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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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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ESA Policy News January 15: Congressional action on Keystone, Boxer retires, House, Senate committees take shape

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  KEYSTONE: CONGRESS MOVES ON PIPELINE BILLS, STATE COURT UPHOLDS PROJECT On Jan. 9, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 3, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act, which would approve construction of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. The bill passed by a vote of 266-153, over 20 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Twenty-eight Democrats voted with all Republicans to support the bill. Approval of the pipeline has been held up for years due to route alterations and court litigation. The most recent judicial hurdle was overcome when the Nebraska Supreme Court last week upheld a 2012 law granting the Nebraska governor permitting authority for the pipeline. The court decision was announced just hours before the House voted. The White House has threatened to veto the bill, stating Congress’s move to legislatively approve the pipeline “conflicts with longstanding executive branch procedures regarding the authority of the president and prevents the thorough consideration of complex issues that could bear on US national interests (including serious security, safety, environmental, and other ramifications).” Meanwhile, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee marked-up and approved its own Keystone pipeline bill (S. 1, the Keystone XL Pipeline Act) on Jan. 8 by a vote of 13-9. The bill is being debated on the Senate floor this week. At least 60 Senators have committed to voting for the bill, making it likely Obama will have to exercise his first veto in several years. Click here to read the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 3. SENATE: CLIMATE CHANGE CHAMPION BARBARA BOXER TO RETIRE IN 2016 Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who chaired the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for the past eight years, announced she will retire when her term expires at the end of the 114th session of Congress. Sen. Boxer has long been an advocate of women’s rights and addressing global climate change. She has been a staunch proponent of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan and defender of its efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. During her tenure as chair, she held numerous hearings on climate change featuring testimony from Ph.D. climate science experts. Along with Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA), she serves as co-chair of the Senate Climate Change Clearinghouse. She is also a member of the Senate Oceans Caucus. Click here to view Senator Boxer’s retirement announcement. SENATE: DEMOCRATS NAME APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE RANKING MEMBERS Democrats announced their picks to serve in the top positions on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittees, which has the authority...

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ESA Policy News November 5: Senate elections shake up committees, IPCC report finds climate change effects irreversible
Nov05

ESA Policy News November 5: Senate elections shake up committees, IPCC report finds climate change effects irreversible

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SENATE: ELECTIONS, RETIREMENTS SHAKE UP KEY SCIENCE, ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITTEES On Nov. 4, Republicans decisively gained control of the US Senate for the first time in eight years. The party managed to hold onto all their incumbents while picking up seats in Arkansas (Tom Cotton), Colorado (Cory Gardner), Iowa (Joni Ernst), North Carolina (Thom Tillis), Montana (Steven Daines), West Virginia (Shelley Moore Capito) and South Dakota (Michael Rounds). Among races too close to call, Republican candidate Dan Sullivan is leading Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska, while current Democratic Sen. Mark Warner holds a very small edge over Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia. As anticipated, Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu was forced into a run-off in her race against Republican Bill Cassidy when neither candidate obtained a majority of the vote according to state rules. Senate Republicans could hold between 53–55 Senate seats next Congress after the dust finally settles at the conclusion of the Dec. 6 Louisiana run-off. The 2014 election results, as well as retirements, will mean new leadership for a handful of Senate committees with jurisdiction over issues that affect the ecological community. Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is the Ranking Member and is in line to become chair under a Republican-controlled Senate. Current Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) is expected to serve as the ranking member. Appropriations Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), the senior Republican is expected to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee in the Republican Senate majority. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) would continue as Ranking Member under the new leadership. Mikulski and Shelby also hold the top spots for their parties on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Commerce, Science and Transportation Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is retiring at the close of the current 113th Congress. Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) is expected to chair the committee next year. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Cantwell are the next most senior Democrats that could serve as ranking member in January. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is the ranking member of the Science and Space Subcommittee and may take control of the subcommittee in the Republican Senate. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) currently chairs the subcommittee and could serve as ranking member. The next Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chair will have to decide on how to move forward with legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which outlines funding priorities...

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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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ESA Policy News June 27: GOP Former EPA admins support climate action, new NSF communications ‘toolkit’
Jun27

ESA Policy News June 27: GOP Former EPA admins support climate action, new NSF communications ‘toolkit’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SENATE: FORMER GOP EPA ADMINISTRATORS DEFEND REGULATORY EFFORTS TO ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE Four former US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrators who served under Republican presidents testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in support of the Obama administration’s proposed standards for greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from existing fossil-fueled power plants. The former EPA administrators served under Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In their testimony, the administrators reiterated the scientific consensus that human activity is contributing to global warming and affirmed the EPA’s authority to regulate GHG emissions as provided under the Clean Air Act. They also called on Congress to join President Obama and demonstrate global leadership to address the causes of climate change. “We like to speak of American exceptionalism,” stated William Ruckelshaus, the first and fifth EPA Administrator (1970–1973, 1983–1985). “If we want to be truly exceptional then we should begin the difficult task of leading the world away from the unacceptable effects of our increasing appetites for fossil fuels before it is too late.” “I must begin by expressing my frustration that the discussion about whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the legal authority to regulate carbon emissions is still taking place in some quarters,” stated former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman (2001–2003). “The issue has been settled. EPA does have the authority. The law says so, and the [US] Supreme Court has said so twice. The matter should be put to rest.” Noting that humans are contributing to climate change, Whitman further added that “when one is contributing to a problem, one has an obligation to be part of the solution that problem. That is what EPA is trying to do.” View the full hearing by clicking this link. SUPREME COURT: PERMIT RULING LEAVES EPA REGULATORY AUTHORITY LARGELY INTACT This week the US Supreme Court validated the power of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in its ruling in the case of Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA. It was the third time the high court has upheld the use of the Clean Air Act to combat challenges posed by climate change. In the majority opinion 5-4 decision, Justice Antonin Scalia ruled that emissions of greenhouse gases alone are not enough to trigger EPA enforcement under the program for smaller businesses, but that the “trigger” threshold is intended for major polluters. He said, “It bears mentioning that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” Scalia said in the courtroom....

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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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