ESA Policy News November 11: Science coalitions call for funding boost, NOAA under scrutiny, Obama rejects Keystone
Nov11

ESA Policy News November 11: Science coalitions call for funding boost, NOAA under scrutiny, Obama rejects Keystone

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  NOAA: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR REQUESTS SCIENTISTS’ INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS On Nov. 4, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requesting documents and communications between NOAA scientists whose research concludes there has been no pause in global warming. The major climate science study was led by Tom Karl, director of the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, that was published in “Science” magazine on June 3. Smith’s investigation into the Karl’s research began in July and escalated through the fall when he wrote multiple letters requesting that NOAA release internal communications between the scientists involved in the study. When NOAA refused the requests, Smith followed up with the warning letter of a subpoena Sept. 25 and subsequently issued a subpoena Oct. 13. Committee Democrats have been critical of Smith’s subpoena, referring to it as a “fishing expedition.” In a response letter to the subpoena, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said, “The baseless conflict you have created by issuing the October 13 subpoena is representative of a disturbing pattern in your use of congressional power since your chairmanship began. In the past two years and ten months that you have presided as chairman of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology you have issued more subpoenas (six) than were issued in the prior 54-year history of the committee.” Click here to view the Smith letter. Click here to view the subpoena response letter from Ranking Member Johnson. APPROPRIATIONS: SCIENTIFIC COALITIONS REQUEST RESEARCH FUNDING FOR FY 2016 On Nov. 2, a broad group of research coalitions sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators praising the Bipartisan Budget Act 2015 and requesting an increase of at least 5.2 percent for federal programs that support scientific research in FY 2016. “As you allocate the additional funding made available under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, we urge you to make strong investments in America’s innovation ecosystem one of your highest priorities by increasing federal research funding by at least 5.2 percent above FY 2015 levels—the same level of increase to discretionary spending,” the letter states. Congress has until Dec. 11 to work out an agreement that would continue federal funding through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2016, which began Oct. 1, 2015. Click here to view the full letter. APPROPRIATIONS: SENATORS URGE PRESIDENT TO OPPOSE ENDANGERED SPECIES RIDERS  Twenty-five US Senators sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reject any spending bills that include provisions to undermine...

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ESA Policy News October 28: President, Congress reach two-year budget deal, Ryan nominated House speaker, Canada elects Trudeau prime minister
Oct28

ESA Policy News October 28: President, Congress reach two-year budget deal, Ryan nominated House speaker, Canada elects Trudeau prime minister

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  BUDGET: WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS REACH TWO-YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT The White House and Congressional leaders have finalized a budget deal that raises the debt limit and sets spending levels for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill passed the House Oct. 28 by a vote of 266-167. All voting Democrats were joined by 79 Republicans in support of the measure. All 167 opposing votes came from Republicans. Dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015,” the deal would extend the debt ceiling until March 5, 2017. Similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), it would provide relief for sequestration—automatic spending cuts to discretionary spending programs that are set to go into effect next year. The bill would increase overall discretionary spending by $80 billion over the next two years, equally divided between defense and nondefense discretionary programs. The discretionary spending increases would provide an additional $50 billion above the sequestration spending caps for discretionary programs in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. It also includes an additional $32 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations for defense and non-defense security programs for the next two fiscal years. In September, the Ecological Society of America joined 2,500 national, state and local organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress requesting they replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Click here to view the letter. HOUSE: RYAN SELECTED TO BE NEW SPEAKER NOMIMEE Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was selected by House Republicans today as their nominee for speaker of the House. This will be followed by a formal vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Oct. 29. Boehner will resign from the House on Oct. 30. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker rested upon his colleagues assurance of the necessary 218 Republican votes needed to win, which he secured at the close of last week when a majority of the far-right House Freedom Caucus indicated their support. WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ADDS 68 BUSINESSES TO CLIMATE PLEDGE On October 19, the White House announced that 68 additional companies have signed its “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” joining 13 others who first signed the pledge in June. In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” they voiced support for a strong outcome in the upcoming Paris climate negotiations by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions and improve sustainability. Collectively, the 81 companies “have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have...

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ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill
Oct14

ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: MCCARTHY DROPS OUT OF SPEAKERSHIP RACE On Oct. 8, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped his bid to succeed John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. With no clear successor in place, Boehner postponed the speakership election until further notice. McCarthy had undergone criticism for statements that linked the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi with an effort to damage 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also announced his intent to run against McCarthy for speaker. The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of over 40 far-right conservatives, had also endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) for speaker. Collectively, these alternative candidates raised doubt on whether McCarthy could easily secure the 218 majority votes necessary to win among the 247 member House Republican conference. Much of the media speculation for alternative candidates for speaker has centered on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who currently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most sought-after committees in the House. To date, Ryan has declined interest in the role. Other House members reportedly mulling a run include Michael Conaway (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX)  and Lynn Westermoreland (R-CA). INVASIVE SPECIES: COURT RULES FOR STRONGER BALLAST WATER REGULATIONS In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with environmental groups who contended that  existing  US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations did not go far enough to reduce the spread of invasive species through cargo ship ballast water. Environmental groups sued EPA in 2008 seeking stronger regulations related to the spread of aquatic invasive species through cargo transport vessels. While EPA eventually finalized ballast water rules in March 2013, the groups argued that the standards did not sufficiently protect waterways from future species invasions. As a result of the ruling, the agency will reconsider its technology decisions and its exemption for certain older vessels. The existing standards will remain in place until the agency can finalize stricter regulations. Click here to view the full ruling. EPA: COURT STAYS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WATER RULE On Oct. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an order granting the request of eighteen states to place a nationwide stay on the Obama administration’s rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction over US waterways. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers had finalized the rule in May. In a 2-1 ruling the court decided that the rule,...

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ESA Policy News September 30: Pope preaches to Congress on climate, Speaker Boehner to resign, Science committee examines NEON
Sep30

ESA Policy News September 30: Pope preaches to Congress on climate, Speaker Boehner to resign, Science committee examines NEON

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. CONGRESS: POPE CALLS ON LAWMAKERS TO AVERT ‘ENVIRONMENTAL DETERIORATION’ On Sept. 24, Pope Francis spoke before a joint session of the United States Congress, advocating for compassion and equal opportunity for the underprivileged. He also urged Congress to take action to protect the earth and touched on the value of scientific discovery. While Pope Francis did not explicitly utter the phrase climate change, he stated that protecting the earth should be one of the many ways in which human society works to advance the common good. “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all,” said Francis. Highlighting the value of scientific research, Pope Francis stated “America’s outstanding academic and research institutions can make a vital contribution in the years ahead” towards combating poverty and protecting nature. Click here to read the text of the pope’s speech. Click here to read the text of the pope’s White House speech. HOUSE: SPEAKER BOEHNER TO RESIGN IN OCTOBER House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced last week that he will resign from Congress effective Oct. 30. The announcement came a day after Pope Francis made history as the first pope to speak before a joint session of Congress. Boehner was instrumental in arranging his invitation. It also came amid growing unrest among the House Republican conference with Speaker Boehner. One lawmaker, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), had introduced a resolution in July that called for Boehner’s resignation as speaker. The party is also strategizing over how to continue funding the government throughout FY 2016. Prior to Boehner’s resignation, far-right conservatives had been pushing party leaders to include language prohibiting funding for Planned Parenthood in any continuing resolution to fund the government beyond tonight’s deadline, when FY 2015 funding expires. The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto any legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. The Senate recently passed a clean continuing resolution by a vote of 78-20 that will extend government funding at existing levels through Dec. 11. The House is expected to approve the bill before today’s midnight deadline, allowing the government to remain open. Current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the leading contender to succeed Boehner. The next speaker will likely be under political pressure to adopt a more confrontational approach to dealing with the White House and Congressional Democrats. The House Republican leadership elections are scheduled for Oct. 8. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE DELVES INTO NEON DESCOPE PLAN On Sept. 18, the...

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ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award
Sep16

ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER REQUESTING SEQUESTRATION RELIEF The Ecological Society of America was among 2,500 national, state and local organizations that signed a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they work to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter comes as Congress debates how to continue funding federal agencies beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, have put forward Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills that have adhered to the spending constraints set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). In Dec. 2013, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in that year were able to work out a short-term deficit reduction agreement that provided spending increases for overall discretionary spending and prevented sequestration from taking effect in FY 2014 and 2015. Congress will need to enact a new deficit reduction agreement for FY 2016 and beyond in order to raise the caps on spending above those set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Click here to view the organizational letter. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: ECOLOGICAL SOCIETIES URGE CLIMATE ACTION AT PARIS CONFERENCE The Ecological Society of America joined with a dozen ecological societies in issuing a joint statement requesting that the countries meeting at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris take decisive steps to deter the effects of global climate change. “Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” reads the statement. “This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come.” Click here to view the full statement. WILDFIRES: AGENCY HEADS URGE CONGRESS TO REALLOCATE SUPPRESSION EXPENSES The Secretaries for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Interior (DOI), and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress this week requesting that lawmakers fix the way wildfire expenses are allocated on order for the agencies to better invest in forest and rangeland restoration efforts....

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ESA Policy News September 2: Obama talks climate in Alaska, Research groups praise Senators for science conference support
Sep02

ESA Policy News September 2: Obama talks climate in Alaska, Research groups praise Senators for science conference support

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  ARCTIC: OBAMA CALLS FOR CLIMATE ACTION AT ALASKA CONFERENCE On August 29, President Obama spoke before the conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Alaska where he discussed how climate change is impacting the Arctic and called on world leaders to join in global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama’s visit makes him the first sitting president to visit the Arctic. “Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism,” said the president. “Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges.  Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely.  In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.” The president used the forum to call on the world’s nations to agree to a climate treaty when they meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this fall. The president discussed the efforts the United States and China are implementing to cut carbon emissions while stressing that addressing climate change requires action from multiple nations. Click here to view the president’s full remarks before the GLACIER conference. Click here for additional Obama administration efforts to address climate change in the Arctic. WATER: COURT RULING IMPEDES OBAMA CLEAN WATER RULE US District Court Chief Judge Ralph Erickson in North Dakota has granted a preliminary injunction impacting 13 states against the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, which redefines which streams and wetlands merit federal protection under the Clean Water Act that is administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency contends the injunction will only apply to the 13 states that filed the lawsuit: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, while the new rule will proceed in the 37 other states. Judge Erickson concluded that the regulation likely oversteps the US Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos vs. the United States. The injunction serves to halt implementation of the rule for as long as litigation persists and can be overturned. The 2008 guidance that has been on the books to govern Clean Water Act decisions will remain in effect for the 13 states. Click here to view the full ruling. Click here for additional information on the EPA clean water rule. ENDANGERED SPECIES: USDA ANNOUNCES SAGE GROUSE CONSERVATION EFFORT On August 27, the US Department of Agriculture announced a...

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#ESA100 carbon offsets: ESA donates $23,000 to Baltimore’s Parks & People Foundation
Aug28

#ESA100 carbon offsets: ESA donates $23,000 to Baltimore’s Parks & People Foundation

To offset the carbon expended to bring ecologists to the 100th Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Md., ESA contributed $5 for each person attending to support community greening projects through a local non-profit.

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Amplified spending constraints, political division necessitates policy engagement by scientists
Aug28

Amplified spending constraints, political division necessitates policy engagement by scientists

  When Congress returns from the August recess, it will have just a few weeks (10 scheduled legislative working days total) to pass legislation to keep the government funded beyond Sept. 30 when the current fiscal year ends. Both the House and Senate have introduced appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. Congressional Republicans, now in control of both the House and Senate, have vowed to adhere to the sequestration spending caps on discretionary spending that were put in place by the Budget Control Act (Public Law 112-25). The Senate has introduced, yet failed to move its 12 of its FY 2016 spending bills to the Senate floor. The minority party has filibuster power in the Senate, requiring many bills to secure support from at least 60 Senators. Senate Democrats have vowed to oppose any appropriations bills that adhere to the sequestered spending constraints. Congressional Democrats and the White House have urged lawmakers to negotiate a deficit reduction alternative that provides relief to federal discretionary spending programs. Meanwhile, the House has managed to pass six of its 12 FY 2016 appropriations bills, including its Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies bill, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies. During the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2015 Graduate Student Policy Award recipient Cleo Chou discussed how sustained funding support from the NSF has been vital to both her research and continued education as a graduate student. Chou explained that her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship helped fund the past three years of her stipend as a Ph.D. student as well as her tuition. NSF also helped fund equipment at the facility where she conducts her research into carbon and nutrient cycling in tropical rainforests. Chou’s research will further understanding of climate change and will help ensure society can continue to benefit from the various ecosystem services tropical rainforests provide such as carbon sequestration, biodiversity and food. Chou also reflected on her overall experience in Washington, DC, learning about the federal budget process and the meetings she attended as part of the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition congressional visits to urge lawmakers to continue to support funding for NSF and biological research.  The visits helped lawmakers understand how sustained investment in scientific research benefits the communities they represent. The 2013 federal government shutdown showcased both the short-term and long-term effects a lapse in government funding can have on scientific research. Amid a multitude of political and practical considerations policymakers will weigh as they negotiate how to prioritize funding for national priorities, it is important that...

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