ESA Policy News August 7: Science groups oppose travel bill, White House outlines climate change costs

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



The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is among 70 research organizations that signed a letter expressing concern with legislation moving in the Senate that would impose restrictions on the ability of government scientists and engineers to participate in scientific conferences.

On July 30th, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved S. 1347, the Conference Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). The approved legislation includes language proposed by the bill’s sponsor that would add additional limits to existing travel policy regulations imposed on government employees in the wake of the General Services Administration scandal. It passed the committee by voice vote.

The bill includes language prohibiting a federal agency from expending funds on “not more than one conference that is sponsored or organized by a particular organization during any fiscal year, unless the agency is the primary sponsor and organizer of the conference.”

In addition to this letter, ESA also submitted a letter on the importance of scientific conferences to the committee earlier this year. Read the scientific societies letter by clicking this link. View the January ESA letter by clicking this link.


On August 1st, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The bill provides $30.7 billion for the US Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Forest Service, slightly higher than the $30.2 billion provided in the House version of the bill.

Funding levels are as follows for selected agencies:

  • EPA: $8.2 billion, an $18 million decrease below FY 2014. The Senate bill would increase funding for climate-related activities by $9.8 million over FY 2014. This amount includes $8.8 million to implement the president’s Climate Action Plan. Science and technology programs at EPA would receive $752.88 million, a $6.3 million decrease.
  •  Office of Surface Mining: $144.8 million; a $5 million decrease below FY 2014.
  • Bureau of Land Management: $1.113 billion; a $6 million increase above FY 2014.
  • Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $72.4 million, a $3.4 million increase above FY 2014.
  • National Park Service: $2.632 billion; a $71 million increase above FY 2014.
  • US Forest Service: $4.626 billion; an $853.5 million decrease below FY 2014. The bill designates $2.171 billion to be shared by the US Forest Service and the Department of Interior for wildland fire suppression activities.
  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.451 billion; a $23 million increase over FY 2014.
  • US Geological Survey: $1.046 billion; a $14 million increase above FY 2014.
  • Smithsonian Institution: $825.4 million; a $20.4 million increase above FY 2014.

The Senate bill will be reconciled with its House version that was reported out of committee, but has yet to be voted by the full US House of Representatives.

For additional information on the Senate FY 2015 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill, click this link.

For information on the House FY 2015 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill, see the July 11, 2014 edition of ESA Policy News by clicking this link.


On July 31st, Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced a draft bill to reauthorize the original America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69).

Entitled the “America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014,” the bill authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. As an authorization measure, the bill does not provide actual funding, which is allocated through the appropriations process. As an authorization, the bill sets maximum spending levels for the agencies for coming fiscal years. These spending ceilings serve as a guide for appropriators when crafting their annual spending bills.

The Senate comprehensive multiyear funding reauthorization bill is markedly different than the approach the US House of Representatives has taken to reauthorizing America COMPETES. The House has taken a multi-bill approach, which includes H.R. 4869, the Energy Research and Development Act, which reauthorizes the DOE Office of Science, and the H.R. 4186, the FIRST Act, which reauthorizes NSF and NIST.

Uniquely, the Senate bill would reauthorize annual budget increases for NSF at about 6.7 percent. This increase is significantly higher than the one percent budget increase authorized under the FIRST Act. It is also greater than the 4.9 percent budget increase for NSF authorized under the America COMPETES reauthorization bill introduced by House Democrats. Annual increases for NSF have average 2.2 percent over the past five years, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The original America COMPETES authorized doubling the budgets for NSF, NIST and DOE science by FY 2013, a goal hindered by a congressional focus on restraining overall discretionary spending in light of the burgeoning national debt.

For additional information on the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2014, click this link.


A new White House report entitled “The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change” found that the economic costs associated with delaying action to address climate change will exponentially increase over time.

Delay in action will cost the US 40 percent more for each future decade the US fails to take action to mitigate climate change. According to the findings, the United States faces yearly economic losses of $150 billion if the world fails to decrease its use of fossil fuels, which are the primary cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report was conducted by the White House Council of Economic Advisers. View the full report by clicking this link.


On August 5th, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren appeared in a video discussing the links between climate change and increasingly long and intense wildfire seasons in the western United States.

“The influence of climate change on the wildfire regime comes not just from the higher summer temperatures and reduced summer soil moisture that go with global warming,” stated Holdren. “Climate change is also bringing us more dead trees—kindling in effect—killed by a combination of heat stress, water stress and attacks by pests and pathogens that multiply faster in a warmer world.”

View the full video by clicking this link.


The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new report that for the first time provides uniform scientific methods for cataloging efforts by the farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their operations.

The report provides guidance in quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from activities related to animal production crop production, grazing and land management. The report is a tool for the agency to use in evaluating its existing greenhouse gas reduction programs and support the development of new methods to reduce carbon emissions.

For additional information on the USDA report, click this link.


Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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