In This Issue
The groups are urging Congress to move forward with a new bill, rather than extend the current law. Several large farm and commodity groups have asked Congress to approve a two-year extension of the law.
The scorecard doled out an “F” to Congress and a “D” to the administration for their handling of the Conservation Security Program (CSP). The CSP is the “green payments” program created in the 2002 Farm Bill that pays farmers to make environmental improvements on their land.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and others who fought for its inclusion in the 2002 bill envisioned it as a new environmental entitlement, but Congress has limited its funding and the administration’s rules limit its implementation to several watersheds per year.
The report calls for Congress to restore CSP to full funding in the next farm bill. It also suggests focusing the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle land, on high impact buffer zones and wildlife habitat.
ExxonMobil issued a rebuttal, and some climate-change skeptics claimed that the Royal Society is trying to stifle debate. Several groups or individuals who contest the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) view of climate turned fire on the Royal Society. Economist Ruth Lea, director of the Centre for Policy Studies in London, says that the Royal Society was “ill advised” to “wade into the murky world of politics and popular opinion.”
Ward replied that his letter is merely an attempt to ensure a high-quality debate. He added that it springs from the Royal Society’s motto–nullius in verba–which is taken to mean that facts, not assertions, are what matter.
A larger debate still looms on Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) technology, and whether such technology should be considered in permitting new plants. IGCC technology allows coal plants to produce a fraction of the soot, smog and mercury emissions of a traditional electric utility, and it has been embraced by environmental organizations and some states for the role it promises to play in sequestering greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. These groups said the agreement will negate one method power plant developers have been using to fend off requests to consider IGCC technology during permitting for new facilities, as well as clarify federal policy for state environmental agencies charged with approving new plant permits. Electric utility officials, on the other hand, found little significance in the settlement. John Kinsman, director of air quality programs at the Edison Electric Institute, maintained that IGCC technology is so unique that it does not belong on the checklist of anti-pollution systems that must be weighed when a state approves a new plant’s Clean Air Act permit.
As part of the settlement, the Bush Administration agreed in to hold open discussions with advocates of emissions controls, industry, and other groups on the IGCC technology issue, with an end goal of drafting new policy recommendations. Talks are expected to begin late 2006 or early 2007 through the EPA-sponsored Clean Air Act Advisory Committee.
The report calls upon trustees, university presidents, and provosts to provide clear leadership in changing the culture and structure of their institutions to recruit, retain, and promote more women- including minority women- into faculty and leadership positions. The report also urges higher education organizations to consider forming a collaborative, self-monitoring body that would recommend standards for faculty recruitment, retention, and promotion; collect data; and track compliance across institutions. University leaders, the report adds, should develop and implement hiring, tenure, and promotion policies that take into account the flexibility that faculty members may need as they pass through various life stages- and that do not sacrifice quality to meet rigid timelines.
If academic institutions are not transformed to tackle such barriers, the future vitality of the U.S. research base and economy is in jeopardy, the report says. The following are some of the committee’s key findings that underscore its call to action:
- Studies have not found any significant biological differences between men and women in performing science and mathematics that can account for the lower representation of women in academic faculty and leadership positions in S&T fields.
- Compared with men, women faculty members are generally paid less and promoted more slowly, receive fewer honors, and hold fewer leadership positions. These discrepancies do not appear to be based on productivity, the significance of their work, or any other performance measures, the report says.
- Measures of success underlying performance-evaluation systems are often arbitrary and frequently applied in ways that place women at a disadvantage. “Assertiveness,” for example, may be viewed as a socially unacceptable trait for women but suitable for men.
The full report is available at http://national-academies.org.
The plan, unveiled this month by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, would allow developers to fill in up to 5 acres (2 hectares) of “low quality” wetlands in south Mississippi without an individual permit from the Corps for each project. The proposal, which does not affect wetlands in neighboring Louisiana and Alabama, also would eliminate a requirement that the public must be notified of such development plans.
David Hobbie, Chief of the Corps’ regulatory division in Mobile, Alabama, said increasing the permitting limit — from a half-acre to 5 acres — would streamline the regulatory process in a region where tens of thousands of homes must be rebuilt after Katrina.
A global moratorium on commercial hunting has been in place for 20 years, with only Norway breaking it, having legally lodged a “reservation” to the moratorium when it came into force. Since 2002 Iceland has been catching Minke whales in the name of scientific research, as it is allowed to under International Whaling Commission rules.
Sources: GreenWire, Environment and Energy Daily, Washington Post, The American Institute of Physics, Science Magazine, International Herald Tribune