November 4, 2011

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE PASSES ‘MINI-BUS’ FUNDING NSF, NOAA

On Nov. 1, the Senate passed a mini omnibus (“minibus”) measure that incorporated three individual appropriations bills: Commerce Justice and Science, Transportation Housing and Urban Development as well as the Agriculture Rural Development Food and Drug Administration appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The minibus bill (H.R. 2112) passed with bipartisan support by a vote of 69-30. Sixteen Republicans joined all Democrats and Independents in supporting the measure.

Funding levels are largely unchanged from the measures approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee two months ago. The bill includes $6.7 million for the National Science Foundation, a reduction of $162 million from FY 2011. For the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the bill includes $5 billion, a $434 million increase from FY 2011. The Senate measure increases investment in NOAA research initiatives, including $161.5 million for the agency’s climate service. The House bill prohibits funding for the climate service. 

For the Agricultural Research Service, the FY 2012 bill provides $1.09 billion, down from $1.133 billion in FY 2011.  The bill provides $709.8 million for research and education activities within the National Institute on Food and Agriculture, up from $698.7 million in FY 2011. The Natural Resources Conservation Service would receive $828 million for FY 2012, down from $871 million in FY 2011. 

Scheduled passage of the legislation was prolonged as Senate Republicans sought to amend the bill with numerous policy riders. In all, 181 amendments were submitted. Few amendments were directly aimed at provisions that fund science or environmental initiatives. However, the measure does include a rider that eliminates funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program, which encourages farmers to make their land accessible to the public for hunting, fishing and other wildlife-based recreational opportunities.

The bill now goes to conference between House and Senate appropriations leaders who must agree upon a compromise bill. Leaders have until the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on Nov. 18 to either pass all remaining FY 2012 appropriations bills or pass another CR, allowing additional time to consider the measures.

Eight of the twelve appropriations measures are still awaiting passage in the Senate and none of the twelve bills have made it through the conference process to be signed by the president. Among measures still pending in the Senate are the Interior, Energy and Water, and Labor Health Human Service and Education appropriations bills.

For more information on the science-related components of the appropriations measure, see the Sept. 23 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/09232011.php

For more information on the agricultural research components of the measure, see the Sept. 9 edition of ESA Policy News:

http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/09092011.php

OCEANS: ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS DEFEND NATIONAL OCEANS POLICY

On Oct. 26, the House Natural Resources Committee convened a hearing on the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy. While this was the second hearing by the committee to examine the policy, it was the first to feature testimony from key senior officials from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Council of Environmental Quality (CEQ).

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) said the plan  places restrictions on ocean and coastal inland activities. “I have asked the administration for the specific statutory authority that allows the president, by executive order, to create regional planning bodies and require them to create regional zoning plans. So far, I have been given only a hodge-podge list of all the statutes that apply to ocean and/or coastal activities,” he said. Hastings cited the policy as a “huge new bureaucracy” that could “cost jobs and have devastating long-term economic impacts throughout the country.” Chairman Hastings asserted that the executive order creates “dozens of new policies” that create uncertainty for businesses and job creators.

“We are not living in the 1600s, when ‘freedom of the seas’ was the guiding principle of the world’s oceans.  In fact, this is not even the 1980s, when President Reagan used his executive powers to zone our oceans by proclaiming a 12 nautical mile territorial sea and a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone for the United States,” asserted Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA). “This is now 2011 and the blue frontier has become an increasingly crowded space. Fishing grounds, shipping lanes, Navy training ranges, offshore energy production, fish and wildlife habitats and other uses are increasingly in competition. The National Ocean Policy recognizes these conflicts and provides tools to harmonize the existing regulations that govern our coasts and oceans,” he continued. “Scare tactics describing far-fetched what-if scenarios are counterproductive.”

In her written testimony, CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley noted the bipartisan origins of the National Oceans Policy. “Congress created the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2000, and President George W. Bush appointed its members. In its 2004 Report, the Commission said that ‘[o]ur failure to properly manage the human activities that affect the nation’s oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes is compromising their ecological integrity, diminishing our ability to fully realize their potential, costing us jobs and revenue, threatening human health, and putting our future at risk,’” she noted.

“Oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes play a crucial role in the life of every American and in the economic well-being of our nation. Over half the nation lives in coastal counties and the other half often go there to play. Coastal counties generate almost 60 percent of U.S. GDP and coastal habitats provide buffers against coastal storms, preventing more than $20 billion in property losses every year and many of them also provide nursery grounds for many economically important fish and shellfish,” stated NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco.

“The importance of integrated approaches to ocean activities has been recognized across administrations. The [George W.] Bush administration’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy emphasized the need to eliminate barriers between federal agencies with ocean and coastal mandates and streamline processes to improve scientific understanding, share data and coordinate policy setting and decision-making to maximize federal resources,” continued Lubchenco. “The National Ocean Policy and the Framework for [Effective] Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning continue this integration, but equally importantly, they empower communities to shape the future of their regional ocean uses.”

The subsequent panelists included Jim Donofrio, Executive Director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance, Randall Luthi, President of the National Ocean Industries Association and Michael Conathan Director of Ocean Policy of Center of American Progress. The two former panelists joined committee Republicans in voicing concern with the National Ocean Policy. Donofrio said that  the National Ocean Policy is a “complete government takeover of our fisheries” and a “complete disregard of our liberties and state rights.”

Ranking Member Markey asked Conathan how he might answer the concerns of industry and fisherman with better coordination. “I think the fishing industries, both recreational and commercial have to acknowledge that ocean space is going to be more crowded in the future and they can either be at the table to have the conversation about where the most appropriate places for that development are or they can be on the sidelines and be left out of the conversation,” said Conathan. “So I think this kind of coordinated policy…will really provide the opportunities for them to be contributors in that process.”

View the hearing here:

http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=264954

FISHERIES: NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF USFWS PROGRAM

On Nov. 3, the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced the release of a report entitled An Assessment of Economic Contributions from Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Conservation.” The report seeks to highlight the varied economic contributions made by the agency’s  Fisheries Program.

According to the report, the USFWS’s Fisheries Program contributes $3.6 billion to the nation’s economy and supports 68,000 jobs across the country. It states that that each dollar invested in the fisheries program, combined with its partners, generates about $28 in economic contributions and value.

The report also shows the USFWS’s National Fish Hatchery System alone generates $900 million in industrial output and $550 million in retail sales. National Fish Hatchery programs generate 8,000 jobs and $256 million in salaries and wages, according to the report.

USFWS’s Fisheries Program works with stakeholders at various levels of government to conserve the nation’s fisheries. The program consists of nearly 800 employees nationwide, located in 65 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Offices, 70 National Fish Hatcheries, nine Fish Health Centers, seven Fish Technology Centers and a Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives.

View the full report here:
http://www.fws.gov/fisheries/

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORUNITY: OSTP PUBLISHES BIOECONOMY BLUEPRINT

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has published a Request for Information to solicit input for research innovations to meet national economic challenges.

On Sept. 16, President Obama announced his administration would develop a National Bioeconomy Blueprint detailing administration-wide steps to harness biological innovations that address efforts to alleviate concerns in human society related to health, food, energy and the environment.

OSTP encourages comments submitted electronically as an attachment to an e-mail sent to bioeconomy@ostp.gov by 11:59 p.m. EST on December 6, 2011.

More information on the blueprint can be found here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/10/12/building-bioeconomy

View the actual Request for Information here:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-11/pdf/2011-26088.pdf

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: RICE CULTIVATION PROJECT

The Climate Action Reserve has announced a new draft Rice Cultivation Project Protocol V1.0 available for public review and comment.

The protocol provides a standardized approach for quantifying, monitoring, and verifying the greenhouse gas reductions from projects that avoid methane emissions to the atmosphere through changes in water and residue management in rice cultivation. The Climate Action Reserve is working with a number of federal agencies and organizations on the protocol, including the California Rice Commission, Carbon Solutions America, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Comments are due no later than 5:00 pm PST on November 11, 2011. For more information as well as to review the draft protocol and submit comments, click here:
http://www.climateactionreserve.org/how/protocols/agriculture/rice-cultivation/

WATER: ESA SPONSORS CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON FLOOD MANAGEMENT

On November 2, the Ecological Society of America sponsored a congressional briefing entitled “Using Science to Improve Flood Management.” The briefing drew 40 attendees, including congressional staff and representatives of federal agencies, NGOs and private organizations. Featured speakers were Emily Stanley (University of Wisconsin, Madison, Center for Limnology) and Jeff Opperman (Senior Freshwater Scientist, The Nature Conservancy, Ohio Field Office). 

The speakers addressed the function of rivers and floodplains and the need to manage rivers as systems and for multiple benefits. Their presentations highlighted the potential for green infrastructure solutions, which would restore floodplains to help reduce risk to people and infrastructure and generate such benefits as increased fish production. The nation’s growing economic burden from flood damage as well as its aging levee infrastructure make this option a timely one, said Stanely and Opperman.  

The briefing highlighted improvements in flood management along the Mississippi River since the flood of 1927, and also referenced the Yolo Bypass in Sacramento, CA as a prime example of an effective working floodplain. The speakers also touched on the many benefits floodplains have on water quality, fish production, agriculture, aquaculture, groundwater recharge and maintaining ecosystem biodiversity.

AIR POLLUTION: ESA COSPONSORS CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON MERCURY

On Oct. 25, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) helped organize and co-sponsored the congressional briefing: “Mercury and Air Pollution Impacts on Ecosystems.”  Other organizations sponsoring the briefing were the Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), the Great Lakes Commission, and the Northeast-Midwest Institute. 

The briefing featured the findings of a recent report from BRI highlighting mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region. According to the BRI report, emissions of mercury into the air (and subsequent deposition) are now the primary source of mercury pollution in the Great Lakes region. Twenty-six percent of mercury deposition in Canada and the continental United States is from the Great Lakes region, with the highest concentrations in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The event featured speakers Charley Driscoll (Syracuse University) and Dave Evers (BRI) and drew 30 attendees  A preprint of ESA’s new Issues in Ecology #14 on air pollution thresholds was also discussed by the speakers and made available to the audience.

View the BRI report here:

http://www.briloon.org/mercuryconnections/GreatLakes

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in the House

H.R. 3353, the Healthy Kids Outdoors Act – Introduced Nov. 3 by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), the bill would provide incentives to states to develop strategies to increase children and family participation in outdoor activities. It would also direct the president to involve federal agencies and national partners to create a similar plan at the national level and support research documenting the benefits of outdoor activities in the natural environment.

Passed the House

H.R. 1904, the Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), the bill would enact a land swap, giving up nearly 2,422  acres of federal forest on the Oak Flat Campground for 5,350 acres controlled by Resolution Cooper Co., a subsidiary of Rio Tino PLC and BHP Billiton Ltd. The companies are seeking to tap into what they believe is the third-largest undeveloped copper resource in the world. The bill passed the House Oct. 26 by a vote of 235-186. House Democrats unsuccessfully sought to amendment the bill with three efforts:

An amendment from House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) to would require Resolution Copper to pay an eight percent royalty to the U.S. on all minerals produced in commercial quantities from the new mine failed by a vote of 173-238.

An amendment from Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM) to exclude all Native American sacred and cultural sites from land conveyance failed by a vote of 189-233.

An amendment from Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) to require Resolution Copper to maintain any remote operation center in Arizona, seek to employ Arizonans, require all copper to stay in the U.S. and ensure that all mining equipment is made in the U.S. failed by a vote of 182-240.

Approved by Senate Committee

On Nov. 2, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved a number bills related to ocean management and aquatic life, including the following:

S. 1119, the Trash Free Seas Act – Introduced by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the bill would reauthorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris programs.

S. 1401, the Pacific Salmon Stronghold Act – Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill would coordinate efforts in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska to preserve pacific salmon and restore recreational and commercial fisheries in the region.

S. 1701, the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011  – Introduced by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the bill would expand research programs to combat the proliferation of harmful algae blooms.

S. 1717, Prevention of Escapement of Genetically Altered Salmon in the United States Act – Introduced by Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK), the bill would ban the interstate sale of genetically engineered fish.

Passed the Senate

S. 897, to clarify that uncertified States and Indian tribes have the authority to use certain payments for certain noncoal reclamation projects – Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the bill allows funds collected under the Abandoned Mine Land program to be used by states and American Indian tribes for the cleanup of abandoned uranium mines and other hardrock mine sites. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Nov. 2 and has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.


Sources: Climate Action Reserve, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, the White House

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