November 29, 2016

ESA Joins with Science Societies and Urge Trump to Name a Science Advisor

ESA joined with the leaders of 28 science organizations and sent a November 23 letter to President-elect Donald Trump urging him to meet with them and to appoint a science advisor quickly. The letter pointed to science and technology as an important driver of U.S. economic growth. It also suggests a new White House position of “Assistant to the President for Science and Technology.”

Trump Administration Takes Shape, Slowly

President-elect Donald Trump has made some top-level appointments in the last two weeks, but many more positions remain unfilled. Following is a discussion of appointments important to the ecological community, beginning with the nominations that have already been announced.

White House senior counselor Steve Bannon was formerly executive chairman of the right-wing Breitbart News and chief executive officer of the Trump presidential campaign. During the Republican National Convention, Bannon bragged that Breitbart News had become the home of the “alt-right,” a name embraced by many white supremacists that mixes reactionary conservatism, racism and populism.

Bannon has condemned climate change as an invention of activists, university researchers and renewable energy industry profiteers-a corrupt swindle that is damaging the economy. Through Breitbart News, he has condemned Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and the environment, the Paris Climate Agreement, and NOAA and NASA’s climate change research. This is likely to characterize Bannon’s advice to President-elect Trump. Bannon’s climate denial is confounded by his tenure as director of “Biosphere 2,” from 1993-5, an earth systems science research project, which he emphasized as an experiment relating to pollution and global warming.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, formerly chairman of the Republican National Committee, also embraces hard-core climate denial-“most of it is a bunch of bunk.” A party functionary since 2007, when elected as chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, Priebus is credited with bringing together Tea Party interests with the mainstream Republican Party, building it into a “coast to coast” force. His policy positions include support of the Keystone XL pipeline. As the president’s gate-keeper, Priebus will be the person most responsible for guiding the new administrations agenda through Congress.

White House counsel Don McGhan, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and general counsel to the Trump campaign, is a staunch libertarian. His primary expertise is in government regulation and political law. His brief at the White House will be broad, however, where he will advise the president on all legal issues surrounding the administration-including the legality of executive orders and legislation. He will also be influential in vetting potential administration appointees, including to the Supreme Court. He is thought to be assisting Mr. Trump in navigating anti-nepotism laws to appoint his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to a formal administration position.

Bannon, Priebus and McGhan’s appointments do not require Senate confirmation.

Attorney General nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where he is a staunch climate denier and an advocate for increased fossil energy production. His lifetime rating on environmental issues by the League of Conservation Voters is 7%. Most of his voice while serving in Congress has been in opposition to immigration.

As attorney general, the chief law-enforcement officer in the U.S., Sessions will need to pass Senate confirmation of the Judiciary Committee, where he is currently a senior member. He failed before that same committee in a 1986 judicial nomination to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama, primarily on civil rights concerns. Those issues are likely to once again be an issue in his upcoming confirmation hearings. However, his approval seems likely this time with few Republican defections expected and a filibuster of Cabinet picks disallowed by a Democratic Senate rules change three years ago.

Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, a Michigan billionaire and conservative activist, is a staunch advocate for school choice and vouchers. She and her children are products of private school education, exclusively. DeVos is a major Republican donor, giving more than $2.75 million in the 2016 election cycle and her family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the Republican Party. However, she has no experience in education or school administration. A religious conservative, she is on the board of the Acton Institute, which merges corporate interest and “dominion theology,” promoting “. . . a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious [Christian] principles.” This combination of school vouchers and Christian advocacy concerns many educational leaders about the pick.

DeVos’ confirmation appears likely. It is supported by Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), calling her “an excellent choice.”

Other rumored cabinet appointments for departments with science and environment implications may include the following picks.

Agriculture

Several names are in play for the USDA top job: Forrest Lucas, founder of Lucas Oil Products and supporter of trophy hunting and puppy mills; Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK), a leading Clean Power Plan opponent who issued an “oilfield prayer day” proclamation in October; Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS); Chuck Connor, CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; Former governors Dave Heineman (R-NE), Sonny Perdue (R-GA) and Rick Perry (R-TX) (also mentioned for Energy and Defense); Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner (R). Agriculture, in part, oversees the farming industry, food safety and Forest Service.

Energy

Harold Hamm, chief executive of Continental Resources, continues to be seen as the top pick although Interior is another possibility.

Others mentioned for the job include these names: Robert Grady, Gryphon Investors partner (also mentioned for E.P.A.); James Connaughton, chief executive of Nautilus Data Technologies and former environmental adviser to President George W. Bush; Former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX), a former Trump rival.

It is worth noting that the Energy Department’s primary portfolio is to protect and manage the U.S. nuclear infrastructure and weapons arsenal.

Environmental Protection Agency

Myron Ebell, a director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a prominent climate change skeptic, is emerging as a leading pick. Others mentioned for the positing may include: Robert Grady; Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt (R), a leader in the court fight over the Clean Power Plan; Kathleen Hartnett White (R), former chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; Jeffery Holmstead, a lawyer specializing in environmental and natural resources issues and former E.P.A. administrator in the George W. Bush administration.

Department of Interior

Governor Mary Fallin (R-OK) is emerging as a possible top pick, having recently met with President-elect Trump to discuss the possibility. Others mentioned include: Frank Lucas, Harold Hamm, Robert Grady, as well as former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ), and Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY). Former Governor Sarah Palin is mentioned by some, but is increasingly seen as an unlikely choice. Hamm and Grady also have been mentioned as top Energy picks while Lucas is a contender for Agriculture. Through its various bureaus and offices, including the USGS, Interior controls coal, oil and gas development on public lands.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Former Representative Bob Walker (R-PA), Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Mark Albrecht are considered possibilities. Walker and Albrecht are leading the NASA transition team. Walker formerly chaired the House Science Committee and the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. Albrecht is currently chairman of the board of U.S. Space LLC and was a principal space advisor to President George H.W. Bush. Bridenstine, a former Navy pilot, is a Freedom Caucus member and has been active on a wide variety of space issues. In April, he introduced the American Space Renaissance Act, H.R.4945 , a comprehensive policy bill addressing issues of national security and civil and commercial space.

The other cabinet picks, named or very likely are wide ranging: Representative Tom Price (R-GA), a leading voice against the Affordable Care Act as head of Health and Human Services; Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Tea Party activist and member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, for Central Intelligence Agency; Dr. Ben Carson, retired neurosurgeon and former Trump rival, for Housing and Urban Development; Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC), seen as a “pragmatist” on climate change, for U.N. Ambassador; Wilbur Ross, a billionaire investor, for Commerce; former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), a retired Army National Guard colonel, for Veterans Affairs; Dan DiMicco, former chief executive of Nucor Corporation, a steel company, and critic of Chinese trade practices, for U.S. Trade Representative; Representative Lou Barletta (R-PA), a member of the House Transportation Committee, for Transportation.

Trump Transition Team Continues to Evolve

The November 11 dismissal of Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) as chairman of President-elect Trump’s transition team upset the process he had been leading since May 9. Though quickly replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence, formal and organization issues delayed key parts of the work. After purging many Christie loyalists, key positions remain unfilled.

In the weeks since Christie’s dismissal, the Trump team has slowly named new transition team members and “landing teams” for various agencies. Peter Theil, a billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist was placed on the transition team and may be a key advisor in Trump’s science policy development. Prior to the election, Theil called for more federal investment in science and technology. Most recent landing team announcements for the Department of Defense include Trae Stephens, who is a principal of Theil’s Founder Fund. Kelly Mitchell, renewable energy advocate and sales account manager at Multi Automatic Tool and Supply Co., is the second name announced for Energy team, whose leader is Tom Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research.

Landing teams work with outgoing administration officials to smooth the transfer of power, but will not necessarily be hired for full-time jobs. The Trump team has been naming the landing teams in “waves,” with the first to be assigned was for national security matters, followed by teams for economic issues, domestic policy and independent agencies.

The State Department team has already outlined a strategy to exit the Paris Agreement. The Defense team is likely to recommend revoking an Obama directive requiring Pentagon agencies to account for climate change in planning and procedures. The team at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is expected to favor of space exploration over earth science research. Meanwhile, some government scientists are considering avoiding the phrase “climate change” with the onset of the new administration.

Congressional Update

Appropriations

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) in a November 17 meeting told House Republicans that President-elect Donald Trump wants a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to extend government funding through March. This scenario would upend previous plans to pass as many appropriations bills as possible in the current lame duck session. Senate GOP leaders fear that Trump’s plan could derail the first months of his presidency as spending bills could crowd out other matters, such as confirming administration nominees, healthcare reform and infrastructure spending.

House Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) is working on a resolution to keep the government open through March 31, noting “The Trump administration had a desire to have an impact in what was in the spending bill when they take office.”

Members of the conservative Freedom Caucus were particularly pleased with the Trump CR plan. It is expected that they will seek to link new spending hikes to the concerns about federal debt limit, which is currently suspended through March 16. Previous increases in the debt limit have often led to brinksmanship and even government closure in the fall of 2013.

Other Legislation

Appropriations and a continuing resolution will dominate the 114th Congress lame duck session; however, water and energy bills might move.

The Water Resources Development Act of 2016, S.2848 in the Senate and H.R.5303 in the House, made significant progress before recess for the elections. Each body passed separate versions that are now subject to conference negotiations. Representative Bob Gibbs (R-OH), chairman of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment, expressed doubt that a conference bill would reach the president’s desk. Funding for the lead contamination crisis in Flint, MI was the subject of a late deal breaking a stalemate in late September. It appears that the issue could once again derail passage.

The North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016, S.2012 in the Senate and H.R.8 in the House, are already in conference with counter-proposals being exchanged. The surprise election of Donald Trump, however, appears to have derailed negotiations with House Republicans sensing an advantage in the new Congress and administration. House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), after meeting with his House and Senate counterparts last week, suggested that only relatively minor areas have been agreed to in conference.

The Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2016, H.R.5982, would amend the Congressional Review Act of 1996 (CRA) to allow Congress to consider a joint resolution to disapprove multiple regulations that federal agencies have submitted for congressional review within the last 60 legislative days of a session of Congress during the final year of a president’s term. The current CRA allows Congress to overturn any executive branch rule, one rule at a time, within 60 days of its finalization in the Federal Register. The House passed H.R.5982 without amendment on November 17, forwarding it for consideration by the Senate. It seems unlikely to pass in this Congress, but could come up again in the next Congress. However, Democrats minority in the Senate has narrowed to only three seats, from ten, and a possible filibuster might be sustained.

November 14, 2016 (Election Special Edition)

How Will A New Administration Affect Science

This is a developing story and some statements in this article will change.

With the elections behind us, many in the academic and scientific sphere are bracing for the next administration’s policy platforms and subsequent implementation. Congress and the Executive Branch now share the same political party and federal funding for scientific research and federal policy in addressing climate change is in question.

President-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called climate change a “hoax,” pledged to rescind Clean Power Plan rules, and promised to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Rather than continue ambitious climate-focused initiatives, the Trump team has emphasized clean water, food supplies and disease eradication. These positions are consistent with his answers to Sciencedebate.org’s 20 questions on science-driven issues.

In the past several years, Congress attached many poison-pill-climate-research riders into appropriations bills. Most of the riders were stripped from the final appropriations bills due to veto threats from President Obama. Everything changed with the 2016 election results. Congress is in session this week , and there are discussions of passing another continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government past Dec. 9 when the current CR expires. Congress may decide to punt passage of the FY 2017 federal budget into the new year when a new Congress and administration can rewrite the appropriations bills to favor their policy positions. On the other hand, speculation is that Congress will pass the FY 2017 federal budget by Dec. 9 to avoid saddling the new administration with responsibility for the FY 2017 federal budget within its first one-hundred days. On Sunday, President-elect Donald Trump announced that Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus will become his chief of staff. Priebus is a Washington political insider who knows how Washington works and is seen as able to work with congressional leadership.

President-elect Trump is racing to form a government ready to take the reins on January 20, 2017. The transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be led by Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and a prominent climate change denier, proud to be listed as a “climate criminal” by Greenpeace. Ebell is also seen as a leading contender to become EPA administrator. Other possibilities include Joe Aiello of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Caro Comer of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and attorneys general who filed suit against the Clean Power Plan, including Arkansas’ Leslie Rutledge, Oklahoma’s Scott Pruitt and West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey.

Mike McKenna leads the transition team at the Department of Energy (DOE). He is an energy industry lobbyist whose 2016 clients include Koch Companies Public Sector LLC, electric utility Southern Company Services, Dow Chemical Co., and Competitive Power Ventures Inc. Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resource is a leading fracking proponent and seen as the top candidate for Energy secretary. Hamm is a long-time friend of Trump and his influence is reflected in the President-elect’s broad embrace of fracking.

The transition team at the Department of Interior (DOI) is being led by David Bernhardt, who served as the Interior Department’s solicitor during the George W. Bush Administration. Forrest Lucas, the 74-year-old co-founder of oil products company Lucas Oil, is seen as the top contender for Interior secretary. Other names in play for the DOI top spots include many current and former members of Congress.

The transition team at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is being led by former Representative Bob Walker (R-PA) and Mark Albrecht. In twenty years representing Pennsylvania, Walker chaired the House Science Committee and the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry. Albrecht is currently chairman of the board of U.S. Space LLC and was a principal space advisor to President George H.W. Bush. Both are seen as pro-space and have been mentioned as possible NASA administrators. NASA could see some increased attention, especially favoring the Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft, likely at the expense of the Earth Science Division.

Harold Hamm, in addition to being a leading contender at DOE is seen as a possibility to lead Interior. Although in a Nov. 9 email to Continental Resources employees, he stated that he is staying in Oklahoma.

Robert Grady is a name being bandied about for a variety of positions, including DOE, EPA, and DOI. A venture capitalist and partner at Gryphon Investors, Grady is a close advisor to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and has worked in Congress, in former New Jersey Governor Kean’s administration and in President George H.W. Bush’s White House.

White House positions are also up for grabs. Mike Catanzaro, a former Hill staffer now and energy lobbyist, is seen as the leading contender for “energy czar.” The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) is expected to go to Marty Hall, vice president at FirstEnergy and former CEQ chief of staff in the George W. Bush administration.

The prominence of industry leaders, venture capitalists and science-skeptics as prospective cabinet-level appointments is raising concern among many.

All of the information above is subject to change as President-elect Donald Trump’s transition unfolds. Late Friday, Vice President-elect Mike Pence replaced New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as leader of the transition team. Christie had been rumored as a prospect for Attorney General or Director of Homeland Security. Speculation is that the recent conviction of two Christie aides in the “Bridgegate” controversy played a role in his repalcement. That scandal is thought to complicate any possible confirmation hearing.

House of Representatives

This is a developing story, and some statements in this article will change.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) gained a strong measure of support when Reince Preibus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, was named chief of staff to President-elect Donald Trump. Preibus is a long-time insider of the national Republican Party. He and Ryan have a long-standing friendship dating back to 1997, when Ryan was preparing for his first run for Congress. Ryan credits Preibus with persuading him to run for Speaker after the resignation of John Boehner (R-OH).

Ryan had been facing a potentially difficult road to a new term as House Speaker with challenges from the conservative House Freedom Caucus. The Trump victory and appointment of Preibus has blunted that threat. Ryan is now expected to win reelection as Speaker for the 115th Congress, beginning January 3, in a vote of House Republicans Tuesday, November 15.

Mark Meadows (R-NC), a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, noted: “To focus on leadership-as long as that leadership is extremely supportive of the Trump administration-would be a misplaced effort.” He added, however, “If there is any impediment to accomplishing what President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence want to accomplish in the first 100 days, there will be a number of us in the HFC [House Freedom Caucus] and outside the HFC who are willing to say: Wait a minute.”

House Committee Chairs are likely to remain stable, except where term-limited by House Republican Conference Rules to no more than three consecutive terms. Notable Committee chair changes of interest to the ecological community are Energy and Commerce and Appropriations.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (R-MI) is term-limited and has not sought a waiver to continue. Leading contenders to replace Upton include Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Greg Walden (R-OR), with Barton expected to prevail.

Appropriations Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) is also term-limited and has not sought a waiver. The likely successor to Rogers is Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), who is currently chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Interestingly, Rogers has expressed interest in the Defense Subcommittee chair that would be vacated by Frelinghuysen and is favored to assume that position.

Another position of interest is chair of the Committee on Rules, which determines procedures for considering individual bills by the full House. This is an important position that has been pivotal in recent legislative battles.

Under Republican Conference rules, the Speaker chooses the Rules chair, currently Pete Session (R-TX). Appointed by former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Sessions has been a loyal ally of Speaker Ryan. The new Congress gives Ryan his first opportunity to make his own appointment here, but so far Ryan has shown little interest in replacing Sessions.

The Ryan/Preibus nexus signals the intent of the Trump administration to work with established Republican leadership. It is worth noting, however, that Trump named campaign CEO Steve Bannon as his “Chief Strategist” and senior counselor in the White House. Bannon as executive chairman of Brietbart News has long condemned Ryan’s leadership and has repeatedly called for his ouster, seeking to “destroy” Ryan. In the White House release naming Bannon and Priebus’ new positions, Bannon was the first listed, causing some to speculate on levels of influence.

Lingering tensions between Speaker Ryan, the House Freedom Caucus and chief strategist Bannon mark a challenging beginning to the Speaker’s likely new term, if he is reelected.

U.S. Senate

This is a developing story, and some statements in this article will change.

Senate Republican leadership votes have not yet been scheduled, but are expected as soon as this week. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is widely expected to remain Senate Majority Leader, after helping manage a largely successful defense of the Senate Republican majority. McConnell’s continuing tenure appears to be more stable than House Speaker Ryan’s.

Republican Senate committee chairs, as in the House, are limited to three terms by Senate Republican Conference rules. Most of the chair positions are expected to remain unchanged. Committees of interest with term-limited chairs include Appropriations, and Environment and Public Works.

Appropriations Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS) is term-limited and has not sought a waiver. Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the likely successor although Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is also mentioned as a possibility.

Environment and Public Works Chair James Inhofe (R-OK) is also term-limited and has not sought a waiver. John Barrasso, (R-WY) is the anticipated successor, but Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) is mentioned as a possibility.

The biggest challenge for Senate Republican leadership is attracting enough Democratic support to overcome possible filibusters, which are allowed in the Senate but not the House. Current Senate rules require 60 votes to end a filibuster, although this rule may change. The Republican Senate majority narrowed from 54 to 44 in the 114th Congress to only 51 to 48 in the upcoming 115th. (Note that Louisiana’s Senate race is unresolved with a runoff scheduled for December 10 between John Kennedy (R) and Foster Campbell (D). Kennedy is favored to win.)

ESA Statement on the 2016 Elections

“Although the US election promises great changes, the laws of nature will remain unchanged. These include the dependence of human welfare on clean water, clean air, well managed fish populations, abundant bees to pollinate our crops, and healthy ecosystems that provide the many other services that allow people to live happy and productive lives. The Ecological Society of America will remain a source of discovery, knowledge and analysis to understand and manage biodiversity and ecosystems. As the largest society of professional ecologists in the world, ESA manifests the importance of innovative scientific research, and stands ready to share our knowledge with a new US president and Congress. This has been the case since its founding in 1915, and will be ever more important in a world which demands more and more from nature.”


— Ecological Society of America President David M. Lodge.


Read ESA’s Diversity Statement.

October 31, 2016

In This Issue

ENDANGERED SPECIES / CLIMATE CHANGE: Federal Appeals Court Rules Climate Change Projections Can Support Species Listings

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Monday, October 24, that species listings under the Endangered Species Act may be based on climate models showing future habitat loss. The San Francisco based court vacated a 2014 U.S. District Court of Alaska summary judgment and instead supported the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) listing of Beringia and Okhotsk bearded seals.

The case challenged NMFS’s reliance on projections of habitat loss due to climate change in listing the Beringia bearded seal as threatened. The Alaska court’s ruling, by Judge Ralph Beistline, had found that NMFS had made an “arbitrary and capricious decision” when it listed the seals, calling it “hollow speculation.” The 9th Circuit Court’s unanimous ruling in the case, Alaska Oil and Gas Ass’n v. Pritzker, 9th Cir., No. 14-35806, directly contradicts the lower court ruling.

The NMFS listing decision was based in part on projections that shallow ice sheets relied on by the two seal species for birthing and mating would likely disappear by 2095, forcing the seals to move to shore locations, which would remove them from food sources and expose them to their primary predators, polar bears and walruses. Plaintiffs in the Alaska case contended that climate change predictions beyond 50 years were unreliable. The lower court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs was appealed by NMFS and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Judge Richard Paez, in writing Monday’s opinion for the 9th Circuit, stated that “The ESA does not require NMFS to base its decision on ironclad evidence when it determines that a species is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future; it simply requires the agency to consider the best and most reliable scientific and commercial data and to identify the limits of that data when making a listing determination.”

CLIMATE CHANGE: Kigali Amendment to Montreal Protocol

The 197 countries party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer agreed to an amendment to phase down the potent greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are among the fastest growing and most damaging of greenhouse gases.

The amendment, agreed to on October 15 in Kigali, Rwanda, will see a reduction in HFCs use by more than 80% by 2047 and could avoid up to 0.5° C in warming by 2100. It represents the first major step toward implementing the Paris Agreement.

The Kigali Amendment, unlike the voluntary Paris Agreement, mandates specific targets and timelines to replace HFCs, sanctions for violations and funding from richer countries to help lesser-developed countries in their transition to costlier alternatives.

Hydrofluorocarbons are greenhouse gases commonly used in a wide variety of applications, including refrigeration and air conditioning (~79%), building insulation and other foam products (~11%), aerosols (~5%), fire extinguishing systems (~4%), and solvents (~1%). HFCs have high global warming potential. The most commonly used HFC is HFC-134a, which is estimated to be 1,430 times more damaging to the climate system than carbon dioxide.

Although a greenhouse gas, HFCs are controlled under the Montreal Protocol on ozone depleting substances rather than the recently ratified Paris Agreement of December 2015 on global greenhouse gases. This was driven by consensus recognition of the serious detrimental impact of HFCs on climate change.

The landmark Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol is seen as the final accomplishment of the Obama Administration’s climate goals for 2016, preceded by the North American Climate, Clean Energy and Environment Partnership and the United Nations’ Paris Agreement.

President Obama called the deal “an ambitious and far-reaching solution to this looming crisis,” in a White House Statement.

A White House Fact Sheet on the Kigali Amendment notes that the agreement is widely supported by industry, including major producers such as Chemours, Dow Chemical and Honeywell, and users such as Carrier, Coca-Cola, Johnson Controls, Kroger, PepsiCo, Target and others.

The Kigali Amendment, will enter into force in January 2019, provided that it is ratified by at least 20 parties. If that condition is not met by 2019, the Amendment will become effective 90 days after 20 parties ratify it. The full text of the amendment and other decisions taken at the Kigali meeting may be found on the Ozone Secretariat Conference Portal.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: Bees Listed as Endangered for First Time, More Being Considered

Seven species of yellow-faced bees (genus Hylaeus), the only genus of bee native to Hawai’i, were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under a final rule released on September 30 that is effective October 31, 2016. The listing, the first-ever for a bee, specifically notes the impact of habitat destruction and modification from human activity, non-native plants and animals, and increased wildfire intensity and duration. Ironically, the final rule does not include designation of any critical habitat areas.

The listing of yellow-faced bees comes just days after USFWS announced a proposed rule to list as endangered the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), a species that occurs in the Eastern and Midwestern United States and also Ontario, Canada. The proposed rule points to habitat loss and degradation, farming, disease, pesticide and climate change as factors contributing the bumble bee’s decline.

The public comment period on the proposed listing of the rusty patched bumble is open. Further information is provided below and may be found in the online docket folder, FWS-R3-ES-2015-0112.

ECOSYSTEMS: Gulf Coast Restoration

Six years after the Depp Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a federal judge approved a $20.8 billion settlement on October 20 between the federal government and BP. Clean Water Act penalties of $5.5 are included in the agreed settlement with most of the remaining $16 billion going to five states in Gulf Coast for ecosystem restoration.

On October 21, the Obama administration released a memorandum (M-17-01) providing guidance to the five federal agencies involved in reviewing and permitting of Gulf Coast environmental restoration projects.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and chairman of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, in a blog post on the memo, commented, “. . . it is vital that the federal agencies be as efficient as possible in designing, analyzing and ultimately putting meaningful restoration projects on the ground in each of the states.” He continued, “At the same time, it is critical that we improve the efficiency and timeliness of permitting and other regulatory reviews required to implement these projects.”

The RESTORE Council’s grants office web page includes information on grant opportunities, training, and related interagency agreements.

ECOSYSTEMS: Decommissioning Dams on the Klamath River

A bid to decommission four dams along the Klamath River, owned by PacifiCorp, receives a strong boost with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s letter to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Secretary Kimberly Bose. The letter, dated October 17, strongly supports the decommissioning petition filed by the Klamath River Renewal Corporation with FERC on September 23.

“In short, dam removal can re-write a painful chapter in our history, and it can be done in a manner that protects the many interests in the Basin,” Jewell wrote. She continued, “The recommendation and determination I am making today are not entered into lightly. Rather, I do so in reliance on the most comprehensive and robust analysis of dam removal ever undertaken.”

The four PacifiCorp dams on the Klamath River produce hydroelectric power. Federal environmental agencies recommended that the dams need retrofitting to provide fish passages. The Oregon and California public utility commissions found that decommissioning the dams was a prudent alternative.

Known as the Lower Klamath Project, the initiative seeks to decommission and remove four of the five dams along the Klamath River, the J.C. Boyle, Copco No. 1, Copco No. 2, and Iron Gate. The Klamath Corporation was formed to oversee the dam removal process. Dam removal should begin in 2020 if FERC approves the pending applications.

ESA Webinar Recording Available: Eyes in the Sky–Drone Use for Ecological Research

ESA hosted a webinar with a FAA expert guest presenter who reviewed the new rules for unmanned operating systems, commonly referred to as drones. The recorded webinar is now available for viewing on ESA’s Vimeo channel.

FEDERAL BUDGET: USGS Coalition Opposes Year-long Continuing Resolution

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Coalition sent letters to House and Senate leadership last week urging passage of a FY 2017 Interior Appropriations bill, rather than a year-long continuing resolution. The letters argue that such stop-gap funding would harm the agency’s work and the stakeholders depending on its products and services, as well as inhibit long-term planning.

USGC Coalition is an alliance of over 70 organizations, including the Ecological Society of America, committed to the continued vitality of the unique combination of biological, geographical, geological, and hydrological programs of the USGS.

Federal Register and Other Opportunities

Solicitation for Members
National Marine Fisheries Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Nominations to the Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups
Nominations must be received by October 31, 2016

U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Forest Resource Coordinating Committee

The United States Department of Agriculture is seeking nominations for the Forest Resource Coordinating Committee. Written nominations must be received by November 14, 2016


Meetings
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science
Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee Meeting
The meeting will occur on Thursday, October 27, 9 am to 6 pm, and Friday, October 28, 9 am to 12:30 pm.

National Science Foundation
National Science Board Meeting

The meeting will take place on November 8 and 9, 2016, beginning at 8 am.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force Meeting
The Task Force will meet from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 10, 2016.


Request for Comment
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for Rusty Patched Bumble Bee
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has found that listing the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), a species that occurs in the eastern and Midwestern United States and Ontario, Canada, is warranted. Public comments on the species status assessment used for the proposed listing are invited. The proposed rule, supporting documents and comments received to date may be found in docket folder FWS-R3-ES-2015-0112. Comments will be accepted which are received or postmarked by November 21, 2016.

Funding Opportunities
Northwest and Southeast Climate Science Centers
U.S. Geological Service
CSC Recompetition

Applications must be submitted through the grants.gov portal by January 12, 2017 at 3:00 PM EST.

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
Request for Proposals for 2018-2019

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative has announced its Request for Proposals for 2018-2019 to fund research activities for the period from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019.

October 11, 2016

In This Issue

Webinar: Eyes in the Sky- Drone Use for Ecological Research

Many researchers use drones in terrestrial and marine environments, giving scientists unprecedented access to areas previously difficult to reach. In August, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced new measures to accelerate the safe integration and innovative adoption of unmanned aircraft systems across the United States. These announcements most notably expand on the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “Small UAS” rule, announced in late June, providing national guidelines for operation of non-recreational unmanned aircraft under 55 pounds.

Join ESA for a webinar presentation and hear first-hand from an FAA expert about how to implement the new rules for unmanned operating systems, commonly referred to as drones.

Webinar: Eyes in the Sky: Drone Use for Ecological Research.
Date
: Oct 27, 2016, 2:00 PM EDT
Presenter: Joe Morra, manager, Flight Operations Section, Federal Aviation Administration

Register to attend the webinar, Eyes in the Sky: Drone Use for Ecological Research. Space is limited, so please register early to guarantee a spot.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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Climate Change: Spring is Starting Earlier in National Parks

Climate change is impacting over 75 percent of national parks across the country finds in a new study first published in Ecosphere, a journal of the Ecological Society of America. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the release of the study, “Climate change is advancing spring onset across the U.S. national park system” (Monahan et al. 2016), on October 6 in Shenandoah National Park, one of the parks included in the study.

The study analyzes the time span from 1901 to 2012, a period that provides the best historical temperature data and that generally overlaps with the history of the National Park System. It is based on the work of a team of researchers led by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service, along with the University of Arizona, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and Cornell University. The team analyzed patterns of historical temperatures for 276 of the 413 national park units, including sites from Alaska to Florida.

The researchers used climate change indicators called the Spring Indices-models based on nationwide field observations of first leaf-out and first-bloom dates in two common and widely distributed flowering plants-lilac and honeysuckle. Based on the indices, the scientists dated the onset of spring in each park, year by year, and then analyzed those trends. Three out of four parks examined were identified as having an earlier onset of spring; more importantly, two out of four parks were identified as experiencing extreme early onsets of spring.

“The bottom line is not just that parks are susceptible to climate change. In fact, they have already changed,” said Jake Weltzin, an ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey and a co-author on the study. “Many park managers are already managing in an extreme environment.”

At Shenandoah, the early blooming of lilacs and honeysuckle is indicative of a much larger problem. The park has 360 non-native plant species, of which 41 are considered invasive and highly destructive. These non-native plant species, such as garlic mustard and oriental bittersweet, are taking advantage of a warming climate and earlier spring, invading forests across the park and displacing native wildflowers.

Studies suggest that early spring is also disrupting critically important natural relationships, like the link between the peak bloom of wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers.

“These results clearly show that climate changes have already affected park resources. There are now new challenges to managing parks that are experiencing continuously changing relationships between species,” said John Gross, an ecologist with the National Park Service.

The affects of early onset springs impact cultural events such as the annual Cherry Blossom Festival on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., which has evolved from a single day to a multi-week event in order to reliably coincide with the blossoming. World Heritage sites, in U.S. National Parks and worldwide, are adversely affected also. For example, Yellowstone National Park has higher temperatures now than 50 years ago and 30 fewer days of snow on the ground. These changes are altering snowmelt, water levels, vegetation and wildlife movement-from migrating bison to spawning trout and the arrival of pollinators. Mesa Verde, another World Heritage site, is increasingly threatened by hotter, dryer conditions, resulting in increased threat of wildfire such as were experienced in 2000 and 2012.

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Federal Budget: Continuing Resolution Passed

A last minute deal, averting a government shutdown, was agreed upon by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi late on September 27, clearing the way for last minute passage of a continuing resolution.

The final obstacle was overcome with an amendment to the Water Resources and Development Act (H.R.5303) that was amended (H.Amdt.1478) to include funding for Flint Michigan’s lead water crisis and other communities whose infrastructure is plagued by “chemical, physical, or biological” contaminants.

That action cleared the way for passage of an amended Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R.5325) that included funding to fight Zika and incorporated provisions for the continuing resolution.

The continuing resolution funds the federal government until December 9. Congress returns to work in November, following the elections. Uncertainty about the outcome of the elections and the continued resistance of many House conservatives to a long-term budget deal presage continued battles and last minute dealing.

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Climate Change: U.S. Court of Appeals Holds Marathon Clean Power Plan Hearing

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit grilled 16 attorneys for nearly seven hours on a suit to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. Filed by 27 states and dozens of other entities, the suit challenges the plan on the basis of over-reach, “double regulation” of pollutants, “commandeering” of state government resources to craft compliance plans, notice rulemaking, and achievability.

Arguments against the plan focus most prominently on whether it is within the scope of authority that Congress delegated to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Clean Air Act. A Supreme Court ruling in 2014, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, held that EPA could not enact major “transformative” policies without a “clear statement” from Congress.

Arguing on behalf of the 27 states against the rule, West Virginia Solicitor General Elbert Lin contended that the Clean Power Plan raises the “major question” standard established in the 2014 Supreme Court ruling. Commenting afterward, Lin said, “I think the question they’re going to have to grapple with is: How transformative is transformative?”

Kevin Poloncarz of Paul Hastings LLP, representing a group of power companies supporting the plan contended that the rule is not transformative, “How transformative can that be if the emissions standards don’t go into effect until 2022 and we’re already two-thirds of the way there?” he asked.

A more unusual argument came during a long of discussion whether EPA can regulate carbon emissions because it already restricts mercury emissions from power plants under a different section of the Clean Air Act. Opponents of the plan assert that amendments to the Act prevent EPA from double regulating coal plants. Most observers agreed that this argument was not valid.

The commandeering, notice, and achievability arguments seemed to gain the least traction. Justices appeared to dismiss them quickly out of hand or to suggest that they were premature before the plan is implemented and its affects known.

The Supreme Court issued a stay of the Clean Power Plan in February, baring enforcement of the rule until outstanding lawsuits are resolved. Most observers expect the D.C. Court of Appeals to rule in early 2017. The D.C. Court met with ten justices hearing the arguments, six appointed by Democratic administrations and four by Republican. A 6-4 decision is anticipated by many, but a 5-5 split is a possibility. Plaintiffs are expected to appeal if losing this round. The Supreme Court is currently one seat short, with only eight sitting justices. A 4-4 split ruling in the higher court is a possibility. A split in either court would normally direct the decision to that found by a lower court. However, the D.C. Court of Appeals is the first to hear the suit. This could result in a long and complicated series of appeals, with the plan possibly remaining stayed through mid-2018.

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Federal Budget: Endangered Species & Defense, Energy and Interior Authorization Bills

A series of anti-wildlife amendments to Interior Appropriations, Energy and Defense appropriations bills prompted nearly half of House Democrats to call on President Obama to promise a veto of the three high-profile measures. A letter led by the House Committee on Natural Resources ranking member Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and 89 additional members, urges a veto of any Republican attempts to strip Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections from any authorizing or spending bills.

The three bills in question span across the government: H.R.5538, Interior Appropriations; H.R.8, the Energy Security and Infrastructure Act; and, H.R.4909, the Defense Authorization Act. Each of these bills have passed the House and so will be included in negotiations with the Senate in any resulting conference.

According to the letter, the House Interior bill contains amendments that would “undermine the ESA and limit the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service to properly protect important species and habitats based on the best available science, including the greater sage grouse, lesser prairie chicken, delta smelt, and certain gray wolf populations,” and other listed species.

The letter goes on to blast the provisions in the House Defense Appropriations bill that “. . . would block cooperative efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse, despite the Department of Defense asserting that these efforts will not ‘affect military training, operations, or readiness to any significant degree.'”

This is the second consecutive year where Congressman Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, has used the Defense Appropriations bill as a vehicle to attack protections for the sage-grouse. Though not currently listed, the sage-grouse is the subject of a collaborative plan, already in place, by federal agencies, states, ranchers, industry and environmental groups to restore sage-grouse within its historic range. Importantly, that agreement means that the sage-grouse does not qualify for listing, according to Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell.

Bishop contends, “This amendment, which balances conservation with national security, is basically about two things-military readiness and empowering the states.” Further, he says, “There is ample evidence that federal management of sage grouse populations is already hurting our military’s ability to adequately train on and use critical areas in the West. This would only get worse with a federal endangered species designation and it would hamper the way our fighting men and women prepare to defend our country.”

Contradicting Bishop’s claims, Mark Wright, spokesman for Office of the Secretary of Defense, in an interview with E&E Publishing noted, “While some of the management actions we have instituted have necessitated changes in when and how we use certain areas of our installations-especially during breeding season-none have resulted in unacceptable limits on our military readiness activities,” He continued, “Because we have already undertaken these actions voluntarily, and expect to need to manage for the sage-grouse indefinitely, we do not believe the listing decision-regardless of the outcome-will affect our mission activities to any great degree.”

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness Daniel Feehan, and representatives of the Army, Air Force and Navy also disputed Bishop’s claims.

The “Big Four” Senate and House Armed Services Committee leaders, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), Congressmen Mac Thornberry (R-TX), and Adam Smith (D-WA), accept Defense assertions that the Bishop amendment is unnecessary and should be stripped from the bill. McCain’s reasoning is practical because President Obama has already threatened a veto, “The veto would be sustained-and I don’t know what the point is because it has nothing to do with defense,” McCain said in an interview with Defense News, adding, “The commanding officers of bases can train and go where they want.”

Republican leadership is prepared to play chicken with the sage-grouse provisions. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) thinks it needs to remain in the bill. Armed Services Chairman Thornberry, however, said that his hands were tied. “It’s a very significant issue to some people, but essentially, these decisions get made above my pay grade, as far as whether a bill can come back to the House without a sage grouse provision in it.”

The amendment is seen as more important to industry and anti-regulation groups than the supposed defense interests. Senator McCain and Congressman Smith both characterized it as the biggest obstacle remaining. Smith noted, “The Obama administration said they’re not going to list the darn thing anyway, but promises have been at a very high level in the Republican caucus, and I don’t know how we get around that because that would be veto bait.” In a meeting with reporters, McCain said, “Sage grouse! It’s the major impediment. It’s terribly frustrating.”

Action resumes in November after the elections during the lame duck session.

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Climate Change: Paris Agreement Ratified, Comes into Effect November 4

Members of the European Union, Bolivia, Canada and Nepal, on October 5, formally ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. That boosted to 73 the number of countries ratifying the agreement, accounting for 56.87 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement required 55 countries and 55 percent of emissions to take effect. It will come into force 30 days after meeting those requirements, November 4.

Expectations had been rising that the agreement would be enacted before the November 7 U.N. Climate Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. That conference will now host the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.

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Climate Change: Climate Adaptation Leadership Award Nominations Now Open

The Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources recognizes outstanding leadership by organizations and/or individuals to advance the resilience of living natural resources in a changing climate by helping address the goals of the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

Last year saw seven award recipients and seven honorable mentions. This year, similar numbers are expected. The final number will depend on the number of nominations received. Each awardee will receive a personalized plaque and be invited to participate in a special session to highlight their work at the National Adaptation Forum, May 9-11, 2017 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources is designed to recognize efforts that demonstrate outstanding leadership for advancing the resilience of the nation’s living natural resources. Projects must address one or more of the goals identified in the Strategy.

The Climate Adaptation Leadership Award is sponsored by the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plant Climate Adaptation Strategy’s Joint Implementation Working Group. The National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy is a unified nationwide effort-reflecting shared principles and science-based practices-for addressing the threats of a changing climate on fish, wildlife, plants, and the natural systems upon which they depend.

Early registration for the National Adaptation Forum is open, and the call for proposals is available.

Award nominations are due by 8:00 pm EST, Friday, November 18.
Forum program proposals are due October 14. Registration closes at midnight, April 12, 2017.

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Funding Opportunity: Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Funding Available

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative has announced its Request for Proposals for 2018-2019 to fund research activities for the period from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019. This RFP will be released in October 2016. It will build on previous RFPs and will be the final research competition sponsored by the Gulf Initiative. It will only fund two-year awards.

The 2018-2019 RFP will emphasize the Initiative’s five research themes and proposals may address multiple themes:

  • Continuation of previously designated research themes and topics that have emerged
  • Data integration from various sources
  • Scientific synthesis across themes and consortia or other overarching scientific and technological products exploiting the Initiative’s scientific legacy

The total funds available through the 2018-2019 RFP will be approximately $35 million per year. Maximum annual funding for consortia will be $3 million per year and for Individual Investigators $500,000 per year. The Gulf Initiative Research Board expects to fund 15-20 Individual Investigator and 8-10 consortia awards.

The proposed timeline for the awards :

  • October 2016 -RFP-VI Release
  • March 2017 – Proposals due
  • September 2017 – Award announcement
  • January 1, 2018 – Award start date
  • December 31, 2019 – Award end date (no later than)
  • June 30, 2020 – No Cost Extension deadline (no later than)

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative was established in 2010 with a commitment of $500 million over ten years by BP, following the Deep Water Horizon petroleum-drilling rig disaster. The Research Board has twenty members, ten identified by the Initiative and two each nominated by the governors of the five Gulf States. The goal of the research initiative is to improve understanding of, response to and mitigation of impacts to marine and coastal ecosystems of oil spills, such as the Deep Water disaster.

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Federal Register and Other Opportunities

Solicitations for Members

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

NOAA Soliciting Members for Science Advisory Board

NOAA is soliciting nominations for members of the NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB is the only Federal Advisory Committee with the responsibility to advise the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on long- and short-range strategies for research, education, and application of science to resource management and environmental assessment and prediction. The SAB consists of approximately fifteen members reflecting the full breadth of NOAA’s areas of responsibility and assists NOAA in maintaining a complete and accurate understanding of scientific issues critical to the agency’s missions. Members will be appointed for three-year terms, renewable once, and serve at the discretion of the Under Secretary.
Nominations must be received by October 17, 2016 and
should be sent to noaa.sab.newmembers@noaa.gov.

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National Marine Fisheries Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Nominations to the Marine Mammal Scientific Review Groups
The Secretary of Commerce established three independent regional scientific review groups (SRGs) to provide advice on a range of marine mammal science and management issues in the Alaska, Atlantic, and Pacific regions. The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting nominations for new members to fill vacancies and gaps in expertise. Nominees should possess demonstrable expertise in areas specified in the notice.

Nominations must be received by October 31, 2016, and can be emailed to Shannon.Bettridge@noaa.gov, or mailed to: Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226, Attn: SRGs.
For further information, contact Shannon Bettridge, phone 301-427-8402, email Shannon.Bettridge@noaa.gov.

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U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Forest Resource Coordinating Committee

The United States Department of Agriculture is seeking nominations for the Forest Resource Coordinating Committee. The committee advises the Secretary of Agriculture on private forest conservation, with specific focus of owners of non-industrial private forest land.

Written nominations must be received by November 14, 2016. Nominations must contain a completed application packet that includes the nominee’s name, resume, cover letter, and completed Form AD-755 (Advisory Committee or Research and Promotion Background Information).

Nominations sent via express mail delivery or overnight courier service must be sent to: Scott Stewart, USDA Forest Service, Office of Cooperative Forestry, Sidney R. Yates Federal Building, 201 14th Street SW., Mailstop 1123, Washington, DC 20024.

Nominations sent via the U.S. Postal Service must be sent to: USDA Forest Service, Office of Cooperative Forestry, State & Private Forestry, Mailstop 1123, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20250-1123.

For further information, contact Lori McKean, phone 570-296-9672, or Scott Stewart, phone at 202-205-1190.

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Meetings

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Meeting of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board

The United States Department of Agriculture announces a meeting of the National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board. The main focus of this meeting will be on the review of the relevance and adequacy of the climate and energy needs programs of the USDA Research, Education, and Extension mission area.

The meeting will occur from October 19 to 21, 2016 at The Lory Student Center at Colorado State University, 1101 Center Avenue Mall, The Grey Rock Room, Fort Collins, Colorado.

Written comments may be filed before or up to November 4, 2016.

For further information, contact National Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Economics Advisory Board; telephone: (202) 720-3684; fax: (202)720-6199; or email: nareee@ars.usda.gov.

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U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science

Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee Meeting

The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice on a continuing basis to the Director, Office of Science of the Department of Energy, on the development and implementation of the Biological and Environmental Research Program.

The meeting will occur on Thursday, October 27, 9 am to 6 pm, and Friday, October 28, 9 am to 12:30 pm, at the Hilton Washington DC/Rockville Hotel & Executive Meeting Center, 1750 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland 20852.

For further information, contact Dr. Sharlene Weatherwax, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research; phone: (301) 903-3251; fax (301) 903-5051 or email: sharlene.weatherwax@science.doe.gov.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force Meeting
The Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force’s purpose is to develop and implement a program for U.S. waters to prevent introduction and dispersal of aquatic invasive species; to monitor, control, and study such species; and to disseminate related information.

The Task Force will meet from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, November 9, 2016, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, November 10, 2016 at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, 5275 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church, VA 22041.

For further information, contact Susan Pasko, ANS Task Force, telephone 703-358-2466, email Susan_Pasko@fws.gov.

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Request for Comment

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy, Request for Comment

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the draft Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy and requests comments, information, and recommendations on the draft new policy from all interested parties.
Comments should be submitted by October 17 via the online comment portal for docket number FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0165.

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September 27, 2016

In This Issue

Federal Budget: Senate Republicans and Democrats Divided Over Stopgap Spending Bill

The White House Office of Management and Budget held a planning call on Friday Sept. 23 with government agencies, as is required one week before agency spending runs out. Federal agencies are prohibited from spending any funds in the absence of enacted appropriations measures. The previous day, Sept. 22, Senate Democrats rejected a stopgap continuing resolution (CR) proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to keep the government funded until Dec. 9. The CR was offered as an amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act of 2017 (H.R. 5325), which was previously passed by the House of Representatives.
 
The measure was rejected Sept. 22, in part, because it did not include any funding for the Flint, MI water crisis. However, it did include $1.1 billion to combat Zika and $500 million in initial emergency funding for flood-damaged communities in Louisiana, Maryland, and West Virginia. Portions of the Senate bill also provided full fiscal year funding for the Veterans Administration, military construction, and overseas military operations. A controversial rider included in the CR would maintain language prohibiting the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring that publicly traded corporations disclose their political spending.
 
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, said, “We Democrats can’t vote for that.” Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), ranking member on the Environment and Public Works Committee said, “We have to help people who are in dire need in this country and not pick and choose which American families we’re going to help.” Other Democrats quickly branded the resolution as “a Republican-only bill.”
 
Gone from the proposed CR were limits on funding to Planned Parenthood as part of the Zika fight and a waiver of Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act rules for permitting use of mosquito killing pesticides. “We are not going to have a repeal of the Clean Water Act in the CR,” said Senator Boxer. The mosquito rider was no longer expected in the CR and Boxer said that she was unaware of any other environmental provisions in play.
 
Senator Boxer was doubtful, however, that Flint funding would make it into a CR. Republican promises to include Flint funding in other spending legislation, such as the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), drew weary shrugs from Democrats. The Senate-passed version of WRDA (S.2848) included $220 million for the Flint crisis. The still-pending House bill (H.R.5303) has no provision for Flint, although it was reported by the   Natural Resource Committee on Sept. 22 for a floor vote.
 
The same basic scenario played out again on Sept. 27, when a procedural vote to advance the CR was soundly defeated by a vote of 45-55 with a dozen Republicans joining in opposition with all but four Democrats. Majority Leader McConnell also voted no to retain the ability to offer the measure again. Because of Senate rules, this defeat could force a brief government shutdown unless all 100 Senators agree to waive procedural hurdles.
 
The sticking point, once again, was funding for flood victims but not for Flint, MI. Democrats continued to insist that the citizens of Flint, after two years of unsafe water, were also deserving of assistance. Republican leaders fear that including Flint funding in the CR would bring a revolt from House  members who fear voting for a spending bill could bring a future primary challenge. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) commented that Flint funding in the CR would “jeopardize their ability” to get the bill through the GOP-controlled House. “We can’t ignore that,” he said.
 
Late Tuesday night, however, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) appeared to have found a deal. Their plan would have the House vote Wednesday on an amendment to the House WRDA bill (H.R.5303) to fund up to $170 million for communities such as Flint whose water infrastructure is plagued by “chemical, physical, or biological” contaminants. The strategy was hailed as a bipartisan agreement and Senate Democrats are optimistic, though they have not yet seen the House amendment.
 
Amending the House bill is far from certain. Just Monday, Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX) defeated an attempt to include Flint funding in the WRDA, considering it an earmark. Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (D-PA), the bill’s sponsor, has said that Flint’s trouble “was caused at a state level,” adding, “I think the solution, the dollars … have to be driven by the state.”
 
Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), who helped win Flint funding in the Senate WRDA bill, urged Democrats to allow the House version of the bill to pass even without money for Flint, committing himself to fight for it in a resulting conference.
 
While the GOP Senate’s CR effort has failed repeatedly in recent days, a stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded is the must-pass measure before members can return to their electoral campaigns. If Ryan and Pelosi’s new bargain fails, a shutdown seems imminent. If it succeeds, it may be December before the House and Senate WRDA bills are reconciled, or that too could fail. Even under optimistic scenarios, the House is unlikely to see a CR from the Senate until late Wednesday or even Thursday. The House would then be voting a CR as the fiscal clock runs down. The work of passing appropriations for fiscal year 2017 still remains.

 

Climate Change: President Obama Issues Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security

President Obama, on Wednesday, Sept. 21, signed a Presidential Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security “establishing a policy that the impacts of climate change must be considered in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans.”
 
The Memorandum requires that twenty federal agencies and offices with climate science, intelligence analysis, and national security policy development missions and responsibilities will collaborate to ensure the best information on climate impacts is available to strengthen our national security. Select agencies include the Department of Justice, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), and the Department of Defense, among others.
 
Together, the agencies will establish a working group, at the Assistant Secretary level, to identify national security priorities related to climate change. The working group, to be staffed by National Security Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy staff, will then develop a Climate Change and National Security Action Plan outlining how they will develop and share information on these risks. The plan will be written within 90 days from Sept. 21, ensuring a plan will be in place when President Obama leaves office. Each agency will further develop specific strategies to address climate-related threats-from impacts on the U.S. economy and food security to the flow of migrants and refugees.
 
The Presidential Memorandum coincided with the release of a report from the National Intelligence Council, “Implications for US National Security of Anticipated Climate Change,” identifying pathways through which climate change will likely pose significant national security challenges for the United States over the next two decades, including threatening the stability of other countries.
In addition to tackling climate change by reducing emissions, the Administration contends that there is a need for increased collaboration among the climate science, intelligence, and national security policy communities to prepare for what are now seen as unavoidable impacts that we can no longer avoid. For example, warming Artic seas prompted the Administration to call for accelerated funding for developing new icebreaker vessels to facilitate a greater U.S. presence in now open seas.
 
The National Intelligence Council report suggests that climate change will be “likely to pose significant national security challenges for the United States over the next two decades.” This includes conflicts over increasingly scarce water and arable land, threats to economic infrastructure and populations in vulnerable areas such as coastal or arid regions, and, interestingly, the possibility of unilateral geoengineering solutions that might benefit some regions at the cost of others.
 
The Presidential Memorandum is seen as part of the continuing Administration effort to embed climate change in U.S. national policy and international law.
 
At the recent G20 economic summit, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping presented documents to United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formally committing their nations to the Paris Agreement on climate change. In the opening days of the current annual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, climate change dominated talks.
 
On Wed., Sept. 21, at the UN, 31 additional countries also formally joined the Paris Agreement. Sixty countries, representing 47.7 percent of global emissions, have now joined the agreement. The Agreement will come into force as international law once 55 countries, producing 55% of global carbon emission, adopt the agreement. The first part of that goal is met, the second is now very close.
 
Video messages from Germany (2.56% of global emissions), France (1.34%), the European Union, Canada (1.95%), Australia (1.46%), South Korea (1.85%), and others affirmed their commitment to ratify the Paris accord in the coming months. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (4.5%) announced, on Sept. 24, that his nation will ratify the accord on Oct. 2, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. Germany’s Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, said her country planned to ratify the deal “well ahead” of the next UN climate meeting Nov. Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said his country will make its “best endeavours to ratify” in 2016.
 
Morocco (0.16%) will host the upcoming 22nd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), Nov. 7-18 in Marrakech. It seems very possible that the Agreement will be in effect during that meeting and almost certainly by the end of 2016.
 
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee is asking the Administration for more information. In a letter to Brian Deese he writes, “The committee has genuine interest in the climate science and information that the administration claims impacts national security.” He has asked Deese to brief the committee by October 10. 

 

Climate Change: Leading Scientists Pen Open Letter on Climate Change Risks

Human-caused climate change is not a belief, a hoax, or a conspiracy. It is a physical reality. Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. But the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. This increase in greenhouse gases is changing Earth’s climate. 

On Sept. 20, 2016, 375 members of the National Academy of Sciences,
including 30 Nobel laureates, published an open letter to draw attention to the serious risks of climate change. The letter warns that the consequences of opting out of the Paris Agreement would be severe and long-lasting for our planet’s climate and for the international credibility of the United States.

The letter specifically calls out “the Republican nominee for President” as a climate change denier, threatening to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. Such action, they note, would “make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change” and “it less likely that the U.S. will have a global leadership role, politically, economically, or morally” in this critical issue.

Notable signing the letter include Jim Hansen, an early leader of climate change science; Stephen Hawking, possibly the world’s leading theoretical physicist and cosmologist; Edward O. Wilson, widely considered “the father of biodiversity;” and several ESA Past-presidents and members. 

 

Regulations: White House Threatens to Veto 'Dangerous' Review Bill

The House of Representatives passed the “Require Evaluation before Implementing Executive Wishlists Act of 2016” (H.R.3438), on Sept. 21, by a party-line vote of 244-180. Only four Democrats voted aye, one Republican voted no.
 
The bill allows “high-impact” rules-those estimated to cost the economy more than $1 billion per year-to go into effect 60 days after appearing in the Federal Register only if a lawsuit against it has not been filed during that period.
 
The bill was introduced by Congressman Tom Marino (R-PA) following the Supreme Court’s ruling June 2015 against the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury standards, Michigan v. Environmental Protection Agency.
 
Democrats object to the legislation, arguing that critical regulations could be stalled by litigation which can take months or years to resolve. Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, called it “dangerous solution to a nonexistent problem”; emphasizing that “rather than ensuring predictability and streamlining the rulemaking process, this bill would have a completely opposite impact by making the process less predictable and more time-consuming.”
 
Calling it the “Unnecessary Delay of Rules Act,” the Administration argues the bill “would promote unwarranted litigation, introduce harmful delay, and, in many cases, thwart implementation of statutory mandates and execution of duly enacted laws.” Adding, “The legislation also would increase business uncertainty and undermine much-needed protections for the American public, including critical rules that provide financial reform and protect public health, food safety and the environment.” The “Statement of Administration Policy” promises a veto if it reaches President Obama’s desk.

Endangered Species: Listings Process Changed

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service  finalized new rules for petitioning listing of a species under the Endangered Species Act 9 (ESA) were announced on Sept. 26. The new rules (Document Citation: 81 FR 66461) come into force on Oct. 27.
 
There are two new requirements prominent under the new rules: Petitioners must provide each state’s wildlife agency affected by the proposed listing with notice of their intent to file for listing and/or reclassification a minimum of 30 days prior to the filing. Petitions are now limited to one “taxonomic species,” including multiple subspecies or multiple populations.
 
The Services contend that the notification requirement “will allow the Services to benefit from the States’ considerable experience and information on the species within their boundaries, because the States would have an opportunity to submit to the Service any information they have on the species early in the petition process.” This provision does not apply to foreign species that do not occur in the United States.
 
The requirement to petition for only one species was advanced by the Services as multi-species petitions in the past have often proven to be difficult to know which supporting materials apply to which species and has at times made it difficult to follow the logic of some petition. The single species petition requirement does not prohibit filing multiple petitions and allows for protect both the endangered or threatened species and the ecosystems on which they depend.
 
The Services note, repeatedly, that they retain discretion to consider petitions that only substantially comply with requirements for filing in appropriate circumstances, such as where an expedited listing may be warranted. They further note that while a petition may be screened out from consideration because it does not contain all the required elements of a petition and so cannot meet the statutory standard for demonstrating that the petitioned action is warranted, such a screening does not constitute a “finding.” In such a situation, the Services will explain to petitioners what information was missing so that they may cure the deficiencies in a new petition.
 
Particularly burdensome requirements contained in the original draft rule, such as certifying that they had provided all relevant information on the species of concern and a more narrow single species definition, were removed from the final, published rule.
 
Predictably, the new rule was attacked from different perspectives. The Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl said: “These new restrictions on citizen petitions are nothing more than a gift to industries and right-wing states that are hostile to endangered species…These new rules were premised on right-wing myths, not facts.” Meanwhile, many environmentalists viewed the revisions as a significant scaling back of the original proposals.
 
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) argued, “These revisions give the appearance that state input will improve and that closed-door settlements will no longer drive petition and listing decisions. Unfortunately, serial environmental litigation will continue to drive ESA policy, and there is nothing the agencies can do about it unless we reform the underlying statute.”
 
The original draft revisions, published in May 2015, received 347 comments, prompting the Services to revisit the proposed rule. The revised draft, published in April 2016, received 27 comments and the Services updated it once again before announcing the final rule.

Federal Register Notices and Requests for Comment

Solicitations for Members

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA Soliciting Members for Science Advisory Board

NOAA is soliciting nominations for members of the NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB is the only Federal Advisory Committee with the responsibility to advise the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on long- and short-range strategies for research, education, and application of science to resource management and environmental assessment and prediction. The SAB consists of approximately fifteen members reflecting the full breadth of NOAA’s areas of responsibility and assists NOAA in maintaining a complete and accurate understanding of scientific issues critical to the agency’s missions. Members will be appointed for three-year terms, renewable once, and serve at the discretion of the Under Secretary.

Nominations must be received by October 17, 2016 and should be sent to noaa.sab.newmembers@noaa.gov.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
 
The U.S. Global Change Research Program is mandated under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to conduct a quadrennial National Climate Assessment. Sectoral and response chapters will be coordinated and led by federal agencies. Regional chapters will be coordinated and led by non-federal regional chapter leads, who in turn will collaborate with federal coordinating lead authors. NOAA is seeking public nominations for these non-federal leads.

Nominations are due by September 30 and should be submitted via links found on https://www.globalchange.gov/notices.  Questions may be addressed to Emily Therese Cloyd, (202) 223-6262, ecloyd@usgcrp.gov, U.S. Global Change Research Program.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Nominations for the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee and Notice of Public Meeting

The Department of Commerce is seeking nominations for membership on the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The Committee advises the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior on strategies and priorities for developing the national system of marine protected areas and on practical approaches to further enhance and expand protection of new and existing areas. Additionally, a meeting of the Committee will be held via webinar on Monday, October 3, 2016 from 3:00-5:30 p.m. ET and is open to the public.

Nominations must be received before or on October 7, 2016 and should be sent to Nicole Capps at West Coast Region, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, 99 Pacific Street, Suite 100 F, Monterey, CA, 93940, or Nicole.Capps@noaa.gov.

Register for the webinar meeting by contacting Nicole Capps at Nicole.Capps@noaa.gov or by telephone at (831) 647-6451.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Nominations of Experts to Augment the Science Advisory Board Ecological Processes and Effects Committee

The Environmental Protection Agency, Science Advisory Board staff office is requesting public nominations of scientific experts to augment the board’s Ecological Processes and Effects Committee for review of a draft EPA document entitled “Scope and Approach for Revising USEPA’s Guidelines for Deriving National Water Quality Criteria to Protect Aquatic Life.”

Nominations should be submitted by September 20, 2016 through the web-based form for nominating experts for this advisory activity. Questions may be addressed to Iris Goodman, SAB Staff Office, at 202-564-2164 or goodman.iris@epa.gov.


Requests for Comment

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy, Request for Comment

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, announce the draft Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy and requests comments, information, and recommendations on the draft new policy from all interested parties.

Comments should be submitted by October 17 via the online comment portal for docket number FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0165.

September 14, 2016

In This Issue

Conservation: IUCN World Conservation Congress

Every four years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) updates its strategic plan. NSF is inviting feedback from the ecological community on the vision, core values, strategic goals and strategic objectives in its current strategic plan. The strategic plan presents an evaluation framework to measure agency performance and describes core approaches and new methods for measuring the performance of the NSF portfolio.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) concluded its quadrennial World Conservation Congress on Sept.10 in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Attended by more than 10,000 participants from 192 countries, the World Conservation Congress made a variety of decisions that will help guide conservation policy of governments and agencies worldwide.

The congress emphasized “. . . the importance of linking spirituality, religion, culture and conservation, and the need to implement nature-based solutions-actions that protect and manage ecosystems, while effectively addressing societal challenges, such as food and water security, climate change, disaster risk reduction, human health and economic well-being.” The congress also created a new category of IUCN membership for indigenous peoples’ organizations.

Resolutions protecting primary forest landscapes and seascapes were adopted that address their importance for biodiversity conservation and the cultures of indigenous peoples and marginalized communities. Furthering the emphasis on large, landscape-level protections, IUCN members agreed to put “all land and seascapes classified under any of IUCN’s categories of protected areas off limits for damaging industrial activities.” Previously, only UN-designated World Heritage Sites have been accorded this status.

The congress also adopted resolutions on the topic of “biodiversity offsets” and “natural capital.” Biodiversity offsets are seen as a last resort measure to avoid biodiversity loss. IUCN members agreed to develop a definition of natural capital to guide emerging business and financial decision-making models in accounting for ecological, ethical and social justice issues.

The congress made other notable resolutions:

  • Downgrading Giant Pandas from endangered to vulnerable, having recovered to an estimated 2,060 in the wild in 2015 from 1,596 in 2004
  • Calling for the elimination of domestic ivory markets which enable the “laundering” of ivory
  • Ending hunting of captive-bred lions
  • Adopting reports related to climate change, particularly one that finds the oceans have absorbed up to 93 percent of human-created warming since 1970

The 1,300 IUCN members include 217 state and government agencies, 1,066 non-governmental organizations, and networks of over 16,000 experts worldwide from more than 160 countries. It elected leadership for the next four years, including the re-election of Zhang Xinsheng for a second term as president.
The IUCN website includes a complete listing of all 106 motions approved during the World Conservation Congress.

Climate Change: China and U.S. Sign Paris Agreement

On the eve of the G20 Summit attended by the leaders of the world’s twenty largest economies, U.S. President Barak Obama and China President Xi Jinping presented documents to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon formally joining both nations to the Paris Agreement on climate change. The consensus Agreement, negotiated at the 2015 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, set a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, with a targeted goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

President Xi mused, “Hopefully this will encourage other countries to take similar efforts,” while President Obama reflected, “Some day we may see this as the moment when we decided to save our planet. History will judge today’s efforts as pivotal.”

At the 2015 conference, participating nations set their greenhouse gas emissions targets, reflecting differing levels of development. The U.S. set a goal of a 26-28% reduction below its 2005 levels by 2025. China committed to stopping the growth of its emissions by 2030. Even if other nations formally adopt the Paris Agreement, and it becomes international law, the emissions limits they have targeted are projected to result in a 2.7C warming, well above the 1.5C goal.

The Paris Agreement is the first comprehensive worldwide climate deal. It will only come into force as international law once 55 countries, producing 55% of global carbon emission, ratify the agreement. In addition to the U.S., other G7 countries joining the Agreement are Canada, Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, and Japan.

Brazil ratified the Paris deal on September 12 and will deliver it to the UN later this month. It committed to reducing carbon emissions by 37% by 2025 and 43% by 2030. Brazil’s President Michel Temer noted that his country’s support for the climate deal has not changed with the new government, following last month’s impeachment of former President Dilam Rousseff.

Meanwhile Great Britain, formerly a leader on climate change, appears to be taking a new position with the recent change of government following the Brexit vote. The new U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May decided to eliminate the Department of Energy and Climate Change, folding its responsibilities into a new “Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.” May also appointed Andrea Leadsom, known for opposing climate change measures, as the Environment Secretary. Opinions on these changes are unsettled among U.K. NGOs and opposition members of Parliament, with Labor leaders threatening to begin debate on climate change if the Conservative government does not initiate ratification of the Paris Agreement.

Nonetheless, it seems likely that the Paris Agreement will become international law, possibly by the end of this year. By September 7, with the U.S. and China formally committing, 27 nations had joined the agreement, representing 39.08% of global emissions. Brazil’s formal agreement will add another 2.5% to the global emissions total. Argentina, Chile, Canada, Australia, and Ukraine have signaled intent to join along with estimates of 55-60 additional countries that represent nearly 60% of global emissions. If these formal commitments are made, it would ensure the Paris Agreement takes effect. Russia (7.5%), India (4.1%), Japan (3.79%) and Germany (2.56%), are each larger emitters than Brazil and have yet to ratify the Paris Agreement.

In the U.S., climate skeptics in Congress and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are threatening to withdraw or try to nullify U.S. participation. The opportunities for nullification are few because once it comes into effect, the Paris Agreement has a four-year process for a country to formally withdraw. Attempts to defund the Agreement in Congress through the appropriations process are seen as unlikely with Senate Democrats deemed a bulwark against that effort. Nonetheless, there are few meaningful sanctions that could be imposed on a country that violates the Agreement.

Election: Presidential Candidates Answer Science Debate 2016 Questions

Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Jill Stein, answered 20 questions on current science issues posed by ScienceDebate.org. Of the four major candidates running for office, Gary Johnson was the only one who did not respond.

“Taken collectively, these twenty issues have at least as profound an impact on voters’ lives as those more frequently covered by journalists, including candidates’ views on economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values,” said ScienceDebate.org chair Shawn Otto, organizer of the effort and author of The War on Science.

The 20 questions were crowd-sourced from the public and refined, from hundreds of suggestions, by experts at 56 of America’s leading nonpartisan organizations, including ESA, representing more than 10 million scientists and engineers.

The consortium’s list of America’s top 20 science, engineering, tech, health and environmental issues facing the next president and the candidates’ responses are available at ScienceDebate.org/20qs.

Federal Budget: Appropriations and WRDA Update

Continued gridlock defined the first day of the 114th Congress’ fall session with Senate Democrats voting down a Zika funding bill containing previously rejected amendments limiting Planned Parenthood funding and cutting half-a-billion dollars in funds for the Veteran’s Administration.

Divisions between mainstream Republicans and more conservative members, particularly in the House, are becoming apparent. Senate and House Republican leadership are preparing to move a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government through early December, with plans for Congress to complete its appropriations work in a lame-duck session after the November elections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said, “We’re going to work toward the December 9th date,” for a CR. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) is quoted as favoring December 16. Hill staff has indicated that the Senate could pass a CR in two weeks, then adjourn by September 23 with the House scheduled to remain in session until September 30. That strategy would force the House to accept stop-gap funding or take responsibility for a government shutdown heading into the November election.
Following a short-term CR, which the White House also backs, a lame-duck Congress would need to pass longer-term funding measures. Discussion among Republican leadership currently focuses on a series of “minibus” appropriations packages, as contrasted to an omnibus solution as was done last fiscal year. Many see omnibus bills as allowing undesirable closed-door deals. The minibus strategy, however, is not widely endorsed by House members. Democrats in both chambers are also cautious because of the possibility of defense appropriations being fast-tracked and domestic spending falling by the wayside. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is publicly committed to achieving a spending compromise before allowing any other bills to move.

An important test of Reid’s leadership came Monday evening as the Senate voted to consider the two-year reauthorization Water Resources Development Act (WRDA). The bill has broad bi-partisan support and the cloture vote carried 90-1, with only Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) voting against the measure. Not voting were Senators Reid (D-NV), Coats (R-IN), Flake (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC), Kaine (D-VA), Murkowski (R-AK), Perdue (R-GA), Sanders (I-VT), and Toomey (R-PA).

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) said he and the ranking committee Democrat, California Senator Barbara Boxer are working cooperatively for swift passage of the $9 billion WRDA bill that would provide for harbor deepening, restoration of the Florida Everglades, and the Great Lakes in addition to $220 million for the Flint water crisis. Environmental groups and shipping interests appear to favor the bill.

The path to an appropriations solution remains unclear with new developments emerging daily.

Nominations: Climate Science Centers Call for Review Teams

The American Fisheries Society and the Human Dimensions Research Unit of Cornell University have been engaged by the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center to conduct five-year reviews of the eight Department of the Interior Climate Science Centers (CSC). Potential members are being solicited for two teams to conduct reviews of the Southwest CSC in Tucson, Arizona and the North Central CSC located in Fort Collins, Colorado. Potential members of these Science Review Teams should have expertise in the general area of the development and/or application of climate science to fisheries, wildlife, and cultural resource issues.

Team members can be from academia, state and federal agencies, non-profits, tribal and First Nations and others as appropriate. They cannot be a current or past recipient of CSC funds from the CSC being reviewed, nor have an application for funding pending.

The review of the North Central Climate Science Center (NC-CSC) will be from January 31 to February 3, 2017; the Southwest Climate Science Center (SW-CSC) from February 14 to 17, 2017.

Application deadlines for team members are September 23 for the NC-CSC and September 30 for the SW-CSC.

The American Fisheries Society has an announcement of this solicitation posted on their website.

Federal Register Notices and Requests for Comment

Solicitations for Members

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
NOAA Soliciting Members for Science Advisory Board

NOAA is soliciting nominations for members of the NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB is the only Federal Advisory Committee with the responsibility to advise the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on long- and short-range strategies for research, education, and application of science to resource management and environmental assessment and prediction. The SAB consists of approximately fifteen members reflecting the full breadth of NOAA’s areas of responsibility and assists NOAA in maintaining a complete and accurate understanding of scientific issues critical to the agency’s missions. Members will be appointed for three-year terms, renewable once, and serve at the discretion of the Under Secretary.

Nominations must be received by October 17, 2016 and
should be sent to noaa.sab.newmembers@noaa.gov.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Soliciting Members for United States Global Change Research Program, quadrennial National Climate Assessment

The U.S. Global Change Research Program is mandated under the Global Change Research Act of 1990 to conduct a quadrennial National Climate Assessment. Sectoral and response chapters will be coordinated and led by federal agencies. Regional chapters will be coordinated and led by non-federal regional chapter leads, who in turn will collaborate with federal coordinating lead authors. NOAA is seeking public nominations for these non-federal leads.

Nominations are due by September 30 and should be submitted via links found on https://www.globalchange.gov/notices.
Questions may be addressed to Emily Therese Cloyd, (202) 223-6262, ecloyd@usgcrp.gov, U.S. Global Change Research Program.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
—Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary
Nominations for the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee and Notice of Public Meeting

The Department of Commerce is seeking nominations for membership on the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee. The Committee advises the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior on strategies and priorities for developing the national system of marine protected areas and on practical approaches to further enhance and expand protection of new and existing areas. Additionally, a meeting of the Committee will be held via webinar on Monday, October 3, 2016 from 3:00-5:30 p.m. ET and is open to the public.

Nominations must be received before or on October 7, 2016 and should be sent to Nicole Capps at West Coast Region, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, 99 Pacific Street, Suite 100 F, Monterey, CA, 93940, or Nicole.Capps@noaa.gov.
Register for the webinar meeting by contacting Nicole Capps at Nicole.Capps@noaa.gov or by telephone at (831) 647-6451.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Nominations of Experts to Augment the Science Advisory Board Ecological Processes and Effects Committee

The Environmental Protection Agency, Science Advisory Board staff office is requesting public nominations of scientific experts to augment the board’s Ecological Processes and Effects Committee for review of a draft EPA document entitled “Scope and Approach for Revising USEPA’s Guidelines for Deriving National Water Quality Criteria to Protect Aquatic Life.”

Nominations should be submitted by September 20, 2016 through the web-based form for nominating experts for this advisory activity.
Questions may be addressed to Iris Goodman, SAB Staff Office, at 202-564-2164 or goodman.iris@epa.gov.

Requests for Comment

National Science Foundation
Strategic Plan Review

As it conducts the quadrennial update of its strategic plan, the National Science Foundation (NSF) invites feedback from the ecological community on the vision, core values, strategic goals and strategic objectives in its current plan. The plan presents an evaluation framework to measure agency performance and describes core approaches and methods for measuring the performance of the NSF portfolio. Elise Lipkowitz, Science Policy Analyst for the National Science Board Office, wrote an Ecotone blog for ESA members commenting on the process.

Comments may be submitted online and are due before September 27th, 2016.
Questions may be sent to strategicplan@nsf.gov.

National Institute for Food and Agriculture
Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Federal Grants Program-General Administration Provisions, Final Rule and Request for Comments

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture has published a final rule revising the general administrative guidelines applicable to the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative competitive grant program, making it necessary to modify attendant regulations.

Comments may be submitted until September 26 via the
web portal http://www.regulations.gov or email at commodityboards@nifa.usda.gov.

August 24, 2016

In This Issue

NSF: Strategic Plan Requesting input from the ecological community

Every four years, the National Science Foundation (NSF) updates its strategic plan. NSF is inviting feedback from the ecological community on the vision, core values, strategic goals and strategic objectives in its current strategic plan. The strategic plan presents an evaluation framework to measure agency performance and describes core approaches and new methods for measuring the performance of the NSF portfolio.

NSF’s research and education activities underpin the nation’s innovation enterprise, which depends directly on fundamental research. The agency is the funding source for approximately 24 percent of all federally supported fundamental research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. Its Biological Sciences Directorate provides 68 percent of federal support for non-medical fundamental ecological and biological research.

Comments may be submitted online and are due before September 27th, 2016. Any questions may be sent to strategicplan@nsf.gov.

USGS: Climate Change Ecosystems in the Southeastern U.S. Are Vulnerable to Climate Change

At least several southeastern U.S. ecosystems are at-risk and highly vulnerable to the impacts of present and future climate change, according to two new research reports conducted by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Southeast Climate Science Center scientists.

At-risk ecosystems occur in states ranging from Texas to Florida, Virginia to Georgia as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They include Caribbean coastal mangrove, Edwards Plateau limestone shrubland, karst-depression wetlands, Nashville Basin limestone glade and woodland, southern Appalachian balds and southern loess bluff forest.
Researchers used the existing scientific literature and, in some cases, geospatial analysis to determine each ecosystem’s sensitivity to changes in climate, its exposure level to those changes and its capacity to adapt.

All ecosystems identified as highly vulnerable support a variety of rare and geographically restricted plants and animals, including numerous federally endangered or threatened species. Because most of these at-risk ecosystems are geographically isolated and have unique geological characteristics, the authors noted that it may be difficult for species to escape or adapt to the effects of climate change.

“From the mountains to the coast, the southeastern U.S. contains ecosystems that harbor incredible biodiversity,” said Jennifer Costanza, lead author of one of the reports and a scientist with North Carolina State University. “Many of those ecosystems are already highly at risk from urbanization and other human land-use change. Identifying the ecosystems at risk from climate change will help inform conservation and management to ensure we don’t lose that biodiversity.”

According to the reports, present and growing threats to Southeast ecosystems include warming temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and rising sea levels. In addition, droughts, wildfires and extreme storms could become more frequent in some areas. At the same time, ecosystems are stressed by human impacts, such as the conversion of land for urban or agricultural use, which can exacerbate the effects of climate change.

“These reports provide the groundwork for future explorations of how climate change will affect ecosystems and the plants and animals that rely on them,” said USGS scientist Jennifer Cartwright, lead author of the second report. “With this kind of information, managers can take steps to thoughtfully assess where conservation actions should be directed to preserve the ‘conservation stage’ upon which the drama of interacting human and natural systems will unfold under changing climate and land use conditions in coming decades.”

The first report, “Assessing climate-sensitive ecosystems in the southeastern United States,” (PDF) is authored by Jennifer Costanza, Scott Beck and Matthew Rubino, North Carolina State University; Milo Pyne and Rickie White, NatureServe; Adam Terando and Jamie Collazo, USGS.

The second report, “Insular ecosystems of the southeastern United States: a regional synthesis to support biodiversity conservation in a changing climate(PDF),” is authored by Jennifer M. Cartwright and William J. Wolfe, USGS.

This research was supported by the Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Science Center, which is managed by the USGS National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center. The center is one of eight that provides scientific information to help natural resource managers, decision makers and communities respond effectively to climate change.

EPA: Climate Change Clean Power Plan Appeal Ordered for En Banc U.S. Court of Appeals Hearing, September 27

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an order for argument in the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) defense of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) before the full court on September 27. The case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, challenges federal efforts to establish the first national standard to reduce carbon emissions from power plants.

According to a Congressional Research Service (PDF) publication, “More than one-hundred parties –including 27 states, three labor organizations, several electric utilities, several nonprofits, and more than two dozen fossil fuel companies– filed over 35 lawsuits against the CPP. All of these lawsuits were consolidated into one lawsuit, West Virginia, et al v. EPA. Eighteen states, the District of Columbia, 34 senators, 171 representatives, over 50 municipalities, several power companies, and several nonprofits have filed “friend of the court” briefings in support of the CPP.”

The court scheduled more than three and a half hours of argument, in five segments, starting at 9:30 a.m. Attorneys for the plaintiffs had asked for five hours of argument, while the EPA urged less. Typically, arguments are scheduled for only twenty to forty minutes. The court scheduled no other cases for that day. Arguments on statutory issues will open the day. Then arguments will turn to EPA’s authority to regulate emissions under the Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

A recent ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the Department of Energy’s (DOE) use of a social cost of carbon in developing energy efficiency standards, in Zero Zone Inc. v. DOE, is seen as similar to EPA’s use of “domestic costs” in the Clean Power Plan. Defenders of the plan suggest this helps to validate EPA’s rules.

NOAA: Data Tools U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Program Office Releases New Data Integration and Visualization Tools

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Model Viewer enables users to view and analyze model output and supplemental observations. The viewer was developed by RPS Applied Science Associates in partnership with IOOS, part of the National Ocean Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Environmental Data Server (EDS) is the source of model output displayed in the Model Viewer. It harvests met-ocean data (meteorological and oceanographic) from disparate sources, which it then converts into a single format. The EDS aggregates data spatially and temporally and serves as a single source for a variety of met-ocean data and model output.

The data stored in the EDS can be pulled into various map-based clients (e.g. SAROPS viewer, Esri ArcMap, the IOOS Model Viewer). A THREDDS Data Server instance layered on top of EDS provides catalog and DAP services. The model data that can be accessed in the viewer are currents, water temperature, salinity, water level, winds, and waves. The IOOS viewer acts as a virtual data center for model output.

The IOOS Environmental Sensor Map integrates regional, national, and global real-time data (within the last four hours) from across the IOOS partnership of federal and non-federal sources. It currently displays data from approximately 32,000 stations and 119,515 sensors, averaging real-time streaming data, providing an aggregated view of information at a glance. The “binning” of data changes as you zoom into a location and individual stations appear closer.

The map was developed by Axiom Data Science and began as an experiment to see how much real-time information could be simultaneously ingested before it buckled under the load. It never broke and IOOS invested in the product to integrate ocean observing data for the nation.

Overall, the tool provides analytics, summaries, and visualizations of real-time data and showcases IOOS Regional Association infrastructure and capabilities.

The map includes these features:

  • Individual stations are clustered in hexagonal bins to reduce clutter when zoomed out, and summary information is provided
  • Individual stations and sensors can be selected when zoomed in
  • Click to see the past weeks’ worth of data, and options for downloading recent data and finding source information
  • Dynamic graphs provide overview statistics for individual sensors or regions
  • Choose your base layer
  • Toggle between metric and English units

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) is a national-regional partnership working to provide new tools and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect our environment. Integrated ocean and Great Lakes information is available in near real time, as well as retrospectively. Easier and better access to this information is improving ability to understand and predict coastal events-such as storms, wave heights, and sea level change.

IOOS’s Operations Division coordinates the contributions of federally-owned observing and modeling systems and develops and integrates non-federal observing and modeling capacity into the system in partnership with IOOS regions.

Federal Register Notices

Agency Information Collection Activities: Requests for Comments 

Federal Aviation Administration
Clearance of Renewed Approval of Information Collection: Bird/Other Wildlife Strike Report 

The Federal Aviation Administration invites public comments about its intention to request Office of Management and Budget approval to renew an information collection. Wildlife strike data are collected to develop standards and monitor hazards to aviation. Public comments are invited on any aspect of this information collection, including (a) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for FAA’s performance; (b) the accuracy of the estimated burden; (c) ways for FAA to enhance the quality, utility and clarity of the information collection; and (d) ways that the burden could be minimized without reducing the quality of the collected information.

Comments should be submitted by September 21, 2016

US Geological Survey
Agency Information Collection Activities: Request for Comments on the Assessment of Effects of Climate on Waterfowl

The information collected will identify the most important research topics within and among Regional Climate Science Centers in regard to climate effects on migratory waterfowl.

OMB must receive them on or before September 9, 2016 to ensure that your comments on this ICR are considered.

Meeting Notices 

Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee

The Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary is announcing a public meeting of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council’s (EVOSTC) Public Advisory Committee. The meeting agenda will include review of the FY17 Work Plan of EVOSTC Restoration, Research, and Monitoring Projects; FY17 EVOSTC Annual Budget; and Habitat matters, as applicable. An opportunity for public comments will be provided. The final agenda and materials for the meeting will be posted on the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council Web site. All EVOSTC Public Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public.

The meeting will take place on September 22, 2016, 9:30 a.m at EVOSTC Office Conference Room, Suite 220, Grace Hall, 4230 University Drive, Anchorage, Alaska.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

NASA Advisory Council; Science Committee; Earth Science Subcommittee; Meeting

NASA announces a meeting of the Earth Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisory Council (NAC). This Subcommittee reports to the Science Committee of the NAC. The meeting will be held for the purpose of soliciting, from the scientific community and other persons, scientific and technical information relevant to program planning.

The meeting will take place on September 15, 2016 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

The meeting will take place telephonically. Any interested person may call the USA toll free conference call number 888-790-3253, passcode 4030394, to participate in this meeting by telephone.

National Science Foundation
Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education
The National Science Foundation announces a meeting of the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education. The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice, recommendations, and oversight concerning support for environmental research and education.

The meeting will take place on September 28, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and on September 29, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230.

Notice of Public Meetings; Request for Public Comment

US Department of the Interior, U.S. Coral Reef Task Force
US Coral Reef Task Force Public Meeting and Public Comment

The US Department of the Interior, announce public meetings of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force and a request for written comments. This is the 36th biannual meeting of the task force, providing a forum for coordinated planning and action among Federal agencies, State and territorial governments, and nongovernmental partners. 

Submit Advance Public Comments by September 9th, 2016. 

The meeting will take place on September 22nd and September 23rd, 2016. Meetings will be held at the Fiesta Resort and Spa Saipan, Coral Tree Ave, Garapan, Saipan 96950, CNMI on September 22nd and at the Hyatt Regency Guam, 1155 Pale San Vitores Road, Tumon, Guam, Micronesia, 96913 on September 23rd.

A written summary of the meeting will be posted on the Web site after the meeting. 

Request for Nominations 

Environmental Protection Agency
Request for Nominations for a Science Advisory Board Panel To Review Risk and Technology Review Screening Methods

The EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office requests public nominations of scientific experts to form a Panel to review the draft EPA report entitled “Screening Methodologies to Support Risk and Technology Reviews (RTR).” This draft report describes newly developed screening methods designed to assess the risk to public health and the environment that would remain after stationary sources of hazardous air pollutants come into compliance with the EPA’s Maximum Available Control Technologies (MACT) standards.

The SAB is a chartered Federal Advisory Committee that provides independent scientific and technical peer review, advice, and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on the technical basis for EPA actions. The SAB RTR Methods Review Panel will provide advice through the chartered SAB on scientific and technical issues related to assessing risks to public health and the environment from hazardous air pollutants.

Nominations should be submitted by August 30, 2016.

July 27, 2016

In This Issue

Zika funding fails, Democrats cite controversial amendments

Zika funding remains at an impasse as Congress adjourned for summer recess. On Thursday, July 14 Senate Democrats refused, for the second time, to accept Republican-backed $1.1 billion Zika funding provisions in the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill (H.R.2577) that includes controversial amendments added in conference. The Senate Democrats, many previously supporting the bill, are objecting to House-added riders that prohibit funds to Planned Parenthood and other contraception providers; cut $540 million from the Affordable Care Act; cut $500 million in veterans’ funding; and reverse a ban on using federal funds to fly Confederate flags in military cemeteries.

The bill would also suspend Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules on pesticide spraying under the Clean Water Act and contradict court rulings protecting waterways. Originally introduced as the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2015 and later renamed the Zika Vector Control Act, H.R.897, now incorporated into H.R.2577, would prohibit the EPA and state agencies from requiring a permit under the Clean Water Act for discharge into navigable waterways of pesticides otherwise authorized for sale.

Democratic leaders and the White House characterize the Zika Vector Control Act as part of an ongoing effort to weaken environmental protections and undermine EPA’s authority. The White House notes that current regulations were “explicitly crafted to allow immediate responses to declared pest emergencies” and that “Federal and State agencies already have authority under the Pesticide General Permit to apply mosquitocides as needed to respond to Zika virus concerns and do not require any additional authorization under the Permit.”

The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs bill is the only appropriations measure to have progressed through a conference report after passing both houses. Failure of the conference report is widely seen as ending any prospect for passing appropriations bills in this Congress.

Democratic leaders are concerned that Republicans are seeking to move defense-related appropriations and then pass a continuing resolution funding domestic spending at last year’s levels. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) commented: “All they want to do is they want to get defense appropriations bills passed and then walk away. And then all the other bills would be at their mercy.”

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports, as of July 20, that there are 1,403 travel-associated cases of Zika in the US and 3,815 locally acquired cases in US territories.

Appropriations break down, omnibus or continuing resolution likely

Failure to enact any appropriations measures has lawmakers debating stop-gap measures to avoid a government shutdown. Democratic and many Republican leaders indicate a preference for a short-term continuing resolution (CR), setting up passage of an omnibus measure later this year at the end of the 114th Congress. GOP conservatives in the House, however, prefer a longer CR to avoid lame duck deal-making.

Last year’s budget deal raising federal spending caps-the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 brokered by then-Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Democratic leadership and the White House-set terms for structuring FY 2016 and FY 2017 appropriations. However, House conservatives never accepted that deal which contributed to Speaker Boehner’s fall. Failure of this year’s appropriations process complicates Speaker Ryan’s tenure greatly.

Republican leaders now face contentious fights, from within their own party, over how to avoid a government shutdown on the eve of November’s elections. Moderate Republicans and appropriators favor a short-term CR and returning in a lame-duck session, after the election, to pass an omnibus spending bill. Conservative Republicans, however, want a longer-term CR, pushing decisions off to March and a new Congress and President. Many Republican appropriators have express concern that the Senate could fall to Democrats in the new Congress, with the GOP losing its largest majority in 88 years.

Some Democratic leaders are concerned that a longer, 6 month, CR could lead to Congress ultimately punting to a 12 month CR, abandoning its budget responsibilities completely. “If you do six months that puts you on the road to do another six months, and all the good work Appropriations has done is then up in flames,” commented Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). All pending legislation must be reintroduced at the start of a new Congress.

Many congressional leaders decry a fatally broken budget process. Senate Budget Committee chairman, Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY), in his widely circulated article, How to Break Through America’s Budget Gridlock (July 13, 2016), notes that Congress had never failed to pass a budget prior to 1998, when both houses were controlled by Republican majorities for the first time since 1955.

UN Green Climate Funding in doubt

Senate appropriators approved, by voice vote, a bipartisan amendment for $500 million to the UN Green Climate Fund as part of the FY 2017 Department of State and Foreign Operation appropriations bill, S.3117, and reported it to the Senate on June 29. House appropriators, however, soundly rejected Green Climate funding in a party-line vote on July 12.

The Senate committee vote came as an amendment, sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), striking existing language prohibiting Green Climate funding. Only Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke against it. The House committee rejected a similar amendment, sponsored by Representative Betty McCollum (D-MN), as it reported H.R.5912 to the House.

Last year’s appropriation, after work by the same trio of Senators, allowed Green Climate funding, but did not explicitly appropriate funding. Republicans then claimed that the Administration overstepped in making the initial $500 million contribution this year, with some threatening lawsuits and congressional investigations. The specific allocation of $500 million in the FY 2017 bill was the subject of negotiations between Sens. Merkley and Collins.

Direct appropriation for the UN Green Climate Fund is uncertain as the entire FY 2017 budget appears headed to a continuing resolution and possibly an omnibus measure at the end of the current Congress.

Canada moves toward national carbon price

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for a national carbon price in a July 20 interview on CBC TV, “We’re going to be making sure that there is a strong price on carbon right across the country, and we’re hoping the provinces are going to be able to do that in a way for themselves.” Trudeau characterized a national carbon price as an “essential element” of his Liberal government’s climate plan and it is expected to be in place by the end of the year.

In elections last year, Trudeau sought to encourage Canada’s provinces to enact carbon tax or cap-and-trade systems. Now it appears that the Trudeau’s government may set a single national carbon price by the end of the year.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, in a July 15 interview with Bloomberg TV Canada, suggested that the government will advance an emissions reduction plan that would include expanded and standardized emissions disclosures by the private sector. This was presented in the context of a national carbon price.

Carbon pricing is generally composed of either a tax or a cap-and-trade program. McKenna noted that she had met with major Canadian companies and that, “They say they understand a price on carbon is the most impressive way to reduce emissions and foster innovation that we need.”

Conservative opposition leaders have attacked the emerging plan as a tax grab, breaking an earlier pledge to work in cooperation with the 13 provinces and territories. British Columbia and Alberta, however, already have carbon taxes similar to those being considered by the national government. Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has suggested that she will use her province’s model to help sell other premiers on backing pipelines needed to move Alberta’s oilsands oil to port.

Predictably, some companies, such as airlines, complain of the burden such plans could impose. Meanwhile, others, including Exxon, the Canadian Mining Association, and the Royal Bank of Canada, encourage carbon pricing and the certainty it will bring to the marketplace.

Trudeau’s carbon pricing initiative comes just weeks after the “Three Amigos Summit,” where Canada, Mexico, and the US announced continent-wide clean energy targets.

House passes Interior-EPA funding bill, first in seven years

The House passed a $32.1 billion appropriations funding bill for the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 14, the first to clear the House since 2009. The bill would increase funding for some Interior programs modestly over current levels; the total approved is $64 million below current levels and $1 billion below Administration recommendation.
US Geological Survey is slated for an increase of $18 million over current levels, with $10 million targeted for an earthquake early warning system and $6 million for accelerated launch of “Landsat 9,” a satellite program measuring land use related to agriculture, forestry, and energy and water resources.
US Forest Service’s Forest and Rangeland Research would get an increase of $10 million, targeted toward forest products and inventory programs. Meanwhile, over half of the overall Forest Service budget would be target toward wildland fire prevention and suppression.
Bureau of Land Management saw an overall decrease of $10 million below current levels, though it provides a $12 million increase to sage grouse protection programs and to preserve federal lands for energy exploration and development, ranching and recreation, and military training.
US Fish and Wildlife would get a decrease of $17 million below current levels and prioritizes backlogs in maintenance and species delistings.
EPA would see a $164 million cut below current levels, $291 million below Administration requests. Regulatory programs would absorb $43 million of those cuts. Programs targeted for cuts include: greenhouse gas emissions; “New Source Performance Standards” under the Clean Air and Clean Water acts; revisions to definitions within the Clean Water Act; reductions of lead content in ammunition and fishing tackle. An amendment to eliminate EPA’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs was also approved.
Flint, Michigan, received allocations for water testing and loan forgiveness related to the city’s lead drinking water crisis.
Special rules provided one hour for debate of the more than 131 amendments considered. Final passage saw a 231-196 vote, with only three Democrats voting with the majority and 15 Republicans against. The White House has promised to veto the bill in its current form.
The entire appropriations process faces near certain failure with need for a continuing resolution and possibly an omnibus spending bill being required to avoid a government shutdown.

Federal Register Opportunities

Call for Nominations

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Nominations for Columbia Basin Partnership Task Force of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee
NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee is seeking nominations for the new Columbia Basin Partnership that will assist the Committee in developing recommendations on quantitative goals for all salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin. Nominees should have expertise regarding salmon and steelhead biology and management in the Columbia Basin and represent the geographic and stakeholder diversity of the Columbia Basin. Taskforce members will serve a two year term beginning in December 2016.

Nominations will close September 6, 2016

Request for Public Comment

USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service proposes to undertake motorized travel management planning to designate roads, trails, and areas open to public motorized vehicle use on the six districts of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. The proposed road and trail environmental impact statement evaluation and record of decision will determine which roads and trails will be designated or re-designated for public motorized use and published on future motor vehicle use maps.

Comments must be received by September 8, 2016.

US Fish and Wildlife Service
2016-2017 Refuge-Specific Hunting and Sport Fishing Regulations
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, proposes to add 1 national wildlife refuge (NWR or refuge) to the list of areas open for hunting, increase the hunting activities available at 12 other NWRs, open 1 refuge to fishing for the first time, and add pertinent refuge-specific regulations for other NWRs that pertain to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting, and sport fishing for the 2016-2017 season.

Comments must be received or postmarked on or before August 15, 2016.

July 13, 2016

In This Issue

Appropriations and Energy

Congressional calendar stall spending bills and energy reform

A continuing resolution (CR) appears increasingly likely as congressional leaders are skeptical of progress on required spending bills and energy reform legislation before its scheduled summer recess.

Only three of twelve spending bills have passed both the House and Senate. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) encourages a short CR to allow more time to move spending bills, right up to the September 30 deadline. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) refuses to publicly discuss a CR.

On Tuesday, July 12, the House of Representatives began final consideration of H.R.5538, the Interior-EPA appropriations bill. Consideration of the bill was guided by a structured rule, approved as H. Res 820, providing one hour for general debate and consideration of 131 amendments and en bloc consideration of amendments not previously offered.

Yesterday, the House plowed through 75 amendments in a ten-hour session using voice votes. They plan on completing the measure later today and taking recorded votes. “Poison pill” amendments such as one that would block the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate carbon pollution from new and existing electric power plants for the first time, prompted President Obama to issue a Statement of Policy that says he will veto the bill in its present form.

After stalling for weeks, the Senate voted yesterday (84-3) to begin conference negotiations with the House on energy reform legislation. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) met with ranking member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to discuss plans for moving the Senate-passed bill to conference. The House-passed bill includes provisions that Senate Democrats and environmental groups argue would alter protections under the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and other laws. The provisions have prompted veto threats from the White House.

Senate Democrats had been wary of starting formal conference talks to reconcile the Senate bill, S. 2012, due to the bill’s language. Chairwoman Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell were able to agree on striking controversial provisions from the final bill.

“I think all you need to do is go back to the statement that was made by our House colleagues a couple weeks ago when they said it’s their intention, as it is mine, to make sure that we have an energy conference product that will be signed into law,” Murkowski told reporters. “Doesn’t make sense to throw down matters that have a veto threat attached to them.”

Both houses will adjourn this week and return in the first week of September. The House will adjourn again on September 30, the Senate on October 30. Both houses then reconvene on November 14.

Read the White House “Statement of Administration Policy” in opposition to H.R.5538, July 11.

Adaptation

Army Corps proposes “living shorelines” for coastline protection

The Army Corps has proposed two new “nationwide permits” authorizing the removal of low-head dams and the construction and maintenance of living shorelines.

Living shorelines consist of natural and man-made materials to establish and maintain marsh fringes or other living elements to reduce erosion while retaining or enhancing ecological processes. Commonly used materials include sand, wetland plants, sand fill, oyster reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation, stones and coir fiber logs. Traditional, “hard armored” shoreline protections, using rock rip-rap, stone blocks and sheet-pile, often relocate the erosion problem downdrift or to another part of the coast.

Living shorelines are suggested as a more effective protection along medium- to high-energy open-water environments, estuarine coasts, bays and rivers, as well as a method of carbon sequestration, according to Russell Callender, acting director of NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

Living shoreline solutions are proving popular along many Atlantic coastal and estuarine areas. Natural coastline protection is one technique that state agencies, federal agencies, and local governments are using to adapt to climate change impacts. In addition to more resilient coastlines, living shorelines can also provide habitat for fish and other organisms.

Nationwide permits are a type of general permit issued by the Chief of Engineers and are designed to regulate with little, if any, delay or paperwork certain activities in “jurisdictional waters and wetlands,” subject to regulation under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act or Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act, that have no more than minimal adverse environmental impacts. The proposed living shoreline permits would allow approval in as little as 45 days, rather than the current 215, longer than hard armored solutions.

The Corps’ proposal to reissue and modify nationwide permits was released on June 1 and the public comment period ending August 1, 2016. Comments on the proposed rule may be submitted through the Federal Register, Proposal To Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits.

International Agreement

US, Mexico, Canada agree to greening power and petroleum sectors at “Three Amigos Summit”

The presidents of the US and Mexico, and the prime minister of Canada–Obama, Nieto and Trudeau–met in Ottawa, Ontario on June 29 at the North American Leaders’ Summit, often called the “Three Amigos Summit.” In addition to trade and security initiatives, the leaders announced the “North American Climate, Clean Energy, and Environment Partnership.”

The climate-focused “action plan” builds on the previously announced continental goal of 50 percent clean power (non-carbon emitting) generation by 2025. Meeting the goal will involve clean energy development and deployment (including renewable, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage technologies), clean energy innovation (through the 20 nation Mission Innovation initiative), and improved energy efficiency.

Reducing energy demand will make it easier for clean energy to provide a larger share of energy needs. Meanwhile, innovations in energy storage and smart markets that allow for electricity demand to respond to energy prices can provide an opportunity to ease the integration of increasing quantities of renewable energy resources onto the electric grid.

The energy agreement includes a pledge to work with the International Maritime Organization, a UN agency, to curb international shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions. As it has in previous climate talks, the US backed away from decisive action, instead advocating a continued focus on data collection and evaluation before making any decisions. International shipping is estimated to contribute currently three percent of global carbon emissions and possibly rising 250 percent to 14 percent of the global total by 2050. Aviation emissions are targeted for market-based, carbon-neutral growth, working through the International Civil Aviation Organization, primarily through offsets.

Mexico joined Canada and the US in committing to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector-the world’s largest industrial methane source-40% to 45% by 2025, a goal already part of US environmental policy. Methane emissions are 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide and without additional action these emissions are expected to increase.

Other initiatives include improving and aligning appliance and equipment efficiency standards and testing; reducing industrial and commercial energy use; strengthening the reliability, resilience and security of the North American electricity grid; reducing black carbon (soot) emissions; promoting use of alternatives to certain hydrofluorocarbons; and a variety of conservation, biodiversity, migratory, social justice and indigenous peoples’ concerns.

FOIA

Private emails ruled subject to FOIA requests

A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that White House chief science adviser John Holdren’s emails are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), even though they reside on the server of the Woods Hole Research Center, his previous employer.

A central point of contention was the Government’s assertion that documents which might otherwise be government records for FOIA purposes need not be searched for or turned over because the emails reside on a private email account. In its ruling, the Appeals Court concludes “. . . only that a current official’s mere possession of assumed agency records in a (physical or virtual) location beyond the agency’s ordinary domain, in and of itself, does not mean that the agency lacks the control necessary for a withholding.”

The FOIA lawsuit and appeal was brought by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. A coalition of 26 media groups, including the Associated Press, National Public Radio Inc., The New York Times and The Washington Post, filed an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff’s position.

Federal law requires government employees to copy work-related emails into official email accounts within 20 days. Holdren’s use of the private account for the emails in question preceded that law being enacted.

This case was closely watched by conservative groups pressing FOIA litigation related to Hillary Clinton’s emails while Secretary of State, many of which were kept on a private server.

The full text of the ruling is available on the Court of Appeals website.

Land Management

Deputy Assistant Secretary Lyons defends BLM planning overhaul

House Natural Resources Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee members grilled Jim Lyons, Interior’s deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, over proposed overhaul of the Bureau of Land Management’s resource management planning process, part of the Bureau’s “Planning 2.0” initiative. The proposed planning process overhaul includes an emphasis on landscape-scale planning and curtailing public comment periods.

Republican subcommittee members and Western states’ interests fear that landscape-scale planning focus would diminish coordination local officials and with state land-use plans. The curtailed public comment periods have drawn bipartisan criticism, notably including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Interior, and many environmental groups, defend landscape-scale planning as essential for including strong science in more efficiently and effectively managing public lands. The curtailed public comment periods are suggested as expediting review and amendment of the Bureau’s roughly 160 resource management plans, which currently can take years to complete.

Lyons attempted to dodge Subcommittee Chairman Louie Gohmert’s (R-TX) question about the Bureau’s failure to hold field hearings on the proposed rule, suggesting Bureau Director Neil Kornze as a more appropriate respondent. Gohmert exploded, “We invited Director Kornze and they sent you to answer for him!”

Ranking member Debbie Dingell (D-MI) was the only Democrat attending the hearing. She didn’t make opening remarks and left after asking only a few questions of a Colorado farmer advocating for ecosystem planning perspectives.

Near the end of the hearing, Chairman Gohmert threatened a provision blocking the planning proposal in a continuing resolution or omnibus spending package.

Public comment on the “Proposed Rule document issued by the Bureau of Land Management,”announced on February 25, closed on April 25.

Current Policy

Hill Correspondence

ESA joined several organizations in sending correspondence to the Hill. The USGS Coalition, of which ESA is a member, sent letters on July 8 to both chambers of Congress asking for full funding for several US Geological Survey science areas in the FY 2017 Department of Interior Appropriation bills (House H.R.5538 and Senate S.3068).

As a member of the Coalition for National Science Funding, ESA also sent a statement to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on S.3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency. The bill was marked-up and easily passed out of committee in late June with bipartisan support. While S.3084 includes a four percent increase in funding (not counting inflation) for fiscal year 2018, the statement urges a longer authorization bill that sets aspirational funding targets to inform appropriators of the resources the agency needs to accomplish its important mission.

Read the USGS Coalition letters to the House and Senate

Read the Coalition for National Science Funding letter

Federal Register Opportunities

Proposed Rules

U.S. Army Corps

Proposal To Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is soliciting comments for the re-issuance of the existing nationwide permits (NWPs), general conditions, and definitions, with some modifications. The Corps is also proposing to issue two new NWPs and one new general condition. The two new NWPs are for low-head dam removal and living shorelines.

Comment period ends on August 1, 2016.

Request for Public Comment

Office of Science and Technology Policy

Public Comment on an Annotated Outline for the Fourth National Climate Assessment

General topics on which public comment is requested, in addition to the proposed outline, include (1) Ways to make the assessment information accessible and useful to multiple audiences; (2) the specific types of detailed information at regional scales that would be most useful; (3) suggestions for how to best describe risks and impacts, as well as potential opportunities to reduce those risks and impacts on sectors of the economy as well as natural and social systems; (4) suggestions for new approaches to topics addressed in previous assessments; and (5) suggestions regarding overarching themes that the Fourth National Climate Assessment should consider addressing.

Comment period ends July 29, 2016.

Call for Nominations

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

International Whaling Commission; 66th Meeting; Nominations

A call for nominees for the U.S. Delegation to the October 2016 International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting.

Nominations will close on August 26, 2016.

June 29, 2016

In This Issue

Senate: NSF authorizing bill introduced

Senate

The highly anticipated American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which is the Senate’s successor of the 2010 America COMPETES Act that expired in 2013, was introduced by the Senate Commerce and Science Committee on June 23. The bill garnered bipartisan sponsors: Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.)

The bill would reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science, Technology and Policy (OSTP), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and update science policies spanning the federal government.

Although the bill does not appropriate funding, it does authorize funding levels for NSF, NIST, and OSTP and steers the annual appropriation funding levels. The Senate bill’s tone closely mirrors the viewpoint of the scientific community, differing significantly from the House COMPETES bill that states the peer-review process needs updating. The Senate bill reaffirms the  value of NSF’s merit-based, peer-review process for evaluating proposals.

The bill outlines some other notable highlights. Guidelines for greater transparency, accountability, and oversight of major research facilities for NSF are spelled out in the Senate bill. It also would establish an interagency working group on research regulation aimed at reducing the administrative burden on federally-funded researchers. STEM education opportunities are expanded in the bill, especially for women and underrepresented minorities. Manufacturing and commercialization are promoted in the bill. Leveraging the private sector through crowdsourcing and use of citizen science received an acknowledgment by allowing federal agencies to conduct citizen science and crowdsourcing activities through public-private partnerships. Scientific and technical collaboration is authorized in the bill and would require the White House Office of Management and Budget to revise policies for approving federal researcher attendance at scientific and technical conferences.

Because the authorizing COMPETES bill has expired, an amendment in the nature of a substitute will authorize funding for the next two years. For FY2017, the bill authorizes $7.5 billion for NSF, which is the same level of funding included in the Senate’s FY2017 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill. For FY2018, the bill authorizes a four percent increase in funding for NSF.

The Commerce and Science Committee will hold a markup of the bill today, June 29 at 10:00 am.

Appropriations: Senate FY 2017 Interior bill reported

The Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled and reported its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

In total, the Senate report provides $32.7 billion for the US Department of Interior, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the US Forest Service, $163 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level. The bill report provides a total of $4.4 billion for wildland fire programs for the Forest Service and Department of the Interior, including a total amount of $2.3 billion for wildland fire suppression activities of which $661 million is provided with an emergency designation for additional suppression resources.

The House recently released the committee report for its counterpart bill. Both the House and the Senate reported bills restore US Forest Service funding for the Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) at $6.914 million, level with the FY 2016 enacted level. The Ecological Society of America provided testimony  (PDF) testimony to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee requesting full federal funding for the JFSP.

Like the House bill, the Senate appropriations bill would prohibit the EPA from implementing several regulations, including clarifying federal jurisdiction of US waterways.

Following are the proposed FY 2017 funding levels for agencies and programs of interest to the ecological community compared to the FY 2016 enacted level:

  • EPA: $8.1 billion, a $31.2 million decrease.
  • Council on Environmental Quality: $3 million, the existing level.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.49 billion, an $11.9 million decrease.
  • US Geological Survey: $1.06 billion, a $6 million increase.
  • Bureau of Land Management: $1.24 billion, a $6 million increase.
  • National Park Service: $2.91 billion, a $62 million increase targeted toward reducing the park maintenance backlog and priorities related to its centennial anniversary.
  • Smithsonian Institution: $860.2 million, a $20 million increase.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund: $400 million, a $50 million decrease.

Each House and Senate and Interior and Environment bill will now head to the House and Senate floor, respectively, for consideration. Following the floor votes, both bills will be combined through the conferencing process.

Climate Science ESA and leading scientific societies send letter to the Hill

In a consensus letter to U.S. policymakers, ESA in a partnership with 30 leading nonpartisan scientific societies reaffirmed the reality of human-caused climate change, noting that greenhouse gas emissions “must be substantially reduced” to minimize negative impacts on the global economy, natural resources, and human health. A joint-society  press release  accompanied the letter.

ESA President Monica Turner commented, “The environmental, social, and economic challenges posed by climate change are among the most important issues of our time. Comprehensive solutions grounded in understanding of ecological systems–our lands, waters, oceans, and atmosphere–and society are urgently needed. A sustainable future remains possible if we work together and act now.”

The June 28th letter is an updated version of a 2009 letter signed by 18 leading scientific organizations. The new letter is being released by the larger consortium of societies to reassert the scientific consensus on climate change, and to provide objective, authoritative information to policymakers who must work toward solutions.

Senate Water Resources bill

On June 20, the Senate Environment and Public Works reported the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (S.2848), with amendments, to the Senate Legislative Calendar. The bill would authorize 25 Army Corp projects in 17 states and would cost $10.6 billion over ten years (Congressional Budget Office estimate). It includes prioritization of deepening ports, community water quality problems, and $220 million targeted for the Flint, MI water crisis.

The Senate bill includes nearly $5 billion for water quality, waste water, lead in drinking water and drought affecting communities nationwide. The pending House version (H.R.5303) does not include any drinking water provisions as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which reported the bill, does not have that jurisdiction while the Senate committee does.

Current law includes specific congressional authority over allocation of the water resources of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River (ACF) Basin and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) system, affecting Alabama, Georgia and Florida, absent those states’ agreement on a compact. The Georgia delegation in both bodies feels that congressional intervention in the decades-long dispute would derail prospects for an equitable agreement. The House bill strikes that existing authority. Meanwhile, report language on the FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, inserted by Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), specifically requests a Dept. of Justice report on a pending Army Corps ACF-ACT water allocation plan, further inflaming the feud.

Amendments in the reported Senate bill include provisions allowing non-federal interests to participate in the funding, maintenance and operation of water resources projects and recreation sites and facilities. Additionally, a directed study of shellfish aquaculture industry in the Chesapeake Bay, Gulf and California and Washington coasts, would be expanded from solely the oyster industry.

A coalition of 93 transportation, business, and municipal groups sent a letter late last week to Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid urging prompt action on the Senate bill. A similar letter was sent the previous week by a coalition of 16 water industry and local government interests.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) believes prioritization of appropriations measures will limit Senate action on the bill, other observers note the inclusion of the drinking water provisions and an overall lack of urgency.

House NSF facilities reform bill passes with bipartisan support.

On June 14, the US House of Representatives, by a vote of 412-9, passed the NSF Major Research Facility Reform Act of 2016 (H.R. 5049). Its broad bipartisan support included both House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernie Johnson (D-TX). The nine votes against the bill were all Republican.

The bill is intended to reform National Science Foundation (NSF) management practices for its major research facilities. Prior to the bill’s passage, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology held multiple hearings investigating the management of the National Ecological Observatory Network. The bill reforms federal oversight over NSF’s Large Facilities Office and initiates new cost analyses and audits for project construction activities. The bill also increases NSF control over dispensed funds and codifies NSF regulations.

Ensuring Sound Science at EPA hearing held

A hearing held by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology saw congressional critics of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) question EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for nearly three hours. Committee members challenged McCarthy on a wide range of topics such as climate change, water regulations, glyphosate carcinogenicity, and race cars. Sparse Democratic attendance at the hearing was driven by many committee members sitting-in on the House floor to demand votes on gun control.

Many topics in last week’s hearing were previously addressed at a similar Science Committee hearing in July 2015. For example, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX21) led statements and questions about the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Relying on a US Chamber of Commerce report, developed from data in a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report, Smith charged that the Plan, over the next 15 years, would destroy nearly 400,00 jobs, increase energy costs and impede economic growth. Meanwhile, EIA’s analyses finds that under CPP, energy costs would increase 3 percent through the late 2020s before declining back to normal by 2040. Further, EIA suggests that CPP, while driving reductions in CO2 emissions, would accelerate growth of renewable electric generation at an annual average rate of 4.7 percent through 2030. In addition to CPP regulation, it attributes that growth to cost reductions and declining demand.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX30) rebuked Chairman Smith’s tactics, “Since the beginning of the current Congress alone, this Committee has sent some 28 oversight requests to EPA and has launched 12 separate EPA-related investigations. EPA has already delivered more than 15 thousand documents-consisting of almost 139,000 pages to the Science Committee.” She continued, “We are imposing an incredible burden on the hard-working men and women of EPA, and spending a lot of taxpayer dollars in the process, and to what end?” Johnson concluded with the suggestion that the Committee’s ‘oversight,’ “…Can be measured more in press releases than in any concrete findings.”

Additional “oversight” requests remain pending and the Committee continues to press Administrator McCarthy for “answers.”

Awards NSF: Seeking nominations for the NSB Awards

The National Science Board is accepting nominations for two awards. 

The Public Service Award recognizes people and groups that have increased the public understanding of science or engineering. The Vannevar Bush Award recognizes an individual who, through public service activities in science and technology, has made an outstanding “contribution toward the welfare of mankind and the Nation.”

Nominations are due Sept. 3, 2016. 

Legislation

Enacted into Law

S. 2276, the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (PIPES) Act
Introduced November 11 by Sen. Debbie Fischer (R-NE), the bill reauthorizes the federal pipeline safety program within the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2019. The bill also directs PHMSA to finalize regulations Congress directed it to write in its 2011 reauthorization. The bill passed the House June 8 by voice vote and passed the Senate by unanimous consent June 13. It was signed by President Obama on June 22 and became law.


Introduced in House

H.R. 5451, the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act of 2016
Introduced June 10 by Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH), the bill would exempt small farm producers that receive $450,000 or less annually in conservation assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, as well as Indian tribes, from certain reporting requirements. The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

H.R. 5489, the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Act of 2016
Introduced June 15 by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), the bill would make qualified biogas and manure resource recovery properties for federal energy tax credits. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.


Introduced in Senate

S. 3074, a bill to authorize the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish a Climate Change Education Program

Introduced June 16 by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) with eight co-sponsors, the bill, for all age levels, would authorize up to $20 million a year from fiscal 2017 through 2021 for the program. The bill has been referred to Committee on Commerce, Science, and Related Agencies.

S. 3039, the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act
Introduced June 9 by Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Richard Burr (R-NC), the bill would authorize an additional $130 million per year in grant funding to local mosquito-control boards working to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes responsible for spreading the Zika virus. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Companion House legislation (H.R. 5492) has been subsequently introduced by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL).

Federal Register Opportunities

Request for Information

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) 
Responses must be received by 11:59 p.m. (EST), July 1, 2016.

OSTP requests input from all interested parties regarding recommendations for the development of the 2017 National Plan for Civil Earth Observations. Link

Proposed Rules

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Comment period ends on 07/28/2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removing Eastern Puma (=Cougar) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announces the reopening of the comment period on the June 17, 2015, proposed rule to remove the eastern puma (=cougar) (Puma (=Felis) concolor couguar) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Link

US Fish and Wildlife Service
Comment period ends on 08/22/2016. 

The Service, proposes to designate critical habitat for the elfin-woods warbler (Setophaga angelae) under the Endangered Species Act.

In total, approximately 10,977 hectares (ha) (27,125 in Puerto Rico fall within the boundaries of the proposed critical habitat designation. Link

US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Comment period ends on 08/29/2016
Request for Public Comment on the Joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook
 

The Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), issue Endangered Species Act incidental take permits and help applicants develop conservation plans as a prerequisite to obtaining those permits. They are announcing the availability of and request public comment on a draft revision of their joint Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Handbook, which describes requirements, procedures, and guidance for permit issuance and conservation-plan development. Link

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Comment Period Ends on 09/01/2016

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) proposes to designate critical habitat for the endangered Carolina distinct population segment of the Atlantic sturgeon (Carolina DPS of Atlantic sturgeon) and the endangered South Atlantic distinct population segment of the Atlantic sturgeon (South Atlantic DPS of Atlantic sturgeon) pursuant to section 4 of the Endangered Species Act. Link

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Comment Period Ends on 09/01/2016

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), proposes to designate critical habitat for the Gulf of Maine, New York Bight, and Chesapeake Bay Distinct Population Segments (DPSs) of Atlantic sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus oxyrinchus). Link

Sources: Senate Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the White House, E&E News PM,Energy and Environment Daily,  ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill