ESA Policy News May 20: America COMPETES reauthorization set for House floor vote, ESA GSPA winners visit Capitol Hill, NSF report analyzes STEM workforce
May20

ESA Policy News May 20: America COMPETES reauthorization set for House floor vote, ESA GSPA winners visit Capitol Hill, NSF report analyzes STEM workforce

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SCIENCE: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION BILL HITS HOUSE FLOOR This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The Ecological Society of America was among many scientific and education societies who issued action alerts to membership calling for scientists to express concern with the bill. The original America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) was a strongly bipartisan measure passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by a Republican president. It contained significant increases for federal science agencies. The 2007 bill and its 2010 reauthorization (P.L. 111-358) received strong support from the scientific community. In contrast, the 2015 bill is expected to pass the House largely along partisan lines and includes only mild increases for the federal agencies authorized in the bill. These increases also come at the cost of targeted cuts to the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Office and the NSF directorates for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and the geosciences. The White House also issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill. Read the statement here. Click here to read NSF’s Impact Statement about the bill’s consequences to the research community. Click here to read ESA’s letter. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 CJS FUNDING BILL On May 13, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee unveiled its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding bill. The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2015. In total, the bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending in FY 2016, a $1.3 billion increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $50 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted funding level, but $300 million less than the president’s request for FY 2016. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level.  The National Aeronautic and Space Administration would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. Science programs at the agency would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level. Additional information on the...

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ESA Policy News April 29: Scientific societies weigh in on America COMPETES reauthorization, relay support for federal participation at conferences, oppose ‘climate riders’
Apr29

ESA Policy News April 29: Scientific societies weigh in on America COMPETES reauthorization, relay support for federal participation at conferences, oppose ‘climate riders’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION On April 22, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee passed Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. The bill passed by a party-line vote of 19-16. H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, would reauthorize funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Collectively, this bill authorizes a five percent increase for these agencies through Fiscal Year 2017. However, a large number of controversial provisions in the bill drew critique from committee Democrats and the scientific community, which opposed the bill. The bill boosts funding for DOE fusion and the NSF directorates with jurisdiction over the biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, computer science and engineering at the cost of sharp cuts to NSF geosciences, social and behavioral directorates and DOE renewable energy and environmental research. DOE Office of Science is flat-funded as are DOE high energy and nuclear physics, DOE advanced computing and DOE basic energy sciences. While the bill somewhat softens transparency and accountability requirement language from past bills, it expands oversight and legislative authority in others. Foremost of concern was that the bill authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation by directorate, which Congress hasn’t done since Fiscal Year 1999, when the agency’s pot of money was significantly smaller and in a period where the agency was arguably under less contentious political scrutiny. The Ecological Society of America was among professional organizations in the scientific, education and conservation community writing in opposition to the bill. ESA also signed onto a joint letter from the Coalition for National Science Funding opposing the bill. Click here to view the mark-up. Click here to view the statement from Chairman Smith and Chairman Thune. Click here to view the ESA letter. Click here to view the CNSF letter. Click here to view Democratic amendments and additional letters from professional organizations opposing H.R. 1806. Click here for a summary of H.R. 1898, the Democratic alternative America COMPETES Reauthorization Act. HOUSE: SUBCOMMITTEE APPROVES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILL On April 22, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water passed its spending bill for the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill (H.R. 2028) includes $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau...

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ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’
Apr15

ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.    DROUGHT: CALIFORNIA ORDERS MANDATORY CUTS IN WATER USAGE On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a landmark executive order requiring state residents to cut their water usage by 25 percent through February 28, 2016. The first-ever water restrictions target watering on lawns, campuses, cemeteries and golf courses. The order also instructs the California Energy Commission to pass appliance efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals and other appliances resulting in saving 10 billion gallons of water in the first year. It also directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to discourage overuse. On April 9, the California Energy Commission adopted new efficiency standards for water-using appliances. The emergency situation allowed the Commission to prohibit the sale and installation of certain toilets, urinals and faucets that do not meet minimum water efficiency requirements as of Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of the manufactured date. Click here to view the full executive order announcement. Click here to view the California Energy Commission announcement. EPA: LETTERS SEEK TO CURB USAGE OF PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO POLLINATORS The US Environmental Protection Agency issued correspondence notifying manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use that applications to the agency seeking approval for usage may not be approved until risk assessments to pollinators are complete. The agency asks manufacturers with pending registrations for outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides to withdraw or change any references to using the product outdoors by April 30. Click here for more information. EUROPEAN ACADEMIES: NEONICOTINOIDS STUDY RELEASED On April 8, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its latest study on neonicotinoids and their effects on ecosystem services. It concludes that widespread preventive use of neonicotinoids has adverse effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity. David Inouye, ESA president offered his insight on the report. “The effects on pollinators (other than honey bees and bumble bees) and organisms that contribute to natural pest control and soil functioning have rarely been addressed in research so far, but acute lethal or sub-lethal effects have been observed on several natural pest control species such as insects and birds, and soil dwelling species such as earthworms. Thus neonicotinoids appear to have many of the same detrimental features that previous generations of pesticides, starting with DDT, have ultimately been found to have.” Click here for more information. EPA: CLEAN WATER RULE SENT TO WHITE HOUSE FOR FINAL REVIEW On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency and...

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ESA Policy News April 1: House, Senate pass FY 2016 budgets, Obama orders federal agencies to cut carbon emissions, NSF releases public access policy
Apr01

ESA Policy News April 1: House, Senate pass FY 2016 budgets, Obama orders federal agencies to cut carbon emissions, NSF releases public access policy

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  BUDGET: HOUSE AND SENATE FY 2016 BUDGET PROPOSALS ADVANCE IN CONGRESS In late March, the House and Senate Budget Committees released their respective budgets for Fiscal Year 2016 that begins Sept. 30. The House passed its FY 2016 budget (H.Con.Res. 27) March 25 by a vote of 228–199. All Democrats opposed the House budget as did 17 Republicans. The Senate budget (S.Con.Res. 11) passed its budget March 27 by a vote of 52–46, also along largely partisan lines. Sens. Rand Paul (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined all Democrats in voting against the Senate budget. In contrast to the president’s annual proposed budget, House and Senate budgets do not outline spending levels for specific federal agencies and programs. The budgets are nonbinding resolutions that set general polices intended to provide direction to House and Senate appropriators. Leaders of the House and Senate Budget Committees hope to reconcile their budgets by mid-April. As concurrent resolutions simply express the intent of Congress, they are not sent to the president. With Republicans in control of both chambers, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets are fairly similar. Unlike the president’s FY 2016 proposed budget, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets would seek to balance the budget in ten years. This deficit reduction would be achieved largely through repealing the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid, Pell grants and the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program that provides food stamps. The president’s proposal would not balance the budget in ten years, but would keep the deficit from substantially increasing. The House and Senate budgets also differ from the president’s proposal because they adhere to the annual automatic sequestration cuts for all federal discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112–25). Both budgets would provide defense discretionary spending with $523 billion and non-defense discretionary with $493 billion in FY 2016. Given that Congressional Democrats and the White House object to many of the policy prescriptions included in the two budgets, it is unlikely that the final FY 2016 appropriations bills will be signed into law without some concessions to Democrats on discretionary spending levels. Click here for additional information on the House budget. Click here for additional information on the Senate budget. Click here for a White House analysis comparing the congressional budgets with the president’s proposal. WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT ORDERS REDUCTION IN FEDERAL AGENCY EMISSIONS On March 19, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) output by 40 percent by 2025 compared with 2008 levels. The CO2...

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ESA Policy News March 18: House reviews NSF budget request, FWS bans four constrictor snakes, ESA comments on EPA biomass memo
Mar18

ESA Policy News March 18: House reviews NSF budget request, FWS bans four constrictor snakes, ESA comments on EPA biomass memo

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: CJS SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST On March 17, the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget. The request is for $7.7 billion for the agency, a five percent increase over FY 2015. During the hearing, Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) expressed support for NSF while also asserting that it is important to ensure NSF grant awards continue to reinforce its reputation for funding high-quality research. NSF Director France Córdova referenced the new guidance released several months ago to promote accountability and transparency for program officers, specifically citing the requirement that a nontechnical description explains each research project’s national significance. Córdova also defended funding for the social and behavioral sciences. She noted that NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Directorate has funded 51 Nobel Prize recipients since 1998. Chairman Culberson asked Córdova about NSF Inspector General (IG) reports that critique agency expense audits on major research equipment and facilities construction projects. Córdova stated that the agency will continue to strengthen its policies and procedures and address the IG recommendations. She affirmed that the agency properly follows the Office of Management and Budget guidelines for contingency funding and awards. Click here to view the full hearing. INVASIVE SPECIES: FWS BANS IMPORTATION OF FOUR CONSTRICTOR SNAKES On March 6, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a ban on import and transport of four nonnative large constrictor snake species under the Lacey Act. A fifth snake species, the boa constrictor, was removed from consideration for the restrictions. The restrictions define the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda and the Beni anaconda as “injurious” under the Lacey Act. The reticulated python and the green anaconda have been traded commercially as pets in the United States. The Beni and DeSchaunsee’s anaconda are not believed to be present in the US. The ban on all four snakes will go into effect on April 9, which is 30 days after the formal listing in the Federal Register. Click here for additional information. CLIMATE: ESA EXPRESSES CONCERN WITH BIOMASS MEMO ON WOOD BURNING On March 11, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern with an internal agency memo proposing to credit wood biomass use in carbon emission reduction efforts. The EPA memo, issued in Nov. 2014, contends that using biomass as a source of power is likely to have little or no net contributions to carbon dioxide emissions if the biomass is...

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ESA Policy News February 19: President’s FY 2016 budget request, NRC examines geoengineering, ESA scientists talk climate on the Hill
Feb19

ESA Policy News February 19: President’s FY 2016 budget request, NRC examines geoengineering, ESA scientists talk climate on the Hill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SCIENCE: RESEARCH INVESTMENTS GET BOOST IN PRESIDENT’S FY 2016 FUNDING PROPOSAL On Feb. 2, the president released the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget. It functions as a wish list of administration federal policy priorities in the government’s budget. However, Congress, holding the “power of the purse,” has the final say on how these priorities are rolled into the 12 appropriations bills that fund the government. While the Budget Control Act of 2011 limits FY 2016 discretionary spending to $1.016 trillion, the president’s proposed budget would provide $1.091 trillion. This spending increase is paid for through various proposals in the president’s budget to raise revenue by closing loopholes in the tax code and also increasing taxes for wealthier Americans and other entities. Legislation to increase tax revenue is not expected to move in the Republican-controlled Congress. Consequently, the president’s budget spending increases are unlikely to be included in the 12 appropriations bills Congress passes later this year. Overall, the president’s budget request would provide $146 billion for federal research and development (R&D), a 5.5 percent increase over the FY 2015 enacted level.  While the overall R&D figure is good, basic research that funds most US academics only increases by 2.6 percent, to $32 billion. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education programs would receive $3 billion in FY 2016, a 3.6 increase over FY 2015. Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 NSF budget. Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 NOAA budget. Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 USDA budget request. Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 DOE budget request. Click here for additional information on the FY 2016 USGS budget request. Click here for additional information on the White House’s R&D investments. EPA: PRESIDENT’S BUDGET REQUEST PRIORITIZES CLIMATE ACTION For the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the president’s FY 2016 request provides $8.6 billion, $452 million above the FY 2015 enacted level. This includes a $120 million increase towards agency-wide programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change. Programs that would be eliminated in the president’s budget include the Beaches Protection categorical grants and the Water Quality Research and Support grants. Below are FY 2016 funding levels for specific EPA programs compared to FY 2015 enacted levels: Environmental Program and Management: $2.84 billion; a $228.03 million increase. Environmental Education: $11 million; a $2.3 million increase. Water Quality Protection: $254.3 million; a $43.88 million increase. Hazardous Substance Superfund: $1.088 billion; a $65.07 million increase. Environmental Justice: $14.6 million; a $7.3 million increase. EPA Science and Technology: $759.2 million;...

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The importance of investing in the researchers of the future
Jul09

The importance of investing in the researchers of the future

In the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2014 Graduate Student Policy (GSPA) Award winner Brittany West Marsden (the University of Maryland) reflects on her meeting with various congressional office staff this past spring. She explains how this experience “demystified” the perceived complexity of engaging in the policymaking process. During the podcast, Marsden elaborates on her conversation with a congressional staffer who she cited as being strong advocate for science. The congressional staffer asked Marsden and the other students in attendance about their long-term career goals. The students voiced their reservations about pursuing careers that rely on grant funding. Increasingly, they see their professors spend more time applying for funding at the expense of doing actual scientific research. “We think about investing in the products of research, but we also can’t overlook investing in the future researchers themselves,” stated Marsden. The Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition meetings, which Marsden and other 2014 GSPA winners attended, allowed the graduate students to highlight various federal research programs that aid in their science-career development. The meeting conversations included federal programs such as the National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education Traineeship and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship, in which Marsden participated. In the podcast, Marsden noted how the EPA STAR Fellowship fostered her progress throughout graduate school and expanded her network of scientific contacts around the country. Unfortunately, the residual impacts of the 2013 sequestration cuts to the federal budget including spending cuts to EPA and other federal agency programs are diminishing the funding opportunities available for graduate-student career development. The practical and long-term residual effects of this reduced funding are multifold. As mentioned above, one effect is graduate students choosing careers outside of science; another effect is the possibility of students taking their talents to other countries. Insufficient or lack of sustained funding also limits the ability of career scientists to conduct the research that has led to discoveries that help improve American society. Many scientific breakthroughs occurred by chance or happenstance such as commonplace microwave ovens or Alexander Fleming’s accidental encounter with penicillium mold in 1928. Over the long term, lack of federal-science investment hinders the United States’ capacity to compete globally and create the jobs of the future that bolster economic development and opportunity. Recent reports conclude the United States is on the precipice of falling behind other countries in its share of research and development investment. In short, if the US wants to remain a leader in scientific innovation and achievement, it is critical for the nation to invest in programs and initiatives that draw young...

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ESA Policy News May 2, 2014: House bill boosts NSF, NOAA climate research reviewed, new USDA conservation programs
May02

ESA Policy News May 2, 2014: House bill boosts NSF, NOAA climate research reviewed, new USDA conservation programs

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL INCREASES SCIENCE INVESTMENT On April 30, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee released its funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2014. The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $237 million increase over the FY 2014 enacted funding level and $150 million above the president’s request for FY 2015. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.3 billion in FY 2015; level with its FY 2014 enacted funding level. The bill also fully funds NOAA’s two satellite programs—the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Additional information on the bill is available here. SENATE: HEARING EXAMINES IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH INVESTMENT On April 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Driving Innovation through Federal Investments.” The hearing focused on the important role that federal funding plays in supporting scientific research. “It’s not an understatement to argue that federal investment in research is an investment in America’s future,” stated Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). “This realization has led me, and many of my colleagues, to consider some difficult questions.” “I agree reducing the budget deficit is important, but are we being so austere that we are limiting our future growth? And as one of the greatest countries in the world, are we so preoccupied with making budget cuts that we’re heading towards an innovation deficit as well?” Federal agency witnesses testifying before the committee included Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren. He noted that while the share of funding for US research and development supported by the federal government has dropped from as much as two-thirds in the 1960s to one-third today, the federal government remains “the largest funder of the basic research that produces the seed-corn from which all applied advances in innovation grow.” Holdren noted that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is currently viewed around the world as “the gold standard” in its peer review grant-making process and argued that the agency’s existing grant-making process be maintained. View the full hearing here. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NOAA PRIORITIES On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing examining the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While expressing support for the overall NOAA budget request, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) was...

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