August 24, 2016

In This Issue

NSF: Strategic Plan Requesting input from the ecological community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The map includes these features:

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

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

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

Federal Register Notices

Agency Information Collection Activities: Requests for Comments 

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

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

Comments should be submitted by September 21, 2016

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

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

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

Meeting Notices 

Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Public Advisory Committee

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

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

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice of Public Meetings; Request for Public Comment

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

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

Submit Advance Public Comments by September 9th, 2016. 

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

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

Request for Nominations 

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

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

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

Nominations should be submitted by August 30, 2016.

July 27, 2016

In This Issue

Zika funding fails, Democrats cite controversial amendments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appropriations break down, omnibus or continuing resolution likely

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

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

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

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

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

UN Green Climate Funding in doubt

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

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

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

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

Canada moves toward national carbon price

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Register Opportunities

Call for Nominations

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

Nominations will close September 6, 2016

Request for Public Comment

USDA Forest Service

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

Comments must be received by September 8, 2016.

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

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

July 13, 2016

In This Issue

Appropriations and Energy

Congressional calendar stall spending bills and energy reform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adaptation

Army Corps proposes “living shorelines” for coastline protection

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

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

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

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

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

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

International Agreement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOIA

Private emails ruled subject to FOIA requests

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

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

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

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

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

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

Land Management

Deputy Assistant Secretary Lyons defends BLM planning overhaul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Current Policy

Hill Correspondence

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

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

Read the USGS Coalition letters to the House and Senate

Read the Coalition for National Science Funding letter

Federal Register Opportunities

Proposed Rules

U.S. Army Corps

Proposal To Reissue and Modify Nationwide Permits

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

Comment period ends on August 1, 2016.

Request for Public Comment

Office of Science and Technology Policy

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

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

Comment period ends July 29, 2016.

Call for Nominations

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

International Whaling Commission; 66th Meeting; Nominations

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

Nominations will close on August 26, 2016.

June 29, 2016

In This Issue

Senate: NSF authorizing bill introduced

Senate

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appropriations: Senate FY 2017 Interior bill reported

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Water Resources bill

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

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

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

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

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

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

House NSF facilities reform bill passes with bipartisan support.

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

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

Ensuring Sound Science at EPA hearing held

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

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

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

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

Awards NSF: Seeking nominations for the NSB Awards

The National Science Board is accepting nominations for two awards. 

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

Nominations are due Sept. 3, 2016. 

Legislation

Enacted into Law

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


Introduced in House

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

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


Introduced in Senate

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

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

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

Federal Register Opportunities

Request for Information

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

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

Proposed Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 1, 2016

In This Issue

ENERGY: HOUSE PASSES BILL THAT RESTRICTS CLIMATE, ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH

On May 25, the House passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The bill passed by a vote of 241-178. Eight Democrats joined all but six Republicans in supporting the measure.

S. 2012 passed the Senate April 20, 2016 by a strong bipartisan vote of 85-12. The House used “an amendment in the nature of a substitute” to replace the Senate-passed text with the language of a more partisan House energy bill, H.R. 8, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015. The White House released a statement threatening to veto H.R. 8 in Nov. 2015, stating it would undercut efforts to increase the nation’s energy efficiency.

The House language includes a number of restrictions on scientific research, particularly related to the Department of Energy Office of Science’s Biological and Environment Research (BER) program. The House legislation would authorize funding for BER 9.7 percent ($59 million) below the FY 2016 appropriated level. The legislation would also prevent BER from carrying out climate science research that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies as “overlapping or duplicative.” Further, the legislation would also require BER to “prioritize fundamental research on biological systems and genomics science” over “climate and environmental research.”

Since both the House and Senate have passed differing energy bills, the two chambers must appoint conferees composed of the two House and Senate committee members with primary jurisdiction over the energy bill. The chairs and ranking members of the two committees will lead negotiations to reach a bill that could pass both chambers.

The House rejected a motion by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) to instruct conferees on the bill to support inclusion of the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund included in the Senate bill.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has expressed reluctance to go to conference with the House bill in light of the presidential veto threats against so many of its provisions. As ranking member, Cantwell would be among the conferees designated to negotiate a final bill.

Congress would need to reach an agreement that could pass both chambers and be sent to the president before the two-year session of the current Congress adjourns towards the close of the current calendar year. Any bill not signed by the president will have to be reintroduced when the 115th session of Congress convenes in Jan. 2017.

ESA submitted a letter to the leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee requesting that the cuts and restrictions to scientific research included in the House bill not be included in legislation negotiated between the two chambers.

Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 8.

APPROPRIATIONS: FY 2017 INTERIOR BILL CUTS FUNDING FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ENTITIES

On May 24, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. As in recent years, the bill includes several provisions that would prohibit funding for Obama administration environmental regulatory initiatives.

In total, the bill provides $32.095 billion for the US Department of Interior, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Forest Service, $64 million below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.

The bill funds wildland firefighting and prevention programs at $3.9 billion – fully funding the 10-year average for federal agency wildland fire suppression costs. The committee report outlining funding for wildfire specific accounts between the Department of Interior and US Forest Service has yet to be released. Of the $5.3 billion appropriated for the US Forest Service, $2.9 billion is targeted towards wildland fire suppression and prevention activities.

EPA would receive $7.98 billion, $164 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level. Policy riders to prohibit the agency from implementing new regulations for greenhouse gas emissions, methane, mining and navigable waters, among others, were also included in the bill. Traditionally, many of these provisions have been removed during the conference process between the House and Senate.

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

US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.5 billion, a $17 million decrease.

US Geological Survey:  $1.1 billion, an $18 million increase.

Office of Surface Mining: $236 million, level with existing funding.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.2 billion, a $10 million decrease.

National Park Service: $2.9 billion, s $71 million increase. The increase is targeted toward reducing the park maintenance backlog and priorities related to its centennial anniversary.

Smithsonian Institution: $863 million, a $23 million increase.

Land and Water Conservation Fund: $322 million, a $128 million decrease.

The Ecological Society of America provided testimony to the Interior appropriations subcommittee requesting support for the Joint Fire Science Program.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CONVENES ZIKA HEARING

On May 25, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing entitled “Science of Zika: The DNA of an Epidemic.”

During the hearing there was bipartisan consensus that more support is needed for further research and monitoring of the Zika virus. As summer nears, the terrain with weather favorable to mosquitoes in the continental United States will expand.  

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) felt the Zika threat warrants the Obama administration raising travel alert threat protocols. He called on the administration to raise the travel alert to level three for Brazil, Colombia and other countries with high rates of Zika infections. The level three warning acknowledges high risk to travelers and recommends avoiding all non-essential travel. Smith cited the Olympics in Brazil as factoring into the administration’s decision not to raise the travel alert level.

“At the least, pregnant women should be told to avoid nonessential travel to Brazil and Colombia,” said Smith. “Anything less is putting political correctness ahead of the well-being of American women.”

Questions predominantly centered on improving monitoring and public awareness, understanding the molecular biology of the virus, how it interacts with the human body and the difficulties of pesticide use in light of the fact that the mosquito species that spreads the virus is common on the private property of Americans’ backyards.

“It is perplexing that the Zika virus was first identified in the late 1940s, but we are only seeing major Zika outbreaks now,” noted Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) “What has changed in the last 70 years to make conditions more suitable for the virus to be transmitted?”

“I imagine that the rapid increase in human travel has played a large role, but I do wonder how much other factors like insecticide resistance and climate change may be playing in the spread of this disease,” she continued. “All of these research questions need to be answered as we plan effective mosquito control programs and prepare to invest our resources.”

Witnesses testifying included Kacey Ernst, Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Arizona; Daniel Neafsey, Associate Director, Genomic Center for Infectious Disease, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard; Steven Presley, Professor, Department of Environmental Toxicology, Texas Tech University; and Hadyn Parry, Chief Executive Officer, Oxitec.

Click here to view the hearing.

EDUCATION: NEW REGULATIONS GUIDE IMPLEMENTATION OF 'STUDENT SUCCEEDS' LAW

On May 26, the US Department of Education announced proposed regulations to carry out the recently enacted Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The regulatory reform include these key topics:

  • Refining definitions and measurements for academic achievement and success for schools.
  • Providing targeted specialized support for struggling schools
  • Ensuring parents and communities have data that helps them productively engage and in their educational systems.
  • Streamlining state education plans to eliminate duplication.

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 5303 – The Water Resources Development Act of 2016  – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH) and Ranking Member Grace Napolitano (D-CA), the bill authorizes $5 billion for US Army Corps of Engineering infrastructure projects surrounding the nation’s waterways. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved by bill by voice vote on May 25.

A similar bipartisan Water Resources Development Act (S. 2848) was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on April 28 by a vote of 19-1.

Passed House

H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act – Introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill would have eliminated pesticide permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act while providing a two-year waiver for permits mandated by the Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The bill passed the House May 24 by a vote of 262-159 with 23 Democrats joining all Republicans in support of the measure. The bill previously failed to pass the House on May 17 as it was considered under “suspension of the rules,” where a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the bill. Click here to read the statement.

H.R. 5243, the Zika Response Appropriations Act – Introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY), the bill would provide $622.1 million to deter the spread of the Zika virus over the next five months through the end of current Fiscal Year 2016. The funding is offset by cuts to unobligated funding to address Ebola and the H1N1 virus. The bill passed the House May 18 by a vote of 241-184.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the House bill, primarily because it falls short of the administration’s request of $1.9 billion in emergency supplemental funding.

Click here to view the statement.

Introduced in Senate

S.1398, Energy Title of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 – Introduced May 20 by Sen Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the bill would reauthorize through FY 2020 designated energy research, development, and commercial application programs conducted through the Office of Science of the Department of Energy (DOE).


Sources: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill, Science Magazine

May 18, 2016

In This Issue

RESEARCH: SENATE COMMITTEE CONTINUES DELIBERATION OF AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION

 

On May 11, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened a hearing entitled “Leveraging the US Science and Technology Enterprise.” The hearing is part of the committee’s ongoing efforts to solicit input from the scientific community as it drafts legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act.

In his opening statement, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) praised the work of committee members Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in their bipartisan efforts to solicit input from and convene roundtables allowing members of the scientific community to weigh in on the Senate’s efforts to reauthorize the bill.

“Common themes arising from the roundtables included support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research, as well as encouragement of wider participation in STEM subjects; stronger partnerships among government, the private sector, and academia that could better leverage discoveries emerging from our research universities to drive innovation; and the importance of minimizing barriers and improving incentives for universities and the private sector to better maximize the scientific and economic return on limited federal research resources,” said Thune.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), filling in as ranking member, touched on some of those findings, “Experts from the scientific community, industry, academia, nonprofits and economic development organizations agree that modest, sustained and predictable increases in federal research and development investments are critical to ensuring the economic competitiveness of the United States moving forward,” said Peters.

Witnesses testifying included  Kelvin Droegemeier, vice chairman, National Science Board; Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president for research, Microsoft Corp.; Robert Atkinson, president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; and David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Click here to view the hearing.

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL REDUCES NSF, SCIENCE FUNDING

On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee released its Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. In total, the bill includes $56 billion in discretionary spending, a $279 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2017, a $57 million decrease over FY 2016. Research and Related Activities is increased by $46 million targeted to programs that foster innovation and US economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience and STEM education. Reductions are made in equipment and construction costs. Unlike the Senate CJS appropriations bill, there is no increased funding allocated towards the construction of Regional Class Research Vessels, setting up a potential showdown if the two chambers negotiate a final bill this fall.

Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.6 billion, a $185 million decrease 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration:$19.5 billion, a $223 million increase

National Institute of Standards and Technology: $865 million, a $99 million decrease

As in past years, the House has rescinded NOAA funding related to climate research and its National Oceans Policy. The bill maintains existing funding for NOAA’s current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program.

Click here for additional information on the House CJS bill.

Click here for ESA testimony in support of FY 2017 funding for NSF.

 

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE PASSES FY 2017 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL

On May 12, the Senate passed its version of the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 by a vote of 90-8.

The House also passed its FY 2017 energy and water spending bill (H.R. 2028) earlier this month by a vote of 240-177. The Senate took up the House version of the bill and added an amendment in the nature of a substitute, replacing the House-passed language with the text of the Senate bill (S. 2804). The Senate bill provides $37.5 billion for FY 2017, $100 million more than the House bill.

The bill cleared the Senate after a protracted fight involving an amendment to bar the administration from purchasing heavy water used in nuclear reactors from Iran failed by a vote of 57-42. Under Senate cloture rules, 60 votes were needed to adopt the amendment. The vote was largely partisan. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rand Paul (R-KY) joined most Democrats in opposing the amendment. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-NE) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined most Republicans in support of the amendment.

The House and Senate will negotiate a final bill in conference before sending it to the president. In recent years, it’s been more likely that the energy and water appropriations bill will be incorporated into an omnibus measure that funds all or most federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2017. It is unlikely Congress will complete negotiations on all appropriations measures before the Nov. 2016 elections, meaning Congress will likely enact a continuing resolution that will run through the first part of FY 2017, which begins Sept. 30, 2016.

Historically, Congress waits until finalizing appropriations during a presidential year until after the election, passing a short-term continuing resolution to maintain federal funding instead. The presidential election results could influence whether Congress finalizes its existing FY 2017 appropriations bills before or after the next president takes office.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy that objects to many of the funding levels in the Senate bill, but it stopped short of declaring the president would veto it.

Click here to view the statement.

 

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILL PASSES COMMITTEE

On May 17, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

The Senate bill includes $21.25 billion in discretionary spending for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), $250 million lower than the FY 2016 enacted level, though slightly higher the House’s FY 2017 agricultural spending bill.

The legislation provides $2.54 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  This amount includes $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a $25 million increase above the FY2016 enacted level. 

Below are funding levels for additional USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $939.3 million, a $44.9 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service:  $864.5 million, a $4.1 million increase.

Click here to view for additional information on the bill.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: KENYA HOSTS SECOND UN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSEMBLY

The second annual United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) will convene in Nairobi, Kenya from May 23-27 under the overarching theme of Delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SD) UNEA-2 will reflect the latest global, regional and national developments related to the environment. It will also provide the first global platform for reviewing progress on the SDGs, particularly their environmental dimensions. 

The UNEA is the world’s highest level decision-making body for environmental issues. UNEA enjoys the universal membership of all 193 UN Member States and the full involvement of major groups and stakeholders. UNEA-2 will also witness the launch of a global UN thematic report on health and the environment as well as several brand new studies on the state of the world environment, air pollution, and sustainable food production. Other issues the body hopes to address include the illegal trade of wildlife, coral reefs, food waste, global natural capital, green economy, and microplastics.

In advance of UNEA-2, ESA penned a letter to to Dr. Oyun, president, United Nations Environment Assembly, asking for her support for a proposal to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to recognize 2020 as an “International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.” Nearly half of the Earth’s land surface is classified as rangeland and grassland, and the health and productivity of these lands are critical to the livelihoods of an estimated 500 million people around the world. Rangeland and grassland habitats provide a multitude of ecosystems services. 

Others groups that are in support of an “International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists” are the Society for Range Management & The Rangelands Partnership, ILRI/International Land Coalition, International Rangelands Congress, and International Grasslands Congress.

Click here to view the ESA letter. 

 Click here for additionalUNEA-2 information.

NSF: NEW PLAN LAYS OUT VISION FOR FUTURE RESEARCH INVESTMENT

On May 2, the National Science Foundation released a nine-point plan for its vision for the future of fundamental research.

Six of the goals concern research ideas:

  • Accelerating future discovery by providing the fundamental techniques, tools, research cyberinfrastructure, and educational foundations to harness the data revolution.
  • Understanding how technologies affect human behavior and testing new learning environments inside and outside schools.
  • Developing our capacity to predict the phenotype of a cell or organism.
  • Identifying and supporting research that answers deep questions about quantum behavior and develops the means of accessing and manipulating quantum systems.
  • Establishing an observing network of mobile and fixed platforms and tools across the Arctic to document ongoing rapid biological, physical, chemical and social changes.
  • Examining the universe’s beginnings and seek to improve understanding of some of the universe’s most exotic properties.

Three of the goals concern concept ideas: 

  • Focusing on convergent multi-disciplinary research among the physical sciences, biological sciences, computing, engineering, and the social and behavioral sciences
  • Increasing support for midscale research infrastructure.
  • Identifying bold, long-term foundational research questions to set the stage for breakthrough science and engineering all the way to NSF’s Centennial in 2050.

The plan is supported by the National Science Board, but would require funding support from Congress and the next administration for its implementation.

Click here to view the plan.

 

OSTP: WHITE HOUSE ANNOUNCES NATIONAL MICROBIOME INITIATIVE

On May 13, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced its National Microbiome Initiative. The new initiative seeks to expand our knowledge of microbiomes to “aid in the development of useful applications in areas such as health care, food production, and environmental restoration.”

The federal agencies will collectively invest $121 million, while institutions, businesses, and other stakeholders will invest an additional $400 million towards the effort.

Click here for additional information.

EPA: METHANE RULES ISSUED

 

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA issued for the first time regulations that will reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production. 

Methane is a key constituent of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. The regulations are part of the administration’s Climate Action Plan to reduce methane emissions, and stay on course to achieve its goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. The regulations received praise from environmental groups, while industry criticized them.

Click here for more information.

 

FWS: PRESIDENT SIGNS LAW DESIGNATING BISON NATIONAL MAMMAL

On May 9, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law (P.L. 114-152). The new law designates the bison as the national mammal.

The original legislation (H.R. 2908) was sponsored in the House by Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and José Serrano (D-NY). Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) subsequently introduced companion legislation (S. 2032) in the Senate. H.R. 2908 passed the House April 26 by voice vote and passed the Senate April 28 by unanimous consent.

The Vote Bison Coalition, which is led by steering committee members from the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, and Wildlife Conservation Society, championed the legislation.

The bison joins the bald eagle (animal), oak (tree), and rose (flower) as official United States symbols.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Field Testing of a Vaccine for Use Against Infectious Laryngotracheitis, Marek’s Disease, and Newcastle Disease

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-11148

Environmental Protection Agency

Proposed rule: Public comments due June 16, 2016

Approval of California State Air Plan Revisions, Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District

Proposed rule: Public comments due June 17, 2016

Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; California; San Joaquin Valley; Revisions to Motor Vehicle Emissions Budgets for Ozone and Particulate Matter

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due June 9, 2016

Proposed Gopher Tortoise Conservation and Crediting Strategy

Notice: Public comments due June 13, 2016

Incidental Take During Specified Activities; Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization for Northern Sea Otters From the Southcentral Stock in Cook Inlet, Alaska

Notice: Public comments due June 13, 2016

Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Applications for Participation in the Amended Oil and Gas Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle in Oklahoma

Proposed Rule: Public comments due July 5, 2016

Revisions to Regulations for Eagle Incidental Take and Take of Eagle Nests

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due July 11, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Taiwanese Humpback Dolphin as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comments due July 15, 2016

Comment Request: National Science Foundation Proposal/Award Information-NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide 

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 5243, the Zika Response Appropriations Act – Introduced May 16 by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY), the bill would provide $622.1 million to deter the spread of the Zika virus over the next five months through the end of current Fiscal Year 2016. The funding is offset by cuts to unobligated funding to address Ebola and the H1N1 virus. The bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee and the House Budget Committee.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the bill, primarily because it falls short of the administration’s request of $1.9 billion in emergency supplemental funding. Click here to view the statement.

Passed by House Committee/Subcommittee

On May 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a mark-up of the following bills:

H.R. 4775, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016 – Introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), the bill would delay the deadline for the US Environmental Protection Agency to implement its70 parts per billion ozone standards for states by eight years to 2025. Companion legislation (S. 2882) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

H.R. 4979, the Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 – Introduced by Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA), the bill would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and US Department of Energy to craft a new framework for reviewing advanced reactors and vet them publicly within 270 days.

Failed Passage

H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act – Introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill would have eliminated pesticide permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act, while providing a two-year waiver for permits mandated by the Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The bill failed to pass the House May 17 by a vote of 262 – 159. Twenty-three Democrats joined all Republicans in support of the bill. The bill was considered under “suspension of the rules,” where a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage.

The language of the bill is nearly identical to the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2014, which failed passage in the House under suspension along similar partisan lines in July 2014.

Considered by Senate Committee

On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered the following bills:

S. 2533, the California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act– Introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would authorize $1.3 billion for long-term drought mitigation, including water storage, recycling and desalination projects, as well as authorize short-term operational changes to increase pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Companion legislation (H.R. 5247) has been introduced by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA).

S. 2902, the Western Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act– Introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the bill would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to update their forecasting methods to improve planning for water storage in light of climate change.


Sources: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill, Science Magazine

May 4, 2016

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMERCE, JUSTICE AND SCIENCE BILL CLEARS SUBCOMMITTEE

On April 19, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. The bill includes $56.3 billion, $563 above the FY 2016 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the Obama administration’s FY 2017 budget request.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.5 billion in FY 2017, a $46.3 million increase over FY 2017. The added funding is directed solely towards NSF major research and facilities construction, specifically the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. NSF research and related activities remains flat at the FY 2016 enacted level.

Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.7 billion, a $33.5 million increase. National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $19.3 billion, a $21 million increase.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: $5.6 billion, level.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) authorized an additional $50 billion above existing sequestration spending caps for FY 2016 and additional $30 billion above existing sequestration spending caps for FY 2017. Consequently, the total federal funding available for FY 2017 discretionary spending is less than the previous fiscal year.

Click here for additional information on the Senate CJS bill.

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE REPORT ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS

On April 20, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees moved their respective energy and water spending bills for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins Oct 1, 2016.

The House bill would provide $37.4 billion in funding, a $259 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $6.1 billion, a $100 million increase.

Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase.

Advanced Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $306 million, a $15 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $1.8 billion, a $248 million cut.

DOE Environmental Management: $6.2 billion, a $66 million cut.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $645 million, a $13 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $131 million cut.

Several amendments put forward by Democrats failed. One sought to strike policy riders in the bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing its Clean Water Rule and allowing firearms on Army Corps of Engineers land. Another failed amendment would have provided emergency funding for Flint, Michigan to address its drinking water crisis. 

In contrast, the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill passed committee with bipartisan support. Its Energy and Water bill would provide $37.5 billion in FY 2017, slightly larger than the House measure. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

The US Army Corps of Engineers: $6 billion, an $11 million increase.

The DOE Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $2 billion, level.

DOE Environmental Management: $6.4 billion, a $133 million increase.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $632 million, level.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.14 billion, a $327 million increase.

Like the House bill, the Senate bill prohibits EPA from revising enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The Senate did adopt an amendment that would increase total funding for ARPA-E to $325 million by a vote of 70-26.

Senate Democrats are blocking the energy and water spending bill over an amendment from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that would bar the United States from buying heavy water, a product used in nuclear reactors, from Iran. Democrats view the amendment as a political ploy to undermine the Iran deal.

The House energy and water appropriations bill passed on May 1. Floor debate on the Senate bill will resume when the Senate reconvenes May 9. Both the House and Senate are in recess the week of May 2.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House stated it would veto the House bill if the policy riders are maintained, but it has not yet taken a firm position on whether it would veto the Senate bill.

Click here to view additional information on the House bill.

Click here to view additional information on the Senate bill.

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILL INCREASES FUNDING FOR CONSERVATION, RESEARCH

On April 19, the House Appropriations Committee approved H.R. 5054, the House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

The bill includes $21.3 billion in discretionary spending, $451 million lower than the FY 2016 enacted level. Overall US Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs are funded at $868 million, level with FY 2016. Below are funding levels for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

Agricultural Research Service: $1.15 billion, an $8 million increase.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $930.83 million, a $36.42 million increase.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $832.86 million, a $13.18 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: $855.26 million, a $4.4 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the bill.

SENATE: COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY REFORM BILL PASSES WITH BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

On April 20, the US Senate passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act by a vote of 85-12. Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the comprehensive energy legislation would modernize federal energy policies to prioritize investment in renewable energy sources and promote energy efficient infrastructure.

Among its conservation-related provisions, the bill would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and create a National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund to address maintenance backlogs at national parks. The bill also incorporates (S. 1408), which would support research and development of fuel-efficient and advanced safety technologies for motor vehicles.

The 12 Senators who opposed the bill were all Republicans. Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) missed the vote.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy praising the bill for its conservation provisions. It also also expressed concern with other language, including restrictions on Department of Energy oversight of technology demonstration and commercial activity at National Laboratories and limitations on National Environmental Policy Act reviews.  Provisions in the bill to modernize the electric grid were also commended by Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

One of the bill’s  amendments from Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),calls on the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy and US Department of Agriculture to craft a coordinated biomass policy that reflects “the carbon-neutrality of forest bioenergy.”

Environmental groups oppose the biomass provisions and others that expedite natural-gas-export permitting decisions.

The House passed a more partisan energy bill (North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015) in Dec. 2015 by a vote of 249-174. If a conference agreement were negotiated and signed into law, the legislation would be the first comprehensive energy policy package enacted since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140).

Click here to view additional information on the bill.

Click here to view the White House Statement of Administration Policy on S. 2012

EPA: STATES REQUEST GUIDANCE ON CLEAN POWER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION

Over a dozen state regulatory agencies are requesting that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide additional guidance on how to implement the clean power plan rule in light of the Supreme Court’s stay on the rule.

The EPA cannot require states to comply with its power plant regulations during the stay, although states are can voluntarily meet the regulatory standards.

“We are a group of state environmental agency officials writing to request additional information and technical assistance related to the final Clean Power Plan in a manner that is respectful of the Supreme Court’s stay of the regulations until the conclusion of pending litigation,” states the letter. “This additional information and assistance will be important to our state efforts to prudently plan for and implement a variety of state and federal obligations.”

States signing the letter include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Click here to view the letter.

 

NSF: NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD REPORT EMPHASIZES VALUE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

On May 2, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board released a policy companion brief outlining the economic benefits provided by the United States’ higher education system, particularly related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. 

The policy brief utilizes data from the most recent Science and Engineering Indicators report. It also includes a “sense of the Board” statement highlight the broad public benefits that the US higher education system provides.

 The National Science Board believes that higher education plays a broader, intangible, and crucial role in supporting the past, current, and future success of our democratic society. “This role must be highlighted and better appreciated,” reads the statement.

Click here to view the report.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: SCIENTISTS ADVOCATE FOR NSF FUNDING ON CAPITOL HILL

On April 28, scientists and graduate students from across the United States visited Capitol Hill, meeting with 60 congressional offices to support $8 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Fiscal Year 2017. They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research, specifically related to NSF’s biological sciences directorate, benefits the communities the lawmakers represent. 

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event is organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BESC draws participation from Ph.D. scientists and graduate students affiliated with the two organizations. This year’s ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner participants were Brian Kastl (University of California), Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), Matthew Pintar (University of Mississippi), Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), Jessica Nicole Welch (University of Tennessee), and Samantha Lynn Werner (University of New Hampshire).

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

The morning prior to the Hill visits, the students met informally with several ESA members working in policy-related positions in federal offices: Nadine Lymn (National Science Foundation), Rich Pouyat (US Forest Service), Alan Thornhill (US Geological Survey) and Brittany Marsden (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and 2014 GSPA recipient). The afternoon before the visits, all BESC participants were also briefed on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 

Notice: Public comments due June 28, 2016

Notice of Request for Revision to and Extension of Approval of an Information Collection; Scrapie in Sheep and Goats; Interstate Movement Restrictions and Indemnity Program

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due June 17, 2016

Extension of Public Comment Period for the Draft EPA-USGS Technical Report: Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 27, 2016

Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut

Federal Aviation Administration

Notice: Public comments due July 5, 2016

Agency Information Collection Activities: Requests for Comments; Clearance of Renewed Approval of Information Collection: Bird/Other Wildlife Strike Report

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comments due May 20, 2016

Notice of Availability of a Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Fisheries and Ecosystem Research Conducted and Funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

Proposed Rule: Public comments due May 31, 2016

Intent to Conduct Scoping and Prepare a Draft Environmental Assessment for Changes in Regulations for Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries

US Department of Interior

Notice: Public comments due May 16, 2016

Draft 2016-2020 Environmental Justice Strategic Plan

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due May 19, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule to Amend the Listing of the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou

Proposed Rule: Public comments due June 13, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species Status for Platanthera integrilabia (White Fringeless Orchid)

Notice: Public comments due July 14, 2016

Availability of the Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement

US State Department

Notice: Public comments due May 30, 2016

Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Upland Pipeline in Williams, Mountrail, and Burke Counties, North Dakota and Conduct a Public Scoping Meeting

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 5049, the NSF Research Facility Reform Act of 2016 – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), the bill would enhance management and oversight of major multiuser research facilities funded by the National Science Foundation. The bill passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee April 27 by voice vote.

Passed House

H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – Introduced by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), the bill would reauthorize $300 million in spending for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The bill passed the House April 26 by voice vote. Companion legislation (S. 1024) introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Feb. 24, 2016.

H.R. 1684, the Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2016 – Introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), the bill would amend the 1990 Oil Pollution Act to include foreign offshore companies as entities liable for oil spill damage. The bill passed the House April 26 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S.2843, to provide emergency supplemental appropriations to address the Zika crisis – Introduced April 21 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would provide the Obama administration with its $1.9 billion request in emergency supplemental funding for its Zika initiative. The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 5044) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). 

S. 2886, the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act – Introduced April 28 by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the bill would reauthorize the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act of 2000. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

Approved by Senate Committee

S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 – Introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the $9.4 billion bill would reauthorize US Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure, flood control, and environmental restoration programs. The committee approved the bill April 28 by a vote of 19-1. The bill also incorporates legislation (S. 2579) authored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to authorize $170 million to repair aging water infrastructure nationally and $50 million for health care needs linked to lead poisoning.

Click here for a summary of the bill.


Sources:House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, the White House, Bloomberg BNAEnergy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill 

April 13, 2016

In This Issue

SENATE: LAWMAKERS REVIEW USGS PROPOSED FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST

 

The US Geological Survey (USGS) received bipartisan praise for its nonpartisan scientific research during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the agency’s $1.2 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget request.

“I am among those who appreciate both the work of the USGS and the spirit in which it is typically undertaken,” said Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her opening statement. “The agency is known for being non-partisan, and for seeking out concrete scientific evidence. And let me tell you, it’s quite refreshing to have an agency come before our Committee that does not have a significant regulatory agenda moving full speed ahead.”

She also praised the agency’s work to understand the nation’s water resources. Murkowski did press USGS Director Suzette Kimball on critical minerals research, urging the agency to give greater priority towards funding its energy and minerals division. Kimball noted that the USGS has an open a call to hire a new associate director for its energy and mineral resources program that would help advance and prioritize the mission area’s budget.

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) commended USGS’s climate change research and noted the importance of its satellite imagery in collecting climate data. Observing that Kimball refers to the USGS as “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] of wildlife,” he also highlighted the importance of tracking and monitoring the spread of zoonotic diseases, including Ebola and Zika.

Sens. Franken and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) both voiced concern about the spread of Asian Carp. Sen. Stabenow referenced a bipartisan Congressional Great Lakes Task Force that urges federal agencies to develop technology that prevents expansion of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, noting “the fish aren’t waiting for us.”

Kimball remarked the primary challenge is the development of technology that can eradicate Asian Carp without affecting other biological organisms in the Great Lakes. Stabenow asked for an update on current microparticle-toxins research that targets Asian Carp. To date, the agency’s laboratory trials have been completed with field trials scheduled for this spring. Kimball pledged to keep the Senate updated.

Click here to view the hearing.

Click here to read more about the USGS budget request. 

USGS: STUDY AFFIRMS ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROMOTES ECONOMIC GROWTH

On April 6, the US Geological Survey (USGS) published a report finding that various ecosystem restoration efforts create jobs and benefit local, state, and national economies.

The study, examining 21 US Department of Interior (DOI) restoration projects, finds that for each dollar invested in ecosystem restoration, there is between double and triple the return in economic growth. The report quantified economic impact analysis by focusing on the jobs and business activity generated through money spent on ecosystem restoration activities.

The report was a collaborative effort between the USGS, the DOI Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, the DOI Office of Policy Analysis and the Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program.

Click here to view the individual restoration projects.

Click here to review the report.

WHITE HOUSE: REPORT HIGHLIGHTS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH

 

On April 4, the US Global Change Research Program released a three-year study that articulates global climate change health impacts. Most of the projections are fairly grim for human health, especially vulnerable populations of society. 

Certain demographics, including minority communities, pregnant women, children, elderly, low-income communities, and the mentally ill will suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts. 

Extreme heat-related deaths are projected to outweigh deaths from extreme cold. 

Agriculture workers will face unsafe  temperatures if they work outdoors. Medications taken by mentally ill people make them sensitive to heat, so increased heat will only exacerbate their problems.  Warmer winters and spring temperatures will promote a northward expansion of the ticks that carry Lyme disease and increase the number of cases of vector-borne diseases in the northern US.

Regarding extreme weather events, the report found that “climate change will increase exposure risk in some regions of the United States due to projected increases in the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires, and flooding related to extreme precipitation and hurricanes.” These events will disrupt essential infrastructure, including water, power, transportation and emergency response services.

The assessment is a coordinated effort by eight federal agencies led by the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration along with over 100 experts from across the nation.

Click here to view the report.

UNITED NATIONS: RELIGIOUS GROUPS ASK CONGRESS TO SUPPORT GREEN CLIMATE FUND

 

A coalition of 120 multifaith groups penned a letter to Congress requesting approval of $750 billion for the Obama administration’s contribution to the international Green Climate fund. Signers of the letter include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Green Muslims,  the National Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Environmental Network, and others. 

“Our scriptures and religious texts call us to care for God’s creation and our most vulnerable neighbors. We believe that climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all of Creation, but particularly to those living in poverty around the world,” stated the groups.

The Green Climate Fund is part of  the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change  used for mitigation and adaption efforts in developing countries. President Obama pledged the US would offer $3 billion over the next four years.

Click here to view the faith groups’ letter.

Click here for additional information on the Green Climate Fund

COURT: DIVERSE GROUPS FILE AMICUS BRIEFS IN SUPPORT OF CLEAN POWER PLAN

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan garnered backing by industry and mayor’s across the country.

Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft filed an amicus brief with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on April 1 in support of the Plan. Twenty-eight states and more than 50 cities, together with The US Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the mayors of Dallas, Knoxville, and Orlando also submitted an amicus brief on April 1. Additionally, other religious and health groups sent amicus briefs.

The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce US carbon emissions from the power sector (and primarily coal-fired plants) by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA rule assigned states specific emissions targets, but allows each state the flexibility to tailor its plan.

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for June 2, 2016 in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. A group of 27 US states opposed the Plan before the Supreme Court in February, which voted  by a 5-4 put to put it on hold until an appeals court can rule on the arguments.

Click here to read more about the mayor’s amicus brief.

EPA: STUDY CONCLUDES THREE PESTICIDES HARM MOST PROTECTED WILDLIFE

 

On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft biological evaluation stating that 97 percent of plant and animal species protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely being harmed by two widely-used pesticides: chlorpyrifos and malathion.

The two chemicals are used primarily in agriculture to kill insects, but similarly enter the environment through stormwater runoff. For chlorpyrifos and malathion, the study concludes that they are “likely to adversely affect” 1,725 out of the 1,782 plant and animal species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

A third pesticide used in agriculture, diazinon, is “likely to adversely affect” 1,416 listed species, or 79 percent of all protected animals and plants, EPA determined. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will review the findings and provide an analysis of the chemicals’ impact on federally protected species.

Click here for additional information on the study and how to comment on it.

ENDANGERED SPECIES; NMFS, FWS RELAX SEA TURTLE PROTECTIONS

 

On April 5, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule for the protection green sea turtles. The decision is part of a larger reclassification that separates green sea turtles into 11 distinct populations globally. The final rule moves two green sea turtle populations  in the Florida and Mexico region from “endangered” to “threatened.”

The federal agencies cited various coordinated conservation efforts, including protecting nesting beaches and reducing direct harvesting and fishery bycatch as critical in the species recovery. The revised protections go into effect on May 6.

NEON: BATTELLE ASSUMES MANAGEMENT

 
The management of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) transitioned from NEON, Inc. to Battelle on April 8, 2016.  Notably, its url changed  from www.neoninc.org to www.neonscience.org. Battelle is the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, with over 22,000 employees at more than 60 locations globally.  The management transition  appears to have gone smoothly between the NEON, Inc Board of Directors and Battelle at NEON’s Boulder headquarters.

“Battelle is excited to begin this new chapter for the Observatory,” said Manager of Battelle’s Ecology Business Rich Leonard. “We look forward to working with the scientific community to establish NEON as a transformational presence in the ecological sciences for decades to come.” 

NEON is a continental-scale ecological observation facility sponsored by the National Science Foundation to gather and synthesize data on the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on natural resources and biodiversity.

  Read more about NEON. 

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 3, 2016

Importation of Fresh Cherimoya Fruit from Chile into the United States

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations due May 6, 2016

Request for Nominations of Candidates to the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB)

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends May 9, 2016

Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; Pennsylvania; Measurement and Reporting of Condensable Particulate Matter Emissions

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends May 11, 2016

Approval and Promulgation of Air Quality Implementation Plans; Texas; Interstate Transport of Air Pollution for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends May 13, 2016

Finding of Attainment and Approval of Attainment Plan for Klamath Falls, Oregon Fine Particulate Matter Nonattainment Area

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 6, 2016

Designating the Sakhalin Bay-Nikolaya Bay-Amur River Stock of Beluga Whales as a Depleted Stock Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

National Park Service

Notice: Public comment period ends May 11, 2016

Fisheries Management, Aquatics Restoration, and Climate Change Response Plan, Environmental Impact Statement, Glacier National Park, Montana

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period ends June 10, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse

Notice: Public comments due May 11, 2016

Habitat Conservation Plan for the Morro Shoulderband Snail; Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Community of Los Osos, San Luis Obispo County, California

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 6, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Listing the Scarlet Macaw

Notice: Public comment period ends May 31, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment of Atlantic Salmon


Sources: Columbia Law School, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Ecological Observatory Network, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill

March 30, 2016

In This Issue

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES NSF FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST

 

On March 22, a House Science, Space and Technology Research Subcommittee hearing examined the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) FY 2017 budget.

During the committee hearing, both Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) and Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) expressed general support for the work of the National Science Foundation. The questions from Comstock and House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) largely centered around investment in computer science and enforcement of the STEM Education Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-59), authored by Chairman Smith. The law adds computer science to the definition of STEM fields used by the United States federal government in determining grants and education funding.

In her remarks, NSF Director France Córdova noted that since 2010, research funding for the agency in constant dollars has declined, which affects the number of NSF grants awarded.

“The result is that the fraction of proposals that we can fund has decreased significantly. The funding rate was 30 percent in FY 2000 and is just over 20 percent now,” said Córdova. “Of great concern to us is that the situation is more challenging for people who haven’t previously received an NSF award, including young investigators. For them, the funding rate has gone from 21 percent in FY 2000 to 16 percent today.”

Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) voiced skepticism about new mandatory spending outlined in the agency’s budget request, but he remained hopeful that colleagues could support another bipartisan increase for NSF. He expressed support for continuing to give NSF discretion in how it prioritizes directorate funding, citing similar views recently iterated by House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX).

“Finally, I anticipate that there will be some discussion today about prioritizing some fields of science over others. So let me conclude by quoting from our colleague Mr. Culberson, Chairman of the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Subcommittee on Appropriations. Following his own hearing last week with Dr. Córdova, in which he stated clearly that he does not want to appropriate by directorate at NSF, he said, ‘I think that we should let NSF pick the most promising areas and give the agency the flexibility to pursue them.’ I strongly agree with Mr. Culberson on those points.”

During the hearing, CJS Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Honda (D-CA) questioned Córdova on how congressional funding by directorate would impact NSF. Cordova noted that congressional elections and changes in committee make-up would politicize the budget process. Additionally, it would bring instability and uncertainty to the existing scientific process used to determine funding, noting the scientific community opposes congressional funding by NSF directorate.

During the appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) expressed support for keeping directorate-level funding at NSF from being politicized. He asked whether the agency preferred discretion to prioritize its funding because of differing political interests between Congress and the president or whether it’s because the agency wants the discretion to allocate funding where the latest breakthroughs are being made. Cordova responded that “it’s the latter for sure” and clarified that NSF priorities are decided by the potential for breakthroughs as well as the needs of scientific communities.

Click here to view the Research and Technology Subcommittee NSF hearing.

Click here to view the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.

HOUSE: NOAA WEATHER FORECASTING, CLIMATE RESEARCH EXAMINED IN FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST

On March 16, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment convened for a hearing examining the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s FY 2017 budget request.

Environment Subcommittee Chairman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) touched on how NOAA funding affects their congressional districts. Chairman Bridenstine praised the NOAA FY 2017 budget request for continuing the Commercial Weather Data Pilot program authorized by H.R. 1561, the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act, noting that Oklahoma is regularly hit with severe weather. Bonamici expressed general support for NOAA’s budget request, but expressed concern with a proposed reduction of education and awareness grants through the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program.

Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) accused the budget request of prioritizing climate research over weather forecasting.

“Instead of hyping a climate change agenda, NOAA should focus its efforts on producing sound science and improving methods of data collection.  Unfortunately, climate alarmism often takes priority at NOAA,” said Smith. “This was demonstrated by the agency’s decision to prematurely publish the 2015 study that attempted to make the two-decade halt in global warming disappear.”

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) used her opening statement to emphasize the importance of NOAA’s climate change research and how monitoring rising temperatures and changes in ocean chemistry and ecosystems helps us better manage our fisheries, coasts, and improves the resiliency of our nation’s coastal communities. She also took the opportunity to address Chairman Smith’s investigation into NOAA’s climate science research.

“Before I yield back I’d like to address the majority’s ongoing investigation of NOAA’s climate scientists. It is clear to me that this investigation is unfounded and that it is being driven by ideology and other agendas,” Johnson countered. “The majority has asserted, without offering any credible evidence, that NOAA and the climate science community, at-large, are part of some grand conspiracy to falsify data in support of the significant role humans play in climate change. However, the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, across many different fields has shown that this is not the case.”

Click here to view the full hearing.

 

HOUSE: MEMBERS, USFS CHIEF DISCUSS GROWING COSTS OF WILDFIRES

On March 22, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing examining the US Forest Service’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request.

For most of the hearing, Republican committee members criticized US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell for failing to invest in states’ timber sales. The committee hearing also focused on the growing cost of wildfire suppression activities.

According to Tidwell, fire suppression activities, which take up roughly half of the Forest Service’s budget, will grow to 67 percent of the agency’s budget by 2025. Tidwell maintained that the agency’s budget constraints have led to the agency prioritizing funds for fire suppression at the cost of maintaining forests. He called for Congress to enact a new mechanism for funding wildfire suppression that eliminates the need to transfer funding from other agency accounts.

Federal Lands Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) argued that increasing logging and timber sales would make forests less vulnerable to wildfires and generate revenue for the government.

“The fact is fire expenses will grow every year until we restore sound forest management practices to our national forests and that in turn will require very different policies than those presented by the Forest Service today,” stated McClintock.

McClintock said that H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, would improve federal management of US forests and address growing wildfire expenses. The bill, which passed the House along largely partisan lines in July 2015, would shorten National Environmental Policy Act reviews and expedite logging sales on federal lands. It would similarly limit environmental lawsuits that slow restoration projects. The Obama administration has threatened to veto the bill, stating it “falls short of fixing the fire budget problem and contains other provisions that will undermine collaborative forest restoration, environmental safeguards, and public participation across the National Forest System and public lands.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), who stood in as ranking member in place of Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA), called for Congress to reform the wildfire budget in a “permanent and sustainable” manner.

“Warmer average temperatures and prolonged periods of drought brought on by global climate change mean that longer more intense wildfire seasons are the new normal,” said Dingell. “The fact that last year’s omnibus spending bill appropriated enough money to fund this year’s anticipated wildfire costs is extremely encouraging, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that the wildfire budget needs a permanent fix.”

Click here to view the hearing.

APPROPRIATIONS: ESA SENDS FY 2017 FUNDING REQUEST TESTIMONY TO CAPITOL HILL

 In March, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent correspondence in the form of testimony to various appropriations committees in support of science funding.

In testimony submitted to the House and Senate Commerce Justice and Science appropriations subcommittees, ESA requested $8 billion in funding for NSF in FY 2017. The testimony highlights the critical role NSF funding plays in funding ecological research and furthering careers in science in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. It also encourages Congress to permit NSF to continue choosing funding levels for individual directorates.

ESA relatedly issued testimony to the House and Senate Interior and Environment appropriations subcommittees requesting restoration of funding for the Joint Fire Science Program. The program is funded by the Department of Interior and the US Forest Service. While the Interior portion of its funding was sustained in the FY 2017 budget request, its Forest Service funding was cut.

“Research in fire science is crucial to anticipating how ecosystems and landscapes may change in the future, how fire should be managed in both wildlands and developed areas, and where mitigation or adaptation strategies are most appropriate,” states the ESA testimony. “Reductions in support for JFSP are inconsistent with high-priority national research needs.”

ESA joined several organizational in statements sent to the Hill. The USGS Coalition, of which ESA is a member, sent testimony to the Hill in support of the Obama administration’s request of $1.2 billion for the US Geological Survey. ESA joined a Coalition for National Science Funding statement that supports $8 billion for the National Science Foundation in FY 2017. ESA also cosigned a letter from science education and conservation organizations supporting funding for environmental literacy grants at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Click here to view the ESA letters.

COMMERCE: 'NATURAL CAPITAL' WEBSITE TO PROVIDE ECOSYSTEM DATA FOR BUSINESS

The US Department of Commerce unveiled a new website for the business community that provides resources and information for incorporating natural capital into their planning and operations.

The agency defines natural capital as “the Earth’s stock of natural resources – air, water, soil, and living resources – that provide a range of goods and services on which the global economy depends.” The website is an interagency effort between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration. The website includes analyses of direct and indirect drivers of change and trends in ecosystem services along with how this data can be useful to the business community.

The initiative is in line with a “Final Ecosystems Goods and Services Classification System” report from the Environmental Protection Agency, geared towards businesses and communities to aid in quantifying the value of ecosystem services. Other classification systems include The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, and the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services.  

Click here for additional information.

 

SUPREME COURT: NPS BAN ON HOVERCRAFT OVERTURNED

 

In a unanimous ruling, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of an Alaskan moose hunter, John Sturgeon, who challenged a National Park Service (NPS) ban on the use of hovercrafts in national parks. Sturgeon sued because a lower court ruling blocked him from riding a hovercraft in a national preserve. His position received unanimous support among the Alaskan congressional delegation and business entities.

The 8-0 decision overturns a ruling from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals that held NPS has authority to enforce its hovercraft regulations on navigable waters in Alaska that run through state lands. In its ruling, the Court cited the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), which requires certain accommodations for fishing and recreational activities specific to Alaskan lands that are not applicable to federal lands in the contiguous United States.

“ANILCA repeatedly recognizes that Alaska is different -from its ‘unrivaled scenic and geological values,’ to the ‘unique’ situation of its ‘rural residents dependent on subsistence uses,’ to ‘the need for development and use of Arctic resources with appropriate recognition and consideration given to the unique nature of the Arctic environment,'” Chief Justice Roberts wrote.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

 

Bureau of Land Management

Notice: Nominations due March 18, 2016

2016 National Call for Nominations for Resource Advisory Councils

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comment period ends April 8, 2016

Request for Nominations of Experts To Augment the Science Advisory Board Chemical Assessment Advisory Committee for the Review of the EPA’s Draft Toxicological Review of Hexahydro-1,3,5-trinitro-1,3,5-triazine (RDX)

Notice: Public comment period ends April 15, 2016

National Environmental Education Advisory Council; Solicitation of Applications

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends April 25, 2016

Approval of Air Quality Implementation Plans; New Jersey, Carbon Monoxide Maintenance Plan

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due April 18, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Species; Identification of 14 Distinct Population Segments of the Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) and Proposed Revision of Species-Wide Listing

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due April 25, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Availability of Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan, Palmas Home Owners Association, Palmas Del Mar, Humacao, Puerto Rico

US State Department

Notice: Public comment period ends April 25, 2016

Notice of Availability of the Draft Supplemental Environmental Assessment and Draft Finding of No Significant Impact for the NuStar Dos Laredos (TX) Pipeline Presidential Permit Application Review

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 4751, the Local Enforcement for Federal Lands Act – Introduced March 16 by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would terminate the law enforcement functions of the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to give states block grants that pay local law enforcement to patrol federal lands. The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

H.R. 4776, the National Landslide Loss Reduction Act – Introduced Mar. 17 by Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the Director of the United States Geological Survey, to establish a national program to identify landslide hazards and reduce losses from landslides. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 4803, the Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act – Introduced March 17 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the bill would authorize the National Science Foundation to award grants that fund online workshops, mentoring programs, undergraduate and graduate internships and other community outreach efforts that increase the participation of historically underrepresented demographic groups in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education.  The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 4811, the Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act of 2016 – Introduced March 17 by Rep. Mark Takai (D-HI), the bill would authorize federal agencies to establish prize competitions for innovation or adaptation management development relating to coral reef ecosystems. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Companion legislation (S. 2705) has been introduced by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI).

H.R.4827, the Coal Ash Landfill Safety Act – Introduced March 22 by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), the bill would require the US Environmental Protection Agency within six months to review municipal solid waste landfills used for coal ash disposal to determine whether their regulations meet health and environmental protection standards set by the agency’s coal ash disposal rule. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

H.R. 4857, the HBCU Innovation Fund Act – Introduced March 23 by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), the bill would establish a program at the US Department of Education to make grants to promote innovations at historically black colleges and universities. Among its provisions, the bill will award grants that support the development of programs and initiatives that enhance undergraduate and graduate participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. The bill has been referred to the House Education and Workforce Committee.

 

Passed House

 

H.R. 4742, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act – Introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), the bill authorizes the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) are lead cosponsors of the bill. The bill passed the House March 22 by a vote of 383-4. The four representatives who opposed the bill were Justin Amash (R-MI), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Glenn Grothman (R-KY), and Thomas Massie (R-KY).

 

H.R.4755, the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), the bill authorizes the NASA Administrator to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to pursue careers that will further advance America’s space science and exploration efforts. The bill passed the House March 22 by a vote of 380-3. The three representatives who opposed the bill were Justin Amash (R-MI), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), and Thomas Massie (R-KY).


Sources: Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, US Forest Service, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill

March 17, 2016

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: US, CANADA ANNOUNCE CLIMATE CHANGE PLEDGE

 

On March 10, the President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their two countries have agreed to a series of efforts to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. They also reinforced their commitment to joining and implementing the Paris climate change agreement.

Both nations plan to reduce methane emissions 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 and will work to reduce their hydrofluorocarbon emissions. The statement called for increasing renewable energy investments and “conserving Arctic biodiversity through science-based decision making.” The two nations also called for all oil and gas development in the Arctic to align with science-based standards.

Click here to view the full statement.

NSF: BATTELLE CHOSEN TO MANAGE NEON

 

 

NSF selected Battelle to complete the construction, commissioning and initial operations for the $432 million project National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project. Battelle is a nonprofit organization with the mission of translating scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefits. They currently manage seven national laboratories and have a long history of managing large and complex technical projects.

For the next 90 days, Battelle will be in a transition period to develop an organizational/management structure to prepare for the next steps to complete construction of the network in 20 ecologically distinct zones across the United States, from Alaska to Puerto Rico.

IPBES: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY, ECOSYSTEMS ASSESSMENT

 

 

The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is seeking nominations of experts and fellows for its global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Nominated experts should “have expertise in one or more disciplines within natural science, social science or humanities, represent or have expertise in indigenous and local knowledge systems, or be policy experts and practitioners.” Nominations are due May 5, 2016.

IPBES began a three-year study into humanity’s impact on ecosystems and biodiversity on March 1, 2016. The study, due in 2019, will examine a wide array of lifeforms, habitats, and measure progress towards meeting commitments under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity.

Established in 2012, IPBES includes 124 member nations, which participate in the report. It released its first summary on pollinators in late February 2016. The report found that bees, bats and other pollinators that play a critical role in food production are declining.

Click here for additional details on how to submit a nomination.

Click here to read the unedited advanced summary for policymakers for the pollinator report.

SUPREME COURT: OBAMA NOMINEE SUPPORTIVE OF EPA RULES

 

 

On March 16, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Justice of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

A Chicago native, Garland began his tenure as Chief Justice in 2013. He was first nominated to serve on the court by President Clinton in late 1995, but consideration of his nomination was postponed by the Republican-controlled Congress until after the 1996 presidential election. President Clinton renominated him in Jan. 1997, and he was confirmed by a bipartisan vote of 76-23. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) were among the 23 Republicans who voted against his appointment in 1997 to the US Court of Appeals.

His record suggests some level of deference to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulatory authority. Garland was part of a three-judge panel that upheld US EPA’s mercury standards for power plants in 2014. In American Corn Growers Association v. EPA (2002), the US Court of Appeals struck down EPA’s national park haze rules. Garland dissented asserting that the agency was entitled to deference in interpreting how pollution sources should be treated. In American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA (2009), he ruled against the agency, although it was because he determined its particle standards were not strong enough and could put human populations at risk.

Whether or not Garland will receive hearings or a vote remains unclear. Senate Republican leadership has maintained that President Obama’s nominees should not receive a vote during a presidential election year. Some Republican Senators, including those up for reelection this year in swing states, have indicated they would be willing to meet with the nominee. Grassley is among those who agreed to meet with the nominee, but is to date, still unwilling to hold hearings or allow a vote on confirmation.

HOUSE: GOP UNVEILS FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST

 

On March 15, House Republicans unveiled their FY 2017 budget resolution, which would cut the deficit by $7 trillion over the decades.

The non-binding resolution does not need to be signed by the president and does not hold the force of law. It does, however, serve as a reference for appropriators when they craft their spending bills for the coming fiscal year and forecasts what their policy priorities may be. Among its environmental priorities, the budget calls for continued oil and natural gas exploration and endorses hydraulic fracturing.

The budget also criticizes the US Environmental Protection Agency for its “unprecedented activist regulatory policy to the detriment of states, localities, small businesses, and energy consumers.” The budget also “rescinds unobligated balances from stimulus green energy programs, and calls for reforming and streamlining numerous other research & development programs across the Department of Energy.”

The 40-member far-right conservative House Freedom Caucus opposes the Republican budget. Given that the overwhelming majority (if not all) House Democrats are also expected to oppose it, the measure is unlikely to pass the House of Representatives.

Click here to view the full request.

FDA: TRIAL UNDER REVIEW FOR GENETICALLY ENGINEERED MOSQUITO IN FLORIDA

 

 

The Zika virus is prompting the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine to consider approving an Investigational New Animal Drug trial from Oxitec, Ltd., regarding the company’s genetically engineered mosquitoes. As part of the review, the FDA has published for public comment a draft environmental assessment submitted by Oxitec, Ltd. that assesses the potential environmental impacts of conducting a field trial in Key Haven, Florida and a preliminary finding of no significant impact.

Oxitec’s patented technique for genetically modifying insects is known as RIDL (Release of Insects carrying a Dominant Lethal genetic system). Oxitec’s male Aedes aegypti OX513A GM mosquitoes are intended to mate with wild females and produce offspring that dies as larvae with the intent of suppressing the mosquito population at the release site.

Ae. aegypti is known to transmit potentially debilitating human viral diseases, including Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and chikungunya and has been found in some US states, mostly in the South. Open field trials of the OX513A genetically engineered mosquito have been conducted in Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Panama, and Malaysia.

The FDA is accepting public comments on the draft environmental assessment and the preliminary finding of no significant impact in the Federal Register. Comments must be received by April 13.

Click here for information on how to comment.

INTERIOR: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION RENEGES ON ATLANTIC DRILLING

 

 

On March 15, Interior Sec. Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Abigail Ross Hopper announced an updated proposal for the Obama administration’s Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2017-2022. The revised proposal removes any lease sales for the Mid-Atlantic and South Atlantic region.

The administration cited “current market dynamics, strong local opposition and conflicts with competing commercial and military ocean uses” in its decision not to lease in the Atlantic region. The plan does permit consideration of 13 leasing sales, 10 in the Gulf of Mexico and and one sale each in the Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, and Cook Inlet Program Areas offshore Alaska . The Department of Defense had expressed concern that drilling off the Atlantic might affect military training.

The plan also received bipartisan opposition from Members of Congress representing mid-Atlantic states. In Dec. 2015, Reps. Mark Sandford (R-SC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) sent a letter to BOEM requesting a halt to the permitting and review process for potential seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The OCS Lands Act requires the Secretary of the Interior to prepare a five-year program that includes a schedule of potential oil and gas lease sales and indicates the size, timing and location of proposed leasing determined to best meet national energy needs, while addressing a range of economic, environmental and social considerations. 

The updated draft plan is open for 90 days of public comment. Click here for additional information as well as directions on how to comment.

Click here to view the Sanford-Scott letter.

FWS: LOUISIANA BLACK BEARS DELISTED FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

 

On March 10, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that after 24 years of recovery efforts, it will delist the Louisiana black bear as a protected species under the Endangered Species Act.

According to FWS, the formal delisting followed a comprehensive agency scientific review process as well as the release of a post-delisting monitoring plan. The agency credits curbing the net loss of forested lands in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial River Valley, public management efforts in national wildlife refuges, wildlife management areas and Army Corps of Engineers lands in helping to protect Louisiana black bear populations.

Click here for additional information on federal Louisiana black bear recovery efforts.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

CURRENT POLICY

 

Introduced in House

H.R. 4665, the Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions (REC) Act – Introduced March 2 by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), David Reichert (R-WA), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the billwould direct the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis to assess the outdoor industry’s contribution to job creation and consumer spending. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

H.R. 4680, the National Park Service Centennial Act – Introduced March 3 by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill establishes the National Park Centennial Challenge Fund in the US Department of Treasury to finance signature projects and programs to enhance the National Park System (NPS) as it approaches its centennial in 2016. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

H.R. 4742, the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act – Introduced March 15 by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), the bill authorizes the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) are lead cosponsors of the bill.

Passed House

H.R. 3797, the Satisfying Energy Needs and Saving the Environment (SENSE) Act – Introduced by Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-PA) the bill would exempt coal refuse facilities from US Environmental Protection Agency regulatory authority under the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The bill passed the House March 15 by a vote of 231-183. Three Democrats joined all but eight Republicans in voting for the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill.

 

 


Sources: Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, US Forest Service, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill