May 20, 2015

In This Issue

SCIENCE: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION BILL HITS HOUSE FLOOR

This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill is expected to pass along partisan lines in the early evening of May 20.

The bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The Ecological Society of America was among many scientific and education societies who issued action alerts to membership calling for scientists to express concern with the bill.

Title I of H. R. 1806 would authorize specific funding levels for each of NSF’s directorates placing certain directorates over others. This is a significant departure from how NSF currently determines its research priorities. NSF is unique among federal agencies because it supports a balanced portfolio of basic research in all disciplines, using the scientific peer review system as the foundation for awarding research grants based on merit.

The original America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) was a strongly bipartisan measure passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by a Republican president. It contained significant increases for federal science agencies. The 2007 bill and its 2010 reauthorization (P.L. 111-358) received strong support from the scientific community.

In contrast, the 2015 bill is expected to pass the House largely along partisan lines and includes only mild increases for the federal agencies authorized in the bill. These increases also come at the cost of targeted cuts to the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Office and the NSF directorates for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and the geosciences.

Prospects for the bill are less clear in the Senate where the legislation would likely need 60 bipartisan votes to advance. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has expressed support for the House’s effort to pass a reauthorization bill, though he has yet to provide specifics on how similar or different a Senate bill would be from the House version.

The White House also issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill. Read the statement here:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1806r_20150518.pdf

Click here to read NSF’s Impact Statement about the bill’s consequences to the research community:

http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/114/hr1806_impact.jsp

Click here to read ESA’s letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-April-ESA-America-COMPETES-Reauthr-letter.pdf  

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 CJS FUNDING BILL

On May 13, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee unveiled its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding bill.

The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2015. In total, the bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending in FY 2016, a $1.3 billion increase over the FY 2015 enacted level.

The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $50 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted funding level, but $300 million less than the president’s request for FY 2016. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill also fully funds NOAA’s two satellite programs—the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. Science programs at the agency would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level.

Additional information on the bill is available by following this link:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394203

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL

On May 19, the Senate released its Energy and Water Appropriations bill for FY 2016. The bill provides $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The final bill was crafted with bipartisan support from Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA).

Overall the measure provides the agencies under its jurisdiction with $1.2 billion more than the enacted level FY 2015, though $633 million less than the president’s FY 2016 budget request. The total funding a similar to the total funding included in the House bill, but the Senate bill allocates the funding among the federal agencies differently.

Enclosed are FY 2016 funding levels for specific federal agencies and programs compared to the FY 2015 enacted level:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.5 billion; a $45 million increase.

DOE Office of Science: $5.1 billion; a $73 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion; a $3 million increase.

DOE Environmental Clean Up: $6 billion; a $167 million increase.

The bill notably does not include provisions to restrict the administration’s effort to clarify federal agency jurisdiction over US waterways as the recently passed House bill does, though Republicans are expected to attempt to amend the bill with the language either when it passes the full committee or on the Senate floor.

Click here for additional information on the Senate bill:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/subcommittee-approves-fy2016-energy-water-development-appropriations-bill

For additional information on the House bill, see the April 29 edition of ESA policy news: http://www.esa.org/esa/april-29-2015/

WHITE HOUSE: NEW REPORT EMPHASIZES GLOBAL SECURITY RISKS FROM CLIMATE CHANGE

In concert with a recent presidential commencement address to the US Coast Guard, the White House has released a new report highlighting the national and international security threats posed by posed by climate change.

The report compiles information from recent federal agency reports on climate change impacts, including the US Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security and the National Intelligence Council. DOD is assessing the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities to climate change, and studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events.

The report also focuses on climate changes effects that may increase of refugee flows around the globe spurred by food and natural resource scarcity and the national security implications of increasing human activity in the Arctic.  

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/20/white-house-report-national-security-implications-changing-climate

WHITE HOUSE: POLLINATOR TASK FORCE STRATEGY REPORT RELEASED

On May 19, under the leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the White House announced its Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The strategy is supported by a science-based Pollinator Research Action Plan. The USDA and the Department of Interior also issued a set of Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands, providing practical guidance for planners and managers with land stewardship responsibilities. 

The White House reports that number of managed honeybee colonies in the US has dropped from 5.7 million in the 1940s to 2.74 million today. In addition to addressing honeybee colony collapse, the new strategy will seek to increase the eastern population of the monarch butterfly and restore seven million acres of pollinator land through federal actions and public-private partnerships.

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/05/18/announcing-new-steps-promote-pollinator-health

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ECOLOGISTS AND BIOLOGISTS ADVOCATE FOR SCIENCE INVESTMENT ON CAPITOL HILL

On May 14, ecologists and biologists from across the US fanned out across Capitol Hill, visiting 54 congressional offices to support President Obama’s request of $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research benefits the communities the lawmakers represent. 

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event is organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BESC draws participation from Ph.D. scientists and graduate students affiliated with the two organizations. This year’s participants included 2015 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winners Sydney Blankers (University of Illinois-Chicago), Cleo Chou (Princeton University), Natalie Hambalek (Oregon State University), and Emlyn Resetarits (University of Texas-Austin).

Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared with personal stories describing how federal funding aids their research, helps them in advancing professional development and benefits their states. While firm commitments to support science funding varied from office-to-office, the graduate students and other participants mostly received collegial receptions from Congressional staff and elected officials using local experiences to relate with the congressional staff and lawmakers.

The visits came ahead of House consideration of H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Act, which would significantly alter how NSF prioritizes scientific research. The bill also includes targeted cuts to key areas of science, including the social, behavioral and geosciences at NSF and environmental research at the Department of Energy. Participants also encouraged lawmakers to oppose the bill.

The day before the Hill visits, the students met informally with several ESA members working in policy-related positions in federal offices: Alan Thornhill (USGS), Laura Petes (OSTP), Alexis Erwin (USAID) and Rich Pouyat (USFS). The afternoon before the visits, all BESC participants were also briefed on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

NSF: NEW REPORT OFFERS INSIGHT INTO THE STATE OF STEM WORKFORCE

In concert with its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board has released a new report examining the current state of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce in the United States.

The report offered three key insights:

  • The STEM “workforce” is extensive, complexly defined and critical to innovation and competitiveness
  • STEM knowledge and skills offer pathways to careers to both STEM and non-STEM occupations.
  • Strengthening access to and participation in the STEM workforce is critical for the US to maintain national prosperity and global competitiveness.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=134866&org=NSF&from=news

FWS: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION GRANTED ON INVASIVE CONSTRICTOR RULE

A US federal judge has temporarily blocked the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from banning the importation and interstate transport of two constrictor snakes by granting a preliminary injunction sought by the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). The preliminary injunction will affect FWS’s proposed ban on the reticulated python and the green anaconda.

In addition to the two aforementioned species, FWS is proposing a rule that would add the Beni anaconda and Deshauesee’s anaconda to the agency’s list of injurious species. While the preliminary injunction does not overturn the ban outright, it puts any effort by FWS to implement the ban on hold until the USARK lawsuit has been decided in court.

Click here to view the preliminary injunction:

http://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Dkt-No-60-Mem-Op-on-Injunction.pdf

STATE DEPARTMENT: NEW POLICY REVIEW DOCUMENT PRIORITIZES CLIMATE CHANGE

The US State Department has released a new policy blueprint that lists climate change among its four major priorities of the agency through 2020.

In its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the agency recommends targeted partnerships with civil society groups and local government officials in foreign nations to address climate challenges. The QDDR recommends integrating climate change mitigation and adaption efforts into all diplomatic and international development efforts.

The report comes days after the US took the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will serve a two-year term as chair of the council, indicated he intends to make climate change a top priority during his tenure. The Council was created in 1996 as an international body to monitor environmental conditions in the Arctic.

For additional information on QDDR, click here: http://www.state.gov/s/dmr/qddr/

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comment period ends July 14, 2015

Draft Recovery Plan for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-11700

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment period ends July 20, 2015

NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12086

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period ends June 8, 2015

Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan for the Fender’s Blue Butterfly on Private Lands in Yamhill County, Oregon (Reopening of Comment Period)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-10980

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends June 9, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings on 10 Petitions:

Clear lake hitch (fish), Egyptian tortoise, Golden conure (parakeet), Long-tailed chinchilla, Mojave shoulder band snail, Northern spotted owl, Relict dace (fish), San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly, Western pond turtle, Yellow-cedar (tree)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07837

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Notice: Public comment period ends June 15, 2015

Public Input on the Sustained Assessment Process of the US National Climate Assessment

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-10352

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2352, the State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act – Introduced May 15 by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), the bill would require the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to make data publicly available to states affected by endangered and threatened species listings. The bill also requires the agencies to treat all data submitted by state, tribal or county governments as the “best scientific and commercial data available.” The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 2039, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 – Introduced by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) the bill authorizes spending at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the next two fiscal years. Committee Democrats criticized the bill for its steep cuts to NASA’s earth science program. The bill authorizes $1.45 billion for NASA earth science, $230 million less than the $1.68 billion the program received in FY 2015. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 19-15 along party lines.

Considered by House

H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act – Introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the bill would simplify and make permanent the method for calculating a 20 percent tax credit for qualified research expenses that exceed 50 percent of the average qualified research expenses for the three preceding taxable years. The bill is expected to pass the House May 20 along party lines.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating “making the R&D credit permanent without offsets, H.R. 880 would add $180 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.” Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr880r_20150519.pdf

H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill cuts biological and environmental research at DOE as well as geoscience and social science research at NSF. It also includes changes that affect how NSF prioritizes grant awards. The bill is expected to pass the House May 20 along party lines.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating the bill “undermines key investments in science, technology, and innovation and imposes unnecessary and damaging requirements on Federal support of research.” Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1806r_20150518.pdf

Passed House

H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), the bill would require the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their upcoming rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways within 30 days and require the administration to set up a consultation process with state and local officials and stakeholders to help clarify federal implementation of the Clean Water Act. The bill passed the House May 12 by a vote of 261-155 with 24 Democrats joining all Republicans in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill. Click here to view the full statement: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1732r_20150429.pdf

H.R. 874, the American Super Computing Leadership Act – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy and establish an exascale computing program. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), the bill would have federal research regulations reviewed for unnecessary requirements and recommend cost saving reforms. House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) are cosponsors of the bill. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), the bill would authorize a body under the National Science and Technology Council to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation opportunities. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1158, the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve management of the National Laboratories. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1162, the Science Prize Competitions Act – Introduced by Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA), the bill would update provisions authorizing prize competitions under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.


Sources: National Science Foundation, US Department of State, the White House, House Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, LA Times

April 29, 2015

In This Issue

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION

On April 22, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. The bill passed by a party-line vote of 19-16.

H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Collectively, this bill authorizes a five percent increase for these agencies through Fiscal Year 2017. However, a large number of controversial provisions in the bill drew critique from committee Democrats and the scientific community, which opposed the bill.

The bill boosts funding for DOE fusion and the NSF directorates with jurisdiction over the biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, computer science and engineering at the cost of sharp cuts to NSF geosciences, social and behavioral directorates and DOE renewable energy and environmental research. DOE Office of Science is flat-funded as are DOE high energy and nuclear physics, DOE advanced computing and DOE basic energy sciences.

While the bill somewhat softens transparency and accountability requirement language from past bills, it expands oversight and legislative authority in others. Foremost of concern was that the bill authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation by directorate, which Congress hasn’t done since Fiscal Year 1999, when the agency’s pot of money was significantly smaller and in a period where the agency was arguably under less contentious political scrutiny.

The bill did not include any language related to public access policies.

Several Democratic amendments sought to rescind funding cuts to specific directorates and climate change research. Other amendments sought to strike language revising the National Science Foundation’s merit review process and broaden participation among women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. The overwhelming majority of Democratic amendments failed by party-line votes. A common refrain from the Republican majority was that the amendments did not include offsets and violated spending limits set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also offered her Democratic-alternative America COMPETES Act as an amendment in the nature of a substitute, though it also failed along party-lines. Johnson’s bill, H.R. 1898, would authorize five percent “year over year” increases for NSF, NIST and DOE Science from FY 2016 through 2020. The alternative bill does not authorize NSF spending by directorate.

The Ecological Society of America was among professional organizations in the scientific, education and conservation community writing in opposition to the bill. ESA also signed onto a joint letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding opposing the bill.

Chairman Smith issued a joint statement in support of the bill with Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD). Chairman Thune’s committee holds responsibility for advancing an America COMPETES in the Senate, though it is unclear whether the House bill could secure the bipartisan 60 votes necessary to advance in that chamber, if it were to pass the House.

Click here to view the mark-up:

http://science.house.gov/markup/hr-1806-america-competes-reauthorization-act-2015

Click here to view the statement from Chairman Smith and Chairman Thune:

http://science.house.gov/press-release/smith-and-thune-maximize-valuable-federal-research

Click here to view the ESA letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-April-ESA-America-COMPETES-Reauthr-letter.pdf

Click here to view the CNSF letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LetterOnH.R.1806.AmericaCOMPETES04-21-15.pdf

Click here to view Democratic amendments and additional letters from professional organizations opposing H.R. 1806:

http://democrats.science.house.gov/markup/hr-america-competes-reauthorization-act-2015

Click here for a summary of H.R. 1898, the Democratic alternative America COMPETES Reauthorization Act:

http://democrats.science.house.gov/sites/democrats.science.house.gov/files/documents/Dem%20Competes%202015%20Section-by-Section.pdf

HOUSE: SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILL

On April 22, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed its spending bill for the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

The bill (H.R. 2028) includes $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Overall the measure provides the agencies under its jurisdiction with $1.2 billion more than FY 2015, though $633 million less than the president’s FY 2016 budget request.

The bill also includes a number of policy riders that have been introduced in past years, including language prohibiting the US Army Corps of Engineers from using funding to implement the Obama administration’s rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways. Another rider included in the bill would prohibit use of federal funds to implement the Obama administration’s National Oceans Policy.

Enclosed are FY 2016 funding levels for specific federal agencies and programs compared to the FY 2015 enacted level:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.6 billion;a $142 million increase.

Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science: $5.1 billion; a $29 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: $1.7 billion; a $226.2 million decrease.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion; a $35 million decrease.

The policy riders restricting Obama administration regulatory efforts, if maintained by the Republican-controlled Senate, increase the likelihood that extended continuing resolutions will be needed to prevent a federal government shutdown on Sept. 30, 2015, when the current fiscal year ends.

The bill will be considered on the House floor this week.

Click here for additional information on the bill:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394139

Click here for the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 2028:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2028r_20150428.pdf 

GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: SOCIETY LETTER SUPPORTS FEDERAL PARTICIPATION AT SCIENCE CONFERENCES

On April 21, the Ecological Society of America joined over 80 scientific, medical and education organizations by signing a letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science expressing concern with regulatory and legislative efforts that would hinder federal agency employees’ ability to participate and scientific conferences.

“The formal and informal interactions that take place at scientific and technical conferences are a crucial part of the innovation process and help to maximize the return on taxpayer investment in scientific research,” the letter notes. “Whether providing rapid pathways for bringing scientific advances to bear on societal needs, spurring new collaborations that promote exciting interdisciplinary investigations, or simply providing cost-effective venues for scientific program management and oversight, scientific conferences are crucial to the efficient functioning of our innovation ecosystem and maximizing the return on federal investments in science.”

S. 1347, the Conference Accountability Act, was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee during the 113th Congress, but never reached the Senate floor for a vote. The bill, which included stringent conference attendance requirements for federal employees, was introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who retired last year. Similar legislation has not yet been introduced in the current 114th Congress.

Click here to view the full letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/HSGAC-ST-Conference-Travel-Letter1.pdf

APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OPPOSE CLIMATE RIDERS

As congressional appropriators begin unveiling their Fiscal Year 2016 funding bills, the Ecological Society of America joined 10 other scientific societies in sending a letter to key appropriators and other congressional leaders requesting these funding bills omit language prohibiting federal agencies from conducting or accessing global climate change research.

“Allowing federal agencies to access all the available science is critical to ensuring the optimal policy outcome for the United States,” the letter states. “To forbid such access would be a disservice to the American people. Full access to scientific research is especially critical for climate change because there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is and will continue to broadly affect society—including our economy, security, health, agriculture, and environment.”

Click here to read the full letter.

USGS: NEW REPORT LINKS HYDRAULIC FRACTURING TO EARTHQUAKES

On April 23, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a report linking increased seismic activity in the US to industrial disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing activities.

The report outlines a preliminary set of models that seek to calculate how frequently earthquakes are expected to occur in the next year and how hard the ground will shake as a result. The agency reviewed 17 areas in eight states that reported significant increases in seismic activity since 2009. The states monitored included Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

USGS maintains that “the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only occasionally the direct cause of felt earthquakes.”

Click here for additional information:

http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=4202#.VT_OSiFViko

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITES

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations due May 27, 2015

Request for Nominations of Candidates to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-09782

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Comments due June 23, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for the Santa Barbara County Distinct Population Segment of the California Tiger Salamander.

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-09547

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 1924, the Hispanic Opportunity Program in Education and Science Act – Introduced April 21 by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the bill would provide for the establishment of a program by the National Science Foundation to support undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at Hispanic-serving institutions. The bill has been referred to the House, Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 1967, the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act – Introduced April 22 by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jamie Herrera Butler (R-WA) the bill would allow federal agencies to use existing funds to design prize competitions in order to increase our ability to manage, research, and monitor ocean acidification and its impacts. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On April 28, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved the following bills:

S. 544, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill prohibits the US Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing rules based on science that is not “transparent of reproducible” and requires the agency to make publicly available all research data used to develop its rulemakings. Opponents of the bill state it would restrict the EPA’s ability to formulate rules based on private health information. 

The House companion (H.R. 1030) was passed by the House on March 18 by a vote of 241-175. The White House has threatened to veto the bill. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on the Secret Science Reform Act.

 S. 611, the Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act – Introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), the bill would reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act’s assistance and training provision for six years to provide competitive grants to help rural and small communities comply with federal drinking water regulations.

 S. 653, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act – Introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John Boozman (R-AR), the bill would reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes in the United States and its territories.

 S. 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st CenturyAct – Introduced by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA), the bill makes it easier for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove chemicals from the marketplace. Specifically, it mandates that EPA to consider only the health and safety impacts of a chemical – never the cost or burden to manufacturers – when assessing chemicals for safety.

Addressing concerns of Senate Democrats, the bill was modified with provisions preempting state regulatory efforts. The bill now specifies that the rules would not affect states’ air and water laws and clarifies that states would not be barred at any point from requiring chemical disclosure laws. It also lets states keep existing chemical bans put in place before Aug. 1, 2015, rather than Jan. 1, 2015, allowing state governments to enact new chemical bans this year that would not be affected by changes in federal law. It also removed a provision that would have made it more difficult for EPA to restrict imports of harmful chemicals.

Cleared for White House

 535, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act – Introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the bill would 1) establish a voluntary, market-driven approach to aligning the interests of commercial building owners and their tenants to reduce energy consumption 2) exempt certain electric resistance water heaters used for demand response from pending Department of Energy regulation and 3) require that federally-leased buildings without Energy Star labels benchmark and disclose their energy usage data, where practical.

The bill passed the Senate March 27 by unanimous consent and passed the House April 21 by voice vote. It was presented to the president April 23.


Sources: House Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, United States Geological Survey, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill

April 15, 2015

In This Issue

DROUGHT: CALIFORNIA ORDERS MANDATORY CUTS IN WATER USAGE

On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a landmark executive order requiring state residents to cut their water usage by 25 percent through February 28, 2016.

The first-ever water restrictions target watering on lawns, campuses, cemeteries and golf courses. The order also instructs the California Energy Commission to pass appliance efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals and other appliances resulting in saving 10 billion gallons of water in the first year. It also directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to discourage overuse.

On April 9, the California Energy Commission adopted new efficiency standards for water-using appliances. The emergency situation allowed the Commission to prohibit the sale and installation of certain toilets, urinals and faucets that do not meet minimum water efficiency requirements as of Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of the manufactured date.

The order comes as California’s Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack, which supplies 30 percent of California’s water supply, is at its lowest measurement since 1950. The state has entered its fourth year of severe drought.

The order did not include cuts for agricultural users, which account for nearly three-quarters of California water usage. The order does require agricultural water suppliers to report their water supplies and demand for 2013, 2014 and 2015. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state provides 69 percent of the nation’s commercially available fruits and nuts.

Conservation groups argue the order could have included restrictions on the planting of water-intensive crops and education about water usage. Agriculture industry advocates contend that farmers are already facing hardships due to the drought and have moved ahead of the state government in taking steps to increase crop-production per acre-foot of water.

Click here to view the full executive order announcement.

Click here to view the California Energy Commission announcement.

EPA: LETTERS SEEK TO CURB USAGE OF PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO POLLINATORS

The US Environmental Protection Agency issued correspondence notifying manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use that applications to the agency seeking approval for usage may not be approved until risk assessments to pollinators are complete.

The agency asks manufacturers with pending registrations for outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides to withdraw or change any references to using the product outdoors by April 30.

Neonicotinoids have been linked to a decline in bee health. The White House is expected to release a major report on pollinator health later this month.

Click here for more information.

EUROPEAN ACADEMIES: NEONICOTINOIDS STUDY RELEASED

On April 8, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its latest study on neonicotinoids and their effects on ecosystem services. It concludes that widespread preventive use of neonicotinoids has adverse effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity.

David Inouye, ESA president offered his insight on the report.

“The effects on pollinators (other than honey bees and bumble bees) and organisms that contribute to natural pest control and soil functioning have rarely been addressed in research so far, but acute lethal or sub-lethal effects have been observed on several natural pest control species such as insects and birds, and soil dwelling species such as earthworms. Thus neonicotinoids appear to have many of the same detrimental features that previous generations of pesticides, starting with DDT, have ultimately been found to have.

“The report specifically addresses the issue of integrated pest management, and concludes that for a variety of reasons IPM appears to be incompatible with the prophylactic use of neonicotinoids in coated seeds.  One of the major concerns is that only a small proportion of the insecticide enters the plant and most is released into the environment immediately, where it may have a variety of unintended consequences.

“As we learn more about the unintended consequences of releasing neonicotinoids into the environment it is becoming clear that there can be significant undesirable effects, such as those recently shown for aquatic organisms. The report concluded that ‘The effect that neonicotinoids might have on constraints to the restoration of biodiversity on farmland (one of the priorities of European agricultural policy) has been completely neglected.’ So although we can’t make a definitive pronouncement about the consequences for restoration of biodiversity, it seems likely that future studies will document negative effects.”

Click here for more information.

EPA: CLEAN WATER RULE SENT TO WHITE HOUSE FOR FINAL REVIEW

On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers sent a final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clarifying waterways that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The agency’s “Waters of the United States” rule would clarify that the Clean Water Act’s enforcement over “navigable waters” includes streams and wetlands, which can influence larger waterbodies and ecosystems. It also would continue existing exemptions for agriculture. The rule clarifies that only ditches that function as tributaries that carry pollution downstream qualify for the law’s protection.

The OMB review is the last step in the regulatory finalization process. The rule is expected to be finalized in coming months.

Congressional Republicans have continued their critique of the rule and may seek policy riders to block it in Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations legislation. Most recently, the rule was the focus of an April 14 House Natural Resources Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing.

“These proposals – and the Waters-of-the-US regulation sitting at the White House now – have been drafted under the guise of quote ‘clarifying’ unquote the authority of federal agencies,” said Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee Chairman John Fleming (R-LA). “Only in Washington, DC would ‘clarification’ mean federal expansion.   The end result could be federal jurisdiction over ditches and other water bodies currently regulated at the state and local levels and regulatory chaos.”

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the rules were formulated through an open process, noting it held “400 meetings across the country and received more than one million public comments from farmers, manufacturers, business owners, hunters and anglers, and others.”

Click here for additional information on the rule.

Click here to view the Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing.

NOAA: NEW PROJECT TO PROVIDE ‘EARLY WARNING SYSTEM’ FOR ALGAL BLOOMS

On April 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it is teaming with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Geological Survey on a research project that will use satellite data to detect harmful algal blooms.

The $3.6 million initiative will function as an early warning system. Algal blooms pose a threat to ecosystems, wildlife, water resources and human health. Based off this information, state and local agencies can provide the public with public health advisories. The five-year project plans to convert satellite data on algal blooms developed by the federal agency partners into a format that the public can access through mobile devices and web portals.

According to NOAA, the annual cost of US freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated to be $64 million in additional drinking water treatment, loss of recreational water usage, and decline in waterfront real estate values. In August 2014, local officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it had been contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

Click here for additional information.

NOAA: ESA SIGNS LETTER SUPPORTING EDUCATION LITERACY GRANTS

The Ecological Society of America was among 60 national, regional and state education, environmental and scientific societies writing to Congress in support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Education Program.

The letters, addressed to the House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittees, request $20 million for the Chesapeake Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) and Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) programs for Fiscal Year 2016. The letter also discusses the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and environmental literacy efforts.

These education programs have enabled NOAA, as the nation’s leading expert on weather, coastal and ocean information, to partner with the nation’s top non-profit organizations and educators to bring this information and hands-on experiences to students. The programs have demonstrated their effectiveness and value to stakeholder communities. And as our nation begins to grapple with the complexities and challenges of diminishing ocean, coastal and watershed resources, they are timely and highly relevant.

Click here to view the House NOAA letter.

Click here to view the Senate NOAA letter.

NSF: ESA SENDS HOUSE, SENATE FY 2016 FUNDING SUPPORT LETTERS

The Ecological Society of America sent letters to House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee leaders expressing support of $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The number is similar to the Obama administration’s FY 2016 funding request for the agency.

The letter notes that the United States’ share of the world’s research and development has decreased and highlights the importance of funding biological sciences.

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that between FY 2005–2014, overall investment in environmental research and development at federal agencies has fallen 10.3 percent,” the letter states. “A better understanding of life on Earth helps us to make new biological discoveries in the realms of food, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and bio-inspired innovation. This research also increases our understanding of how biological systems, infrastructure and natural resources are affected by environmental changes.”

Both the House and Senate CJS Subcommittee have new chairs in the 114th Congress. Due to the retirement of former Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), the House CJS Subcommittee is now chaired by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). With Republicans now in control of the upper chamber, the Senate CJS Subcommittee is now chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL), who also chairs the full committee. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chaired the full committee and CJS subcommittee under Democratic control, now serves as Ranking Member.

Click here to view the House letter.

Click here to view the Senate letter.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITES

Department of Education

Notice: Applications due May 29, 2015

Applications for New Awards; Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07483

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comment period ends May 14, 2015

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Marine Seismic Survey in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-08481

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment closes June 5, 2015

Comment Request: Research Performance Progress Report

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07782

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes May 11, 2015

Draft Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances, Receipt of Application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit for the Greater Sage-Grouse on Oregon Department of State Lands, and Draft Environmental Assessment; Reopening of Comment Period

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-08250

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes May 14, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Zuni Bluehead Sucker

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-08277

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes May 14, 2015

6-Month Extension of Final Determination on the Proposed Threatened Status for the West Coast Distinct Population Segment of Fisher

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-08275

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes June 8, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for the Big Sandy Crayfish and the Guyandotte River Crayfish

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07625 

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes June 9, 2015

Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of Black-Footed Ferrets in Wyoming

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-08271


Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Environmental Protection Agency, House Natural Resources Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the LA Times, USA Today

April 1, 2015

In This Issue

BUDGET: HOUSE AND SENATE FY 2016 BUDGET PROPOSALS ADVANCE IN CONGRESS

In late March, the House and Senate Budget Committees released their respective budgets for Fiscal Year 2016 that begins Sept. 30. The House passed its FY 2016 budget (H.Con.Res. 27) March 25 by a vote of 228–199. All Democrats opposed the House budget as did 17 Republicans. The Senate budget (S.Con.Res. 11) passed its budget March 27 by a vote of 52–46, also along largely partisan lines. Sens. Rand Paul (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined all Democrats in voting against the Senate budget.

In contrast to the president’s annual proposed budget, House and Senate budgets do not outline spending levels for specific federal agencies and programs. The budgets are nonbinding resolutions that set general polices intended to provide direction to House and Senate appropriators. Leaders of the House and Senate Budget Committees hope to reconcile their budgets by mid-April. As concurrent resolutions simply express the intent of Congress, they are not sent to the president.

With Republicans in control of both chambers, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets are fairly similar. Unlike the president’s FY 2016 proposed budget, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets would seek to balance the budget in ten years. This deficit reduction would be achieved largely through repealing the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid, Pell grants and the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program that provides food stamps. The president’s proposal would not balance the budget in ten years, but would keep the deficit from substantially increasing.

The House and Senate budgets also differ from the president’s proposal because they adhere to the annual automatic sequestration cuts for all federal discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112–25). Both budgets would provide defense discretionary spending with $523 billion and non-defense discretionary with $493 billion in FY 2016.

The Budget Control Act mandates an automatic annual $109.3 billion cut to discretionary programs through 2021 unless Congress provides offsets through spending reductions elsewhere in the budget or revenue increases. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), also known as the Murray-Ryan budget agreement, provided some relief to sequestration by allowing limited spending increases for some discretionary spending programs in Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015; however, this temporarily relief ends in January 2016 when the automatic annual sequester cuts are reinstated.

In contrast, the president’s FY 2016 budget raises overall discretionary spending above the Budget Control Act spending limits. The increase would be paid for through more targeted spending reductions as well as increasing revenue through closing tax loopholes and capping certain tax deductions for wealthy earners. The president’s budget would provide an additional $74 billion for discretionary spending above levels enacted under sequestration, split between defense and non-defense spending.

To secure votes from pro-defense Republicans, both of the House and Senate budgets increase funding for the Pentagon’s war account, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. The House-passed budget increases OCO funding by $96 billion. The Senate-passed budget also increases OCO funding by $96 billion, but specifies that $7 billion of this funding shall be dedicated to State-Department related spending, a priority of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who chairs the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee. Republicans are relying on the OCO fund, which falls outside budgetary ceilings, to increase defense spending.

The Senate budget also includes an amendment that would establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund to help mission-critical Department of Defense infrastructure withstand the impacts of climate change. The amendment was adopted at the committee level by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).

During floor debate of the Senate budget, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) offered an amendment calling for Congress to address carbon emissions. The amendment failed 49–50, though Republican Senators Kelly Ayote (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Lindsey Graham (SC), Mark Kirk (IL) and Rob Portman (OH) joined most Democrats in voting for the amendment. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) voted against the amendment.

An amendment by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from denying highway funds to states that ignore the Clean Power Plan was adopted by a vote of 57–43. Sens. Manchin, Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) joined all Republicans in supporting the amendment.

Sens. Michael Bennett (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Heitkamp and Manchin offered an amendment to address human-induced climate change by use of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The amendment passed by a vote of 53-47 with Republican Sens. Dean Heller (NV), Ayotte, Collins, Graham, Kirk and Portman joining all Democrats in support of the measure.

Collectively, the adopted amendments offer a preview of the policy riders that will be sought when the appropriations process moves forward. However, unlike nonbinding budget amendments, which require only a simple majority for adoption, appropriations amendments traditionally require 60 votes in the Senate. Given that Congressional Democrats and the White House object to many of the policy prescriptions included in the two budgets, it is unlikely that the final FY 2016 appropriations bills will be signed into law without some concessions to Democrats on discretionary spending levels.

Click here for additional information on the House budget.

Click here for additional information on the Senate budget.

Click here for a White House analysis comparing the congressional budgets with the president’s proposal.

WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT ORDERS REDUCTION IN FEDERAL AGENCY EMISSIONS

On March 19, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) output by 40 percent by 2025 compared with 2008 levels.

The CO2 reductions would come from improved energy efficiency from the government’s 360,000 federal buildings and 650,000 fleet vehicles. The government would set a goal to draw 25 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2025 and cut fleet emissions per vehicle by 30 percent in the same timeframe compared with 2014 levels.

The US State Department formally submitted its 2025 emissions reduction target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on March 31.

Click here for additional information on the executive order.

Click here to view the State Department submission to the UNFCCC.

NSF: PEER-REVIEWED RESEARCH WILL BE PUBLICLY AVAILABLE WITHIN 12 MONTHS

On March 18, the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a policy requiring grantees to make their peer-reviewed research papers freely available within 12 months of publication. The requirement goes into effect for proposals submitted or due in January 2016.

Initially, NSF plans to use the Department of Energy’s PAGES (Public Access Gateway for Energy and Science) system as its designated repository and will require NSF-funded authors to upload a copy of their journal articles or juried conference paper. The NSF repository will contain abstracts, authors, the journal issue, and other metadata intended to preserve publications long-term in a “dark archive.”  For public access, the NSF repository will provide a link to the full-text paper on the publisher’s website.  If the publisher’s website is not available, the repository will have a PDF version available. 

The new policy will be announced as a change NSF’s Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide in the Federal Register this month and is open for public comment.

The plan is in accordance with a Feb. 2013 memorandum from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy directing federal agencies with over $100 million in research and development expenditures per year to make publicly available to the “greatest extent and with the fewest constraints possible and consistent with law” the “direct results of federally funded scientific research.”

Along with NSF, the Department of Defense and the US Department of Agriculture and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have announced efforts to improve access to federally-funded research. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Geological Survey have yet to announce their policies.

Click here for additional information on the NSF plan.

EPA: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES EXPRESS CONCERN WITH “SECRET SCIENCE” BILL

The Ecological Society of America was among 35 scientific societies and academic institutions to send a letter to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressing concern with the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015. The letter contends that key components of the bill, such as a requirement prohibiting the agency from using research that is not transparent or reproducible, could have unintended detrimental consequences. 

“With respect to reproducibility of research, some scientific research, especially in areas of public health, involves longitudinal studies that are so large and of great duration that they could not realistically be reproduced,” the letter notes. “Rather, these studies are replicated utilizing statistical modeling. The same may be true for scientific data from a one-time event (e.g., Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill) where the data are gathered in real time. We could foresee a situation in which the EPA would be constrained from making a proposal or even disseminating public information in a timely fashion.”

Click here to view the full letter.

BLM: HYDRAULIC FRACTURING RULE ADDRESSES WELL INFRASTRUCTURE, GROUNDWATER

On March 20, the Bureau of Land Management released a final rule intended to support safe and responsible hydraulic fracturing for 750 million acres of federal and Native American lands.

The rule requires companies to disclose the chemicals injected during the hydraulic fracturing process, commonly known as “fracking.” It also requires companies to verify the integrity of cement barriers to ensure fracking fluids do not leak into groundwater systems. The rule also stipulates use of above-ground tanks to store fluids that return to the surface in an effort to reduce risks to surrounding ecosystems.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/newsroom/2015/march/nr_03_20_2015.html

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes April 23, 2015

To Amend the Listing of the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-06640

Proposed rule: Public comment closes June 22, 2015

Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-06136

US Geological Survey

Notice: Nominations must be received by June 1, 2015

Opening of Nomination Period for Members of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07082

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 1667, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act – Introduced March 26 by Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the bill would require the online publication of research data used to add animal and plant species to the federally endangered and threatened species listing. The bill allows for exemptions at the request of a governor or state legislature. It also prohibits the posting of legally protected personal information. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Passed House Committee

H.R. 1561, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act – Introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill would improve weather research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through the development of more accurate, timely and effective observation, computing and modeling capacity. The House, Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the bill on March 25.

H.R. 897, the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act – Introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill would prohibit the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from requiring a Clean Water Act permit for spraying pesticides over water. The House Agriculture Committee approved the bill March 19 by voice vote.

The legislation would reverse a 2009 federal appeals court ruling that found EPA’s current pesticide regulations did not sufficiently protect the nation’s waterways. Critics of the ruling state that the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) sufficiently protects water from pesticides and new EPA requirements that went into effect in 2011, are unnecessary.

The House passed similar legislation in the 113th Congress by a vote of 267-161, but it stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. A Senate companion to the House bill has not yet been introduced. Former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced a Senate version of the bill in 2013 that did not advance.

Introduced in Senate

 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research (FASTR) Act – Introduced March 18 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the bill would shorten the required embargo period for sharing federally funded research papers from twelve months to six months. The bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Kevin Yoder (R-KY) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

 782, the Grand Canyon Bison Management Act – Introduced March 18 by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the bill directs the Department of Interior, within 180 days of enactment of the legislation, to use “humane lethal culling” to reduce the number of bison that have migrated into the Grand Canyon.

 785, the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals(FRAC) Act – Introduced March 18 by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), the bill would allow the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

 828, the Fracturing Regulations are Effective in State Hands (FRESH) Act – Introduced March 19 by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the bill would clarify that states have sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing. 


Sources: National Science, Foundation, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, National Journal, POLITICO, Roll Call, Science

March 18, 2015

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: CJS SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST

On March 17, the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget. The request is for $7.7 billion for the agency, a five percent increase over FY 2015.

During the hearing, Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) expressed support for NSF while also asserting that it is important to ensure NSF grant awards continue to reinforce its reputation for funding high-quality research.

“We will do our best to protect you from political influences, whether right or left, but do be aware of your sterling reputation you need to protect,” said Culberson.

NSF Director France Córdova referenced the new guidance released several months ago to promote accountability and transparency for program officers, specifically citing the requirement that a nontechnical description explains each research project’s national significance. Córdova also defended funding for the social and behavioral sciences. She noted that NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Directorate has funded 51 Nobel Prize recipients since 1998.

Chairman Culberson asked Córdova about NSF Inspector General (IG) reports that critique agency expense audits on major research equipment and facilities construction projects. Córdova stated that the agency will continue to strengthen its policies and procedures and address the IG recommendations. She affirmed that the agency properly follows the Office of Management and Budget guidelines for contingency funding and awards.

Chairman Culberson also questioned NSF Director Córdova about whether Congress should fund NSF’s budget by directorates, as has been proposed in the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, legislation authored by House Science Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

Córdova affirmed her support for maintaining Congressional agency-level funding that allows NSF to determine funding for directorates. She noted that decadal reports, workshops and community input factors into a deliberative process for deciding agency priorities. She also asked Chairman Culberson if he would welcome scientists visiting his office requesting funding for specific directorates, which would likely occur if Congress decided directorate-level NSF funding. Culberson concurred that “we do want to do everything we can to prevent politics from being inserted in your decision-making process.”

Ranking Member Chaka Fattah commended Córdova for her efforts to help increase participation in science careers for women. Córdova mentioned NSF’s agency-wide ADVANCE program, which encourages higher-education institutions, professional-scientific societies and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education non-profits to “address aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators.”

Click here to view the full hearing.

INVASIVE SPECIES: FWS BANS IMPORTATION OF FOUR CONSTRICTOR SNAKES

On March 6, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a ban on import and transport of four nonnative large constrictor snake species under the Lacey Act. A fifth snake species, the boa constrictor, was removed from consideration for the restrictions.

The restrictions define the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda and the Beni anaconda as “injurious” under the Lacey Act. The reticulated python and the green anaconda have been traded commercially as pets in the United States. The Beni and DeSchaunsee’s anaconda are not believed to be present in the US. The ban on all four snakes will go into effect on April 9, which is 30 days after the formal listing in the Federal Register.

The ban will help prevent release of these snake species into the wild where they damage ecosystems and pose a threat to native wildlife and endangered species.

Click here for additional information.

CLIMATE: ESA EXPRESSES CONCERN WITH BIOMASS MEMO ON WOOD BURNING

On March 11, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern with an internal agency memo proposing to credit wood biomass use in carbon emission reduction efforts.

The EPA memo, issued in Nov. 2014, contends that using biomass as a source of power is likely to have little or no net contributions to carbon dioxide emissions if the biomass is produced with “sustainable forest or agricultural practices.”

The ESA letter references a report form EPA’s Science Advisory Board that criticized the EPA’s determination methodology, noting that it “fails to capture the causal connection between forest biomass growth and harvesting and atmospheric impacts and thus may incorrectly assess net CO2 emissions of a facility’s use of a biogenic feedstock.”

In February, several ESA members were among 78 scientists who penned a similar letter to EPA. The Cary Institute spearheaded the scientists’ letter.

Click here to view the EPA memo.

Click here to view the ESA letter.

Click here to view the Cary Institute letter.

COMMUNICATIONS TRAINING: ESA SPONSORS CLIMATE SCIENCE WORKSHOP

On March 4, ESA sponsored a four-hour interactive workshop on Communicating Climate Science held in coordination with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC. Over 50 ecologists attended. The workshop covered much of the information included in the AAAS “What We Know” report.

Click here to view the AAAS report:

http://whatweknow.aaas.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/whatweknow_website.pdf 

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Bureau of Land Management

Notice: Public comment closes May 11, 2015

Proposed Collection of Information on Wild Horses and Burros.

https://www.federalregister.gov/a/2015-05623

Council on Environmental Quality

Notice: Public comment closes March 25, 2015

To Extend the Comment Period for the Revised Draft Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews.

https://www.federalregister.gov/a/2015-03606

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed rule: Public comment closes April 10, 2015

Ocean Dumping: Expansion of an Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site Offshore of Jacksonville, Florida.

https://www.federalregister.gov/a/2015-00523

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comment closes May 11, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Black Pinesnake.

https://www.federalregister.gov/a/2015-05326

Notice: Public comment closes April 16, 2015

National Control and Management Plan for Members of the Snakehead Family.

https://www.federalregister.gov/a/2015-06024

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 1277, the Ocean Acidification Research Partnerships Act – Introduced March 4 by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), the bill would provide for ocean acidification collaborative research grant opportunities and foster collaboration between the seafood industry and the academic community. The bill has been referred to the House, Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On March 4, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 874, the American Super Computing Leadership Act – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy and establish an exascale computing program.

H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), the bill would have federal research regulations reviewed for unnecessary requirements and recommend cost saving reforms. House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) are cosponsors of the bill.

H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), the bill would authorize a body under the National Science and Technology Council to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation opportunities.

H.R. 1158, the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve management of the National Laboratories.

H.R. 1162, the Science Prize Competitions Act – Introduced by Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA), the bill would update provisions authorizing prize competitions under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980.

Passed House

H.R. 1029, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill adds new requirements to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). It requires SAB to select members that represent a “balanced” view of scientific issues. The bill also requires the advisory board to make publicly available all scientific information used in determining its advisories to EPA. The bill passed the House March 17 by a largely partisan vote of 236–181.

The Obama administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy noting the president would veto the bill. Click here to read the White House statement.

Introduced in Senate

 653, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act of 2015 – Introduced March 4 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would reauthorize grants for and require applied water supply research regarding the water resources research and technology institutes. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – Introduced March 10 by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA), the bill makes it easier for the US Environmental Protection Agency to remove chemicals from the marketplace. Specifically, it mandates that EPA base chemical safety decisions solely on considerations of risk to public health and the environment. The bill also contains provisions that would preempt future state regulation efforts, drawing concern of the environmental community and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who introduced an alternative measure (S. 725). The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

 725, the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act– Introduced March 11 by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), the bill would ease the EPA’s ability to consider bans on toxic chemicals while maintaining deference to states’ abilities to impose stricter chemical restrictions. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

 741, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act – Introduced March 16 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would create a five-year $50 million grant program to help communities with aging water infrastructure and adapt to threats posed by climate change. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are lead cosponsors of the bill.

 747, the American Innovation Act – Introduced March 16 by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the legislation would authorize a five percent increase in funding over the next decade for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Department of Defense Science and Technology programs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Scientific and Technical Research and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science Directorate. The bill has been referred to the Senate Budget Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 1398) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL).


Sources: US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, POLITICO

March 4, 2015

In This Issue

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST

During a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on the president’s FY 2016 budget request, Republicans questioned National Science Foundation (NSF) priorities.

“Why does the administration increase funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Science Directorate by over seven percent while proposing an average of less than four percent for the Biology, Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematical and Physical science directorates,” asked Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).

NSF Director France Córdova defended the importance of social and behavioral science programs by stating that the additional funding was for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, which participates in compiling the National Science Board’s Indicators report that chronicles US participation in science and engineering education and related fields of work.

Chairman Smith did praise NSF for its efforts to increase transparency and accountability within the agency. Director Córdova contended the new NSF transparency and accountability standards were in line with related language in Chairman Smith’s FIRST Act and agreed to work with the chairman on a “national interest standard” for federally-funded research grants.

Democrats were vocal in supporting the FY 2016 funding request for NSF and criticized efforts by Republicans to cut funding for social and behavioral sciences and their attempts to legislatively determine NSF research priorities.

Click here for additional information on the hearing.

SENATE: SENIOR APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE DEMOCRAT MIKULSKI TO RETIRE

Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest-serving woman in Congress, announced her retirement at the end of 2016 when her current term expires.

Sen. Mikulski serves as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is also ranking member of the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Upon the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in Dec. 2012, she became the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, a role she held until Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term election.

Mikulski was first elected to the House in 1976. She ascended to the Senate in the 1986 midterm election cycle, succeeding retiring Sen. Charles Mathias (R-MD).

Potential candidates vying for the seat on the Democratic side include Maryland Reps. Chris Van Hollen, John Sarbanes, John Delaney, former Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. Potential Republican candidates include former Gov. Bob Ehrlich. 

Mikulkski is the second long-serving Democrat to announce her intention to retire after Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Click here to read her official statement.

NSF: NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN, MINORITIES, DISABLED IN SCIENCE

The National Science Foundation has released its 2015 “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering” report. Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial and ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—are considered underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E). Although Asians are also a minority group, they are considered to be overrepresented among S&E degree recipients and employed scientists and engineers.

Enclosed are key findings of the report:

  • Women have earned 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees and about half of all science and engineering (S&E) bachelor’s degrees since the late 1990s. However, women’s level of participation in S&E fields varies. In most fields, the proportion of degrees awarded to women has risen since 1993. The proportion of women is lowest in engineering, computer sciences, and physics.
  • In 2012, underrepresented minority women earned more than half of the science and engineering S&E degrees awarded in their respective racial and ethnic groups. White and Asian women earned nearly half of the S&E degrees awarded to their respective racial and ethnic groups.
  • Despite considerable progress over the past two decades, the gap in educational attainment separating underrepresented minorities from whites and Asians remains wide. In general, underrepresented minorities are less likely than whites and Asians to graduate from high school, enroll in college, and earn a college degree.
  • Among underrepresented minorities who do graduate from college, the overall degree patterns are similar to those of whites. Asians are more likely than whites and underrepresented minorities to earn a college degree in an S&E field. Although whites’ share of S&E degrees has declined over the past two decades, they continue to earn a majority of degrees in all broad S&E fields.
  • Nearly 30 percent of black (S&E) doctorate recipients from US universities earned a bachelor’s degree from a Historically Black College or University.

Click here for the report.

WATER: ESA CALLS FOR SCIENTIFIC CONSULTATION OVER LAKE NICARAGUAN CANAL PROJECT

On Feb. 23, the Ecological Society of America sent a letter to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to request an open dialogue with scientific experts on the potential environmental ramifications of constructing a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean through Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and the second largest tropical lake in the Americas.

“It is estimated that the approximately 500-m-wide and 30-m-deep channel could require the removal of around 1.2 billion tons of sediment from the lake bottom in addition to a great deal of soil removal to complete the terrestrial sections of the canal,” the letter notes. “The dredging and deforestation within the watershed would potentially accelerate ongoing eutrophication of the lake thereby creating degradation of the lake’s healthy aquatic ecosystem. This degradation will negatively affect local fisheries, recreation economies, and drinking water quality.”

Click here to read the full letter.

APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES PRAISE LAWMAKERS FOR LACK OF CLIMATE RIDERS

The Ecological Society of America joined 22 scientific societies in sending a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) thanking them for striking spending prohibitions on climate research in the final FY 2015 appropriations spending bill.  The House version  of the appropriations FY 2015 bill had effectively defunded federal climate-related research.

“Your leadership helps to ensure that the US continues to lead the world in understanding our Earth system and that the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, states, resource planners, cities, businesses and local decision makers have access to the latest, best available science for planning and prioritization,” the letter stated.

Click here to view the full letter.

CURRENT POLICY

Considered in House

H.R. 1029, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill adds new requirements to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). It requires SAB to select members that represent a “balanced” view of scientific issues, opening the board up to the prospect of perspectives far outside scientific consensus as well as beliefs not based in science. The bill also requires the advisory board to make publicly available all scientific information used in determining its advisories to EPA. The bill was approved by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee on March 2 and is scheduled to be voted on this week.

H.R. 1030, the Secret Science Reform Act – Introduced Feb. 24 by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill would prohibit EPA from finalizing regulations based on science that is not “transparent or reproducible.” Opponents of the bill note it could prevent the agency from taking actions based on protected data and that some research is not made publically available in order to protect the privacy of test subjects. The bill was approved by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee March 2 and is scheduled to be voted on this week.

Passed House

H.R. 212, the Drinking Water Protection Act – Introduced by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH), the bill would require the US Environmental Protection Agency to submit a strategy to Congress within 90 days about how it will manage health risks caused by the presence of algae in water systems used by the public. The bill passed the House Feb. 24 by a vote of 375–37.

H.R. 1020, the STEM Education Act – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill strengthens National Science Foundation efforts to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants that promote Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) education programs and activities. The bill passed the House Feb. 25 by a vote of 412–8 with only far-right Republicans voting against the measure.

Introduced in Senate

414 – the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act – Introduced Feb. 9 by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would provide for conservation, enhanced recreation opportunities, and development of renewable energy in the California Desert Conservation Area. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

 494, the Authorizing Alaska Production Act – Introduced Feb. 12 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill would authorize the exploration, leasing, development, production, and economically-feasible and prudent transportation of oil and gas in and from the Coastal Plain in Alaska. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Sen. Murkowski chairs.

596, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act – Introduced Feb. 26 by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bill authorizes $5 million through 2019 for a grant program that supports restoration of the San Francisco Bay. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) has introduced companion legislation (H.R. 1140) in the House.

Vetoed by President

1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act – Introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), the bill would authorize construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The president vetoed the bill on Feb. 24. Neither chamber had passed the bill with the two-thirds necessary to override a presidential veto. Click here to read the White House veto statement:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/02/24/veto-message-senate-s-1-keystone-xl-pipeline-approval-act


Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire

February 19, 2015

In This Issue

SCIENCE: RESEARCH INVESTMENTS GET BOOST IN PRESIDENT’S FY 2016 FUNDING PROPOSAL

On Feb. 2, the president released the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget. It functions as a wish list of administration federal policy priorities in the government’s budget. However, Congress, holding the “power of the purse,” has the final say on how these priorities are rolled into the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government.

While the Budget Control Act of 2011 limits FY 2016 discretionary spending to $1.016 trillion, the president’s proposed budget would provide $1.091 trillion. This spending increase is paid for through various proposals in the president’s budget to raise revenue by closing loopholes in the tax code and also increasing taxes for wealthier Americans and other entities. Legislation to increase tax revenue is not expected to move in the Republican-controlled Congress. Consequently, the president’s budget spending increases are unlikely to be included in the 12 appropriations bills Congress passes later this year.

Overall, the president’s budget request would provide $146 billion for federal climate research and development (R&D), a 5.5 percent increase over the FY 2015 enacted level.  While the overall R&D figure is good, basic research that funds most US academics only increases by 2.6 percent, to $32 billion. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs would receive $3 billion in FY 2016, a 3.6 increase over FY 2015.

The 13-agency US Global Change Research Program that coordinates federal research is funded at $2.7 billion across the various agency budgets in support of the president’s Climate Action Plan.

Highlights of spending increases for federal research agencies relative to FY 2015 enacted spending:

National Science Foundation: $7.72 billion; a 5.2 percent increase.

Research and Related Activities: $6.186 billion; a $252.66 million increase.

NSF Accounts

Biological Sciences: $747.92 million; a $16.89 million increase.

  • BioMAPS: $16.81 million; a $2.5 million increase.
  • Science Engineering and Education for Sustainability: $17.50 million; a $3.5 million decrease.
  • National Ecological Observatory Network: $80.64 million; a $6.4 million increase.

Geosciences: $1.365 billion; a $61.02 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the NSF budget:

http://www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2016/toc.jsp

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.982 billion; a $533.72 million increase.

National Ocean Service: $573.96 million; a $38.22 million increase.

National Marine Fisheries Service: $990.1 million; a $31.93 million increase.

National Weather Service: $1.098 billion; an $11.43 million increase.

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research: $507.04 million; $60.76 million increase.

  • Climate Research: $188.76 million; a $30.76 million increase.
  • National Sea Grant College Program: $68.45 million, a $1.15 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the NOAA budget:

http://www.corporateservices.noaa.gov/~nbo/

US Department of Agriculture: $207.855 billion; a $6.2 billion increase.

  • Agricultural Research Service: $1.43 billion; a $221 million increase.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $1.16 billion; a $27 million increase.
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $1.5 million; a $213 million increase.
  • Forest Service: $4.94 billion; a $130 million decrease.
    • Forest and Rangeland Research: $292 million; a $4 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 USDA budget request:

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=BUDGET

Department of Energy (DOE): $29.9 billion; a $2.5 billion increase.

Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy:  $325 million; a $45 million increase.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: $2.72 billion; a $808.79 million increase.
Office of Science: $5.34 billion; a $272 million increase.

  • Biological and Environmental Research: $612 million; a $20 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 DOE budget request:

http://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-presents-fy16-budget-request

United States Geological Survey (USGS): $1.2 billion; a $149.8 million increase.

  • Climate and Land Use Change: $191.8 million; a $55.9 million increase.
  • Core Science Systems: $127 million; a $19.7 million increase.
  • Ecosystems: $176.3 million; a $19.3 million increase.
  • Energy Minerals and Environmental Health: $103.3 million; a $11 million increase.
  • Natural Hazards: $146.4 million; a $11.2 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 USGS budget request:

http://www.usgs.gov/budget/2016/2016index.asp

Click here for additional information on the White House’s R&D investments.

 

EPA: PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUEST PRIORITIZES CLIMATE ACTION

For the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the president’s FY 2016 request provides $8.6 billion, $452 million above the FY 2015 enacted level. This includes a $120 million increase towards agency-wide programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Programs that would be eliminated in the president’s budget include the Beaches Protection categorical grants and the Water Quality Research and Support grants.

Below are FY 2016 funding levels for specific EPA programs compared to FY 2015 enacted levels:

Environmental Program and Management: $2.84 billion; a $228.03 million increase.

  • Environmental Education: $11 million; a $2.3 million increase.
  • Water Quality Protection: $254.3 million; a $43.88 million increase.

Hazardous Substance Superfund: $1.088 billion; a $65.07 million increase.

  • Environmental Justice: $14.6 million; a $7.3 million increase.

EPA Science and Technology: $759.2 million; a $34.4 million increase.

  • Climate Protection Program: $117.7 million; a $14.3 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 EPA budget.

Click here for a fact sheet on climate priorities in the president’s budget.

NASA: CLIMATE CHANGE INCREASES RISK OF ‘MEGADROUGHTS’ LATER THIS CENTURY

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) released a report concluding that droughts in the Central Plains and Southwest US in the latter part of the 21st century could be longer than any experienced in the last 1000 years.

The study is based on several climate models, including one from NASA. The study was published in the journal Science Advances.

Click here for additional information on the study:

http://www.nasa.gov/press/2015/february/nasa-study-finds-carbon-emissions-could-dramatically-increase-risk-of-us/#.VN4oT-bF9DD

CLIMATE: NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL CONSIDERS GEOENGINEERING

A two-volume report from the National Research Council (NRC) concluded that dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions is the most effective way to negate the consequences of climate change while calling for more research on “geoengineering” techniques: carbon dioxide removal and albedo-modification techniques.

Carbon dioxide removal is relatively low-risk, but would be very costly and take a long time to implement. Albedo modification would only temporarily mask CO2 warming effects and is considered high-risk. The report calls for separate evaluations and companion reports of the two types of approaches.

“That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change,” said committee chair Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science and former director of the US Geological Survey.  “But the longer we wait, the more likely it will become that we will need to deploy some forms of carbon dioxide removal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

The NRC committee stated “These approaches are more accurately described as ‘climate intervention’ strategies — purposeful actions intended to curb the negative impacts of climate change — rather than engineering strategies that imply precise control over the climate.”

Click here for additional information:

http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=02102015

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SCIENTISTS MEET WITH HILL OFFICES TO DISCUSS CLIMATE SCIENCE

On Feb. 11, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) participated in Climate Science Days, an annual event sponsored by the Climate Science Working Group (CSWG) to advance understanding of climate change research to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  ESA is a CSWG member as are other scientific associations.

Teams met with over 90 House and Senate offices and committee staff. Meetings with freshman Senate and House members were given priority along with lawmakers who serve on committees with jurisdiction over climate science issues. President David Inouye and Public Affairs Committee members Alexis Erwin and Bruce Beyers represented the ESA scientific community.

Other participating CSWG organizations included the American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Society of Agronomy, American Society of Plant Biologists, American Statistical Association, Consortium for Ocean Leadership,  Crop Science Society of America, Geological Society of America,  Society for Conservation Biology, Soil Society of America, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed rule: Public comment closes March 16, 2015

Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Southwest Fisheries Science Center Fisheries Research

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-02831

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment closes April 7, 2015

National Science Foundation Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-02386

Ocean Energy Management Bureau

Notice: public comment closes March 30, 2015

Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-01757

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comment closes April 6, 2015

90-day finding on a petition to list the Island Marble Butterfly as endangered

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-02063

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 884, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to reissue final rules relating to listing of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 – Introduced Feb. 11 by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI), the bill would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from gray wolves found in Wyoming, Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin. The bill has 15 bipartisan cosponsors, including Democratic Reps. Ron Kind (WI), Colin Peterson (MN) and Tim Walz (MN).

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 212, the Drinking Water Protection Act – Introduced by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH), the bill would require the US Environmental Protection Agency, within 90 days of the bill’s enactment, to submit a strategic plan to Congress for assessing and managing risks associated with cyanotoxins (algae) in public drinking water. The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the bill Feb. 12 by voice vote. Companion legislation (S. 462) has been introduced by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH).

Passed House

H.R. 810, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS), the bill reauthorizes $18 billion in programs for NASA through Fiscal Year 2015. The bill passed the House Feb. 10 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Cleared for the White House

  1. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act – Introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), the bill would authorize construction of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline. The House passed the Senate bill on Feb. 11 by a vote of 270–152. The Senate passed the bill Jan. 29 by a vote of 62–36. Neither chamber secured the two-thirds vote necessary to override a presidential veto.

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, US Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire

January 28, 2015

In This Issue

STATE OF THE UNION: OBAMA URGES ACTION ON CLIMATE, EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY

In the wake of a mid-term election with considerably low voter turnout, President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address focused on issues that energized various Democratic constituencies. Central topics included income and gender inequality, educational opportunity and climate change.

Citing the Oct. 2014 Department of Defense report concluding climate change poses an immediate national security risk, the president stated “no challenge — no challenge — poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.”

The president directly responded to the “I’m not a scientist” refrain used by climate skeptics, saying “Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities.  And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe.”

The president also minimized the importance of the Keystone XL pipeline when he asked lawmakers to pass a new surface transportation and infrastructure reauthorization bill.

“Twenty-first century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, and stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet,” said the president. “Democrats and Republicans used to agree on this.  So let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline.  Let’s pass a bipartisan infrastructure plan that could create more than 30 times as many jobs per year, and make this country stronger for decades to come.”

President Obama asked Congress to close tax loopholes and use the added revenue to help families pay for college as well as investing in infrastructure and research. The president also mentioned his plan to expand access to community college and called on Congress to pass legislation to reduce student debt.

“Tennessee, a state with Republican leadership, and Chicago, a city with Democratic leadership, are showing that free community college is possible. I want to spread that idea all across America, so that two years of college becomes as free and universal in America as high school is today,” said President Obama.  “And I want to work with this Congress to make sure those already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams.”

The president closed his speech in a reconciliatory tone, calling for bipartisanship and “a better politics” where Democrats and Republicans “appeal to each other’s basic decency” without abandoning their principles, urging them to seek common ground on the proposals in his address.

“If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, I ask you to join me in the work at hand,” said the president. “If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree.  And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.”

Click here to read the full State of the Union address. Click here for more information on the president’s community college proposal.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW OVERSIGHT, SUBPOENA RULES

On Jan. 27, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a business meeting to adopt its rules and oversight plan for the 114th Congress. The normally routine meeting became contentious as members adopted new rules that minority members cited as unprecedented.

At issue were rules that allowed the chairman to issue unilateral subpoenas and shorten the notice time required before committee votes. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) stated the rule changes were necessary because the Obama administration has been slow to respond to information requests.

Reciting several historical events where the committee exercised its investigative authority—including the deadly Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters— Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) noted the chairmen at the time did not take action that suppressed the rights of members of either party who did not agree with him.

The rules were approved along partisan lines. Click here to view the full hearing.

SENATE: LAWMAKERS AGREE CLIMATE IS CHANGING, DISPUTE HUMAN CONTRIBUTION

As the Senate debated a bill to expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic lawmakers sought votes to put their Republican colleagues on record regarding climate science.

Senators adopted an amendment by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) by a vote of 98–1 that climate change is real and not a hoax. The lone Senator who voted against the amendment was Roger Wicker (R-MS).

However, a second amendment by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI), affirming “human activity significantly contributes to climate change” fell short of the 60 votes it needed to win approval. The amendment failed largely along party lines by a vote of 50–49.

Fifteen Republicans voted for a similar amendment that omitted the word “significantly” offered by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) affirming that humans contribute to climate change.” Joining the five Republicans who supported the Schatz amendment were Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Dean Heller (R-NV), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Rand Paul (R-KY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Mike Rounds (R-SD) Pat Toomey (R-PA). The amendment failed, supported by 59 Senators.

All Democrats and Independents supported the Hoeven amendment. Sen. Rounds was notably the only Republican first elected to the Senate in the 2014 midterms to support the Hoeven amendment.

INTERIOR: OBAMA TO PROTECT ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE FROM DRILLING

On Jan. 25, the Department of Interior announced a plan to protect 12.28 million acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development.

The administration would designate the selected area as “wilderness,” the highest level of protection available to federal lands. Only seven million acres of the refuge enjoy the wilderness designation. A permanent designation must be approved by Congress as a future administration could unilaterally rescind the administration’s action in the interim.

The expanded area would also encompass 1.5 million acres of the refuge’s oil-rich fragile coastal plain, spurring the ire of businesses and Republican lawmakers.

“What’s coming is a stunning attack on our sovereignty and our ability to develop a strong economy that allows us, our children and our grandchildren to thrive,” Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a committee press statement. “I cannot understand why this administration is willing to negotiate with Iran, but not Alaska.”

Murkowski chairs both the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Department of Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. She oversees both authorization and appropriations legislation related to the Department of Interior.

Click here to view the full announcement.

USGS: STUDY FINDS CONTAMINATED DRINKING WATER IN ONE OUT OF FIVE WELLS

A new report from the United States Geological Survey found geologic and man-made contaminants that pose a threat to human health in one out of every five drinking water wells in the US.

The study states that most were from geologic sources, including arsenic, manganese, radon, and uranium. Nitrate was the only man-made pollutant found at levels that pose a human-health risk in more than one percent of wells.

The study noted that water irrigation activities can release natural and man-made contaminants into drinking water sources. Besides affecting private untreated drinking wells, groundwater contaminants can also affect streams and lakes, coastal waters and the aquatic ecosystems they encompass.

The report included samples from 6,600 drinking wells taken between 1991 and 2010.

Click here to view the report: http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1360/

FOREST SERVICE: FINAL RULE ISSUED ON SNOWMOBILE USE

 

On Jan. 27, The US Forest Service released the final policy rule for managing snowmobile and other “over-snow” vehicle use on national forests and grasslands as directed by a 2013 court order. Forty percent of national forests post rules for snowmobile use at heavily used areas, such as in ski areas. This new rule requires all national forest and grassland Forest Service managers to work with local communities to identify roads and trails for snowmobile use while also protecting water, soil and wildlife.

 

Click here for additional information.

NOAA: FISHERIES SERVICE RELEASES NEW CLIMATE STRATEGY

 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced a draft five-year plan for addressing climate change.

 

The draft strategy is part of NMFS’s “proactive approach to collect and provide information on changing climate and ocean conditions to resource managers and affected sectors.” The strategy seeks to address challenges that include rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification. Key objectives of the strategy include building and maintaining the necessary “science infrastructure” to fulfill agency mandates amid changing climate conditions and identifying and tracking marine ecosystem changes.

 

Public comments on the strategy are due Mar. 31, 2015. Click here for additional information.  

 

 

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comment period closes Mar. 30, 2015

EPA invites public nominations of scientific experts to be considered for appointment to its Science Advisory Board Agricultural Science Committee. 

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/01/26/2015-01276/request-for-nominations-of-candidates-to-the-epas-science-advisory-board-sab-agricultural-science

Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period closes Feb. 26, 2015

Revised comprehensive conservation plan (plan/CCP) and final environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/01/27/2015-01514/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge-alaska-revised-comprehensive-conservation-plan-and-final

Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comment period closes Feb. 26, 2015

Critical habitat designation for Consolea corallicola (Florida semaphore cactus) and Harrisia aboriginum (aboriginal prickly-apple).

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2015/01/22/2015-00344/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-designation-of-critical-habitat-for-consolea


Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Interior, US Forest Service, US Geological Survey, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill

January 15, 2015

In This Issue

KEYSTONE: CONGRESS MOVES ON PIPELINE BILLS, STATE COURT UPHOLDS PROJECT

On Jan. 9, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would approve construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The bill passed by a vote of 266-153, over 20 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Twenty-eight Democrats voted with all Republicans to support the bill.

Approval of the pipeline has been held up for years due to route alterations and court litigation. The most recent judicial hurdle was overcome when the Nebraska Supreme Court last week upheld a 2012 law granting the Nebraska governor permitting authority for the pipeline. The court decision was announced just hours before the House voted.

The White House has threatened to veto the bill, stating Congress’s move to legislatively approve the pipeline “conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on US national interests (including serious security, safety, environmental, and other ramifications).”

Meanwhile, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked-up and approved its own Keystone pipeline bill (S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act) on Jan. 8 by a vote of 13-9. The bill will be debated on the Senate floor this week. At least 60 Senators have committed to voting for the bill, making it likely Obama will have to exercise his first veto in several years.

Over the course of this week, Senators will seek to add a number of amendments to the base bill. Among them, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will seek to attach language declaring that climate change caused by humans is a serious threat. Politically, the amendment seeks to put Senators’ views on climate science on the record. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is expected to offer amendments that would lift the oil export ban and speed approval of export permits for liquid natural gas.

Several Senators will seek to offer renewable energy and energy savings amendments. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) will offer as an amendment, a smaller version of a bipartisan energy-efficiency bill he worked on with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

The final Senate bill (S.1) will need to be reconciled with the House bill (H.R. 3) as both chambers must pass an identical bill before it can reach the president’s desk.

Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 3.

SENATE: CLIMATE CHANGE CHAMPION BARBARA BOXER TO RETIRE IN 2016

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for the past eight years, announced she will retire when her term expires at the end of the 114th session of Congress.

Sen. Boxer has long been an advocate of women’s rights and addressing global climate change. She has been a staunch proponent of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and defender of its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. During her tenure as chair, she held numerous hearings on climate change featuring testimony from Ph.D. climate science experts. Along with Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), she serves as co-chair of the Senate Climate Change Clearinghouse. She is also a member of the Senate Oceans Caucus.

Boxer was first elected to the US House of Representatives in 1982, representing a California congressional district that included Marin and Sonoma counties. After serving in the House for nearly a decade, she ran for the open seat vacated by retiring Sen. Alan Cranston (D-CA).

Democrats are anticipating retaining the open seat. Their chances are aided because the Senate race will occur during a presidential election year, when turnout among voters peaks. California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her attention to pursue the seat on Jan. 12 and is perceived as an early frontrunner.

Click here to view Senator Boxer’s retirement announcement.

SENATE: DEMOCRATS NAME APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBERS

Democrats announced their picks to serve in the top positions on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, which has the authority to draft bills to fund federal agencies for the coming fiscal year.

In the Republican-controlled Senate, top committee Democrats will occupy the position of “ranking member” as Republicans take the reigns as committee and subcommittee chairs.  Republicans have yet to name their appropriations subcommittee chairs.

Enclosed are the Senate ranking members for appropriations subcommittees of interest to the ecological community:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies: Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Commerce Justice and Science and Related Agencies: Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) (also full committee ranking member)

Energy and Water Development: Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies: Tom Udall (D-NM)

For a full list of subcommittee ranking members, click here.

SENATE: COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS NAMED

On Jan. 8, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) announced his subcommittee chairs for the 114th Congress.

Notably, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will chair the Space, Science and Competitiveness Subcommittee, which will have oversight over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation and other federal science programs.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) will chair the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee, which will have oversight over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and any federal initiatives that impact oceans or marine life.

Click here for a full listing of subcommittee chairs.

HOUSE: REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS

On Jan. 14, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) formally announced the appropriations subcommittee membership for the 114th Congress.

Notably, John Culberson (R-TX) succeeds retiring Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) as chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Returning subcommittee chairs include Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA), Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Robert Aderholt (R-AL).

Click here for a full listing of subcommittee chairs and Republican members for the 114th Congress.

HOUSE: SMITH ANNOUNCES SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS FOR SCIENCE COMMITTEE

On Jan. 13, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced the subcommittee chairs and vice chairs for the 114th Congress. The committee has jurisdiction over legislation to reauthorize federal science programs.

Below are the new subcommittee chairs and vice chairs:

Subcommittee on Energy

Chairman Randy Weber (R-TX)

Vice-Chairman Dan Newhouse (R-WA)

Subcommittee on Environment

Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

Vice-Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

Subcommittee on Oversight

Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)

Vice-Chairman Bill Johnson (R-OH)

Subcommittee on Research and Technology

Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA)

Vice-Chairman John Moolenaar (R-MI)

Subcommittee on Space

Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS)

Vice-Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL)

Click here to view the full press statement.

FWS: SUPREME COURT DECLINES CHALLENGE TO DELTA SMELT PROTECTIONS

On Jan. 12, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to a US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) initiative to protect California’s delta smelt. The fish, endemic to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region, are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

FWS in 2008 set limits on water-pumping activities that threatened the species and their ecosystem. Farmers and state water regulators had asked the court to overturn the FWS restrictions. The court’s refusal to take the case lets stand a 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the FWS regulatory effort.

EPA: METHANE EMISSIONS REDUCTION PLAN ANNOUNCED

On Jan. 14, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its first-ever regulations for methane emissions.

The move is part of the administration’s larger Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. EPA will seek to cut emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40–45 percent compared to 2012 levels by the year 2025. Methane emissions account for 10 percent of greenhouse emissions, yet have 25 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide over a 100 year period, according to EPA.

Reaction in Congress was divided along partisan lines as has been the case with most EPA regulatory efforts. The senior Republican and Democrat members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has oversight jurisdiction over EPA, both released statements:

“The EPA has once again announced plans to impose a mandate designed to stifle our domestic energy industries despite the successful voluntary steps made by US oil and gas companies to reduce methane emissions.  This EPA mandate from the Obama administration will not only increase the cost to do business in America, but it will ultimately limit our nation’s ability to become fully energy independent,” stated Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK). “This will impact everyday Americans, from the cost to heat their homes to the reliability of consistent electricity to keep the family business competitively operating.” 

“The president’s plan will require the oil and gas industry to reduce methane leaks, which is a potent source of climate pollution. Congress can support this effort by passing the bipartisan Murphy-Collins Super Pollutants Act, which identifies practical steps that will aid in reducing methane emissions,” stated Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “By cutting industrial methane pollution, we can protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change.”

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment period closes Feb. 13, 2015

Request for comments on implementation of proposed NSF management fee policy.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/30/2014-30244/notice-and-request-for-comments-on-the-national-science-foundation-nsf-implementation-of-proposed

Council on Environmental Quality

Notice: Public comment period closes Feb. 23, 2015

Revised draft federal agency guidance on consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and effects of climate change on National Environmental Policy Act reviews.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/24/2014-30035/revised-draft-guidance-for-federal-departments-and-agencies-on-consideration-of-greenhouse-gas

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comment period closes Mar. 2, 2015

A petition to delist the coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica) and a petition to list the monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus plexippus) under the Endangered Species Act. 

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/31/2014-30574/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-90-day-findings-on-two-petitions

Environmental Protection Agency

Proposed rule: Public comment period closes Mar. 17, 2015

A proposal to revise national ambient air quality standards for ozone.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/17/2014-28674/national-ambient-air-quality-standards-for-ozone

CURRENT POLICY

Passed House

H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015 – Introduced by Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL), the bill reauthorizes the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, implemented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The program carries out research to help mitigate damage from windstorms such as hurricanes and tornadoes.  The bill passed the House Jan. 7 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

H.R. 34, the Tsunami Warning, Education and Research Act of 2015 – Introduced by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the bill would reauthorize and strengthen tsunami detection, forecasting, warning and research programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The bill passed the House Jan. 7 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

H.R. 35, the Low-Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 – Introduced by Reps. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the bill continues the Department of Energy’s Low-Dose Radiation Research Program and directs the National Academies to develop a long-term strategy to determine the level of radiation that the human body can safely absorb. The bill passed the House Jan. 7 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

H.R. 185, the Regulatory Accountability Act – Introduced by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the bill would impose new requirements on federal rulemaking. The bill expands guidance and review criteria for rules that would cost the economy over $100 million. The bill passed the House Jan. 13 by a vote of 250-175 with eight Democrats joining all Republicans in voting for the bill.

The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill, stating the bill would “make the regulatory process more expensive, less flexible, and more burdensome – dramatically increasing the cost of regulation for the American taxpayer and working class families.”

Click here to read the full Statement of Administration Policy on the bill:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr185r_20150112.pdf


Sources: US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Appropriations Committee House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, LA Times, POLITICO

December 17, 2014

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS PASSES FY 2015 ‘CROMNIBUS’ FUNDING PACKAGE

On Dec. 11, the US House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill to continue funding for most federal agencies through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The Senate then passed a two-day continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. In a rare evening session on Dec. 13, the Senate passed the bill in a bipartisan vote of 56-40.

Dubbed the “CRomnibus,” (a play on the words continuing resolution and omnibus), the bill funds most federal agencies throughout the remainder of FY 2015 ending on Sept. 30, 2015. The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded under a CR until Feb. 2015. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) negotiated the compromise agreement.

During House floor consideration of the measure, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stated that he was unwilling to revise the bill’s text. If Congress could not pass the bill this year, the House would take up a CR to fund the government through early next year when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. This helped influence a small, yet pivotal number of Democrats to conclude that supporting the current funding package was preferable to negotiating an FY 2015 appropriations bill in a political climate where Democrats had little leverage in both chambers.

Despite having concerns with certain provisions in the bill, the White House actively lobbied Congressional Democrats to support the legislation. The top two Democrats in the House were divided on the measure. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voted against the bill while Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) voted for it.

Republicans were successful in including language delaying the US Fish and Wildlife Service from making a determination to list the sage grouse as an endangered species for a year as well as strengthening Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural industry. However, the bill did not include language prohibiting the US Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the administration’s climate action plan. It also did not include restrictions on research into the social and behavioral sciences.

Under the measure, most federal agencies enjoyed only modest increases due to spending caps set forth under the Murray-Ryan budget agreement. The FY 2015 spending levels for federal agencies and programs of interest to the ecological community in comparison to FY 2014 enacted spending are as follows: 

Agriculture Research Service: $1.8 billion, a $55.1 million increase.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $871 million, a $49 million increase.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion, a $13.7 million increase. 

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $72.4 million, a $3.4 million increase.  

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $25.8 million increase.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $81 million, a $2.4 million increase.

Department of Energy Biological and Environmental Research: $592 million, an $18.2 million decrease.

Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.1 billion, level with FY 2014.

Environmental Protection Agency: $8.1 billion, a $60.1 million decrease.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $18 billion, a $364 million increase.

National Science Foundation: $7.3 billion, a $172.3 million increase.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion, a $126 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: $858.4 million, a $33.5 million increase.

National Park Service: $2.6 billion, a $53.1 million increase

Smithsonian Institution: $819.5 million, a $14.5 million increase.

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.5 billion, a $15 million increase.

US Forest Service: $5.1 billion, a $423.4 million decrease.

US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.4 billion, a $12.4 million increase.

US Geological Survey: $1 billion, a $13 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2015 omnibus bill:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/summary-fiscal-year-2015-omnibus-appropriations-bill

Click here for summaries of individual appropriations bills included in the FY 2015 omnibus:

http://appropriations.house.gov/files/?CatagoryID=34785

Click here for the White House Statement of Administration Policy:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/113/saphr83h_20141211.pdf

SENATE: COMMITTEE CHAIRS, RANKING MEMBERS ANNOUNCED FOR 114TH CONGRESS

With the Senate set to change hands in January, Democrats and Republicans announced their picks for top committee positions for the 114th Congress.

The Senate will change from a 55-45 governing Democratic majority to a 54-46 Republican majority (Independents Angus King (ME) and Bernie Sanders (VT) will continue to caucus with Democrats). Committee membership rosters are proportional to the number of party members in the Senate, so committees will lose Democratic members while gaining a few Republican seats on most committees. 

Republicans will gain two seats while Democrats will lose two seats on these Senate Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Below is a list of chair and ranking member positions for Senate committees with jurisdiction over legislation of interest to the ecological community:

Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee: Pat Roberts (KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Appropriations: Thad Cochran (R-MS), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Budget: Republican TBD, Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Commerce Science and Transportation: John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Energy and Natural Resources: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Environment and Public Works: James Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Mike Enzi (R-WY), Patty Murray (D-WA)

NSF: CENSUS CONSIDERS REMOVING FIELD OF DEGREE QUESTION

The US Census Bureau has identified the “Field of Degree” question as a candidate for removal from its American Community Survey (ACS), which tracks population demographics that help determine how federal and state resources are directed. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) relies on this question to identify scientists and engineers in the US population and to compile and track statistical data trends in the science and engineering workforce.

NCSES has reached a preliminary conclusion that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the same level of quality data collection through alternative means without significant additional costs to the federal government and burden to survey respondents.

NSF’s National Science Board is urging stakeholders to respond to the US Census Bureau’s call for public comment, published in the Federal Register. The public comment period expires Dec. 30, 2014.

Click here for additional background information. Click here to comment on the proposal. For more background on the American Community Survey, click here.

PUBLIC LANDS: DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION INCLUDES WILDERNESS, NATIONAL PARKS BILLS

On Dec. 12, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill includes an omnibus package of bipartisan public lands bills supported by outgoing Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and retiring House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA).

The 450-page public lands package is the largest federal lands initiative passed by Congress since the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11). Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) sought to strip the public lands provisions from the defense authorization bill, but his motion failed by a strongly bipartisan vote of 18-82. The president is expected to sign the bill.

The compromise agreement both designates new protected areas while opening other areas to logging and energy development. The bill designates approximately 245,000 acres as wilderness in wilderness in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington and Montana and protects 140 miles of rivers.  It also releases 26,000 acres of wilderness study areas for private development.

The bill includes language authored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on the Tongass National Forest. About 70,000 acres of old-growth forest will be transferred to Sealaska, an Alaska Native corporation, settling the longstanding debt owed to southeast tribes under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The bill would also put 150,000 acres of Tongass old-growth in new conservation areas. Murkowski will chair the committee in January when Republicans take control of the Senate.

It also incorporates a bill by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to authorize a land swap between the federal government and mining company Rio Tinto PLC. The move opens up 2,400 acres of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to copper development.

Its location near sacred tribal land spurred strong opposition from Native Americans. Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the Chickasaw Nation and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), a member of the Cherokee Nation, broke with a majority of their party to oppose the legislation. The Obama administration also opposed the Arizona land swap language.

Click here for additional information on the public lands provisions:

http://naturalresources.house.gov/legislation/?legislationid=397951

CLIMATE CHANGE: VAN HOLLEN TO CO-CHAIR BICAMERAL TASK FORCE

Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has been selected to succeed retiring Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) as the House co-chair of the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force at the start of the 114th Congress. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will continue as the Senate co-chair.

Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse established the group to draw congressional and public attention to climate change and push for policy action. The group periodically releases fact sheets on alternative energy sources and makes public statements about national policy developments or actions related to climate change.

Congressman Van Hollen is the current Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and serves as Vice-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. He has sponsored H.R. 5271, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, which would charge carbon-emitting industries to cut their emissions 80 percent by 2050 to 2005 levels. The revenue generated would be returned to the public in the form of a “Healthy Climate Dividend.”

Click here for additional information on the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Solicitation: Nominations due Jan. 9, 2015

NOAA is requesting nominations for members of its Science Advisory Board. 

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/10/2014-28939/solicitation-for-members-of-the-noaa-science-advisory-board

Notice: Public comment period closes Jan. 26, 2015

National invasive lionfish prevention and management plan

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/12/2014-29199/national-invasive-lionfish-prevention-and-management-plan

Proposed rule: Public comment period closes Mar. 9, 2015

Critical Habitat Designation for the Arctic subspecies (Phoca hispida hispida) of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida)

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/09/2014-28808/endangered-and-threatened-species-designation-of-critical-habitat-for-the-arctic-ringed-seal

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Recovery Plan: Public comment period closes Feb. 9, 2015

Draft recovery strategy for four Santa Rosa Plain CA animal and plant species.

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/12/11/2014-29123/endangered-and-threatened-wildlife-and-plants-draft-recovery-plan-for-four-species-of-the-santa-rosa

CURRENT POLICY

Passed Senate

S.Res. 564, honoring conservation on the centennial of the passenger pigeon extinction – Introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the nonbinding resolution commemorates the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon extinction and recognizes the importance conserving natural habitats for bird populations and preserving biodiversity.

H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act – Introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), the bill extends a number of tax cuts and credits that expired in 2013 and 2014, including the research development tax credit. The bill extends these measures only through the end of this year to make 2014 tax filing easier. The White House threatened to veto a more comprehensive long-term bill, arguing it extended breaks for businesses while failing to include certain extensions that affect low-income and middle-class workers. The bill passed the Senate Dec. 16 by a vote of 76-16 after passing the House Dec. 3 by a vote of 378-46. The president is expected to sign the measure.

 1800, the Bureau of Reclamation Transparency Act – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would require biannual reports on repair needs for the nation’s federally owned dams and other Bureau of Reclamation-managed facilities. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent Dec. 16.


Sources: National Science Foundation, US Census Bureau, House Appropriations Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, National Journal, Roll Call