January 11, 2017

Senate Confirmation Hearings

Senate confirmation hearings on eight of President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominations are expected in the coming week, with four on Wednesday alone. Meanwhile, President-elect Trump has scheduled his first press conference since July also on Wednesday.

The hearing for Attorney General nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was held today before the Senate Judiciary Committee at 9:30 a.m. Sessions was pressed by Democrats about his role as United States attorney in an unsuccessful 1985 voter fraud case against three African-American civil rights activists. Protesters repeatedly interrupted the hearing.

Senators Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced Senator Sessions to open the hearings. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Representatives John Lewis (D-GA), a civil-rights icon, and Cedric Richmond (D-LA), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, will be testifying against Sessions’ nomination in the third and last panel. It is unprecedented that a sitting Senator would testify in opposition to another sitting Senator.

Sessions’ confirmation hearings will continue on Wed. January 11, when it will be among four other confirmation hearings scheduled that day.

Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson (former CEO of ExxonMobile) will appear before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations at 9:15 a.m.

Transportation nominee, Elaine Chao (former Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush and wife of Majority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY) will appear before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation at 10:15 a.m.

Homeland Security nominee, General John Kelly (U.S. Marine Corps, retired) will appear before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at 3:30 p.m.

CIA nominee, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) had been scheduled to appear before the Senate Committee on Intelligence at 10:00 a.m., but the hearing has been rescheduled for Thursday, Jan. 12 at 10:00 a.m.

Democratic committee staff suggest that the postponement resulted from calls by Minority Leader Charles Schumer (R-NY) to not crowd the hearing process, as had been anticipated with six hearings originally scheduled for Wednesday.

Thursday, Jan. 12, confirmation hearings also include Commerce nominee, Wilbur Ross (billionaire investor) before the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation at 10:00 a.m. and Housing nominee Ben Carson (retired neuro-surgeon and former presidential candidate) before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs at 10:00 a.m.

Education nominee. Betsy DeVos (Republican activist, billionaire) was also originally scheduled for a Jan. 11 hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Her hearing has been rescheduled to Tuesday, Jan. 17 at 5 p.m. DeVos, as of this writing, has not completed required financial disclosures and ethics review.

Labor nominee, Andy Puzder (food services CEO) is tentatively scheduled to appear before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Jan. 17 also.
Environmental Protection Agency nominee, Scott Pruitt (Attorney General, Oklahoma) is tentatively scheduled to appear before the Committee on Environment and Public Works on January 18.

Health and Human Services nominee, Tom Price (R-GA) is tentatively scheduled to appear before the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on January 18.
U.N. nominee, Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) is tentatively scheduled to appear before the Committee on Foreign Relations on January 18.

Other announced nominations have not yet been scheduled for confirmation hearings.
Interior nominee, Ryan Zinke (R-MT), once seen as a fairly safe pick, has been damaged by revelations that he committed travel fraud while serving with the Navy Seals, which could have resulted in criminal charges and other sanctions. These violations could jeopardize his nomination.

Many observers had commented on the unusual crowding of the confirmation hearings, especially for Wednesday when Trump will hold his first post-election press conference. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) said, “Jamming all these hearings into one or two days, making members run from committee to committee, makes no sense. It is only fair that they are given a thorough and thoughtful vetting.” Media-focused observers noted that the crowded schedule would likely bury press coverage of some confirmation details in favor of covering Trump press conference.

Kushner Named Senior Advisor

Jared Kushner (billionaire real estate investor and husband of Ivanka Trump), has been named a White House senior advisor, a position that does not require Senate confirmation. Kushner is seen by many as President-elect Trump’s closest advisor. He played a leading role in the ousters of campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and transition leader Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ). Kushner is expected to have a wide portfolio which will likely include the Middle East and Israel, government partnerships with the private sector, and free trade. His appointment is seen as testing federal anti-nepotism rules.

Public Lands

Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) authored a rules change that would allow the House to ignore Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring of federal revenue losses when considering a federal land transfer to states from activities such as logging, drilling or grazing, making them essentially cost-free. This removes a procedural hurdle favored by public land advocates that requires lawmakers to identify spending offsets in the federal budget for proposed transfers.

Bishop’s change was passed by the House in a vote on the opening day of the 115th Congress in a larger package of rules changes.

Ryan Zinke (R-MT), President-elect Trump’s nominee for the Department of the Interior, voted in favor of the package of rules changes, including the Bishop proposal. Critics contend that it contradicts Zinke’s previous statements against the sale of public lands and warn that it foreshadows a wholesale transfer of public, federal lands to states. Just this year, Zinke resigned as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in July over a provision in the party platform that called for divestiture of public lands. He is on record as a staunch supporter of federal lands, so his yea vote for the rules package is puzzling.

Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the committee’s ranking member, called the change “fiscally irresponsible,” contending that CBO scores underestimate public land values. Bishop says that scores ignore the cost of public land to states and local communities.

Chairman Bishop denied that the rules change portends a wholesale transfer of parks and monuments to states and tribes, contending it is “not part of a strategy.”
The package of rules changes passed largely unnoticed amid Republican efforts to weaken the House’s independent ethics office.

National Monuments

On Jan. 5, Energy and Natural Resources Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), with 25 co-sponsors, introduced S.33, the “Improved National Monument Designation Process Act.” It is a bill to provide for congressional approval of national monuments and restrictions on the use of national monuments, to establish requirements for the declaration of marine national monuments, and for other purposes.”

The bill would limit executive authority under the Antiquities Act of 1906 and is a response to President Obama designating public lands as new national monuments, such as the recently established Bears Ears National Monument.

The bill requires national monuments be authorized by a specific act of Congress while also gaining the approval of the legislatures of affected states. In the case of marine monuments, state legislatures within 100 miles of the proposed monument must approve their establishment. Further, the bill would require completion of evaluation under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Resource and agricultural industries support the measure, while conservationists and many tribal interests have expressed concerns.

Congressional Review Act Amendment

The House passed, on Jan. 6, the “Regulations From the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act ,” (REINS) H.R. 26. The bill passed with a vote of 237 to 187, including all Republicans and Democrats Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and Collin Peterson (D-MN).

The REINS Act would amend the Congressional Review Act to require that both congressional chambers pass, and the president sign, a joint resolution of approval within 70 legislative days before any major rule costing $100 million or more can take effect. If Congress is unable to ratify a major rule within that period, it would be tabled and could be reconsidered in the next session of Congress. This affirmative requirement means that Congress can simply void major rules changes through inaction.

Consideration of “major rules” would be further slowed by a procedural requirement in the bill that regulations could only be considered by the full House on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.

Moreover, under the REINS Act, courts are required to ignore the congressional vote when considering challenges to enacted regulations.This provision represents a change because formerly, courts could not contradict a congressional action as not complying with the provisions of a law, since Congress writes that law.

The act includes an amendment, proposed by Luke Messer (R-IN), requiring an agency to repeal or amend existing rules to offset the costs of the newly promulgated regulation. It passed 235 to 185. The bill also includes an amendment, proposed by Steve King (R-IA), which would allow Congress to review, over a ten-year period, all rules currently in effect. It passed 230 to 193.

REINS faces an uncertain fate in courts if challenged as it permits a chamber of Congress to stop regulations promulgated by the executive branch, through action or inaction. Legal scholars noted that this arrangement upends the separation of powers.

It also faces an uncertain fate in the Senate where Democrats are likely to withhold support needed to reach the 60 votes needed to pass legislation in regular order. Further, though President-elect Trump has voiced support for REINS, there is speculation he may rethink that position as it would explicitly place new limits on executive power.

Midnight Rules Relief Act

The House passed the “Midnight Rules Relief Act,” H.R.21 on Jan. 4 that would allow Congress to revoke multiple executive regulations with a single vote within 60 legislative days of their enactment. Existing authority under the Congressional Review Act requires rules to be considered in separate measures.

The underlying Congressional Review Act (CRA), enacted in 1996, has only been used once and has never been tested in court. It provides that any rule revoked under the act “may not be reissued in substantially the same form, and a new rule that is substantially the same as such a rule may not be issued, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the joint resolution disapproving the original rule.”

In its only successful application, in 2001, the CRA revoked Clinton Administration ergonomic rules enhancing workplace safety. As a result of CRA restrictions, there has been no subsequent, meaningful push to regulate ergonomics in the workplace.
Because of the lax legislative calendar in 2016, the proposed rule would allow repeal of rules stretching back to the middle of June.

Like the REINS Act, the Midnight Rules Relief Act faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, with likely Democratic opposition, and in the courts, where the underlying CRA has never been tested.

Holman Rule

The House Rules Committee, on the first day of the new Congress, approved revival of the “Holman Rule,” formerly in effect from 1876 to 1983. The rule change would allow any member of Congress to propose amendments to appropriations bills that would eliminate federal employees or reduce their salary to as little as $1 per year.

The Holman Rule was used to cut some New York customs positions and later to reduce the number of naval officers in the nursing corps in the 1930s. The rule was discontinued in the early 1980s, in the Reagan Administration.

Republicans portrayed reinstatement of Holman as a tool to make targeted cuts and as part of broader efforts to control executive branch spending.

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) derided the move as a “terrible idea.” She added, “Holding hostage the financial security of individual federal employees and their families is reckless and immoral.”

Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), opposing the rule, said, “I think what you are going to see on the floor is a whole bunch of amendments because someone is pissed off about some employee in their district who they could not get to do X, Y or Z, so they are going to eliminate the position or cut salary.”

In response to Republican dissent, GOP leadership defined the Holman revival as a pilot initiative with a one year term.

Representative Morgan Griffith (R-VA), who led calls to reinstate Holman, pointed to safeguards against misuse, such as a requirement that the House Rules Committee approve any Holman amendments. He added, “It’s only on a trial basis-just in case the sky does start to fall.”

Regulatory Accountability Act

On January 3, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced H.R. 5, the “Regulatory Accountability Act,” a piece of legislation that combines six reform measures that passed the House last session into one bill that aims to reduce regulations.

This legislation would require federal agencies to provide additional justification for proposed regulations, calculate the impacts of new rules on small businesses, choose the least costly rulemaking alternative, publish information online about the rulemaking and its costs, and publish “plain English” public summaries of proposed rules. It would also increase judicial review, make it more difficult to enact “high-impact rules” with a cost over $1 billion, and end court deference to an agency’s interpretation of its regulations. The bill is part of a larger Republican effort to reform the regulatory system and overhaul what they see as overregulation.

The House may consider the bill Wednesday, followed by debate on 16 amendments. One amendment, proposed by Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), would strike language that would require the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to perform regulatory flexibility analyses for forest and land management plans. Another amendment, from Bill Posey (R-FL), would require federal agencies to report on the scientific information and peer reviews used in a rulemaking proceeding.

NOAA Releases Road Maps

NOAA Fisheries released its Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management (EBFM) Road Map in November 2016, detailing how the agency will implement its EBFM Policy. The EBFM Policy documents, clarifies and solidifies NOAA Fisheries commitment to EBFM, as well as establishes a framework of guiding principles. The EBFM Road Map will guide implementation of the EBFM Policy, by NOAA Fisheries and its partners, via a series of core components and action items for each of the Policy’s guiding principles. These elements are the actionable steps that provide a menu of options for implementation of EBFM. The report also establishes benchmarks against which NOAA Fisheries can evaluate its progress.

USGCRP Seeks Public Comment

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) seeks public comment on the third-order draft of its Climate Science Special Report (CSSR). This special report provides an update to the physical climate science presented in the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3) released in 2014. The CSSR Public Comment Period runs from 15 December 2016 – 3 February 2017 (revised). The draft CSSR is also undergoing a concurrent peer review by the National Academies.

December 15, 2016

ESA 2017 Graduate Student Policy Award

ESA invites you to apply for the 2017 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). Awardees receive first-hand engagement at the interface of science and public policy. The event will occur April 24-26, 2017.

Participants receive:

  • Travel to Washington, DC, to participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to speak-up for federal investment in the sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation. Domestic travel, hotel, and meal expenses will be paid by ESA.
  • Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and trends in federal science funding.
  • An opportunity to hear first-hand from ecologists currently working in federal agencies about their policy careers.
  • Meetings with congressional policymakers on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological sciences.
  • The opportunity to be interviewed for ESA’s podcast, The Ecologist Goes to Washington and blog
    The deadline to apply is January 10, 2017. We looking forward to viewing your application. Thank you in advance for representing your society on Capitol Hill!

President-elect Transition Update

Interior Pick

Trump transition insiders tout freshman Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) as the pick for Secretary of the Interior. Just Friday, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the fourth most senior member of the House leadership, had been leading in the bet for Interior’s top job.

McMorris Rodgers has been dogged by an ongoing ethics probe, referred to the House Ethics Committee in December 2013, alleging improper use of congressional resources, including staff, in campaign activity from 2010 to 2012. She has faced charges of retribution in connection with those complaints also. These ethics complications are thought to have impeded her possible nomination.

Trump spokesman Jason Miller noted that “Congressman Zinke is a strong advocate for American energy independence. And he supports an all-encompassing energy policy that includes renewable, fossil fuels and alternative energy. Additionally, Congressman Zinke believes we need to find a way to cut through bureaucracy to ensure our nation’s parks, forests, and other public areas are properly maintained and used effectively.” Lola Zinke, the apparent nominee’s wife, is serving on the Trump transition’s Veteran Affairs landing team.

Zinke, a life-long hunter and angler, defends public access to federal lands and, unlike McMorris Rodgers, rejects proposals to sell public lands to state or local entities. He has, however, advocated for state control of energy development on federal lands.

On climate change, Zinke is a realist, commenting to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle in 2015, “You know, if you go up to Glacier Park and you have your lunch on one of the glaciers, you will see the glacier recede while you eat lunch. So you know I have seen the change in my lifetime.” He continued, “So something’s going on, and so I think you need to be prudent. It doesn’t mean I think you need to be destructive on fossil fuels, but I think you need to be prudent and you need to invest in ‘all-the-above energy.’”

As a junior member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Zinke has advanced a number of bills related to American Indian water rights and habitat protections. In 2015 he was the only Republican to join Democrats in proposing to permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The League of Conservation Voters, however, rates him at 3 percent voting score. The average score for House members in 2015 was 41 percent.

Zinke is reported to have hit it off with Donald Trump Jr., the president-elect’s eldest child who is also an avid hunter, and met with the president-elect on Monday in New York. He has also earned praise from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Teddy Roosevelt Conservancy Partnership, Friends of the East Rosebud and the Outdoor Industry Association. Others, such as the National Parks Conservation Association, the Center for Biological Diversity, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, voiced concern.

Zinke has been seen as a leading contender to challenge Montana Senate Democrat Jon Tester who is thought to be vulnerable in a tough 2018 reelection fight. As Interior Secretary, Zinke would likely not be a factor.

State Pick

President-elect Donald J. Trump named Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, as his choice for Secretary of State. Tillerson’s nomination drew bipartisan concern about his close personal relationship with Russia’s President Valdimir Putin. Mr. Tillerson’s dealings with Russia extend over two decades. In 2013 he was awarded Russia’s “Order of Friendship.”

Tillerson’s is also expected to face vigorous questioning about Exxon Mobil’s billions of dollars of contracts in Russia that are currently stalled due to US sanctions against Russia resulting from its annexation of the Crimea, formerly part of Ukraine. Mr. Tillerson has publicly spoken out against the sanctions in the past.

President Obama and European leaders recently agreed to extend Russian sanctions until Mr. Putin agrees to a cease-fire and removes heavy weapons from eastern Ukraine.

Regarding climate change, Mr. Tillerson might be a moderating influence on Trump administration policies. As CEO of Exxon Mobil, Tillerson has moved the corporation away from its former strident climate skepticism, while defending the corporation against climate-related investigations by several state attorneys general. He is seen as accepting climate science and has supported a carbon tax and research on carbon capture, sequestration and biofuels. However, his viewpoint is in direct contradiction to Exxon’s basic fossil fuel business. Importantly, the Secretary of State is the nation’s top diplomat that negotiates the Paris Agreement and other international collaborations such as Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer treaty.

Energy Pick

Former Texas governor Rick Perry, a presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016, is the nominee for Secretary of Energy. Perry famously, in a November 2011 presidential debate, wanted to eliminate the Department of Energy, along with Commerce and Education, but could not remember its name.
Perry serves on the board of Energy Transfer Partners LP, the company the company behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which is supported by Mr. Trump. He has a degree in Animal Science from Texas A&M University.

In addition to being a former Trump opponent, Mr. Perry is also experienced in reality television, having appeared in the 2016 version of “Dancing With The Stars.” Perry and his partner were eliminated on September 26, the same night as the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Perry later remarked, “You know, I was probably more helpful to Donald last night being here than sitting in the audience at the debate.”

Perry’s pick is in stark contrast to the current Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz, who previously headed MIT’s physics department and former Energy Secretary Steve Chu, a Nobel Laureate physicist. Perry’s pick is worrisome because of his lack understanding of the basic Energy mission. One of the primary responsibilities for the Energy secretary is to manage the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal. When former Secretary Chu was asked by Congress if the nuclear arsenal would be better managed by the Defense Department, he replied, “It’s better to leave this in the hands of the scientists.” Whether Rick Perry understands the role that science plays managing the nation’s nuclear and other energy assets is uncertain. He is a free market proponent for fossil fuels, but there is no free market for nuclear materials (enriched plutonium) used in weapons or in nuclear reactors. Additionally, spent nuclear fuel material tracking is Energy’s responsibility and a national security issue. It remains to be seen how Perry will lead Energy if confirmed as secretary.

In a related note, the Trump landing team submitted a 77-page questionnaire to Energy officials asking intrusive questions about employees and contractors who worked on climate science and policy among other topics. Energy declined to “name names.” The story and questionnaire was was leaked to the first reported in the Washington Post.

EPA Pick

Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt has been nominated at director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pruitt has spent much of his tenure as attorney general fighting EPA regulations and was praised by the Trump transition team as “an expert in Constitutional law” who “brings a deep understanding of the impact of regulations on both the environment and the economy.” Pruitt’s own website calls him “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.”

Pruitt’s nomination for EPA raises troubling questions about legal conflicts of interest. In five years as Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has filed or joined at least 13 lawsuits against the EPA; eight are still pending. These include: challenges to “haze reduction” rules; ethanol fuel mandates, the Clean Power Plan; regulation of greenhouse gasses; Clean Water Act rules; regulations on methane emissions at oil and natural gas sites; and suits to compel Freedom of Information Act requests for communications records between federal agencies and nonprofit environmental groups.

With his picks of Perry for Energy, Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development, Scott Pruitt for EPA, and Betsy DeVoss for Education, president-elect Trump has selected nominees who fundamentally oppose the basic missions of the agencies they would lead.

COMPETES Reauthorization (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act)

In early morning voting December 10, the Senate passed S.3084, its version of the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act with unanimous consent, signifying broad bipartisan support. Procedural objections by one senator, however, prevented the bill being returned to the House in time for consideration. Members hope the legislation will provide guidance for quick action in the new congress.

The COMPETES Act, first enacted in 2007 and last reauthorized in 2010, provides for various programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and activities at the Office of Science and Technology Policy, including federal science, development, and STEM programs. It expired three years ago and subject to continuation since. House and Senate reauthorization bills had been pending since early summer with the House passing its version in late May.

The Senate bill, which took the form of an amendment in the nature of a substitute, strongly endorsed NSF’s two existing criteria for evaluating grant applications—the “intellectual merit” of the idea, and the “broader impacts” of the research on society. House Science chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) had insisted on “national interest” categories also and these were included in the resulting Senate-passed bill, but as examples of benefits rather than primary goals of research. Removed were spending targets which had called for a 4% increase in NSF and NIST funding in 2018 that were in previous Senate versions. House leadership has banned statements of funding levels in authorization bills, reflecting the desire to reduce federal spending.

Legislative Update

Continuing Resolution Passes

Late on Friday December 9, the Senate beat an impending government shutdown when it passed H.R.2028, a continuing resolution, by a vote of 63 to 36, with less than an hour to go. The continuing resolution keeps the federal government funded through April 28, 2017.

The continuing resolution as passed largely maintains spending at existing levels, as expected. However, it includes new funding for the recently enacted 21st Century Cures Act, water infrastructure aid related to the Flint Michigan lead crisis as well as flooding relief in Louisiana and reimbursing New York City for expenses associated with security for President-elect Trump, and increases in Defense spending. It also fast-tracks consideration of retired Marine General James Mattis for Secretary of Defense, a provision added by the House December 6.

The measure needed 60 votes to clear a procedural hurdle before final consideration which it narrowly passed, 61 to 38. Much of the drama centered proposals to extend health benefits for 16,500 retired coal miners, championed by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), which lost. Manchin sought funding for a full year rather than the resulting four months.

In the end, the legislation was must-pass to avoid a government shutdown. Further adjustments were precluded by the House having passed its version of the bill Thursday, December 8, and left town for the holidays.

Both the House and Senate will maintain pro-forma, non-legislative, schedules up until the beginning of the 115th Congress January 3, largely to prevent President Obama from making recess appointments.

Senate Passes Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act

Early Saturday morning, December 10, the Senate passed the compromise Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, S.612, in one of its last acts of the 114th Congress. WIIN encompasses much of the previously passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 including compromise language authorizing states to create permitting programs for coal ash disposal; improvements to harbors, dams and other water-related public works; provisions for the Flint Michigan lead-contaminated drinking water crisis; and California drought relief. Most of those provisions follow language in the previous WRDA, S.2848, passed in the Senate on September 15 by a 95 to 3 vote.

The California drought relief provision threatened to derail passage as Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke for hours against it. The provision allows for pumping of water from the San Francisco Bay watershed to agricultural areas in time of drought. Boxer argued that it would endanger salmon fisheries in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Five of six West Coast senators, all Democrats, joined Boxer in opposition to the bill.

Overwhelming support for the bill, however, convinced Boxer to withdraw her objections and it passed 78 to 21. Speaking outside the Senate chamber before the vote, Boxer commented “I think the House vote [360 to 61] was an indication that the bill is so popular. I wrote the darn thing. It’s too good. It’s so good, it’s so good for my state.” The bill passed with 26 projects for California.

In addition to provisions from the Water Resources Development Act, WIIN included the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians Water Rights Settlement Act, and the Water and Waste Act of 2016.

The White House has indicated support for the Act and is expected to sign it.

Executive Order - Safeguarding the Nation from the Impacts of Invasive Species

On December 5, President Obama signed an Executive Order amending Executive Order 13112 of February 3, 1999 which called upon executive departments to take steps to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species and to support efforts to eradicate and control invasive species that are already established. The 1999 order also established the Invasive Species Council to oversee implementation of that order and improve Federal response to invasive species.

President Obama’s new order directs continued, coordinated Federal action to prevent and control invasive species. It maintains the National Invasive Species Council and the Invasive Species Advisory Committee. It expands the membership of the Council, clarifies its operations and incorporates considerations of human and environmental health, climate change, technological innovation, and other emerging priorities into Federal efforts to address invasive species.

It also directs the National Invasive Species Council to undertake a National Invasive Species Assessment, in coordination with the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s periodic national assessment, that evaluates the impact of invasive species on major U.S. assets, including food security, water resources, infrastructure, the environment, human, animal, and plant health, natural resources, cultural identity and resources, and military readiness, from ecological, social, and economic perspectives. Further, it directs advancing national incident response, data collection, and rapid reporting capacities that build on existing frameworks and programs and strengthen early detection of and rapid response to invasive species, including those that are vectors, reservoirs, or causative agents of disease.

By December 31, 2019, the Council shall publish a National Invasive Species Council Management Plan (Management Plan), which shall, among other priorities identified by the Council, include actions to further the implementation of the duties of the National Invasive Species Council. The Council will subsequently evaluate and update the Management Plan every three years and provide a public annual report of its achievements.

This new executive order reinforces the previous order, strengthens interagency coordination, and incorporates consideration of climate change and cost-efficient actions.

While largely consistent with the previous order, President Obama’s new order is subject to provisions of the Congressional Review Act which provides a period of 60 “session days” (days when Congress is in session) during which Congress can simply pass a resolution of disapproval to overturn an executive action or regulation. Those motions of disapproval are not subject to filibuster in the Senate, though they could still be vetoed by the president if passed.

Due to the possibility of a presidential veto, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has only once been successfully implemented, against a November 2000 Clinton Administration regulation requiring employers to take measures to curb ergonomic injuries in the workplace. In March 2001, still under the 60 day provision, the Republican Congress passed a resolution of disapproval and newly-elected President George W. Bush quickly signed the disapproval. Because the CRA forbids the agency from creating similar regulations, ergonomic injuries in the workplace have continued to be unregulated.

House Republicans, in the just concluded Congress, unsuccessfully attempted to expand the scope of the CRA with the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2016, H.R.5982, which would have allowed an “en bloc” resolution to disapprove multiple regulations rather than one at a time under the current CRA.

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.

return to top

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.