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

September 16, 2015

In This Issue

BUDGET: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER REQUESTING SEQUESTRATION RELIEF

The Ecological Society of America was among 2,500 national, state and local organizations that signed a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they work to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction.

The letter comes as Congress debates how to continue funding federal agencies beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, have put forward Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills that have adhered to the spending constraints set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

In Dec. 2013, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in that year were able to work out a short-term deficit reduction agreement that provided spending increases for overall discretionary spending and prevented sequestration from taking effect in FY 2014 and 2015. Congress will need to enact a new deficit reduction agreement for FY 2016 and beyond in order to raise the caps on spending above those set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Congressional Democrats and the White House have pushed for a budget agreement that provides additional relief to discretionary spending programs and negates the effects of sequestration. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans may seek to include riders defunding planned parenthood in any short-term or long-term continuing resolution Congress takes up to extend government funding into the next fiscal year at existing spending levels. Inclusion of such language would garner opposition from Congressional Democrats and a veto threat from the White House.

Any successful agreement to continue government funding through FY 2016 would need bipartisan support to clear both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president. To date, Republican leaders in Congress have frequently relied on the combined votes of Democrats and pragmatic Republicans to shepherd must-pass legislation through Congress.

Click here to view the organizational letter:

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

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: ECOLOGICAL SOCIETIES URGE CLIMATE ACTION AT PARIS CONFERENCE

The Ecological Society of America joined with a dozen ecological societies in issuing a joint statement requesting that the countries meeting at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris take decisive steps to deter the effects of global climate change.

“Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” reads the statement. “This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come.”

Click here to view the full statement:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/09.11.15COP21-CALL-ENGLISH-_FINAL1.pdf

WILDFIRES: AGENCY HEADS URGE CONGRESS TO REALLOCATE SUPPRESSION EXPENSES

The Secretaries for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Interior (DOI), and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress this week requesting that lawmakers fix the way wildfire expenses are allocated on order for the agencies to better invest in forest and rangeland restoration efforts. Since August, the USDA Forest Service has been forced to transfer $700 million to fund firefighting through the remainder of this fiscal year. Over 8.5 million aces have burned in the 2015 fire season. These funds are diverted from funds for fuels management and restoration efforts that are crucial to reducing risks of wildland fire and the ability for lands to recover from fire.

“The Forest Service and Interior agencies set their firefighting budget based on their average costs of fighting fires over the last 10 years,” the letter notes. “Due to longer fire seasons resulting from climate change, increased fuel loads in our forests and on our rangelands, and the expense associated with protecting lives and homes along an expanding wildland urban interface, the 10-year average keeps rising and will continue to rise. As a result, unless Congress changes its budgeting strategy for fire suppression in the Forest Service and Interior, firefighting suppression as a proportion of the agencies’ budgets will continue to increase.”

The Administration proposes that DOI and the Forest Service would be able to access a discretionary disaster cap adjustment after the amount spent on fire suppression exceeds 70 percent of the 10-year average. This proposal is similar to provisions included in H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). Though the bill has 132 bipartisan cosponsors, it has not been acted on since it was referred to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Click here to view the letter:

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2015/09/0254.xml&printable=true&contentidonly=true

HOUSE: REPUBLICAN INTRODUCES CLIMATE RESOLUTION AHEAD OF POPE VISIT

This week, retiring Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) plans to introduce a resolution that affirms humans are contributing to climate change. The resolution is said to be cosponsored by at least nine other Republicans.

Original cosponsors include Reps. Ileana Ros-Le­htin­en, (R-FL), Car­los Cur­belo (R-FL), Robert Dold (R-IL), Dave Reich­ert (R-WA), Pat Mee­han (R-PA), Ry­an Cos­tello (R-FL) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Richard Hanna (R-NY) Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Many hail from swing congressional districts.

The timing for introduction of the resolution is intended to coincide with the arrival of Pope Francis in Washington, DC next week. Pope Francis will speak before Congress on Sept. 24 and is expected to urge Americans to act on climate change. Environmentalists will also be using the pope’s visit to organize a climate rally the day he speaks on Capitol Hill.

POLLINATORS: COURT OVERTURNS EPA APPROVAL OF BEE-KILLING INSECTICIDE

On Sept. 10, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the law when it approved an insecticide produced by Dow AgroSciences.

Four beekeeping organizations and three individual beekeepers petitioned the court to review the agency’s approval of the pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in 2013. The case is the first challenge to EPA’s approval of neonicotinoids. The court ruled that Dow AgroSciences provided incomplete data and studies to EPA that didn’t conform to international guidelines.

“Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence,” the court wrote in its opinion.

Environmental groups praised the decision, contending it will incentivize the agency to be more judicious in future insecticide reviews. EPA is set to review the registration of five other neonicotinoid insecticides by 2019.

Click here to read the full opinion:

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2015/09/10/13-72346.pdf

Click here to view the five other neonicotinoids under EPA review

http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/schedule-review-neonicotinoid-pesticides

NSF: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR RESEARCH AWARD

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting nominations for the 2016 Alan T. Waterman Award, recognizing the “talent, creativity, and influence of a singular young researcher.”

Named after NSF’s first director, the award is NSF’s highest honor for early-career researchers and accepts nominees from any field of science and engineering. In addition to attending the formal awards ceremony in Washington, DC, the recipient will be awarded $1,000,000 over five-years for research or advanced study at the institution of their choice.

Candidates must be 35 years old or younger and must have received their Ph.D. degree within the past seven years. Nominations are due by Oct. 23, 2015.

The nominations and letters must be sent through the FastLane system. To submit a nomination, please visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/honawards/. Questions should be addressed to Dr. Sherrie Green, Program Manager for the Alan T. Waterman Award at waterman@nsf.gov or 703-292-8040.

Click here for additional information: http://www.nsf.gov/od/waterman/waterman.jsp

FWS: NEW ENGLAND COTTONTAIL DELISTED FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

On Sept. 11, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that due to the successful habitat conservation and captive breeding efforts, it will exclude the New England cottontail from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The New England cottontail is the only rabbit native to New England and east of the Hudson River in New York. Though nearly identical in appearance to the more common Eastern cottontail, the New England cottontail is less of a generalist in its ability to thrive in diverse habitats. The rabbits’ preferred ground-level habitat has shrunk by 86 percent since 1960 due to human development. 

The rabbit had first been considered as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protections in 2006. FWS credits voluntary restoration efforts on private lands with playing a critical role in habitat restoration efforts. Presently, about 10,500 cottontails exist across five isolated populations in the Northeastern United States, three quarters of the 13,500 population goal set by the administration for 2030.

Click here for additional information:

https://www.fws.gov/northeast/newenglandcottontail/index.html

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Field Testing a Swine Influenza Vaccine, H1N1 & H3N2, Modified Live Virus

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 5, 2015

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21995

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: public comments due Nov. 16, 2015

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

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-22973

Proposed Rule: public comments due Nov. 13, 2015

Clean Vessel Act Grant Program

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-22723

US Forest Service

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 1, 2015

Dakota Prairie Grasslands, North Dakota; Oil and Gas Development Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21688 

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

On Sept. 10, the House Natural Resources Committee approved by the following bill:

H.R. 1644, the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act – Introduced by Rep. Alexander Mooney (R-WV), the bill would delay implementation of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s stream protection rule to protect waterways from coal mining. The bill would require scientific data used in the development of the rule publically available 90 days before the rule can be implemented. The bill passed committee by a vote of 23-12. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) was the only Democrat to vote for the bill.

Considered by House

H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015 –  Introduced by Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL), the bill reauthorizes the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, implemented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The program carries out research to help mitigate damage from windstorms such as hurricanes and tornadoes. The bill passed the Senate in July with an amendment by unanimous consent. It is expected to pass the House this week.

H.R. 2961, to establish a research, development, and technology demonstration program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in combined cycle and simple cycle systems – Introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-WV) – The bill requires the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy to carry out a research, development, and technology demonstration program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in power generation systems and to identify the technologies that will lead to gas turbine combined cycle efficiency of 65 percent or simple cycle efficiency of 50 percent. The bill is expected to pass the House this week.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2025, the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act – Introduced Sept. 10 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill would direct 12.5 percent of revenues from offshore energy development, including oil, gas, and renewable energy to strengthen coastal infrastructure and fund marine ecosystem research. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S. 2026, the Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes Act – Introduced Sept. 10 by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), the bill would require more scientific analysis of a proposal to store radioactive waste from reactors in Canada near Lake Huron. The bill has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 3483) has been introduced in the House by Reps. Daniel Killdee (D-MI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

S. 2032, the National Bison Legacy Act – Introduced Sept. 15 by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the bill would adopt the bison as the national mammal of the United States and recognizes the historical, cultural and economic significance of the bison to the nation. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Sources: the National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the National Journal

September 2, 2015

In This Issue

ARCTIC: OBAMA CALLS FOR CLIMATE ACTION AT ALASKA CONFERENCE

On August 29, President Obama spoke before the conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Alaska where he discussed how climate change is impacting the Arctic and called on world leaders to join in global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama’s visit makes him the first sitting president to visit the Arctic.

“Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism,” said the president. “Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges.  Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely.  In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.”

The president used the forum to call on the world’s nations to agree to a climate treaty when they meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this fall. The president discussed the efforts the United States and China are implementing to cut carbon emissions while stressing that addressing climate change requires action from multiple nations.

“Even America and China together cannot do this alone,” said the president. “Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone.  We have to do it together.” 

While embarking on a three-day tour in Alaska this week, the president also highlighted his administration’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the Arctic. These efforts include acquiring new coast guard icebreakers, enabling safe marine operations and transportation in the region, gathering marine biodiversity data and hosting an international workshop on community-based ecological monitoring.

Some of the Obama administration’s policy decisions in the Arctic have been wrought with controversy, including his decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell PLC to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea and the recent move to rename Alaska’s Mount McKinley as Denali. While there is some division between native leaders and some local environmental activists on the drilling issue, Alaskans had been requesting the mountain name change for years. The Department of Interior secretarial order authorizing the name changed noted that Gov. Jay Hammond (R-AK) had petitioned the department to make the change back in 1975.

“For generations Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as The Great One,” stated Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in a video response to the renaming. “Today we’re honored to be able to officially recognize the mountain as Denali. I’d like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska.”

Click here to view the president’s full remarks before the GLACIER conference.

Click here for additional Obama administration efforts to address climate change in the Arctic.

WATER: COURT RULING IMPEDES OBAMA CLEAN WATER RULE

US District Court Chief Judge Ralph Erickson in North Dakota has granted a preliminary injunction impacting 13 states against the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, which redefines which streams and wetlands merit federal protection under the Clean Water Act that is administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The agency contends the injunction will only apply to the 13 states that filed the lawsuit: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, while the new rule will proceed in the 37 other states. 

Judge Erickson concluded that the regulation likely oversteps the US Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos vs. the United States. The injunction serves to halt implementation of the rule for as long as litigation persists and can be overturned. The 2008 guidance that has been on the books to govern Clean Water Act decisions will remain in effect for the 13 states.

Several other states and businesses have also filed challenges to the rule. District court judges in West Virginia and Georgia have rejected granting litigants an injunction. EPA could seek to overturn the injunction through the US 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Click here to view the full ruling.

Click here for additional information on the EPA clean water rule.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: USDA ANNOUNCES SAGE GROUSE CONSERVATION EFFORT

On August 27, the US Department of Agriculture announced a new plan that calls for spending $211 million over the next four years to conserve sage grouse habitat on private lands.

Under the plan, ranchers will receive financial assistance to implement conservation efforts that benefit the sage grouse and their agricultural operations. Dubbed “Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0,” the plan builds upon sage grouse habitat conservation efforts that began in 2010 and involves collaboration with the states of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Click here for additional information.

SENATE: RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS PRAISE LAWMAKERS FOR SUPPORTING SCIENCE CONFERENCES

The Ecological Society of America was among 74 scientific and medical organizations that sent a letter of thanks to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for acknowledging the importance of federal employed and contracted scientists being able to attend scientific and technical conferences.

The organizations also sent a thank you letter to Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chris Coons (D-DE) for offering an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill that sought to grant the executive branch increased flexibility in revising its travel policies. Sen. Schatz agreed to withdrawal his amendment after committee leaders offered to work with him on the issue further.

Click here to view the letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders.

Click here to view the letter to Sens. Schatz and Coons.

Click here to listen to the full hearing.

SENATE: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES RESPOND TO AMERICA COMPETES COMMENT REQUEST

On August 21, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) joined the American Institute for Biological Sciences and 47 other biological science organizations in sending a letter to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that offers input on the committee’s efforts to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act.

The letter expresses support for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) existing merit review system and urges the committee not to “pick winners and losers among NSF research programs.” It also calls for sustained investment in NSF.

“Unpredictable annual swings in federal funding disrupt research programs, create uncertainty in the research community, and stall the development of the next great idea,” the letter notes. “Funding for basic research has been stagnant in recent years, particularly when adjusted for inflation. Given the importance of research and development to our economic growth and global competitiveness, Congress should make new, multi-year investments in NSF.”

ESA also sent its own letter to the committee earlier this summer.

Click here to view the scientific society letter.

Click here to view the ESA letter.

WHITE HOUSE: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR CLIMATE ASSESSMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The White House is accepting nominations for a new federal advisory committee for the National Climate Assessment.

The 15-member committee is being created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and will advise the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Director of the Office of Science Technology Policy on processes related to the National Climate Assessment, which is slated to produce a new report every four years.

Nominations must be submitted by September 14. Click here for additional information.

NOAA: WHALE DEATHS IN ALASKA TRIGGER PROBE

The death of 30 whales in Alaska has triggered a probe by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into the cause.

Since May, 14 humpback whales, 11 fin whales, one gray what and four unidentified cetaceans in the area comprising the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. According to NOAA, this is three times the annual historical average for the region.

Declaring the deaths an “unusual mortality event,” gives the agency expanded resources in investigating the event. These events are defined as involving an unexpected significant die-off of a marine mammal population that demands an immediate response. The declaration allows NOAA to collaborate with federal, state and local entities to conduct a rigorous scientific investigation develop a response plan.

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 13, 2015

Notice of Availability of Treatment Evaluation Documents and Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Pesticide Use for the Imported Fire Ant Program

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19700

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Oct. 13, 2015

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

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19550

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations must be received by Sept. 9, 2015

Request for Public Comments on the List of Candidates for EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) Agricultural Science Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-20511

Notice: Public comment period ends Sept. 28, 2015

Pesticide Cumulative Risk Assessment; Framework for Screening Analysis; Notice of Availability and Request for Comment; Extension of Comment Period

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21483

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Nov. 23, 2015

Pesticides; Certification of Pesticide Applicators

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19988

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Oct. 26, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Critical Habitat for the Marbled Murrelet Seabird

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-20837

Notice: Nominations must be received by Sept. 9, 2015

Request for Nominees for the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19519

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends November 2, 2015

Removal of the plant Solidago albopilosa (White-haired Goldenrod) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21410

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 3202, the Lionfish Elimination and Prevention Act (LEAP) Act – Introduced July 23 by Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL), the bill would amend the Lacey Act to add all eleven species of lionfish to the list of injurious species that are prohibited from being imported or shipped. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act – Introduced July 29 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 award 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. Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) is a cosponsor of the bill. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. 

H.R. 3392, the Carbon Capture Research and Development Act – Introduced July 29 by Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ), the bill would help speed the development and deployment of new technologies that can convert captured carbon dioxide to fuels, chemicals, and other products by adding “conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide” to the Department of Energy Fossil Energy Office’s list of research areas. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S. 1886, the Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act – Introduced July 29 by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill would create a national ocean acidification monitoring strategy to prioritize investment in ocean acidification sensors for areas that need it most. It also directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation to make investments in adaptation and mitigation research that will increase coastal resiliency to ocean acidification. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S. 1918, the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act – Introduced Aug. 3 by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to extend its import and export-related provisions to species that are proposed for listing as threatened or endangered under the Act. The bill has been referred to the Environmental and Public Works Committee.

S. 1935, the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act of 2015 – Introduced Aug. 4 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to undertake activities that support waterfront community revitalization and resiliency. Among its provisions, the bill would create a voluntary Resilient Waterfront Community designation within the Department of Commerce to recognize communities that adopt a waterfront revitalization and resiliency plan integrating economic, ecosystem and infrastructure challenges and opportunities. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S.1999, the Caribbean Oil Spill Intervention, Prevention, and Preparedness Act – Introduced Aug. 5 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to act, without liability for certain damages, to prevent and respond to the threat of damage from pollution of the sea by crude oil. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On July 29, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the following bill:

S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2015 – Introduced by John Cornyn (R-TX), the bill requires every federal agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to implement a public-access policy. The bill requires that these agencies make peer-reviewed articles publicly available within one year of publication.


Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill

July 29, 2015

In This Issue

WHITE HOUSE: COMPANIES UNITE WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA ON CLIMATE PLEDGE

Thirteen of the largest companies in the United States are joining the Obama administration in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. The companies making pledges represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion.

In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” the businesses 1) voice their support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations 2) pledge to reduce their carbon emissions and take other actions that improve sustainability and address climate change 3) set an example that will pave the way for a second round of pledges from additional companies this fall.

Each company will announce personalize measures that include purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, zero net deforestation and reducing water intensity in addition to tackling emissions. According to the White House, the collective actions represent $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy.

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/27/fact-sheet-white-house-launches-american-business-act-climate-pledge

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE MOVE FY 2016 AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILLS

Over the past several weeks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bills for FY 2016.

The bills provide funding for most US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. Overall FY 2016 funding in both bills is lower than the enacted FY 2015 spending level to comply with sequestration funding levels. However, the Senate bill does increase funding for most agricultural research programs. Though the White House has yet to issue a veto threat of either bill, it did submit a letter of concern on the House bill.

“The bill cuts approximately $500 million from the president’s request for research activities needed to meet the challenges of the 21st Century,” the White House letter notes. “Specifically, the bill fails to support the president’s requested increases in critical intramural research areas such as climate change, antimicrobial resistance, pollinator health, and agricultural sustainability.”

Below are summaries of funding for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2015 enacted funding:

Agricultural Research Service

House: $1.12 billion; $10.17 million less than FY 2015.

Senate: $1.14 billion; a $4.2 million increase over FY 2015.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

House: $870.95 million; $370,000 less than FY 2015.

Senate: $876.47 million; a $5.15 million increase over FY 2015.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

House: $832.93 million; $13.5 million less than FY 2015.

Senate: $855.21 million; an $8.78 million increase over FY 2015.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

House: $335 million; a $10 million increase over FY 2015.

Senate: $325 million; level with FY 2015.

Click here to view the White House letter of the House Agriculture FY 2016 spending bill.

INTERIOR: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PERMITS OIL DRILLING IN ARCTIC

On July 22, the Obama administration granted Shell conditional approval to conduct limited exploratory drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska in Arctic waters.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued the permits allow Shell to drill only the top sections of wells and prohibit the company from penetrating oil-bearing rock. The prohibition on penetrating oil-bearing rock could be lifted once repair is complete on a vessel carrying necessary emergency response equipment for Shell, if the equipment meets BSEE safety requirements.

The company will be allowed to drill only one well at a time in order to comply with marine mammal protection requirements. Trained wildlife observers will also be required on all drilling sites as well as support vessels to minimize impacts to federally protected species.

Click here for additional information.

SENATE: ESA RESPONDS TO COMMENT REQUEST FOR AMERICA COMPETES BILL

On July 24, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) responded to a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee request for comments from the scientific community as the committee begins work in drafting its version of an America COMPETES Reauthorization.

The letter requests that the committee draft a bipartisan bill that prioritizes investment for all scientific fields in order to maintain the nation’s global competitiveness. The approach the Senate has taken, seeking comments from the scientific community before beginning work on its COMPETES reauthorization, sets a markedly different tone than that of the US House of Representatives.

In May the House passed a 2015 America COMPETES Reauthorization. It was opposed by the scientific community, all House Democrats, and nearly two dozen House Republicans. The bill would fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) by directorate, effectively deciding scientific research at the congressional level. Currently, NSF determines research priorities and funding levels for directorates based on decadal reports, input from the scientific community, convening expert workshops and seeking input from the scientific community. The ESA letter requests that the Senate bill not authorize funding for NSF by directorate, as the House bill does. 

“Authorizing NSF funding by directorate would leave the agency more vulnerable to the partisan motivations of whatever political party controls Congress,” the letter notes. “A strong COMPETES reauthorization recognizes the importance of all fields of science, including the biological, geological and social sciences, and maintains the agency’s flexibility to adapt to unanticipated scientific discoveries.”

Any legislation introduced in the Senate would need significant bipartisan support in order to pass, making it likely that any Senate bill introduced would look markedly different than the House bill. A timeline for introduction of a Senate version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization remains unclear, but it most likely wouldn’t come earlier than the fall, after the committee has reviewed comments submitted by the scientific community.

Comments from the scientific community can be sent to sciencepolicy@commerce.senate.gov through August 21, 2015.

Click here for additional information. Click here to view the ESA letter.

FWS: HONDURAS HUMMINGBIRD SECURES FEDERAL PROTECTION

On July 29, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a finalized rule listing the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Amazilia luciae) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 

The agency estimates that 90 percent of the birds’ habitat has been lost and only 5,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs remain in small isolated valleys within the country. The rulemaking prohibits “take” (defined under the Endangered Species Act as harm, harass, kill or injury) of the bird and also bans the species form being imported into or exported out of the United States.

According to FWS, the final rule was based upon review of available scientific and commercial information, including all information received by the agency during its public comment period. The public comment period was open for 60 days, ending March 4, 2013. The final rulemaking goes into effect August 28, 2015.

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comments due Aug. 24, 2015

Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Pier E3 Demolition via Controlled Implosion

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-18178

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comments due Sept. 21, 2015

Request for Public Comment on an Updated Standardized Research Performance Progress Report Format to be Used for Both Interim and Final Performance Progress Reporting

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-18007

Office of Service Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Sept. 25, 2015

Stream Protection Rule

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-17308

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due Aug. 24, 2015

Pesticides; Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly; Notice of Extension of Comment Period

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-17993

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due Aug. 26, 2015

Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; Second Extension of Comment Period

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-18246

Proposed Rule: September 28, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Section 4(d) Rule for the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-18487

Notice: Public comments due Sep. 14, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-17409

CURRENT POLICY

Passed House

H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), the bill would require Congress to approve federal agency regulations that have an annual economic impact greater than $100 million. The bill passed the House July 28 by a vote of 243–165 with two Democrats joining all Republicans in voting in favor of the bill. Similar legislation passed the House in 2013, but was stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a companion bill (S. 226) that has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, yet not been acted on.

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

H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), the bill would streamline enforcement of fishing laws to further deter illegal fishing activities. The bill passed the House July 27 by voice vote.

H.R. 1138, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act – Introduced by Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID), the bill would establish three new wilderness areas in the central part of Idaho, protecting over 275,000 acres of land in the state.  The bill passed the House July 27 by voice vote.

H.R. 1734, the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the bill would replace the US Environmental Protection Agency’s December 2014 rule on coal combustion waste with a state-based permit program for coal combustion waste disposal. The bill passed the House July 22 by a vote of 258–166 with 19 Democrats joining all but one Republican in support of the bill. Companion legislation (S. 1803) has been introduced by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). 

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

Introduced in Senate

S. 1794, the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act – Introduced July 16 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the bill would block the renewal of new or existing oil and gas drilling permits in the Arctic. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S.1824, the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Study Act of 2015 – Introduced July 21 by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating certain land as the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill

July 15, 2015

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: BILL FUNDING INTERIOR, EPA STALLS IN HOUSE

 

On July 9, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pulled the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill over a contentious amendment related to the confederate flag.

The appropriations bill funds the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Forest Service and most of the US Department of Interior. Sub-agencies within Interior funded by the bill include the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey and the National Park Service (NPS). Earlier in the week, Democrats successfully attached several amendments to the bill banning display and sale of the confederate flag on NPS grounds for all purposes except historical usage.

Spurred by concerns from southern Republicans over the added language related to the confederate flag, Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) offered an amendment that would undo the aforementioned amendments, allowing the display of the confederate flag at NPS cemeteries and codifying existing law regarding sale of the confederate flag at NPS gift shops.

Rather than have his Republican conference go on record with a vote on a contentious issue, Speaker Boehner elected to pull the entire bill. With most Democrats expected to oppose the bill and a significant number of Republicans opposed to the adopted confederate flag amendments, the bill likely no longer had the majority votes necessary to pass the House.

The bill’s failure to advance has been viewed as a victory by conservation groups who had largely opposed the bill due to many contentious provisions, including language to restrict funding to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the EPA rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways.

Given that the Senate currently lacks the 60 bipartisan votes necessary to pass its FY 2016 Interior funding bill, it is increasingly likely that funding for the Department of Interior, EPA and the US Forest Service will be incorporated into an omnibus spending measure later this year.

For additional information on the House FY 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, see the June 17 edition of ESA policy news:

http://www.esa.org/esa/june-17-2015/

STEM: HOUSE, SENATE ADVANCE EDUCATION REAUTHORIZATION BILLS

 

This past week, two comprehensive measures to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) moved through the House and Senate. The last ESEA reauthorization signed into law was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110).  That reauthorization expired in 2007, and to date, Congress has been unable to reach a consensus approach to renewing the law.

House Republicans have put forward H.R. 5, the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, which would reauthorize federal education programs through FY 2021.  The House reauthorization bill flat-funds educational programs at existing FY 2015 levels.

The bill eliminates a poverty-threshold requirement in current law, eliminates collective bargaining protections for teachers and repeals a highly-qualified teacher requirement intended to ensure some areas of the country are not disproportionately served by unqualified teachers. H.R. 5 passed the House July 8 by a narrow vote of 218–213. Twenty-seven Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the bill.

Many educational organizations oppose the bill. The STEM Education Coalition released a statement when it was reported out of committee in February, then titled the “Student Success Act.”

“As written, the Student Success Act places no funding priority on the STEM subjects and would eliminate the Math and Science Partnership program at the Department of Education, the sole existing program at the Department focused exclusively on teacher professional development in STEM subjects,” read the statement from the coalition. “Further, it does not establish any significant linkage between teacher quality initiatives and critical workforce needs.”   

The White House also released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the bill.

“H.R. 5 abdicates the historic federal role in elementary and secondary education of ensuring the educational progress of all of America’s students, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners, and students of color,” read the White House statement. “It fails to maintain the core expectation that States and school districts will take serious, sustained, and targeted actions when necessary to remedy achievement gaps and reform persistently low-performing schools.”

Meanwhile, the Senate began consideration of its ESEA reauthorization bill, S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The White House released a statement urging changes to certain provisions of the bill, but stopped short of declaring the president would veto it.  

The STEM Education Coalition recently praised the bill for its retention of two key STEM education components: 1) retention of current-law requirements for states to continue to assess student performance in math and science and 2) a provision to provide each state with dedicated resources focused on improving teaching and learning in STEM-related subjects. The bill’s STEM language was incorporated in committee through an amendment sponsored by HELP committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

An amendment by Sen. Alexander to include school vouchers in the Senate bill was defeated by a vote of 45-52. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayote (NH), Shelly Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Jerry Moran (KS), Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined all Democrats in voting against the amendment.

The Senate is expected to vote on S. 1177 at the end of this week.

Both the House and Senate bill versions would need to be reconciled in a conference committee to draft a compromise bill that both houses can accept.  

This week, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to the Senate in support of including STEM language in any final conference report negotiated between the two chambers.

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  

Click here to view the White House statement on H.R. 5:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr5r_20150225.pdf

Click here to view the White House statement on S. 1177:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saps1177s_20150707.pdf

SENATE: SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY INPUT SOUGHT FOR COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION

 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation announced that it will be taking steps to gain input from the scientific research community as it moves forward to craft legislation reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act.

The legislation authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. It also sets policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) will lead the effort.

Comments should be submitted to sciencepolicy@commerce.senate.gov by August 21, 2015.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=63280708-209f-4b5e-bdaa-ddd4c5fbb63e&ContentType_id=77eb43da-aa94-497d-a73f-5c951ff72372&Group_id=4b968841-f3e8-49da-a529-7b18e32fd69d

INTERIOR: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES THREE NEW WESTERN MONUMENTS

 

On July 10, the White House announced that President Obama will use his executive authority to designate new monuments in Nevada, Texas and California. Collectively the monument designations will provide federal protection to over one million acres of land.

The Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada will protect 704,000 acres of public land in a remote section of the broader Great Basin region. The designation allows for the continuation of certain historical uses, including livestock grazing and military activity. According to Interior, the area is home to desert bighorn sheep, golden eagles and several bat, lizard and snake species. The site will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The 330,780-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California is cited by the Obama administration as a “biodiversity hotspot.” It is home to several plant and animal species for which federal protections either exist or are being proposed, including northern spotted owls, martens and fishers. The site will be managed jointly by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service.

Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas features the well-preserved remains of Columbian Mammoths from over 65,000 years ago. The monument’s excavation area also includes remains for the Western Camel, Saber-toothed Cat, Dwarf Antelope, American Alligator, and giant tortoise. The site will be managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the City of Waco and Baylor University.

Click here for additional information on the new monument designations:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/10/fact-sheet-president-obama-designates-new-national-monuments

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Bureau of Reclamation

Notice: Public comments due August 31, 2015

Notice of Availability of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan/California WaterFix Partially Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Announcement of Public Meetings

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16903

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Sept. 14

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding and Proposed Rule To List Three Angelshark Species as Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-17016

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due August 3, 2015

Sonoran Pronghorn Draft Recovery Plan

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16292

Notice: Public comment period ends August 10, 2015

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly for Repair of Five Bridges, Point Sur State Historic Park, Monterey County, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16765

Notice: Public comments due August 20, 2015

Notice of Availability of Draft Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16249

Notice: Public comments due September 8, 2015

Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Plan Draft Addendum

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16595

US Forest Service

Notice: Nominations due August 14, 2015

Notice Of Intent To Renew The Charter For The Forest Resource Coordinating Committee And Call For Nominations

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-15991

Notice: Public comment period ends August 10, 2015

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly for Repair of Five Bridges, Point Sur State Historic Park, Monterey County, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16765

CURRENT POLICY

 

Introduced in House

H.R. 2960, the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers (TALENT) Act – Introduced July 7 by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Young (R-IA), the bill seeks to improve methods of identifying outstanding students and address the challenges that impede school districts ability to provide services to talented and gifted students. The bill includes provisions to support research into the learning needs of talented and gifted students. The bill has been referred to the House Education and Workforce Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On July 9, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), the bill would seek to provide drought relief to the state of California. It includes provisions to modify the science formulas used to provide federal protection to the state’s endangered smelt and salmon populations and also streamline the review and permitting process for water projects. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 23-14. The bill is expected to be voted on by the full House this week.

Passed House

H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), the comprehensive bill would modify existing forest management practices in an effort to increase timber production and reduce the risk of forest fires. Among its provisions, the bill would allow the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to shorten National Environmental Policy Act reviews for logging projects that are designed to reduce wildfire risk, increase forest resilience to insects and disease, protect water supplies and preserve habitat for at-risk species.

The bill also includes a provision limiting legal challenges to forest projects by requiring litigants to post a bond to cover the government’s anticipated legal costs. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) had introduced an amendment to remove the language from the bill, which was defeated by a vote of 247-181, largely along partisan lines. The final bill passed July 9 by a vote of 262-167 with 19 Democrats joining all but one Republican in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to the veto the bill, stating “H.R. 2647 falls short of fixing the fire budget problem and contains other provisions that will undermine collaborative forest restoration, environmental safeguards, and public participation across the National Forest System and public lands.”

Click here to read the full statement: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2647h_20150708.pdf

Introduced in Senate

S. 1724, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015 – Introduced July 9 by Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would authorize $415 million over 10 years to improve water clarity, reduce the risk of wildfires, invest in infrastructure  and address the threat of invasive species in the Lake Tahoe region. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) recently put forward a discussion draft for a similar bill that would authorize only $60 million over the same period.

S. 1733, Forest Incentives Program Act of 2015 – Introduced July 10 by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the bill directs the US Department of Agriculture to create a program allowing forest owners to receive assistance for adopting practices that help sequester carbon over the long term and promote the use of biological products in building construction. The bill has been referred to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.


Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, STEM Education Coalition