ESA Policy News: October 7

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS APPROVES, PRESIDENT SIGNS TEMPORARY SPENDING BILL On Oct. 5, President Obama signed the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-36), which provides federal funding for the new fiscal year (FY) 2012 through Nov. 18. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 79-12 and the House by a vote of 352-66. The agreement came in part when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced late last month that it would not need additional funds for the remainder of FY 2011, which ended Sept. 30. Consequently, the compromise legislation provided $2.6 billion to FEMA for disaster relief spending with no offsets. The funding would address the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, flooding and other natural disasters that occurred during calendar year 2011. The agreement also eliminated the $1.5 billion offset cut to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) advanced vehicle loan program. The bill provides additional time for Congress to continue work on its 12 individual FY 2012 appropriations bills.  To date, the House has passed six individual bills and the Senate has passed one. Neither of the bills has been agreed upon by both bodies, which must reconcile and pass the bills  before they can be sent to the president. AIR POLLUTION: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES EPA SMOG RULES On Oct. 4, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “Quality Science for Quality Air.” The hearing sought to examine the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) process for setting standards under the Clean Air Act. In his opening statement, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) asserted “it is important to note at the outset that overall air quality in the United States is excellent. He contended that “EPA seems to rely on making statistical hay out of minor associations between pollutants and premature mortality.” Committee Democrats defended EPA’s implementation of the Clean Air Act, citing enforcement of such regulations as the reason why air quality has improved over the past few decades.  “Stricter pollutions limits force us to push the envelope of scientific innovation and create new technologies.  And, as it has been proven many times over, improved worker productivity, increased agricultural yield, reduction in mortality and illness, and other economic and public health benefits far outweigh the costs of compliance,” said Energy and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC). View the hearing here. WATER: COMMITTEE CONSIDERS FEDERAL, STATE NUTRIENT POLLUTION CONTROL EFFORTS On Oct. 4, the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee held...

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Policy News: April 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS PASSES COMPROMISE FY2011 FUNDING MEASURE After months of short-term continuing resolutions and a near government shutdown, a deal was reached to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2011. On April 15, the president signed (P.L. 112-10), which funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, 2011. The bill passed the House by a large bipartisan majority of 260-167 with the support of 81 Democrats (59 Republicans opposed the measure). The bill also cleared the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of 81-19. The deal was struck and finalized moments before the most recent continuing resolution was set to expire the evening of Friday, April 8. In the waning minutes of that Friday evening, the House and Senate passed an additional one-week continuing resolution (CR) that included full funding for the Department of Defense. The move served to keep the government funded for an additional week to allow appropriations committee staff to draft the more complex long-term spending measure enacted April 15. In total, the bill sets final 2011 spending levels at $1.049 trillion. This is a $78.5 billion decrease from Obama’s 2011 budget request and a $39.9 billion decrease from the $1.089 trillion 2010 spending bills, as enacted. Republicans had sought a $61 billion cut in spending, but negotiations with the Senate and White House scaled those demands back. While the Senate and White House were successful in rescinding some of the massive cuts and riders proposed in the House-passed bill, the final agreement still included numerous significant cuts to science and environmental agencies. The funding decreases include $12 billion in cuts through three stopgap continuing resolutions and $28 billion in new cuts. NOAA weather satellites axed The long-term CR includes $382 million for NOAA new climate and weather satellites under the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), roughly over a third of the president’s budget request for FY2011. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, who has jurisdiction over NOAA, asserts that nearly $1 billion is needed this year to prevent data gaps that could make it harder to predict the weather. NOAA Secretary Jane Lubchenco has said that for every dollar not spent on JPSS this year, the agency would have to spend three to five dollars down the road because of canceled contracts and other problems. The program is already suffering because no increase was given to it in the stopgap funding measures that have kept the federal government operating since October. Obama ‘czars’ House...

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ESA Policy News: June 4

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp.

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ESA Policy News: April 23

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp.

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EPA leaders talk water pollution at PBS documentary preview

PBS gave a sneak preview of its Frontline documentary, Poisoned Waters, today at the National Press Club. The featured speakers included EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the founding EPA Administrator, Bill Ruckelshaus, who served under Richard Nixon. Both agreed that to really clean up our nation’s waterways, we need one thing: new legislation. “There is murkiness about the jurisdiction that states have within the clean water act,” said Jackson, who — see below — was filled with puns today. “Folks approach a particular wetland or stream and say ‘Do I need a permit?’ There is anything but clarity on when water means water.” In the documentary, journalist and Pulitzer prize winner Hendrick Smith explores the science and politics of the massive amounts of polluted runoff from industry, agriculture and suburban development that run into America’s waterways each year. At the sneak preview, Jackson spoke about agricultural runoff, which is one of the country’s biggest hurdles toward clean water. The documentary shows vivid images of overcrowded hog farms, chicken farms and cow ranches along riverways, pointing out that a major inland water polluter is animal manure. “As we all know, manure happens,” joked Jackson.  But she and Ruckelshaus both noted that a major obstacle toward passing legislation or reforming the Clean Water Act is to wake people up to the practices that contribute to damaged waterways — and to the idea that they are still, in fact, polluted. Ruckelshaus said that although 97 percent of people polled in the Puget Sound area feel a responsibility to keep it clean, more than 70 percent of them also think its waters are in excellent health. (They’re not.)  He stressed that the country needs rules to guide the conduct of individuals and companies in the way they interact with environment. Eventually, he thinks, the culture of quick-fixes needs to give way to real stewardship. “If we’re going to protect the environment for ourselves and all the living things we share the world with, we have to stay everlastingly at it,” he said. View a teaser for the documentary, which will air on PBS April 21 (check local listings),...

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