March 2, 2016

In This Issue

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SCIENTISTS MEET ON CAPITOL HILL TO DISCUSS CLIMATE SCIENCE

 

In February, ESA participated in Climate Science Days, an annual outreach event sponsored by the Climate Science Working Group (CSWG) to advance understanding of climate change research among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  ESA is a CSWG member as are other scientific associations.

Multiple teams of scientists, paired by geographic location, met with over 100 House and Senate offices and committee staff. Meetings with Republican Senate and House members were given priority along with lawmakers who serve on committees with jurisdiction over climate science issues.

ESA member participants included Matthew Hurteau (University of New Mexico), Knute Nadelhoffer (University of Michigan) and Adam Rosenblatt (Yale University). All three are seasoned veterans of Capitol Hill. Hurteau previously met with Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry to discuss prescribed burns. Nadelhoffer testified before the House Energy and Commerce committee during a 2011 hearing examining climate science. Rosenblatt is a 2012 recipient of the ESA Graduate Student Policy Award.

Other participating CSWG organizations included the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Society of Agronomy, American Statistical Association, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the Geological Society of America, the Soil Science Society of America and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXPANDS REQUEST FOR NOAA CLIMATE SCIENCE DOCUMENTS

On Feb. 22, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) demanding more documents related to the agency’s analyses of global temperature data. This follows a previous subpoena sent to NOAA by the Committee on October 13, 2015. So far, NOAA has given the committee 301 pages of emails between NOAA officials (excluding scientists’ emails) regarding a study published last year in the journal Science.

The Committee’s latest letter is asking NOAA to provide documents with specific words: “Karl,” “buoy,” “ship,” “Night Marine Air Temperature,” “temperature,” “climate,” “change,” “Paris,” “U.N.,” “United Nations,” “clean power plan,” “regulations,” “Environmental Protection Agency,” “President,” “Obama,” “White House,” and “Council on Environmental Quality.”

The original Committee subpoena from October 2015 included requests for documents and communications from NOAA scientists. ESA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Statistical Association, and the Geological Society of America, sent a letter to the Committee objecting to subpoena.

“The integrity of federal scientists’ research published in the journal Science is being questioned despite a lack of public evidence of scientific misconduct. The progress and integrity of science depend on transparency about the details of scientific methodology and the ability to follow the pursuit of scientific knowledge,” the letter states.

Although the Committee is no longer seeking communications from NOAA scientists, the sparring between NOAA and the House Science Committee is likely to continue. So far, NOAA has not made a public statement about the recent request although the original deadline of Feb. 29 to submit the documents to the Committee has passed.

INTERIOR: NEW FRAMEWORK SEEKS TO IMPROVE FEDEARL RESPONSE TO INVASIVE THREATS

The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a report on Feb. 18: Safeguarding America’s Lands and Waters from Invasive Species: A National Framework for Early Detection and Rapid Response. 

The National Invasive Species Council (NISC) assisted DOI in the report’s development, including the US Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department, and Department of Defense.

According to DOI, “Hundreds of invasive species are already established in the US, including brown rats, house mice, emerald ash borer, Asian carp, cheatgrass, kudzu, Asian tiger mosquitos, and the microscopic chytrid fungus that has devastated amphibian populations. Of substantial concern are the potentially harmful organisms that have not yet established in the US, but are threatening to do so. Examples include the spotted lanternfly and Zika virus.”

The report aims to improve federal agency coordination for early detection and rapid response (EDRR) efforts to eradicate invasive plant and animal species before they become established. It makes five recommendations for federal action: 

  • Establish a multi-stakeholder EDRR Task Force
  • Convene high-level decision makers to assess funding mechanisms for a nationwide preparedness and emergency response initiative
  • Advance pilot projects targeted for high priority areas
  • Scale partnerships across government and with private, non-profit and scientific communities
  • Foster the development and application of innovative scientific and technical approaches to EDRR

EPA: SUPREME COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO CHESAPEAKE BAY CLEAN-UP RULE

On Feb. 29, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan. Farming and agricultural industry groups had sought to have the lower court ruling overturned.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds the ruling of the 3rd US District Court of Appeals that the EPA is within its authority, under the Clean Water Act to enforce and oversee the pollution-reduction progress within the 64,000 square mile watershed. Stormwater pollution from impervious surfaces and agricultural runoff dump large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment into the Bay causing algal blooms, that create dead zones. Toxic algae, such as some blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), can sicken people, as well, but animals are especially susceptible.

Representatives from conservation organizations lauded the ruling as a pivotal step towards  Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

EPA: NOTICE ISSUED TO BAN PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS

 

On March 1, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel registration of the pesticide flubendiamide, which research suggests poses risks to aquatic invertebrates.

According to the EPA, the company that manufactures the pesticide, Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America Inc., failed to comply with the condition to discontinue the product when a scientific study issued by the agency on Jan. 29 found the pesticide was harmful. EPA had requested that the company cancel the product by Feb 5.

Click here to read the full notice.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations due April 15, 2016

Nominations request for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due March 28, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of Solidago albopilosa (White-Haired Goldenrod) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due April 24, 2016

90-Day Finding on a Petition To List Three Manta Rays as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 4582, the Save our Salmon Act – Introduced Feb. 23 by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), the bill would amend the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act to remove the provision mandating increases in striped bass populations. The bill is intended to protect the region’s salmon, which are preyed upon by the striped bass. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

H.R. 4595, the Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 23 by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Dan Benishek (R-MI), the bill would authorize $17.5 million in funding through FY 2026 for the US Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center to conduct research into the Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industry. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. Companion legislation (S. 2569) has been introduced by Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Considered by House Committee

On March 2, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a mark-up of the following bills:

H.R. 223, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), the bill would reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through Fiscal Year 2020.

H.R. 1684, the Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2015  – Introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), the bill would impose penalties and provide for the recovery of removal costs and damages. It would also impose penalties on foreign entities responsible for oil spills that contaminate US waters. The bill would also provide for the recovery of removal costs and damages in connection with oil discharges from these sources.

Passed House

H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act – Introduced by Rep. Rob Whittman (R-VA), the bill would expand access to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal lands. The bill also would block the administration’s rule to restrict trade in elephant ivory and allows the importation into the US of polar bear hunting trophies taken before polar bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The measure prohibits the EPA from regulating lead contained in bullets, angling lures, and other hunting and fishing equipment.  The bill would also prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from restricting firearms on Corps properties. The bill passed the US House of Representatives Feb. 26 by a vote of 242-161. Twelve Democrats supported the bill while four Republicans joined most House Democrats in voting against it.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill due to “harmful provisions that impair Federal management of federally-owned lands and undermine important existing public land and environmental laws, rules, and processes.”

Click here to read the statement.

H.R. 4084, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act – Introduced by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), the bill would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to revise the objectives of the civilian nuclear energy research, development, demonstration, and commercial application programs of the Department of Energy (DOE) to encourage private investment in advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the United States. The bill passed the House Feb. 29 by voice vote.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2568, the California Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation, and Renewable Energy Act– Introduced Feb. 23 by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would create five off-road vehicle areas, designate 230,000 acres as wilderness areas, add 43,000 acres to Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, designate 77 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and clarify how desert land can be used for renewable energy development. The bill encourages the development of new renewable energy in solar zones established by the federal government to avoid conflicts over lands intended for conservation. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S. 2583, the Firm, Unwavering National Dedication to Water (FUND Water) Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 25 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill more than triples the authorized appropriations to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 2587, the Cooper and Lead Evaluation and Reporting (CLEAR) Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 25 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill updates the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the US Environmental Protection Agency to develop new regulations to improve reporting, testing and monitoring related to lead and copper levels in drinking water. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 2588, Grants and Education To Tackle Homeowner Exposure to Lead Ensuring America Drinks Only from Unpolluted Taps (GET THE LEAD OUT) Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 25 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill provides grants to reduce lead in community drinking water supplies and delivery systems. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


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

February 17, 2016

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT'S FINAL BUDGET PRIORITIZES CLIMATE, ENERGY RESEARCH

 

On Feb. 9, President Obama released the eighth and final budget of his administration. The president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request includes significant increases for federal agencies that conduct scientific research with a focus towards increasing investments in renewable energy. The president’s budget seeks to double funding for clean energy research and development over the next five years.[1] Programs that fund climate change and renewable energy research are the most consistently bolstered in the president’s budget request.

The 13-agency US Global Change Research Program that coordinates federal research is funded at $2.8 billion across the various agency budgets in support of the president’s Climate Action Plan. The bill maintains overall funding for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at the FY 2016 level of $3 billion. The Budget funds competitive research grants through the Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative at $700 million, double the funding provided in FY 2016.

National Science Foundation

For the National Science Foundation (NSF), the request would provide $7.96 billion a $500.53 million (6.7 percent) increase over the FY 2016 enacted level.

The request provides $790.52 million for the biological sciences, a $46.35 million (6.2 percent) increase over FY 2016. The National Ecological Observatory Network would receive $65 million, a $20.96 million (47.6 percent) increase over FY 2016. The Division of Environmental Biology would receive $145.17 million, a $1.14 million (0.8 percent) increase over FY 2016. NSF programs that fund STEM education would see a 2.5 percent increase over FY 2016.

Click here for an overview of the FY 2017 NSF budget request.

Department of Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive $25 billion in discretionary spending, $1 billion less than FY 2016. The funding includes $1.11 billion to support 700 research projects at the Agricultural Research Service, a $22 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level.

The US Forest Service would receive $4.89 billion, $787 million less than the enacted level.[2] The budget seeks to prioritize forest restoration and to reduce the threats posed by wildfires. The budget request would provide $291.98 million for Forest and Rangeland Research, an increase of $982,000 over FY 2016.

Additional USDA entities of interest to the ecological community include these programs:

Agricultural Research Service: $1.26 billion, a $100 million decrease.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $904 million, a $1 million increase.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $1.38 billion, a $48 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the USDA budget request.

Department of Energy

The administration requests $32.5 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) in FY 2017, a $2.9 billion increase over FY 2016. Science, energy and DOE-related programs would receive $12.9 billion, a $2.8 billion increase over FY 2016.

The DOE Office of Science would receive $5.67 billion, a $325 million increase over FY 2016. The Biological and Environmental Research program would receive $662 million, a $53 million increase over FY 2016. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $2.9 billion, an $829 million increase over FY 2016. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would receive $500 million, a $209 million (71 percent) increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2017 DOE budget.

Department of Interior

The total budget request for the Department of Interior (DOI) is $13.4 billion, a $61 million increase over FY 2016. The budget funds the National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center and its eight regional Climate Science Centers at $30.9 million, an increase of $4.5 million above 2016.

The US Geological Survey, which serves as DOI science arm, would receive $1.2 billion in FY 2017, a $107 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. Its natural hazards budget includes a $5.8 million increase for the Coastal and Marine Geology Program to help coastal communities address sea-level rise, severe storms and melting permafrost. The USGS budget for ecosystems would increase by $13.7 million over FY 2016.

The ecosystems budget includes $3.2 million in new funding for the Fisheries Program to develop decision support tools for water ecology, assess Great Lakes fisheries and process offshore samples that could provide an early warning for harmful algal blooms.

Core Science Systems would receive $118.4 million, a $6.8 million increase over FY 2016. Climate and Land-Use Change research would receive $171.4 million, a $31.5 million increase over FY 2016.

Below are funding levels for other entities and programs of interest to the ecological community:

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 million, a $159 million decrease.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $80 million, a $6 million increase.

Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.57 billion, a $55 million increase.

Land and Water Conservation Fund: $347 million, a $22.8 million increase.

National Park Service: $3.1 billion, a $250 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2017 DOI budget request.

Environmental Protection Agency

For the US Environmental Protection Agency, the president’s FY 2017 request would provide $8.27 billion in discretionary spending, a $127.31 million increase over FY 2016.

The budget prioritizes programs to help the nation mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The budget includes a $25 million increase in grants to states to help them work and planning related to the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s Air, Climate and Energy Research Program would receive $101.15 million, a $9.25 million increase. The Climate Protection Program would receive $115.9 million, a $12.4 million increase.

EPA Science and Technology would be funded at $754.18 billion in FY 2017 under the president’s budget request, a $19.54 million increase over FY 2016.

EPA environmental education programs would receive $11.2 million, a $2.5 million increase over FY 2016. Within the increase, $2.3 million would support environmental education grants that support lead poisoning and polychlorinated biphenyl outreach efforts. Environmental justice programs would receive $15.9 million, an $8.6 million increase.

Click here additional information on EPA’s FY 2017 budget request.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $5.85 billion, a $77 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. This budget also funds a new Integrated Water Prediction initiative to enhance water prediction and public forecasting and warning capabilities to help communities better prepare for and respond to the increasing frequency of droughts and floods.

Other budget items of interest to the ecological community include these areas:

National Ocean Service: $569.92 million, a $31.93 million decrease.

  • Coastal Science and Assessment: $87.11 million, a $4 million increase. (The increase would expand competitive research grants that address coastal ocean issues, including harmful algal blooms, hypoxia, and coastal ecosystem assessment).

National Marine Fisheries Service: $1.02 billion, a $44.23 million increase

Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research: $519,789 million, a $37.81 million increase.

  • Climate Research: $189.87 million, a $31.87 million increase.
  • National Sea Grant College Program: $68.9 million, a $4.1 million decrease.

National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service: $2.3 billion, a $45.67 million decrease.

National Weather Service: $1.2 billion, a $1 million decrease.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2017 NOAA budget request.

This year’s budget is unique in the sense that President Obama will be in office  only one-third (the first four months) of its implementation. It remains to be seen whether Congress will enact some or all of the budget before he leaves office or pass a continuing resolution (CR) that would allow the next president to enact the appropriations for the remainder of the next fiscal year.

By Dec. 21, 2000, President Clinton had signed all appropriations passed by a Republican Congress for Fiscal Year 2001. The bills were signed eight days after then-Vice President Al Gore had conceded the results of the highly contested 2000 presidential election. In 2008, a Democratic Congress chose to pass a CR that only funded FY 2009 appropriations through March 2009, after Republican President George W. Bush had left office. Concurrently, the results of the 2016 presidential election will likely have an impact on when Congress finalizes FY 2017 appropriations.

Click here for an overview of scientific research in the president’s FY 2017 budget request.

SUPREME COURT: SCALIA VACANCY COULD IMPACT CLEAN POWER PLAN

 

The death of Justice Antonin Scalia this past weekend could significantly impact legal challenges to various Obama administration initiatives, including its Clean Power Plan. Earlier this month, the court ruled 5-4 to stay the plan until US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit completes its review of the plan.

In their lawsuit, the US Chamber of Commerce, 27 state governments and energy companies accused the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of abusing its authority to require states to lower their carbon emissions and move to carbon-free sources of energy.

US Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy signaled she would respect the ruling, but encouraged states to continue to implement proposals that reduce carbon emissions. Many states have indicated they will voluntarily continue to work to meet the Clean Power Plan emissions standards.

The stay means that the rule will likely not be implemented until 2017, if at all. If the court of appeals upholds the ruling, it is likely that the Supreme Court will want to consider the case. In order for the high court to hear a case, the votes of only four justices are necessary. 

In Scalia’s absence, the court is equally divided between four Republican-appointed justices and four Democratic-appointed justices. If the seat is filled by a Democratic president, the ideological shift in the court’s composition would bolster the Clean Power Plan’s chances of surviving consideration by the high court. In the meantime, a divided 4-4 ruling on a Supreme Court case would uphold the decisions of lower courts.

President Obama indicated he intends to nominate a successor when the Senate reconvenes next week. Both the House and Senate are in recess for the week-long President’s Day district work period. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested the vacancy should be filled after the next president takes office 11 months from now. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) also stated that Supreme Court nominations should not be voted on during an election year.

“The fact of the matter is that it’s been standard practice over the last nearly 80 years that Supreme Court nominees are not nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year,” said Grassley in a press statement.

Congress failing to confirm a Supreme Court nominee for that long would be near unprecedented in modern history. In the past 30 years, Robert Bjork’s nomination took the longest period to reach a vote. The Senate rejected him on Oct. 23, 1987, by a vote of 58-42, 108 days after his nomination. President Reagan subsequently nominated Anthony Kennedy on Nov. 30, 1987. The Senate confirmed him on Feb. 3, 1988, by a vote of 97-0. Sens. McConnell and Grassley were among the Senators who voted in favor of Kennedy’s confirmation that year.

The longest vacancy since the court went to nine justices in 1869 was 391 days. After Abe Fortas had resigned from the court in May 1969, Richard Nixon’s first two attempts to replace him were narrowly rejected in November of 1969 and April of 1970.

NSF: HOUSE PASSES 'SCIENCE IN THE NATIONAL INTEREST' LEGISLATION

 

On Feb. 11, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act. Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill would require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award grants only for research projects that the agency can certify as being in the national interest.

The bill passed the House largely along partisan lines by a vote of 236-178. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) opposed the bill. Four Republicans joined most Democrats in opposition to the bill. Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) was among seven Democrats who voted for the bill. Opponents of the measure argued the bill unnecessarily duplicates NSF existing processes for providing transparency and accountability for grant awards.

“Far from adding anything useful to the NSF’s review process, H.R. 3293 would add more bureaucracy and paperwork,” said Ranking Member Johnson. “But my biggest concern about these new requirements is they will push NSF reviewers to fund less high-risk research, which, by its very nature entails the pursuit of scientific understanding without necessarily any particular or known benefit.”

The Obama administration released a Statement of Administration Policy stating that the president would veto the bill.

“Contrary to its stated purpose, H.R. 3293 would add nothing to accountability in Federal funding for scientific research, while needlessly adding to bureaucratic burdens and overhead at the NSF,” read the statement. “And, far from promoting the progress of science in the United States, it would replace the clarity of the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 with confusing language that could cast a shadow over the value of basic research which, by its nature, will have outcomes with contributions to national interests other than the progress of science which cannot be predicted in advance.”

Click here to read the full statement.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION REVISES HABITAT PROTECTION RULES

 

On Feb. 5, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) finalized a series of revisions to the Endangered Species Act, which will change the way that federal wildlife managers determine how much habitat to provide for federally protected species of animals and plants.

Part of the revisions include a new rule that redefines what constitutes “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat. The previous regulatory definition was invalidated by court order in 2004. The final revised rule affirms existing agency practices to allow for some destruction of protected habitat if it keeps the larger conservation value of the area intact.

The second rule calls for economic analyses of critical habitats to be completed and made available for public comment at the time that the habitats are proposed for protection. The revisions also will require such analyses to focus on the “incremental effects resulting from the designation of critical habitat.”

Some conservation groups, including the Society for Conservation Biology and Defenders of Wildlife, have called for stronger rules that prevent the destruction of critical habitat in the project permitting process.

FWS and NMFS maintain the revisions will “provide a clearer, more consistent and predictable process for designating critical habitat.”

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Department of Interior

Notice: Nominations due Feb. 18

Call for nominations for Invasive Species Advisory Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-02192

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations due March 4, 2016

Request for Nominations to the National and Governmental Advisory Committees to the US Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-02739

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends April 18, 2016.

Removing the San Miguel Island Fox, Santa Rosa Island Fox, and Santa Cruz Island Fox From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and Reclassifying the Santa Catalina Island Fox From Endangered to Threatened

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-02669

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 4483, the Gold King Mine Spill Accountability Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 4 by Rep. Steven Pearce (R-NM), the bill would commission a special investigation into potential Environmental Protection Agency wrongdoing in the wake of the Gold King mine spill, which discharged three million gallons of mining wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

The bill has been referred to the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure, Judiciary, Rules, Energy and Commerce, and Agriculture.

H.R. 4545, the Tennessee Wilderness Act – Introduced Feb. 11 by Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), the bill would designate specified federal lands in Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee as wilderness and as additions to existing components of the National Wilderness Preservation System. The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee.

H.R.4568, the Cooperative Research and Development Fund Authorization Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 12 by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), the bill would make funds available to the Department of Energy National Laboratories for the Federal share of cooperative research and development agreements that support maturing Laboratory technology and transferring it to the private sector. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Passed House

H.R. 4470, the Safe Drinking Water Improved Compliance Act – Introduced Feb. 4 by Reps. Daniel Kildee (D-MI) and Fred Upton (R-MI), the bill would strengthen requirements to have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notify the public when concentrations of lead in drinking water exceed actionable levels. It requires the EPA to create a strategic plan for handling and improving information flow between water utilities, the states, the EPA, and affected consumers. The bill passed the House Feb. 10 by a vote of 416-2.

Introduced in Senate

S.2481, the Everglades for the Next Generation Act – Introduced Feb. 2 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would provide for expedited project implementation relating to the comprehensive Everglades restoration plan. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 2532, to authorize appropriations for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund – Introduced by Feb. 10 Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would triple authorization levels for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, raising them to 2009 funding levels that included increases from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  The legislation intends to help communities contend with water infrastructure tainted by lead and other pollutants. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. 


Sources: Department of Agriculture, 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, NPR

February 3, 2016

In This Issue

EPA: FLINT WATER CRISIS GETS ATTENTION FROM WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS

On Jan. 16, the president signed an official state of emergency declaration for Flint Michigan in light of the city’s drinking water crisis. The action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts to alleviate or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the region of Genesee County, MI.

Before 2014, Flint drew its water from Lake Huron. However, disagreements over a short-term supply contract with Detroit led city officials to temporary switch the source of Flint’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University subsequently found that Flint River water is highly corrosive and picks up lead from household pipes and enters the drinking supply.

Despite complaints from residents and multiple cases of sick children, local public officials maintained for months that the community’s drinking water was safe. Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) switched back to use of Detroit’s water system from Lake Huron in Oct. 2015. Flint residents have brought suit against the city for ignoring evidence that Flint River water was toxic for the 18 months it was used for its drinking water supply.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has also been accused of not implementing corrosion controls for Flint’s drinking water coming from the Flint River.  Several environmental and civil rights groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Civil Liberties Union, have also sued city and state officials over their response to the drinking water crisis.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) are working on an amendment to the Senate energy bill under consideration this week in the Senate that would allocate $400 million in federal aid for water infrastructure improvements in Flint.

In January, House Energy and Commerce Committee members sent a bipartisan letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy requesting a briefing on the water crisis in Flint, MI.

The letter was led by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Environment and Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL) and Environment and Economy Subcommittee Ranking Member Paul Tonko (D-NJ).

“It is our understanding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a Safe Drinking Water Task Force to provide assistance to Flint and has announced plans to audit Michigan’s Drinking Water Program. We urgently request a briefing on these matters and EPA’s anticipated role as the situation in Flint continues to unfold,” stated the letter.

The agency subsequently briefed staff members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On Feb. 3, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee became the first congressional committee to hold a hearing on the Flint water crisis. 

Click here to view the congressional hearing.

Click here to view the White House statement on the emergency declaration.

Click here to view the House letter.

PUBLIC HEALTH: ZIKA VIRUS DECLARED INTERNATIONAL EMERGENCY

On Feb. 1, leaders of the World Health Organization declared the spread of the Zika virus as a global health emergency and predicted as many as four million cases expected across Central and South America.

The virus, transmitted by mosquitoes, causes mild, dengue fever-like symptoms in healthy adults. It is also linked to birth defects in cases where pregnant women are infected with the virus. In recent years, multiple mosquito-borne illnesses have increasingly either appeared for the first time or reestablished themselves in North and South America. The virus originated in Uganda. Monkeys and humans serve as the primary hosts of the virus.

Human migration, climate change, and urbanization are cited as factors that may contribute to the spread of these diseases. Rising global temperatures and longer periods of warm weather aide both mosquito breeding cycles and the expansion of their geographical range. Human communities provide multiple sources of standing water that serve as breeding grounds for the insects, which include flower pots and drainage ditches.

The Centers for Disease Control has stated that an outbreak in the United States is unlikely, though the Obama administration is monitoring the spread of the virus and is taking precautionary steps in the event of an outbreak.

Click here to view a White House fact sheet on the Zika virus.

NSF: NSB REPORT HIGHLIGHTS INTERNATIONAL TRENDS IN RESEARCH INVESTMENT

On Jan. 19, the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Science Board released its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report.

The report highlights United States lead throughout the world in its investment in research and development (R&D), but notes that China, South Korea, and India are rapidly increasing their investments. According to the report, China is now the second-largest performer of R&D, accounting for 20 percent of global R&D. The United States accounts for 27 percent of global R&D.

China leads the United States as the world’s number one producer of undergraduates with degrees in science. China graduates 49 percent of science bachelor’s degrees, compared to 33 percent of bachelor’s science degrees given in the United States.

Among issue areas of public interest, the report indicates 86 percent of respondents were either “very interested” or “somewhat interested” in scientific discovery. Only 9 percent of respondents were “not at all interested” in environmental pollution while 43 percent said they were “very interested” and 46 percent responded as “moderately interested.” New medical discoveries generated the highest interest while space exploration and foreign policy generated the most disinterest.

The report notes that six agencies provide 92 percent of federal funding for academic R&D in science and engineering fields: the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the Department of Agriculture.

Click here to view the full report.

ESA 2015 ANNUAL REPORT: CELEBRATING OUR PAST & LOOKING TO OUT FUTURE

ESA turned 100 this year. It was a moment to take stock not only of our past, but of the future of ecology, its relevance to the future of the biosphere, and the role of humans as planetary stewards.

There is a significant change to the ESA 2015 Annual Report this year. We moved to an online format that allows multimedia content and gives readers an option to click through for more details on specific highlights and projects. Our program and focal areas provide a snapshot of activities conducted by the ESA staff and members.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA ANNOUNCES 2016 GSPA RECIPIENTS

The Ecological Society of America selected the 2016 recipients of its annual Graduate Student Policy Award: 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).

Kastl’s PhD research on ecosystem services aims to inform the design of policies that support sustainable watershed management.

As a PhD student in the University of Georgia’s Integrative Conservation program, Lear has worked with a Mexican non-governmental organization to develop science-based conservation policies for the Mexican Long-nosed bat.

Pintar interned with the Prince William Forest Park and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. As an undergrad, he studied the effects of acidification on ovenbird territory size within the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine.

Treuer’s NSF-funded research has led to the development of a technique of using arrays of microphones synced by GPS partition to investigate how acoustically active species partition interact and coexist in their environment.

While pursuing her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Welch is involved with a diverse array of public outreach and volunteer work promoting science education. She also served as a SEEDS mentor during ESA’s 2015 centennial meeting.

Werner’s undergraduate climate change research was also funded by NSF. Through her Master’s degree in environmental economics, she hopes to help policymakers better understand the link between agro-ecological sustainability and economic vitality.

The six students will travel to Washington, DC to participate in policy training sessions as well as meetings with their US Representative and Senators on April 27-28, 2016. On Capitol Hill, they will team with other scientists to discuss with lawmakers the importance of federal funding for the biological sciences, particularly the National Science Foundation.

NSF: PAST ESA PRESIDENT HONORED WITH MEDAL OF SCIENCE AWARD

Ecological Society of America Past-President Simon Levin (1990-1991) is among eight recipients of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Medal of Science award.

Levin is also a recipient of the MacArthur Award, the Distinguished Service Citation and ESA’s Eminent Ecologist Award.

Created by statute in 1959, the National Medal of Science was and is administered for the White House by NSF. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. The president receives nominations from a committee of presidential appointees based on their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to the sciences.

Click here to view the recipients.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Council on Environmental Quality

Notice: Co-sponsorship applications due Feb. 12, 2016.

Opportunity for Sponsorship of the GreenGov Symposium

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-01132

 

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Feb. 22, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Removal of the Scarlet-Chested Parakeet and Turquoise Parakeet From the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-01142

Notice: Public comments due Feb. 16, 2016

Draft Methodology for Prioritizing Status Reviews and Accompanying 12-Month Findings on Petitions for Listing Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-00616

 

US Geological Survey

Notice: Nominations due by Feb. 22, 2016

Reopening of Nomination Period for State Government Members of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-01149

CURRENT POLICY

 

Considered by House Committee

On Feb. 3, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing on the follow bills:

H.R. 4245, to exempt importation and exportation of sea urchins and sea cucumbers from licensing requirements under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 – Introduced by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME), the bill would exempt sea urchins and sea cucumbers from federal inspection when they are imported or exported from the United States.

H.R. 3070, the EEZ Clarification Act – Introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), the bill would modify federal boundaries between areas south of Montauk, New York, and Point Judith, Rhode Island,  so that sport fishermen and charter boats can catch striped bass in Block Island Sound. 

Introduced in Senate

S. 2466, the Improving Notification for Clean and Safe Drinking Water Act – Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), the bill would authorize the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to notify the public if a state agency and public water system are not taking action to address a public health risk associated with drinking water requirements. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On Jan. 20, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved the following bills:

S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 – Introduced by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), the bill would increase public land access for sportsmen. The bill includes language that would ban EPA from regulating lead ammunition and contaminants in fishing gear under the Toxic Substances Control Act. The bill would also reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act though Fiscal Year 2020.

S. 1024, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015 – Introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), the bill would reauthorize EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through fiscal 2020.

S. 1674, the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act – Introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the bill would reauthorize restoration efforts for the Long Island Sound estuary.

S. 1724, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015 – Introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), the bill would Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), the bill would provide for environmental restoration activities and forest management activities in the Lake Tahoe Basin.


Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill, Roll Call

January 13, 2016

 

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA SOTU REFLECTS ON ACCOMPLISHMENTS, CALLS FOR COOPERATION

For his final State of the Union address, President Obama sought a conciliatory and hopeful tone while requesting that Congress allay partisan tensions to reach consensus on advancing his remaining priorities.

“Now, I understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we will achieve this year are low. But, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach that you and other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families.”

Regarding his accomplishments and priorities, the president defended his administration’s actions to address climate change and increase investments in renewable energy.

“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it,” said Obama.

“But even if — even if the planet wasn’t at stake, even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record until 2015 turned out even hotter — why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future?”

He also referenced the United Nations climate change agreement reached last year when pushing the need for American leadership worldwide.

“When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change, yes, that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our kids.”

In the final portion of his speech, the president lamented that he had failed to alleviate brinksmanship  between the two parties and called upon Congress and the American people to get engaged in improving discourse and the political process. President Obama suggested one solution could be allowing bipartisan entities to draw congressional districts instead of state legislatures.

“There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber — good people — who would like to see more cooperation, would like to see a more elevated debate in Washington but feel trapped by the imperatives of getting elected, by the noise coming out of your base. I know; you’ve told me. It’s the worst-kept secret in Washington. And a lot of you aren’t enjoying being trapped in that kind of rancor,” said President Obama.

“But that means if we want a better politics — and I’m addressing the American people now — if we want a better politics, it’s not enough just to change a congressman or change a senator or even change a president. We have to change the system to reflect our better selves. But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected, but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”

While there will be little political incentive for Congress and the administration to work together this election year, there will also be fewer opportunities for Republicans to block the president’s executive actions, at least until the fall. The federal government is funded through Sept. 30, and the debt ceiling is not expected to be reached again until sometime in 2017.

Click here to read the president’s full State of the Union remarks.

FWS: INTERIM RULE WOULD PROHIBIT IMPORTATION OF 201 SALAMANDER SPECIES

The US Fish and Wildlife Service published an interim rule that would prohibit the importation and trade of 201 salamander species. The rule is a preemptive effort to prevent the fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which has decimated salamander populations in Europe through the pet trade, from spreading to native salamander populations in the United States. The Ecological Society of America (ESA) wrote a letter to the Service in November 2014 requesting the importantion ban. ESA Rapid Response member and amphibian expert, Dr. Karen Lips’ (University of Maryland), research on host-pathogen ecology and Bsal was used to inform the scientific understanding of Bsal’s threat.

The agency may grant permits for the importation and transportation of listed species for scientific, medical, educational or zoological purposes. The rule allows owners of listed animals to keep them as states allow but prohibits interstate transport for all animals listed as alive or dead under the rule.

The interim rule would take effect on Jan. 28, 2016. Click here for additional information.

Click here to read ESA’s letter to FWS.

FWS: WEST INDIAN MANATEES RECLASSIFIED UNDER ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

On Jan. 7, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposed to downgrade its listing of the West Indian manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” The agency cites “significant improvements in its population and habitat conditions and reductions in direct threats” since the manatees’ listing as the rationale for the reclassification.

The Endangered Species Act defines an endangered species as one that is currently in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and a threatened species as one that is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future. The new listing does not affect current federal protections for the species.

According to FWS, the Florida manatee population has increased by 500 percent over the last 25 years. The agency worked with state and local officials to establish over 50 manatee protection areas that helped the species recover. Their full geographic range today includes at least 13,000 manatees.

Click here to view the full FWS announcement:

http://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ref=u.s.-fish-and-wildlife-service-to-reclassify-west-indian-manatee-from-&_ID=35428

INTERIOR: SENATE CONFIRMS KIMBALL AS USGS DIRECTOR

The US Senate voted to confirm Suzette Kimball as director of the US Geological Survey (USGS) on Dec. 18, one of its final acts before adjourning for the remainder of 2015.

President Obama first nominated Kimball in Jan. 2014. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee had approved her nomination in June 2014, but the full Senate had not voted on her before the 113th Congress adjourned at the end of that year, so the process began again when the 114th Congress convened in Jan. 2015. The nomination was also delayed in part because Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who chairs the committee, had concerns with various Department of Interior regulations that impact Alaska.

Having served as acting-director, Kimball’s general duties will not change. The USGS is uniquely non-partisan, given that it does not issue regulations and chiefly functions as the US Department of Interior’s science arm. 

Click here to read Interior Secretary Sally Jewell’s statement on the confirmation.

EPA: RISK ASSESSMENT CONCLUDES COMMON PESTICIDE HARMS BEES

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a preliminary pollinator risk-assessment that finds applying the pesticide imidacloprid to crops is harmful to the bees that pollinate them.

The assessment was prepared in collaboration with California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation. EPA also collaborated with Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, which recently released an imidacloprid pollinator assessment that found the same preliminary conclusions as the EPA report.

The assessment is the first in a series of four risk assessments of neonicotinoid insecticides that are potentially harmful to pollinators. Preliminary pollinator risk assessments for the pesticides clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran are scheduled to be released for public comment in Dec. 2016.

Click here for additional information on EPA’s pollinator risk assessment activities.

EPA: NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR NEW ENGLAND ENVIRONMENTAL MERIT AWARD

 

The US Environmental Protection Agency is accepting nominations for its 2016 Environmental Merit Awards.

The awards are open to “scientists, community activists, business representatives, public officials and other individuals committed to preserving the environment” who reside within EPA’s Region 1 (New England). In addition to individuals, award categories are open to businesses, governmental entities and other organizations.

Nominations are due Feb. 12, 2016. Click here for additional information on specific award categories and the award nomination process.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due March 7, 2016

Registration Review; Draft Human Health and Ecological Risk Assessments for Pesticides

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-33298

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due March 14, 2016

90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Oceanic Whitetip Shark as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-00384

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Interim Rule: Public comments due March 14, 2016

Listing Salamanders Due to Risk of Salamander Chytrid Fungus

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-00452

Proposed Rule: Public comments due April 8, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding on a Petition To Downlist the West Indian Manatee, and Proposed Rule To Reclassify the West Indian Manatee as Threatened

https://federalregister.gov/a/C1-2015-32645

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Mar. 14, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings on 17 Petitions on Caribbean skinks, grizzly bear (Cabinet-Yaak, MT population), Yellowstone bison, fisher and insect species.

https://federalregister.gov/a/2016-00157

US Forest Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Jan. 15, 2016

Extension of Comment Period on the Proposed Rule on Roadless Area Conservation; National Forests System Lands in Colorado

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-32872

Notice: Public comments due Feb. 17, 2016

Revision of the Land Management Plan for the Chugach National Forest, Alaska

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-32043

CURRENT POLICY

 

Considered in House

H.R. 1644, the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act – Introduced by Rep. Alexander Mooney (R-WV), the bill would prohibit the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement from enforcing a rule intended to protect waterways from coal mining. The bill passed the House Jan. 12 by a vote of 235-188 with four Democrats joining all but 10 Republicans in voting for the measure.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, asserting it would “prevent the restoration of hundreds of streams, result in deterioration of water quality for thousands of stream miles, and create sustained regulatory uncertainty, as well as public health impacts for downstream communities.”

Click here to read the full statement.

Passed House

 S. 1115, the Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act – Introduced by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), the bill would require agencies to close out expired grant accounts with zero-dollar balances and undisbursed funding. It would require federal agencies to submit a report to Congress that identifies remaining expired grants. Following the submission of this report to Congress, agencies would then have one year to confirm all expired grants are closed. Additionally, the inspector general of any agency receiving over $500 million in annual grant funding would be required to conduct a risk assessment to determine if an audit or review of the agency’s grant closeout process is necessary. The bill passed the House Jan. 11 by voice vote after passing the Senate by unanimous consent. The president is expected to sign the measure.

S.J.Res.22, Providing for congressional disapproval of the rule submitted by the Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency relating to the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act – Introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), the joint resolution expresses disapproval of the Obama administration’s effort to clarify federal jurisdiction of waterways under the Clean Water Act. The bill passed the House Jan. 13 by a vote of 253-166 with 12 Democrats joining all but one Republican in voting for the resolution.  The president is expected to veto the measure.

Vetoed by President

S.J.Res. 23, Providing for congressional disapproval of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to  relating to “Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New, Modified, and Reconstructed Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” – Introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the joint resolution expresses disapproval with the Clean Power Plan’s regulations on carbon pollution from new power plants or power plants undertaking significant modifications. The bill passed the House Dec. 1 by a vote of 235-188 after passing the Senate by a vote of 52-46. The president vetoed the measure on Dec. 18.

In the House, 10 Republicans joined all but four Democrats in opposing the resolution. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME) and Mark Kirk (IL) joined most Democrats and Independents in voting against the resolution. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) voted with the majority of Senate Republicans in support of the measure.

S.J.Res. 24, Providing for congressional disapproval of a rule submitted by the Environmental Protection Agency relating to “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” – Introduced by Sen. Shelley Moore-Capito (R-WV), the joint resolution expresses disapproval with the Clean Power Plan’s regulations on carbon pollution from existing power plants. The bill passed the House Dec. 1 by a vote of 242-180 after passing the Senate by a vote of 52-46.

In the House, two Republicans joined all but four Democrats in opposing the resolution. Republican Sens. Ayotte, Collins, and Kirk joined most Democrats and Independents in voting against the resolution. Democratic Sens. Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp voted with the majority of Senate Republicans in support of the measure.

Signed into law

Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, P.L. 114-114 – Introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the bill would ban the use of plastic microbeads in personal care products. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent Dec. 18 after passing the House earlier that month. The president signed the measure into law Dec. 28, 2015.


Sources: US Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, National Journal, the New York Times, the Hill, Roll Call

December 16, 2015

In This Issue

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: WORLD LEADERS REACH FIRST EVER CLIMATE ACCORD

On Dec. 12, over 190 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to the first-ever international climate change agreement in Paris. The 31-page agreement sets a goal of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and  pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Assessments on the progress of countries’ pledges will be conducted every five years, beginning in 2018. All countries will update and revise existing climate targets every five years, starting in 2020 with a goal of each target reflecting progress over the prior one. As part of the agreement, developed countries will pledge to raise $100 billion to aid developing nations in tackling climate change. For the first time, the agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source, allowing the general public to understand better the level of pollution generated by countries around the world.

The agreement is considered a win for President Obama, who had pledged that the United States would lead by example in mitigating the effects of climate change.

“In short, this agreement will mean less of the carbon pollution that threatens our planet, and more of the jobs and economic growth driven by low-carbon investment,” said President Obama.  “Full implementation of this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and will pave the way for even more progress, in successive stages, over the coming years.”

Since the accord does not legally bind the United States to anything it has not already agreed to in previous treaties, the Obama administration argues that it does not require Senate ratification. Nonetheless, key Republican leaders are skeptical of the agreement and can be expected to continue efforts to block the administration from implementing climate regulations.

“The Obama administration’s Paris climate deal will increase the control of the federal government over the lives of Americans, all for little environmental benefit,” said House Science and Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). “The cornerstone of the president’s pledge, the so-called Clean Power Plan regulation, would cost billions of dollars and risk thousands of jobs.”

“The ‘agreement’ sets an effort towards a 1.5-degree cap on increase is no more realistic or technologically feasible than two degrees simply because it’s in the document,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK).  “The agreement further provides that developed countries like the United States shall provide financial resources to assist developing countries with no specificity despite ‘requesting expedited funds through the Green Climate Fund’ to which this administration has committed the US to a $3 billion contribution.  Congress, where authority to approve such an expenditure exists, has appropriated zero dollars.”

Click here for a summary of the agreement.

APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS REACHES FUNDING AGREEMENT FOR REMAINDER OF FY 2016

On the evening of Dec. 15, congressional leaders released a bipartisan $1.149 trillion omnibus spending deal that funds the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill comes after enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which made it possible for moderate increases in overall discretionary spending for the next two fiscal years.

To prevent a shutdown, Congress passed a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 22. The House is expected to take up the measure on Dec. 18. with the Senate expected to vote on the bill shortly after. The legislation is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and the president has indicated he will sign the measure.

Most of the major harmful environmental riders from House appropriations bills were not included from the final bill. Policy riders pushed by Congressional Republicans that were absent from the final bill included prohibitions on climate change research and related activities, restrictions on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Ocean Policy, restrictions on implementation of Fishery Management Council decisions, delisting of gray wolves in Wyoming and Great Lakes from Endangered Species Act protection, and prohibitions on enforcing the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The bill also omits language to make the Census’s American Community Survey (ACS) voluntary, a victory for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which uses ACS data to measure the number of Americans with education or employment in science and engineering-related fields.

The bill does include language that would continue to prohibit the US Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, despite the fact that the agency this year signaled it’s already taken steps that would make the listing unnecessary. The bill also retained a prohibition prohibiting the administration from changing the definition of “fill material” under the Clean Water Act, which coal state lawmakers argue could restrict mining.

The bill does not include language recommended by the Obama administration to reform how the nation funds its activities related to wildfire management and containment.

For NSF, the bill includes $7.46 billion, a $119 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill does not include restrictions on the NSF directorates that fund the geosciences or social and behavioral sciences. The bill requires federal agency Inspector Generals to conduct random audits of grant funding to combat waste and fraud and establishes an early warning system on cost overruns and requires agencies to notify congressional committees when costs grow more than 10 percent.

The omnibus also provides a three-year reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and funds the program at $450 million in FY 2016, a $143.86 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted level.

Below of FY 2016 funding levels for other federal agencies and bureaus of interest to the ecological community relative to the FY 2015 enacted level:

Agricultural Research Service: $1.36 billion; a $178.3 million increase.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $897.59 million; a $23.1 million increase.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.23 billion; a $116.5 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.27 billion; a $134.88 million increase.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $74.24 million; a $1.81 million increase.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $88.46 million; a $7.4 million increase.

Department of Energy (DOE) Biological and Environmental Research: $609 million; a $17 million increase.

DOE Office of Science: $5.35 billion; a $279 million increase.

Environmental Protection Agency: $8.14 billion; level with the previous year.

Land and Water Conservation Fund: $450 million; a $143.86 million increase.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $19.3 billion; $1.27 billion increase.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $1.33 billion; a $37 million increase.

National Institutes of Standards and Technology: $964 million; a $100 million increase.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.77 billion; a $324.6 million increase.

National Park Service: $2.85 billion; a $236.65 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: $862.86 million; a $4.43 million increase.

Smithsonian Institution: $840.24 million; a $20.7 million increase.

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.99 billion; a $534 million increase.

US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.51 billion; a $68.6 million increase.

US Forest Service: $5.66 billion; a $608.1 million increase.

US Geological Survey: $1.06 billion; a $17 million increase.

Click here for a summary of the bill.

The full text of the bill is available here.

SENATE: CRUZ CLIMATE HEARING CHALLENGES SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS ON WARMING

On Dec. 8, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who chairs of the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Science, Space and Competitiveness, convened a hearing to question the consensus among scientists that humans significantly contribute to climate change and the earth’s warming.

The hearing was largely viewed as a politically-motivated gambit to energize support for the Senator’s 2016 campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. Witnesses included three climate skeptics: John Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama in Huntsville; Judith Curry, Chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology; William Happer, Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics, Princeton University; and Mark Steyn a writer for the conservative National Review in Canada. The lone Democratic invitee testifying was retired Rear Admiral David Titley, a professor with Pennsylvania State University and Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk.

For Cruz, the hearing was an opportunity to publicly reiterate his opinion that there has been “no significant warming” of the earth since 1998 as well as criticize the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan. Cruz also accused Democrats and the scientific community of seeking to suppress the views scientists skeptical of the evidence of climate science. Titley responded that 1998 was an unusually warm year to choose as a starting point for comparison and noted that a warming bias would be evident if you measured against another year.

Committee Democrats argued that it was Republicans who are attempting to stifle or downplay the magnitude of scientific consensus on climate change, noting the lopsided makeup of witnesses testifying, who were predominantly climate skeptics.

During the hearing, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) entered into the committee’s record a number of letters and position statements on climate change from scientific societies, which Peters noted represented “tens of thousands of scientists.” In addition to the Ecological Society of America, position statements and letters were also submitted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, and the Geological Society of America.

“It is the position of these organizations that the evidence is overwhelming that the earth is warming; global warming is real and that human activity is the primary contributor,” Peters stated.

Click here to read ESA’s statement.

Click here to view the hearing.

INVASIVE SPECIES: NISC SCRUTINIZED BY LAWMAKERS

On Dec. 1, the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior convened for a hearing examining the National Invasive Species Council (NISC) and its effectiveness in treating and eradicating invasive threats.

Interior Subcommittee Chairwoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Ranking Member Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) were both critical of the council.

“In the past several years, there has been relatively little oversight of the council’s work and success in managing the invasive species problem,” said Chairwoman Lummis. Questions continue to be raised about whether the council and other federal agencies are effective in stopping the spread of invasive species.”

”We know that the invasive species problem has worsened,” said Ranking Member Lawrence. “And I feel strongly that the lack of a proper plan is contributing to the impact.”

Lummis referenced a Government Accountability Office review of NISC’s 2001 management plan, which uncovered problems with coordination and setting long-term goals.

NISC Executive Director Jamie Reaser contended that staff turnover and budget constraints have prevented the agency from revising its management plan, which was last updated in 2008. Executive Order 13112 (adopted in 1999) required NISC to update its management plan every two years. Prior to 2008, the plan was last updated in 2001. Reaser also noted that NISC does not get directly involved in on-the-ground efforts and more functions as a resource to help states coordinate and address invasive species threats. She also stated that NISC intends to have a revised management plan completed by Spring 2016.

Also testifying was Scott Cameron, President of the Reduce Risks from Invasive Species Coalition, who outlined a number of recommendations to improve NISC. These recommendations included requiring the council to submit an annual work plan to Congress with deadlines for action, seeking out international best practices for invasive species management and allow NISC to serve as a forum for federal interagency coordination with regional governor associations.

Click here for additional information on the hearing.

NSF: NEON TO UNDERGO MANAGEMENT RESTRUCTURING

On Dec. 11, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it is changing the management plan for its National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) and will pursue new management options to complete the NEON project. NSF hopes the reorganization will address various issues that have led to various delays and cost overruns. The agency does not anticipate additional re-scoping of the project. NEON Inc. will continue to perform its work until NSF announces the new management structure.

“During this transition period, our staff remains committed to the work of building, commissioning and operating NEON. Moving forward, our priorities are ensuring a smooth, seamless and efficient transition to a new management organization and working collaboratively with the scientific community,” stated Gene Kelly, Interim CEO of NEON Inc.

In the letter notifying NEON Inc. of the change in management, Jim Olds, assistant director, NSF Directorate for Biological Sciences, states,

“The on-budget completion of the construction and commissioning of the NEON facility will be challenging. But we all recognize that the advanced research infrastructure of the NEON Observatory remains an essential investment that will continue to improve our fundamental understanding of biology, emerging disease, water use, invasive species, and agriculture, forestry, and urban land-use for decades to come.”

Click here to view the NSF letter.

EDUCATION: EVERY STUDENT SUCCEEDS ACT PROMOTES STEM FOR K-12

On Dec. 10, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act. The law is the first comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law on Jan. 8, 2002. The bill passed the Senate Dec. 9 by a vote of 85-12 after passing the House Dec. 2 by a vote of 359-64.

The new law maintains the requirement that state math and science standards are aligned with entrance requirements in higher education and requires that science tests bet given three times between grades 3 and 12. It also establishes the definition of a STEM-Specialty School as a school, or dedicated program within a school, that engages students in rigorous, relevant, and integrated learning experiences focused on STEM education, including computer science.

There is new authority in the bill that allows states and districts to develop and provide professional development and other comprehensive support systems for school teachers and other faculty to promote high-quality instruction in STEM fields.

For teachers, the bill provides new authority to allow states and districts to develop and provide professional development and other comprehensive systems of support for school faculty to promote high-quality instruction and instructional leadership in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects, including computer science. The law allows states to establish, expand, or improve alternative routes for state certification of teachers in STEM subjects. 

Prior to the House and Senate going to conference to resolve differences over the bill, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) had sent a letter to the leaders of the House Education and Workforce Committee and the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee requesting that the final bill includes provisions that promote STEM education.

Click here to view the ESA letter: http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015-Elementary-and-Secondary-Education-Act-letter.pdf 

TRANSPORTATION: HIGHWAY REAUTHORIZATION SUPPORTS POLLINATORS

On Dec. 4, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.L. 114-94). The legislation reauthorizes federal surface transportation programs at a cost of $305 billion over the next five years.

The bill is the first long-term surface transportation bill signed into law since the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) (P.L. 109-59) was signed into law in 2005. The bill passed the House Dec. 3 by a vote of 359-65 and subsequently passed the Senate by a vote of 83-16.

The new law incorporates, H.R. 2738, the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment (BEE) Pollinator Protection Act, which was introduced by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Jeff Dunham (R-CA). The provisions encourage state departments of transportation to plant and cultivate pollinator habitat and vegetation along highways and freeways.

Specifically, the bill directs the Secretary of Transportation to “1) encourage integrated vegetation management practices on roadsides and other transportation rights-of-way, including reduced mowing; and 2) encourage the development of habitat and forage for Monarch butterflies, other native pollinators, and honey bees through plantings of native forbs and grasses, including noninvasive, native milkweed species that can serve as migratory way stations for butterflies and facilitate migrations of other pollinators.”

Click here for additional information on the FAST Act.

INVASIVE SPECIES: EUROPEAN COUNCIL HALTS SPREAD OF AMPHIBIAN DISEASE

The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats recently adopted a recommendation that European countries take a wide range of steps to restrict the commercial salamander and pet trade in order to reduce the spread of the chytrid fungus disease Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (BSal).

The disease is native to Asia, but is thought to have spread to salamanders in Europe through the pet trade. Wild salamanders in several European countries, including Belgium, Germany the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have already been stricken by BSal.

In the United States, scientific societies and conservation groups have teamed in an effort to inform policymakers of the threat and hopefully preempt BSal’s spread to the United States. The Ecological Society of America is working with the National Environmental Coalition of Invasive Species on these efforts.

Click here to view the ESA BSal letter to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due Jan. 15, 2016

Request for Nominations to the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-31184

Notice: Public comments due Jan. 16, 2016

Information Collection Request Submitted to OMB for Review and Approval; Comment Request; Generic Clearance for Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Projects

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-31542

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Feb. 5, 2016

12-Month Finding for seven Foreign Species of Elasmobranchs Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-30660

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Jan. 14, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for the Big Sandy Crayfish and the Guyandotte River Crayfish

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-31369

Notice: Public comments due April 7, 2016

Programmatic Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Invasive Rodent and Mongoose Control and Eradication on US Pacific Islands within the National Wildlife Refuge System and in Native Ecosystems in Hawaii

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-30976


Sources: House Education and Workforce Committee, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the White House, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill, National Journal, PR Newswire, Roll Call

November 25, 2015

In This Issue

HOUSE: ESA JOINS OTHER SOCIETIES IN DEFENDING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

ESA and six other leading science societies sent a letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) concerning his ongoing inquiries into the climate-change research of Thomas Karl and colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). At issue is the nearly unprecedented nature of the congressional inquiry into the study.

Karl and NOAA colleagues used updated and corrected global surface temperature data to dispute the existence of a recent pause in global warming. In his 4 June Science article, Karl’s team suggested no discernable decrease in the rate of warming between the second half of the 20th  century, a period marked by human-caused warming, and the first fifteen years of the 21st century, which some have described as a warming hiatus.

Since its publication, Chairman Smith and NOAA have been embroiled in a very public dispute related to a subpoena he sent to NOAA demanding the release of internal communications between NOAA scientists about the climate study. Smith is among those House members who are skeptical of the scientific evidence on climate change. The chairman believes it is possible that NOAA scientists manipulated data to advance the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan.

In the Nov. 24 letter to Chairman Smith, the science societies expressed concern that politically-motivated inquiries could hinder the ability of government researchers to fulfill their agencies’ scientific missions and constrain federal agencies’ capacity to attract quality scientific talent.

“Scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations or harassment simply for providing scientific results that some may see as politically controversial,” stated the letter. “Science cannot thrive when policymakers—regardless of party affiliation— use policy disagreements as a pretext to attack scientific conclusions without public evidence.”

AAAS CEO Rush Holt, executive publisher of the Science family of journals, said that AAAS and other scientific organizations have a responsibility to speak out against excessively intrusive inquiries that go beyond the need for due diligence by policymakers: “This kind of political interference in the scientific process ultimately retards the ability of science to provide understanding and to improve people’s lives,” Holt said. “To arrive at the greatest benefit for people’s lives, the scientific process must be free from politicization.”

Smith contends that the committee is exercising the House Science Committee’s authority to conduct oversight, which he deems permissible even in instances where no evidence of misconduct or fraud exists. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), however, has sent multiple letters to the chairman, asserting his repeated inquiries amount to a “fishing expedition,” and that his effort “seems more designed to harass climate scientists.”

“In one fell swoop, you have accused a host of different individuals of wrongdoing. You have accused NOAA’s top research scientists of scientific misconduct. By extension, you have also accused the peer-reviewers at one of our nation’s most prestigious academic journals, Science, of participating in this misconduct (or at least being too incompetent to notice what was going on), said Johnson in her most recent letter to Smith. “If that weren’t enough, you are intimidating a grand conspiracy theory between NOAA and the White House to doctor climate science to advance administration policy. Presumably this accusation extends to Administrator Sullivan herself.”

Chairman Smith consequently responded to the ranking member with a letter criticizing her for siding with the Obama administration and placing her “political allegiance to the Administration ahead of the Committee’s institutional interests.”

Smith also contends that whistleblower NOAA employees provided him with information indicating that the climate study was rushed to publication. On Nov. 20, NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan responded to Smith with a letter noting that the study was published in Science after six months of “rigorous evaluation and peer review.” She indicated that the agency’s Scientific Integrity Office has not received any allegations of this nature.

“I have not or will not allow anyone to manipulate the science or coerce the scientists who work for me,” wrote Sullivan.

Click here to view the scientific societies letter. 

Click here to view Administrator Sullivan’s letter. Click here to view Ranking Member Johnson’s letter. Click here to view Chairman Smith’s response to the Johnson letter.

APPROPRIATIONS: ESA REQUESTS ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH FUNDING INCREASE FOR FY 2016

On Nov. 20, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators requesting a 5.2 percent discretionary spending increase for federal agencies that fund scientific research.

The letter notes the role the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the US Geological Survey and other agencies play in supporting ecological research. It also calls upon appropriations leaders not to include riders that would hinder the ability of federal agencies to make policy decisions informed by scientific research.

“The Society hopes that Congress can reach a bipartisan appropriations agreement that is free of provisions that would circumvent environmental assessments, impede climate change research or make determinations for endangered species listings that bypass the collaborative process involving researchers, state and local resource managers, and input from the general public,” the letter states. “It is important to maintain federal agencies’ capacity to provide the best available science to inform policy decisions.”

Congress has until Dec. 11 to pass a bill that continues federal funding for the remainder of current Fiscal Year 2016. 

Click here to view the ESA letter.

FOREST SERVICE: UPDATED SOFTWARE PROVIDES ECOLOGICAL DATA TO GENERAL PUBLIC

The US Forest Service has launched an updated version of its free software, i-Tree, which provides the general public with scientific information on tree growth and how they are enhancing communities across the United States.

The enhanced features of “i-Tree, Version 6.0” provide users with landscape data on the many ecological benefits trees provide to their area, including carbon storage, air pollution removal, and hydrologic effects. The new software also upgrades web-based mobile data collection and reporting features and simulates future tree population growth totals among other canopy and diversity measurements.

Click here for additional information.

FWS: DELMARVA FOX SQUIRREL LEAPS OFF ENDANGERED SPECIES LIST

On Nov. 13, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that due to collaborative conservation efforts between federal state and local officials, it will remove the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel from the endangered species list.

The squirrel was among the first species to gain federal protection under the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, a precursor to the Endangered Species Act. Agricultural development, timber harvesting, forest clearing and overhunting contributed to the loss of 90 percent of the squirrels range in the mid-20th century.

Today, a majority of the squirrel population occupy private land. Since its listing, the squirrel’s range has increased from four to 10 counties with up to 20,000 squirrels living on the Delmarva Peninsula, along the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay. Most of the population is in Maryland although the peninsula also crosses into Virginia and Delaware.

“Today’s announcement is a major victory for the Endangered Species Act and the Delmarva fox squirrel itself, and much credit is due to the federal biologists who have worked for decades to rebuild the squirrel’s populations,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) in a press statement released by FWS. “But we could not have reached this point without the many citizen-conservationists who changed the way they managed their forest lands to make this victory possible, and I am deeply appreciative of their efforts. I will continue to champion the work that the Fish and Wildlife Service does to protect endangered species in the future.”

Click here for additional information:

http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/EndSppWeb/DFS/index.html

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: APPLY FOR 2016 ESA GRADUATE STUDENT POLICY AWARD

The Ecological Society of America invites you to apply for the 2016 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). Recipients receive first-hand engagement at the interface of science and public policy. The two-day event will occur April 27 and 28, 2016.

Participants receive:

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

Applicants must be an ESA member and a United States citizen residing in the country. Former GSPA winners are not eligible.  Applications are due January 10, 2016. Click here for additional information on how to apply:

http://www.esa.org/esa/public-affairs/esa-policy/policy-getting-involved/esa-graduate-student-policy-award/

NOAA: FISHERIES MANAGEMENT POLICY OPEN FOR PUBLIC COMMENT

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is accepting public comments for a new ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) policy.

Through the establishment of a framework of guiding principles, the new EBFM policy will help clarify existing management policy within NOAA Fisheries and help clarify how these practices relate to existing living marine resources management policy. According to the agency, implementation of this new policy will help NOAA Fisheries and partnering entities “optimize societal benefits across its multiple federal mandates by considering environmental and ecological factors and identifying trade-offs among its trust resources, including fisheries, protected species, and their habitats.”

Comments on the draft EBFM should be sent to Jason Link, Senior Science Advisor for Ecosystems at Jason.Link@noaa.gov or Heather Sagar, Senior Policy Advisor at heather.sagar@noaa.gov by Dec. 16, 2015.

Click here for additional information, including a link to the draft policy:

http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/ecosystems/ebfm/creating-an-ebfm-management-policy

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Proposed rule: Public comments due Dec. 9, 2015

Reopening of comment period for proposed rule on scrapie disease regulations

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-29179

Bureau of Land Management

Request of nominations: nominations due Dec. 28, 2015

Call for Nominations for Central California Resource Advisory Council

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-30005

Request for nominations: nominations due Dec. 28, 2015

Second Call for Nominations for the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-30019

Department of Interior

Request for nominations: nominations due Nov. 30, 2015

Nominations open for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24818

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due Feb 16, 2016

Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan for Western Butte County, California: Environmental Impact Statement

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-29447

US Forest Service

Notice: Public comments due Nov. 27, 2015

Tongass National Forest Wrangell Ranger District; Alaska; Wrangell Island Project Environmental Impact Statement; transition from old-growth harvest to young-growth management

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-27204

CURRENT POLICY

 

Introduced in House

H.R. 4000, the Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard Deadline Harmonization Act of 2015 – Introduced Nov. 16 by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), the bill would delay implementation of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s new ground-level ozone standard by a maximum of eight years. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

H.R. 4019, the Orca Responsibility and Care Advancement Act – Introduced Nov. 16 by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the bill would prohibit the breeding, wild capture and import of orcas (commonly known as killer whales) for public display. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Agriculture Committee.

H.R. 4084, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act – Introduced Nov. 19 by House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy Chairman Randy Weber (R-TX), full committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the bill would direct the Department of Energy to prioritize research and development infrastructure that enables the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies that reduce waste and improve thermal efficiency. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On Nov. 18, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 1321, the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the bill would institute a federal prohibition on the sale and distribution of cosmetics that contain synthetic plastic microbeads, beginning Jan. 1, 2018. The bill seeks to prevent the plastic beads found in soaps, body washes and other hygiene products from polluting the nation’s waterways. The committee approved the bill by voice vote.

Approved by Senate Committee

On Nov. 19, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved the following bill:

S. 556, Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 – Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the bill would improve access to hunting, fishing and target shooting on federal lands. The bill also includes language to permanently extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) with modest funding reforms. The LCWF language was based on an agreement Murkowksi had reached with Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) earlier this year. The committee approved the bill by voice vote.


Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, The White House, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill, Roll Call, Science, the Washington Post, American Academy for the Advancement of Science

November 11, 2015

In This Issue

NOAA: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR REQUESTS SCIENTISTS’ INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

On Nov. 4, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requesting documents and communications between NOAA scientists whose research concludes there has been no pause in global warming. At the center of the request is the major climate science study led by Tom Karl, director of the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information that was published in “Science” magazine on June 3.

Said Karl in an NOAA press release posted the day after the study was published: “Adding in the last two years of global surface temperature data and other improvements in the quality of the observed record provide evidence that contradict the notion of a hiatus in recent global warming trends. … the rate of warming over the first 15 years of this century has, in fact, been as fast or faster than that seen over the last half of the 20th century.”

Smith’s investigation into the Karl’s research began in July and escalated throughout the fall when he wrote multiple letters requesting that NOAA release internal communications between the scientists involved in the study. When NOAA refused the requests, Smith followed up with the warning letter of a subpoena Sept. 25 and subsequently issued a subpoena Oct. 13.

In a statement to “Nature” magazine, NOAA asserted a confidentiality interest concerning scientific communication, arguing: “Because the confidentiality of these communications among scientists is essential to frank discourse among scientists, these documents were not provided to the Committee. It is a long-standing practice in the scientific community of protecting the confidentiality of deliberative scientific discussions.”  

Smith’s Nov. 4 letter threatens to pursue additional legal mechanisms against NOAA if they do not comply and release the scientists’ internal communications. The letter additionally requests that six senior NOAA officials, including Karl, be made available for transcribed interviews.

Said Smith, “NOAA has failed to fully explain the conditions surrounding its process and procedures for adjusting upward temperature readings that eliminated the ‘pause’ in global warming,” the letter states. “Deficiencies in NOAA’s response to the Committee’s request raises serious concerns about what role officials at NOAA, including political appointees, had in the decision to adjust the temperature data and widely publicize conclusions based on those adjustments.”

Committee Democrats have been critical of Smith’s subpoena, referring to it as a “fishing expedition.” In a response letter to the subpoena, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “The baseless conflict you have created by issuing the October 13 subpoena is representative of a disturbing pattern in your use of congressional power since your chairmanship began. In the past two years and ten months that you have presided as chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology you have issued more subpoenas (six) than were issued in the prior 54-year history of the committee.”

Click here to view the Smith letter.

Click here to view the subpoena response letter from Ranking Member Johnson.

APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC COALITIONS REQUEST RESEARCH FUNDING FOR FY 2016

 

On Nov. 2, a broad group of research coalitions sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators praising the Bipartisan Budget Act 2015 and requesting an increase of at least 5.2 percent for federal programs that support scientific research in FY 2016.

“As you allocate the additional funding made available under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, we urge you to make strong investments in America’s innovation ecosystem one of your highest priorities by increasing federal research funding by at least 5.2 percent above FY 2015 levels—the same level of increase to discretionary spending,” the letter states.

Congress has until Dec. 11 to work out an agreement that would continue federal funding through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016, which began Oct. 1, 2015.

The letter notes that while South Korea, China, and several European countries are making robust investments in scientific research, federal research funding in the United States remains flat.

“If we continue on our current path, we risk creating an innovation deficit, as other countries work to create an innovation dividend,” the letter continues.

Click here to view the full letter.

 

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATORS URGE PRESIDENT TO OPPOSE ENDANGERED SPECIES RIDERS

 

Twenty-five US Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reject any spending bills that include provisions to undermine Endangered Species Act protection efforts. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) spearheaded the letter. No Republicans were among the signers.

“Unfortunately, just as we face enormous threats to our planet’s biodiversity, some in Congress are seeking to undermine the Endangered Species Act,” the letter reads. “More than 80 legislative proposals have already been introduced in this Congress to undermine key pieces of this vital law and to block protections for particular species. All such legislative attacks – including the record number of FY 2016 Interior appropriations riders – undermine the Endangered Species Act, which calls for science-based decision-making to protect all wildlife, plants, and fish that are in danger of extinction.”

Under the Republican-controlled Congress, numerous pieces of legislation introduced would either unilaterally delist certain species from federal protection under the law or place limits of its enforcement capability. However, very few of these bills have passed committee or reached the House or Senate floor for a vote. President Obama is also unlikely to sign bills that would undermine Endangered Species Act protection efforts. Consequently, lawmakers looking to restrict or rescind certain species protections have sought to include legislative language (“riders”) in must-pass appropriations bills that continue government funding.

US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe is open to reforming the Endangered Species Act, noting the last comprehensive legislation was enacted in 1988. However, he has been critical of the reforms that have been pushed by Congressional Republicans.

Click here to view Sen. Booker’s press release, which includes the full text of the letter.

 

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA REJECTS KEYSTONE PIPELINE

  

On Nov. 6, President Obama rejected the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried Canadian crude oil from Canada through the continental United States to ports in the Gulf of Mexico.

In explaining his position, the president asserted that the pipeline would 1) not have a meaningful long-term impact on job creation 2) would not lower gas prices and 3) would not contribute to reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. The president also stated approving the project would have undercut his administration’s efforts to mitigate the climate change impacts.

In his remarks, the president also mentioned his discussion of the decision with his Canadian counterpart, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is a supporter of the pipeline.

“This morning, I also had the opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada,” said President Obama.  “And while he expressed his disappointment, given Canada’s position on this issue, we both agreed that our close friendship on a whole range of issues, including energy and climate change, should provide the basis for even closer coordination between our countries going forward.”

Commenting on the Keystone decision, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “The critical factor in my determination was this— moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combatting climate change.”

Congressional Republicans largely lambasted the decision. In a press statement, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) stated, “It goes to show that the president is more interested in appeasing his wealthy environmental donors than helping the private sector create jobs for working families.”

Click here to read the president’s full statement.

Click here to read Secretary Kerry’s statement.

Click here to read Chairman Inhofe’s statement.

CANADA: GOVERNMENT REVERSES MEDIA COMMUNICATION RESTRICTION FOR SCIENTISTS

  

On Nov. 6, Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains announced that government scientists are now free to speak to the media.

“Our government values science and will treat scientists with respect,” said Bains in a press statement. “That is why government scientists and experts will be able to speak freely about their work to the media and the public.”

The move reverses a policy under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper that required scientists to seek approval from their departments before speaking to the press.

Click here for the full statement.

SENATE: MODERATE REPUBLICANS FORM ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP

  

On Oct. 29 Republican Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Lamar Alexander (TN), Mark Kirk (IL) and Lindsey Graham (SC) announced the formation of a Senate Energy and Environment Working Group that will focus on climate and environmental protection as well as increase investment in clean energy. All four Republicans have casted votes affirming humans significantly contribute to climate change.

“The Energy and Environment Working Group will be a way for us to bring people together and start an ongoing conversation about these topics—like how we can best protect our environment and climate, pursue common sense and market-based reforms to grow our economy, and promote cleaner energy production,” said Sen. Ayotte, the groups’s lead organizer.

Click here for additional information.

NATURAL RESOURCES: BISHOP FLOATS DRAFT LWCF REAUTHORIZATION BILL

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-CO) has offered draft language for a bill that would reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Congressional Republicans allowed the bill to expire Sept. 30 of this year, the first time the law was not reauthorized since its passage in 1965. While the LWCF enjoys broad bipartisan support, in recent years fiscally conservative members have pushed to reform the law.

If enacted, Chairman Bishop’s bill would be the first major reform of the LWCF since it was first established. Among its provisions, Bishop’s draft bill would maintain the $900 million funding ceiling for LWCF while providing at least 20 percent of funding support for oil and gas permitting and workforce development and 15 percent for rural counties. 

The bill would increase to a minimum of 45 percent the amount of LWCF funds that go to state-side grants. The bill limits grants for land and water acquisition to no more than 3.5 percent of funds. The bill would also cap the portion of LWCF funds that can be allocated towards reducing the $18.8 billion maintenance backlog of federally managed land at 3.5 percent.

Bishop’s bill has been met with skepticism from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers who have been staunch proponents of LWCF and skeptical of making any major changes to the popular law.

Pro-LWCF Senators have unsuccessfully sought to use Senate procedures to attach an LCWF reauthorization to other bills, including legislation to reauthorize the Toxic Substances Control Act and the recently signed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Like Bishop, many Senate Republicans, including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are seeking changes to the LWCF.

Earlier this year, Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA) spearheaded a letter signed by 194 additional House members urging increased investment in LWCF. Rep. Meehan, the lead Republican on the letter, released a statement critical of the Bishop draft bill, stating it “diverts money away from conservation, throws up roadblocks to preservation and sets top-down, arbitrary funding formulas.”

Click here to view the Thompson-Meehan letter (PDF).

Click here to view Rep. Meehan’s statement on the Bishop reauthorization draft.

TRANSPORTATION: HIGHWAY REAUTHORIZATION INCLUDES POLLINATOR PROVISIONS

On Nov. 5, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 22, the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015, a $325 billion six-year highway and public transportation reauthorization bill. Under the bill, Department of Transportation (DOT) officials would  “encourage” states to sow vegetation beneficial to bees and other pollinators along highway rights of way. The bill passed the House by a vote of 363-64.

The language adopted by the House is similar to the language passed by the Senate earlier this year, which also included the pollinator provisions. The pollinator language had previously been introduced in the House as H.R. 2738, the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act, by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Jeff Denham (R-CA). Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) put forward an amendment that would have prohibited DOT funds from being used for landscaping and scenic beautification, but her amendment failed by a vote of 172-184 with 71 Republicans joining all Democrats to oppose the measure.

In addition to the pollinator provisions, both bills now include language requiring DOT to map out national corridors for electric vehicle, hydrogen and natural gas charging stations that would be functional by 2021. 

The current reauthorization for surface transportation programs extends through Nov. 20, 2015. The House and Senate will now negotiate a final bill that resolves funding differences between the two chambers before it can be sent to the president for his signature.

Click here for additional information on the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: OREGON REMOVES STATE PROTECTIONS FOR GRAY WOLVES

 

On Nov. 9, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-2 to delist the gray wolf from the state’s Endangered Species Act.

The vote was based on a determination by state biologists that Oregon’s 81 gray wolves are not in danger of extinction. Some independent scientists dispute this finding, however. While the move does not immediately change state management policies for the wolf, it does open them up to more lethal means of control.

The decision has no effect of wolves in some areas further west in the state that still have federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves in eastern Oregon were delisted from the federal Endangered Species Act four years ago.

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

US Environmental Protection Agency

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Jan. 8, 2016

Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Update to the Refrigerant Management Requirements Under the Clean Air Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-26946

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 7, 2015

Proposed Safe Harbor Agreement for the Reestablishment of the California Red-Legged Frog in the Santa Monica Mountains, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-28200

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015

Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for Seven Covered Species, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Land, Inyo and Mono Counties, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-28050

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 28, 2015

Golden Eagles; Programmatic Take Permit Application; Draft Environmental Assessment; Alta East Wind Project, Kern County, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-27240

 

CURRENT POLICY

 

Introduced in House

H.R. 3959, the Innovate America Act – Introduced Nov. 5 by Reps. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), the bill seeks to double the number of high schools focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education, promote computer science training, and expand research opportunities for undergraduate STEM majors and study the impact of STEM field retention programs for students.

H.R. 3880, the Stop EPA Overreach Act of 2015 – Introduced Nov. 3 by Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), the bill clarifies federal regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act to exclude greenhouse gas emissions, effectively prohibiting the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating air pollutants that contribute to climate change. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and House Agriculture Committee.

Passed House

H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act – Introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), the bill requires the Secretary of State to identify and withhold assistance to countries that participate in wildlife trafficking and provides increased assistance to nations attempting to fight it. It also requires revenue received from fines, forfeitures, and restitution to be transferred to federal conservation and anti-poaching efforts. The bill passed the House Nov. 2 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2219, the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act of 2015 – Introduced Oct. 29 by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Cory Gardner (R-CO), the bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to conduct an assessment and analysisof the economic impact of outdoor recreation activities. The bill has been referred to the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S.2240, the Federal Lands Invasive Species Control, Prevention, and Management Act – Introduced Nov. 4 by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill directs the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to work with on-the-ground experts to develop and implement a strategic plan to improve control and management of invasive species that threaten and harm federal lands. The bill has been referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S. 2276, the Securing America’s Future Energy: Protecting Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety (SAFE PIPES) Act – Introduced Nov. 10 by Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Gary Peters (D-MI), the bill would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration through Fiscal Year 2019. The bill also includes provisions that grant the agency direct hiring authority and promote collaboration on research and development between the agency, industry and public sector stakeholders. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Passed Senate

S.J.Res. 22, a joint resolution expressing disapproval of the rule submitted by the US Army Corps of Engineers and US Environmental Protection Agency relating to the definition of “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act – Introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), the non-binding resolution expresses the sense of Congress that it disapproves of the Obama administration rule clarifying federal regulatory jurisdiction of US waterways. The bill passed the Senate Nov. 4 by a vote of 53-44. Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined most Senate Republicans in voting for the resolution. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the lone Republican voting against the resolution.


Sources: House, Science, Space and Technology Committee, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, National Journal, Nature, Associated Press, the Hill, Roll Call, USA Today, American Institute of Physics

 

October 28, 2015

 

In This Issue

BUDGET: WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS REACH TWO-YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT

The White House and Congressional leaders have finalized a budget deal that raises the debt limit and sets spending levels for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill passed the House Oct. 28 by a vote of 266-167. All voting Democrats were joined by 79 Republicans in support of the measure. All 167 opposing votes came from Republicans.

Dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015,” the deal would extend the debt ceiling until March 5, 2017. Similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), it would provide relief for sequestration—automatic spending cuts to discretionary spending programs that are set to go into effect next year. The bill would increase overall discretionary spending by $80 billion over the next two years, equally divided between defense and nondefense discretionary programs.

The discretionary spending increases are slated to be offset through numerous measures, including a one-year extension of mandatory spending sequestration, selling oil reserves, crop insurance reform and changes to entitlements that intend to improve program integrity. A majority of Congressional Republicans are expected to vote against the deal. House and Senate leaders are expected to rely on Congressional Democrats and a minority of pragmatic and defense-hawk Republicans to get the bill to President Obama’s desk.

The discretionary spending increases would provide an additional $50 billion above the sequestration spending caps for discretionary programs in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. It also includes an additional $32 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations for defense and non-defense security programs for the next two fiscal years.

US Department of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew indicated that the current $18.1 trillion debt ceiling needs to be raised by Nov. 3. In setting overall discretionary spending levels for the next two fiscal years, the budget agreement will also make it easier for Congressional appropriators to negotiate a long-term spending deal for the remainder of the current fiscal year 2016, which began Oct. 1, 2015. The short-term continuing resolution that extended federal funding for federal agencies expires on Dec. 11.

Politically, if the bill passes the House and Senate, Congress avoids tackling sequestration or the debt ceiling until the next president takes office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had favored a two-year agreement as part of an effort to affirm his party can be a functional governing majority. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had also sought to ensure his successor did not inherit a budget crisis after he resigns at the end of this week.

In September, the Ecological Society of America joined 2,500 national, state and local organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress requesting they replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Click here to view the letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/09.10.15NDDSignOnFall2015FinalWithSignatures.pdf

HOUSE: RYAN SELECTED TO BE NEW SPEAKER NOMIMEE

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was selected by House Republicans today as their nominee for speaker of the House. This will be followed by a formal vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Oct. 29. Boehner will resign from the House on Oct. 30. 

Ryan’s agreement to be speaker rested upon his colleagues assurance of the necessary 218 Republican votes needed to win, which he secured at the close of last week when a majority of the far-right House Freedom Caucus indicated their support. 

Despite holding sharp differences over budget priorities, Democratic leaders praise Ryan as someone with whom they can work. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan worked with then-Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) to craft the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), which alleviated the effects of budget sequestration by providing temporary increases in discretionary spending for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. At age 45, Ryan will be the youngest speaker elected to the House since 1881, when J. Warren Kiefer, also 45, was elected speaker.

WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ADDS 68 BUSINESSES TO CLIMATE PLEDGE

On October 19, the White House announced that 68 additional companies have signed its “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” joining 13 others who first signed the pledge in June.

In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” they voiced support for a strong outcome in the upcoming Paris climate negotiations by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions and improve sustainability.

Collectively, the 81 companies “have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion,” according to the White House.

Click here for additional information.

WHITE HOUSE: NEW MEMO REQUIRES AGENCIES TO CONSIDER ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

On Oct. 7, the White House released a memorandum directing federal agencies to factor ecosystem services in their planning and decision-making.

The guidance is intended to support federal agencies currently using ecosystem services approaches and encourage other agencies to incorporate these services when developing policy. The memo directs federal agencies to submit a written description of their work plan to incorporate ecosystem services into their planning, management, and regulatory decisions to the Council on Environmental Quality no later than March 30, 2016.

Click here to view the memo.

CANADA: LIBERAL PARTY SWEEPS ELECTIONS, TRUDEAU ELECTED PRIME MINISTER

The Oct. 19 Canada national elections resulted in an overwhelming victory for the country’s Liberal Party, culminated in the election of Justin Trudeau as Canada’s new prime minister.

As prime minister, Trudeau has pledged to focus on addressing climate change and renewable energy investment. He also vowed to appoint a new chief science adviser, a position his predecessor Stephen Harper eliminated. As part of its party platform, the Liberal Party pledges to “restore credibility in environmental assessments.” The election could have consequences for how the Canadian government reviews the Keystone XL pipeline and may influence the Obama administration’s final decision on whether to approve the pipeline.

The Canadian scientific community overwhelmingly views Trudeau’s election as a welcome departure from the tenure of Harper, who cut funding for government research projects.

The Canada parliament Liberal Party also won 184 seats, clearing the 170 seats necessary for a governing majority.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

US Environmental Protection Agency

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Jan. 21, 2016

Federal Implementation Plan for Clean Power Plan

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-22848

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 21, 2015

Biological Sciences Proposal Classification Form

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-26822

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015

Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-26090

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Dec. 28, 2015

90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the Thorny Skate as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-27147

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Initiation of a 5-Year Review of the Polar Bear

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-25977

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 28, 2015

Gila Chub Draft Recovery Plan

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-27259

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 3828, the Land-Grant Opportunity Act – Introduced Oct. 26 by Rep. Corrine Brown, the bill would amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to provide for an equitable distribution of formula funds between land-grant colleges and universities. The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee.

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On Oct. 22, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee considered the following bill:

H.R. 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act – Introduced by Garret Graves (R-LA), the bill would transfer management of the red snapper fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico from the federal government to the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The bill has 28 bipartisan cosponsors, largely from the Gulf states.

Passed House

H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill would reduce environmental reviews for mining operations on federal public lands and limit judicial review of mining permits by barring any civil action not filed within 60 days after a final federal agency regulation. The bill passed the House by a vote of 254-177. Eight Democrats joined all Republicans in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the bill. Click here to read the statement.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2189, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Reauthorization Act – Introduced Oct. 21 by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Dean Heller (R-NV), the bill would permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Act, which promotes sales and purchases of federal lands. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA).

S. 2199, the Regulatory Authority Clarification Act – Introduced Oct. 22 by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the bill would allow Congress to use concurrent resolutions as a way to clarify federal agencies’ regulatory authority. As concurrent resolutions do not require the president’s signature, the bill would effectively allow Congress to unilaterally clarify what regulatory authority Congress has granted to federal agencies. The bill is an attempt to grant Congress the power to unilaterally overrule any new regulations it deems are improper interpretations a federal agency’s regulatory power under existing law. The bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Cleared for White House

H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Madeline Bordallo (D-Guam), the bill would streamline enforcement of fishing laws to further deter illegal fishing activities. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Oct. 21 after passing the House by voice vote in July. The president is expected to sign the measure.


Sources: The White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, National Journal, the Hill, Roll Call

October 14, 2015

In This Issue

HOUSE: MCCARTHY DROPS OUT OF SPEAKERSHIP RACE

On Oct. 8, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped his bid to succeed John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. With no clear successor in place, Boehner postponed the speakership election until further notice.

McCarthy had undergone criticism for statements that linked the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi with an effort to damage 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also announced his intent to run against McCarthy for speaker. The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of over 40 far-right conservatives, had also endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) for speaker. Collectively, these alternative candidates raised doubt on whether McCarthy could easily secure the 218 majority votes necessary to win among the 247 member House Republican conference.

Much of the media speculation for alternative candidates for speaker has centered on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who currently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most sought-after committees in the House. To date, Ryan has declined interest in the role. Other House members reportedly mulling a run include Michael Conaway (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX)  and Lynn Westermoreland (R-CA).

With the House in recess this week, members will be in their home districts visiting their families and meeting with constituents. The House is scheduled to reconvene on Tuesday, Oct. 20.

INVASIVE SPECIES: COURT RULES FOR STRONGER BALLAST WATER REGULATIONS

In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with environmental groups who contended that  existing  US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations did not go far enough to reduce the spread of invasive species through cargo ship ballast water.

Environmental groups sued EPA in 2008 seeking stronger regulations related to the spread of aquatic invasive species through cargo transport vessels. While EPA eventually finalized ballast water rules in March 2013, the groups argued that the standards did not sufficiently protect waterways from future species invasions.

As a result of the ruling, the agency will reconsider its technology decisions and its exemption for certain older vessels. The existing standards will remain in place until the agency can finalize stricter regulations.

Click here to view the full ruling.

EPA: COURT STAYS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WATER RULE

On Oct. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an order granting the request of eighteen states to place a nationwide stay on the Obama administration’s rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction over US waterways. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers had finalized the rule in May.

In a 2-1 ruling the court decided that the rule, which specifies that streams and wetlands qualify for federal protection, is far-reaching enough to warrant stay, which the judges argue will help deter confusion as the judges decide whether or not they have adequate jurisdiction to review the EPA rule.

A preliminary injunction had already been issued against the federal rule by a US District Court in North Dakota in August, which applied only to 13 states. Until the court issues a final determination on the constitutionality of the rule, smaller waterways will not enjoy federal protection.

Petitioners opposing the rule included the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The lone dissenting judge argued it was “not prudent” for the court to act to block the rule before making a final determination over whether it has jurisdiction over the rule.

Click here to view the full ruling. Click here for more information on the Clean Water Rule.

CLIMATE: IPCC SELECTS CLIMATE ECONOMIST AS NEW CHAIR

South Korean climate economist Hoesung Lee has been selected as the new leader of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He succeeds Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian engineer and economist who served as IPCC chair from April 2002 until Feb. 2015.

As chair, Lee stated he will strive to make the IPCC’s work more policy relevant. His career includes past service as president of the International Association for Energy Economics, Council member of the Global Green Growth Institute and board member of the Korean Academy of Environmental Sciences. He has also led research studies focusing on the economic consequences of climate change.

CLIMATE: CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR SIGNS LANDMARK ENERGY BILL

On Oct. 7, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a comprehensive bill that will address climate change by making investments in renewable energy and improve building energy efficiency.

The Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015 will require California to get half its energy from renewable energy sources by 2030. State buildings must become twice as energy-efficient by the same year under the new law.

A requirement to reduce petroleum consumption 50 percent by 2030 was dropped from the final bill to move the bill out of the state legislature.

Click here to view the law.

WHITE HOUSE: STEM EDUCATION ACT SIGNED INTO LAW

President Obama signed the STEM Education Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-59) into law on Oct. 7, 2015. 

House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the bipartisan bill that strengthens National Science Foundation efforts to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants that promote Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) education programs and activities. It expands the types of STEM programs that can be run and funded by federal government agencies to include computer science. The bill also instructs the National Science Foundation to continue to fund out-of-school and informal education programs in STEM subjects, which is beneficial to museums and other organizations that conduct informal science education.

For more information, follow this link.

WHITE HOUSE: OSTP OPENS INTERNSHIP APPLICATIONS FOR SPRING 2016

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced it is accepting internship applications for Spring 2016. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2015. Eligibility is open to students who are US citizens and will be actively enrolled during the spring semester.

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENTS

Department of Interior

Request for nominations: Nominations due Nov. 30, 2015

Request for Nominations for the Invasive Species Advisory Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24818

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Solicitation of nominations is open ended.

Notice of Solicitation for Nominations for The National Sea Grant Advisory Board and Notice Of Nov. 4 Public Meeting

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-25681

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015

Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-26090

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Nov. 30, 2015

Threatened Species Status for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24780

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Nov. 30, 2015

Threatened Species Status for the Elfin-woods Warbler

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24775

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Dec. 7, 2015

Proposed Threatened Species Status for the Suwannee Moccasinshell

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-25280

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Dec. 7, 2015

Threatened Species Status for Kentucky Arrow Darter With 4(d) Rule

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-25278

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Dec. 12, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Endangered Status for Five Species From American Samoa

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-25298

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Initiation of a 5-Year Review of the Polar Bear

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-25977

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act –  Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill would require the National Science Foundation to specify how its grant awards are “in the national interest.” The language is similar to Section 106 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1806), which passed earlier this year. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the bill Oct. 8 by voice vote.

Passed House

H.R. 538, the Native American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill would seek to streamline federal review of energy development projects on tribal lands. The bill would limit National Environmental Policy Act-mandated reviews and weaken environmental justice protections that make it more difficult for the general public to challenge energy projects. It would also exempt tribal lands from Department of Interior regulations on hydraulic fracturing. The bill passed the House Oct. 8 by a vote of 254-173 with 11 Democrats joining all but one Republican (Rep. Frank LoBiondo (NJ)) in supporting the measure.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 538, stating the bill would “undermine public participation and transparency of review of projects on Indian lands under the National Environmental Policy Act, set unrealistic deadlines and remove oversight for appraisals of Indian lands or trust assets, and prohibit awards under the Equal Access to Justice Act or payment of fees or expenses to a plaintiff from the Judgment Fund in energy-related actions.” Click here to read the full statement.

H.R. 702, To Adapt to Changing Crude Oil Market Conditions – Introduced by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the bill would lift restrictions on the export of crude oil from the United States. The bill passed the House Oct. 9 by a vote of 261-159 with 26 Democrats joining all but six Republicans in support of the measure. The six Republicans opposing the measure were Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Walter Jones (NC), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Pat Meehan (PA), Tom Rice (SC) and Chris Smith (NJ).

The White House issued a Statement of Administration policy declaring the president would veto the bill. Click here to read the full statement.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2113, the Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Act – Introduced Sept. 30 by Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would seek to increase the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science in the federal government. Specifically, the bill would clarify that federal government entities and all military branches have the explicit authority to make use of crowdsourcing and citizen science projects and provide guidelines for how to carry out these projects. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S. 2155, the West Coast Ocean Protection Act – Introduced Oct. 7 by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the bill would permanently prohibit the conduct of offshore drilling on the outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

 


Sources: The White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, National Journal, the Hill, Roll Call

September 30, 2015

In This Issue

CONGRESS: POPE CALLS ON LAWMAKERS TO AVERT ‘ENVIRONMENTAL DETERIORATION’

On Sept. 24, Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of the United States Congress, advocating for compassion and equal opportunity for the underprivileged. He also urged Congress to take action to protect the earth and touched on the value of scientific discovery.

While Pope Francis did not explicitly utter the phrase climate change, he stated that protecting the earth should be one of the many ways in which human society works to advance the common good.

“We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all,” said Francis.

“In [my second encyclical] Laudato Si’, I call for a courageous and responsible effort to “redirect our steps and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity,” he continued. “I am convinced that we can make a difference, and I have no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play.”

Highlighting the value of scientific research, Pope Francis stated “America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead” towards combating poverty and protecting nature.

The previous day, the pope was more specific in his praise of President Obama’s climate action plan in his White House address.

“Mr. President, I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution,” said Pope Francis. “Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation. When it comes to the care of our ‘common home,’ we are living at a critical moment of history.”

Click here to read the text of the pope’s speech.

Click here to read the text of the pope’s White House speech.

HOUSE: SPEAKER BOEHNER TO RESIGN IN OCTOBER

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced last week that he will resign from Congress effective Oct. 30.

The announcement came a day after Pope Francis made history as the first pope to speak before a joint session of Congress. Boehner was instrumental in arranging his invitation. It also came amid growing unrest among the House Republican conference with Speaker Boehner. One lawmaker, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), had introduced a resolution in July that called for Boehner’s resignation as speaker.

The party is also strategizing over how to continue funding the government throughout FY 2016. Prior to Boehner’s resignation, far-right conservatives had been pushing party leaders to include language prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood in any continuing resolution to fund the government beyond tonight’s deadline, when FY 2015 funding expires. The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto any legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. The Senate recently passed a clean continuing resolution by a vote of 78-20 that will extend government funding at existing levels through Dec. 11. The House is expected to approve the bill before today’s midnight deadline, allowing the government to remain open.

First elected to the US House of Representatives in 1991, Boehner made a name for himself and climbed the House GOP ranks quickly. He was among several Republicans who helped craft the Republican Contract with America, which helped Newt Gingrich ascend to the speakership in the 1994 midterm election. After Republicans had taken control of the House, Boehner became the House Republican Conference Chairman, the fourth highest position in House majority leadership. He served in that post until the after the 1998 midterm election cycle, which saw a change in much of the House Republican leadership, including the ouster of then-Speaker Gingrich. When the Democrats gained control of the House after the 2006-midterm cycle, Boehner was elected the top GOP leadership post of House Minority Leader. He served in that role until Republicans won back the House following the 2010 midterms, ascending to the role of speaker.

Prior to his return to leadership, Boehner served as Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee (2001-2006). It was during this period that he worked with then-Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in crafting the No Child Left Behind Act, landmark education reform legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002.  Coincidentally, Boehner and Kennedy (both Catholic) annually chaired fundraisers to raise money for Catholic schools.

Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the leading contender to succeed Boehner. The next speaker will likely be under political pressure to adopt a more confrontational approach to dealing with the White House and Congressional Democrats. The House Republican leadership elections are scheduled for Oct. 8.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE DELVES INTO NEON DESCOPE PLAN

On Sept. 18, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology, and Subcommittee and Oversight convened for a joint hearing examining the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON).

The Subcommittee heard testimony from NEON Board of Directors Chairman James Collins and NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences James Olds about the recent NSF decision to descope the NEON facility due to projected cost overruns.

For the descope plan, NSF convened an panel of experts from NSF staff from the NEON program, NEON Inc., members of the NEON Board of Directors and Science Technology Education Committee and experts from scientific community involved in its original design.

“The panel came up with a plan to reduce NEON Inc. corporate and project management costs, accelerate transition to operations, and reduce the scope of the following items: construction and deployment of portable towers (also known as “relocatables”) and urban sites; instrumentation sensor systems that could be replaced with new technologies during operations; some derived data products that could eventually be up-graded during operations; and the Stream Ecology Observatory Network (STREON) experiments,” according to Olds. “The plan developed at this meeting focused on those scope changes that would still allow the NEON facility to deliver a continental-scale instrument and accomplish the major planned science goals.”

Olds also referenced a letter penned by the current and past Ecological Society of America presidents expressing their confidence in NEON and NSF.

“The ecological community strongly supports the goals and mission of NEON, despite the recent descoping, and looks forward to working with NEON to achieve its potential,” the letter noted. “We believe a successful NEON could generate valuable data to help address problems that currently challenge the very fabric of society and the biosphere that sustains it.  NEON can complement, but not replace, other forms of ecological research, and we are encouraged by NSF’s commitment to support STREON, the aquatic experiment, as an investigator-led activity. We encourage NSF and NEON to re-engage with the ecological community to assure that NEON will yield the scientific results it was designed to address.”

Click here to view the hearing and access testimony.

Click here to view the ESA presidents’ letter.

WHITE HOUSE: CITIZEN SCIENCE AND CROWDSOURCING MEMO RELEASED

Today, the White House affirmed the potential for citizen science to engage the public directly in scientific discovery and the monitoring and management of our natural resources.  In a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren mandated that all federal agencies build capacity for citizen science and crowdsourcing, while also facilitating cooperation across agencies and with outside organizations. Agencies are directed to identify an internal coordinator and catalog agency-specific citizen science and crowdsourcing projects in a government-wide database to be developed for public and agency use. 

To help guide program managers in deciding if citizen science is right for their organizations and how best to design citizen science projects to meet their organization’s goals, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) released a report today summarizing how “Investing in Citizen Science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection.” The report is number 19 in ESA’s series Issues in Ecology and is included as a resource in the Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit, released this morning in conjunction with Holdren’s policy memo and a Citizen Science Forum webcast live from the White House.

“If you ask a dozen practitioners about citizen science, you’ll get a dozen different definitions, and a dozen reasons for why they are doing it—all of which are valid! But it can be confusing,” said Duncan McKinley, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service and a lead coordinator of the scientific team behind the report. “We wanted to zoom out to the big picture, the 30,000-ft view of citizen science, and capture the shared values of the field, within the specific context of ecology and the environment.”

Twenty-one experienced practitioners hailing from non-profit, government, and academic institutions set out to tame the exuberant diversity of the citizen science frontier into shared core principals. The Issues report explores the strengths and limitations of citizen science, illustrating the breadth of existing applications through case studies. The authors identify hallmarks of research questions ripe for volunteer involvement as well as those that might not be appropriate for a citizen science approach.

To read the White House Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing memo, follow this link.

To access the Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit, follow this link.

To access the Issues in Ecology report, follow this link.

HOUSE: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES APPLAUD REPUBLICAN-SPONSORED CLIMATE RESOLUTION

The Ecological Society of America was among 13 scientific societies that signed a letter expressing their appreciation for the introduction of H.Res. 424, a non-binding resolution that affirms humans are contributing to climate change. The resolution also calls upon the US House of Representatives to take steps to mitigate climate change’s environmental impacts.

The resolution is sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and has ten original cosponsors, all Republicans.

Click here to view the letter.

EDUCATION: ORGANIZATIONS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY LEARNING CENTERS

On Sept. 22, the Ecological Society of America cosigned a letter requesting that the Elementary Secondary and Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization maintains the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative as a separate federal funding stream.

“More than a decade of research has shown that 21st CCLC has resulted in wide-ranging positive impacts for students and families by leveraging school and community partnerships to help millions of low-income children become successful in school and in life,” the letter states. “The bipartisan language supported unanimously by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee reauthorizes the 21st CCLC program while also strengthening it to reflect what has been learned over the past decade in providing high-quality programming.”

Both the House and Senate have passed legislation to reauthorize ESEA, but the two chambers have not yet negotiated a conference report agreement that could be sent to the president.

Click here to view the entire letter.

RESEARCH: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES, PUBLISHERS EXPRESS CONCERN WITH PUBLIC ACCESS BILL

On Sept. 16, the Ecological Society of America joined with a number of non-profit scientific societies as well as publishers in cosigning a letter expressing concern with S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, which would place mandates on the release of federally-funded research into law.

“The undersigned include non-profit scientific societies that use the proceeds from their journal operations to serve the public and the scholarly enterprise; small businesses that support researchers and their local communities; and others devoted to creating, disseminating, and preserving scholarship,” the letter notes. “All make significant investments in support of science and the use of research to improve lives that would be undermined by S. 779.”

The ESA letter expresses support for an Office of Science and Technology Policy memorandum that provides federal agencies with more flexibility in carrying out public access policies.

Click here to view the letter.

FWS: SAGE GROUSE DOES NOT WARRANT ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT PROTECTION

On Sept. 22, the US Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the greater sage-grouse does not need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“Because of an unprecedented effort by dozens of partners across 11 Western states, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the greater sage-grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act,” stated Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a video announcement of the determination.

A 2011 court settlement required the agency to make a determination by Sept. 30, 2015. The announcement came after a new strategy was developed by federal agencies, state officials and private landowners to conserve the sagebrush habitat the where they are found. The plan aims to stem habitat loss across 67 million federal acres that represents most of their prime breeding grounds.

Click here for additional information.

Click here to watch the video from Sec. Jewell.

POLLINATORS: NFWF ALLOCATES FUNDS TO PRESERVE MONARCH BUTTERFLY

On Sept. 28, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced it is allocation $3.3 million in 22 grants towards efforts to save the monarch butterfly. The funding will be matched with $6.7 million of donor contributions and will come from the non-profit organization’s Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund, launched in Feb. 2015. The US Fish and Wildlife Service was the first federal agency to commit funding towards the effort.

The North American monarch butterfly population has been reduced by about 90 percent in the past 20 years, from a high of around one billion in the mid-1990s to less than 60 million, largely due to habitat loss. Conservation efforts by the fund focus on planting monarch-friendly plants along the butterfly’s migration path and improving coordination between federal agencies and the private sector on habitat preservation and restoration.

For additional information, click here.

NSF: NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD

The National Science Foundation is accepting nominees to fill eight positions with the National Science Board (NSB) that will expire May 10, 2016.

Every two years, the Board solicits recommendations for new members from leading scientific, engineering, and educational organizations, as well as the public, and submits them to the White House for consideration. Members are formally appointed by the President and serve a six-year term.

The Call for Nominations web portal is open and accepting submissions for the NSB class of 2016-2022 from now until October 30, 2015. Click here for additional information:

https://www.nsf.gov/nsb/members/nominations.jsp 

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENTS

Bureau of Land Management

Notice: Public comments due Oct. 29, 2015

Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Greater Phoenix Mine Project, Lander County, NV

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24432

Notice: Public comments due Dec. 23, 2015

Notice of Proposed Withdrawal; Sagebrush Focal Areas; Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming and Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24212

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due Oct. 10, 2015

Extension of Request for Scientific Views on the Draft Aquatic Life Ambient Water Quality Criterion for Selenium-Freshwater 2015

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24310

Department of Homeland Security

Notice: Submissions due Nov. 30, 2015

Ideation Prize Competition (“National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Think and Do Challenge”)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24586

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comment ends Nov. 23, 2015

Proposed Threatened Status for Island Grouper (Mycteroperca fusca) and Endangered Status for Gulf Grouper (Mycteroperca jordani) Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-23502

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 29, 2015

Draft Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Restoration Resulting From the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Damage Assessment

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-23016

Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan; Paso Robles Phase II; Hays County, Texas

Notice: Public comment period ends Nov. 16, 2015

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-23242

Notice: Public comment period ends Nov. 23, 2015

Proposed Information Collection; Bald Eagle Post-Delisting Monitoring

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-23969

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Nov. 30, 2015

Endangered Species Status for four south Florida plants: Chamaecrista lineata var. keyensis (Big Pine Partridge Pea), Chamaesyce deltoidea ssp. serpyllum (Wedge Spurge), and Linum arenicola (Sand Flax), and Threatened Species Status for Argythamnia blodgettii (Blodgett’s Silverbush)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-24291

US Forest Service

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 15, 2015

Shasta-Trinity National Forest; California; Highway 89 Safety Enhancement and Forest Ecosystem Restoration Project

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-23157

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 3556, the National Park Service Centennial Act – Introduced Sept. 17 by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), the bill would provide funding and management authority for NPS to help the agency celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Passed House

H.R. 348, the Responsibly and Professionally Invigorating Development (RAPID) Act – Introduced by Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) would amend the National Environmental Policy Act to impose tighter environmental review deadlines for energy and infrastructure projects. The bill passed the House Sept. 25 by a vote of 233-170 with seven Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the bill.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the bill, stating the legislation would “increase litigation, regulatory delays, and potentially force agencies to approve a project if the review and analysis cannot be completed before the proposed arbitrary deadlines.” Click here to read the full statement.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2056, the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring Act – Introduced Sept. 17 by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill would instruct the Department of Interior secretary to establish within the United States Geological Survey a “National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System,” to monitor and provide safeguards against undue and avoidable harm from volcanic activity. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S. 2076, the Super Pollutants Act of 2015 – Introduced Sept. 24 by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Susan Collins (R-ME), the bill would establish a task force to review policies and measures that promote the reduction of short-lived carbon pollutants (SLCPs), non-carbon dioxide emissions that stay in the atmosphere for a short-time that increasingly contribute to climate change. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee


Sources: House Science, Space and Technology Committee, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill