March 10, 2006

In This Issue

ESA BRIEFS PRESS, CONGRESSIONAL STAFF ON INVASIVE SPECIES

ESA Rapid Response Team members David Lodge, Dick Mack, and Susan Williams briefed members of the press, federal agency representatives, and congressional staff on the Ecological Society of America’s scientific position paper, Biological Invasions: Recommendations for U.S. Policy and Management. Lodge, Mack, and Williams, three of the paper’s twelve co-authors, highlighted six recommendations for the federal government to take, in cooperation with state, local, tribal, and international governments, to prevent, eradicate, and control invasive species. Their recommendations included the implementation of quantitative risk analysis procedures, creation of a federal rapid response fund for eradicating invaders, and the establishment of a National Center for Invasive Species Management to coordinate federal and state efforts.

“The nation often simply bears the costs,” said Lodge. “But we recommend a much more cost-effective system of prevention, early detection, and rapid response before the damages are irreversible.”

The ESA Position paper, as well as a copy of the briefing’s presentation slides, can be found at: http://www.esa.org/pao/esaPositions/

NORTON TO RESIGN FROM INTERIOR

Interior Secretary Gale Norton, an advocate for expanding oil and gas development on public lands, announced her resignation. Norton did not say why she is leaving, but sources say she expressed a desire to return to her home state of Colorado. She leaves her post at the end of March.

Norton championed Administration efforts for petroleum exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Bureau of Land Management areas in the Rocky Mountains. She also championed efforts in Congress to revise the Endangered Species Act and the implementation of President Bush’s Healthy Forests Initiative. Bush called Norton “a strong advocate for the wise use and protection of our nation’s natural resources.” He added, “Gale played an influential role in shaping the Nation’s offshore and onshore energy policies to help enhance America’s domestic production.”

DOE OUTLINES GLOBAL NUCLEAR ENERGY PARTNERSHIP

The Bush Administration’s ambitious Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) will cost between $3 billion and $6 billion in its first five years, according to the latest Department of Energy (DOE) estimates.

But details of the plan — which would promote nuclear energy by internationalizing its development and the disposal of spent fuel with waste reprocessing technology — are hard to come by.

For instance, it is unclear how the program will integrate the proposed Yucca Mountain, NV, nuclear waste repository into its advanced spent fuel reprocessing and recycling activities. DOE officials insist GNEP would complement, not replace, the long-delayed repository.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, called the international nuclear power promotion and waste reprocessing program “overly broad and premature”. He urged the Administration not to divert funds or attention from the Yucca Mountain repository and other programs.

LAWMAKERS PROTEST BUSH LAND SALE PROPOSAL

Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), respectively the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, called on the Senate Budget Committee to amend two controversial Bush Administration proposals to sell over $1 billion in federal lands over the next five years.

“Selling public land for deficit reduction or agency operational funding needs is … extremely short-sighted,” Sen. Bingaman said at a Committee hearing.

Since they were introduced with President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2007 budget in February, the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land sale proposals have met with bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill and by lawmakers throughout the West, where the majority of sales would take place.

Under the Administration’s request, the Forest Service would sell off about 200,000 acres of “excess, isolated tracts of land” worth $800 million over the next five years to extend a program designed to assist counties hurting from a loss of timber-related revenues. The Service would use these funds to reauthorize the six-year-old Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act through 2012. The law — which aims to phase out government grants to states and counties by boosting the local tax revenue — has paid out about $1.2 billion since first authorized in 2000.

House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Charles Taylor (R-NC) also criticized the Service for failing to provide opportunities for counties and local forest managers to comment on land sales before they were included as part of the budget request.

If lawmakers can find a way to offset the rural schools extension at current levels, rather than $800 million over five years, Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth said the agency could go along. “If there are other and better ideas out there, I’d be willing to look at them,” he told the Energy Committee.

The second controversial land sale proposal would direct the sale of $351 million in BLM lands over the next decade, with 70 percent of proceeds going to the U.S. Treasury to help pay down the budget deficit.

In a letter to the Senate Budget panel, Domenici said a majority of Energy and Natural Resources Committee members would not support the language including these public land sales, and no revenue assumptions should be included in the budget resolution.

SENATE PANEL APPROVES DRILLING IN GULF AREA

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 16-5 to approve legislation opening 3.6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico’s coveted Lease Sale 181 area to oil and gas drilling. The bill’s chief sponsors are Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Both of Florida’s Senators, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Sen. Mel Martinez (R), oppose the plan and have a competing measure that would create permanent protections for coastal Florida and extend offshore drilling bans elsewhere until 2020. Sen. Nelson threatened to filibuster Domenici’s bill, foreshadowing a floor fight over the measure that also appears likely to face several amendments if it is granted floor time.

The Nelson and Martinez bill would bar drilling within 150 miles of the panhandle coast Domenici’s plan allows development closer to the panhandle, coming within 100 miles.

Domenici stressed that his plan does not allow drilling in any areas that are subject to formal offshore leasing moratoria. The 181 area is not part of the formal bans but has been largely withheld from leasing beyond its western edge.

Domenici stressed that he wants a “clean” bill. “Senator Bingaman and I have one idea in mind and only one: can we do something to help the natural gas users of the United States in the short term,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) remains in discussion with Domenici and Bingaman about amending their bill to provide coastal assistance funding to Louisiana and other Gulf states with offshore oil and gas production. Landrieu wants to provide states a share of offshore leasing and production revenues, which Bingaman opposes.


Sources: Environment and Energy Daily; Greenwire

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