In This Issue
The US Geological Survey (USGS) received bipartisan praise for its nonpartisan scientific research during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the agency’s $1.2 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget request.
“I am among those who appreciate both the work of the USGS and the spirit in which it is typically undertaken,” said Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her opening statement. “The agency is known for being non-partisan, and for seeking out concrete scientific evidence. And let me tell you, it’s quite refreshing to have an agency come before our Committee that does not have a significant regulatory agenda moving full speed ahead.”
She also praised the agency’s work to understand the nation’s water resources. Murkowski did press USGS Director Suzette Kimball on critical minerals research, urging the agency to give greater priority towards funding its energy and minerals division. Kimball noted that the USGS has an open a call to hire a new associate director for its energy and mineral resources program that would help advance and prioritize the mission area’s budget.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) commended USGS’s climate change research and noted the importance of its satellite imagery in collecting climate data. Observing that Kimball refers to the USGS as “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] of wildlife,” he also highlighted the importance of tracking and monitoring the spread of zoonotic diseases, including Ebola and Zika.
Sens. Franken and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) both voiced concern about the spread of Asian Carp. Sen. Stabenow referenced a bipartisan Congressional Great Lakes Task Force that urges federal agencies to develop technology that prevents expansion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, noting “the fish aren’t waiting for us.”
Kimball remarked the primary challenge is the development of technology that can eradicate Asian Carp without affecting other biological organisms in the Great Lakes. Stabenow asked for an update on current microparticle-toxins research that targets Asian Carp. To date, the agency’s laboratory trials have been completed with field trials scheduled for this spring. Kimball pledged to keep the Senate updated.
Click here to view the hearing.
Click here to read more about the USGS budget request.
On April 6, the US Geological Survey (USGS) published a report finding that various ecosystem restoration efforts create jobs and benefit local, state, and national economies.
The study, examining 21 US Department of Interior (DOI) restoration projects, finds that for each dollar invested in ecosystem restoration, there is between double and triple the return in economic growth. The report quantified economic impact analysis by focusing on the jobs and business activity generated through money spent on ecosystem restoration activities.
The report was a collaborative effort between the USGS, the DOI Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, the DOI Office of Policy Analysis and the Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program.
Click here to view the individual restoration projects.
Click here to review the report.
On April 4, the US Global Change Research Program released a three-year study that articulates global climate change health impacts. Most of the projections are fairly grim for human health, especially vulnerable populations of society.
Certain demographics, including minority communities, pregnant women, children, elderly, low-income communities, and the mentally ill will suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts.
Extreme heat-related deaths are projected to outweigh deaths from extreme cold.
Agriculture workers will face unsafe temperatures if they work outdoors. Medications taken by mentally ill people make them sensitive to heat, so increased heat will only exacerbate their problems. Warmer winters and spring temperatures will promote a northward expansion of the ticks that carry Lyme disease and increase the number of cases of vector-borne diseases in the northern US.
Regarding extreme weather events, the report found that “climate change will increase exposure risk in some regions of the United States due to projected increases in the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires, and flooding related to extreme precipitation and hurricanes.” These events will disrupt essential infrastructure, including water, power, transportation and emergency response services.
The assessment is a coordinated effort by eight federal agencies led by the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with over 100 experts from across the nation.
Click here to view the report.
A coalition of 120 multifaith groups penned a letter to Congress requesting approval of $750 billion for the Obama administration’s contribution to the international Green Climate fund. Signers of the letter include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Green Muslims, the National Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Environmental Network, and others.
“Our scriptures and religious texts call us to care for God’s creation and our most vulnerable neighbors. We believe that climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all of Creation, but particularly to those living in poverty around the world,” stated the groups.
The Green Climate Fund is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change used for mitigation and adaption efforts in developing countries. President Obama pledged the US would offer $3 billion over the next four years.
Click here to view the faith groups’ letter.
Click here for additional information on the Green Climate Fund
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan garnered backing by industry and mayor’s across the country.
Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft filed an amicus brief with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on April 1 in support of the Plan. Twenty-eight states and more than 50 cities, together with The US Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the mayors of Dallas, Knoxville, and Orlando also submitted an amicus brief on April 1. Additionally, other religious and health groups sent amicus briefs.
The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce US carbon emissions from the power sector (and primarily coal-fired plants) by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA rule assigned states specific emissions targets, but allows each state the flexibility to tailor its plan.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for June 2, 2016 in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. A group of 27 US states opposed the Plan before the Supreme Court in February, which voted by a 5-4 put to put it on hold until an appeals court can rule on the arguments.
Click here to read more about the mayor’s amicus brief.
On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft biological evaluation stating that 97 percent of plant and animal species protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely being harmed by two widely-used pesticides: chlorpyrifos and malathion.
The two chemicals are used primarily in agriculture to kill insects, but similarly enter the environment through stormwater runoff. For chlorpyrifos and malathion, the study concludes that they are “likely to adversely affect” 1,725 out of the 1,782 plant and animal species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
A third pesticide used in agriculture, diazinon, is “likely to adversely affect” 1,416 listed species, or 79 percent of all protected animals and plants, EPA determined. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will review the findings and provide an analysis of the chemicals’ impact on federally protected species.
Click here for additional information on the study and how to comment on it.
On April 5, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule for the protection green sea turtles. The decision is part of a larger reclassification that separates green sea turtles into 11 distinct populations globally. The final rule moves two green sea turtle populations in the Florida and Mexico region from “endangered” to “threatened.”
The federal agencies cited various coordinated conservation efforts, including protecting nesting beaches and reducing direct harvesting and fishery bycatch as critical in the species recovery. The revised protections go into effect on May 6.
The management of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) transitioned from NEON, Inc. to Battelle on April 8, 2016. Notably, its url changed from www.neoninc.org to www.neonscience.org. Battelle is the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, with over 22,000 employees at more than 60 locations globally. The management transition appears to have gone smoothly between the NEON, Inc Board of Directors and Battelle at NEON’s Boulder headquarters.
“Battelle is excited to begin this new chapter for the Observatory,” said Manager of Battelle’s Ecology Business Rich Leonard. “We look forward to working with the scientific community to establish NEON as a transformational presence in the ecological sciences for decades to come.”
NEON is a continental-scale ecological observation facility sponsored by the National Science Foundation to gather and synthesize data on the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity.
Read more about NEON.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 3, 2016
Environmental Protection Agency
Notice: Nominations due May 6, 2016
Proposed rule: Public comment period ends May 9, 2016
Proposed rule: Public comment period ends May 11, 2016
Proposed rule: Public comment period ends May 13, 2016
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 6, 2016
National Park Service
Notice: Public comment period ends May 11, 2016
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Notice: Public comment period ends June 10, 2016
Notice: Public comments due May 11, 2016
Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 6, 2016
Notice: Public comment period ends May 31, 2016
Sources: Columbia Law School, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Ecological Observatory Network, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill