ESA Policy News: April 20

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.

APPROPRIATIONS: CJS BILLS SUPPORT SCIENCE, SENATE TRANSFERS SATELLITES TO NASA

The week of April 16, both the House and Senate Commerce Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittees approved their respective funding bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.

In total, the House CJS appropriations bill would provide $51.1 billion to all agencies under its jurisdiction, a reduction of $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 below the president’s request. The Senate bill would fund all agencies under its jurisdiction at $51.862 billion, a $1 billion reduction from FY 2012.  While the House bill’s funding levels are overall less than the Senate, both chambers supported increases in key science agencies in comparison to the current fiscal year.

The Senate CJS bill would also move funding for weather satellite procurement from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). There has been bipartisan, bicameral criticism directed at NOAA’s costly satellites. According to Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the move would save $117 million in FY 2013 and reduce duplicative federal activities. Enclosed are funding levels for key science bureaus outlined within the House and Senate bills:

The National Science Foundation

House: $7.333 billion, an increase of $299 over FY 2012.

Senate: $7.273 billion, an increase of $240 million over FY 2012.

NASA

House: $17.6 billion, $226 million below FY 2012

Senate: $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over FY 2012. (*The increase is due to the bill’s provision transferring weather satellite procurement from NOAA to NASA. Absent these funds, the bill would mean a $41.5 million cut for NASA.

NOAA

House: $5 billion, $68 million above FY 2012

Senate: $3.4 billion, $1.47 billion below FY 2012

For additional information on the Senate CJS bill, click here. For additional information on the House CJS bill, click here. 

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE RELEASES FY 2013 ENERGY AND WATER BILL

On April 17, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee released its funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill, which funds federal programs for the Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and water programs within the Department of Interior, would be funded at $32.1 billion, $965 million less than the president’s request, yet a slight increase from FY 2012.

Department of Energy (DOE) – DOE would receive $26.3 billion, $365 million less than FY 2012. DOE environmental management activities would be funded at $5.5 billion, $166 million below FY 2012. The bill increases funding for nuclear security by $300 million from FY 2012 and would direct funding towards the abandoned nuclear waste dump under Yucca Mountain. The administration has repeatedly opposed opening the Yucca Mountain repository.

For DOE science programs, the bill would provide $4.8 billion, a decrease from $4.9 billion in FY 2012 and also less than the $5 billion proposed in the president’s budget. The bill also includes $554 million for research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil and other fossil energy technologies, a $207 million increase from FY 2012.

For additional information on the House Energy and Water bill, click here.

AIR POLLUTION: EPA ANNOUNCES NATURAL GAS DRILLING REGULATIONS

On April 17, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued new rules on  emissions  from the oil and gas industry.

According to EPA, the rules constitute the first federal air standards for natural gas wells that are hydraulically fractured and also include requirements for several other sources of pollution in the oil and gas industry that currently are not regulated at the federal level. The agency states that the rules would cut 95 percent of smog-forming and toxic emissions from wells developed with hydraulic fracturing.

Under the  rules, companies can comply with the standards until 2015 using flaring, which reduces harmful emissions by burning off the gases that would otherwise escape during natural-gas drilling. After 2015, companies will need to install so-called “green completions,”  technologies that capture harmful emissions. EPA estimates the combined rules will yield a cost savings of $11 to $19 million in 2015, arguing that the value of natural gas that will be recovered and sold will offset costs. For more on EPA’s air quality standards, click here.

GULF SPILL: REPORT ANALYZES PROGRESS MADE AFTER DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER

On April 17, the Oil Spill Commission Action project released a report assessing the progress the federal government and industry have made since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The report’s publication came just three days before the two year anniversary of the spill.

In implementing the commission’s recommendation, the report gives high marks for the administration, yet low marks to Congress. “Overall, we conclude that, although much more needs to be done, the administration and industry are undertaking important enhancements to make offshore drilling safer and to improve the nation’s ability to respond to oil spills that may occur. Unfortunately, so far, Congress has provided neither leadership nor support for these efforts,” the report states. The report goes on to note that Congress has actually passed bills that would lease drilling in offshore areas without adequate review, an effort that runs “contrary to what the commission concluded was essential for safe, prudent, responsible development of offshore oil resources.”

The Oil Spill Commission Action project is an outgrowth of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, established by President Obama. While the commission issued its final official report in January 2011, its members have continued the Oil Spill Commission Action project in an effort to ensure the commission’s recommendations to policymakers are implemented. View the full report here.

PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: ARMY CORPS RELEASES OYSTER RESTORATION PLAN

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently released a proposal to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s diminished oyster population.

Entitled the Native Oyster Restoration Master Plan, the initiative seeks to implement a “large-scale, science-based” approach towards oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. The bay’s oyster population has suffered from pollution, over-harvesting and diseases. The Corps’ plan identifies 19 tributaries for assessment that could drive a population rebound for the oysters.

The Corps will be accepting public comments on the plan through May 19. The agency expects to release the final plan by Dec. 5. Comments can be submitted by mail to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District, C/O Angie Sowers, P.O. Box 1715, Baltimore, MD 21203-1715 or via email:NativeOysterRestMasterPlan@usace.army.mil. Additional information can be found here.

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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