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In This Issue
Application period is open.
President-elect Transition Update
COMPETES fails, but may provide template for new Congress.
Continuing Resolution – Funding assured to April 28, includes new money for Flint, Louisiana and New York City.
Water Infrastructure Act Passes – Includes authorization for Flint, Michigan and Louisiana flood relief.
Amends previous executive order, includes consideration of climate change.
2017 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award
ESA invites you to apply for the 2017 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). Awardees receive first-hand engagement at the interface of science and public policy. The event will be held in Washington, DC from April 24-26, 2017.
Awardees will participate in the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition Congressional Visits Day, an annual event that brings scientists to the nation’s capital to speak-up for federal investment in the sciences. Participates also receive policy and communications training. Domestic travel, hotel, and meal expenses are paid by ESA.
The deadline to apply is January 10, 2017. We looking forward to viewing your application. Thank you in advance for representing your society on Capitol Hill!
Senate Passes Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act
Early Saturday morning, December 10, the Senate passed the compromise Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, S.612, in one of its last acts of the 114th Congress. WIIN encompasses much of the previously passed Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2016 including compromise language authorizing states to create permitting programs for coal ash disposal; improvements to harbors, dams and other water-related public works; provisions for the Flint Michigan lead-contaminated drinking water crisis; and California drought relief. Most of those provisions follow language in the previous WRDA, S.2848, passed in the Senate on September 15 by a 95 to 3 vote.
The California drought relief provision threatened to derail its passage as Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) spoke for hours against it. The provision allows for pumping of water from the San Francisco Bay watershed to agricultural areas in time of drought. Boxer argued that it would endanger salmon fisheries in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Five of six West Coast senators, all Democrats, joined Boxer in opposition to the bill.
Overwhelming support for the bill, however, convinced Boxer to withdraw her objections and it passed 78 to 21. Speaking outside the Senate chamber before the vote, Boxer commented “I think the House vote [360 to 61] was an indication that the bill is so popular. I wrote the darn thing. It’s too good. It’s so good, it’s so good for my state.” The bill passed with 26 projects for California.
In addition to provisions from the Water Resources Development Act, WIIN included the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians Water Rights Settlement Act, and the Water and Waste Act of 2016.
The White House has indicated support for the Act and is expected to sign it.
Executive Order – Safeguarding the Nation from the Impacts of Invasive Species
On December 5, President Obama signed an Executive Order amending Executive Order 13112 of February 3, 1999, which called upon executive departments to take steps to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species and to support efforts to eradicate and control invasive species that are already established. The 1999 order also established the Invasive Species Council to oversee implementation of that order and improve federal response to invasive species.
President Obama’s new order directs continued, coordinated federal action to prevent and control invasive species. It maintains the National Invasive Species Council and the Invasive Species Advisory Committee. It expands the membership of the Council, clarifies its operations and incorporates considerations of human and environmental health, climate change, technological innovation, and other emerging priorities into federal efforts to address invasive species.
It also directs the National Invasive Species Council to undertake a National Invasive Species Assessment, in coordination with the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s periodic national assessment, that evaluates the impact of invasive species on major U.S. assets. Among other things, it directs advancing national incident response, data collection, and rapid reporting capacities
It stipulates that by December 31, 2019, the Council shall publish a National Invasive Species Council Management Plan (Management Plan), which includes actions to further the implementation of the duties of the National Invasive Species Council. This new executive order reinforces the previous order, strengthens interagency coordination, and incorporates consideration of climate change and cost-efficient actions.
While largely consistent with the previous order, President Obama’s new order is subject to provisions of the Congressional Review Act which provides a period of 60 “session days” (days when Congress is in session) during which Congress can simply pass a resolution of disapproval to overturn an executive action or regulation. Those motions of disapproval are not subject to filibuster in the Senate, though they could still be vetoed by the president if passed.
Due to the possibility of a presidential veto, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has only once been successfully implemented against a November 2000 Clinton Administration regulation requiring employers to take measures to curb ergonomic injuries in the workplace. In March 2001, still under the 60-day provision, the Republican Congress passed a resolution of disapproval and newly-elected President George W. Bush quickly signed the disapproval. Because the CRA forbids the agency from creating similar regulations, ergonomic injuries in the workplace have continued to be unregulated.
House Republicans, in the just concluded Congress, unsuccessfully attempted to expand the scope of the CRA with the Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2016, H.R.5982, which would have allowed an “en bloc” resolution to disapprove multiple regulations rather than one at a time under the current CRA.
|ESA’s policy activities work to infuse ecological knowledge into national policy decisions through activities such as policy statements, Capitol Hill briefings, Congressional Visits Days and coalition involvement. Policy News Updates are bi-monthly summaries of major environmental and science policy news. They are produced by the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of America.
Send questions or comments to Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@esa.org.
Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.