Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.
On Feb. 13, President Obama released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2013, which begins Oct. 1, 2012. While the $3.8 trillion budget continues the president’s focus on fiscal discipline with significant cuts to environmental initiatives, it also contains a wish list of proposed boosts for science and research programs intended to foster job creation.
In his message to Congress, the president maintained that investment in innovation is needed to help the economy recover. Revenue provisions of the proposed budget that would pay for increased funding by ending certain tax breaks for oil companies raising taxes on wealthy individuals are expected to be blocked by Congressional Republicans.
The budget highlights investments in clean energy as well as research and development (R&D) increases for most agencies. Overall, the president’s budget proposes $140.8 billion for federal R&D, an increase of $2 billion (or 1.2 percent) over the current FY 2012 enacted level. The budget also proposes $3 billion for Science Technology Education and Mathematics programs across federal agencies, a 2.6 percent increase over FY 2012 enacted levels. Additional information on the president’s FY 2013 budget request can be found here.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is the only federal agency that provides funding for basic research across all fields of science and engineering. Accordingly, the president’s FY 2013 budget request includes $7.4 billion for NSF, a 4.8 percent increase over the current enacted level for FY 2012. This includes a request for $5.98 billion for Research and Related Activities, an increase from $5.69 billion in FY 2012. NSF funding currently supports research at 1,875 colleges, universities and institutions and supports the research of an estimated 276,000 people.
The Directorate for Biological Sciences would receive $733.86 million dollars in FY 2013 under the president’s budget, an increase from $712.38 million in FY 2012. This includes $220.52 million for Integrative Organismal Systems (3.9 percent increase), $143.73 million for Environmental Biology (0.8 percent increase) and $129.68 million (2.8 percent increase) for Biological Infrastructure.
ENVIRONMENT: KEY CONSERVATION AGENCIES SEE MIX OF INVESTMENTS, CUTS
Overall, President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request seeks to balance continued investment in natural resource conservation efforts with a political climate that continues to prioritize fiscal restraint.
The president’s proposed FY 2013 budget recommends $8.3 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a decrease of $105 million (1.2 percent) compared with FY 2012. The decrease marks the third consecutive year in which the administration has proposed cutting the agency’s funding.
The administration rationalizes the decrease as prioritizing funds that specifically help enforce environmental and public health protections. Savings are achieved largely through cuts to the Drinking Water and Clean Water State Revolving Funds as well as the elimination of “outdated, underperforming and overlapping programs,” according to EPA. In total $50 million in EPA programs would be terminated, including a state grant program for the removal of radon and a beach grant program. The administration contends that efforts will be made to ensure the most deserving projects currently slated for cuts receive the necessary funding.
Overall, the Department of Interior’s discretionary funding would receive a one percent increase to $11.4 billion for FY 2013 under the president’s budget request.
Key Obama administration initiatives and programs would see increases. The administration’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative would receive $5.1 billion under the proposed budget, a $146 million increase from the FY 2012 enacted level. This includes $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a $105 million (30 percent) increase from current FY 2012 levels. The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund would receive $60 million, a $12.3 million increase over the current FY 2012 enacted level of $47.7 million.
The National Aeronautic Space Administration’s (NASA) overall budget would receive $17.7 billion in FY 2013, a $59 million decrease from FY 2012. However, environmental science programs would receive funding increases under the FY 2013 proposed budget. NASA’s earth science account would receive $1.78 billion in FY 2013, an increase from $1.76 billion in FY 2012. Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration would receive $619.2 million for FY 2013, an increase from $487 million in FY 2012.
The president’s FY 2013 budget request for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) includes $5.1 billion, an increase from the $4.9 billion appropriated for FY 2012. Contentious initiatives such as the plan to reorganize NOAA under the Department of Interior as well as NOAA’s Climate Service, opposed by Congressional Republicans, are not included in the budget proposal.
For the Department of Energy (DOE), the president’s budget includes $27.2 billion for FY 2013, a 3.2 percent increase over current FY 2012 levels.
The president’s budget for FY 2013 invests heavily in energy research with significant funding boosts for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). DOE’s Environmental Management program would see a funding drop, however, from $5.71 billion in FY 2012 to $5.65 billion in FY 2013. Hydrogen and fuel cell programs would also be slashed by 23 percent. The budget also includes $12 million to fund a multi-year research initiative that would go towards the development of technology and methods that reduce the health and safety risks of gas and oil production from hydraulic fracturing.
The discretionary spending request for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for FY 2013 is $24 billion, roughly the same as the president’s FY 2012 request. It would provide $23 billion in discretionary funding, a decrease of nearly three percent or almost $700 million, below the FY 2012 enacted level. When mandatory programs are included, the overall FY 2013 budget request for USDA rounds out at $154.5 billion, an increase from the $136.6 billion received for FY 2012.
The president’s budget request includes $6.1 billion for renewable energy investments. The FY 2013 budget also proposes $325 million, a $60 million increase above the FY 2012 enacted level, for competitive research grants made through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. The budget also proposes increases in-house research in select areas such as crop protection, sustainable agriculture, and food safety by $75 million while decreasing other areas that deal with research and the environment.