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

July 1, 2015

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: WHITE HOUSE VOICES CONCERN WITH SENATE CJS BILL

On June 24, the White House Office of Management and Budget submitted a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee expressing concern with the Senate Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Like official Statements of Administration Policy, the letters outline its position on the bills. Unlike the Statements of Administration Policy, the letters do not specify whether the president would veto the bill.

Areas of concern cited in the letter include significant funding decreases in the FY 2016 budgets for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as compared to the president’s FY 2016 budget request. For NSF, the letter notes that the bill “would lead to about 700 fewer research grants, affecting about 9,100 researchers, technicians, and students.”

The disparities in funding levels exist because Congressional Republicans have sought to adhere to sequestration, the automatic across-the-board cuts to all discretionary spending included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), while the administration has not.

The sequestration cuts can be avoided if Congress passes a deficit reduction measure. Alternatively, Congress would have to pass a new law to nullify the automatic spending cuts, unlikely with the House and Senate under Republican control. The president’s FY 2016 budget would offset sequestration by implementing targeted discretionary spending cuts and revenue increases through tax reform.

“We look forward to working with you to address these concerns. More broadly, we look forward to working with the Congress to reverse sequestration for defense and non-defense priorities, and offset the cost with commonsense spending and tax expenditure cuts, as Members of Congress from both parties have urged,” continues the letter.

The White House and Congress will need to settle on discretionary spending levels for federal agencies before Oct. 1, 2015, when the new fiscal year begins. Otherwise, they would have to pass a temporary continuing resolution to keep federal agencies funded and avoid a government shutdown.

Click here to view the White House letter on the Senate FY 2016 CJS bill:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/letters/senate-cjs-approps-letter-cochran.pdf

EPA: SUPREME COURT OVERTURNS AIR POLLUTION RULE

On June 29, the US Supreme Court struck down the Obama administration’s Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) rule for coal-fired power plants. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have considered compliance costs before deciding to move forward with the air pollution rule.

The Supreme Court ruling effectively reverses the ruling of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which concluded the EPA rule was within its powers under the Clean Air Act. The DC Circuit Court must now decide whether to instruct EPA to carry out additional analyses or strike down the rule altogether.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia stated “EPA must consider cost — including cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.”

EPA maintained that its subsequent regulatory impact analyses should not factor into its initial determination of whether regulating pollutants is appropriate or necessary. The agency argued that the benefits of limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from power plants far outweigh the potential costs. It estimated that while the rule would cost $9.6 billion, it could produce between $37 and $90 billion in environmental and health benefits.

Justice Scalia was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Justice Elena Kagan authored the dissent, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan sided with the lower court, stating that it was enough for EPA to have considered costs at later stages of its rulemaking process.

EPA expressed disappointment in the ruling, but noted its MATS rule was issued in 2012 and since that time, most plants are now approaching compliance. An analysis from SNL Financial last month found that only 22 power plants, representing less than one percent of US power capacity were in noncompliance with the rule.

Nonetheless, the ruling has the potential to set a precedent of compelling federal agencies to be more mindful of taking economic costs into account before issuing regulations to ensure they hold up in court. The ruling also reinforces sentiments embraced largely by conservatives that compliance costs be considered before issuing regulations. 

“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is an important step towards reining in the actions of the EPA,” said House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).  “The EPA consistently ignores the tremendous costs of rules and relies on hidden scientific data to justify its overreaching regulations. Considering the costs of a regulation is simply common sense. I welcome today’s Supreme Court ruling and urge the EPA to more accurately consider the excessive costs that all of its rules will impose on the American people.”

Some supporters of the MATS rule argue that the Supreme Court ruling is narrow in scope and that EPA updating its cost analyses will ultimately strengthen their regulatory efforts.

“The Supreme Court’s decision does not question EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to limit hazardous air pollutants, but instead directs EPA to revise the timing for when costs are considered in the mercury and air toxics rule,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “EPA should move quickly to incorporate its cost analysis into the rule, as called for by the Supreme Court, so that this critical public health safeguard, which prevents premature deaths, heart attacks, asthma attacks and emergency room visits, can remain in place to protect the American people.”

STEM: RESEARCH COMMUNITY, INDUSTRY CALL ON CONGRESS TO PRIORITIZE INNOVATION

On June 23, ESA joined 250 industry, science, and higher education organizations in signing a “Call to Action” urging Congress to enact policies to end sequestration cuts to discretionary spending that hinder research at federal science agencies and make investments that help ensure the United States remains a leader in scientific discovery and innovation.

“As the most dynamic and prosperous nation in the world, the United States has long benefitted from policies and investments that have promoted innovation and in turn driven productivity and economic growth, bolstered American trade, ensured our health and national security, and safeguarded the American dream,” the call notes. “Our leadership is now at risk because of years of under-prioritizing federal scientific research investments and policies that promote innovation.”

The call references the 2014 American Academy of Arts and Sciences report, Restoring the Foundation: The Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream and calls on Congress to:

  • Renew the federal commitment to scientific discovery.
  • Make permanent a strengthened federal R&D tax credit.
  • Improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
  • Reform US visa policy to retain highly educated international STEM professionals.
  • Take steps to streamline costly and inefficient regulations to help unburden researchers.
  • Reaffirm merit-based peer review.
  • Stimulate further improvements in advanced manufacturing.

Click here to view the full letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Innovation-American-Imperative-Call-to-Action-final1.pdf

CLIMATE CHANGE: ESA COMMENDS POPE FOR INCLUDING ENVIRONMENT IN ENCYCLICAL

Ecological Society of America (ESA) President-elect Monica Turner, President David Inouye, and Immediate Past-president Jill Baron commend Pope Francis for his encyclical on the environment.

“The Ecological Society of America commends Pope Francis for his insightful encyclical on the environment,” reads the statement. “Addressed to everyone on this planet, the letter issued on 18 June 2015 is an eloquent plea for responsible Earth stewardship. The pope is clearly informed by the science underpinning today’s environmental challenges. The encyclical deals directly with climate change, its potential effects on humanity and disproportionate consequences for the poor, and the need for intergenerational equity.”

A papal encyclical is one of the highest forms of official papal teaching that influences Catholics worldwide. The global popularity and moral clout of Pope Francis with non-Catholics and Catholics alike has the potential to influence climate change policy.

The pope is visiting the United States in September 2015, where he will speak to both Congress and the United Nations.

Click here to read the full ESA statement.

http://www.esa.org/esa/ecological-society-of-america-responds-to-pope-francis-encyclical-laudato-si-on-care-for-our-common-home/

Click here to read the pope’s encyclical:

http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20150524_enciclica-laudato-si.html

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due August 24, 2015

Petition To Amend the Reporting Requirements for Research Facilities Under the Animal Welfare Act Regulations

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-15499

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comment period ends July 24, 2015

Pesticides; Risk Management Approach To Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-15405

US Department of Agriculture

Notice: Nominations due August 13, 2015

Request for Nominations to the Agricultural Air Quality Task Force

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-15933

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due August 31, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings on 31 Petitions (includes determination that gray wolf does not warrant “threatened” declassification throughout the contiguous United States)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16001

Notice: Public comments due Oct. 28, 2015

Notice of Intent To Prepare a 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/2015-16152

US Forest Service

Notice: Public comments due August 10, 2015

Boise National Forest and Sawtooth National Forest; Idaho and Utah; Forest-Wide Invasive Plant Treatment Environmental Impact Statement

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-15609

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act – Introduced June 25 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 bill has 25 original cosponsors, predominantly West Coast Republicans. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) is the lone Democratic original cosponsor. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Agriculture Committee. 

Approved by House Committee

On June 25, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved the following bill:

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. The bill puts wildlife trafficking in the same category as weapons trafficking and drug trafficking, making it a liable offense for money laundering and racketeering and requires fines, forfeitures, and restitution received to be transferred to federal conservation and anti-poaching efforts. The bill passed committee by unanimous consent.  

Passed House

H.R. 1637, the Federally Funded Research and Development Sunshine Act – Introduced by John Ratcliffe (R-TX), the bill directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to annually submit to specified congressional committees a list of ongoing and completed projects that federally funded research and development centers within DHS have been tasked to complete. The bill passed the House June 23 by voice vote.

H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act – Introduced by House Energy and Commerce Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the bill would allow states to defer compliance to the Obama administration’s carbon dioxide rule for power plants until any legal challenges are complete and judicial review has concluded. The bill passed the House June 24 by a vote of 247-180.

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

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2042r_20150623.pdf

Introduced in Senate

S. 1691, the National Forest Ecosystem Improvement Act – Introduced June 25 by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would require the Forest Service to perform at least one million acres of logging or vegetation treatments and one million acres of prescribed fires each year. The bill would also shorten National Environmental Policy Act reviews for these activities. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On June 25, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the following bills:

S. 1403, the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act – Introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the bill outlines priorities to improve fisheries management for the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions. Rep. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is a cosponsor of the bill.

S. 1573, the National Weather Service Improvement Act– Introduced by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), the bill seeks to modernize the National Weather Service (NWS). The bill originally reinvested funds in six regional forecasting offices that would take over forecasting from the nation’s 122 local forecasting offices. The bill was amended during mark-up and now only requires the placement of a warning coordination meteorologist in each of the 122 weather forecasting offices to ensure regional and local collaboration.


Sources: House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, National Journal, US News and World Report

 

June 17, 2015

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE CJS BILLS ADVANCE

Over the past few weeks, the House and Senate have moved their Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bills, which include funding for key science agencies. The bills fund the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The House FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill reached a floor vote and passed June 3 by a vote of 242–183. Twelve Democrats joined all but ten Republicans in voting for the bill. The bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending for the federal agencies under its jurisdiction. Total funding in the bill would increase by $1.3 billion, although most agencies would be funded at amounts lower than in the president’s FY 2016 budget request. The White House submitted a Statement of Administration policy stating the president would veto the bill, setting-up the prospect of another government shutdown fight between the White House and Congress this fall.

The House bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion in FY 2016, a $50 million increase over FY 2015, but $300 million less than the president’s request for the agency. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. NASA science programs would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level.

The House bill includes cuts to several important environmental research programs. NOAA’s National Ocean Service would receive $14 million less than the FY 2015 enacted level. NOAA climate research would be cut by $30 million compared to FY 2015. NASA earth science would be cut by $200 million.

The accompanying committee report language on the House bill states “The Committee directs NSF to ensure that Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; and Biological Sciences comprise no less than 70 percent of the funding within Research and Related Activities.”  This would result in sharp cuts to the NSF directorates that fund social and geosciences.

In addition to objecting to the funding levels for NSF and other federal agencies, the White House Statement of Administration policy also expressed concern with language in the committee report for the bill that targets geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences.

“Especially hard hit by this reduction would be the geosciences and social, behavioral, and economic sciences, which would be reduced by 20 percent. The Committee’s allocation of resources to specific disciplines would interfere with NSF’s ability to respond to scientific opportunity,” the White House noted.

The Ecological Society of America recently joined with other scientific societies in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee reiterating concern with efforts to legislatively direct funding to NSF by directorate.

While the Senate FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill does not include accompanying committee report language directing NSF funding by directorate, House and Senate leaders will need to negotiate a final conference report compromise bill that resolves differences between the House and Senate CJS bills this fall.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its CJS bill June 11 by a heavily bipartisan vote of 27–3, although it has yet to be considered on the Senate floor. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) opposed the bill. The Senate CJS bill includes $51.1 billion in total discretionary spending for FY 2016, slightly less than the House bill.

In the Senate bill, NSF would receive $7.3 billion in FY 2016, comparable to the FY 2015 enacted level. NOAA funding in the Senate bill would be funded at $5.4 billion, also similar to the FY 2015 enacted level. NASA would receive a $279 million increase over FY 2015.  NASA science would be funded at $50 million above FY 2015.

While the White House has not submitted a statement on the Senate CJS bill, many of the concerns directed towards the House bill would be applicable to the Senate bill, including the NSF funding levels.

Click here to view the scientific society letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Joint-Senate-CJS-Geoscience-Letter1.pdf

Click here to view the White House statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2578r_20150601.pdf

Click here to view a summary of the House FY 2016 CJS bill:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394203

Click here to view a summary of the Senate FY 2016 CJS bill:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/committee-advances-fy2016-commerce-justice-science-appropriations-bill

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES MOVE FY 2016 INTERIOR BILLS

On June 9, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill includes several provisions that would block funding for Obama administration environmental protection regulations.

The bill includes $30.17 billion for the Department of Interior (DOI), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Forest Service, $3 billion less than the president’s FY 2016 request for the agency and $246 million below the FY 2015 enacted level.

EPA would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2016, a $718 million reduction in funding. The bill prohibits funding to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan as well as clarify federal jurisdiction over “navigable waters.” 

The House bill does increase wildland fire prevention activities by $52 million over the FY 2015 enacted level. The US Forest Service is funded at $5 billion, a $13 million reduction from FY 2015.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service would be prohibited from preparing a potential Endangered Species Act listing rule for sage grouse. The agency is under a court mandate to decide by Sept. 30 whether to propose listing the bird.

Many US Department of Interior bureaus budget includes slight increases or are flat funded. Funding levels for specific Interior sub-agencies are below:

Office of Surface Mining: $180 million; $30 million above FY 2015. The bill includes a provision to stop changes to the “stream buffer rule,” intended to protect streams from coal mining.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion; a $30 million increase from FY 2015.

National Park Service: $2.7 billion; a $53 million increase over FY 2015. The added funding is attended to address a maintenance backlog ahead of its centennial in 2016.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): $1.4 billion in the bill; $8 million below FY 2015.

US Geological Survey: $1.05 billion; level with FY 2015.

The Senate Interior and Environment Subcommittee also approved its Interior Appropriations bill this week. The Senate bill provides $30.01 billion in funding and also would prohibit funding to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. It also prohibits EPA from implementing its Clean Water rule. The bill also would continue a prohibition on the Fish and Wildlife Service listing the greater sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species, but  follows the House bill’s lead by meeting the  president’s $60 million  request to conserve the species throughout its 11-state Western range.

Below are funding levels for agencies and bureaus under the Senate bill:

EPA: $7.6 billion, $538.8 million below FY 2015.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.18 billion; a $65 million increase over FY 2015.

National Park Service: $2.72 billion; a $112.7 million increase over FY 2015.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): $1.43 billion in the bill; $2 million below FY 2015.

US Forest Service: $5.12 billion; a $67 million increase over FY 2015.

US Geological Survey: $1.06 billion; a $17 million increase over FY 2015.

On June 15, the White House submitted a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) expressing opposition to the spending cuts in the bill as well as the policy riders that would prohibit implementation of the administration’s Clean Power Plan and other environmental protection efforts.

Click here to view the White House statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/letters/fy-16-house-interior-letter-rogers.pdf

Click here for additional information on the House FY 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394247

Click here for additional information on the Senate FY 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/senate-subcommittee-approves-fy2016-interior-environment-appropriations-bill

AIR POLLUTION: EPA CONSIDERS REGULATION OF AIRLINE EMISSIONS

On June 10, the US Environmental Protection Agency began its process for considering whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for commercial airlines.

The effort is spurred by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body that has been working with the aviation industry to develop greenhouse gas emissions standards for aircraft. The standards are expected to be adopted in early 2016.

According to EPA, US aircraft comprises 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and 29 percent of all aircraft globally. The EPA actions will not apply to small recreational piston-planes or military aircraft.

Click here for additional information.

http://epa.gov/otaq/aviation.htm

EPA: HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR SEEKS RECORDS ON AGENCY REGULATORY EFFORTS

On June 15, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding records of communications and documents related to its regulatory efforts.

“Since January 2014, the EPA has announced intentions to propose or finalize rules pertaining to the new and existing source performance standards for electricity generating units, the renewable fuel standard, National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, the definition of Waters of the United States, methane emissions at natural gas production sites, and carbon emissions from commercial airlines, to name just a few,” the letter states. “Given the breadth and scope of these regulations, as well as their impact on the American people and the economy, it appears that EPA is engaging in an effort to obfuscate Congressional oversight of these rules by delaying its production of key documents to the Committee.”

The letter references three separate letters sent to EPA this past month submitted to EPA requesting documents and communications for various proposed rules and regulations that allegedly have not been responded to.

The letter sets a deadline of June 22 for the agency to submit requested documents and a June 29 for EPA staff members to make themselves available for a transcribed interview with committee staff.

Earlier this year, the agency did send Chairman Smith a large number of documents in response to a subpoena over EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s various methods of communication, including text messages.

Click here to view Chairman Smith’s letter:

http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/CLS%20Letter%20to%20McCarthy%20EPA%2006.15.15.pdf

Click here to view EPA’s response to past communications inquiries:

http://www2.epa.gov/newsroom/information-production-house-science-space-and-technology-committee

FWS: CAPTIVE CHIMPANZEES GET ENDANGERED SPECIES PROTECTIONS

On June 12, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a rule that classifies wild and captive chimpanzees as endangered.

The rule effectively removes the captivity exemption for chimpanzees, giving individuals in zoos and research facilities the same endangered species protections as wild chimpanzees, which are already listed. FWS will restrict the import, export and sale of chimpanzees in the United States, but will grant permits for scientific and research purposes. The rule does not apply to owners of legally acquired chimpanzees or to those held in zoos and sanctuaries.

In cases of biomedical research where chimps, laboratories will be required to demonstrate the research promotes the survival of the species in the wild. According to FWS, poaching, capture for the pet trade, deforestation and disease is causing the species’ decline.

The new rule will go into effect Sept. 14.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ID=E81DA137-BAF2-9619-3492A2972E9854D9

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Department of Interior

Notice: Nominations due July 8, 2015

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

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-13859

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Nominations due July 20, 2015

Nominations to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-13593

National Park Service

Notice: Nominations due July 13, 2015

Notice of Request for Nominations and Meeting Cancellation for the Na Hoa Pili O Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Advisory Commission

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-14469

US Army Corps of Engineers

Notice: Applications and endorsement letters due July 17, 2015

Notice of Solicitation of Applications for Stakeholder Representative Members of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-14583

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comments due August 17, 2015

Removing Eastern Puma (Cougar) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-14931

Notice: Public comments due July 17, 2015

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the California Tiger Salamander and California Red-Legged Frog, Sonoma County, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-14853

Proposed rule: Public comments due July 27, 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; Public Hearings; Extension of Comment Period

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-14906

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2681, the Training Highly Skilled Americans Act – Introduced June 4 the Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), the bill would increase federal investment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs at minority-serving colleges and universities. The bill also creates scholarships for economically disadvantaged and minority students. Additionally, its grants loan forgiveness to economically disadvantaged students who obtain a STEM degree. The bill also creates a economically disadvantaged scholarship for groups underrepresented in STEM fields, including minorities and women. The bill was referred to the House Education and Workforce Committee, House Judiciary Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 2717, the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act Amendments of 2015 – Introduced June 10 by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK) and Lois Capps (D-CA), the bill would reauthorize NOAA’s existing ocean acidification program and add an advisory board of 15 members from industry, academia and non-governmental organizations to coordinate activities and communications related on the effects of ocean acidification. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Introduced in Senate 

S. 1500, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act – Introduced June 3 by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the bill would clarify congressional intent of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act by restricting the US Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for pesticides sprayed over navigable waters. The bill is a response to a 2009 federal court decision directing EPA to require permits for applicators that spray over waterways. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S.1523, the National Estuary Program Reauthorization Act – Introduced June 10, by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and David Vitter (R-LA), the bill would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program. The bill also reforms how the program is authorized and creates a competitive grant program targeting urgent issues like habitat loss and flooding. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 944) passed the House June 1 by voice vote.

S.1554, the Focused Reduction Effluence Stormwater Runoff through Hydraulic-Fracturing Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act – Introduced June 11 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill removes Clean Water Act exemptions for oil and gas companies involved in hydraulic fracturing. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 1573, the National Weather Service Improvement Act – Introduced June 15 by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), the bill seeks to modernize the National Weather Service (NWS) by reinvesting funds in six regional forecasting offices. The six regional offices would take over forecasting from the nation’s 122 local forecasting offices, which would instead focus solely on communication and coordination.

In response to an Inspector General report that found that an NWS official improperly arranged his own post-retirement contracting job, the bill also requires its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to submit an annual report to Congress detailing its number of full-time contractors and those who formerly worked for the agency. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would overturn the Obama administration rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways and require the administration to set a new criteria for determining which streams and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee June 10 by a partisan vote of 11–9. No Democrats supported the measure.


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

June 3, 2015

In This Issue

RESEARCH: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION NARROWLY PASSES HOUSE

On May 20, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, by a vote of 217-205. No Democrats supported the bill and 23 Republicans broke with party leaders in voting against it.

Sponsored by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill authorizes small increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Within the aforementioned federal agencies, it cuts funding for biological and environmental research at DOE as well as geoscience and social science research at NSF. A total of 12 amendments were voted on.

Chairman Smith introduced an amendment that restored cuts to the NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and Graduate Research Fellowship at the cost of cuts to the NSF directorates that fund biological, engineering and computer sciences. Smith’s amendment was adopted by voice vote.

An amendment by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) to encourage female entrepreneurs was adopted by voice vote as was an amendment by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) requiring NSF to establish a Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education grant program for Hispanic-serving institutions.  

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced an amendment striking Sec. 106 from the bill, controversial language adding a new requirement that NSF specify that grant funding is “in the national interest.” The amendment failed by a vote of 177-243, largely along partisan lines, with all but four Republicans opposing Ranking Member Johnson’s amendment and most Democrats supporting the amendment.

Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) was among the nine Democrats who opposed the amendment, noting that NSF Director France Cordova is supportive of the language and efforts to make NSF grants more transparent and accessible to the general public. Rep. Foster had sponsored a similar amendment during committee mark-up of the bill. Both Lipinski and Foster hold Ph.Ds. The four Republicans who voted for the amendment were Carlos Curbello (FL), Robert Dold (IL), Steve Stivers (OH) and Pat Tiberi (OH). Reps. Curbello and Dold were also among the 23 Republicans who voted against the bill.

The Ecological Society of America joined with other scientific societies in sending correspondence to Congress opposing the bill. ESA members relayed concerns to congressional offices in person during the 2015 Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition congressional visits last month. The Society co-organizes the congressional visits day with the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

While a comprehensive Senate bill has yet to be introduced, early efforts suggest Senate legislation will be comparatively more bipartisan. A Senate bill introduced May 20 to reauthorize funding for DOE research would increase the agency’s Office of Science funding from $5.3 billion in FY 2016 to $6.2 billion in FY 2020 and does not include cuts to environmental research as H.R. 1806 does. The bill (S. 1398) was introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE). Original cosponsors include Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

For additional information on the America COMPETES Reauthorization, see the May 20 edition of ESA Policy News.

WATER: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION FINALIZES CLEAN WATER RULE

On May 27, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Army Corps of Engineers finalized the Clean Water Rule, clarifying jurisdiction over streams and wetlands of the United States.

Supreme Court rulings over the past decade, including Solid Waste Agency of North Cook County (SWANCC) v. United States Army Corps of Engineers (2001) and Rapanos v. United States (2006) called into question what “navigable waters” as defined under the Clean Water Act can be regulated by the federal government. The new rule clarifies that streams and wetlands that can carry pollution into larger waterways also fall under jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The rule includes exclusions for groundwater, artificial lakes and ponds, puddles and water-filled depressions from construction and grass swales. The rule will only apply to ditches that function like streams and can carry pollution downstream. Administration officials emphasize that the rule only protects waters that have been historically covered by the Clean Water Act.

The rule has long spurred contention on Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans have repeatedly challenged the rule through the appropriations process. House appropriations bills with jurisdiction over EPA and the Army Corps have repeatedly included language prohibiting funding to implement the rule, though the language has traditionally been stripped out by the Senate.

These legislative efforts have been bolstered with the support of a few moderate and conservative Democrats in the Senate and House critical of EPA’s regulatory efforts, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN). H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Act, which would prohibit enforcement of the rule, passed the House with the support of 24 Democratic votes.

It remains to be seen how Republican control of the Senate will affect such attempts for the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations process.

Click here for a one-page fact sheet on the rule.

Click here for additional information on the rule.

INTERIOR: SAGE GROUSE PROTECTION PLAN FINALIZED

On May 28, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service released their finalized plan to protect the greater sage grouse.

The comprehensive plan includes 14 environmental impact statements and will cover ten states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Over half of existing sage grouse habitat is on federal land.

The plan will seek to 1) minimize disturbance to avoid fragmentation of sage grouse habitat 2) improve conditions of existing sagebrush habitat and 3) reduce the threat of wildfires to grouse habitats.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to make a final determination over whether the sage grouse warrants Endangered Species Act protection this September. It is BLM’s hope that the plans will negate the need to list the animal under the protection of the Endangered Species Act, a move which would lead to tighter federal restrictions on lands occupied by the sage grouse. Nonetheless, key leaders in Congress claim the plan is a case of federal regulatory overreach.

“This is just flat out wrong,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). “If the Administration really cares about the bird they will adopt the state plans as they originally said they would. The state plans work. This proposal is only about controlling land, not saving the bird.” 

Chairman Bishop used a recent Natural Resources Committee hearing to highlight various state efforts to conserve the sage grouse and has called upon the US Fish and Wildlife Service to delay the September listing decision. Natural Resources Committee Democrats have expressed concern further delay could undermine sage grouse conservation efforts and are supportive of the BLM and Forest Service plans.

“I applaud the Administration and the states for working together to revise these plans in an attempt to conserve the greater sage-grouse,” said Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) in a May 28 press statement. “This unprecedented collaborative effort proves that a strong Endangered Species Act is a catalyst for positive change that protects species and landscapes while promoting sustainable economic development.”

While the sage grouse plan does include limits on energy development, Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stated that 90 percent of sage grouse habitat will remain available for oil and gas development. The plan has the support of Gov. Matt Mead (R-WY), who appeared with Jewell during the announcement of the plan. Wyoming has the largest sage grouse population in the United States.

Click here for additional information on the sage grouse conservation plan.

Click here to view the House Natural Resources Committee sage grouse hearing.

OCEANS: EPA, COAST GUARD ISSUE ORDER FOR CALIFORNIA SPILL CLEANUP

On May 29, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Coast Guard issued a joint Clean Water Act order, setting deadlines for pipeline operators to clean up a crude oil spill in the vicinity of Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara, CA.

The May 19 pipeline breach caused roughly 105, 000 gallons of crude oil to spill into Refugio State Beach. About 21,000 gallons from that amount made its way into the Pacific Ocean. The cause of the pipeline failure is being investigated by EPA and the US Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The order requires Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the oil spill, to submit a work plan to EPA and the Coast Guard by June 6 for clean-up and environmental sampling.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA) have written Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration seeking details on the pipeline rupture and Plains Pipeline’s response efforts. 

To view the Senators’ letter, click here.

Click here for additional information on the oil spill and response efforts.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment period ends July 28, 2015

Comment Request; NSF’s Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES) Portfolio of Programs Survey; Proposed Information Collection Request

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-13041

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comment period ends June 19, 2015

Request for Nominations of Experts to the Science and Information Subcommittee of the Great Lakes Advisory Board

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12259

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends June 29, 2015

Proposal To Mitigate Exposure to Bees From Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12989

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period ends June 29, 2015

Habitat Conservation Plan for the Morro Shoulderband Snail

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12849

Proposed Rule: Comment period ends July 20, 2015

Removal of the Louisiana Black Bear From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Removal of Similarity-of-Appearance Protections for the American Black Bear

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-11748  

Proposed Rule: Comment period ends July 20, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revisions to the Regulations for Petitions

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12316

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act – Introduced May 21 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. The bill puts wildlife trafficking in the same category as weapons trafficking and drug trafficking, making it a liable offense for money laundering and racketeering and requires fines, forfeitures, and restitution received to be transferred to federal conservation and anti-poaching efforts. The bill has nine bipartisan cosponsors has been referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

H.R. 2553, the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act – Introduced May 21 by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), the bill would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct coastal community vulnerability assessments related to ocean acidification to determine threats to the seafood industry and other aspects of coastal community economies. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Passed House

H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act – Introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the bill would simplify and make permanent the method for calculating a 20 percent tax credit for qualified research expenses that exceed 50 percent of the average qualified research expenses for the three preceding taxable years. The bill passed the House May 20 by a vote of 274-145 with 37 Democrats joining all but one Republican, Rep. Walter Jones (NC), in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating “making the R&D credit permanent without offsets, H.R. 880 would add $180 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.” Click here to view the full statement.

H.R. 1335, Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill reauthorizes the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primarily law governing fisheries resource management in offshore federal waters. The bill passed the House June 1 by a vote of 225-152. Five Democrats voted with all but three Republicans in support of the bill. Democrats opposed new exemptions in the bill on catch limits as well as new exemptions to National Environmental Policy Act requirements for federal fishery management plans that seek to prevent overfishing.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating the bill would “impose arbitrary and unnecessary requirements that would harm the environment and the economy.” Click here to view the full statement.

Introduced in Senate

H.R. 1394, Columbia River Basin Restoration Act – Introduced May 20 by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ron Wyden (D-OR), the bill would authorize $50 million over five years for the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a voluntary competitive Columbia Basin grants program for projects that help reduce pollution, improve water quality, monitoring and clean-up efforts and promote citizen engagement on restoration efforts for Columbia Basin. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a companion bill (H.R. 2469) in the House.

H.R. 1398, Energy Title of America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 – Introduced May 20 by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Chris Coons (D-DE), the bill authorizes $5.3 billion in Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science funding for FY 2016, and authorizes annual increases to $6.2 billion by FY 2020. The bill authorizes ARPA-E with $291 billion for FY 2016, increasing to $341 million in FY 2020. In total, this amounts to four percent annual increases for DOE research over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) are original cosponsors of the bill.

H.R. 1479, the Brownfields Utilization, Investment and Local Development (BUILD) Act – Introduced June 2 by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), the bill reauthorizes the US Environmental Protection Agency’s brownfields cleanup program through Fiscal Year 2018. The program provides grants and technical assistance to states, local communities and redevelopment agencies to support cleanup of contaminated and abandoned sites. The bill would also expand eligibility of grant recipients to include non-profit community groups. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is also a cosponsor of the bill.


Sources: House Natural Resources Committee, US Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill

May 20, 2015

In This Issue

SCIENCE: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION BILL HITS HOUSE FLOOR

This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill is expected to pass along partisan lines in the early evening of May 20.

The bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The Ecological Society of America was among many scientific and education societies who issued action alerts to membership calling for scientists to express concern with the bill.

Title I of H. R. 1806 would authorize specific funding levels for each of NSF’s directorates placing certain directorates over others. This is a significant departure from how NSF currently determines its research priorities. NSF is unique among federal agencies because it supports a balanced portfolio of basic research in all disciplines, using the scientific peer review system as the foundation for awarding research grants based on merit.

The original America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) was a strongly bipartisan measure passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by a Republican president. It contained significant increases for federal science agencies. The 2007 bill and its 2010 reauthorization (P.L. 111-358) received strong support from the scientific community.

In contrast, the 2015 bill is expected to pass the House largely along partisan lines and includes only mild increases for the federal agencies authorized in the bill. These increases also come at the cost of targeted cuts to the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Office and the NSF directorates for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and the geosciences.

Prospects for the bill are less clear in the Senate where the legislation would likely need 60 bipartisan votes to advance. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has expressed support for the House’s effort to pass a reauthorization bill, though he has yet to provide specifics on how similar or different a Senate bill would be from the House version.

The White House also issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill. Read the statement here:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1806r_20150518.pdf

Click here to read NSF’s Impact Statement about the bill’s consequences to the research community:

http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/114/hr1806_impact.jsp

Click here to read ESA’s letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-April-ESA-America-COMPETES-Reauthr-letter.pdf  

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 CJS FUNDING BILL

On May 13, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee unveiled its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding bill.

The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2015. In total, the bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending in FY 2016, a $1.3 billion increase over the FY 2015 enacted level.

The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $50 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted funding level, but $300 million less than the president’s request for FY 2016. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill also fully funds NOAA’s two satellite programs—the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. Science programs at the agency would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level.

Additional information on the bill is available by following this link:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394203

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL

On May 19, the Senate released its Energy and Water Appropriations bill for FY 2016. The bill provides $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The final bill was crafted with bipartisan support from Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA).

Overall the measure provides the agencies under its jurisdiction with $1.2 billion more than the enacted level FY 2015, though $633 million less than the president’s FY 2016 budget request. The total funding a similar to the total funding included in the House bill, but the Senate bill allocates the funding among the federal agencies differently.

Enclosed are FY 2016 funding levels for specific federal agencies and programs compared to the FY 2015 enacted level:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.5 billion; a $45 million increase.

DOE Office of Science: $5.1 billion; a $73 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion; a $3 million increase.

DOE Environmental Clean Up: $6 billion; a $167 million increase.

The bill notably does not include provisions to restrict the administration’s effort to clarify federal agency jurisdiction over US waterways as the recently passed House bill does, though Republicans are expected to attempt to amend the bill with the language either when it passes the full committee or on the Senate floor.

Click here for additional information on the Senate bill:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/subcommittee-approves-fy2016-energy-water-development-appropriations-bill

For additional information on the House bill, see the April 29 edition of ESA policy news: http://www.esa.org/esa/april-29-2015/

WHITE HOUSE: NEW REPORT EMPHASIZES GLOBAL SECURITY RISKS FROM CLIMATE CHANGE

In concert with a recent presidential commencement address to the US Coast Guard, the White House has released a new report highlighting the national and international security threats posed by posed by climate change.

The report compiles information from recent federal agency reports on climate change impacts, including the US Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security and the National Intelligence Council. DOD is assessing the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities to climate change, and studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events.

The report also focuses on climate changes effects that may increase of refugee flows around the globe spurred by food and natural resource scarcity and the national security implications of increasing human activity in the Arctic.  

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/20/white-house-report-national-security-implications-changing-climate

WHITE HOUSE: POLLINATOR TASK FORCE STRATEGY REPORT RELEASED

On May 19, under the leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the White House announced its Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The strategy is supported by a science-based Pollinator Research Action Plan. The USDA and the Department of Interior also issued a set of Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands, providing practical guidance for planners and managers with land stewardship responsibilities. 

The White House reports that number of managed honeybee colonies in the US has dropped from 5.7 million in the 1940s to 2.74 million today. In addition to addressing honeybee colony collapse, the new strategy will seek to increase the eastern population of the monarch butterfly and restore seven million acres of pollinator land through federal actions and public-private partnerships.

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/05/18/announcing-new-steps-promote-pollinator-health

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ECOLOGISTS AND BIOLOGISTS ADVOCATE FOR SCIENCE INVESTMENT ON CAPITOL HILL

On May 14, ecologists and biologists from across the US fanned out across Capitol Hill, visiting 54 congressional offices to support President Obama’s request of $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research benefits the communities the lawmakers represent. 

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event is organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BESC draws participation from Ph.D. scientists and graduate students affiliated with the two organizations. This year’s participants included 2015 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winners Sydney Blankers (University of Illinois-Chicago), Cleo Chou (Princeton University), Natalie Hambalek (Oregon State University), and Emlyn Resetarits (University of Texas-Austin).

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

The visits came ahead of House consideration of H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Act, which would significantly alter how NSF prioritizes scientific research. The bill also includes targeted cuts to key areas of science, including the social, behavioral and geosciences at NSF and environmental research at the Department of Energy. Participants also encouraged lawmakers to oppose the bill.

The day before the Hill visits, the students met informally with several ESA members working in policy-related positions in federal offices: Alan Thornhill (USGS), Laura Petes (OSTP), Alexis Erwin (USAID) and Rich Pouyat (USFS). The afternoon before the visits, all BESC participants were also briefed on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

NSF: NEW REPORT OFFERS INSIGHT INTO THE STATE OF STEM WORKFORCE

In concert with its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board has released a new report examining the current state of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce in the United States.

The report offered three key insights:

  • The STEM “workforce” is extensive, complexly defined and critical to innovation and competitiveness
  • STEM knowledge and skills offer pathways to careers to both STEM and non-STEM occupations.
  • Strengthening access to and participation in the STEM workforce is critical for the US to maintain national prosperity and global competitiveness.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=134866&org=NSF&from=news

FWS: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION GRANTED ON INVASIVE CONSTRICTOR RULE

A US federal judge has temporarily blocked the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from banning the importation and interstate transport of two constrictor snakes by granting a preliminary injunction sought by the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). The preliminary injunction will affect FWS’s proposed ban on the reticulated python and the green anaconda.

In addition to the two aforementioned species, FWS is proposing a rule that would add the Beni anaconda and Deshauesee’s anaconda to the agency’s list of injurious species. While the preliminary injunction does not overturn the ban outright, it puts any effort by FWS to implement the ban on hold until the USARK lawsuit has been decided in court.

Click here to view the preliminary injunction:

http://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Dkt-No-60-Mem-Op-on-Injunction.pdf

STATE DEPARTMENT: NEW POLICY REVIEW DOCUMENT PRIORITIZES CLIMATE CHANGE

The US State Department has released a new policy blueprint that lists climate change among its four major priorities of the agency through 2020.

In its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the agency recommends targeted partnerships with civil society groups and local government officials in foreign nations to address climate challenges. The QDDR recommends integrating climate change mitigation and adaption efforts into all diplomatic and international development efforts.

The report comes days after the US took the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will serve a two-year term as chair of the council, indicated he intends to make climate change a top priority during his tenure. The Council was created in 1996 as an international body to monitor environmental conditions in the Arctic.

For additional information on QDDR, click here: http://www.state.gov/s/dmr/qddr/

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comment period ends July 14, 2015

Draft Recovery Plan for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-11700

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment period ends July 20, 2015

NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12086

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period ends June 8, 2015

Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan for the Fender’s Blue Butterfly on Private Lands in Yamhill County, Oregon (Reopening of Comment Period)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-10980

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends June 9, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings on 10 Petitions:

Clear lake hitch (fish), Egyptian tortoise, Golden conure (parakeet), Long-tailed chinchilla, Mojave shoulder band snail, Northern spotted owl, Relict dace (fish), San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly, Western pond turtle, Yellow-cedar (tree)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07837

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Notice: Public comment period ends June 15, 2015

Public Input on the Sustained Assessment Process of the US National Climate Assessment

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-10352

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2352, the State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act – Introduced May 15 by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), the bill would require the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to make data publicly available to states affected by endangered and threatened species listings. The bill also requires the agencies to treat all data submitted by state, tribal or county governments as the “best scientific and commercial data available.” The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 2039, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 – Introduced by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) the bill authorizes spending at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the next two fiscal years. Committee Democrats criticized the bill for its steep cuts to NASA’s earth science program. The bill authorizes $1.45 billion for NASA earth science, $230 million less than the $1.68 billion the program received in FY 2015. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 19-15 along party lines.

Considered by House

H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act – Introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the bill would simplify and make permanent the method for calculating a 20 percent tax credit for qualified research expenses that exceed 50 percent of the average qualified research expenses for the three preceding taxable years. The bill is expected to pass the House May 20 along party lines.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating “making the R&D credit permanent without offsets, H.R. 880 would add $180 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.” Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr880r_20150519.pdf

H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill cuts biological and environmental research at DOE as well as geoscience and social science research at NSF. It also includes changes that affect how NSF prioritizes grant awards. The bill is expected to pass the House May 20 along party lines.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating the bill “undermines key investments in science, technology, and innovation and imposes unnecessary and damaging requirements on Federal support of research.” Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1806r_20150518.pdf

Passed House

H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), the bill would require the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their upcoming rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways within 30 days and require the administration to set up a consultation process with state and local officials and stakeholders to help clarify federal implementation of the Clean Water Act. The bill passed the House May 12 by a vote of 261-155 with 24 Democrats joining all Republicans in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill. Click here to view the full statement: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1732r_20150429.pdf

H.R. 874, the American Super Computing Leadership Act – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy and establish an exascale computing program. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), the bill would have federal research regulations reviewed for unnecessary requirements and recommend cost saving reforms. House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) are cosponsors of the bill. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), the bill would authorize a body under the National Science and Technology Council to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation opportunities. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1158, the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve management of the National Laboratories. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

H.R. 1162, the Science Prize Competitions Act – Introduced by Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA), the bill would update provisions authorizing prize competitions under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.


Sources: National Science Foundation, US Department of State, the White House, House Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, LA Times

April 29, 2015

In This Issue

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION

On April 22, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. The bill passed by a party-line vote of 19-16.

H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Collectively, this bill authorizes a five percent increase for these agencies through Fiscal Year 2017. However, a large number of controversial provisions in the bill drew critique from committee Democrats and the scientific community, which opposed the bill.

The bill boosts funding for DOE fusion and the NSF directorates with jurisdiction over the biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, computer science and engineering at the cost of sharp cuts to NSF geosciences, social and behavioral directorates and DOE renewable energy and environmental research. DOE Office of Science is flat-funded as are DOE high energy and nuclear physics, DOE advanced computing and DOE basic energy sciences.

While the bill somewhat softens transparency and accountability requirement language from past bills, it expands oversight and legislative authority in others. Foremost of concern was that the bill authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation by directorate, which Congress hasn’t done since Fiscal Year 1999, when the agency’s pot of money was significantly smaller and in a period where the agency was arguably under less contentious political scrutiny.

The bill did not include any language related to public access policies.

Several Democratic amendments sought to rescind funding cuts to specific directorates and climate change research. Other amendments sought to strike language revising the National Science Foundation’s merit review process and broaden participation among women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. The overwhelming majority of Democratic amendments failed by party-line votes. A common refrain from the Republican majority was that the amendments did not include offsets and violated spending limits set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also offered her Democratic-alternative America COMPETES Act as an amendment in the nature of a substitute, though it also failed along party-lines. Johnson’s bill, H.R. 1898, would authorize five percent “year over year” increases for NSF, NIST and DOE Science from FY 2016 through 2020. The alternative bill does not authorize NSF spending by directorate.

The Ecological Society of America was among professional organizations in the scientific, education and conservation community writing in opposition to the bill. ESA also signed onto a joint letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding opposing the bill.

Chairman Smith issued a joint statement in support of the bill with Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD). Chairman Thune’s committee holds responsibility for advancing an America COMPETES in the Senate, though it is unclear whether the House bill could secure the bipartisan 60 votes necessary to advance in that chamber, if it were to pass the House.

Click here to view the mark-up:

http://science.house.gov/markup/hr-1806-america-competes-reauthorization-act-2015

Click here to view the statement from Chairman Smith and Chairman Thune:

http://science.house.gov/press-release/smith-and-thune-maximize-valuable-federal-research

Click here to view the ESA letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-April-ESA-America-COMPETES-Reauthr-letter.pdf

Click here to view the CNSF letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LetterOnH.R.1806.AmericaCOMPETES04-21-15.pdf

Click here to view Democratic amendments and additional letters from professional organizations opposing H.R. 1806:

http://democrats.science.house.gov/markup/hr-america-competes-reauthorization-act-2015

Click here for a summary of H.R. 1898, the Democratic alternative America COMPETES Reauthorization Act:

http://democrats.science.house.gov/sites/democrats.science.house.gov/files/documents/Dem%20Competes%202015%20Section-by-Section.pdf

HOUSE: SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILL

On April 22, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed its spending bill for the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.

The bill (H.R. 2028) includes $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau of Reclamation. Overall the measure provides the agencies under its jurisdiction with $1.2 billion more than FY 2015, though $633 million less than the president’s FY 2016 budget request.

The bill also includes a number of policy riders that have been introduced in past years, including language prohibiting the US Army Corps of Engineers from using funding to implement the Obama administration’s rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways. Another rider included in the bill would prohibit use of federal funds to implement the Obama administration’s National Oceans Policy.

Enclosed are FY 2016 funding levels for specific federal agencies and programs compared to the FY 2015 enacted level:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.6 billion;a $142 million increase.

Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science: $5.1 billion; a $29 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: $1.7 billion; a $226.2 million decrease.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion; a $35 million decrease.

The policy riders restricting Obama administration regulatory efforts, if maintained by the Republican-controlled Senate, increase the likelihood that extended continuing resolutions will be needed to prevent a federal government shutdown on Sept. 30, 2015, when the current fiscal year ends.

The bill will be considered on the House floor this week.

Click here for additional information on the bill:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394139

Click here for the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 2028:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2028r_20150428.pdf 

GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: SOCIETY LETTER SUPPORTS FEDERAL PARTICIPATION AT SCIENCE CONFERENCES

On April 21, the Ecological Society of America joined over 80 scientific, medical and education organizations by signing a letter from the American Association for the Advancement of Science expressing concern with regulatory and legislative efforts that would hinder federal agency employees’ ability to participate and scientific conferences.

“The formal and informal interactions that take place at scientific and technical conferences are a crucial part of the innovation process and help to maximize the return on taxpayer investment in scientific research,” the letter notes. “Whether providing rapid pathways for bringing scientific advances to bear on societal needs, spurring new collaborations that promote exciting interdisciplinary investigations, or simply providing cost-effective venues for scientific program management and oversight, scientific conferences are crucial to the efficient functioning of our innovation ecosystem and maximizing the return on federal investments in science.”

S. 1347, the Conference Accountability Act, was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee during the 113th Congress, but never reached the Senate floor for a vote. The bill, which included stringent conference attendance requirements for federal employees, was introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who retired last year. Similar legislation has not yet been introduced in the current 114th Congress.

Click here to view the full letter:

http://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/HSGAC-ST-Conference-Travel-Letter1.pdf

APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OPPOSE CLIMATE RIDERS

As congressional appropriators begin unveiling their Fiscal Year 2016 funding bills, the Ecological Society of America joined 10 other scientific societies in sending a letter to key appropriators and other congressional leaders requesting these funding bills omit language prohibiting federal agencies from conducting or accessing global climate change research.

“Allowing federal agencies to access all the available science is critical to ensuring the optimal policy outcome for the United States,” the letter states. “To forbid such access would be a disservice to the American people. Full access to scientific research is especially critical for climate change because there is strong evidence that ongoing climate change is and will continue to broadly affect society—including our economy, security, health, agriculture, and environment.”

Click here to read the full letter.

USGS: NEW REPORT LINKS HYDRAULIC FRACTURING TO EARTHQUAKES

On April 23, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released a report linking increased seismic activity in the US to industrial disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing activities.

The report outlines a preliminary set of models that seek to calculate how frequently earthquakes are expected to occur in the next year and how hard the ground will shake as a result. The agency reviewed 17 areas in eight states that reported significant increases in seismic activity since 2009. The states monitored included Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Texas.

USGS maintains that “the actual hydraulic fracturing process is only occasionally the direct cause of felt earthquakes.”

Click here for additional information:

http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=4202#.VT_OSiFViko

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITES

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations due May 27, 2015

Request for Nominations of Candidates to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-09782

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Comments due June 23, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for the Santa Barbara County Distinct Population Segment of the California Tiger Salamander.

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-09547

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 1924, the Hispanic Opportunity Program in Education and Science Act – Introduced April 21 by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the bill would provide for the establishment of a program by the National Science Foundation to support undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at Hispanic-serving institutions. The bill has been referred to the House, Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 1967, the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act – Introduced April 22 by Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Jamie Herrera Butler (R-WA) the bill would allow federal agencies to use existing funds to design prize competitions in order to increase our ability to manage, research, and monitor ocean acidification and its impacts. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On April 28, the Environment and Public Works Committee approved the following bills:

S. 544, the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015 – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill prohibits the US Environmental Protection Agency from finalizing rules based on science that is not “transparent of reproducible” and requires the agency to make publicly available all research data used to develop its rulemakings. Opponents of the bill state it would restrict the EPA’s ability to formulate rules based on private health information. 

The House companion (H.R. 1030) was passed by the House on March 18 by a vote of 241-175. The White House has threatened to veto the bill. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on the Secret Science Reform Act.

 S. 611, the Grassroots Rural and Small Community Water Systems Assistance Act – Introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), the bill would reauthorize the Safe Drinking Water Act’s assistance and training provision for six years to provide competitive grants to help rural and small communities comply with federal drinking water regulations.

 S. 653, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act – Introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and John Boozman (R-AR), the bill would reauthorize federal grant funding for water resources research institutes in the United States and its territories.

 S. 697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st CenturyAct – Introduced by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA), the bill makes it easier for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove chemicals from the marketplace. Specifically, it mandates that EPA to consider only the health and safety impacts of a chemical – never the cost or burden to manufacturers – when assessing chemicals for safety.

Addressing concerns of Senate Democrats, the bill was modified with provisions preempting state regulatory efforts. The bill now specifies that the rules would not affect states’ air and water laws and clarifies that states would not be barred at any point from requiring chemical disclosure laws. It also lets states keep existing chemical bans put in place before Aug. 1, 2015, rather than Jan. 1, 2015, allowing state governments to enact new chemical bans this year that would not be affected by changes in federal law. It also removed a provision that would have made it more difficult for EPA to restrict imports of harmful chemicals.

Cleared for White House

 535, the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act – Introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the bill would 1) establish a voluntary, market-driven approach to aligning the interests of commercial building owners and their tenants to reduce energy consumption 2) exempt certain electric resistance water heaters used for demand response from pending Department of Energy regulation and 3) require that federally-leased buildings without Energy Star labels benchmark and disclose their energy usage data, where practical.

The bill passed the Senate March 27 by unanimous consent and passed the House April 21 by voice vote. It was presented to the president April 23.


Sources: House Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, United States Geological Survey, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill