ESA Policy News: May 18

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


On May 10, the House passed H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among other agencies.

The bill passed by a vote of 247-163 with 23 Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in supporting the measure. Democrats supporting the measure included House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) and House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA). In total, the bill provides $51.1 billion in funding for FY 2013, $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 million below the president’s FY 2013 budget request.

The White House has released a statement of administration policy declaring that President Obama will veto the bill, if it is presented to him in its current form. The administration asserts that the bill’s overall funding level violates those set by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), agreed to in August of last year, and says  that the cuts included in the bill will be a detriment in furthering “economic growth, security, and global competitiveness” for the nation. While applauding the funding for the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the $7.3 billion funding level for NSF, the White House says that significant funding cuts to NOAA would adversely affect the agency’s ability to implement the nation’s fisheries and oceans stewardship programs.

The House bill must be reconciled with the Senate CJS bill approved in committee last month.  For additional background on the House and Senate CJS appropriations bills, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News. To view the full White House statement of administration policy on the House CJS appropriations bill, click here.


On May 10, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “American Jobs and the Economy through Expanded Energy Production:  Challenges and Opportunities of Unconventional Resources Technology.”

“The amount of energy under own soil is striking.  With continued technological advances and the right policies to enable access to these resources, America could become the global leader in energy production for the next generation and beyond,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). “The Green River Basin, located in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, may contain up to three trillion barrels of oil, more potential oil than the rest of the world’s current oil reserves combined. If this energy, which is overwhelmingly on Federal lands, is made available, I am confident American ingenuity will find ways to responsibly explore and produce this resource.”

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), serving as the Ranking Member due to Rep. Brad Miller’s (D-NY) absence, asserted that Republicans demonstrate discrepancy in their support for oil shale over alternative sources of energy. “I have listened as many of my Republican colleagues questioned the wisdom and need for public investments in renewable energy resources either through support of research or through tax incentives,” he said.  “But when it comes to offering subsidies to one of the wealthiest and most profitable industries in the world – the oil industry – their generosity knows no bounds.”

Representing the Obama administration were Charles McConnell, the Department of Energy’s  Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Anu Mittal, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). While noting that oil and gas production has increased annually since 2008, McConnell urged that energy development be implemented with safety and environmental protections and guided by the best available science. View the full hearing here.


On May 16, the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility convened for a hearing that examined how large companies have taken steps that both save money and protect the environment. During the hearing, witnesses representing businesses including FedEx Corp, Intel, Eastman Chemical Co. and Procter & Gamble discussed various steps they were implementing that take advantage of new technologies and reduce energy costs for business and consumers.

There was a consensus among the subcommittee leadership that investment in corporate sustainability will have multi-faceted benefits for the nation. “Businesses need water, energy and raw materials, and they will need them on an ongoing basis, even after those of us in this room are gone,” said Subcommittee Chairman Tom Udall (D-NM). “If businesses harness market forces to reduce energy use, raw materials, emissions and waste, they will improve their own future and future generations…More and more businesses like the ones here today are recognizing that competitive advantage, market share and innovation lie in doing more with less.” View the full hearing here.


On May 17, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) released a report entitled “On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife,” documenting the successful recovery of federally protected species.

The CBD report concludes that 90 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act are on track to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists. The study analyzed population data for 110 species from the year each was placed on the endangered species list through 2011. CBD reports that each species’ actual population trend and trajectory was compared to the timeline for recovery set out in government plans and that nearly all the animals and plants are recovering on time to meet federal goals.

The report notes that 80 percent of species have not been listed long enough to determine whether they will recover in the predicted time frame. Current species have been listed for an average of 32 years  but their recovery plans have a typical expected recovery period of 46 years. Additional information on the report can be found here.


On May 16, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water announced a new design competition called the Campus RainWorks Challenge to encourage student teams on college and university campuses across the country to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management.

EPA intends for the competition to raise awareness of green design and planning approaches at colleges and universities and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure practices. The project seeks to advance the idea that green infrastructure provides multiple environmental, social and economic benefits on college and university campuses.

EPA particularly encourages Minority Academic Institutions (MAIs) to apply. Registration for the Campus RainWorks Challenge opens September 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14, 2012 for consideration. Winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013. Winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 – $2,500, as well as $8,000 – $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure. Additional information can be found here.


On May 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Commerce announced a new effort to invest in environmental technology exports. The Environmental Technologies Export Initiative builds on President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and support millions of American jobs.

The web-based tool, scheduled to be launched this fall and hosted on, will offer U.S. environmental companies detailed information on federally supported activities including market research, scientific analysis, regulatory information and financial support programs. When launched, the online service will provide a more systematic approach for U.S. companies looking to expand markets for their environmental products and services abroad.

The new initiative will build on the Obama administration’s efforts to help companies market more of their goods and services abroad, particularly in the area of renewable energy, where the United States faces stiffening competition from China. According to EPA, the U.S. environmental industry generates approximately $312 billion in revenues each year, with a global market of more than $800 billion. The industry employs nearly 1.7 million Americans and includes over 60,000 small businesses across the country. For additional information, click here.


On May 4, the Department of Interior released a plan to require companies to report the chemicals they use to stimulate oil and gas production. The rules would apply only to federal and tribal land although the vast majority of fracking operations occur on private land.

According to the Department of Interior, existing regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal and Indian lands, where approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to greatly increase the volume of oil and gas available for production. The proposed rule would require public disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing within one month after fracturing operations have been completed.

Interior officials state that they plan to finalize the rules by the end of the year. Click here for further information on the rule as well as directions how to submit public comments.


On May 15, the Ecological Society of America participated in the Coalition for National Science Funding’s 18th Annual Exhibition and Reception entitled “STEM Research and Education: Underpinning American Innovation.”

ESA’s exhibit featured the research of ESA graduate student Sarah Roley of the University of Notre Dame. She spoke with numerous attendees, including federal agency and congressional staff, about her work on mitigating nutrient pollution in the agricultural Midwest. Roleyalso met  with congressional staff from the state of Indiana earlier that day to discuss her research and its application to Indiana. Nearly 40 exhibit booths presented a wide range of topics to policymakers including robotic sensors for monitoring water quality, social media and tweens, nanomaterials and environmental interactions and gender in STEM fields.

Read more at ESA’s blog, EcoTone or view the photo album on ESA’s Facebook page:


Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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