September 23, 2011

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE DEADLOCKED OVER TEMPORARY SPENDING BILL

The specter of a federal government shutdown looms again as the House passed a bill to fund the government beyond the end of the current fiscal year only to see it fail in the Senate. On Sept. 22, the House passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government through Nov. 18, by a vote of 213-209. The measure subsequently failed in the Senate by a vote of 59-36, falling one vote shy of the 60 vote majority needed to advance the bill under Senate rules.

The bill is similar to a measure the House voted on earlier in the week that failed to win support of conservative Republicans. House GOP leadership added a provision to the bill to cut $100 million from the Department of Energy (DOE) loan guarantee program that funded Solyndra, a bankrupt solar company that has sparked controversy in recent weeks. Democrats have countered that the DOE program cuts would hinder job growth.

Democrats have also opposed the bill because it requires disaster assistance funds to be offset by spending cuts. The House bill provides $3.65 billion in disaster assistance while the Senate passed a similar disaster assistance bill that included $7 billion with no offsets.

Both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) have indicated that their respective bodies will postpone next week’s scheduled recess to hold votes on a measure that would keep the government funded.

If Congress does not approve a bill early next week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency could run out of funds by Monday, Sept. 26 and the government would shutdown at the end of the current fiscal year, Sept 30.

SENATE: APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE MARKS UP BILL FOR NSF, NOAA FUNDING

On Sept. 14, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up S. 1572, the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2012. The bill includes $52.701 billion in discretionary spending, $626 million less than FY 2011.

The National Science Foundation, would receive $6.7 billion, a reduction of $162 million or 2.4 percent below the FY 2011 enacted level. NSF programs that would either be eliminated or see funding reduced in the Senate bill include the following programs: Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education, National STEM Distributed Learning (Digital Library), Research Initiation to Broaden Participation in Biology, Synchrotron Radiation Center, and Science of Learning Centers. The proposed cut to NSF was largely due to the prioritization of other CJS programs by Senate CJS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

The House Appropriations CJS bill would fund NSF level with FY 2011 at $6.9 billion.

The Senate Appropriations Committee proposes to fund NSF’s major programs accordingly: :

  • Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction: $117 million, level with FY 2011.
  • Research and Related Activities: $5.443 billion, $120 million below FY 2011.
  • Education and Human Resources: $829 million, $32 million below FY 2011
  • Agency Operations and Award Management: $290.4 million, $9 million below FY 2011
  • Office of the National Science Board: $4.4 million, $91,000 below FY 2011.
  • Office of the Inspector General: $14.2 million, an increase of $228,000 from FY 2011.

For the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the bill provides $6 million, $647,000 below FY 2011 and $650,000 less than the president’s budget request. The House version allocated only allocated $3 million for OSTP.

The bill also provides funding to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For FY 2012 the bill proposes $5 billion for NOAA, a $434 million increase from FY 2011. This includes $675 million for NOAA research and development, an increase of $16 million from FY 2011. The House bill would cut NOAA R&D by $61 million.

The Senate Appropriations bill also includes $920 million for the Joint Polar Satellite System, $438 million more than FY 2011.  Administration officials have repeatedly asserted that funding for the satellite program is necessary to avoid disruptions in NOAA’s ability to predict changes in weather and climate. Without the funding, satellites launches would be delayed and the government would lose some of its ability to provide advance warning for severe weather events, like the hurricanes and tropical storms that have doused the East Coast this fall, according to NOAA. Due to this increase, NOAA’s other programs would face significant reductions in funding.

Unlike the House version, the Senate CJS bill also includes funding for NOAA’s climate service. However, the minimal funds appropriated stand to significantly limit the office’s scope. Lawmakers had concern with the Obama administration’s plan to remove climate programs from NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, cutting that office’s budget in half. In turn, the Senate bill would provide $182 million for the proposed climate service, $164 million less than the president’s FY 2012 budget request. In contrast, the legislation provides $363 million to the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, well above the president’s proposal of $212 million.

The NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) would be funded at $811 million for FY 2012, down from $1 billion in FY 2011. The House bill would fund NMFS at $685 million. The National Weather Service (NWS) would be funded at $977 million, down just $11 million from FY 2011. The House CJS bill would provide $908 million for NWS.  NOAA’s National Ocean Service would receive $491 million, down from $560 million in FY 2011 while funding for the National Environmental Satellite Service would fall from $2 billion in FY 2011 to $1.8 billion in FY2012.  The House bill provides nearly $362.9 million for the National Ocean Service and $171.6 million for the National Environmental Satellite Service.

As the House and Senate are not expected to come to agreement on the CJS or the 11 other annual appropriations bills before the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, it is expected that both bodies will pass a Continuing Resolution to continue federal funding though mid-November until a deal is reached.

To view a summary of the Senate CJS bill, see:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=d396ebde-ec78-470d-b46b-b4d49c8e565e

To view the Senate committee report, see:
http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CRPT-112srpt78/pdf/CRPT-112srpt78.pdf

For more information on the House CJS bill, see the July 10 edition of ESA Policy News at:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/07122011.php

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE PLANS INVESTIGATION INTO CLIMATE SERVICE PROPOSAL

On Sept. 22, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) announced that his committee intends to launch an investigation into the formation of a climate service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Chairman Hall has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the climate service in committee hearings and by proposing amendments to appropriations bills to prohibit funding for the initiative. According to Hall, NOAA has not answered repeated inquiries and correspondence, requesting information on whether the agency has subtly taken steps or engaged in activities related to the establishment of its proposed climate service. 

“I’m very concerned that NOAA has taken steps to form what amounts to a shadow climate service operation with budget, policy, and other decision-making authorities,” Chairman Hall said in a recent committee press statement.  “In the absence of a complete response to the information I have requested, it is difficult for me to accept NOAA’s attempt to dismiss concerns identified by the Committee as unimportant or simply informal ‘shorthand.’  Accordingly, I hope and expect to use this formal investigation to answer key questions in an effort to ensure timely and informed decision-making on this critical agency policy issue,” he continued.

During a June hearing on the climate service proposal, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco maintained that the climate service was an attempt to streamline extreme weather and climate monitoring activities at NOAA. The Climate Service Line Office at NOAA would be a single point of contact in NOAA to provide credible, useful, and timely information products,” said Lubchenco. During the hearing and in more recent statements, Lubchenco has also consistently affirmed that NOAA has not moved forward in the establishment of a climate service, noting that congressional approval must be required.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE WEIGHS IN ON AIR POLLUTION CONTROL RULES

On Sept. 15, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing intending to review the scientific, procedural, and technical basis for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).

Finalized in July, the CSAPR orders 27 states to cut sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions by 73 percent and nitrogen oxides by 54 percent by 2014. It was prompted by a section of the Clean Air Act that requires states to be “good neighbors” when it comes to air pollution. The move has drawn criticism from the committees’ leaders who criticized the rules tougher limits for the state of Texas.

In his opening statement, Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) asserted that “through a flexible, pro-jobs, all-off-the-above energy strategy, Texas has achieved recent environmental progress that eclipses many other states in the country.  Since 1995, electric utilities in Texas have reduced sulfur dioxide emissions by 26 percent and NOx emissions by 62 percent. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule requires Texas to reduce its SO2 emissions by an additional 47 percent, by January 1, 2012.”

Chairman Hall added that “just this week, Texas companies have announced that they will have to cut jobs, specifically in response to this rule.  EPA may not be in the business of creating jobs, but with more than nine percent unemployment, it certainly should not be in the business of destroying them either, which is what will happen if this rule goes into effect the way you have planned.” 

In her testimony, Regina McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation at EPA, asserted that the SCAPR “will save lives, prevent illness, and protect American communities by cutting power plant pollution that hurts air quality in downwind states.”  McCarthy also cited a decade-old study from Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson that found that implementing the Clean Air Act actually increased the size of the US economy “because of lower demand for health care and a healthier, more productive workforce.”

Many of the witnesses who testified maintained that EPA had not allotted Texas sufficient time to comment on the rule and prepare its power plants, including Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) who noted that “some important affected parties in Texas feel that they did not have sufficient opportunity to comment…I simply feel that stakeholders need more time to work with EPA on an economically responsible solution.” Ranking Member Johnson further clarified her position as supporting the EPA’s overall attempts to reduce smog and protect the public health, noting that “air quality-related illnesses have very real and destructive effects on the economy – on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars annually.”

“[M]y position on the specific issue of Texas’ inclusion in the final transport rule is clear – Texas needs more time to consider the full implications of the rule, to submit comments to EPA, and possibly to prepare for implementation…However, my position on the protection of public health through higher air and water quality standards, and our ability to meet those standards through home-grown innovation, should be equally clear and never in question,” she continued. “The sooner we learn that we do not have to sacrifice jobs for a cleaner environment, the sooner we will see a more robust economy and a healthier public.”

For additional information on the hearing, see: http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-epas-cross-state-air-pollution-rule

OCEANS: COASTAL STATE SENATORS FORM NEW CAUCUS

On Sept. 13, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced the formation of a new Senate Oceans Caucus. The caucus will work to increase awareness and find common ground on issues related to the oceans and coastal areas.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) will serve as co-chairs of the caucus. Inaugural caucus members include Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Scott Brown (R-MA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Chris Coons (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In their first meeting, the Senators were joined by a number of ocean and coastal organizations, including the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the National Marine Manufacturers Association, the National Ocean Industries Association, the American Association of Port Authorities, the National Federation of Regional Associations for Coastal and Ocean Observing and Ocean Champions.

The inaugural meeting resulted in the Senators agreeing that the caucus would pursue the following efforts:

  • Facilitate congressional conversations about the country’s coasts and the governing policies.
  • Educate members and staff on ocean and coastal policy and scientific research.
  • Strive to find common ground on responses to the challenges facing our oceans and coasts.

Sen. Whitehouse, joined with Sen. Snowe, has also sponsored S. 973, the National Endowment for the Oceans Act. The bill would establish a “National Endowment of the Oceans” to fund conservation efforts in oceans and coastal waters. The bill’s cosponsors include Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

In his announcement, Senator Whitehouse stated that the oceans and coasts “support millions of jobs in America and contribute more to the country’s GDP than the entire farm sector, grossing more than $230 billion in 2004.”

To view the full announcement, see:
http://whitehouse.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=01d918d1-3b1f-44ec-a6bb-eb7e3fce90ed

POLICY ENGAGEMENT OPPORTUNITY: ESA, AIBS REQUEST ACTION ON NSF FUNDING BILL

An action alert letter from the Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences encourages scientists and educators to contact their Senators to restore funding to the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to cut the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Research and Related Activities account by $120,875,000 in the next fiscal year.  This account funds the agency’s research directorates, including that of the biological sciences.  The NSF cuts were initiated by Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in favor of other priorities.

In contrast, the House Appropriations Committee bill would fund the Research and Related Activities account about $43 million above the current fiscal year.  The difference between the two bills will need to be worked out but unless the Senate increases funding for NSF, the negotiation starting point is so low that NSF would almost certainly suffer a significant cut in fiscal year 2012. 

“If the Senate fails to increase funding for NSF, it is almost guaranteed that the agency will receive a significant budget cut in the coming fiscal year,” the letter states. “It is important that all scientists concerned about funding for the National Science Foundation contact your Senators today to urge them to oppose the Committee’s proposed cuts to NSF.”

The letter also urges members to schedule an appointment to meet with their Senators. As Congress is expected to agree to a continuing resolution to temporarily fund the government through Nov. 18, the House and Senate will likely set that date as a deadline to come to an agreement on final funding levels for Fiscal Year 2012.

To view the Action Alert, see:
http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/news/restore_nsf_funding.html#031459

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

H.R. 1719, the Endangered Species Compliance and Transparency Act – Introduced by Rep. Cathy Morris-Rodgers (R-WA), the bill would require utility companies to add a line-item on the bills that highlights the cost of consumers to comply with the Endangered Species Act. The Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on the bill Sept. 22.

Approved by House Committee

On Sept. 21, the Energy and Commerce Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 2250, the EPA Regulatory Relief Act - Introduced by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), the bill would delay and limit an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule by setting maximum available control technology for mercury and other pollutants from boilers.

H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act – Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), the bill would require the EPA to set new emissions limits on cement manufacturing plants.

Passed the House

H.R. 2401, the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act – Sponsored by Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), the bill would create a new cabinet-level committee to study the combined costs of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules effecting power plants. It would also delay new EPA rules related to mercury and other hazardous emissions from power plants. The bill passed the House Sept. 23 by a largely party-line vote of 233-180. Nineteen Democrats supported the bill while four Republicans opposed it: Reps. Charles Bass (NH), Judy Biggert (IL), Robert Dold (IL) and Nan Hayworth (NY). An amendment was adopted from Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) to allow costs to be considered when EPA sets air quality standards.

Introduced in the Senate

S. 1582, the Clean Coastal Environment and Public Health Act of 2011 -  Introduced by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), the bill would require new testing of coastal waters and the establishment of public notification standards if contamination is detected. The bill would also reauthorize the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act, which requires every coastal state to adopt water quality standards and establish a monitoring program.


Sources: AAAS, AIBS, Climatewire, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, POLITICO, Senate Appropriations Committee

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