In This Issue
On Dec. 11, the US House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill to continue funding for most federal agencies through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The Senate then passed a two-day continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. In a rare evening session on Dec. 13, the Senate passed the bill in a bipartisan vote of 56-40.
Dubbed the “CRomnibus,” (a play on the words continuing resolution and omnibus), the bill funds most federal agencies throughout the remainder of FY 2015 ending on Sept. 30, 2015. The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded under a CR until Feb. 2015. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) negotiated the compromise agreement.
During House floor consideration of the measure, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) stated that he was unwilling to revise the bill’s text. If Congress could not pass the bill this year, the House would take up a CR to fund the government through early next year when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. This helped influence a small, yet pivotal number of Democrats to conclude that supporting the current funding package was preferable to negotiating an FY 2015 appropriations bill in a political climate where Democrats had little leverage in both chambers.
Despite having concerns with certain provisions in the bill, the White House actively lobbied Congressional Democrats to support the legislation. The top two Democrats in the House were divided on the measure. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voted against the bill while Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) voted for it.
Republicans were successful in including language delaying the US Fish and Wildlife Service from making a determination to list the sage grouse as an endangered species for a year as well as strengthening Clean Water Act exemptions for the agricultural industry. However, the bill did not include language prohibiting the US Environmental Protection Agency from implementing the administration’s climate action plan. It also did not include restrictions on research into the social and behavioral sciences.
Under the measure, most federal agencies enjoyed only modest increases due to spending caps set forth under the Murray-Ryan budget agreement. The FY 2015 spending levels for federal agencies and programs of interest to the ecological community in comparison to FY 2014 enacted spending are as follows:
Agriculture Research Service: $1.8 billion, a $55.1 million increase.
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $871 million, a $49 million increase.
Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion, a $13.7 million increase.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $72.4 million, a $3.4 million increase.
Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $25.8 million increase.
Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $81 million, a $2.4 million increase.
Department of Energy Biological and Environmental Research: $592 million, an $18.2 million decrease.
Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.1 billion, level with FY 2014.
Environmental Protection Agency: $8.1 billion, a $60.1 million decrease.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $18 billion, a $364 million increase.
National Science Foundation: $7.3 billion, a $172.3 million increase.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion, a $126 million increase.
Natural Resources Conservation Service: $858.4 million, a $33.5 million increase.
National Park Service: $2.6 billion, a $53.1 million increase
Smithsonian Institution: $819.5 million, a $14.5 million increase.
US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.5 billion, a $15 million increase.
US Forest Service: $5.1 billion, a $423.4 million decrease.
US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.4 billion, a $12.4 million increase.
US Geological Survey: $1 billion, a $13 million increase.
Click here for additional information on the FY 2015 omnibus bill:
Click here for summaries of individual appropriations bills included in the FY 2015 omnibus:
Click here for the White House Statement of Administration Policy:
With the Senate set to change hands in January, Democrats and Republicans announced their picks for top committee positions for the 114th Congress.
The Senate will change from a 55-45 governing Democratic majority to a 54-46 Republican majority (Independents Angus King (ME) and Bernie Sanders (VT) will continue to caucus with Democrats). Committee membership rosters are proportional to the number of party members in the Senate, so committees will lose Democratic members while gaining a few Republican seats on most committees.
Republicans will gain two seats while Democrats will lose two seats on these Senate Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
Below is a list of chair and ranking member positions for Senate committees with jurisdiction over legislation of interest to the ecological community:
Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee: Pat Roberts (KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
Appropriations: Thad Cochran (R-MS), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
Budget: Republican TBD, Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Commerce Science and Transportation: John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL)
Energy and Natural Resources: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
Environment and Public Works: James Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Mike Enzi (R-WY), Patty Murray (D-WA)
The US Census Bureau has identified the “Field of Degree” question as a candidate for removal from its American Community Survey (ACS), which tracks population demographics that help determine how federal and state resources are directed. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) relies on this question to identify scientists and engineers in the US population and to compile and track statistical data trends in the science and engineering workforce.
NCSES has reached a preliminary conclusion that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the same level of quality data collection through alternative means without significant additional costs to the federal government and burden to survey respondents.
NSF’s National Science Board is urging stakeholders to respond to the US Census Bureau’s call for public comment, published in the Federal Register. The public comment period expires Dec. 30, 2014.
On Dec. 12, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill includes an omnibus package of bipartisan public lands bills supported by outgoing Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and retiring House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA).
The 450-page public lands package is the largest federal lands initiative passed by Congress since the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11). Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) sought to strip the public lands provisions from the defense authorization bill, but his motion failed by a strongly bipartisan vote of 18-82. The president is expected to sign the bill.
The compromise agreement both designates new protected areas while opening other areas to logging and energy development. The bill designates approximately 245,000 acres as wilderness in wilderness in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington and Montana and protects 140 miles of rivers. It also releases 26,000 acres of wilderness study areas for private development.
The bill includes language authored by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on the Tongass National Forest. About 70,000 acres of old-growth forest will be transferred to Sealaska, an Alaska Native corporation, settling the longstanding debt owed to southeast tribes under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The bill would also put 150,000 acres of Tongass old-growth in new conservation areas. Murkowski will chair the committee in January when Republicans take control of the Senate.
It also incorporates a bill by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to authorize a land swap between the federal government and mining company Rio Tinto PLC. The move opens up 2,400 acres of Arizona’s Tonto National Forest to copper development.
Its location near sacred tribal land spurred strong opposition from Native Americans. Reps. Tom Cole (R-OK), a member of the Chickasaw Nation and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), a member of the Cherokee Nation, broke with a majority of their party to oppose the legislation. The Obama administration also opposed the Arizona land swap language.
Click here for additional information on the public lands provisions:
Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has been selected to succeed retiring Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) as the House co-chair of the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force at the start of the 114th Congress. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will continue as the Senate co-chair.
Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse established the group to draw congressional and public attention to climate change and push for policy action. The group periodically releases fact sheets on alternative energy sources and makes public statements about national policy developments or actions related to climate change.
Congressman Van Hollen is the current Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and serves as Vice-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. He has sponsored H.R. 5271, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, which would charge carbon-emitting industries to cut their emissions 80 percent by 2050 to 2005 levels. The revenue generated would be returned to the public in the form of a “Healthy Climate Dividend.”
Click here for additional information on the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Solicitation: Nominations due Jan. 9, 2015
NOAA is requesting nominations for members of its Science Advisory Board.
Notice: Public comment period closes Jan. 26, 2015
National invasive lionfish prevention and management plan
Proposed rule: Public comment period closes Mar. 9, 2015
Critical Habitat Designation for the Arctic subspecies (Phoca hispida hispida) of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida)
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Draft Recovery Plan: Public comment period closes Feb. 9, 2015
Draft recovery strategy for four Santa Rosa Plain CA animal and plant species.
S.Res. 564, honoring conservation on the centennial of the passenger pigeon extinction – Introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the nonbinding resolution commemorates the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon extinction and recognizes the importance conserving natural habitats for bird populations and preserving biodiversity.
H.R. 5771, the Tax Increase Prevention Act – Introduced by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), the bill extends a number of tax cuts and credits that expired in 2013 and 2014, including the research development tax credit. The bill extends these measures only through the end of this year to make 2014 tax filing easier. The White House threatened to veto a more comprehensive long-term bill, arguing it extended breaks for businesses while failing to include certain extensions that affect low-income and middle-class workers. The bill passed the Senate Dec. 16 by a vote of 76-16 after passing the House Dec. 3 by a vote of 378-46. The president is expected to sign the measure.
1800, the Bureau of Reclamation Transparency Act – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would require biannual reports on repair needs for the nation’s federally owned dams and other Bureau of Reclamation-managed facilities. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent Dec. 16.
Sources: National Science Foundation, US Census Bureau, House Appropriations Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, National Journal, Roll Call