March 4, 2015

In This Issue

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for additional information on the hearing.

SENATE: SENIOR APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE DEMOCRAT MIKULSKI TO RETIRE

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read her official statement.

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

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

Enclosed are key findings of the report:

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

Click here for the report.

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

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

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

Click here to read the full letter.

APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES PRAISE LAWMAKERS FOR LACK OF CLIMATE RIDERS

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

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

Click here to view the full letter.

CURRENT POLICY

Considered in House

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

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

Passed House

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

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

Introduced in Senate

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

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

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

Vetoed by President

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

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


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

February 19, 2015

In This Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NSF Accounts

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

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

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

Click here for additional information on the NSF budget:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for additional information on the NOAA budget:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

EPA: PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUEST PRIORITIZES CLIMATE ACTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for additional information on the study:

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

CLIMATE: NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL CONSIDERS GEOENGINEERING

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

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

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

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

Click here for additional information:

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed rule: Public comment closes March 16, 2015

Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Southwest Fisheries Science Center Fisheries Research

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

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment closes April 7, 2015

National Science Foundation Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide

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

Ocean Energy Management Bureau

Notice: public comment closes March 30, 2015

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

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

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comment closes April 6, 2015

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

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

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

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

Approved by House Committee

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

Passed House

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

Cleared for the White House

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

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

January 28, 2015

In This Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW OVERSIGHT, SUBPOENA RULES

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

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

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

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

SENATE: LAWMAKERS AGREE CLIMATE IS CHANGING, DISPUTE HUMAN CONTRIBUTION

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

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

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

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

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

INTERIOR: OBAMA TO PROTECT ARCTIC NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE FROM DRILLING

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to view the full announcement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOREST SERVICE: FINAL RULE ISSUED ON SNOWMOBILE USE

 

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

 

Click here for additional information.

NOAA: FISHERIES SERVICE RELEASES NEW CLIMATE STRATEGY

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comment period closes Mar. 30, 2015

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

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

Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period closes Feb. 26, 2015

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

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

Fish and Wildlife Service

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

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

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


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

January 15, 2015

In This Issue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SENATE: CLIMATE CHANGE CHAMPION BARBARA BOXER TO RETIRE IN 2016

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

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

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

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

Click here to view Senator Boxer’s retirement announcement.

SENATE: DEMOCRATS NAME APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SENATE: COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS NAMED

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

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

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

Click here for a full listing of subcommittee chairs.

HOUSE: REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS

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

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

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

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

HOUSE: SMITH ANNOUNCES SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRS FOR SCIENCE COMMITTEE

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

Below are the new subcommittee chairs and vice chairs:

Subcommittee on Energy

Chairman Randy Weber (R-TX)

Vice-Chairman Dan Newhouse (R-WA)

Subcommittee on Environment

Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK)

Vice-Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR)

Subcommittee on Oversight

Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA)

Vice-Chairman Bill Johnson (R-OH)

Subcommittee on Research and Technology

Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA)

Vice-Chairman John Moolenaar (R-MI)

Subcommittee on Space

Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-MS)

Vice-Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL)

Click here to view the full press statement.

FWS: SUPREME COURT DECLINES CHALLENGE TO DELTA SMELT PROTECTIONS

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

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

EPA: METHANE EMISSIONS REDUCTION PLAN ANNOUNCED

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment period closes Feb. 13, 2015

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

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

Council on Environmental Quality

Notice: Public comment period closes Feb. 23, 2015

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

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

US Fish and Wildlife Service

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

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

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

Environmental Protection Agency

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

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

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

CURRENT POLICY

Passed House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

December 17, 2014

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS PASSES FY 2015 ‘CROMNIBUS’ FUNDING PACKAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for the White House Statement of Administration Policy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NSF: CENSUS CONSIDERS REMOVING FIELD OF DEGREE QUESTION

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

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

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

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

PUBLIC LANDS: DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION INCLUDES WILDERNESS, NATIONAL PARKS BILLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for additional information on the public lands provisions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Solicitation: Nominations due Jan. 9, 2015

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

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

Notice: Public comment period closes Jan. 26, 2015

National invasive lionfish prevention and management plan

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

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

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

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

US Fish and Wildlife Service

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

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

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

CURRENT POLICY

Passed Senate

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

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

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


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

December 5, 2014

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE FLOATS FY 2015 SPENDING BILL

This week, House leadership announced its plan to continue spending for most government agencies throughout the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 and avert a government shutdown.

The House’s 2015 omnibus appropriations bill would fund most government agencies through Sept. 30, 2015. The sole exception would be the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would only be funded through March. The deal has often been nicknamed a “cromnibus” package, given that it’s mostly an omnibus, save for DHS, which is funded at existing levels, much like a continuing resolution.  An omnibus is preferential to a continuing resolution in that it gives appropriators more leeway to direct spending levels at a programmatic level.

GOP lawmakers singled out the DHS because it has jurisdiction over implementation of the president’s controversial immigration executive order to provide a pathway to legal status for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants. The shortened extension would allow next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate to pass an FY 2015 funding bill with spending constraints on the agency related to the executive order.

Senate Democrat leaders, while indicating their preference for an omnibus that funds all federal agencies, expressed willingness to support the House’s proposal on the condition that it doesn’t include riders unacceptable to their party. Opposition is expected from far-right conservative members who prefer another short-term continuing resolution that would give appropriators in the next Congress influence over current FY 2015 spending. Leading appropriators in both the House and Senate in both parties have indicated they would prefer passage of an omnibus so they can start 2015 with a clean slate.

Thus far, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has stated he will not cater to conservative demands to make major changes to the bill and expects it to pass with bipartisan support. The bill’s legislative language has yet to be released. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has indicated she will wait for the release of the bill text before commenting on whether she will urge her caucus to support the measure. The bill is expected to be introduced on Dec. 8.

 

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES NEON ACCOUNTING

On Dec. 3, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing to review a series of audits of spending by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of the Inspector General and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) conducted the audits. The first 2011 audit found that the documentation proposing a $433.7 million NEON construction project was inadequate to audit as “none of its proposed cost elements for labor, overhead, equipment, etc., reconcile to its supporting data.” Subsequent audit reports were conducted.

Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) acknowledged “in response to these audits, NSF has made a number of adjustments to how the agency evaluates costs of major projects” while maintaining that “$150 million in unsupported and questionable costs in the NEON proposal demonstrates that major problems at NSF continue.”

The findings of the auditors led to the release of a subsequent NSF Inspector General (IG) audit on Nov. 20, 2014 scrutinizing NEON’s accounting system. The auditors found several instances of noncompliance. This was followed by a Nov. 24 IG memo outlining recommendations to improve its management practices.

Democratic committee members noted there was no representative from NSF itself to provide a balanced perspective.  Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said that the fact that the most recent IG findings were released just two weeks ago precluded NSF from being able to prepare testimony for the committee. She added that since DCAA was established to review Department of Defense audits, DCAA lacked staff with the sufficient expertise to appropriately audit NSF grants and cooperative agreements.

An NSF spokesperson has stated that the agency has already addressed some issues raised in the audits and is actively working to resolve others. 

Click here to view the 2011 audit report. Click here to view the 2012 audit report. Click here to view the 2014 audit report.

Click here for additional information on the hearing.

 

NSF: CORDOVA ANNOUNCES REVISED TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY GUIDELINES

At the November National Science Board (NSB) meeting, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova outlined the agency’s new approaches to enhancing transparency and accountability, including a revision to the agency’s guidelines for program officers and providing regular updates on the agency’s transparency and accountability web page.

The guidelines for program officers in the Proposal and Award Manual now state that a nontechnical project description must explain the project’s significance and importance and “serve as a public justification for NSF funding by articulating how the project serves the national interest, as stated by NSF’s mission: to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; or to secure the national defense.” The titles and abstracts of NSF’s awards are made public on the agency’s website.

Click here for additional information.

 

EPA: AGENCY EASES MEDIA RULES FOR SCIENTISTS

In a memo released last month, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tempered its media policy, stating that its science advisers may speak to the media as long as they clarify they are not representing the views of the committees they sit on or the agency itself.

“Should a [Federal Advisory Committee (FAC)] member receive a press or other inquiry related more generally to their scientific area of expertise or related to their participation in a FAC (other than related to deliberations), they are free to respond to the inquiry in their capacity as a private citizen,” the memo states.

The recent memo comes after a notice released in April stating that scientists serving on Federal Advisory Committees must “refrain from responding in an individual capacity” to media inquiries.”

The notice was criticized in an August letter by seven research and journalistic organizations, which included the American Geophysical Union, the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Society for Conservation Biology, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Click here to view the full EPA memo. Click here to view the April document. Click here to view the August organizational letter.

INVASIVES: ESA VOICES CONCERN WITH SALAMANDER FUNGAL DISEASE

On Nov. 20, the Ecological Society of America sent a letter to US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe requesting that the agency address the threat posed to salamanders by the fungal disease Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bs).

“Bs, a recently described emerging fungal pathogen of Asian origin, most likely carried via the pet trade, is now killing native salamanders in Holland and Belgium,” the letter notes. “All steps must be taken to keep Bs out of the United States where it does not exist yet. Our native salamanders are known to be vulnerable to decimation by this new disease if it arrives. The US is the global center of salamander diversity. They must be protected for their own sake and because of the significant role they play in the forest ecosystems of our country.”

Click here to view the full letter.

CLIMATE CHANGE: ESA COSPONSORS CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON CLIMATE ENGINEERING

On Dec. 4, the Ecological Society of America helped organize and cosponsor a congressional briefing entitled “Climate Engineering: Future Guiding Principles and Ethics.” The briefing was also sponsored by the American Society of Agronomy, the Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America.

The briefing featured former House Science and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon, who held a hearing on climate engineering – also known as geoengineering – in 2010. Featured speakers also included Paul Bertsch, Deputy Director of Australia’s Land and Water Flagship of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Michael MacCracken, Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs with the Climate Institute.

Speakers outlined how the various impacts of global climate change on ecosystems and elaborated on the various options available to mitigate these impacts through climate engineering as well as the challenge of developing a framework of guiding principles and ethics amid current political circumstances.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: APPLY FOR 2015 ESA GRADUATE STUDENT POLICY AWARD

ESA invites applications for its 2015 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). This award, offered annually to up to three winners, provides graduate students hands-on science policy experience in Washington, DC including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials, and others engaged in science and public policy. 

ESA covers travel and lodging expenses associated with this event for GSPA recipients. The two-day event will occur in late April.

The application deadline is Wednesday, January 14. For more information, click this link

CURRENT POLICY

Passed House

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

H.R. 3979, the Carl Levin and Howard P. ‘Buck’McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015 – Sponsored by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), the bill reauthorizes Department of Defense programs through Fiscal Year 2015. The bill also includes a number of public lands bills that have passed the House Natural Resources Committee and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee with strong bipartisan support. The bill passed the House Dec. 4 by a vote of 300-119. There were 194 Republican and 106 Democratic votes for the bill, with 32 Republicans and 87 Democrats voting against.

Click here for additional information on the natural resources provisions. 

Passed Senate

1000, the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act – Introduced by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), the bill would require the US Office of Management and Budget to prepare a crosscut budget to improve tracking of costs and performance of Chesapeake Bay restoration activities. The bill passed Dec. 2 by unanimous consent. Companion legislation (H.R. 739) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA).

Cleared for White House

H.R. 5069, the Federal Duck Stamp Act – Introduced by Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), the bill would increase the price of permits to hunt waterfowl from $15 to $25. The price increase is the first since 1991. The increased revenue would be directed toward the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. The bill passed the Senate Dec. 2 by unanimous consent after passing the House in November. The president is expected to sign the measure into law.

 


Sources: US Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, National Journal, Roll Call

November 19, 2014

In This Issue

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: US, CHINA REACH AGREEMENT ON CARBON EMISSION REDUCTIONS

On Nov. 12, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced an agreement that aims to set the US and China on a path to dramatically reducing their carbon emissions.

The United States will cut its emissions 26–28 percent below 2005 emission levels by 2025. China agreed to “peak” its emissions by 2030 and will work to meet that goal earlier. China has also set a target to expand use of non-carbon emitting energy sources to 20 percent of its total energy consumption by 2030. The breakthrough is pivotal as China previously resisted calls to cap its emissions.

The Obama administration declared the reduction goals can be met “under existing law,” without approval from Congress. However, Congress could block funding for the effort using the appropriations process. It appears likely that the Republican-controlled Congress will try. This could pose problems for the president’s subsequent pledge of $3 billion (USD) for the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund to address the ramifications of climate change in developing nations.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who is seeking to the chair the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next year, released a statement referring to the US-China agreement as a “non-binding charade” that exempts China of any real commitments.

“In the president’s climate change deal, the United States will be required to more steeply reduce our carbon emissions while China won’t have to reduce anything,” stated Inhofe. “It’s hollow and not believable for China to claim it will shift 20 percent of its energy to non-fossil fuels by 2030, and a promise to peak its carbon emissions only allows the world’s largest economy to buy time.”

Click here for additional information on the agreement.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR QUESTIONS ‘TRUTHY’ NSF STUDY

On Nov. 10, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France Cordova requesting information on the agency’s decision to fund research into the spread through social media of ideas and memes, including political commentary and campaign messaging.

The study in question, entitled “Truthy,” is a multi-year research project by the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing. The name is derived from the term “truthiness,” coined by political comedian, Stephen Colbert for information that feels like truth. The authors apply the term to social media messages from bots [programs] that seem to come from real people and sponsored messages that seem to come from grassroots movements.

According to the University of Indiana project website, one of the goals of the study is to “develop machine learning and visual analytics tools that could aid people in recognizing misinformation such as harmful rumors, smear campaigns, astroturfing, and other social media abuse.”

Chairman Smith contends that the project singles out conservative messaging tactics and threatens free speech.

“The committee and taxpayers deserve to know how NSF decided to award a large grant for a project that proposed to develop standards for online political speech and to apply those standards through development of a website that targeted conservative political comments,” states the Smith letter.

In its “Frequently Asked Questions” page, the study maintains that “Truthy may happen to track some political memes as they co-occur with keywords related to themes on which we focus. However, we are a non-partisan research group and there is no attempt to represent or support any political views.”

In response to criticism, the project’s authors penned a blog clarifying that “the Truthy project is not designed and has not been used to create a database of political misinformation to be used by the federal government to monitor the activities of those who oppose its policies.”

“The assumption behind the Truthy effort is that an understanding of the spreading patterns may facilitate the identification of abuse, independent from the nature or political color of the communication,” the authors write.

The day Chairman Smith issued the letter; the Association of American Universities (AAU) released a statement on his committee’s continued inquires into NSF grants:

“If the Committee wishes to override the merit review process or if it wants NSF to stop funding research related to certain issues, its members owe it to the American public to say clearly what they are doing: substituting their judgment for the expertise of scientists on the vital question of what research the United States should support. The long history of success at NSF in making US science the best in the world would be undermined by such a change.”

Click here to view the AAU statement. Click here to view Chairman Smith’s letter. Click here to view the author’s response. Click here to link to the ‘Truthy’ study website.

HOUSE: REPUBLICAN CONFERENCE NAMES NEW COMMITTEE CHAIRS

This week, the House Republican Conference announced its committee chairs for the upcoming 114th Congress, which convenes in January 2015. House Democrats have yet to select their top spots for committee ranking members. Also pending are selections for subcommittee chairs.

Below is a list of new and returning chairs for House committees with jurisdiction over legislation that may be of interest to the ecological community:

Returning

House Appropriations Committee: Rep. Hal Rodgers (R-KY)

House Energy and Commerce Committee: Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)

House Education and Workforce Committee: Rep. John Kline (R-MN)

House, Science, Space and Technology Committee: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX)

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA)

New

House Agriculture Committee: Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX)

House Natural Resources Committee: Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee: Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

House Ways and Means Committee: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES URGE LAWMAKERS TO BOOST RESEARCH FUNDING

As lawmakers finalize work on an appropriations agreement to potentially fund the government through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, scientific societies are requesting adequate federal investment in scientific research and innovation.

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is among 133 research, education, business and health organizations that signed a letter address to all Members of Congress urging passage of a FY 2015 omnibus appropriations bill that increases spending for federal agencies and programs that advance scientific research and higher education. The letter discourages lawmakers from enacting another continuing resolution (CR) that would flat-fund federal agencies at existing spending levels and calls for a commitment that helps close our nation’s “innovation deficit.”

“The fact that other nations are building up their research and innovation capabilities is not a bad thing. The world benefits from stronger research and education in other countries as well as our own,” states the letter. “What should concern us is that those other nations are doing this while the United States is essentially standing still. This poses a serious challenge to our position as the world’s innovation leader, and the economic and national security benefits that flow from it.”

ESA also joined the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in signing a letter to appropriators supporting $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation in FY 2015, which was the dollar amount included in the House bill. This would be a three percent increase over FY 2015.

The Senate’s FY 2015 funding bill included $7.255 billion for NSF, a 1.2 percent increase over FY 2014. This amount, while equal to the president’s FY 2015 budget request, is an uncharacteristically low increase for the agency and barely keeps pace with inflation.

“To close the innovation deficit and maintain our position of leadership, we must continue to make strong and sustainable investments in our research enterprise,” the CNSF letter states. “We can start by passing an FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill which provides increased funding for NSF.”

Agreement on a final appropriations bill is expected in December, though the administration’s plan to take action on immigration reform in the near future could complicate matters. The existing CR currently funding the government expires Dec. 11.

Click here to view the innovation deficit letter. Click here to view the CNSF letter.

SENATE: RESEARCH COMMUNITY REQUESTS SPENDING BILL FREE OF CLIMATE ‘RIDERS’

On Nov. 10, the Ecological Society of America joined 19 other scientific research organizations and institutions in sending a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) requesting that they pass a final Fiscal Year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill that supports funding for climate research and is free of any legislatively mandated constraints on such research.

Several appropriations bills taken up by the House included “climate research riders,” legislative language in either the base bill or added through the amendment process that would cut or prohibit funding for programs that advance scientific understanding of issues related to global climate change. Among them are severe cuts to the Department of Energy’s Biological and Ecological Research program and prohibitions on spending to implement the US Global Change Research Program or the fifth assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“No matter where in the nation we live or what we do for a living, as a nation we all benefit from climate research,” the letter notes. “Farmers and business owners depend on climate science to make decisions on matters of profit and loss, including what to make, grow and sell, how to manage supply chains, and other resource allocation decisions. State leaders and managers depend on the best available climate science for energy infrastructure planning, transportation infrastructure and maintenance planning, and water resources management.”

Click here to view the full letter.

FWS: GUNNISON SAGE GROUSE GARNERS ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROTECTIONS

On Nov. 12, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced it will list the Gunnison sage grouse (Centrocercus minimus) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

According to FWS, there are only about 4,700 Gunnison sage grouse left, occupying only seven to 12 percent of the species’ historical range in Colorado and Utah. Concurrent with the publication of the final rule, FWS is designating 1.4 million acres in Colorado and southeastern Utah as critical habitat for the species. The listing was first proposed by the service in Jan. 2013, citing habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human development. The decision has no direct bearing on FWS’s still pending decision to list the related greater sage grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as endangered under the ESA, which the agency is evaluating independently.

“While many people hoped that the extraordinary conservation efforts by our partners in Colorado and Utah would resolve all the threats faced by the Gunnison sage-grouse, the best available science indicates that the species still requires the Act’s protection,” said FWS Director Dan Ashe in a press statement.

Many agricultural landowners will not be affected by the bird’s new status. Those who have committed to Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances will be in full compliance with the ESA. Participating landowners took steps to improve sage grouse habitat and survival by, for example, removing invasive cheatgrass and putting ramps into stock tanks to help trapped birds escape drowning. Participants in the US Department of Agriculture’s Sage Grouse Initiative, Working Lands for Wildlife and Conservation Reserve Program will also be in compliance.

Nonetheless, the decision has ignited a political fervor between the administration, environmentalists and Colorado and Utah policymakers in both major political parties. Senators and Members of Congress representing the affected areas claim the listing threatens to undermine the conservation work done at the state and local government level to preserve the species.

“States, local governments, and public land users are working collaboratively to restore the Gunnison sage grouse populations and progress continues to be made,” stated Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT). “Restoration of the species is not something that can fully be measured overnight and it’s premature to supersede state and local actions with an ESA listing.

Congressman Bishop was recently elected by the Republican conference to chair the House Natural Resources Committee next year. The committee has primary jurisdiction over legislation that would reauthorize and reform the Endangered Species Act.

In contrast, environmental groups argue the threatened listing did not go far enough. WildEarth Guardians and several other environmental organizations plan to file suit against FWS in favor of a full “endangered” listing for the species, arguing the birds are at imminent risk of extinction and warrant full protection. The Nov. 12 deadline for FWS to make a decision was mandated by a settlement agreement from a WildEarth Guardians lawsuit over a backlog of species listing decisions.

Click here for additional information.

CURRENT POLICY

Passed House

H.R. 5266, to reauthorize the National Estuary Programs – Introduced by Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), the bill would reauthorize the National Estuary Program through Fiscal Year 2018 to address issues that include seagrass habitat loss, harmful algae blooms, unusual marine mammal mortalities, invasive species and flooding. The bill passed the House Nov. 12 by voice vote.

H.R. 5682, to approve the Keystone pipeline – Introduced by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the bill would authorize TransCanada to construct the Keystone XL pipeline across the US-Canada border. The bill passed the House Nov. 14 by a vote of 252-161 with 31 Democrats joining Republicans in supporting the bill.

The Senate began debating the bill this week, it failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to advance in the Senate by a vote of 59-41. While President Obama has criticized efforts to move legislation to fast-track approval of the Keystone pipeline, the White House did not issue a formal veto threat of the bill.

H.R. 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), the bills adds new peer-review requirements to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). It requires SAB to select members that represent a “balanced” view of scientific issues, opening the board up to the prospect of perspectives far outside scientific consensus as well as beliefs not based in science. The bill also requires the advisory board to make publicly available all scientific information used in determining its advisories to EPA.

The bill passed the US House of Representatives on Nov. 18 by a vote of 229-191 with four Democrats joining all but one Republican, Rep. Chris Gibson (NY), in support of the bill. It is not expected to be considered in the Senate before Congress adjourns for the year.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House recommended vetoing the bill, stating it would “negatively affect the appointment of experts and would weaken the scientific independence and integrity of the SAB.

Click here to view the administration’s full statement.

H.R. 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ), the bill would prohibit EPA from finalizing regulations based on science that is not “transparent or reproducible.”

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House recommended vetoing the bill, stating “some scientifically-important data is not made broadly available in order to protect the privacy of test subjects or confidential business information, and H.R. 4012 could prevent EPA from taking actions based on protected data.” This bill passed Nov. 19 by a vote of 237-190 with eight Democrats joining all but one Republican (Rep. Chris Gibson (NY)) in support of the measure. It is not expected to be considered in the Senate before Congress adjourns for the year.

Click here to view the administration’s full statement.


Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the Washington Post

November 5, 2014

In This Issue

SENATE: ELECTIONS, RETIREMENTS SHAKE UP KEY SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEES

On Nov. 4, Republicans decisively gained control of the US Senate for the first time in eight years. The party managed to hold onto all their incumbents while picking up seats in Arkansas (Tom Cotton), Colorado (Cory Gardner), Iowa (Joni Ernst), North Carolina (Thom Tillis), Montana (Steven Daines), West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito) and South Dakota (Michael Rounds).

Among races too close to call, Republican candidate Dan Sullivan is leading Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska, while current Democratic Sen. Mark Warner holds a very small edge over Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia. As anticipated, Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu was forced into a run-off in her race against Republican Bill Cassidy when neither candidate obtained a majority of the vote according to state rules. Senate Republicans could hold between 53–55 Senate seats next Congress after the dust finally settles at the conclusion of the Dec. 6 Louisiana run-off.

For the 113th current congress, the Democratic Party holds the chair position on committees. This will change in January when the Republican Party holds the Senate majority in the 114th congress beginning in January. Committee chairs are elected by their party, but, in practice, seniority is rarely bypassed. The current committee chair (majority party) and ranking member (minority party) roles for committees and subcommittees usually exchange roles when there is a new majority party. While a Senator is allowed to serve as chair or ranking member on more than one subcommittee, they generally only serve as chair or ranking member on one full committee. The 2014 election results, as well as retirements, will mean new leadership for a handful of Senate committees with jurisdiction over issues that affect the ecological community.

Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is the Ranking Member and is in line to become chair under a Republican-controlled Senate. Current Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is expected to serve as the ranking member.

Appropriations

Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the senior Republican is expected to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Republican Senate majority. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) would continue as Ranking Member under the new leadership. Mikulski and Shelby also hold the top spots for their parties on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Commerce, Science and Transportation

Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is retiring at the close of the current 113th Congress. Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) is expected to chair the committee next year. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Cantwell are the next most senior Democrats that could serve as ranking member in January. Sen. Boxer would need to cede her top spot position on the Environment and Public Works Committee and is not expected to do so.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the ranking member of the Science and Space Subcommittee and may take control of the subcommittee in the Republican Senate. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) currently chairs the subcommittee and could serve as ranking member.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the senior Republican on the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee. Sen. Begich, who is currently trailing in his reelection race, would serve as the subcommittee ranking member. Sens. Nelson, Cantwell and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are the next most senior Democrats who might serve as ranking member in the new Senate if Begich loses.

The next Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chair will have to decide on how to move forward with legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which outlines funding priorities for NSF and other federal agency science programs and initiatives.

Environment and Public Works

The current senior Ranking Member on the Environment and Public Works Committee is David Vitter (R-LA), but Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a former chair, is expected to pursue the chair for the 114th Congress. Sen. Inhofe is a vocal skeptic of climate science. The Senate committee has primary jurisdiction over US Environmental Protection Agency rules that would seek to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Sen. Boxer is expected to continue as ranking member.

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) is the subcommittee ranking member of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, who could serve as chair next year. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) is the current chair who could serve as ranking member. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over legislation related to the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and National Wildlife Refugees.

Energy and Natural Resources

Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is expected to lead the committee in a Republican Senate. Current Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu is set to enter a run-off with David Cassidy. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Al Franken (D-MN) are in line to succeed Landrieu as ranking member if she loses her race in the Dec. 6 run-off election. Wyden, Cantwell, and Stabenow currently are positioned to hold ranking member slots on other committees they would have to give up to take this committee’s ranking member slot.

Current Natural Parks Subcommittee Chairman Mark Udall (D-CO) lost his seat to Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO). Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are next in line to succeed Udall as the subcommittee ranking member. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is the current subcommittee ranking member that could lead the committee in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Health Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) will retire at the close of the 113th Congress. Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is expected to lead the committee in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The future chair will decide the role of STEM education programs in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act when it is considered for reauthorization.

HOUSE: ELECTIONS, KEY LEADERSHIP CHANGE COULD AFFECT FY 2015 SPENDING

As expected, the US House of Representatives added to its Republican majority in the wake of the 2014 midterm elections. The overall ideological make-up of the chamber is not expected to change significantly in the 114th Congress. However, the Republican Senate takeover may impact the Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations bills.

When the 113th Congress returns on Nov. 12 for its lame-duck session, it has just under a month to take up either a short-term or long-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund government programs for the remainder of FY 2015. Congress passed a short-term CR in September to fund federal agencies through Dec. 11. Fiscal Year 2015 began Oct. 1, 2014 and will end Sept. 30, 2015.

There will also be a change in the House Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee chair that sets funding levels for the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  Current Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) is retiring at the end of 2014. He has been a steadfast proponent of increased funding for science agencies.

If Congress fails to reach a spending deal for the remainder of FY 2015 before his retirement, it will fall to Wolf’s successor to negotiate investments in science for the remainder of FY 2015. Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and John Culberson (R-TX) are viewed as potential candidates to succeed Wolf as the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee chair next year.

FY 2015 funding for agencies that fall under the CJS subcommittee is expected to be included in either a comprehensive omnibus legislation that  funds most or all government agencies— or a “minibus” that could include a few of the less contentious appropriations bills, such as those that fund Veterans’ Affairs and Department of Agriculture programs.

Bipartisan and bicameral consensus has been fairly easy to reach on the CJS, Agriculture and Veterans Affairs appropriations committees. Negotiations that fund the bills for Interior and Environmental Protection Agency programs are more difficult due to partisan differences over spending levels and certain Obama administration priorities.

Click here for a full list of results for House and Senate races.

IPCC: NEW REPORT FINDS CLIMATE CHANGE EFFECTS IRREVERSIBLE

A new synthesis report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that, absent a dramatic international effort on the part of nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the earth is on course to undergo “irreversible” detrimental impacts from global climate change. To avoid the worst effects of global warming, the report says, the world must cut emissions by as much as 70 percent by 2050 and stop emitting altogether by the end of the century.

“Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts,” the report stated.

The report noted that some consequences of climate change will continue for centuries, even if all fossil fuel emissions stopped immediately. Consequences outlined include food shortages, refugee crises, flooding of major cities and island nations, mass species extinction and summer temperatures too hot for outside work or recreation.

In typical fashion, the report was embraced on Capitol Hill by Democrats while being criticized by Republicans.

“The world’s top scientists are telling Members of Congress and policy makers around the globe that we cannot just try to adapt to climate change,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in a committee statement. “Instead, we must act now to reduce dangerous carbon pollution or it will it lead to irreversible impacts for human health, food and water supplies, and vital infrastructure.”

In a similar statement, House Science, Space and Technology Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) asserted “the U.N. is once more attempting to provide cover for costly new regulations and energy rationing.” He added “America cannot afford to drive its economy over a cliff with the hopes that the rest of the world will make the same mistake.”

Click here to visit the IPCC web portal.

EDUCATION: OSTP REQUESTS INFORMATION ON CLIMATE LITERACY

On Oct. 22, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced a call for educational institutions, non-profit organizations, scientific societies and the business community to submit information on efforts to advance climate education and literacy at K-12 classrooms, colleges, universities, parks and museums nationwide.

Submissions can be directed to ClimateEd@ostp.gov by Nov. 7, 2014.

Click here for additional information.

USDA: MIDWEST FARMERS WILL RECEIVE $4M TO HELP HONEYBEE POPULATIONS

On Oct. 29, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced $4 million in funding for Midwest farmers to improve the health of honeybees that play an important role in crop production. The funding will be primarily used to provide diverse and safe food resources for honeybees. It will be provided by USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

According to USDA, honeybees pollinate $15 billion worth of crops. The Midwest encompasses 65 percent of the commercially managed honeybees in the United States. The funding is directed to Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

The effort is part of the Obama administration’s larger strategy to protect pollinators. Click here to view the full strategy.

USDA: NEW WEBSITE PROVIDES CLIMATE INFORMATION TO AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITY

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched a new “climate hubs” website. The portal provides information and tools for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to understand and adapt to the effects of a changing climate. Users will find resources related to drought, fire risks, pests and diseases, climate variability, heat stress and links to USDA resources.

Click here for additional information.

USDA: PARTNERSHIP OFFERS FUNDING FOR GULF COAST RESTORATION

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is partnering with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to provide $40 million in total grant funding for ecosystem restoration in the Gulf Coast region.

USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and NFWF will each provide $20 million for projects in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas to conserve wetlands and improve farming practices. The NRCS funding comes from existing programs authorized by the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113-79), which reauthorizes farm bill programs through 2018.

Click here for more information on the partnership.

To learn more about NRCS Gulf restoration efforts, visit here.

NSF: NEW ONLINE RESOURCE TRACKS STEM EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT

On Oct. 28, the National Science Board released an interactive Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education online resource website. The portal includes charts and other information related to national trends related to education and employment in STEM fields.

Click here for additional information.

EDUCATION: ESA SENDS LETTER TO TEXAS BOARD REQUESTING TEXBOOKS ACCURATELY REFLECT CLIMATE SCIENCE

On Oct. 28, the Ecological Society of America sent a letter to the Texas State Board of Education requesting that K-12 student textbooks accurately depict current understanding of scientific research related to climate change and its causes.

“Policy implications of climate change are far-reaching and impact both public and private sector decisions related to agriculture, energy, water, forests, human health, transportation and infrastructure,” the letter states. “Misrepresenting the level of scientific consensus stands to diminish our capacity to understand, mitigate and adapt to the real long-term threats to human society posed by these environmental changes.”

Click here to view the full letter.

NSF: ESA COMMENDS RANKING MEMBER JOHNSON FOR SUPPORTING MERIT REVIEW PROCESS

On Oct. 28, the Ecological Society of America sent a letter to House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), expressing appreciation for her continued opposition to Chair Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) continued politicization of the National Science Foundation (NSF) merit review process for research grants.

“While it is typical for elected officials to set priorities for investments in research, there has been a longstanding tradition of bipartisan discretion given to NSF’s nonpartisan merit-review system to prevent the peer-review process from becoming tainted by political motivations,” the letter states. “Compromising the integrity of the existing merit-review system would hinder the ability of scientists to pursue research that benefits our society.”

Click here to view the full letter.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

The Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers
Proposed Rule: Public Comment period closes Nov. 14

A proposed rule defining the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0880-0001

National Agricultural Statistics Service, US Department of Agriculture

Notice and Request for Comments closes Dec. 29

Pollinator Surveys: Intent to seek approval to conduct a new information collection for a period of three years on honeybees

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NASS_FRDOC_0001-0125

Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public Comment period closes Dec. 29

Notice of intent to amend CITES Appendix III: International endangered species protections for four turtle species

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-HQ-ES-2013-0052-0001


Sources:  Federal Register, National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, Roll Call, the Washington Post

October 22, 2014

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: NEW CLIMATE STRATEGY PROMOTES NATURAL RESOURCE RESILIENCY

The White House released a new resiliency-focused strategy to protect natural resources from threats posed by climate change.

The “Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda” focuses on building climate change resilience through various means including enhancing US carbon sinks such as forests, grasslands, wetlands and coastal areas. The administration announced five executive actions and 16 public-private partnerships to complement this agenda. The overall strategy is the latest effort in the administration’s Climate Action Plan.

Click here for additional information.

DEFENSE: PENTAGON REPORT NAMES CLIMATE CHANGE AS A THREAT MULTIPLIER

On Oct. 13, the Department of Defense released a 20-page report outlining the federal agency’s efforts to address climate change. The report specifies how the military will prepare for the consequences of climate change and its impacts on national security.

“Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe, “ the report notes. “In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism.”

The report outlines potential effects of climate change on military operations, efforts to integrate climate considerations into these operations and collaboration on climate adaptation strategies and research.

Click here to view the full report.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: SENATORS REQUEST WITHDRAWAL OF CRITICAL HABITAT RULES

Four Republican Senators penned a letter to the Obama administration requesting the withdrawal of proposed rules intended to clarify the process of designating critical habitat for endangered and threatened species.

The Senators are concerned that the new proposals will allow federal agencies to designate critical habitat for areas not currently used by endangered species. Proponents for endangered species agree that critical habitat is the key to survival. Critical habitat provides protections for listed species by prohibiting federal agencies from permitting, funding, or carrying out actions that “adversely modify” designated areas without first consulting the federal entity that designates and monitors the habitat.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA) and Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) spearheaded the letter. Water and Wildlife Subcommittee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) and Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Ranking Member Marco Rubio (R-FL) also signed the letter.

The Senate committees have jurisdiction over the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marines Fisheries Service (NMFS), which both make critical habitat decisions related to enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. The Senators assert the proposed rules would prioritize environmental concerns over the needs of private landowners.

“As Ranking Members of the Senate committees and subcommittees with jurisdiction over the ESA, we are concerned that the proposals provide the FWS and the NMFS with an unprecedented ability to designate vast swaths of land and bodies of water as critical habitat with limited justification and without stakeholder input,” the letter states.

Click here to view the full letter.

FWS: ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS FILE LAWSUIT TO PROTECT WOLVERINE

A coalition of eight environmental groups is suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate the North American wolverine (Gulo gulo luscus) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

FWS proposed “listing” the wolverine in Feb. 2013 after federal biologists speculated that the animal’s snowpack habitat used for denning females was suffering from warming temperatures. In August, however, FWS Director Dan Ashe announced that whether climate change was affecting wolverine populations was “ambiguous” and formally withdrew the listing proposal.

Led by Earthjustice, the advocacy organizations contend that FWS did not rely on “the best available science” and did not fully analyze threats to the wolverine throughout a significant portion of its range. The groups contend that the agency is ignoring the findings of its scientists on how climate change has affected the species.

“Biologists estimate that, in total, the lower-48 wolverine population consists of no more than 300 individuals,” states the lawsuit. The best available scientific information shows that the snowy habitat required by wolverines is predicted to shrink dramatically as climate change progresses, with significant detrimental impacts on the wolverine species.”

Additional groups suing include the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and Rocky Mountain Wild.

Click here to view the Earthjustice complaint. Click here to view the Aug. 2014 FWS notice.

EPA: REPORT FINDS CHEMICAL LINKED TO BEE DEATHS DOES NOT BENEFIT SOYBEAN PRODUCTION

A recent report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded there is little benefit to using neonicotinoid pesticides in soybean production. Scientists have linked the insect pesticide to colony-collapse disorder in honeybees.

“We have made the review of neonicotinoid pesticides a high priority,” Jim Jones, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, said in a press statement. “In our analysis of the economic benefits of this use we concluded that, on a national scale, US soybean farmers see little or no benefit from neonicotinoid seed treatments.”

The EPA’s Biological and Economic Analysis Division conducted the peer-reviewed study.

A notice will be published in the Federal Register allowing the public to comment on the analysis.

Click here for additional information and updates.

EPA: NEW REPORT MEASURES CLIMATE INDICATORS

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released the third edition of a report, “Climate Change Indicators in the United States.”

The report pulls together research data measurements of ocean heat, ocean acidity, sea level, length of growing season and other indicators that demonstrate that climate change is already affecting the environment and human society. The report focuses on long-term trends for environmental measurements and was peer-reviewed by independent experts.

Click here for additional information and to download the full report.

UNITED NATIONS: REPORT FINDS OCEAN ACIDIFICATION IMPACTING MARINE ECOSYTEMS

This month, a United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity team of 30 international experts led by UK scientists issued “An Updated Synthesis of the Impacts of Ocean Acidification on Marine Biodiversity.” The report finds that ocean acidification has increased by around 26 per cent since pre-industrial times, and will continue to increase in the next 50 to 100 years, drastically affecting marine organisms and ecosystems as well as the $1 trillion annually in goods and services they provide.

“While $1 trillion may sound like a huge figure, but we need to consider the benefits derived from marine biodiversity to many major industries,” Mr. Arico said in an interview. “Ocean acidification will greatly affect food security in the coming years, as well as tourism and other industries such as the pharmaceutical industry which relies on many marine organisms.”

Click here to access the report.

GAO: REPORT FINDS GOVERNMENT LACKING IN EFFORTS TO ADDRESS OCEAN ACIDIFICATION

A report from the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticizes the federal government for not fully implementing a recent federal law to curb ocean acidification.

“The National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology, in the Executive Office of the President, and several federal agencies have taken steps to implement the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2009 (FOARAM) but have yet to complete some of the act’s requirements,” the report found.

The FOARAM law requires an interagency task force to assess the impacts of ocean acidification and identify mitigation and adaptation strategies that federal agencies can implement. The lead agencies comprising the task force are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Findings site a lack of coordination between task force agencies. It also faulted the task force for not laying out a budget estimates for its research and monitoring plan that would help federal agencies and lawmakers understand what specific amount of funding is necessary to address the issue.

The report called upon the White House to be more specific in laying out each agency’s responsibilities. GAO also suggested that establishing an independent ocean acidification program office might improve coordination between agencies. However, the interagency group has not reached a consensus on how to fund such an office.

Click here to view the GAO report.

DISEASE: NSF ACCEPTING RESEARCH PROPOSALS TO ADVANCE UNDERSTANDING OF EBOLA

In light of the Ebola virus’s emergence in the United States, the National Science Foundation is seeking applicants for Rapid Response Research grant proposals to conduct non-medical, non-clinical research that advances understanding of spread of Ebola.

Click here for additional information.

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Establishing transit through walrus protection areas in Alaska (closes Nov. 3)

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0066-0005

Critical habitat designation for Western population of yellow-billed cuckoo (closes Nov. 14)

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2013-0011-0001

National big data research and development initiative; Correction (closes Nov. 14)

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NSF_FRDOC_0001-1398

Petition to down list the Arroyo Toad under the Endangered Species Act (closes Nov. 17)

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-R8-ES-2014-0007-0012

Removal of the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel from Endangered Species Act (closes Nov. 24)

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FWS-R5-ES-2014-0021-0002


Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the Washington Post

October 4, 2014

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA DESIGNATES WORLD’S LARGEST MARINE RESERVE

On Sept. 25, President Obama signed a proclamation designating the largest marine reserve in the world off-limits to commercial resource extraction including fishing.

The proclamation expands the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to an area 490,000 square miles, six times its current size and fully protects its deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems which are vulnerable to climate change impacts. The move is in line with the administration’s broader National Ocean Policy and its Climate Action Plan.

The area was originally designated a monument by President George W. Bush in early 2009 and will continue to be managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Click here for additional information.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CONTINUES EFFORTS TO REVIEW NSF GRANTS

House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) continues to single out National Science Foundation (NSF) peer-reviewed research projects viewed as frivolous or wasteful.

Through press releases and direct meetings with NSF officials, the chairman has sought to bring attention to dozens of grants he views as a misuse of taxpayer money. Chairman Smith has also used the legislative process to advance the issue. His bill, H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, includes language requiring the agency to specify how grants funded by the agency serve national economic and security interests.

The effort has stirred partisan tensions among members of the traditionally bipartisan committee.  On Sept. 30, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), issued a letter outlining the unprecedented nature of Chairman Smith’s efforts. The letter is only the most recent instance of written correspondence between the two senior members of the committee over NSF’s merit review process.

“Of the more than two decades of committee leadership that I have worked with – Chairmen Brown, Walker, Sensenbrenner, Boehlert, Gordon and Hall – I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific peer-reviewed grants simply because the chairman simply does not believe them to be of high value,” stated the Johnson letter.

To date, the chairman’s legislative efforts to change NSF’s peer-review process have not reached the House floor for a vote, due in part to continued opposition from the research and education communities. It is unknown whether the House has the necessary votes to take up the bill during the lame-duck session when Congress reconvenes Nov. 11.

Though the bill is unlikely to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate before the end of the year, its prospects in 2015 will largely depend on the make-up of Congress following the Nov. 2014 midterm elections as well as continued engagement by the scientific community at large.

Click here to read the Ranking Member Johnson letter.

EPA: COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED FOR CLEAN WATER RULE

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is extending its public comment period until Nov. 14 for its proposed rule clarifying federal jurisdiction of US waterways. This is the second time EPA has extended the rule’s comment period.

Recent US Supreme Court decisions, including Rapanos v. United States, have called into question the term “navigable waterway” as defined under the Clean Water Act. The proposed EPA rule would clarify that narrower water bodies such as streams, wetlands and smaller rivers, are under the law’s jurisdiction.

The comment period extension caters to the request of a number of stakeholders, including industry groups that believe the proposed rule would be expensive and burdensome. Last month, the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit EPA from implementing the rule. The legislation could advance in the Senate next year if Republicans win control of the chamber.

Click this link for additional information on the proposed Clean Water rule.

HOUSE: CAFETERIAS INSTITUTE BAN ON POLYSTYRENE FOOD CONTAINERS

The House cafeteria elected to stop serving food in polystyrene food containers following a letter from House Democrats urging a ban on the containers. The National Research Council affirmed the listing of styrene, the monomer used to create polystyrene packaging, as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”

Polystyrene was banned during the four-year period Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) served as Speaker of the House. Its use was reinstituted when republicans gained the House majority after the Nov. 2010-midterm elections.

The Longworth building cafeteria is now using paper packaging and the remaining House cafeterias are expected to follow suit. Earlier this year, the District of Columbia government enacted a law phasing out use of polystyrene products although Congress is not subject to this law.

Click here to view the House Democrats’ letter.

FWS: COMMENT PERIOD OPENS FOR PROPOSED BLACK PINESNAKE, FISHER LISTING

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing listing the black pinesnake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) and the fisher (Pekania pennanti) as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

The black pinesnake found in Mississippi and Alabama suffers from population loss caused by habitat degradation, fire suppression activities, road kills and intentional killing by humans. The West Coast population of the fisher, commonly known as a type of weasel, is threatened from habitat loss, rodent-killing pesticides and wildfires.

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned listing both species.

Comments for the pinesnake listing are due by Dec. 8, 2014. Comments of the fisher listing are due by Jan. 5, 2015.

Click here to view the Federal Register notice for the black pinesnake.

Click here to view the Federal Register notice for the West Coast fisher population.


Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the Washington Post