainder devoted to advancing the broader scholarly missions of the society.”

The hearing also touched on the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) open access policy. Eliot Maxwell, Project Director for the Digital Connections Council, Committee on Economic Development asserted that federal agencies should start with the NIH policy and “dial back” to make it fit the respective scientific disciplines agencies support.

Chairman Broun, citing the committee’s history of reviewing the issue of public access asserted that any federal policy concerning public access issue should have the committee’s input. The Science, Space and Technology Committee expects to receive a report in the coming weeks on this issue from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, as directed in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010.

View the full committee hearing, here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-investigations-and-oversight-hearing-examining-public-access-and-scholarly

HOUSE: AGRICULTURE COMMITTEE REVIEWS FOREST MANAGEMENT POLICIES

On March 27, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry met to review U.S. Forest Service (FS) forest management policies in rural America. Committee members agreed that the FS needs to implement a balanced approach towards conservation that accounts for the economic role that forests play in rural communities and for the timber industry.

“The health of our national forests is an issue of vital importance for rural America. Not only are our national forests a source of immense natural beauty, but they provide us with natural resources, recreation opportunities, wildlife habitat and serve as economic engines for local communities,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Thompson (R-PA).  “We need to make sure the Forest Service and its partners work together to improve forest restoration and conservation while promoting a robust forest industry that supports local stakeholders and results in restored jobs and a vibrant rural economy,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Tim Holden (D-PA).

Earlier this year, the FS released a report outlining its goals for forest health. In the report, the agency cited increasing annual timber harvests as one of its goals. There has been bipartisan concern from lawmakers that timber harvests remain substantially lower than they were during the late 1980s. Both Chairman Thompson and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) asserted that the FS needs to focus more on the needs of communities that depend on the jobs and revenue brought in from timber harvests.

Reps. Schrader and Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) also questioned FS Chief Tom Tidwell on the pine bark beetle infestations in their respective states. Chief Tidwell pointed to the role investment in research plays in improving ways to mitigate the bark beetle infestations as well as those of other insects that plague timber managers, such as the emerald ash borer and gypsy moth.

To view the hearing and find more information, click here:
http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1551

EPA: FIRST CARBON RULES PROPOSED FOR NEW POWER PLANTS

On March 27, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first-ever proposed Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution from new power plants. The regulations are intended to reduce the amount of fossil fuels emissions.

The proposed standard would only apply to power plants built in the future. The regulations would require new power plants that burn fossil fuels to release no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt‐hour. According to EPA, new natural-gas plants will be able to meet the standard without supplemental technology while new coal plants will need new technology like carbon capture and storage, in which carbon dioxide emissions are collected and sequestered in the ground rather than released into the atmosphere.

The agency said new natural-gas plants will be able to meet the standard without adding any additional technology. However, new coal plants would need to add new technology like carbon capture and storage (CCS), in which carbon dioxide emissions are collected and sequestered in the ground rather than released into the atmosphere. EPA reports that the rules give new coal-fired power plants flexibility to meet the standard by allowing those that implement CCS to use a 30-year average of their carbon dioxide emissions as opposed to meeting the standard on an annual basis.

The reaction on Capitol Hill, as with many EPA regulations, was heavily partisan. “This rule is part of the Obama administration’s aggressive plan to change America’s energy portfolio and eliminate coal as a source of affordable, reliable electricity generation,” stated House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “EPA continues to overstep its authority and ram through a series of overreaching regulations in its attack on America’s power sector.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) differed: “The proposal is a breakthrough. It sets achievable limits on dangerous carbon pollution, spurs investments in new clean energy technologies, and provides certainty for industry. And it shows the president is listening to scientists, not extremists who deny the existence of climate change. Today’s action will reduce pollution, make families healthier, promote innovation, and help us compete with China and other countries that are investing in clean energy.”

The agency is seeking additional comment and information, including public hearings. EPA will also convene public hearings in addition to public comment period, which will be open for 60 days following publication in the Federal Register. 

For additional information on the standard, click here:
http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/

WHITE HOUSE: OSTP ANNOUNCES BIG DATA INITIATIVE

On March 29, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced its “Big Data Research and Development Initiative.” The multi-agency endeavor seeks to improve federal methods of organizing research findings from large quantities of digital data.

The Big Data Research and Development Initiative intends to meet the following goals:

  • Advance state-of-the-art core technologies needed to collect, store, preserve, manage, analyze, and share huge quantities of data.
  • Harness these technologies to accelerate the pace of discovery in science and engineering, strengthen our national security, and transform teaching and learning.
  • Expand the workforce needed to develop and use Big Data technologies.

Participating agencies include the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Geological Survey. NSF and NIH have released a solicitation, “Core Techniques and Technologies for Advancing Big Data Science & Engineering,” or “Big Data.”  This program aims to extract and use knowledge from collections of large data sets in order to improve data collection and management of science and engineering research.

The initiative comes in response to recommendations by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, which last year concluded that the federal government is under-investing in technologies related to Big Data. In response, OSTP launched a Senior Steering Group on Big Data to coordinate and expand federal investments in this area.

Additional information, including a fact sheet, on the initiative can be found here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/29/big-data-big-deal#.T3r7mAOom0c.twitter

OFFSHORE DRILLING: GAO REPORT EXAMINES INDUSTRY RESPONSE CAPABILITY

On March 29, House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) announced the release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that evaluates the oil industries’ oil spill containment capabilities in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident.

“Interior Has Strengthened Its Oversight of Subsea Well Containment, but Should Improve Its Documentation,” provides information on the status of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement’s (BOEMRE) efforts to oversee the oil industry’s subsea well containment capabilities in the Gulf of Mexico. While GAO found that industry had improved its response and containment capabilities, it concluded that the agency still needs to fully document its internal oversight processes as well as outline its plan for incorporating its containment response tests into its unplanned oil spill drills for private companies.

“Interior has not tested most operators’ ability to respond to a subsea blowout, and has not established a time frame to incorporate these tests,” the report says. “Until Interior sets a time frame for incorporating well containment scenarios into unannounced spill drills, there is limited assurance that operators are prepared to respond to a subsea blowout.” A senior Interior official reportedly concurred with GAO that response scenarios should be a regular part of annual plans for future drills.

Referencing Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic this summer, the report also cites drilling in that region as particularly problematic because its cold and icy conditions could adversely impact response capability,. “Even with Shell’s plans to have dedicated capping stack and well containment capabilities in the region to provide rapid response in the event of a blowout, these dedicated capabilities do not completely mitigate some of the environmental and logistical risks associated with the remoteness and environment of the region,” states the GAO report. Shell must still acquire a federal permit before drilling in the Arctic can commence.

View the full report here:
http://democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Report_OilGas_GAO_03.29.12.pdf 

FISHERIES: REPORT FINDS LITTLE OCEAN FISH PROVIDE BIG ECONOMIC GAINS

The Lenfest Ocean Program recently released a report that finds small fish are roughly three times as valuable in the sea where they become food for commercially valuable larger species as opposed to when they are caught for livestock feed or dietary supplements.

According to the report, forage fish contribute an estimated total of $16.9 billion to global fisheries annually. In contrast, the report estimates that direct catch value is “approximately one-third of that total.” The small fish were found to play a vital in virtually every ocean ecosystem and are vulnerable to localized depletion due to overfishing. The report urges fishery managers to drastically reduce the worldwide catch for forage fish, which include anchovies, sardines and herrings.

“We understand that every ecosystem is unique and would benefit from tailor-made solutions that account for individual characteristics, management structure, and research capacity of each system,” the report notes. “However, we believe that the guidance provided herein will prove widely useful in holistic management of forage fish fisheries because it is flexible enough to be applied in data-rich situations as well as low-information scenarios.”

The report was developed by the Lenfest Forage Fish Task Force, a team of scientists which includes Ecological Society of America (ESA) members Marc Mangel (University of California – Santa Cruz), Tim Essington (University of Washington), Robert Steneck (University of Maine) and Dee Boersma (University of Washington) who also serves on ESA’s Rapid Response Team. The task force was chaired by Ellen K. Pikitch, Director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, who is also an ESA member.

“The benefits of implementing our recommended approach include a greater chance of maintaining fully functioning ecosystems and the ecological roles and support services provided by forage fish,” the report states. “A further benefit will be increased catches of dependent commercially valuable predators, which should more than compensate for economic losses due to lower forage fish catches.”

The Lenfest Ocean Program is a grant-making program that funds scientific research on policy-relevant topics concerning the world’s oceans, communicating its findings to policymakers and other interested parties. The program was established in 2004 by the Lenfest Foundation and is managed by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

View the full report here:
http://www.lenfestocean.org/foragefishreport

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA GRAD STUDENTS ADVOCATE FOR SCIENCE ON CAPITOL HILL

On March 29, the Ecological Society of America’s 2012 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) recipients joined over twenty other biologists to encourage lawmakers in the House and Senate to continue to invest in in science.

As in years past, the 2012 GSPA winners Sara Kuebbing (University of Tennessee), Adam Rosenblatt (Florida International University) and Matthew Schuler (University of Washington – St. Louis) along with ESA President Steward Pickett (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies) spoke with Capitol Hill lawmakers and staff to support the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget request for the National Science Foundation. During the two-day event, participants were also briefed by federal officials, including representatives from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and NSF and took part in a policy orientation session.

The annual Congressional Visits Day is sponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC), jointly spearheaded by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). Six BESC “teams” comprised of biological scientists from across the U.S. met with nearly 50 offices in the House and Senate. The scientists underscored their message with personal stories regarding the research they are doing in the local communities the lawmakers represent.

The individual congressional visits constituted a plethora of diversity, both regionally and ideologically. The overwhelming majority of offices were receptive to the message that investment in science has multifaceted benefits to society that include advancing educational opportunities and job creation.   Several offices encouraged the scientists to reach beyond their own communities and take the time to talk with other Americans about the benefits of federal investment in research and science education.

There were also offices that, while expressing general support for science, noted that the current fiscal climate made them wary of supporting funding increases for any federal agency. Some cautioned that because NSF is funded through an appropriations subcommittee that also funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, their support will likely depend upon other aspects of the overall bill. 

While the bill is sometimes passed as a standalone measure, it is often merged with other agency appropriations bills late in the year during the conference process and passed as an omnibus bill, particularly in recent years. The recently enacted FY 2012 Commerce Justice Science appropriations bill, for example, was included in a mini-omnibus measure that also includes appropriations bills that funded the Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Agriculture Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, LenFest Ocean Program, the National Science Foundation, Science Magazine, the White House

March 23, 2012

In This Issue

HOUSE: FY 2013 BUDGET PROPOSAL CUTS INNOVATION, FEDERAL WORKFORCE

On March 20, House Republicans unveiled their proposed budget resolution for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. Sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the budget bill sets an overall discretionary spending limit of $1.028 trillion in FY 2013, $19 billion below the spending caps established in the Budget Control Act.

Among its provisions, the House budget resolution includes significant cuts to Department of Energy programs while expanding  oil and gas drilling. It also supports the sale of 3.3 million acres of federal lands identified in a 1997 Department of Interior report that were deemed suitable for sale or exchange to benefit the Everglades restoration effort in Florida. The White House released a statement asserting that the Ryan plan would cut clean energy programs by 19 percent and slash $100 billion from science, space and technology programs over the next decade.

The budget also proposes to cut the federal government workforce by 10 percent, providing $368 billion in savings. Under the proposal, federal employee retirement contributions would also rise from 0.8 percent to 6.3 percent. The bill would also extend the current federal pay freeze to 2015.

The budget replaces the automatic “trigger” set in place by the Budget Control Act that is slated to implement $98 billion in cuts to discretionary spending programs, including $55 billion from defense. The proposed House budget would void the defense cuts and task six House committees with identifying additional cuts in discretionary spending to discretionary programs.

The annual legislation serves as a ceiling for federal spending levels, while specific spending levels are determined by the House and Senate Appropriations Committee. Discretionary spending limits for FY 2013 have been established under the aforementioned Budget Control Act. Functionally, the law set in place spending caps for ten years, making a traditional budget resolution from either chamber during this period unnecessary or redundant, absent substantial proposed changes to existing law.

Senate Democrats have pledged to adhere to the limits set forth by the Budget Control Act. The fact that the House budget plan shaves $98 billion from the set level foretells another brawl between House and Senate appropriators over funding levels this fall, which will be heightened (and likely prolonged) by election season politics.

Chairman Ryan’s FY 2013 budget resolution is set to be considered on the House floor for a vote the week of March 26.

View the full FY 2013 House budget proposal here:
http://budget.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Pathtoprosperity2013.pdf

The White House response to the House budget proposal can be viewed here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/03/21/ryan-republican-budget-consequences-imbalance

SENATE: COMMITTEE REVIEWS EPA MERCURY STANDARDS FOR POWER PLANTS

On March 20, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety met for a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury rules for power plants. EPA finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide on Dec. 16, 2011.

“I believe it’s possible to have a clean environment and a strong economy. I think it’s a false choice to say that we have to have one or the other; we can have both. That is especially true for cleaning up our air pollution,” declared Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) in his opening statement. “In fact, as the EPA has implemented the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, our nation’s air has gotten cleaner, while electricity rates have stayed constant and our economy has grown by 60 percent. For every dollar we spend cleaning the air, we’ve seen $30 returned in reduced health care costs, better workplace productivity, and lives saved.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member James Barrasso (R-WY) asserted the closure of coal-fired power plants would lead to increased layoffs, lost revenue from property taxes and ultimately increase household power rates. “EPA has put those workers and their families on the unemployment line in the middle of a recession,” he said. Barrasso has joined James Inhofe (R-OK), the full committee’s ranking member, in supporting legislative efforts to overturn EPA’s mercury rules.

According to EPA Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy, the new standards will prevent over 100,000 heart and asthma attacks annually. She also questioned whether the 57 power plant closures that Barrasso attributed to EPA rules did not in fact have more to do with other changes, such as inexpensive natural gas that is spurring utilities to shift power sources.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) expressed general support for the EPA mercury rule, but questioned Administrator McCarthy as to why the president did not use his authority provided under the Clean Air Act to extend the deadline for the rule’s implementation for up to two years, giving utilities additional time to comply. McCarthy responded that the president’s authority to provide extra time was only if the rule could pose a threat to national security, which it does not.

Chairman Carper and Sen. Alexander have repeatedly sponsored consensus legislation to cut mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, most recently  the Clean Air Act Amendments of 2010.

WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT TAKES ENERGY MESSAGE ON THE ROAD

The week of March 19, President Obama took to a four-state energy tour in the wake of growing discontent over rising gas prices.

The president expressed support for continued federal investments to help develop more bio-fuels, green-electricity sources and efficient vehicles to complement expanded oil-and-gas drilling. The four-state energy tour included visits to Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Ohio. His March 22 visit to Ohio State University touted his administration’s investments in energy research and development, bio-based products and advanced vehicles.

The president’s energy tour began at the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility, which the White House said was the largest photovoltaic solar power plant in the country. The president used the forum to counter arguments from opponents of the administration’s energy investments, specifically Solyndra. While the president didn’t mention the company, he reiterated his position that investments in the renewable energy industry will boost the economy and create thousands of jobs.

President Obama used his appearance in a New Mexico oil field to counter Republican assertions that his administration is stifling oil and gas production.  While touting that his administration is “drilling everywhere we can,” Obama also qualified that expanded U.S. oil production alone can’t bring down rising gasoline prices, noting that that for decades there has been no connection between U.S. production levels and pump prices.

While in Oklahoma, the president also announced his intention to issue an executive order that would expedite approval of the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline. The White House, however, has remained firm in its decision not to come to a final decision on the northern portion that runs through Nebraska until TransCanada and the state determine a new route and the environmental review process has been completed.

To view the White House’s fact sheet on energy, click here:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/email-files/fact_sheet_obama_administration_92s_all_of_the_above_a_windows_approach_to_american_energy.pdf

EPA: SUPREME COURT RULES UNANIMOUSLY IN FAVOR OF LANDOWNERS

On March 21, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing property owners that violate the Clean Water Act to seek judicial review.

Specifically, the justices held that Mike and Chantell Sackett of Priest Lake, Idaho can challenge the Environmental Protection Agency order that prevented the couple from disturbing wetlands on their land that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The Sacketts intended to build a three-bedroom home early in 2007. They had filled part of the property with rocks and soil, in preparation for construction, when federal officials ordered a halt in the work.  Maybe add a sentence about the steep fines they were accumulating (on paper?) daily? Under the non-compliance penalty, the Sacketts were faced with government fines that could have totaled $75,000 per day.

In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court rejected EPA’s argument that allowing property owners quick access to courts to contest orders like the one issued to the Sacketts would compromise the agency’s ability to deal with water pollution. The court held that they should be able to contest EPA’s findings under the Administrative Procedure Act, a statute used to challenge agency decision-making.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Samuel Alito called upon Congress to clarify jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, which the Supreme Court itself has made less clear-cut due to recent cases such as Rapanos vs. United States.

EPA: ENVIRONMENTALISTS FILE LAWSUITS TO CURB MISSISSIPPI RIVER POLLUTION

Environmental groups have filed federal lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intended to force the government to curb water pollution from cities and farms that seep into connecting waterways that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

The lawsuits, spearheaded by the Gulf Restoration Network and the Natural Resources Defense Council, contend that runoff in the Mississippi River Basin containing nutrients from agriculture and wastewater treatment plants stimulates excessive algae growth that has helped foster a “dead zone” in the Gulf the size of Massachusetts. The environmental groups said they filed the lawsuits after petitions to the EPA in 2007 for stronger wastewater treatment rules and in 2008 on water quality standards went unfulfilled.

The dead zone forms due to an overgrowth in algae spurred by fertilizers.  The algae consumes oxygen when it decomposes to the degree that an area can no longer support marine life. The Gulf’s dead zone averages over 5,000 square miles but has increased over time and is affecting the resilience of the Gulf’s ecosystem, according to scientists.

Currently, the federal government lets states set limits on nutrients. EPA has set a goal of reducing nutrients in the Mississippi by 40 percent through collaborating with farmers and state governments, an effort the environmental groups contend does not go far enough.

The lawsuits seek to expand the EPA’s authority over nutrients under the Clean Water Act. Under the law, the agency cannot regulate most agricultural operations, but it does have broad authority over water quality in rivers and coastal waters. EPA, which denied the petition to set water quality standards for nutrients last year, is reviewing the lawsuits.

The legal filings can be found here:
http://docs.nrdc.org/water/wat_12031401.asp

Information on EPA’s current efforts to manage water pollution from runoff can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/owow_keep/nps/agriculture.html#fact

ENDANGERED SPECIES: FWS DESIGNATES HABITAT FOR THREATENED LEOPARD FROG

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced that it is designating over 10,000 acres in Arizona and New Mexico as critical habitat for the threatened Chiricahua leopard frog.

The final rule designates 39 sites within the frog’s range in 13 counties: Apache, Cochise, Gila, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Santa Cruz and Yavapai counties in Arizona, and Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, Sierra and Socorro counties in New Mexico. All but one of the sites are currently occupied by the frog. Of the approximately 10,346 acres designated, 6,958 are on federal land, 348 are on state land and 3,040 acres are on private land.

The frog species once occupied wetlands and waterways in central and southeastern Arizona as well as southwestern New Mexico, in addition to areas south of the U.S. border in Mexico. According to FWS, the species has disappeared from 80 percent of its habitat.

The 4-inch, spotted green frog historically lived in low- to mid-elevation wetlands, lakes, ponds and riparian zones in central and southeastern Arizona, west-central and southwestern New Mexico, and the mountains of northeastern Sonora and western Chihuahua in Mexico. But the species has disappeared from more than 80 percent of its former range in Arizona and New Mexico, according to FWS.

Environmentalists petitioned to protect the frog under the Endangered Species Act in 1998. The request was granted four years later, but no critical habitat was proposed. Federal officials stated they could work better with landowners and stakeholders on conservation efforts, prompting a lawsuit from WildEarth Guardians. A settlement was reached with FWS in 2009 allowing the consideration of critical habitat. The habitat designation goes into effect April 19.

The full designation can be read here:
http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2012-05953_PI.pdf

Additional information on FWS chiricahua leopard frog management efforts can be found here:
http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/arizona/CLF.htm

INTERIOR: NATIVE AMERICAN TRIBES RECEIVE $4.2 MILLION FOR CONSERVATION EFFORTS

On March 16, the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) announced over $4.2 million in Tribal Wildlife Grants to 23 Native American tribes in 17 states to fund a wide range of conservation initiatives, including salmon restoration and invasive species control. The effort is part of the Obama administration’s “America’s Great Outdoors” initiative.

The grants provide technical and financial assistance for the development and implementation of projects that benefit fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe, Native American Tribes manage over 100 million acres of fish and wildlife habitat across the nation.

View the full DOI announcement here:
http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/AMERICAS-GREAT-OUTDOORS-Salazar-Announces-More-than-4-point-2-Million-in-Conservation-Grants-to-Native-American-Tribes.cfm

Additional information on the FWS Tribal Wildlife Grant program can be found here: http://www.fws.gov/nativeamerican/grants.html

SCIENCE: NEON ANNOUNCES CONSTRUCTION OF DATA COLLECTION SITES

The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) has announced that it will begin construction on three sites that will serve to collect information on a continental scale on issues such as climate change, land use, invasive species and biodiversity.

The three specific sites, which break ground early this summer, include Ordway-Swisher Biological Station in Florida, Harvard Forest in Massachusetts and Central Plains Experimental Range in Colorado. NEON expects the National Science Foundation (NSF) to put forward $60 million in Fiscal Year 2012 towards the effort. NEON also plans to use the funding for construction of six to eight additional sites by the end of the year.

NEON’s construction funding is provided through NSF’s 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.

The initial three sites are expected to be completed by late 2013 with fully operational status expected sometime the following year.

View the full press release here:
http://www.neoninc.org/pressreleases/neonconstruction

CURRENT POLICY

Passed the House

H.R. 2087, to remove restrictions from a parcel of land situated in the Atlantic District, Accomack County, Virginia – Introduced by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), the bill would terminate all federal deed restrictions on a parcel of land in Virginia so that it could be developed. The bill passed the House March 20, by a vote of 240-164, largely along party lines with 17 Democrats joining with all but three Republicans in supporting the bill. Department of Interior officials have disputed the bill supporters’ contention that the land is underutilized, asserting that the land includes a popular park with playgrounds, picnic area and natural trail.

Considered by Senate Committee

On March 22, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a hearing on several public lands bills, including the following:

S. 1129, the Grazing Improvement Act – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would increase flexibility for ranchers seeking grazing permits. 

S. 1559, the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area Act – Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill would establish the San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in the San Juan Islands, Washington.

S. 1492, the Three Kids Mine Remediation and Reclamation Act – Introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the bill would approve a land deal between the federal government and the Henderson Redevelopment Agency in Nevada that would involve clean up of the Three Kids Mine in Henderson, Nevada. Companion legislation (H.R. 2512) has been introduced by Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV).

S. 1635, the San Juan Mountains Wilderness Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), the bill would designate 33,000 acres of land in San Miguel, Ouray, and San Juan Counties, Colorado, as wilderness.

S. 1687, the Carson National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act of 2011 – Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), the bill would adjust the boundary of Carson National Forest, New Mexico. Companion legislation (H.R. 3354) has been introduced by Rep. Ben Ray Luján  (D-NM).

S. 1774, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act of 2011 - Introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), the bill would add 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness in Montana while establishing a 208,000-acre conservation area on the Rocky Mountain Front.

S. 1788, the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Harry Reid, the bill would designate the Pine Forest Range Wilderness area in Humboldt County, Nevada.

S. 1906, the Cabin Fee Act – Introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), the bill would ease the financial burden on owners of recreational cabins that occupy National Forest System lands. Companion legislation has been introduced by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA).

Passed Senate

S. 1813, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) – Introduced by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), is a comprehensive transportation authorization bill. The $109 billion bill continues funding for surface transportation and infrastructure programs for two years. Among amendments rejected were proposals by Senate Republicans to speed environmental reviews of transportation projects damaged in natural disasters, approve drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 74-22.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has stated his chamber may consider a three month short-term extension bill to allow further time for House majority leaders to build consensus among their members for their own transportation reauthorization measure. House Democrats have introduced the Senate bill as H.R. 14. Congress must take action on some form of extension before March 31, to avoid a government shutdown of federal programs related to surface transportation.


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Associated Press, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, the Examiner, Greenwire, Gulf Restoration Network, the Hill, National Ecological Observatory Network, Natural Resources Defense Council, POLITICO, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Reuters, the Washington Post, the White House

March 9, 2012

In This Issue

BUDGET: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS ADMINISTRATION PRIORITIES

The House Science, Space and Technology committee recently convened hearings that examined the science and research investments outlined in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal. During a Feb. 17 hearing that focused on research and development, there was a consensus among committee leaders on certain investments while views differed sharply on where the administration’s priorities should lie.

“I continue to believe that while it is true that prudent investments in science and technology, including STEM education, will almost certainly yield future economic gains and help create new jobs of the future, it is also true that these gains can be hindered by poor decision-making,” said Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX). Hall expressed his concern for increases in programs he views as “duplicative and wasteful” as well as increases for climate change related research. Hall also expressed concern for the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s (NASA) request, which would cut funding by $59 million.

Committee Democrats were overall supportive of the budget, mindful of the current political climate that has members of both parties urging some manner of fiscal restraint. “Investments in research and development and STEM education are critical to fostering innovation and maintaining our nation’s competitive edge.  But these are also fiscally challenging times,” stated Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “We will have some concerns and disagreements, but let me be clear.  This is a good budget for research, innovation, and education under the circumstances,” she added.

Chairman Hall, a vocal climate change skeptic, also took the opportunity to question White House Science Advisor John Holdren on the issue. Holdren’s written testimony cited a $136 million (5.6 percent) increase for the multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program to “continue its important work of improving our ability to understand, predict,  mitigate, and adapt to global change, including but not limited to climate change.”

Holdren testified that “every major national academy of sciences in the world, and virtually all of the major professional societies that deal with the relevant disciplines have issued statements saying that the evidence for climate change outside the realm of natural variability is overwhelming.” 

“You will be able to produce on the witness stand a few who will say they don’t believe it, but they are very much in the minority,” Holdren continued. “You could also produce people on this witness stand who will say, with Ph.D.’s attached to their names, that they don’t believe cigarette smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.”

National Science Foundation (NSF)

With regard to the administration’s budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF), austerity concerns from the majority were somewhat more tepid. “While a nearly five percent increase for NSF in FY 13 shows stronger fiscal constraint than the FY 2012 request at 13 percent, I remain concerned that our federal agencies still are not doing enough to encourage austerity and properly prioritize scarcer federal funds,” stated Research and Education Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). “NSF has a long and proven track record, one in which we are all proud, and I have every reason to believe NSF will continue this good work with whatever budgets are forthcoming from Congress,” he concluded.

NSF Director Subra Suresh maintained that the five percent increase in the president’s FY 2013 budget will have direct economic benefits for Americans. “NSF has the mandate not only to fund all fields of science and engineering, but also supports human capital development.  Since 1952, NSF has supported 48,000 graduate students in the country through NSF fellowships.  [These graduate students] have been the engines of innovation in this country,” said Suresh. 

View the R&D hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-overview-administration%E2%80%99s-federal-research-and-development-budget

View the NSF hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-science-education-hearing-overview-nsf-budget-fy-2013

BUDGET: EPA ADMINISTRATOR CRITICIZED OVER REGULATORY EFFORTS

The week of February 27 brought Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to Capitol Hill for congressional hearings concerning the agency’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request.

Funding for EPA under the president’s budget request would be cut by one percent for a total of $8.3 billion in FY 2013. Nonetheless, congressional Republicans have been steadfast in calling for additional cuts, noting the substantial increases the agency received during FY 2009 and 2010. They are also critical of many EPA regulations and initiatives making it likely that environmental policy riders will again be attached to appropriations bills  when legislation is considered this spring and summer.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Moran (D-VA) asserted that the policy riders included in the previous House bill to fund EPA only slowed the bill down to the point that it did not even pass the House as a stand-alone bill. Moran suggested that if Members wanted to change existing environmental laws, they should do so through the more traditional means, not through the appropriations process.

With a proposed budget $105 million below the fiscal year 2012 level, EPA’s budget would decline for the third year in a row. The agency has never faced a declining budget for three consecutive years,” noted House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID).  “However, if enacted at this level, the budget would still provide EPA with $700 million above its fiscal year 2009 level, and its 5th highest appropriation ever.”

Much of the critique from majority Republicans is related to EPA’s hydraulic fracturing study, clean water and air quality regulations as well as proposals to improve the water quality of  the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) was particularly critical of EPA’s handling of coal mining permits, contending the agency’s failure to approve permits in the Appalachian region has cost jobs in his congressional district. EPA administrator Jackson maintained that the 37 mining permits to which the agency has objected were rejected because scientists said they would have contaminated local water.

An equal level of partisanship was evident during a joint hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Environment and Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). A recurring theme among committee Republicans during the hearing was the sentiment that implementation of EPA’s regulations ultimately prove to be doubly costly for American taxpayers.

“Each dollar EPA spends can end up costing us many more dollars as a consequence of the agency’s ill-advised actions,” contended Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “For example, when EPA uses funds to come up with regulations that contribute to rising gasoline prices, it costs us both as taxpayers and at the pump. A similar thing happens when the agency raises our electric bills through burdensome power plant regulations.”

Like his Kentucky colleague Rogers, Subcommittee Chairman Whitfield chose to focus his opening statement on coal regulations. “Now, let me be clear, I am all for reasonable EPA regulations to control emissions from coal-fired power plants as spelled out in the Clean Air Act,” he stated. “But what we have seen in the last few years goes well beyond what EPA is supposed to be doing, and constitutes an effort to force this nation away from coal by imposing an avalanche of regulations that are technologically and economically impossible to meet.”

Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxmann (D-CA) criticized House Republicans for their attempts to curb EPA regulations. “This has been the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in history.  House Republicans have voted over 200 times to undermine basic environmental protections that have existed for decades,” he said. “The American people want a safe and healthy environment.  They want to know that the air they breathe and the water they drink is safe.  And they want Congress to start listening to them instead of the oil and coal industries. One-quarter of one percent of our budget is not too much to spend on clean air and clean water and a healthy environment.”

For additional information on the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277064

For additional information on the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, click here:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=9317

BUDGET: HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES REVIEW NOAA PRIORITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco endured critique from both chambers and both parties during committee hearings on the agency’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request.

Lubchenco said that the NOAA budget reflects numerous tough choices, including program terminations and budget cuts that include cutting the National Weather Service, terminating the National Mesonet, a network of weather stations designed to observe certain meteorological phenomena and cutting the budget for the NOAA Education Program by more than half.  “To ensure that we can deliver on these core services, we have prioritized our activities, made limited targeted investments, reduced or terminated activities that while important could not be accommodated in the current fiscal environment without threatening our capacity to deliver our core services and sought out administrative efficiencies to ensure that every dollar is maximized,” asserted Lubchenco.

During the March 6 House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing, Republicans expressed concerns that the Obama administration was prioritizing “political environmental agendas” over quality science. “Only in Washington, as we face an unprecedented fiscal train wreck and continue to be forced to borrow 40 cents on the dollar, can a requested budget increase of 3.1 percent for NOAA and 1.4 percent for EPA be characterized as making ‘tough choices,’” said Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD).

Critique from Democrats was totally contrary to that of Republicans “Despite the challenging economic times, it is unwise to sacrifice services that the public relies on, such as weather forecasting and warning capabilities,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC). “Nor should we undermine America’s future by failing to invest in the next generation workforce of scientists.  We can be fiscally responsible while still making the necessary investments to keep our country and environment healthy and the American economy competitive.”

This sentiment was more or less echoed the following day by Democrats during a Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee hearing on NOAA’s budget request. “I’m pleased the administration is now working more aggressively to keep weather satellites on track and on budget, but I’m troubled by the proposed cuts to local forecasting jobs across the country, as well as the decision to forego several cost-effective weather technology innovations that would significantly improve storm predictions,” stated Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). “The FY 2013 budget request for NOAA is $5.1 billion.  I have questions about several of the proposed program terminations, particularly with regard to weather services and restoration programs.”  

View the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-energy-and-environment-hearing-overview-noaa-epa-fy13-budget

View the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing here:
http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=5b7a1990-39a6-41cf-89f5-cc4b612b4e88&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=b06c39af-e033-4cba-9221-de668ca1978a

BUDGET: INTERIOR OFFICIALS TESTIFY ON AGENCY PRIORITIES

In recent weeks, representatives of the Department of Interior (DOI) and its various sub agencies have ascended Capitol Hill for a series of congressional meetings of the president’s FY 2013 budget request for the agency.

On Feb. 27, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee. DOI would receive $11.4 billion (a one percent increase) for FY 2013 under the president’s budget request. During the hearing, Senators generally expressed bipartisan support for investments in programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would see a 30 percent increase to $450 million under the president’s FY 2013 budget.

Many of the concerns were state-based. Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) urged Salazar to accelerate efforts to complete a wind energy lease off the Rhode Island shore. These sentiments were echoed by Susan Collins (R-ME) whose state also benefits from investment in offshore wind energy. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) expressed concern with Interior’s proposal to cut $200 million from a coastal impact assistance program for states affected by offshore drilling. Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed concerns with cuts to the Alaska Conveyance Program and increased fees and royalties for leasing and development on federal lands.

Salazar had previously appeared Feb. 15 before the House Natural Resources Committee where Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) took the opportunity to question him on the agency’s coal regulations and its six year moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Hastings was also critical of the administration’s attempt to slash oil industry tax breaks. Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) expressed support for DOI’s decision to increase investment in both renewable energy permitting and offshore oil and gas oversight. He also highlighted Interior’s proposal to boost research into water supplies and management options in the West by $20 million, raising the program to $75 million. These concerns were also expressed by Republican leaders during a House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee meeting that same week.

Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands convened Feb. 28 to review the National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau for Land Management (BLM).

Committee Republicans objected to a proposal in BLM’s budget to impose a first-ever royalty fee on hardrock mining companies digging on public lands for resources like gold and silver. The plan also calls for a new fee on those companies to pay for pending reclamation projects. Concerns were also expressed over the bureau’s $450 million proposal for land acquisition, arguing that the department should spend more money on managing the land it already owns. 

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis touted a new report showing that visitors to the National Park System contributed more than $31 billion to local economies and supported more than 250,000 jobs, a marked increase from the year before. He also stressed efforts to hire more veterans and for park managers to find savings without hurting visitor experiences. NPS has garnered criticism from conservation groups for its $2.6 million budget, which on balance, cuts millions from the agency’s base operations and is expected to lead to the loss of several hundred jobs. 

To view the House Natural Resources Committee Interior hearing, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277782

To view the House Appropriations Committee Interior hearing, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277058

To view the Senate Appropriations Committee Interior hearing, click here:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/ht-interior.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=c1f720cb-ad28-4041-ae86-192bbb70a860

To view the House Natural Resources BLM/NPS hearing, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=281076

SENATE: AG COMMITTEE CONSIDERS CONSERVATION IN FARM BILL REAUTHORIZATION

On Feb. 28, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee met to discuss the importance of conservation programs in the next farm bill, which is up for reauthorization this year. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2012.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) asserted that conservation programs benefit Americans in a variety of ways. “Conservation helps farmers and ranchers to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber while taking care of the land and water,” she said. “As we continue our work, this farm bill must focus on making our programs simpler, locally driven, science-based, and flexible. These programs must ensure that taxpayers’ investments in conservation are enabling agriculture to remain healthy and productive across the diverse landscapes of this great nation. We must be certain those 1.3 billion acres produce clean water, abundant and safe food, wildlife habitat, and conserve this way of life for future generations.”

Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), however, called for streamlining programs in the conservation title of the next farm bill. “A single program will not meet the needs of all producers, but we have gone too far in the other direction,” he said. “We now have duplicative programs that have become more and more complicated…My goal during this farm bill process is to maintain options for producers while simplifying the programs for producers and those tasked with implementation.”

The farm bill’s largest conservation programs include the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle their lands for habitat purposes, and the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is designed to reward farmers who work their way up stewardship tiers and take steps to reduce nutrient runoff into local waterways. The title also includes the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a cost-share program that helps farmers with environmental improvements.

The Conservation Reserve Program has been criticized by Congressional Republicans. During a recent budget hearing, House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA) touted the idea of sponsoring an amendment that would either drastically reduce the program or phase it out completely. Kingston believes the program is oversubscribed and claimed that much of the enrolled land is not erodible enough to qualify.

Senators heard from agency officials and conservation groups on how to best continue federal agricultural programs related to conservation. Representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both David White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Bruce Nelson, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency, called for targeted assistance to environmentally sensitive areas and expanding state and local input into conservation decisions.

“In an era of reduced resources, we look forward to working closely with Congress to meet critical U.S. conservation needs,” stated White in his opening testimony. “We also look forward to working more closely with not only our inter-agency partners within USDA, but also with the private sector and other government agencies. By doing so, we aim to better leverage resources, share ideas, and deliver programs that ensure sustainable conservation activities and programs for agriculture and rural areas.”

Other panelists echoed the sentiment that continued investment in agricultural conservation programs will require a collaborative effort between the public sector and private nonprofits. Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) touted what his organization is doing to enhance conservation initiatives. According to Trandahl, NFWF has worked with NRCS, other federal agencies and over 50 corporations to leverage funding for conservation efforts that sustain wildlife while benefiting working lands and local economies. NFWF is an independent 501(c)(3) chartered by Congress in 1984.

Becky Humphries, Director of Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited, Inc. expressed her support for federal programs such as the Wetlands Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which she touted as a model federal/state partnership. “Regional partnerships fueled by local diverse interest groups and supported by federal, state and private funders, are a key to accomplish watershed approaches and solutions that will yield a good farm economy and a healthy sustainable environment,” she said.

The full hearing is viewable here:
http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/strengthening-conservation-through-the-2012-farm-bill

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: AGENCIES RELEASE DISPARITY MITIGATION STRATEGIES

On Feb. 27, several federal agencies, led by the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency released environmental justice strategies that aim to protect communities facing disproportionately high health and environmental risks. The effort seeks to address disparities that currently exist in low-income and minority communities.

The federal effort constitutes an administration-wide strategy across a diverse cross-section of federal agencies. Examples given by EPA include:

  • The Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration is finalizing an environmental justice circular to help grantees determine whether there are any minority or low-income populations that may be adversely affected by a transit project or decision. DOT’s Federal Highway Administration is working with the National Highway Institute to revamp its course on environmental justice and Title VI.
  • The Department of Labor is translating educational materials and hazard alerts into Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese to ensure that minority workers have access to information they need to avoid environmental hazards on the job.
  • The Department of Energy’s Pueblo Project in Los Alamos, NM, provides four tribal governments the opportunity to run pollution monitoring programs and provide technical input on National Nuclear Security Administration decisions.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is helping to provide green jobs and workforce development opportunities for veterans in minority and low-income communities.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with communities to use Health Impact Assessments, to help proactively address the potential impacts of a policy or project on minority and low income populations. For example, in Baltimore, MD, work is underway to evaluate the human health impact of a vacant property redevelopment program.

Federal agencies releasing new environmental justice strategies include: the Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs and General Services Administration. The EPA and the Department of Energy published strategies in 2011 and 2008, respectively, and released annual implementation plans last year.

Additional information regarding each agency’s environmental justice strategies can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/iwg-compendium.html

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SEEDS STUDENTS ADVOCATE FOR STEM EDUCATION

On March 1, several small teams of Ecological Society of America (ESA) SEEDS students ascended Capitol Hill to advocate for federal investment in Science Technology Education and Mathematics (STEM) Education.

The groups compromising nine students and staff from ESA’s Education and Public Affairs offices met with the offices of over 20 Senators and Representatives to request their support for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that includes provisions related to STEM education. Specifically, the students called on policymakers to support the bipartisan bill introduced by Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY) that takes an all-encompassing approach to advancing science education programs.

Many of the meetings were attended by the actual lawmaker, affording the students a unique opportunity to personally meet their elected representative. The students, some of whom participated in STEM education programs in various capacities, were able to relate a local perspective to the policymakers and their staffers as well as anecdotes on how science education has benefited them as they advance through college.

Many of the policy sentiments related to reauthorization of ESEA were echoed from feedback given from various science and education organizations on how to best reauthorize the legislation. ESA recently endorsed a letter spearheaded by the STEM Education Coalition, which provided input on the various House and Senate bills that would reauthorize ESEA.

To view the STEM Education Coalition letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Letter-STEM-Ed-Coalition-to-Kline.pdf

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA JOINS SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES IN OPPOSITION TO GRANT ACT

In February, the Ecological Society of America was among 84 scientific organizations as part of the Coalition for National Science Funding who joined together in sending a letter to Congress expressing concerns with H.R. 3433, the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act.

Introduced by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), the GRANT Act directs federal agencies to establish uniform standards for how they notice, award, and disclose discretionary competitive grants, with the goal of increasing transparency of the award process. However, the scientific societies were specifically concerned about a provision in the GRANT Act that would require the posting of a complete copy of a funded grant proposal to a new government-wide website.

“Requiring a complete copy of a funded grant proposal to be available on a public website would seriously limit the ability of grant recipients to reap benefits from their own research.  A proposal can contain intellectual property of the researcher and the institution that employs the researcher,” the letter states. “The ideas and directions of research outlined are, in most cases, based on years of work.  These ideas can also be the basis for other research performed by the proposer, including research that may not be funded by the federal government.”

The letter also expresses concern with a provision that would allow identification of grant peer reviewers, forgoing the anonymity that is important in maintaining an impartial peer-review process. “The success of the peer-review process depends on the willingness of qualified reviewers to be candid and critical as needed in the evaluation of research proposals and, in fact, without the anonymity provided in the current process, many researchers would not be willing to review proposals,” the letter states.

In addition to ESA, scientific societies cosigning the letter include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Geological Society of America and several prominent universities.

To view the full letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/GRANTActletterfeb2012.pdf

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee

On March 8, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 752 Molalla River Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – Introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the bill would designate segments of the Molalla River in the State of Oregon, as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

H.R. 1415, Chetco River Protection Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the bill would make technical corrections to the segment designations for the Chetco River, DeFazio also introduced H.R. 3436, which would expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area in Oregon and provide additional protections for Rogue River tributaries.

H.R. 3377, the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill would designate the Pine Forest Range Wilderness area in Humboldt County, Nevada as federal land.

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 511, to prohibit the importation of various injurious species of constrictor snakes – Introduced by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), the bill bans the importation and interstate transport of the reticulated python, green anaconda, Beni or Bolivian python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda and boa constrictor. The bill’s bipartisan cosponsors include a dozen members of the Florida and California delegations as well as Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico).

The bill builds on a recent move by the Obama administration that effectively bans the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, and northern and southern African pythons. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by voice vote on Feb. 28.

On Feb. 29, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a host of bills related to mining and land management, including the following:

H.R. 785, to clarify that uncertified States and Indian tribes have the authority to use certain payments for certain non-coal reclamation projects and acid mine remediation programs – Introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), the bill would ensure that states that have not finished cleaning up their priority abandoned coal mines can use Abandoned Mine Land reclamation dollars, which come from coal industry fees, for hardrock mines. Companion legislation (S. 897) has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

H.R. 2512, the Three Kids Mine Remediation and Reclamation Act – Introduced by Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV), the bill would approve a land deal between the federal government and the Henderson Redevelopment Agency in Nevada that would involve clean up of the Three Kids Mine in Henderson, Nevada. Companion legislation (S. 1492) has been introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).

H.R. 3409, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act – Introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), the bill would block the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining from issuing or approving any new rule that would have a negative effect on jobs production before Dec. 31, 2013.

H.R. 3452, the Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act – Introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill would provide for the sale of approximately 30 acres of federal land in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Salt Lake County, Utah, to permit the establishment of a minimally invasive transportation alternative for skiers, called “SkiLink,” and to connect two ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains. Companion legislation (S. 1883) has been introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Passed the House

H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act – Introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the bill modifies current water allocation practices in California’s Central Valley to provid increased water access for agricultural and municipal purposes. Opponents of the legislation assert that the bill makes modifications to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act that would limit the enforcement of environmental regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The bill passed the House Feb. 29 by a vote of 246-175 with Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) voting “present.”

H.R. 2842, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development Act – the bill clarifies the Bureau of Reclamation’s role in permitting hydropower projects on federal canals and water pipelines. It also would exempt small-scale hydropower projects on federal canals and pipelines from federal environmental review requirements. This bill passed the House March 7, by a vote of 265-154.

Introduced in the Senate

S. 2146, the Clean Energy Standard Act – Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the bill would require the nation’s largest utilities to generate a percentage of their electricity from clean energy sources, including renewable energy, nuclear power, biomass, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, and natural gas, beginning in 2015. The bill has eight original cosponsors, all Democrats.

Considered by Senate Committee/Subcommittee

On March 7, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing on a number of bills that would establish national parks and heritage areas, including the following:

H.R. 1141, the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act – Introduced by Rep. Gregoria Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating prehistoric, historic, and limestone forest sites on Rota, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as a unit of the National Park System. The bill passed the House Jan. 23, 2012 under suspension by a two-thirds vote of 278-100 with 55 Members not voting.

H.R. 2606, the New York City Natural Gas Act – Introduced by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area, which lies along the port of New York and New Jersey. The bill passed the House Feb. 7 by voice vote.

S. 29, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Establishment Act – Introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would establish the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area in California.

S. 1150, the Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area Act – Introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), the bill would establish the Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania. S. 2131, a bill to reauthorize the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the Lackawanna Valley National Heritage Area, and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, was also introduced by Sen. Casey.

S. 1708, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act – Introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the bill establishes the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a unit of the National Park System.

S. 2133, the America’s Agricultural Heritage Partnership Reauthorization Act – Introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the bill would reauthorize the America’s Agricultural Heritage Partnership in the State of Iowa.


Sources: CNS News, 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 Space, Science and Technology Committee, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Committee, STEM Education Coalition

February 17, 2012

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: FY 2013 BUDGET PRIORITIZES INNOVATION AMIDST FISCAL AUSTERITY

On Feb. 13, President Obama released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, 2012. While the $3.8 trillion budget continues the president’s focus on fiscal discipline with significant cuts to environmental initiatives, it also contains a wish list of proposed boosts for science and research programs intended to foster job creation.

In his message to Congress, the president maintained that investment in innovation is needed to help the economy recover. “To succeed and thrive in the global, high-tech economy, we need America to be a place with the highest-skilled, highest-educated workers; the most advanced transportation and communication networks; and the strongest commitment to research and technology in the world,” he stated. “This budget makes investments that can help America win this race, create good jobs, and lead in the world economy.” Revenue provisions of the proposed budget that would pay for increased funding by ending certain tax breaks for oil companies raising taxes on wealthy individuals are expected to be blocked by Congressional Republicans.

The budget highlights investments in clean energy as well as research and development (R&D) increases for most agencies. “In this Budget, we are sustaining our level of investment in non-defense research and development (R&D) even as overall spending declines, thereby keeping us on track to double R&D funding in the key R&D agencies,” stated President Obama. Overall, the president’s budget proposes $140.8 billion for federal R&D, an increase of $2 billion (or 1.2 percent) over the current FY 2012 enacted level. The budget also proposes $3 billion for Science Technology Education and Mathematics programs across federal agencies, a 2.6 percent increase over FY 2012 enacted levels.

According to the White House, the proposed budget’s overall FY 2013 numbers are fully in line with the proposed cuts outlined in the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). At the same time, there appears very little accounting or adjustment for the $1.2 trillion “trigger” in discretionary spending cuts, 50 percent out of defense and 50 percent in non-defense discretionary spending, which are currently scheduled to be implemented on January 2, 2013 in lieu of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction’s failure to reach a trillion dollar spending cut deal. The “trigger” was mandated under the aforementioned Budget Control Act.

The fact that agency budgets do not take into account the mandated Jan. 2013 $1.2 trillion cut seems to indicate that the White House is in alignment with some in Congress who are seeking to bypass the trigger. Whether this happens through a future deficit reduction agreement later this year or legislation that postpones or even nullifies the trigger remains to be seen.

Additional information on the president’s FY 2013 budget request can be found here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget

SCIENCE: ADMINISTRATION INCREASES SUPPORT FOR NSF, RELATED PROGRAMS

As in past budget proposals submitted by the current White House, the president has continued to make science a top priority, proposing significant increases for agencies and programs that support research and innovation.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the only federal agency that provides funding for basic research across all fields of science and engineering.   Accordingly, the president’s FY 2013 budget request includes $7.4 billion for NSF, a 4.8 percent increase over the current enacted level for FY 2012. This includes a request for $5.98 billion for Research and Related Activities, an increase from $5.69 billion in FY 2012. NSF funding currently supports research at 1,875 colleges, universities and institutions and supports the research of an estimated 276,000 people.

The Directorate for Biological Sciences would receive $733.86 million dollars in FY 2013 under the president’s budget, an increase from $712.38 million in FY 2012. This includes $220.52 million for Integrative Organismal Systems (3.9 percent increase), $143.73 million for Environmental Biology (0.8 percent increase) and $129.68 million (2.8 percent increase) for Biological Infrastructure. Additional programs funded by NSF include:

U.S. Global Change Research Program: $2.6 billion, a 5.6 percent increase over FY 2012.
Research at the Interface of the Biological, Mathematical and Physical Sciences (BioMAPS): $30.17 million, an increase from $20 million in FY 2012.
Integrated NSF Support Promoting Interdisciplinary Research and Education (INSPIRE): $4 million, an increase over $2 million in FY 2012.
National Ecological Observatory Network: $91 million, an increase from $60.3 million in FY 2012.

http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2013/toc.jsp

ENVIRONMENT: KEY CONSERVATION AGENCIES SEE MIX OF INVESTMENTS, CUTS

Overall, President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request seeks to balance continued investment in natural resource conservation efforts with a political climate that continues to prioritize fiscal restraint.

Environmental programs would receive a mixture of cuts and increases with those that deal specifically with scientific research more likely to receive level or improved funding. Environmental initiatives that have previously garnered bipartisan support from Congress, such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund garner significant funding increases. Regional efforts such as restoration of the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay are also spared from the chopping block. The administration also continues to propose increased investment in federal efforts to mitigate the impacts climate change.

EPA

The president’s proposed FY 2013 budget recommends $8.3 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a decrease of $105 million (1.2 percent) compared with FY 2012. The decrease marks the third consecutive year in which the administration has proposed cutting the agency’s funding.

The administration rationalizes the decrease as prioritizing funds that specifically help enforce environmental and public health protections. Savings are achieved largely through cuts to the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds as well as the elimination of “outdated, underperforming and overlapping programs,” according to EPA. In total $50 million in EPA programs would be terminated, including a state grant program for the removal of radon and a beach grant program. The administration contends that efforts will be made to ensure the most deserving projects currently slated for cuts receive the necessary funding.

Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup: $93 million, a decrease from $95 million in FY 2012.
Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $1,175 million, a decrease from $1,466 million in FY 2012.
Climate Protection Program: $108 million, an increase from $99.5 million in FY 2012.
Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $850 million, a decrease from $918 million in FY 2012.
EPA R&D: $580 million, a 2.1 percent increase from $568 million in FY 2012.
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: $300 million, level with the amount enacted in FY 2012.
Chesapeake Bay restoration: $72.6 million, a $15 million increase from FY 2012.
State and tribal environmental programs: $1.2 billion, an increase over $1.089 billion in FY 2012.
Wetland protection: $27.7 million, an increase from $21.2 million in FY 2012.

http://www.epa.gov/planandbudget/annualplan/fy2013.html#FY13budget

Department of Interior

Overall, the Department of Interior’s discretionary funding would receive a one percent increase to $11.4 billion for FY 2013 under the president’s budget request.

Key Obama administration initiatives and programs would see increases. The administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative would receive $5.1 billion under the proposed budget, a $146 million increase from the FY 2012 enacted level. This includes $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a $105 million (30 percent) increase from current FY 2012 levels.  The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund would receive $60 million, a $12.3 million increase over the current FY 2012 enacted level of $47.7 million.

Renewable energy programs would receive $86 million for FY 2013 under the proposed budget, an increase of $15 million (21 percent) over FY 2012. According to Interior, the increase would allow Interior to permit 11,000 megawatts of wind, solar and geothermal projects by the end of 2013. Conventional onshore and offshore energy programs would receive $662 million, up $60 million (10 percent) from FY 2012. Investments in key Interior bureaus include:

Bureau of Indian Affairs: $2.527 billion, a decrease from $2.531 billion in FY 2012.
Bureau of Land Management: $1.146 billion, an increase from $1.098 billion in FY 2012.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $164 million, an increase from $161 million in FY 2012.
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $222 million, an increase from $197 million in FY 2012.
Bureau of Reclamation: $994 million, a decrease from $1.02 billion in FY 2012.
Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.548 billion, an increase from $1.476 billion in FY 2012.
U.S. Geological Survey: $1.1 billion, an increase from $1.068 billion in FY 2012.
National Park Service: $2.609, a decrease from $2.61 billion in FY 2012.
WaterSMART: $54 million, an increase from $47 million in FY 2012.
Wildland Fire Management: $818.5 million, an increase from $575 in FY 2012.

http://www.doi.gov/budget/

NASA

The National Aeronautic Space Administration’s (NASA) overall budget would receive $17.7 billion in FY 2013, a $59 million decrease from FY 2012. However, environmental science programs would receive funding increases under the FY 2013 proposed budget. NASA’s earth science account would receive $1.78 billion in FY 2013, an increase from $1.76 billion in FY 2012. Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration would receive $619.2 million for FY 2013, an increase from $487 million in FY 2012.

http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html

NOAA

The president’s FY 2013 budget request for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) includes $5.1 billion, an increase from the $4.9 billion appropriated for FY 2012. Contentious initiatives such as the plan to reorganize NOAA under the Department of Interior as well as NOAA’s Climate Service, opposed by Congressional Republicans, are not included in the budget proposal. NOAA programs funded in the president’s FY 2013 budget include:

Climate Research: $212.7 million, an increase from $183 million in FY 2012
Fisheries: $880 million, a decrease from $895 million in FY 2012.
Joint Polar Satellite System: $916.4 million, a decrease from $924 million in FY 2012.
National Weather Service: $972.2 million, down from $992 million in FY 2012.
Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research: $413.8 million, an increase from $384.7 million in FY 2012.

http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2012/20120213_budget_statement.html

AGRICULTURE: FUNDING INCREASES IN RESEARCH, CUTS FOR CONSERVATION

The discretionary spending request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for FY 2013 is $24 billion, roughly the same as the president’s FY 2012 request. It would provide $23 billion in discretionary funding, a decrease of nearly three percent or almost $700 million, below the FY 2012 enacted level. When mandatory programs are included, the overall FY 2013 budget request for USDA rounds out at $154.5 billion, an increase from the $136.6 billion received for FY 2012.

The president’s budget request includes $6.1 billion for renewable energy investments. The FY 2013 budget also proposes $325 million, a $60 million increase above the FY 2012 enacted level, for competitive research grants made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The budget also proposes increases in-house research in select areas such as crop protection, sustainable agriculture, and food safety by $75 million while decreasing other areas that deal with research and the environment. USDA’s FY 2013 budget request includes:

Agricultural Research Service: $1.13 billion, an increase over the $1.126 billion enacted in FY 2012.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $1.27 billion, a decrease from $1.353 billion in FY 2012.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $1.04 billion, a decrease from $1.1 billion in FY 2012.
Forest Service: $4.86 billion, an increase over the nearly $4.85 billion enacted in FY 2012.
Natural Resources Conservation Service: $3.9 billion, a decrease from the $4.5 billion enacted in FY 2012.

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=BUDGET

ENERGY: RESEARCH, RENEWABLE INVESTMENTS GET BUDGET BOOST

For the Department of Energy (DOE), the president’s budget includes $27.2 billion for FY 2013, a 3.2 percent increase over current FY 2012 levels.

The president’s budget for FY 2013 invests heavily in energy research with significant funding boosts for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). DOE’s Environmental Management program would see a funding drop, however, from $5.71 billion in FY 2012 to $5.65 billion in FY 2013. Hydrogen and fuel cell programs would also be slashed by 23 percent. The budget also includes $12 million to fund a multi-year research initiative that would go towards the development of technology and methods that reduce the health and safety risks of gas and oil production from hydraulic fracturing. Proposed energy investments include:

DOE Office of Science: $4.99 billion, an increase from $4.87 billion in FY 2012.
DOE R&D: $11.9 billion, an increase of $884 million (eight percent) over FY 2012.
Biological and Environmental Research: $625,347, an increase from $609,557 in FY 2012.
Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy: $350 million, a $57 million increase over FY 2012.
Renewable Energy Research and Development: $2.3 billion, an 80 percent increase including $310 for solar energy, $65 million for geothermal energy and $95 million for wind energy off-shore wind technologies.
DOE Office of Nuclear Energy: $770 million, an increase from $766 million in FY 2012.

http://www.cfo.doe.gov/cf30/budgetmap/budgetmap.html


Sources: the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior, Environment and Energy Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the National Aeronautic Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, The Washington Post, The White House

February 10, 2012

In This Issue

HOUSE: SUBCOMMITTEEE ASSESSES EPA SCIENTIFIC REVIEW PROCESS

On Feb. 3, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “Fostering Quality Science at EPA: Perspectives on Common Sense Reform.” The hearing sought to examine EPA’s scientific processes, as outlined under the Environmental Research, Development, and Demonstration Authorization Act (ERDDA).

Citing the testimony of witnesses from a related hearing last year, Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) stressed that efforts to improve EPA’s research activities should seek “to separate science and policy, to quantify uncertainties, to ensure greater transparency in the data, models, and assumptions used in regulatory decisions, to prioritize environmental problems and solutions, and to stop overly alarmist approaches to benefit-cost analysis.”

Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC) expressed support for measured reform of ERDDA. “I approach this task hoping to work with my Republican counterparts in pursuing reforms that will lead to better research practices that help EPA accomplish its mission,” he said. Miller qualified that statement, noting “I am not interested in restructuring EPA to take the only environmental cop off the beat.”

Panelists were divided over the quality of EPA’s scientific research. Michael Walls, Vice President of Regulatory and Technical Affairs at the American Chemistry Council was critical of EPA’s chemical assessment methods and outlined recommendations for improving EPA’s Integrated Risk Information System, which assesses chemical toxicity levels.

Stanley Young, Assistant Director for Bioinformatics at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences called for more of EPA’s research to be made publically available. “On publication of a paper, where research is funded by the EPA, the data should be made public.  When the EPA proposes a regulation based on science, it should name the papers it is depending on and it should make data sets used in those papers publicly available.”  Young said that by increasing transparency, “Claims are more likely to be valid and the resulting policy sensible.  Let normal science help in the vetting process.  Make the data available.”

The panelists did include some who praised the EPA scientific practices. “As a research engineer and editor, I can testify that the Office of Research and Development offers world-class science in a number of areas including air quality monitoring, modeling and development of emissions databases.  Improvements in air quality that the U.S. has achieved over the past 40 years are a testament to the good science at EPA,” noted Jerald Schnoor of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa.

Deborah Swackhamer, Chairwoman of the EPA Science Advisory Board, concurred that EPA could do more to give the public access to the data it relies on in its reports, but she said there are existing controls to prevent conflicts of interest. She noted that peer reviewers must disclose their positions on various issues and their sources of funding before they are assigned to assess a report.

In her opening statement, Swackhamer took the opportunity to respond to a letter from Chairman Harris requesting her thoughts on the capability of EPA to utilize the best available science to fulfill its mission. “The agency [EPA] certainly has the capability given its excellent scientific enterprise. It is sorely short of resources to provide the capacity needed for all the science questions at the agency, and yet there is no other agency where such environmentally focused and directed science is being done to fill the unique mission of protecting the public’s health and the environment on which they depend,” she said.

“That said, this capability would be improved by continuing to address scientific questions from an interdisciplinary approach, by partnering more creatively with others, by involving stakeholders in problem formulation, and integrating science across the agency for the most effective decision making,” she concluded.  

Congress first consolidated funding authorizations for EPA’s research under ERDDA in 1976. The law hasn’t been reauthorized since Fiscal Year 1981. Subsequent funding for the ERDDA has been provided through amendments to other environmental legislation.

View the complete hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/energy-and-environment-subcommittee-hearing-fostering-quality-science-epa-perspectives-0

OIL DRILLING: LAWMAKERS URGE INTERIOR TO EXPAND LEASING PLAN

Led by Reps. Bill Flores (R-TX) and Gene Green (D-TX), a group of 182 bipartisan House Members have signed a letter to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, requesting expanded access to offshore energy production.

The letter urges Interior to offer new and expanded access in its proposed 2012-2017 offshore leasing plan. The new five-year plan, required under federal law, would be the first since presidential and congressional moratoria against drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific were lifted in 2008, according to the letter. According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the five-year plan makes roughly 75 percent of the country’s known oil and gas resources available for development.

While areas of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic are included, the plan omits both the Pacific Coast and Atlantic Coast, noting there are outstanding issues related to locality interest and environmental safety for the two latter regions. The proponents of the letter argue that opening up additional waters to offshore drilling will spur job creation and generate revenue to help foster economic recovery.

“We recognize that in the wake of  the Gulf  spill, [Interior] has moved aggressively to implement new safety and environmental regulations and that you have stated publicly that your Department would not be authorizing new activity if you did not believe it was being done safely,” the letter states. “Given these regulatory changes, as well as actions taken by industry to restore confidence, we believe it is time to move ahead in facilitating new access to the OCS and that waiting until 2017 at the earliest to initiate these activities does not serve the public interest.”

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act of 1953 requires the Interior Secretary to prepare a five year program that includes a schedule of oil and gas lease sales and indicates the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity as determined by the Secretary to best meet national energy needs for the five year period following its approval, while addressing a range of economic, environmental and social considerations.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to soon consider H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act. The five-year surface transportation bill would also lift several existing Obama administration bans on offshore drilling, specifically requiring the administration to lease offshore areas containing the most oil and natural gas.

View a copy of the House letter here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/LtrToSecSalazarOCSPlan020712.pdf

Additional information on the Interior proposal is viewable here:

http://www.boem.gov/uploadedFiles/5-Year_Program_Factsheet.pdf

OIL DRILLING: GOP MODERATES RISE IN OPPOSITION TO ANWR LEGISLATION

On Feb. 9, six moderate Republicans spearheaded a letter to the House majority leadership expressing their opposition to a provision in the upcoming surface transportation reauthorization bill that would allow oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).

H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, includes a provision that seeks to partially offset funding in the bill by opening the refuge for exploration. The six maverick Republicans (Reps. Charles Bass (NH), Dave Reichert (WA), Robert Dold (IL), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Nan Hayworth (NY) and Timothy Johnson (IL)) argue the ANWR provision puts the overall legislation in jeopardy, from a political standpoint.

“In writing you today, we do not want to negate the hard work that the members of the respective committees have put into crafting this legislation, and we appreciate that they have considered a wide array of potential funding sources and issues,” the letter states. “However, opening ANWR for exploration and development raises serious questions from both a fiscal and environmental perspective; we believe that this measure can achieve broader support and better force Senate consideration if ANWR were removed.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, opening the refuge for drilling would bring in $1.5 billion over the span of the proposed legislation, which is expected to need $40 billion to $50 billion to supplement the federal gas tax and sustain the Highway Trust Fund. Previous legislative efforts to open ANWR that passed the House have failed to clear the Senate and reach the president’s desk, even during the 2000s when Republicans controlled the House, Senate and White House.

The House is expected to take up the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act as early as next week.

View the full letter here:

http://bass.house.gov/images/stories/Bass_ANWR_Letter_to_Leadership_2-9-12.pdf

WHITE HOUSE: REPORT SEEKS TO ENHANCE STEM EDUCATION FOR UNDERGRADUATES

On Feb. 7, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its report entitled “Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”

The report includes a strategy for improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education during the first two years of college. PCAST makes five primary recommendations:

  • Catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices.
  • Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses.
  • Launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the math preparation gap.
  • Encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversify pathways to STEM careers.
  • Create a Presidential Council on STEM Education with leadership from the academic and business communities to provide strategic leadership for transformative and sustainable change in STEM undergraduate education.

According to PCAST, fewer than 40 percent of students who enter college intending to major in a STEM field complete college with a STEM degree.  Increasing that rate to  50 percent would generate three-quarters of one million additional STEM degrees over the next decade. The report concludes that retaining more STEM majors is the most cost-effective and efficient policy option to increase the number of STEM professionals in the U.S.

Click here to view the summary fact sheet
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/fact_sheet_final.pdf

Click here to view the executive report
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-executive-report-final_feb.pdf

Click here to view the full report
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-engage-to-excel-final_feb.pdf

WATER QUALITY: EPA ANNOUNCES GRANTS FOR BEACH CLEAN UP INITIATIVE

On Jan. 31, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will provide $9.8 million for beach clean-up efforts across the nation. The initiative also includes the launch of a new website to improve dissemination of information on beach advisories and closures.

The new website, BEACON, is capable of updating as frequently as every two hours with data from states, tribes and territories, according to EPA. In addition to public notifications of advisories and closures, users will have access to mapped location data for beaches and water monitoring stations, monitoring results for various pollutants will include reports that combine notifications and water quality monitoring data for over 6,000 beaches nationwide.

The grants are intended to help local authorities monitor beach water quality for bacteria and other pollutants as well as notify the public of conditions that may be unsafe for swimming. According to EPA, this is the 12th year the agency is providing beach grant funds, bringing the total amount EPA has made available to nearly $111 million.

For additional information on the grants, click here: 
http://water.epa.gov/grants_funding/beachgrants/index.cfm

To view the new BEACON website, click here: 

http://watersgeo.epa.gov/BEACON2/

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: BLM PROPOSES SCALING BACK DEVELOPMENT IN ROCKIES

On Feb. 3, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced the publication of a draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) seeking comments on a proposal that would downsize a Bush administration proposal to develop oil shale on land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Any new land allocation decisions made on the basis of the final PEIS would replace the land allocation decisions made by the Bush administration’s 2008 proposal to make up to two million acres of public lands available for commercial oil shale leasing in the three states and 431,000 acres available for tar sands leasing in Utah.  Some western communities argued that the 2008 PEIS and Record of Decision would have prematurely allowed commercial leasing without technologies having been proven viable and without a clear understanding of impacts on scarce western water supplies, according to BLM. 

BLM’s current proposal would reduce available lands for oil shale development in Colorado, Wyoming and Utah by more than 75 percent. In addition, it would only allow research on the leases until industry demonstrates that commercial development is technically viable and environmentally safe. Lands with wilderness characteristics, areas of critical environmental concern, core habitat for the sage grouse and Wyoming’s Adobe Town would be removed from the two million acres originally allowed under the Bush administration’s 2008 plan.

The plan leaves 461,965 acres for research and development of oil shale, including 35,308 acres in Colorado, 252,181 acres in Utah and 174,476 acres in Wyoming. In addition, nearly 100,000 acres would be made available in eastern Utah for development of tar sands, a type of hydrocarbon-wet sedimentary deposit.

All public comments must be submitted by May 4, 2012. Public comments on the draft PEIS can be submitted through BLM’s preferred method of email through the following link: http://ostseis.anl.gov. Public comments can also be addressed to:

Oil Shale and Tar Sands Resources Draft Programmatic EIS
Argonne National Laboratory
9700 South Cass Avenue—EVS/240
Argonne, IL 60439.

Read the full PEIS draft here:
http://ostseis.anl.gov./documents/peis2012/index.cfm

- Greenwire

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA ANNOUNCES 2012 GSPA RECIPIENTS

The Ecological Society of America announced the recipients of the 2012 Graduate Student Policy Award: Sara Kuebbing (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Adam Rosenblatt (Florida International University) and Matthew Schuler (Washington University in St. Louis).

The three students will travel to Washington, DC to participate in policy training sessions as well as visits with decision-makers on Capitol Hill on March 28 and 29. This year’s recipients come from distinct scientific research backgrounds, yet collectively share a demonstrated hunger for public policy engagement:

Kuebbing’s doctoral research focuses on management of invasive plant species. She serves on the Board of the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council and worked for the Nature Conservancy in Vermont. Rosenblatt’s Ph.D. research frequently has him face-to-snout with American alligators. Through his work in the Everglades, he has already advised a policymaker in the Florida state legislature.

Schuler’s scholarly research in species diversity has dovetailed with his work with the Timber Wolf Information Network and Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. He’s also spent a decade volunteering for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Sandhill Wildlife Outdoor Education Center.

The two-day event is sponsored by the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition, co-chaired by ESA. View the full announcement here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/pressreleases.php?uid=121211

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 3548, the North American Energy Access Act – Introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), the bill would grant the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to approve the Keystone XL pipeline within 30 days. The bill was approved by the Energy and Commerce Committee Feb. 7, by a vote of 33-20 and will be incorporated into H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act, tentatively scheduled to be voted on next week.

H.R. 3199, to provide a comprehensive assessment of the scientific and technical research
on the implications of the use of mid-level ethanol blends – Introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the bill would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to commission a study of the ethanol blend E15 before allowing it to be used in vehicles. The bill mandates an 18 month delay in final enactment of an EPA-approved a waiver allowing 15 percent ethanol in gasoline for passenger vehicles from model years 2007 and later while the National Academy of Sciences carries out a study to determine the potential of an ethanol increase in gasoline to result in widespread  misfueling or engine damage. The bill passed the House Space, Science and Technology Committee Feb. 7 by a vote of 19-7.  Committee Democrats offered an amendment by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) that would allow the study without delaying the EPA’s approval of the ethanol blend, which failed 7-19.

H.R. 7, the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), the base bill authorizes approximately $260 billion over five years to fund federal highway, transit and safety programs, consistent with current funding levels. The bill also substantially limits National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements for surface transportation projects funded under the bill. Among its provisions, the bill waives NEPA for all projects where the federal share of the costs is less than $10 million or 15 percent of the total project cost, regardless of scope of the project. It also requires the environmental review process for a project under NEPA or any other applicable environmental law to be completed within 270 days or the project shall be deemed to have no significant impact on the environment. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the bill Feb. 3.

The bill has since been amended to include legislation that would fast-track approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, expand offshore drilling, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for energy exploration and reinstate an abandoned George W. Bush administration plan to promote oil shale in the West.

Passed the House

H.R. 306, the Corolla Wild Horses Act – Introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the bill directs the Secretary of the Interior to enter into an agreement with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, Currituck County, and the state of North Carolina to provide for the management of free-roaming wild horses in and around the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge. The bill passed the House Feb. 6 by voice vote.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2094, the Clean Water Affordability Act – Introduced Feb. 9 by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) the bill would create a $1.8 billion grant program to assist communities struggling to update aging sewer infrastructure. The bill would also make it easier for communities to reopen existing consent decrees with the Environmental Protection Agency to add green infrastructure to their plans. The bill has been referred to the Environment and Public Works Committee.

Considered by Senate Committee

H.R. 1904, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), the bill would enact a land swap, giving up nearly 2,422  acres of federal forest on the Oak Flat Campground for 5,350 acres controlled by Resolution Cooper Co., a subsidiary of Rio Tino PLC and BHP Billiton Ltd. The companies are seeking to tap into what they believe is the third-largest undeveloped copper resource in the world. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the bill Feb. 9.


Sources: Bureau of Land Management, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, the House Natural Resources Committee, the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the National Park Service, the White House

January 27, 2012

In This Issue

STATE OF THE UNION: PRESIDENT HIGHLIGHTS CLEAN ENERGY, RESEARCH GOALS

For his third formal State of the Union address, President Obama outlined a set of proposals and initiatives for the 112th Congress to act upon in its final year. These included energy investment ideas and  increased funding for research and infrastructure.

Many of these ideas came wrapped in the shroud of a populist tone, a style of messaging the president is expected to repeat as he seeks a second-term this year. “We’ve subsidized oil companies for a century. That’s long enough. It’s time to end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising.  Pass clean energy tax credits.  Create these jobs.”

The president also sought to strike a consensus tone by avoiding touching extensively on controversial issues and focusing on areas where there has been demonstrated bipartisan consensus, like clean energy. “We can also spur energy innovation with new incentives.  The differences in this chamber may be too deep right now to pass a comprehensive plan to fight climate change.  But there’s no reason why Congress shouldn’t at least set a clean energy standard that creates a market for innovation,” said Obama.

The president said that environmental stewardship can be achieved without deterring job creation and noted the benefits of federal research investments. “The development of natural gas will create jobs and power trucks and factories that are cleaner and cheaper, proving that we don’t have to choose between our environment and our economy,” he said. “And by the way, it was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock – reminding us that government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.” The president also asserted that immigration reform should include incentives for foreign students who come to the U.S. to study science, engineering and business to become citizens, so they can contribute to economic growth in the U.S.

The president’s call for increased investment in infrastructure, is also an issue that has won bipartisan approval in past years.  “During the Great Depression, America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.  After World War II, we connected our states with a system of highways.  Democratic and Republican administrations invested in great projects that benefited everybody, from the workers who built them to the businesses that still use them today,” said President Obama. “Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home.”

The president touched on government reform proposals intended to make the legislative and executive branch function with greater efficiency. Among these is his proposal that the Senate enact a rule that guarantees all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days. He also called upon Congress to grant him authority to implement administration proposals to reorganize and consolidate various federal agencies, including a proposal that intends to reform the Department of Commerce.

President Obama called upon Congress to end the often venomous and partisan rhetoric that has prevented the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate from seeking common ground over the past year. “We need to end the notion that the two parties must be locked in a perpetual campaign of mutual destruction; that politics is about clinging to rigid ideologies instead of building consensus around common-sense ideas,” he said. The extent to which Congress heeds his call amidst a presidential election year, where the days spent legislating in Washington will be consequently shorter, remains to be seen.

KEYSTONE PIPELINE: OBAMA REJECTS PERMIT IN LIEU OF CONGRESSIONAL MANDATE

On Jan. 18, President Obama announced that he was rejecting approval of a permit to construct and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, which would extend from Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.

The decision was the result of a provision included in the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-78), which mandated that the administration come to a decision on the Keystone pipeline within 60 days of the legislation being signed into law. The administration contends that the deadline, inserted by congressional Republicans, would not allow enough time to carry out the proper environmental assessments needed to make an informed decision on whether or not to approve the permit.

“This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline that prevented the State Department from gathering the information necessary to approve the project and protect the American people,” said President Obama in a press statement.  “I’m disappointed that Republicans in Congress forced this decision, but it does not change my Administration’s commitment to American-made energy that creates jobs and reduces our dependence on oil.”

In Dec. 2011, before the legislation had been enacted, the State Department issued a statement asserting that fast-tracking approval of the Keystone pipeline would force the administration to disapprove the permit: “The State Department has led a rigorous, through, and transparent process that must run its course to obtain the necessary information to make an informed decision on behalf of the national interest. Should Congress impose an arbitrary deadline for the permit decision, its actions would not only compromise the process, it would prohibit the Department from acting consistently with National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements by not allowing sufficient time for the development of this information. In the absence of properly completing the process, the Department would be unable to make a determination to issue a permit for this project.”

Congressional Republicans have pledged that there will be further attempts to fast-track approval of the pipeline through legislation. On Jan. 24, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), whose district would include the endpoint of the Keystone pipeline, introduced H.R. 3811, the Keystone For Secure Tomorrow Act, which would legislate approval of the pipeline.

On Jan. 25, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on a measure introduced by Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), H.R. 3548, the North American Energy Access Act. The bill would move permitting authority over the Keystone pipeline from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and would require approval of the pipeline within 30 days of receipt of an application. FERC officials raised concerns over the legislation, stating  that the agency traditionally has authority over interstate natural gas pipelines, not oil pipelines and that the 30 day time frame would not allow for an adequate review process.

House Democrats sent a letter to Obama noting that the legislation bypasses “a thorough review of the project.” Their letter also cited a recent State Department Inspector General review of potential conflicts of interest in the pipeline review process that has yet to be completed.

After the administration announced its decision, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter of thanks to President Obama for postponing a final decision on the Keystone pipeline until the environmental review process is completed. ESA’s letter contends that a final decision on the pipeline should “follow the longstanding precedent of proper environmental assessment and scientific review to which this administration and previous administrations have adhered.” The letter notes that the 60 day timeline imposed by Congress does not take into account new environmental assessment directives outlined under a Nebraska state law that was only recently enacted in November of 2011. “The provisions outlined in the Nebraska law make it improbable that a comprehensive environmental assessment can be completed in such a short period,” ESA notes.

TransCanada Pipelines Ltd, the company leading the Keystone effort, has stated that it will not file a legal challenge to the Obama administration over its decision. Instead TransCanada will focus on working with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality on the development of an alternative route through the state. The company then plans to  reapply for a permit.

For information on the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality’s work on the Keystone pipeline, click here:
http://www.deq.state.ne.us/

View the House Democrats’ letter here:
http://welch.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1832&Itemid=90

The ESA letter to President Obama can be viewed here:

http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/ObamaKeystoneletter.pdf

GOVERNMENT REFORM: ADMINISTRATION PROPOSAL WOULD MOVE NOAA TO INTERIOR

On January 13, the White House announced a plan to reorganize and consolidate a number of key federal agencies, largely focusing on commerce and trade. The reorganization would also move the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Interior. NOAA’s portfolio includes fisheries research and management, jurisdiction over protected marine animals, and ocean and atmospheric research and monitoring.

Moving NOAA from Commerce to Interior would be complex. On the one hand, NOAA was technically established via Executive Order in 1970, not through enacted legislation, so the administration could, in theory, unilaterally change its organization. On the other hand, for practical purposes, Congress would still need to amend a series of laws, including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act that currently grants authority over fisheries, endangered species and coral reefs under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Commerce.   Ergo, any unilateral move by the president to move NOAA over to Interior without appropriate complementary action from Congress would leave the agency with its hands tied.

While previous administrations have considered moving NOAA to Interior, the idea has been met with some resistance from both ocean advocates and internally from NOAA officials. Both parties have been concerned that NOAA might lose its existing autonomy under the Department of Commerce and could become buried under the Department of Interior’s jurisdiction, which  already constitutes multiple bureaus.

On Capitol Hill, the move would also shift jurisdiction between a number of committees, including the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee as well as several House and Senate appropriations subcommittees. While committee leaders in both parties have expressed some openness to the idea of streamlining certain agencies, hearings would likely be held on the matter before any specific legislative action.

Read the president’s full announcement here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/13/remarks-president-government-reform

INVASIVE SPECIES: FWS FINALIZES PYTHON BAN

On Jan. 17, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized a rule that would ban the importation and interstate transportation of four nonnative constrictor snakes, including the Burmese Python. The ban is intended to restrict spread of the snakes, which have heavily impacted portions of the Florida Everglades.

The final rule lists the Burmese python, the yellow anaconda and the northern and southern African pythons as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act, the law that prohibits illegal trade of wildlife. The U.S. Geological Survey had previously determined the four species as having a high risk of establishing populations and spreading to other locations across the U.S. The ban will become official 60 days after its Jan. 23 publication in the Federal Register.

According to FWS, individuals who own the listed snakes will be allowed to keep them, if permitted under state law. However, snake owners of the listed species will be prohibited from transporting or selling them across state lines.

FWS will also consider listing as injurious five other nonnative snake species proposed in 2010, including the reticulated python, boa constrictor, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, green anaconda and Beni anaconda.

To see the Federal Register notice, click here:http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-01-23/pdf/2012-1155.pdf

Additional information on FWS efforts to contain the snakes can be found here:
http://www.fws.gov/invasives/news.html

HOUSE: COMMITTEE EXAMINES REPORTS ON ENERGY RESEARCH PROGRAM

On Jan. 24, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight convened for a hearing examining recent reports from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General (IG) on whether Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) projects could better be handled by the private sector.

While GAO concluded that DOE could do more to determine the extent of private sector delegation of projects, it found that most government ARPA-E projects could not be completed solely with private sector funding. In addition to the GAO and IG reports, the committee also examined a Republican committee staff response to the GAO report .

With regard to the GAO report, Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E at DOE agreed with the GAO’s finding that ‘most ARPA-E projects could not have been funded solely by private investors’ and ‘venture capitalist[s]  generally do not fund projects that ARPA-E looks to fund.’” Majumdar contended that ARPA-E has finalized the IG’s recommended policies for the “monitoring and oversight of awardees, allowable technology transfer and outreach activities expenses, and the process for project termination.” 

In his written testimony, DOE IG Gregory H. Friedman stated that “our review revealed that ARPA-E generally had effective systems in place to make research awards and to deploy Recovery Act resources. Of particular note, we found that ARPA-E, despite being a relatively new program, had developed and implemented research proposal selection criteria designed to make certain that awards were consistent with its mission objectives.”

The Republican committee staff report concluded that “while it is clear many ARPA-E projects are pursuing high-quality, potentially transformative research that is too risky for private investment, reviews of GAO work papers and publicly available information reveal many exceptions to this practice, and raise questions regarding ARPA-E’s commitment to ‘carefully structure its projects to avoid any overlap with public and private sources of funding.’”

Committee Democrats charged that the committee staff report was drafted because the majority Republicans did not get the result they expected from the GAO report. “The majority staff went through GAO’s work papers, cherry-picked some examples and then portrayed the law as saying something that it does not say,” asserted Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NY). “I am disappointed that partisanship has sunk to the level where we cannot even come together for such a simple thing as acknowledging when we find a program that seems to be on the right track.”

GAO Director of Natural Resources and Environment Frank Rusco noted in his testimony that ARPA-E officials have taken steps to “coordinate with other DOE offices in advance of awarding ARPA-E funds to help avoid duplication of efforts. These coordination efforts can be categorized into three areas: (1) prefunding coordination, (2) coordination of application reviews, and (3) participation in official DOE coordination groups.”

ARPA was first established per recommendations outlined in the 2006 National Academies report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm.” These recommendations were implemented through the 2007 bipartisan America COMPETES Act (P.L.  110-69). Funding was first granted through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5).

To view the GAO report, click here:
http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587667.pdf

To view the IG report, click here:
http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/hearings/2011%2008%20DOE%20IG%20ARPA-E%20Audit.pdf

To view the Republican committee staff report, click here:
http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/hearings/HHRG-112-SY21-WState-PBroun-GA-20120124_0.pdf

For additional information on ARPA-E, see: http://arpa-e.energy.gov/Home.aspx

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: INTERIOR RELEASES DRAFT CLIMATE CHANGE STRATEGY

On Jan. 19, the Department of Interior announced the release of a first draft of its National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaption Strategy, which intends to help decision makers and resource managers reduce the impact of climate change on ecosystems and wildlife.

In 2009, Congress included provisions in the Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (P.L. 111-88) that called upon the Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of Interior to develop a national climate adaption strategy to improve the resilience of natural ecosystems. More than 100 diverse researchers and managers from across the country participated in the drafting of the national strategy.

The current draft is made up of descriptions of current and projected impacts of climate change on fish, wildlife and plant species, actions that agriculture, energy, transportation and other sectors can take to reduce impacts and a framework for coordinated implementation of the national strategy across all levels of government.

The deadline for public comments is March 5, 2012. Comments can be submitted online: http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/public-comments.php

Written comments may be sent to Office of the Science Advisor, Attn: National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive Suite 222, Arlington, VA 22203.

Additional information on the climate change strategy can be found here:

http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/index.php


Sources: Department of Interior, Department of Energy, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, the House Space, Science and Technology Committee, the Washington Post, the White House