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 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 May 2, 2014: House bill boosts NSF, NOAA climate research reviewed, new USDA conservation programs
May02

ESA Policy News May 2, 2014: House bill boosts NSF, NOAA climate research reviewed, new USDA conservation programs

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL INCREASES SCIENCE INVESTMENT On April 30, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee released its funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2014. The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $237 million increase over the FY 2014 enacted funding level and $150 million above the president’s request for FY 2015. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.3 billion in FY 2015; level with its FY 2014 enacted funding level. The bill also fully funds NOAA’s two satellite programs—the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite. Additional information on the bill is available here. SENATE: HEARING EXAMINES IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH INVESTMENT On April 29, the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing entitled, “Driving Innovation through Federal Investments.” The hearing focused on the important role that federal funding plays in supporting scientific research. “It’s not an understatement to argue that federal investment in research is an investment in America’s future,” stated Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). “This realization has led me, and many of my colleagues, to consider some difficult questions.” “I agree reducing the budget deficit is important, but are we being so austere that we are limiting our future growth? And as one of the greatest countries in the world, are we so preoccupied with making budget cuts that we’re heading towards an innovation deficit as well?” Federal agency witnesses testifying before the committee included Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren. He noted that while the share of funding for US research and development supported by the federal government has dropped from as much as two-thirds in the 1960s to one-third today, the federal government remains “the largest funder of the basic research that produces the seed-corn from which all applied advances in innovation grow.” Holdren noted that the National Science Foundation (NSF) is currently viewed around the world as “the gold standard” in its peer review grant-making process and argued that the agency’s existing grant-making process be maintained. View the full hearing here. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NOAA PRIORITIES On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing examining the proposed Fiscal Year 2015 budget for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While expressing support for the overall NOAA budget request, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) was...

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President’s FY 2015 science budget trails inflation, softens STEM ED consolidation proposal
Mar07

President’s FY 2015 science budget trails inflation, softens STEM ED consolidation proposal

On March 4, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held a briefing outlining the president’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal and its investments in research and development (R&D). Overall, the president’s budget would dedicate $135.4 billion for federal R&D, a 1.2 percent increase over 2014. This includes nearly $7.3 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), a one percent increase over FY 2014. Overall Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education federal investments would increase by 3.7 percent to $2.9 billion compared to FY 2014. The multi-agency US Global Change Research Program would receive $2.5 billion, a 0.5 percent increase over FY 2014. OSTP Director John Holdren conceded that many investments fall short of meeting inflation, which will increase by 1.7 percent between FY 2014-2015, but noted that the current fiscal environment constrains more idealistic investments in research while still meeting the president’s desire to increase the United State’s commitment to funding scientific research. When inquired how the administration’s STEM program consolidation proposal in this year’s budget request differed from last year’s, Holdren contended that the proposal is more modest in that it no longer transfers funds across agencies and the consolidations occur within federal agencies. The proposal, which sought to consolidate STEM programs under the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution, was met with bipartisan skeptism among education advocates and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The budget also proposes a separate $1 billion for a new Climate Resilience Fund, which will focus on helping states and localities with adaptation plans to help deal with floods, droughts wildfires and other extreme weather events or natural disasters that could be exacerbated by climate change. The fund would be part of the administration’s $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, which seeks to increase federal investment in education, research and infrastructure. Cora Marrett, Acting Director of NSF, spotlighted the important role the agency plays in furthering basic research at institutions of higher learning.  Marrett noted that 94 percent of NSF funding goes directly toward basic research initiatives and NSF funds 24 percent of academic basic research at the federal level. Further, she noted NSF funds nearly 2,000 institutions across the United States. Catherine Wotecki, US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics highlighted her agency’s research priority initiatives for the coming fiscal year: climate science translation, genetic improvement and translational breeding, pollinator health, and the Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, which funds research and education grants to address various agricultural issues, including farming, forestry, ranching and renewable energy. (*Incidentally, Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education & Economics Ann Bartuska is...

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ESA Policy News, January 17, 2014: budget relief, enviro-ed grants, and a toxic spill in WV
Jan17

ESA Policy News, January 17, 2014: budget relief, enviro-ed grants, and a toxic spill in WV

APPROPRIATIONS: congress passes FY 2014 spending bill
TOXIC SUBSTANCES: West Virginia spill sparks chemical safety policies review
WHITE HOUSE: OSTP director Holdren explains ‘polar vortex’ via Youtube
USGS: Kimball nominated as new director
GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS: ESA weighs in on federal employee conference attenance
EPA: environmental education grant applications accepted
POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA announces 2014 GSPA recipients
FWS: wildlife refuges to offer free days in 2014

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ESA Policy News: June 14
Jun14

ESA Policy News: June 14

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. EDUCATION: STEM REORGANIZATION EFFORT MEETS BIPARTISAN CRITICISM On June 4, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee convened for a hearing examining the Obama Administration’s proposed reorganization of Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) programs outlined in its proposed Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Under the plan, 110 of 226 federal agency STEM programs would be eliminated. The plan would house STEM programs primarily under three agencies: the Department of Education (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Smithsonian Institution (SI). DOE would oversee K-12 programs, NSF would oversee undergraduate and graduate programs while the Smithsonian would be responsible for informal science education. The proposal, an effort on the part of the administration to deal with the reality of current fiscal constraints, was met with inquiries and skepticism from both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and former chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX) were all particularly concerned with the reorganization’s impact on STEM programs within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The reorganization would cut NASA programs by one-third. NASA’s STEM programs would lose $50 million under the reorganization effort.  There were also bipartisan concerns that the reorganization does not include enough focus on vocational training programs or programs that seek to increase STEM participation among underrepresented groups, including women and minorities. Members of Congress expressed concern that the reorganization effort was decided primarily through the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, with little input from school districts, non-profits, universities or the federal agency program managers responsible for the programs slated for elimination. “In addition to being concerned about the process, I have serious concerns with the budget proposal itself.  To be blunt, it seems to me it was not very well thought out,” stated Ranking Member Johnson. Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren noted that no one wants to see their own programs reduced or eliminated. View the full hearing here. CLIMATE CHANGE: US, CHINA REACH DEAL ON HFC EMISSIONS On June 8, the White House announced that the United States had reached an agreement with China to reduce the use of use of heat-trapping hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are greenhouse gases used in refrigerator and air conditioner appliances. The most common types of HFCs are anywhere from a hundred to a thousand times as potent as carbon dioxide in warming the planet. According to the White House, HFC emissions could grow to nearly...

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ESA Policy News: April 19

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: SCIENCE RECEIVES HIGH PRIORTY IN WHITE HOUSE FY 2014 PROPOSAL On April 10, the White House released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget proposal, which includes significant increases for scientific research. The proposal sets different priorities than the proposed budgets put forward by Congressional leaders, particularly those of the House majority. The budget takes into account spending caps instituted through the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25). However, it does not take into account implementation of sequestration and compares program funding levels to those of FY 2012, before sequestration was implemented. Obama’s budget proposes to nullify budget sequestration with $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction. This would include $580 billion in revenue through closing tax loopholes, $400 billion in healthcare savings, $200 billion in mandatory spending programs that would include agriculture and retirement contributions and $200 billion in discretionary savings. The remaining $430 billion would come from cost-of-living adjustments and reduced interest payments on the debt. Congress needs to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings to eliminate the existing sequester cuts. In total, the White House FY 2014 budget request includes $142.8 billion for federal research and development (R&D), a 1.3 percent increase over FY 2012. In his official message on the budget, President Obama sought to tie science investment to economic development. “If we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas,” he asserted. “That is why the budget maintains a world-class commitment to science and research, targeting resources to those areas most likely to contribute directly to the creation of transformational technologies that can create the businesses and jobs of the future. The president’s budget would provide OSTP with $5.65 million for FY 2014, an increase from $4.5 million in FY 2012. In the president’s proposal, many federal agencies that invest in scientific research would garner large boosts, compared to what was enacted in FY 2012: National Science Foundation: $7.6 billion (an 8.4 percent increase) US Geological Survey: $1.2 billion (a 9 percent increase) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion (an 8 percent increase) Department of Energy R&D: $12.7 billion (an 18 percent increase) National Aeronautics and Space Administration R&D: $11.6 billion (a 2.6 percent increase) US Global Change Research Program: $2.7 billion (a 6 percent increase) Additional information on the White House FY 2014 budget request is available here. Information specific to the White House’s scientific research budget proposals is available here. Information specific to the White House’s proposal for STEM programs is available here. BUDGET: PRESIDENT’S PROPOSAL INCLUDES...

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