July 11, 2014

In This Issue

DEFENSE: GAO REPORT CONCLUDES MILITARY NEEDS TO IMPROVE CLIMATE PLANNING

On June 30th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding the Department of Defense (DOD) can improve infrastructure planning and processes for climate change impacts. DOD manages a global real-estate portfolio that includes over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land with a replacement value of close to $850 billion. Within the US, the department’s extensive infrastructure of bases and training ranges, which is critical to maintaining military readiness, extends across all regions, as well as Alaska and Hawaii.  The GAO noted that the government currently lacks a shared understanding of strategic priorities and adequate interagency coordination to adapt to a changing climate. The report found that while many military planners are noting the impacts of climate change on their installations, they are not always certain about how to proceed with adaption efforts.  “For example, according to DOD officials, the combination of thawing permafrost, decreasing sea ice, and rising sea levels on the Alaskan coast has increased coastal erosion at several Air Force radar early warning and communication installations. Impacts on DOD’s infrastructure from this erosion have included damaged roads, seawalls, and runways. In addition, officials on a Navy installation told GAO that sea level rise and resulting storm surge are the two largest threats to their waterfront infrastructure.”

The report recommends that the military formulate a climate change adaption plan setting firm deadlines to assess which of its military bases across the globe are vulnerable to climate change impacts. DOD has begun to assess installations’ vulnerability to potential climate change impacts and directed its planners to incorporate consideration of climate change into certain installation planning efforts. Additionally, it is a DOD strategic goal to consider sustainability, including climate change adaptation, in its facility investment decisions.

“We are committed to maintaining the resilience of our installations in support of our mission, our warfighters and our communities,” John Conger, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment, wrote in a letter, according to US News and World Report. “We will continue to integrate consideration of climate change and associated impacts across the Defense enterprise.”

However, the report also found that military officials are slow to propose climate adaption projects because they believe the projects will not be funded.

“As a result, installation planners may believe that climate change adaptation projects are unlikely to successfully compete with other military construction projects for funding,” the GAO said on the report’s website. “Without clarification of these processes, DOD may face challenges in meeting its strategic goals and the services may miss opportunities to make their facilities more resilient to the potential impacts of climate change.”

This sentiment is reinforced by the fact that the US House of Representatives has adopted language in its DOD authorization bill to prohibit funding for implementing recommendations from climate change reports from the International Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment. Such language is not anticipated to survive the bill’s conference process with the Senate.

View the full report by clicking this link.

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE APPROVES FY 2015 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL

On July 10th, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 4923, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015. The $34 billion bill includes $10.3 billion funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE) and $5.5 billion US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill over its many provisions to curb the enforcement of environmental regulations. The bill would block funding for enforcement of the Obama administration’s proposed rule to clarify federal jurisdiction in the Clean Water Act.

The House rejected several conservative amendments that sought to sharply reduce funding in the bill. One that was rejected from Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) would have cut all FY 2015 funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It failed by a vote of 110–310.

An amendment adopted by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) to block funding for DOE climate modeling efforts was added to the bill by a vote of 226–194. Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) introduced an amendment to reaffirm exemptions for certain agricultural activities under the Clean Water Act, which was adopted 239-182.

The final bill will be reconciled with the US Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill for FY 2015, which has not been passed. It is anticipated that the two chambers will not reach an agreement on final funding bills until after the 2014 elections, possibly through an omnibus measure. Given that Fiscal Year 2014 ends Sept. 30th, 2014, Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution in order to avoid a government shutdown.

 

For additional information on specific funding levels in the bill, see the June 13th edition of ESA Policy News by clicking here.

To view the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 4923 click this link.

APPROPRIATIONS: INTERIOR, EPA SPENDING BILL WOULD CURTAIL OBAMA INITIATIVES

On July 8th, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The bill, crafted by committee Republicans, includes provisions to prohibit funding from being directed towards a number of Obama administration environmental protection initiatives.

In total, the bill provides $30.2 billion for the Department of Interior, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Forest Service. This is a $162 million increase over total funding provided in the FY 2014 Interior appropriations bill and a reduction of $409 million below the President’s request.

Much of the increase in the overall bill is geared specifically towards wildfire reduction activities. The bill includes $4.1 billion for wildfire fighting and prevention activities for the US Forest Service and the US Department of Interior. This is $149 million above of the FY 2014 enacted level. Funding levels are as follows for selected agencies:

  • Environmental Protection Agency: $7.5 billion; a reduction of $717 million (nine percent) below the FY 2014. The bill also contains language to prohibit funding for the agency’s proposed greenhouse gas rules for existing power plants and its efforts to clarify federal jurisdiction over the implementation of the Clean Water Act. Administrative funding for the agency is cut by $24 million, including a 50 percent reduction to the Office of the Administrator, the Office of Congressional Affairs, and the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. In addition, staffing levels at the EPA are held to 15,000, the lowest level since 1989.
  • Office of Surface Mining: $149 million; level with FY 2014. The bill includes a provision to stop changes to the “stream buffer rule,” intended to protect streams from coal mining.
  • Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion; a $13 million decrease from FY 2014.
  • National Park Service: $2.6 billion; a $3 million increase over FY 2014.
  • US Forest Service: $5.6 billion; $85.7 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): $1.4 billion in the bill; $4 million below FY 2014. The bill includes a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act rulemaking for the “greater sage-grouse” and “Gunnison sage-grouse,” and prohibits the FWS from administratively establishing new or expanding existing wildlife refuges.
  • US Geological Survey: $1 billion; a $4 million increase above FY 2014.
  • Smithsonian Institution: $813 million; an $8 million increase above FY 2014.

Traditionally, many of the more contentious provisions intended to block EPA greenhouse gas emissions rules and other agency regulations are dropped in the bicameral conference process where the Senate and House negotiate a final conference report bill. The content of the final conference bill will be determined in part by whether or not it is enacted before the election and the political make-up of the House and the Senate after the 2014 mid-terms. 

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS EPA CLEAN WATER PROPOSED RULE

On July 9th, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened for a hearing on the Obama administration’s proposed rule to clarify federal jurisdiction over US waterways. As defined under US law, bodies of water are distinguished according to their use such as for business or transportation. The distinction is particularly important in the case of so-called navigable waters because jurisdiction over navigable waters belongs to the federal government rather than states or municipalities.

US Supreme Court decisions in 2001 (Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County (SWANCC) v. US Army Corps of Engineers) and 2006 (Rapanos v. United States) drew into question the definition of “navigable waters” as defined in the law. Consequently, this could limit the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act (CWA) to “relatively permanent, standing or continuously flowing bodies of water.” The original conference report for the finalized CWA included language asserting that the bill’s authors “fully intend that the term ‘navigable waters’ be given the broadest possible constitutional interpretation.”

In the years following the court rulings, congressional Democrats have repeatedly introduced legislation to clarify CWA jurisdiction, but the measures failed to gain traction in the House and Senate. On March 25, 2014 US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed a rule that would clarify that streams and wetlands are under the jurisdiction of the CWA.

The Obama administration contends the rule would not add new waters under the law’s protection, but only clarify regulatory authority for waterways that have historically been under the Act’s jurisdiction prior to the court decisions. Republican committee members, however, assert that the proposed rule is part of the EPA’s “regulation rampage.” They assert that the rule is vague and would lead to federal intrusion on private land.

“The EPA’s rule is so vague that it does little more than extend an open invitation to trial lawyers and government drones,” asserted Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “Before the EPA invades the back yards of Americans, they should tell them what they are really doing. When Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, it was about water, not land.  But the EPA’s re-writing of the law is a terrifying expansion of federal control over the lands owned by the American people. The EPA is on a regulation rampage, and this new water rule proves it.”

“For nearly a decade, stakeholders ranging from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials to the Environmental Defense Fund to the American Petroleum Institute have been calling on EPA and the Army Corps to provide clarity about what is and what is not a ‘water of the United States,’” asserted Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in her opening statement. “And while there may be differences in opinion about the proposed rule, I applaud the agencies for addressing this need and working to provide ‘greater clarity, certainty, and predictability’ to the regulated community and state and local governments that share the task of implementing and enforcing the Clean Water Act.”

“The rule does not apply to lands, whole flood plains, backyards, wet spots, or puddles,” asserted EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciasepe, testifying on behalf of the administration. “It will increase transparency, consistency, and predictability in making jurisdictional determinations, and reduce existing costs and confusion and delays.”

View the full committee hearing by clicking here.

WHITE HOUSE: EMERGENCY SPENDING REQUEST INCLUDES WESTERN WILDFIRE ASSISTANCE

On July 8th, the White House issued a formal request to Congress for $4.3 billion in emergency spending. The bulk of the funding, $3.7 billion, will address the border crisis and growing humanitarian problem of child migrants. The remainder, $615 million, is to fight wildfires in the western United States for the current Fiscal Year 2014. Several federal agencies require funding for wildfire prevention and firefighting, and it is costly.

The US Forest Service (FS), an agency within the Department of Agriculture, is tasked with management of 193 million acres of public lands in 43 states and Puerto Rico. Wildfire frequency and intensity in the Western United States has grown over the past decade.

According to the Forest Service, “More than 44 million homes, roughly 32 percent of the homes in our country, are now located in areas prone to wildland fire. Extreme fire behavior has become more common; firefighters are largely limited to protecting certain points around homes and communities, and the cost of fire suppression has soared in the past 20 years. The cost of suppression has grown from 13 percent of the agency’s budget just 10 years ago to over 40 percent in 2014 requiring FS to transfer funds from other programs to cover those costs.”

The President’s $615 million request to fight wildfire includes language to support a discretionary cap adjustment to allow the federal government to respond to severe, complex, and threatening fires or a severe fire season.

“This approach would provide funding certainty in future years for firefighting costs, free up resources to invest in areas that will promote long-term forest health and reduce fire risk, and maintain fiscal responsibility by addressing wildfire disaster needs through agreed-upon funding,” stated the president in a White House letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

Increased federal funding to address wildfires is supported by bipartisan Members of Congress representing regions in the western United Sates. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) indicated he was open to accommodating the request for additional funding for wildfire-related activities.

View the full letter by following this link.

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee

On July 9th, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on the following bill:

H.R. 3994, the Federal Lands Invasive Species Control, Prevention, and Management Act – Introduced by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Steven Horsford (D-NV), the bill would direct the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to carry out programs that would reduce invasive species on public lands by five percent annually. The bill includes a provision to exclude National Environmental Policy Act environmental review requirements if the programs affect “prioritized, high risk” areas. The legislation also prohibits federal agencies from spending no more than 15 percent of their budgets dedicated to invasive on public outreach and no more than 10 percent on administrative costs. The Obama administration and invasive species organizations are concerned that the standards outlined in the bill would reduce a federal agency’s flexibility in addressing invasive species.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2543, the Supporting Afterschool STEM Act – Introduced June 26th by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the bill would provide resources to improve afterschool science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. The bill has been referred to the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee.

S. 2551, the TRANSFER Act – Introduced June 26th  by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Daniel Coats (R-IN), the bill would create a grant funding program within the Small Business Technology Transfer program to expedite the commercialization of federally-funded research. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

Passed Senate

S. 311, Lower Mississippi River Area Study Act – Introduced by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), the bill directs the Department of Interior to complete a study to determine whether an area in Plaquemines Parish, LA should become part of the National Park Service system. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on July 9th and has been sent to the US House of Representatives.

S. 354, Oregon Caves Revitalization Act of 2013 – Introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the bill would modify the boundary of the Oregon Caves National Monument by adding 4,000 acres of what is currently Forest Service land to the monument. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on July 9th and has been sent to the US House of Representatives.

S. 363, the Geothermal Production Expansion Act – Introduced by Sen. Wyden, the bill would expand geothermal production on federal land. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on July 9th and has been sent to the US House of Representatives.

S. 476, to amend the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Development Act to extend to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission – Introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would reauthorize the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park Commission for a 10-year term. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on July 9th and has been sent to the US House of Representatives.

H.R. 876, the Idaho Wilderness Water Resources Protection Act – Introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), the bill authorizes the continued use of certain water storage, transport and diversion facilities located on federal forest land in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in Idaho. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent July 9th after passing the House in June 2013.

H.R. 1158, the North Cascades National Park Service Complex Fish Stocking Act – Introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA), the bill directs the Department of Interior to continue stocking fish in certain lakes in the North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area and Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent July 9th  after passing the House in June 2013.

H.R. 3110, Huna Tlingit Traditional Gull Egg Use Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill allows the harvest of gull eggs by the Huna Tlingit people within Alaska’s Glacier Bay National Park. The bill requires collection schedules and locations to be based on an annual plan prepared by the Department of Interior and the Huna Tlingit people. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent July 9th after passing the House in April 2013.


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Government Accountability Office, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Forest Service, House Appropriations Committee, House Space, Science and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, US News and World Report

Applications Scientist at LI-COR

Applications Scientist

Overview
1) Provide specialized technical support to researchers and scientists, especially for photosynthesis products, including plant gas exchange and leaf chlorophyll fluorescence, as well as canopy architecture, leaf area, and light measurement. 2) Provide scientific leadership in understanding and developing new products and product applications, 3) Present results to the scientific community in professional talks, workshops, and published manuscripts, 4) Write technical application notes and provide training to LI-COR customers and employees, 5) Actively participate in the technical sales process.

Professional Qualifications
Education
Ph.D. or equivalent experience in ecophysiology, environmental physics, plant physiology, agronomy or related field. Preferred experience in mathematical modeling or analysis of biological or environmental problems, turbulent fluxes, hydrologic systems, light propagation in canopies, or related processes.
Language
Ideal candidate will be fluent in Mandarin.
Experience
•Understanding and practical experience in ecophysiology, environmental physics, plant physiology, agronomy or related field.
•Familiarity with the techniques, instrumentation, and laboratory procedures fundamental to plant physiology, environmental physics, agronomy or related field.
•Understanding of mathematical and physical principles as they relate to instrumentation and biological or environmental issues.
•Demonstrated record of independent creative activity and expertise relating to plant physiology or environmental instrumentation.
•Experience in working with, teaching, or mentoring colleagues, students and/or customers.
•Demonstrated record of writing published scientific papers and/or posters or proven history of writing technical or marketing documents describing creative scientific activity of LI-COR products or applications.
•Ability to mentor others or lead teams to accomplish technical goals.
General
•Possess mature scientific judgment.
•Sustained record demonstrating initiative and motivation.
•Demonstrated creativity in generating and testing new products, applications or scientific ideas.
•Experience in mentoring individuals, team participation, facilitating small group activities, group teaching, seminar presentations or customer communication.
•Demonstrated excellent oral and written communication skills.
•Demonstrated ability to write scientific and technical documents.
•Demonstrated dependability, team player, positive attitude, and good attendance.
•Demonstrated high ethics, integrity, honesty and patience.

Position Responsibilities
Specific
Customer support
•Provide expert and sophisticated technical support to solve problems that require a high level of experience and understanding.
•Lead LI-COR in-house training courses for customers and distributors. Help organize and participate in offsite customer training and support.
Product development
•Recognize key scientific problems that must be addressed to develop and test new products, applications and protocols.
•Aid in the design and execution of experiments that address these problems.
•Lead and serve on new product development teams.
•Lead the testing and validation of new instrumentation. Conduct field experiments as needed.
•Participate in scientific meetings, travel to customer sites and read the scientific literature to understand customer requirements for instruments and their applications.
•Coordinate the logistics of Beta test sites and manage prototype and demo inventory.
Technical Sales and Marketing
•Develop and give technical presentations for customers, workshops and seminars.
•Participate in exhibitions (U.S. and International). Assist in on-site demonstrations.
•Take incoming sales calls/correspondence from customers and provide the necessary information and follow-up.
•Participate in developing and reviewing technical and promotional literature.
Scientific communication
•Write and review technical presentations and manuscripts for scientific meetings and journals.
•Write and review LI-COR technical documents such as manuals, application notes and protocols.
•Give oral technical presentations within LI-COR, to customer groups, and at major scientific meetings.
General
•Read journal articles, newsletters, product literature and other sources that present new protocols, ideas, and technologies in order to effectively implement strategies in the lab that require state-of-the-art science and technology.
•Moderate overnight and some international travel is required.
•Medium Work- Exerting 20-50 pounds of occasionally, and/or 10-25 pounds of force frequently, and/or greater than negligible up to 10 pounds of force constantly to move objects.
•Other job related duties as assigned.

APPLY: https://home.eease.adp.com/recruit2/?id=7514051&t=1

November 22, 2013

 

In this Issue

SCIENCE: SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE NSF

 

On Nov. 13, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research considered the Frontiers in Innovation Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, draft legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education programs.

Committee Democrats were concerned about provisions of the bill that would supersede NSF’s existing merit review process. Chief among Democrats’ concerns was Section 104 of the bill, which requires the NSF director to provide a written justification for each grant verifying that it meets certain requirements, including furthering “the national interest,” being “worthy of federal funding,” furthering economic competitiveness and advancing the health and welfare of the general public. The requirements are similar to those laid out in a previous draft bill authored by science committee Republicans, the High Quality Research Act, which was opposed by the scientific community. The Ecological Society of America joined the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in sending a letter to the science committee expressing concerns with such efforts earlier this year. 

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-LA) states that the language is necessary to ensure accountability to the American taxpayer over federal funding decisions. “They [government employees] should explain why grants that receive taxpayer funding are important research that has the potential to benefit the national interest. It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money,” asserted Smith. “Enhanced transparency and accountability isn’t a burden; it will ultimately make NSF’s grant award process more effective.”

Research Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) noted the importance of funding for behavior research, which has also been targeted by conservatives. “Social and behavioral sciences have played a critical role in strengthening our response to disasters, improving public health, strengthening our legal system, and optimizing the use of federal resources,” said Lipinski. “I believe any reauthorization of NSF should provide sustainable funding to all scientific disciplines and not impose any unique restrictions or conditions on any specific type of research.”

There was also concern regarding the bill’s lack of provisions to promote women and minority participation in STEM education fields. Alternative legislation sponsored by House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) includes such a provision. Her bill also functions as a comprehensive reauthorization for all federal science agencies in stark contrast to the piecemeal multiple bill approach taken by House Republicans.

The Republican bill also includes a provision to require public posting of the written justification used to award a grant before it is awarded. Testifying witness Vice President for Research at Purdue University Richard Buckius stated this provision would “severely compromise the process and add tremendous administrative burden.”

The draft is the second bill House Republicans have put forward to reauthorize the AMERICA COMPETES Act. Several weeks ago, the committee considered a bill to reauthorize Department of Energy science initiatives. For additional information, see the Nov. 11 edition of ESA Policy News.

To view the CNSF letter to Chairman Smith, click here. For more information on the hearing, click here.

SENATE: COMMITTEE APPROVES SCIENCE AGENCY NOMINEES AHEAD OF RULE CHANGE

On Nov. 12, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved several of President Obama’s choices to lead key positions at the administration’s science agencies.

The committee approved Kathryn Sullivan for the position of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jo Handelsman to be Associate Director for Science for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Robert Simon for Associate Director for Environment and Energy for OSTP. Sullivan has previously served as NOAA’s chief scientist and assistant secretary for observation and predictions. If approved by the full Senate, Sullivan would succeed Jane Lubchenco, a former president of the Ecological Society of America.

The upcoming Senate floor confirmation votes for the nominees were made easier this week when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held a procedural vote to allow most presidential appointments to be approved by a simple majority vote. The rule change effectively denies the Senate minority party the power to filibuster such nominees. The rule change does not apply to legislation or US Supreme Court nominees.

The rule change is often referred to as the “nuclear option” in the media, due to its unprecedented restrictions on the power of the Senate minority party. The move was prompted by Senate Republicans’ recent attempts to hold up three of President Obama’s nominees to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals for partisan purposes. The change comes as Senate Republicans have sought to hold up a historically large number of President Obama’s nominees.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warned that Reid may regret invoking the option, arguing that it could lead to the eventual elimination of the power of the Senate minority to filibuster. The rule change also sets a new precedent for Senate Republicans to implement similar limits on the minority’s power, should they take the majority in the future.

HOUSE: ENVIRONMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEES SHUFFLE LEADERSHIP

The recent death of House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman Bill Young (R-FL) spurred a slight reorganization of chairmanships at the subcommittee level, including two committees that oversee funding for several key energy and environmental federal agencies.

Former Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will now chair the Defense Subcommittee in Young’s place. Former Interior and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) will now head the Energy and Water Subcommittee. Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) will take Simpson’s former spot as chairman of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee.

The Interior and Environment Subcommittee has primary jurisdiction over funding the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Council on Environmental Quality and the US Forest Service. The Energy and Water Subcommittee funds the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Reclamation, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

One of the first major tasks for the new subcommittee chairmen will potentially be to outline spending levels of the agencies under their jurisdiction for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2014, which began Oct. 1. The existing continuing resolution runs out Jan. 15, 2014. The spending levels set in a new appropriations bill will in part depend on the details of a budget agreement between House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and to what degree such an agreement nullifies the existing sequestration cuts, which have carried over from FY 2013. The two chairs have until Dec. 13 to produce a budget deal.

FWS: NEW REPORT DOCUMENTS CONTINUED COASTAL WETLAND LOSS

On Nov. 21, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report concluding the United States is now losing over 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands per year, up from 60,000 in a prior study.

Coastal areas around the Gulf of Mexico accounted for 71 percent of the wetland loss. The study attributed wetland loss predominantly to losses of saltwater wetlands in the Gulf due to coastal storms in combination with freshwater forested wetland loss due to urban renewal development. The report concludes that rising ocean levels are also affecting coastal wetland loss.

According to the report, coastal wetlands provide a home to 75 percent of the nation’s waterfowl and other migratory birds. Also, over half of all fish caught for commercial and recreational purposes depend on coastal wetlands at some point in their lives.

The data used in this report will be used in the development of policies and initiatives to promote environmental stewardship of coastal resources such as the National Ocean Policy. View the full report here.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: APPLY FOR 2014 ESA GRADUATE STUDENT POLICY AWARD

ESA invites applications for its 2014 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). This award, offered annually to up to three winners, provides graduate students hands-on science policy experience in Washington, DC including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials, and others engaged in science and public policy. 

ESA covers travel and lodging expenses associated with this event for GSPA recipients. The two-day event will occur April 9 and 10, 2014. The application deadline is Monday, January 6. For more information, click here.

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 3533, the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act - Introduced Nov. 19 by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill would allow states to opt-out of regulation under the Endangered Species Act. The bill also requires approval of a congressional joint resolution for the addition of new federally protected species. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Considered by House Committee

On Nov. 21, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation held a hearing on several bills related to the federal government shutdown, including the following:

H.R. 3286, the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act – Introduced by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to reimburse states that opened national parks during the Oct. 2014 federal government shutdown. The bill has 26 bipartisan cosponsors. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1572) that also has bipartisan support. 

H.R. 3311, the Providing Access and Retain Continuity Act – Introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), the bill would automatically reimburse states if they operate parks during a shutdown. The bill would also call on the Secretary of Interior to preemptively work with states to ensure they can ably take over park operations in the event of a federal government shutdown. The bill’s 17 cosponsors are all Republicans.

H.R. 3294, the State-Run Federal Lands Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill would authorize a state to petition the federal government to enter in agreement to allow state control of federal lands managed by the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the US Forest Service.

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 2824, the Preventing Government Waste and Protecting Coal Mining Jobs in America Act – Introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), the bill would prevent the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of Surface Mining from implementing a stream protection rule intended to protect water and wildlife from detrimental effects of mountaintop removal mining projects in the Appalachian region. The House Natural Resources Committee approved the bill Nov. 14 by vote of 24-14.

Passed House

H.R. 1965, the Federal Jobs and Land Security Act – Introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the bill would set deadlines for the Bureau of Land Management to make leasing and permitting decisions for oil and gas development on federal lands. The bill sets a 60 day limit for review of such permits. The bill passed the House Nov. 20 by a vote of 228-192.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy (veto threat) against the bill. Among its concerns, the administration noted the bill would “direct that federal lands be managed for the primary purpose of energy development rather than for thoughtfully balanced multiple uses.” View the full statement here.

H.R. 2728, the Protecting States’ Rights to Promote Energy Security Act – Introduced by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), the bill would prohibit DOI from enforcing federal hydraulic fracturing standards if states currently have their own guidance governing the practice. The bill passed Nov. 20 by a vote for 235-187 with 12 Democrats joining all but two Republicans in voting yes.

The White House issued a veto threat against the bill, asserting the president would veto the measure, noting the bill would “require [the Bureau of Land Management] to defer to existing state regulations on hydraulic fracturing on Federal lands, regardless of the quality or comprehensiveness of the State regulations – thereby preventing consistent environmental protections.” View the full White House statement here.

H.R. 1900, the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the bill would expedite approval of natural gas permits through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The legislation sets a deadline of one year for FERC to reach a decision on whether to approve new gas pipeline applications. Failure of the agency to meet the review deadlines outlined in the bill will result in a permit being automatically deemed approved. The House passed the bill Nov. 21 by a vote of 252-165 with 26 Democrats joining Republicans in support of the bill.

The White House issued a veto threat against the bill, asserting “the bill’s requirements could force agencies to make decisions based on incomplete information or information that may not be available within the stringent deadlines.” View the full statement here.


 Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, ClimateWire, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House

International Conference On Green Walls ‘Meeting The Challenge Of A Sustainable Urban Future’

Date of Meeting: September 4-5, 2014.
Name of Organization Hosting the Meeting: Green Wall Centre
Contact: Caroline Chiquet, Research Officer, +44 1782 29 41 05, c.chiquet@staffs.ac.uk
Meeting Website: http://www.staffs.ac.uk/research/greenwall/conferences/index.jsp

September 4-5, 2014, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK.

Green walls are an important component of Green Infrastructure – possibly the only cost effective approach to coping with some of the immense challenges currently facing urban areas: climate change (coping with extreme events e.g. heat-waves, flooding), pollution (including health impacts), lack of wildlife habitat, social problems (including mental health) resulting from high-density urban living. The green wall sector is exceptionally dynamic with new product developments and insights constantly emerging. For this reason we have convened this meeting to bring together researchers, manufacturers, installers, planners, architects, consultants, and developers to exchange information and learn of new developments in this exciting technology.

We have keynote addresses by Patrick Blanc who kicked-off the development of Living Wall technologies and published ‘The Vertical Garden: from Nature to the City (published by Norton Books)and Gary Grant a well-known consultant on green walls and living roofs who authored ‘Green Roofs and Façades’ (published by the Building Research Establishment).

Other talks confirmed so far include:

-          Ross WF Cameron, Jane E Taylor, Martin R Emmett (Sheffield University, UK): Green Facades - How does plant choice affect wall cooling?
-          Julià Coma, Gabriel Pérez, Cristian Solé, Albert Castell, Luisa F. Cabeza (Universitat de Lleida, Spain) Vertical Greenery Systems for energy conservation in buildings
-          Caroline Chiquet, John W. Dover, Paul Mitchell (Staffordshire University, UK) How the characteristics of living walls and green façades influence their animal biodiversity.
-          Sophie Cohen (Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Brunoy, France) For a real integration of Biodiversity in Green Wall conception and maintenance.
-          Sean Farrell (Mobilane, UK). Title to follow.
-          Frédéric Madre & Philippe Clergeau (Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, France) Arthropods on the walls: a comparison of 3 types of vegetated façades as habitats for spider and beetle communities
-          Luis Pérez-Urrestarazu, Gregorio Egea, and Rafael Fernández-Cañero (Universidad de Sevilla, Spain) Influence of different variables on living wall irrigation
-          Katia Perini and Paolo Rosasco (Università degli Studi di Genova, Italy) Vertical greening systems: social and private benefits and costs
-          Mary J. Thornbush (University of Birmingham, UK) The historic appearance of climbing plants (creeper or ivy) on walls and their impact in central Oxford, UK
-          Peter Vujakovic (Canterbury Christ Church University, UK) Gothic Horror: attitudes to Ivy (Hedera helix) and other wall plants and their implications for built heritage conservation and biodiversity management.

Other talks will be added to the programme, and we will also have a poster session.

Further information is available at http://www.staffs.ac.uk/research/greenwall/conferences/index.jsp or from the organisers: Caroline Chiquetc.chiquet@staffs.ac.uk and Prof. John Dover j.w.dover@staffs.ac.uk.

If you are interested in participating in the meeting, please contact me at c.chiquet@staffs.ac.uk with the email subject: "Green Wall conference 2014”.

April 5, 2013

In This Issue

BUDGET: SEQUESTRATION IMPLEMENTATION HAS AGENCIES PLANNING FURLOUGHS

With policymakers seemingly adapting to the implementation of the sequester budget cuts as a fact of life for the time being, many federal agencies are now faced with furloughs to compensate for the funding cuts they must implement. The cuts remain in effect until such time as Congress comes up with a deal to reach $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years, an unlikelihood in the immediate future at least.

On April 1st, the White House announced that 480 of the 500 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) employees have been notified that they will be furloughed for 10 days for the remainder of the current Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. For each pay period beginning April 21 and through Sept. 7, OMB employees will have to take one unpaid furlough day. In addition, less money is being spent on supply and equipment purchases and many agencies have instituted work-related travel restrictions.

The Environmental Protection Agency is planning to initiate four-day weekends over Independence Day and Labor Day and plans on a skeleton crew on May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. Its employees are expected to take as much as 13 furlough days through FY 2013.

In an effort to minimize staff furloughs, the United States Geological Survey has pulled back on a number of its popular educational initiatives. This summer, it will no longer hire 1800 college students it utilizes to help monitor flood forecasting data and earthquake seismic activity. The agency is also ending its tours for school groups and the two-week science summer camps for children ages 8-12 that it has hosted annually since 1996.

Many agencies are instituting hiring freezes to save money. Among them is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is already wrestling with staff shortages. Emergency managers within the agency have expressed concern that the unfilled positions will eventually lead to decreased capacity to issue warnings and weather forecasting. Such forecasting is also necessary in helping water managers monitor stream flow and area water supplies.

The next opportunity Congress has to reach a deal on the sequester will be when the temporary suspension of the debt ceiling expires. Under current law, the debt ceiling suspension will expire on May 19. However, the US Department of Treasury has indicated that the implementation of extraordinary measures may extend a government default on debt until late July or early August. The White House plans to introduce its budget proposal for FY 2014 on April 10 to nullify sequester cuts. The proposal is expected to include $1.8 trillion in savings through a mix of entitlement reforms and revenue increases.

EPA: OVER HALF US RIVERS, STREAMS IN POOR CONDITION

On March 26, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report that finds that 55 percent of US rivers and streams are in poor condition for aquatic life.

Among its findings:  27 percent of rivers and streams have high levels of nitrogen and 40 percent of these water bodies have high levels of phosphorous. Excessive amounts of these chemicals causes nutrient pollution that increases oxygen-depleting algae that make waterways uninhabitable for aquatic wildlife.

The study also found that high concentrations of mercury and bacteria have adversely affected waterways. Nine percent of rivers and streams had high concentrations of bacteria that deemed them potentially unsafe for swimming and other forms of recreation. Over 13,000 miles of waterways contain fish with mercury levels that may make them unsafe for human consumption, according to the report.

The survey noted that human disturbance has attributed to approximately 24 percent of rivers and streams not having a healthy amount of vegetative cover. Such vegetation helps prevent erosion, maintain water temperature and remove pollution carried by rainwater. Loss of this vegetative cover also increases flooding risks for communities living near these rivers and streams. 

For additional information on the report, click here:
http://water.epa.gov/type/watersheds/monitoring/aquaticsurvey_index.cfm

FWS: AGENCIES PUBLISH WILDLIFE CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTION STRATEGY

On March 26, key wildlife agencies within the Obama administration announced the publication of a national strategy that seeks to buffer wildlife from impacts of climate change.

The “National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaption Strategy,”   notes the value of plants and wildlife and seeks to provide information about threats and potential courses of action to mitigate those threats. The goals of the strategy include habitat conservation, increasing knowledge of climate impacts on wildlife as well as raising awareness and motivating actions that protect animals and plants.

The strategy was developed through collaboration between the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the New York Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources. An intergovernmental steering committee comprising 15 federal agencies, five state wildlife agencies, two inter-tribal commissions along with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies also contributed to the strategy.

To view the full strategy, click here:
http://www.wildlifeadaptationstrategy.gov/

NASA: CLIMATE SCIENTIST HANSEN TO DEPART GOVERNMENT

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) climate scientist James Hansen is retiring from the federal government after 46 years of service to the agency’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS).

Hansen, 72, is the GISS’s longest serving director, having served in the position since 1981. During his tenure, Hansen frequently reported on the threat of climate change. He was among the first scientists to identify the ways in which rising temperatures are affecting the planet and the impacts climate change has on human society. He testified before Congress in 1988 on the threats posed by climate change. His retirement will allow him to further his climate change advocacy without the restrictions placed upon federal government employees.

Hansen has engaged in activism in his off-time frequently over the years, appearing at climate protests and even allowing himself to be arrested or cited on six occasions. Early this year, he was arrested for protesting against the Keystone XL pipeline. He was first arrested in 2009, joining university students in a coal protest. His critics often label him as an “alarmist,” though even allied colleagues state some of his views can lean on the extreme side. He has once asserted that climate change could eventually lead to Earth having an uninhabitable atmosphere similar to Venus.

Hansen received his Masters’ in Astronomy and his Ph.D. in Physics from Iowa University. Distinguished honors include the American Meteorological Society’s Carl-Gustaf Rossby Research Medal (2009), American Geophysical Union’s Roger Revelle Medal (2001) and the Heinz Award for the Environment (1995). He was also honored as one of the “World’s Most Influential People” by Time Magazine (2006).

In retirement, Hansen plans to take a more active role in lawsuits challenging federal and state governments over their failure to reduce green house gas emissions. The New York Times reports that he intends to start working out of his farm in Pennsylvania, but may also accept an academic appointment or start an institute.

View the full NASA release here:
http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/news/20130402/

PUBLICATIONS: MCNUTT NAMED EDITOR IN CHIEF OF SCIENCE MAGAZINE

On April 2, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) announced that former United States Geological Survey (USGS) Director Marcia McNutt has been named as the next editor in chief of its leading journal Science and its associated publications.

The first woman to head the journal, McNutt is among several scientists who departed their positions as agency heads at the start of the Obama administration’s second term. She served at the helm of the USGS from October 2009 until earlier this year. Prior to working at the agency, she was CEO of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California (1997-2009). McNutt received her Ph.D. in earth sciences from Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California.

Founded in 1880 by journalist John Michels and Thomas Edison, Science includes peer reviewed studies and news articles covering topics of importance to the scientific community.
McNutt’s tenure with the journal begins on June 1, 2013. She succeeds Bruce Alberts, who has served since 2009 and had planned to step down at the end of his five year term.

For more information, see the AAAS press release:
http://www.aaas.org/news/releases/2013/0402_mcnutt.shtml

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: NMFS TO REVIEW SPERM WHALE STATUS

The National Marine Fisheries Service has published a notice requesting input on whether sperm whales inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico warrant a “distinct population segment” listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The notice comes after the environmental group WildEarth Guardians petitioned to recognize the Gulf population of sperm whales (numbering roughly 1300) as a discrete group as the whales spend most of their lives in the area rather the migrating, which is unique among the species. While the general population of sperm whales are already listed as endangered, the Gulf sperm whales face unique threats posed by oil and gas exploration and development and shipping traffic in the region.

According to WildEarth Guardians, the Gulf sperm whales are physically smaller and gather in smaller groups than their outside counterparts, which help them forage in shallower water than larger sperm whales. They also note that the Gulf whales have developed a unique “dialect” that is “culturally learned” in a manner similar to human language. These unique adaptations would make it unlikely that other sperm whales would or could colonize the area, the organization asserts.

Public comments will be accepted through May 28, 2013. For additional information on how to submit comments, click here: http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2013-07355_PI.pdf


Sources:AAAS, ClimateWire, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, New York Times, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey, the Washington Post

March 8, 2013

In This Issue

BUDGET: AGENCIES IMPLEMENT SEQUESTRATION AS POLICYMAKERS WRESTLE WITH DEBT

Congress’ failure to address budget sequestration by coming up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction has federal agencies trimming investment priorities and beginning (reportedly in some cases already implementing) employee furloughs as budget sequestration went into effect March 1.

As enacted by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25) and modified by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (P.L. 112-240), sequestration includes across-the-board cuts of 7.9 percent for defense discretionary spending programs and 5.3 percent to non-defense discretionary spending programs. It is estimated that for the current Fiscal Year of 2013, which began on Oct. 1, the non-defense discretionary cuts will actually total about nine percent while the defense cuts will total about 13 percent for the remainder of the year to compensate for the five months of spending that have already occurred for the current fiscal year.

For federal agencies, the 5.3 percent sequester for non defense amounts to the following monetary decreases: Environmental Protection Agency ($472 million), Department of Energy ($1.9 billion), Department of Interior ($883 million), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ($271 million) and the National Science Foundation ($361 million), according to a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget released March 1. The Interior cuts include the National Park Service ($153 million), the US Fish and Wildlife Service ($127 million), US Geological Survey ($54 million) and the Bureau of Land Management ($75 million). Department of Defense (DoD) research and development programs would decrease by 7.9 percent, roughly $6 billion. (A House-passed continuing resolution to fund the government would cut an additional $2.5 billion to DoD research and development).

In an effort to reduce partisan tensions over the budget, President Obama held several meal discussions with lawmakers this week at the White House. On March 6, the president met with Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Richard Burr (NC), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Dan Coats (IN), Tom Coburn (OK), Bob Corker (TN), Lindsey Graham (SC), John Hoeven (ND), Mike Johanns (NE), Ron Johnson (WI), John McCain (AZ) and Pat Toomey (PA). Two key Senate Republicans whose committees’ have jurisdiction over budget, entitlement and taxation issues, Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (AL) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orin Hatch (UT), did not attend the meetings. The following day, the president met with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

During the meeting, President Obama said that lawmakers must reach agreement on a comprehensive bipartisan debt reduction plan by the end of July, which coincides with when the federal debt ceiling will need to be addressed. The White House has released a plan for addressing the sequester that would cut defense and non-defense discretionary spending equally by a total of $200 billion below pre-sequestration levels, cut healthcare costs by $600 billion and include $580 billion in revenue, largely through closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans. Chairman Ryan plans to release a debt reduction package in the near future.

The White House plan for addressing sequestration is available here:
www.whitehouse.gov/sequester

To view the Ecological Society of America press release on sequestration, click here:
http://www.esa.org/esablog/ecology-in-policy/ecological-society-of-america-voices-concern-over-us-fiscal-situation/

The OMB report on sequestration’s impacts is available here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/fy13ombjcsequestrationreport.pdf

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE PASSES SIX MONTH FEDERAL FUNDING EXTENSION BILL

This week, the US House of Representatives passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013, which ends Sept. 30. The bill would prevent a government shutdown by extending federal funding beyond the deadline of the current CR, which ends March 27. The bill (H.R. 933) passed by a vote of 267-151. Fifty-three Democrats joined all but 14 Republicans in supporting the measure.

The bill does not include funding to nullify the overwhelming majority of sequestration cuts to federal agencies that went into effect March 1 as mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) in lieu of Congress failing to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. According to existing law, sequestration includes across-the-board cuts of 7.9 percent for defense discretionary spending programs and 5.3 percent to non-defense discretionary spending programs.

For DoD, the House bill would shift $10.4 billion to the agency’s operations and maintenance account by cutting $3.6 billion in personnel funds, $2.5 billion in research and development funding and $4.2 billion in equipment procurement. The bill includes a 1.7 percent pay increase for the military, which is exempt from sequestration. For federal government workers, the existing pay-freeze is continued to offset spending increases elsewhere in the bill.

With the exception of the military pay increase, all other funding increases in the bill are allocated within the overall sequestration cuts set by the Budget Control Act. Total post-sequestration funding in the bill amounts to $984 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill provides $40 million for the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to fight wildfires. It also includes a provision to provide additional funding to maintain the launch schedule for new weather satellites, ensuring the continuation of data collection necessary for weather forecasting. In addition, the bill includes $2 billion in additional funding for diplomatic security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2012 Libya terrorist attack.

The White House has not issued a formal statement in opposition to the bill. House Democratic leadership maintained they would not actively whip their members against the bill, proposed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY). House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), however, expressed disappointment with the spending levels in the final bill.

"Congress' failure to replace sequestration with a balanced and responsible package of spending cuts and revenue increases before March 1st is inexcusable,” said Lowey in a press statement. “The discretionary spending cuts mandated by sequestration will result in job loss and furloughs, slowed economic growth, and diminishment of services and investments that are critical to middle-class families and those who are striving to reach the middle-class. I am hopeful that an agreement can be reached in the coming weeks to restore these irresponsible cuts while reining in long-term debt and deficits."

The Senate has indicated it will change the bill by adding funding from three other major appropriations bills. As passed by the House, the bill includes compromise language for two FY 2013 appropriations bills: the Department of Defense Appropriations Act and the Military, Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act. The Senate seeks to add FY 2013 funding for the Agriculture, Rural Development and Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Act, the Homeland Security Appropriations Act, and the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. The latter bill provides funding for law enforcement and two key science agencies – the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Incorporating the language of actual bills gives federal agencies greater direction and specificity in how to distribute funding than a simple CR does.

The bill would also include minor provisions from other appropriations bills that shift funding from lower priority programs to higher priority programs, much the same way the House-passed bill does with DoD funding. Overall, the Senate-passed bill would seek to give the administration greater flexibility in how to distribute the sequestration cuts. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) worked with Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) in drafting the bill and asserted it will be able to garner the necessary 60 votes to clear the Senate. The Senate plans to vote on the bill the week of March 11. Since Congress will be in recess the week the current CR expires, the House has until the end of the week of March 18 to either pass the Senate bill or work to reach an agreement on legislation to avert a government shutdown.

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA ANNOUNCES NOMINATIONS FOR EPA, DOE

This week, President Obama announced his picks to head two key agencies. Gina McCarthy has been nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ernest Moniz to head the Department of Energy (DOE).

A native of Boston, McCarthy has been assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation since 2009. Her tenure at EPA has included the promotion of regulations to improve air quality and reduce toxic mercury pollution from power plant facilities.  Prior to her tenure at EPA, McCarthy was commissioner for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection from 2004-2009. Her state level experience includes time as an environmental regulator in the administration of former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA).

Moniz is a nuclear physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he directs the MIT Energy Initiative. During the Clinton administration he served as the Under Secretary of Energy (1997-2001). Prior to that, he served in the administration as Associate Director for Science in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (1995-1997). Moniz headed MIT’s Department of Physics between 1991-1995 before joining the Clinton administration.

The two appointments have been met with praise from conservation groups. Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan praised Moniz as “a recognized, outspoken and effective energy efficiency advocate during his career in government and academia, which will allow him to thrive in his new DOE role.” Of McCarthy, Natural Resources Defense Council President Frances Beinecke stated: “She's a good listener, a straight shooter and someone who has what it takes to build consensus and find solutions. We can count on her to protect our environment and our health. And she can count on our support as she works to get the job done on behalf of Americans everywhere."

As political tension remains between many Congressional Republicans and the White House over continued efforts by the administration to address climate change, both nominees – whose agencies will be at the forefront in implementing such efforts – can expect contentious confirmation hearings. The reactions from key Senators have not been immediately confrontational, however.

Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) stated: “I will withhold judgment until I've had a chance to speak to the nominees directly, but my main concern is that both agencies take immediate steps to restore balance to our nation’s energy and environmental policies. That balance has been missing for the past four years but must play a more prominent role going forward if we are to bolster our struggling economy.”

Senate Democratic leaders had more robust sentiments for the nominees. Regarding McCarthy, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asserted: “The President could not have picked a more qualified person to lead EPA at this critical time. The combination of her experience, intelligence, energy, and unquestioned expertise will make Gina an effective EPA Administrator. She has a deep understanding that the health and safety of the American people depends on clean air and clean water.”

SENATE: INTERIOR PICK GETS MIXED REVIEWS AT CONFIRMATION HEARING

During the March 7, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, relations between committee members and Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell were largely cordial. However, several committee Republicans took the opportunity to relay strong concerns with the nominee and prospective actions of the agency she would head.

For Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowki (R-AK), a continued sticking point is whether the Department of Interior will allow a land exchange that would establish a road corridor through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Approval of the road would ease accessibility of King Cove residents to an all-weather airport in Cold Bay for weather evacuations. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has recommended rejecting the proposal. Murkowski has asserted that she may hold up Jewell’s nomination if the King Cove issue is not addressed to her satisfaction.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s preferred alternative would protect the heart of a pristine landscape that congress designated as wilderness and that serves as vital habitat for grizzly bear, caribou and salmon, shorebirds and waterfowl – including 98 percent of the world’s population of Pacific black brant [geese],” asserted Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar in a press statement commenting on the proposal. “After extensive dialogue and exhaustive scientific evaluation, the agency has identified a preferred path forward that will ensure this extraordinary refuge and its wilderness are conserved and protected for future generations.”

Ranking Member Murkowski said that Interior should recommit itself to economic development through energy development. Jewell responded by elaborating on the economic benefits of land conservation. “Public lands are also huge economic engines. Through energy development, through grazing, logging, tourism and outdoor recreation, our lands and waters power our economy and create jobs. Balance is absolutely critical,” said Jewell. She contended that she embraces the Obama administration’s all of the above approach to energy investment that includes both fossil fuels and renewable energy sources.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) criticized Jewell over her position as board member for the National Parks Conservation Association, which he asserted has filed at least 59 lawsuits during her tenure blocking coal plants, uranium production, oil and gas. Jewell said that she played no role in deciding what lawsuits the group filed. She asserted that she would consult Interior’s ethics office before taking any action on issues involving the organization. 

One Republican that may be warm to Jewell is Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who seemed to insinuate that Jewell’s resume is more befitting of a Republican administration cabinet pick. "I see you have worked on the Alaska pipeline, that you're an oil and gas engineer. You said you'd actually fracked a gas well. You were a banker for 19 years. You're chief executive officer of a billion-dollar company” said Alexander. He then quipped: "How did you get appointed by this administration?"

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has not yet announced when the committee will vote on Jewell, noting that he would like to allow Senators time to get additional questions answers beforehand.

View the full hearing here: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=75010617-43f1-462e-8858-3a4ee100315e

HOUSE: ENVIRONMENT SUBCOMMITEE GETS NEW CHAIRMAN

On March 5, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced that freshman Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) will serve as the new chairman of the Environment Subcommittee.

The Energy and Environment Subcommittee was split into two separate committees at the beginning of the 113th Congress. The Energy Subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WI) while the Environment Subcommittee was chaired by Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD), who chaired the Energy and Environment Subcommittee during the 112th Congress. Rep. Harris was recently appointed to the House Appropriations Committee where he serves on the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Subcommittee. The CJS Subcommittee decides federal funding levels for science agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.

Before coming to Congress, Rep. Stewart served as Chief Executive Officer for the Shipley Group, a consulting firm that specializes in environmental issues. The organization provides training to clients on federal environmental regulations, such as the National Environmental Policy Act. Stewart sold the company before being sworn into Congress. He is also a decorated Air Force pilot who set three world speed records during his time in the service.

Stewart was quoted in a statement from the committee, expressing gratitude for the new post: “I feel honored to be working with Chairman Lamar Smith and other members of the Committee in overseeing the EPA, researching scientific issues related to environmental policy and climate change, and ensuring that government agencies employ sound science when making decisions,” said Stewart. “I look forward to working with an active and productive subcommittee as we oversee these important issues.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: CONFERENCE HIGHLIGHTS BUSINESS STEWARDSHIP EFFORTS

The 2013 Climate Leadership Conference brought a wide array of different interests together in discussion of efforts to save energy and mitigate the impacts of climate change. The Ecological Society of America (ESA) was a supporting partner for the event. Other partnering organizations included the Alliance to Save Energy, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, the Climate Institute, the Sustainability Consortium, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers.

Speakers at the event included business leaders, military officials and senior representatives of government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which served as the headline sponsor. Acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe discussed the agency’s efforts to serve as a resource for businesses through its Center of Corporate Leadership as well as its Energy Star program, which works to save customers money on their utilities. Jonathan Powers of the White House Council on Environmental Quality elaborated on how the administration’s executive order for all federal agencies to work to address climate change has resulted in a number of collaborations between the government and related interests in the private sector.

Speakers from the business industry included representatives from Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, IBM, The Hershey Co., Ford Motor Co., Staples Inc. and Verizon. Steve Tochilin, Environmental Sustainability General Manager with Delta, discussed the steps the airline is taking to reduce fuel consumption to lower its expenses. Linden Patton, Chief Climate Product Officer with Zurich Insurance elaborated on the growing costs extreme weather events are having on the insurance industry and on energy prices.

Additional highlights from the conference can be found in two recent posts to ESA’s blog, EcoTone:
http://www.esa.org/esablog/

STATE: DRAFT REPORT CITES MINIMAL IMPACT FROM KEYSTONE, FINAL DECISION AWAITS

While a final decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is still pending, the Department of State issued a draft environmental impact statement report March 1 that concludes the pipeline’s construction would not have a significant impact on development of Canada oil sands. "Approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area," states the report.

It finds that the pipeline would have “no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project route” as long as safeguards are followed. The report does acknowledge that the project could lead to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The project also identifies several plant and animal species that could be put at risk from construction of the pipeline, including the greater sage grouse, the whooping crane, the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid and the American Burying Beetle. The report asserts, however, that steps can be taken to minimize impacts on these species.

Reactions in Congress were predictably partisan. The House Energy and Commerce Committee pushed several legislative measures last Congress to expedite approval of the pipeline and this year created a “Keystone Clock” highlighting the amount of time that has passed since the initial application was submitted to the State Department. Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) has introduced the draft of a new bill this Congress to expedite approval of the pipeline.

“The SEIS findings confirm what we already knew – this pipeline is safe and in the best interest of the American people,” asserted House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) in a joint statement. “There are no legitimate reasons not to move forward on the landmark jobs project. The president should stand up for families and immediately approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” they continued. “At a time when gas prices are rising toward $4.00 a gallon, we must use every available tool we can to increase America’s access to affordable and secure energy supplies.”

Reaction from Democrats in Congress varied from outright disdain to mild concern. “The draft impact statement appears to be seriously flawed,” stated Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman. “We don’t need this dirty oil.  To stop climate change and the destructive storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires that we are already experiencing, we should be investing in clean energy, not building a pipeline that will speed the exploitation of Canada’s highly polluting tar sands.”  

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asserted “I intend to closely review the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. I continue to be very concerned about the contribution that the Keystone XL pipeline would make to dangerous climate change.”

The draft environmental impact assessment is subject to a 45 day public comment period before the State Department issues a final decision. For additional information on the assessment process as well as information on how to submit comments, click here: http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/

To link directly to the draft assessment, click here:
http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/draftseis/index.htm


Sources: ClimateWire, Department of State, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee, POLITICO, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, USA Today, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Washington Post, the White House