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 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 May 30: FIRST Act fight over “frivolous” NSF funding
May30

ESA Policy News May 30: FIRST Act fight over “frivolous” NSF funding

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  NSF: REAUTHORIZATION BILL SPURS CONTENTION DURING COMMITTEE MARKUP On May 22nd, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee began a mark-up of H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act of 2014. After postponing completion of the committee mark-up for a week in order to secure votes among the majority Republican Party committee members, the committee approved the bill by a party-line vote the evening of May 28th. The FIRST Act would reauthorize programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. The bill authorizes a 1.5 percent increase for NSF for FY 2015, lower than the amount included in the House Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations bill, but $24 million higher than the president’s FY 2015 budget request for the agency. The FIRST Act has received criticism from the scientific community for several provisions that would alter the existing merit review process, establish new guidelines intended to minimize falsification of research results and specify funding allocations for each of NSF’s individual directorates. Committee Republicans argued that the provisions are necessary to ensure scientific integrity and minimize spending on research projects that could be perceived as frivolous. View the committee mark-up by following this link. View the scientific societies letter by following this link. AGRICULTURE: HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES REPORT FY 2015 SPENDING BILLS Over the past two weeks, the House and Senate Agricultural Appropriations Subcommittees reported out their spending bills for FY 2015. The House bill would fund federal agriculture programs at $20.9 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2015—comparable to FY 2014. The Senate bill would fund these programs at $20.575 billion, $325 million less than the House bill. Included are summaries of funding for specific US Department of Agriculture entities of interest to the ecological community: Agricultural Research Service House: $1.12 billion, a $2.2 million decrease over FY 2014. Senate: $1.14 billion, a $17.2 million increase over FY 2014. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service House: $867.5 million, a $45.78 million increase over FY 2014. Senate: $872.4 million, a $50.69 million increase over FY 2014. National Institute of Food and Agriculture House: $774.5 million, a $1.9 million increase over FY 2014. Senate: $787.5 million, a $15 million increase over FY 2014. Natural Resources Conservation Service House: $843 million, a $30.1 million increase over FY 2014. Senate: $849.3 million, a $36.4 million increase over FY 2014. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS QUESTION CONSENSUS BEHIND IPCC FINDINGS On May 30th, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing examining the...

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ESA Policy News: September 27
Sep27

ESA Policy News: September 27

WILDLIFE: letter of support for conservation programs
UNITED NATIONS: IPCC report released
HOUSE: testimony on climate action plan
EPA: new carbon standards for powerplants
SCIENCE: Golden Goose awards

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Patterns in the climate change mosaic

Finding patterns and trends in the environment is an important natural human tendency. Without trends, for instance, Darwin may never have theorized about evolution. But the somewhat controversial question, especially now in the face of climate change, is “what do trends explain about the world?” Or a more specific example: do studies showing elevated global temperatures and sea level rise prove that one caused the other?

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From the Community: forming a biodiversity body and taxing tomatoes

Representatives from around 90 countries approved the formation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, Nature and Scientific American collaborated on a survey to analyze the public’s interest in science and the history of the tomato’s taxonomy in the United States is reviewed. Here are some stories in ecology from the second week in June.

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Three Elephants in the Living Room at Copenhagen

This post was contributed by Meg Lowman, ESA Vice President for Education and Human Resources, who just recently returned from the Copenhagen climate summit.  With good intentions, delegates arrived from 192 nations in Copenhagen, Denmark last week for the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention). Their goal was to meet, talk, draft, edit and finalize a document to limit carbon dioxide emissions into our atmosphere, a resource that every country shares. Although the meetings were primarily political in nature, scientific underpinnings served as drivers to seek an international solution.  It was generally assumed that the major powers would dominate the conversation as they usually do, and the rest would meekly tweak the agreement as it was drafted. Following conventional diplomatic wisdom, the expected result was a piece of paper with technical language and many signatures; yet as with previous UNFCCC meetings, a piece of paper can gather dust instead of inspiring political will. Without binding language and enforcement, no agreement on paper can guarantee actions back home. America is an example of a country that not only fell short but has also altered its emissions targets midstream. A major global time-bomb exists – how can countries negotiate a binding agreement that will actually inspire action by all the signatories, and will be quick because poorer nations can not afford adaptation? Three elephants crowded into the living room at Copenhagen, not only taking center stage but also driving the conversations. These elephants represented emotion, ethics, and ecosystems. COP15  took on a new sense of urgency as small voices told their stories; as citizens around the world become aware of the imminent losses of life posed by rising emissions into our atmosphere and oceans, and as the scientific evident becomes stronger. Meg Lowman in front of a ballon the size of one ton of CO2.  Photo: Gary Braasch.   a. Emotions ran high early in week 1, when the Tuvalu delegation tearfully explained that their islands are inundated by the sea with every political delay, and that Mother Nature will not wait for paper-pushing exercises. This brought a reality check to the seriousness of COP15, and galvanized many activitist groups into action worldwide. The notion of citizens losing a homeland their ancestors had occupied for thousands of generations brought a heightened sense of emotion to COP15. Other small-nation voices joined their outcry, and the AOSIS (association of small island nations) became a large voice at the conference. b. Ethics has escalated, especially with the understanding of imminent tolls of climate events on poorer nations. African countries, lacking funding and technology face large-scale famines, infectious diseases, droughts and desertification, and...

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Projected sea level rise is twice previous estimates

Researchers said yesterday that the potential rise in global sea level by the year 2100 could be almost double the previous estimates. A rise of this magnitude could affect a tenth of the world’s population. At the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Denmark this week, Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado at Boulder chaired a session on sea level rise. He said that the upper range of sea level rise by 2100 might be one meter or more on a global average, with large regional differences based on factors like sea ice melting. Current estimates from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report project average sea level rises of 18-59 centimeters.  This report, however, had insufficient data about how melting ice sheets contribute to sea level rise.  Eric Rignot of the University of California Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that results from the last two to three years give a clearer picture of ice sheets’ effects on sea levels. The ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already contributing more and faster to sea level rise than anticipated, he said, stating that if the trend continues, sea level could rise by a meter by 2100. Previous studies have shown that about a tenth of the world’s population lives in low-lying areas that could be affected by such a drastic rise in sea levels. John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research said that in Australia, coastal flooding events that currently occur once every hundred years could happen several times a year by 2100. The International Scientific Congress on Climate Change is taking place yesterday, today and tomorrow. Results from the meeting will be developed in a synthesis report to be published later this year and given to all participants at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15)  in December in Copenhagen. Read more about the Congress...

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