April 20, 2012

In This Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE RELEASES FY 2013 ENERGY AND WATER BILL

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

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

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

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

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

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

AIR POLLUTION: EPA ANNOUNCES NATURAL GAS DRILLING REGULATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

GULF SPILL: REPORT ANALYZES PROGRESS MADE AFTER DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: ARMY CORPS RELEASES OYSTER RESTORATION PLAN

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

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

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

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

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

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee

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

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

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

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

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

 

Passed by House

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

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

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

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

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


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, Oil Spill Commission Action project, Senate Appropriations Committee, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the White House

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