September 28, 2012

In This Issue

BUDGET: NEW REPORT OUTLINES SEQUESTRATION IMPACTS ON SCIENCE

On Sept. 27, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) published a report outlining the impacts of budget sequestration on federal science funding.

Established under the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), the budget sequestration, set to go into effect on January 2, 2013, would shave $55 billion in defense spending and $38 billion in non-defense discretionary spending. Within these numbers, Department of Defense Research and Development (R&D) would lose an average of $6.7 billion per year for the next five years. The National Science Foundation would lose $456 million in FY 2013 and a total of $2.1 billion over the next five years. Over the same five-year period, funding for R&D at the Departments of Agriculture (-$875 million), Energy (-$4.585 billion) Interior (-$299 million), the National Aeronautics Space Administration (-$3.527 billion) and the Environmental Protection Agency (-$213 million) would also be drastically reduced.

The states of California (-$11.315 billion), Maryland (-$5.44 billion), Virginia (-$4.256 billion) Massachusetts (-$3.14 billion) and Texas (-$2.822 billion) would lose the most federal research funding over the next five years under the sequester. The District of Columbia would lose $2.877 billion in research dollars over the same period.

As the report notes, the budget sequestration was originally intended only as a contingency plan to compel lawmakers to take action and develop a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would include mandatory spending and tax revenue, which have traditionally been political landmines for the two major political parties. Absence action by Congress before the end of the year, the budget sequester is scheduled to go into effect in January.

Last month, the Ecological Society of America, the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) and the American Mathematical Society crafted an action alert encouraging their members to contact their representatives to let them know the devastating impacts budget sequester would have on research in the communities they represent.

To go to the AIBS Legislative Action page where you’ll find more information on the fiscal cliff and budget sequestration as well as a letter to Members of Congress, click here:
http://capwiz.com/aibs/issues/alert/?alertid=61759666

To view the full AAAS report, click here: http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/fy2013/SeqBrief.shtml

AGRICULTURE: HOUSE LEADERSHIP PUNTS FARM BILL TO LAME DUCK SESSION

On Sept. 21, the House adjourned for the fall and will not convene again until after the November elections. The month-long October district work period has become typical in modern presidential election years. However, this year differs from four years ago in that Congress has chosen to adjourn without taking up an extension of the farm bill.

The most recent reauthorization of the agricultural law, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act (P.L. 110-234), was passed by a Democratic House and Senate and signed by a Republican president in June 2008. Four years later, while Senate leaders passed a bill to reauthorize the nation’s food and agricultural programs, the House has failed to take up such a measure. The Senate bill passed this June with a bipartisan vote of 64-35, including the support of Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KY). Chairwoman Stabenow is pledging to work to get the legislation enacted into law before the calendar year ends.

The House bill also enjoys bipartisan support from House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN). However, factions of the House Democratic and Republican caucuses, which are decidedly more partisan than their Senate counterparts, remain concerned with the overall bill for differing reasons. Liberal Democrats object to the $16 billion in cuts to food stamp programs, which are much steeper than the $4 billion cut by the Senate bill. Some conservative Republicans believe many of the cuts in the existing bill do not go far enough. House Speaker John Boehner cited the splintered factions on the both sides of the aisle as rationale enough to assume the bill cannot obtain the 218 vote threshold necessary to clear the chamber.

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued a statement lambasting House Republicans. “In a year that has brought its share of challenges to America’s farmers and ranchers, the House Republicans have added new uncertainty for rural America,” he said. “US agriculture is fighting to maintain the tremendous momentum it has built over the past three years, but with natural disasters and other external forces threatening livelihoods of our farmers and ranchers, certainty is more important than ever. Americans deserve a food, farm and jobs bill that reforms the safety net for producers in times of need, promotes the bio-based economy, conserves our natural resources, strengthens rural communities, promotes job growth in rural America, and supports food assistance to low-income families.”

The farm bill differs from appropriations bills in that it is authorization legislation, meaning that it only authorizes maximum funding levels, creates new programs eligible for funding or continues to authorize maximum funding levels for programs. The specific funding is still required through the annual appropriations bills. In short, expiration of farming authorization programs will not lead to any type of government shutdown, as long as there are continued appropriations. Congress recently passed a continuing resolution continuing federal appropriations funding through March 2013, which the president is expected to sign.

Nonetheless, allowing the authorization bill to die this weekend will still have consequences as a number of programs will expire. New enrollments would end for the conservation reserve, wetlands reserve, grassland reserve and healthy forest reserve programs. The Department of Agriculture can continue restoration work through the programs that have already begun, however. Further, six of the seven energy programs added in the 2008 farm bill would lose their authority. Overall though, crops covering the remainder of the calendar 2012 harvest season are still covered under the 2008 legislation.

Fifty-one House members, including nine Republicans, so far have signed a discharge petition that would force a vote on the bill; 218 signatures are needed for the petition to succeed. Discharge petitions are not an effective way to get floor consideration of a bill in the House as they are usually initiated by the minority party while majority party members traditionally defer to the will of House leadership. Most of the members who signed the petition represent farming congressional districts and/or are in tough re-election races.

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE RELEASES ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCIES SPENDING BILL

On Sept. 25, the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding bill. The bill funds the Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Forest Service at $29.7 billion for FY 2013, a 1.7 percent increase over current levels and level with the White House’s budget request. The House has marked up a $28 million Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which has passed at the committee level, but has yet to see floor consideration.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would receive $8.5 billion, an increase of $66 million from FY 2012 and $171 million more than the Obama administration’s request for fiscal 2013. The House bill includes $7 billion in funding for EPA. The bill provides $1.5 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a $291 million increase from the White House request. There was bipartisan opposition to the administration’s proposed 15 percent cut to the fund. The bill increases EPA science and technology funding to $798.8 billion, an increase from $793.7 billion in FY 2012. Clean air and climate programs would receive 306.9 billion, an increase from $286.1 billion in FY 2012.

Interior/Forest Service

Overall, the Department of Interior (DOI) would receive $10.5 billion in FY 2013, a 1.6 percent increase over FY 2012 and $24 million above the president’s budget request. FY 2013 funding numbers proposed in the Senate bill for specific departments under DOI include the following:

  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – $1.095 billion, less than the $1.1 billion received in FY 2012
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service – $1.4 billion, less than the $1.475 billion received in FY 2012.
  • National Park Service – $2.578 billion, less than the 2.58 billion received in FY 2012.
  • US Geological Survey – $1.083 billion, an increase from the $1.068 billion received in FY 2012.
  • Office of Surface Mining – $141 million, less than the $150.1 received in FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management – $62.7 million, an increase from $59.7 million in FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – $96.2 million, an increase from $76.2 million in FY 2012.
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs – $2.513 billion, a decrease from $2.531 billion in FY 2012.
  • US Forest Service – $4.737 billion, an increase from the $4.594 million received in FY 2012. The total includes an additional $236.5 million for wildland fire management.

The bill itself is not expected to be taken up before the end of the year, but serve as a starting point for negotiations on how to fund the environmental agencies when current funding runs out under the recently passed continuing resolution, which runs through March. There has been bipartisan and bicameral disappointment from appropriators that Congress has been politically unable to pass appropriations bills individually this year.

For more information on the Senate Interior and Environment appropriations bill, click here: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=fc23708b-fb33-4569-99b4-6cf0d0254457

For information on the House Interior and Environment appropriations bill for FY 2013, see the June 22 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0622.php

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: NWF LETTER ON INVASIVE BIOENERGY

The National Wildlife Federation is calling on scientists to sign a letter to the Obama administration outlining ecological and economical concerns with the potential for bioenergy initiatives to promote the spread of invasive plants.

Under White House Executive Order 13112 (issued Feb 3, 1999), a federal agency cannot take action that causes or promotes the spread of invasive species unless the agency has publicly determined that the benefits of such actions clearly outweigh the potential harm. Accordingly, the letter requests that the Obama administration enforce this order and take an assessment of the invasion risk of bioenergy feedstocks before they are eligible for federal incentives that pave the way for their cultivation.

“Studies have shown that some of the plants considered most promising in terms of bioenergy capacity may actually be highly invasive and potentially harmful to native species and ecosystems,” the letter notes. “In fact, many of the characteristics that make a plant appealing as an ideal source of biomass such as ease of establishment, rapid growth, resistance to pests and diseases, and low input requirements, are the same characteristics that make a plant more likely to become invasive.”

The letter is addressed to US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

NWF has also put together a report outlining the invasive potential of bioenergy feedstocks. To view the NWF report on bioenergy, click here: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/Media-Center/Reports/Archive/2012/04-04-12-Growing-Risk.aspx

To view the letter click here:
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0BxdVhmWWQK-pY3E5RGhxSkxVdzA

To sign the letter, click here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEJMbE1xdFUxS2FzOTdTaHh4c08yWnc6MQ&ifq

SCIENCE: GOLDEN GOOSE AWARDS HONOR UNIQUE, GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH

On Sept. 13, the first Golden Goose Awards ceremony was held on Capitol Hill. Conceived by Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN), the purpose of the “Golden Goose” award is to showcase federally funded research of seemingly obscure studies that led to a major breakthrough that made a significant contribution to human society.

The name is a play on the late Senator William Proxmire’s (D-WI) Golden Fleece awards. The Senator used the awards to call attention to research that sounded like a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roget Tsien were honored for their discovery of green fluorescent protein while seeking to identify why jellyfish glow green. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) has led to advances in genetics, cell biology, and a better understanding of HIV, cancer and brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Eugene White, Rodney White, Della Roy and the late Jon Weber were honored for their 1960s work in developing bone grafts from coral found in tropical oceans. Another award recipient was Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes, whose discovery of laser technology in the 1950s began with an odd-sounding quest to amplify microwave radiation.

The awards were supported by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Breakthrough Institute, the Progressive Policy Institute, the Task Force on American Innovation, the Richard Lounsbery Foundation, the Science Coalition, United for Medical Research, the American Chemical Society, the American Mathematical Society and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

For more information on the Golden Goose award, click here:
http://www.goldengooseaward.org/about-us/

EPA: FORMER ADMINISTRATOR, LIFELONG CONSERVATIONIST RUSSELL TRAIN PASSES

Former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Russell Train passed away on Sept. 17 at the age of 92. Train, the second EPA Administrator who served under Presidents Nixon and Ford, was a lifelong conservationist.

Train led the EPA from 1973-1977. Prior to that, he served as the first chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality between 1970 and 1973. After leaving EPA he worked with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), serving as president of the organization’s US branch from 1978 to 1985 and then chairman from 1985 to 1994. Prior to his service in government, he was president of the Conservation Fund (1965-1969) and served as the first vice president of WWF upon its establishment in 1961.

Train is credited with helping to enact most of the landmark environmental protection legislation of the 1970s, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. He also played a key role in the initial implementation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System that protects our nation’s waters, according to EPA.

While he was a strong supporter of President George H.W. Bush, whose administration enacted the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990, he was a sharp critic of President George W. Bush. Train claimed that the second Bush White House repeatedly interfered with agency decision-making and ignored scientific expertise when crafting environmental policy.

Current EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson released a statement, commending his lifelong work in conservation. “Russell Train’s life and work were dedicated to protecting American families and communities from pollution and environmental threats, and his leadership helped set the path for the ongoing work of the EPA,” she stated. “As a dedicated public servant, he always rose above partisan politics, and remained a respected and vocal supporter of conservation and environmental protection into the last years of his life. I was proud to count him as a friend, and I will continue to work to honor his remarkable legacy.”

CURRENT POLICY

Passed House

H.R. 3409, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act - Introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), the bill seeks to stifle a number of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations affecting the coal industry. Among its provisions, the comprehensive bill would restrict EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, veto coal mine permits, regulate disposal of coal ash and address air toxic standards for coal-fired plants. It would also limit EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act.

An amendment by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) requiring EPA and the Department of Transportation to submit a report to Congress within six months on the environmental and public health impacts of fugitive coal dust was rejected 168-243. Another amendment from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) that sought to strike the language that would repeal EPA’s scientific finding that carbon pollution endangers the public health and welfare was rejected 178-229.

The bill passed the House Sept. 21 by a vote of 233-175 with all but 13 Republicans supporting the bill. Nineteen Democrats also broke with the majority of their party in supporting the legislation. The bill is not expected to be taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House has issued a veto threat against the legislation. To read the White House statement, click here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr3409r_20120919.pdf

H.R. 1461, the Mescalero Apache Tribe Leasing Authorization Act – Introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce, the bill authorizes the Mescalero Apache Tribe to lease or transfer water rights that were adjudicated to the Tribe in State v. Lewis, provided the lease or transfer is for no more than 99 years and complies with the laws of New Mexico. The bill passed the House Sept. 19 by voice vote. Companion legislation (S. 134) has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

H.R. 4212, the Drywall Safety Act – Introduced by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), the bill would declare contaminated drywall as a hazardous substance under the Consumer Product Safety Act and urge the Secretary of State to insist that Chinese manufacturers comply with US court decisions related to contaminated drywall. The bill comes in response to contaminated drywall that was imported and used during reconstruction efforts after the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes. It passed the House Sept. 20 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The bill’s 19 bipartisan cosponsors include Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Bill Posey (R-FL) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).

H.R. 6060, the Endangered Fisheries Extension Act - Introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill would reauthorize funding for programs recovering four endangered fish species in the Upper Colorado River and San Juan River Basin. The bill would authorize $6 million torestore the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker, humpback chub and bonytail by 2023. The bill passed the House Sept. 19 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S. 3573, the Empower States Act – Introduced Sept. 19 by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), the bill would limit the ability of EPA and the Bureau of Land Management to regulate hydraulic fracturing without consulting state and local governments and tribes. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Passed Senate

H.R. 4850, the Enabling Energy Savings Innovations Act – introduced by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), the bill would establish efficiency standards for certain specialized products, consolidate other standards and provide the Department of Energy (DOE) with the flexibility to consider new technologies in achieving energy efficiency goals. The bill passed the Senate Sept. 22 by unanimous consent after having passed the House by voice vote early this summer. The bill passed the Senate with several amendments, including one from Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to continue DOE’s appliance efficiency program. The bill must be passed again by the House in its current form before it can be sent to the president to be signed into law.

S. Res. 580, commemorating National Wildlife Refuge Week – Introduced by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), the nonbinding resolution designates the week beginning on Oct. 14, 2012 as “National Wildlife Refuge Week.” The bill passed the Senate Sept. 22 by unanimous consent.


Sources: AAAS, Department of Agriculture, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the New York Times, Senate Appropriations Committee, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Washington Post

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