ESA Policy News January 28: State of the Union, Senate votes on climate science, NMFS releases climate strategy
Jan28

ESA Policy News January 28: State of the Union, Senate votes on climate science, NMFS releases climate strategy

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  STATE OF THE UNION: OBAMA URGES ACTION ON CLIMATE, EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY In the wake of a mid-term election with considerably low voter turnout, President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address focused on issues that energized various Democratic constituencies. Central topics included income and gender inequality, educational opportunity and climate change. The president directly responded to the “I’m not a scientist” refrain used by climate skeptics, saying “Well, I’m not a scientist, either. But you know what, I know a lot of really good scientists at NASA, and at NOAA, and at our major universities.  And the best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we don’t act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration and conflict and hunger around the globe.” President Obama asked Congress to close tax loopholes and use the added revenue to help families pay for college as well as investing in infrastructure and research. The president also mentioned his plan to expand access to community college and called on Congress to pass legislation to reduce student debt. Click here to read the full State of the Union address. Click here for more information on the president’s community college proposal. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE APPROVES NEW OVERSIGHT, SUBPOENA RULES On Jan. 27, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a business meeting to adopt its rules and oversight plan for the 114th Congress. The normally routine meeting became contentious as members adopted new rules that minority members cited as unprecedented. At issue were rules that allowed the chairman to issue unilateral subpoenas and shorten the notice time required before committee votes. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) stated the rule changes were necessary because the Obama administration has been slow to respond to information requests. Reciting several historical events where the committee exercised its investigative authority—including the deadly Apollo 1 fire that killed three astronauts, the Space Shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters— Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) noted the chairmen at the time did not take action that suppressed the rights of members of either party who did not agree with him. The rules were approved along partisan lines. Click here to view the full hearing. SENATE: LAWMAKERS AGREE CLIMATE IS CHANGING, DISPUTE HUMAN CONTRIBUTION As the Senate debated a bill to expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Democratic lawmakers sought votes to put their Republican colleagues on record regarding climate science. Senators adopted an amendment by...

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ESA Policy News September 24: Congress extends federal funding through Dec., Obama urges global climate action, comment periods extended for power plant rule, groundwater plan
Sep24

ESA Policy News September 24: Congress extends federal funding through Dec., Obama urges global climate action, comment periods extended for power plant rule, groundwater plan

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS PASSES MEASURE TO FUND GOVERNMENT THROUGH DECEMBER On Sept. 17, the US House passed H.J.Res. 124, a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through Dec. 11. In general, the resolution includes an across-the-board cut of 0.0554 percent in order to bring spending within the $1.012 trillion FY 2014 discretionary level agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67). Voting on the CR was delayed a week after the president requested the legislation include assistance to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The resolution includes emergency funding to address Ebola; legislative language to prevent data gaps in weather forecasting from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites; and extends previously enacted provisions of past appropriations bills such as the language prohibiting funding to phase-out the use of incandescent light bulbs. The final CR passed the House with a strongly bipartisan vote of 319–108. One-hundred forty-three Democrats joined 176 Republicans in support of the measure. The Senate subsequently passed the measure by a 78–22 vote followed by President Obama signing the measure on Sept. 19. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: OBAMA CALLS FOR GLOBAL ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE AT U.N. SUMMIT On Sept. 23, President Obama spoke before the United Nations Climate Summit to an audience of over 120 world leaders. He outlined his administration’s Climate Action Plan and called on “all major economies” around the world to join him in reducing carbon emissions and investing in renewable energy. “The emerging economies that have experienced some of the most dynamic growth in recent years have also emitted rising levels of carbon pollution,” stated President Obama. “It is those emerging economies that are likely to produce more and more carbon emissions in the years to come.  So nobody can stand on the sidelines on [these] issues.  We have to set aside the old divides.  We have to raise our collective ambition, each of us doing what we can to confront this global challenge.” The president also signed an executive order that day, directing all federal agencies to factor climate resilience into the design of international development programs and investments. Click here to listen to the president’s speech. Click here for the text of the president’s remarks. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: 26 SENATORS EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR CLIMATE MARCH Senate Climate Action Task Force Co-chairs Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) spearheaded a letter of support to the People’s Climate March participants. Held on Sunday, Sept. 21, the march was an...

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ESA Policy News August 7: Science groups oppose travel bill, White House outlines climate change costs
Aug07

ESA Policy News August 7: Science groups oppose travel bill, White House outlines climate change costs

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.    GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OPPOSE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS BILL The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is among 70 research organizations that signed a letter expressing concern with legislation moving in the Senate that would impose restrictions on the ability of government scientists and engineers to participate in scientific conferences. On July 30th, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved S. 1347, the Conference Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). The approved legislation includes language proposed by the bill’s sponsor that would add additional limits to existing travel policy regulations imposed on government employees in the wake of the General Services Administration scandal. It passed the committee by voice vote. The bill includes language prohibiting a federal agency from expending funds on “not more than one conference that is sponsored or organized by a particular organization during any fiscal year, unless the agency is the primary sponsor and organizer of the conference.” In addition to this letter, ESA also submitted a letter on the importance of scientific conferences to the committee earlier this year. Read the scientific societies letter by clicking this link. View the January ESA letter by clicking this link. APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE RELEASES INTERIOR, EPA FUNDING BILL On August 1st, the Senate Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The bill provides $30.7 billion for the US Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Forest Service, slightly higher than the $30.2 billion provided in the House version of the bill. Funding levels are as follows for selected agencies: EPA: $8.2 billion, an $18 million decrease below FY 2014. The Senate bill would increase funding for climate-related activities by $9.8 million over FY 2014. This amount includes $8.8 million to implement the president’s Climate Action Plan. Science and technology programs at EPA would receive $752.88 million, a $6.3 million decrease.  Office of Surface Mining: $144.8 million; a $5 million decrease below FY 2014. Bureau of Land Management: $1.113 billion; a $6 million increase above FY 2014. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $72.4 million, a $3.4 million increase above FY 2014. National Park Service: $2.632 billion; a $71 million increase above FY 2014. US Forest Service: $4.626 billion; an $853.5 million decrease below FY 2014. The bill designates $2.171 billion to be shared by the US Forest Service and the Department of Interior for wildland fire suppression activities. US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.451 billion; a $23 million increase over FY 2014. US Geological Survey: $1.046 billion; a $14 million increase above FY 2014. Smithsonian...

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The control of nature: stewardship of fire ecology by native Californian cultures
Jul29

The control of nature: stewardship of fire ecology by native Californian cultures

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

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ESA Policy News July 11: Report urges US military to improve climate planning, House DOE, Interior spending bills advance
Jul11

ESA Policy News July 11: Report urges US military to improve climate planning, House DOE, Interior spending bills advance

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  DEFENSE: GAO REPORT CONCLUDES MILITARY NEEDS TO IMPROVE CLIMATE PLANNING On June 30th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding the Department of Defense (DOD) can improve infrastructure planning and processes for climate change impacts. DOD manages a global real-estate portfolio that includes over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land with a replacement value of close to $850 billion. Within the US, the department’s extensive infrastructure of bases and training ranges, which is critical to maintaining military readiness, extends across all regions, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. The GAO noted that the government currently lacks a shared understanding of strategic priorities and adequate interagency coordination to adapt to a changing climate. The report found that while many military planners are noting the impacts of climate change on their installations, they are not always certain about how to proceed with adaption efforts. The report recommends that the military formulate a climate change adaption plan setting firm deadlines to assess which of its military bases across the globe are vulnerable to climate change impacts. DOD has begun to assess installations’ vulnerability to potential climate change impacts and directed its planners to incorporate consideration of climate change into certain installation planning efforts. Additionally, it is a DOD strategic goal to consider sustainability, including climate change adaptation, in its facility investment decisions. View the full report by clicking this link. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE APPROVES FY 2015 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL On July 10th, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 4923, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015. The $34 billion bill includes $10.3 billion funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE) and $5.5 billion US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill over its many provisions to curb the enforcement of environmental regulations. The bill would block funding for enforcement of the Obama administration’s proposed rule to clarify federal jurisdiction in the Clean Water Act. The House rejected several conservative amendments that sought to sharply reduce funding in the bill. One that was rejected from Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) would have cut all FY 2015 funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It failed by a vote of 110–310. For additional information on specific funding levels in the bill, see the June 13th edition of ESA Policy News by clicking here. To view the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 4923 click this link. APPROPRIATIONS: INTERIOR, EPA SPENDING BILL WOULD...

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ESA Policy News April 21: climate future, Forest Legacy, ESA visits the Hill
Apr21

ESA Policy News April 21: climate future, Forest Legacy, ESA visits the Hill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. CLIMATE CHANGE: IPCC REAFFIRMS NEED FOR MITIGATION, ADAPTATION MEASURES The Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released two new reports in late March and early April that reaffirm climate change is currently affecting natural ecosystems and human well-being around the world. The March 31 report from “Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” stated that we are experiencing the consequences of climate change across all sectors: agriculture, human health, ocean and land ecosystems, and water supplies. The working group found that governments’ measures to combat climate change are not keeping pace with the consequences of climate change. At an IPCC meeting in Yokohama, Japan, 100 governments unanimously approved the report. In Berlin, Germany on April 13 a subsequent IPCC report from “Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change” warned greenhouse gas emissions that push warming above two degrees Celsius will lead to dangerous and costly climate change events. The report stated that worldwide emissions must decline between 40-70 percent below 2010 by the middle of the century to avoid such consequences. The report called for cutting green-house gas emissions from energy production, transportation, infrastructure and business to meet this goal. The Working Group III report was the final contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC, titled “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change.” The Working Group I report, released in Sept. 2013, outlined the physical science basis of climate change. The larger Fifth Assessment Report will be completed by a synthesis report on track to be finalized in October. For additional information on the Working Group II report, click here. For additional Information on the Working Group III report, click here. ENERGY: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS FY 2015 DOE INVESTMENT PRIORITIES On April 10, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened for a hearing reviewing the US Department of Energy’s scientific and technology priorities as outlined in the president’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2015. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) took issue with DOE’s investments in renewable energy in comparison to its fossil fuel investments. DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) funding would increase by 21.9 percent in the president’s FY 2015 budget. Meanwhile, the Fossil Energy Research and Development account would decrease by 15.4 percent with the brunt of those cuts coming from coal-related activities. “The administration should not pick winners and give subsidies to favored companies that promote uncompetitive technologies,” said Chairman Smith.  “Instead, we should focus our resources on research and development that will produce technologies that will enable alternative energy...

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ESA Policy News: November 22
Nov22

ESA Policy News: November 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. SCIENCE: SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE NSF On Nov. 13, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research considered the Frontiers in Innovation Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, draft legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education programs. Committee Democrats were concerned about provisions of the bill that would supersede NSF’s existing merit review process. Chief among Democrats’ concerns was Section 104 of the bill, which requires the NSF director to provide a written justification for each grant verifying that it meets certain requirements, including furthering “the national interest,” being “worthy of federal funding,” furthering economic competitiveness and advancing the health and welfare of the general public. The requirements are similar to those laid out in a previous draft bill authored by science committee Republicans, the High Quality Research Act, which was opposed by the scientific community. The Ecological Society of America joined the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in sending a letter to the science committee expressing concerns with such efforts earlier this year. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-LA) states that the language is necessary to ensure accountability to the American taxpayer over federal funding decisions. “They [government employees] should explain why grants that receive taxpayer funding are important research that has the potential to benefit the national interest. It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money,” asserted Smith. “Enhanced transparency and accountability isn’t a burden; it will ultimately make NSF’s grant award process more effective.” The draft is the second bill House Republicans have put forward to reauthorize the AMERICA COMPETES Act. Several weeks ago, the committee considered a bill to reauthorize Department of Energy science initiatives. For additional information, see the Nov. 11 edition of ESA Policy News. To view the CNSF letter to Chairman Smith, click here. For more information on the hearing, click here. SENATE: COMMITTEE APPROVES SCIENCE AGENCY NOMINEES AHEAD OF RULE CHANGE On Nov. 12, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved several of President Obama’s choices to lead key positions at the administration’s science agencies. The committee approved Kathryn Sullivan for the position of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jo Handelsman to be Associate Director for Science for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Robert Simon for Associate Director for Environment and Energy for OSTP. Sullivan has previously served as NOAA’s chief scientist...

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ESA Policy News: August 23
Aug23

ESA Policy News: August 23

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCIES SLASHED, FIRE PREVENTION GETS BOOST Congress has adjourned for the August district work period leaving a full plate of must-dos when members return after Labor Day. Many items on their list will  need to be addressed before the end of September. The largest item will be the completion of the appropriations cycle. While it is typical for many (if not most) appropriations bills not to have been sent to the president’s desk at this stage, the current party divide between the House and the Senate had added an extra layer of contention to the appropriations cycle in recent years. The Democratic-controlled Senate must reach a consensus with the Republican-controlled House on spending levels for 12 appropriations spending bills in order to prevent a partial or full shutdown of the government on Sept. 30, when Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 ends. The partisan tension is heightened by the continued budget sequestration, given that Republicans in the House are drafting their non-defense discretionary spending assuming the sequestration continues through FY 2014 while Senate Democrats are drafting their bills in line with the much higher spending caps originally mandated in the Budget Control Act in 2011. Nonetheless, unless the House and Senate can either come up with a deficit reduction alternative to the existing sequester or vote to nullify it altogether, sequestration by law will continue to be implemented through FY 2014 and beyond. Congress must also reach a consensus on reauthorization of the farm bill, which also runs out on Sept. 30. Both the House and Senate have passed farm bills, but the legislation differs substantially both in funding and scope. The Senate bill, which passed by a bipartisan vote of 66-27, also includes a requirement that farmers meet certain conservation requirements in order to receive federal subsidies for crop insurance. The House farm bill, which passed by a narrow vote of 216-208 with no Democratic support, does not include the conservation provisions and lacks a food stamp extension as House Republicans were not able to reach a consensus on food stamp funding prior to the August recess. It also differs from the Senate in that it includes provisions that waive regulatory rules related to pesticide control and environmental reviews of forestry projects. Another major issue Congress will have to tackle around the same time is the national debt ceiling, which is projected to be reached around the start of the new fiscal year. Members of Congress have so far been unsuccessful in reaching an agreement on a deficit...

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