ESA Policy News April 13: Senate reviews USGS FY 2017 budget request, faith groups support climate fund, feds revise sea turtle protections
Apr13

ESA Policy News April 13: Senate reviews USGS FY 2017 budget request, faith groups support climate fund, feds revise sea turtle protections

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  SENATE: LAWMAKERS REVIEW USGS PROPOSED FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST The US Geological Survey (USGS) received bipartisan praise for its nonpartisan scientific research during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the agency’s $1.2 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget request. “I am among those who appreciate both the work of the USGS and the spirit in which it is typically undertaken,” said Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her opening statement. “The agency is known for being non-partisan, and for seeking out concrete scientific evidence. And let me tell you, it’s quite refreshing to have an agency come before our Committee that does not have a significant regulatory agenda moving full speed ahead.” She also praised the agency’s work to understand the nation’s water resources. Murkowski did press USGS Director Suzette Kimball on critical minerals research, urging the agency to give greater priority towards funding its energy and minerals division. Kimball noted that the USGS has an open a call to hire a new associate director for its energy and mineral resources program that would help advance and prioritize the mission area’s budget. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) commended USGS’s climate change research and noted the importance of its satellite imagery in collecting climate data. Observing that Kimball refers to the USGS as “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] of wildlife,” he also highlighted the importance of tracking and monitoring the spread of zoonotic diseases, including Ebola and Zika. Click here to view the hearing. Click here to read more about the USGS budget request. USGS: STUDY AFFIRMS ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROMOTES ECONOMIC GROWTH On April 6, the US Geological Survey (USGS) published a report finding that various ecosystem restoration efforts create jobs and benefit local, state, and national economies. The study, examining 21 US Department of Interior (DOI) restoration projects, finds that for each dollar invested in ecosystem restoration, there is between double and triple the return in economic growth. The report quantified economic impact analysis by focusing on the jobs and business activity generated through money spent on ecosystem restoration activities. The report was a collaborative effort between the USGS, the DOI Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, the DOI Office of Policy Analysis and the Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program. Click here to view the individual restoration projects. Click here to review the report. WHITE HOUSE: REPORT HIGHLIGHTS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH On April 4, the US Global Change Research Program released a three-year study that articulates global climate change health impacts. Most of...

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ESA Policy News March 17: US, Canada announce climate pledge, IPBES seeks experts, Obama court pick supports EPA authority
Mar17

ESA Policy News March 17: US, Canada announce climate pledge, IPBES seeks experts, Obama court pick supports EPA authority

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  WHITE HOUSE: US, CANADA ANNOUNCE CLIMATE CHANGE PLEDGE On March 10, the President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their two countries have agreed to a series of efforts to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector to mitigate the impacts of global climate change. They also reinforced their commitment to joining and implementing the Paris climate change agreement. Both nations plan to reduce methane emissions 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025 and will work to reduce their hydrofluorocarbon emissions. The statement called for increasing renewable energy investments and “conserving Arctic biodiversity through science-based decision making.” The two nations also called for all oil and gas development in the Arctic to align with science-based standards. Click here to view the full statement. NSF: BATTELLE CHOSEN TO MANAGE NEON NSF selected Battelle to complete the construction, commissioning and initial operations for the $432 million project National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) project. Battelle is a nonprofit organization with the mission of translating scientific discovery and technology advances into societal benefits. They currently manage seven national laboratories and have a long history of managing large and complex technical projects. For the next 90 days, Battelle will be in a transition period to develop an organizational/management structure to prepare for the next steps to complete construction of the network in 20 ecologically distinct zones across the United States, from Alaska to Puerto Rico. IPBES: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR GLOBAL BIODIVERSITY, ECOSYSTEMS ASSESSMENT The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is seeking nominations of experts and fellows for its global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Nominated experts should “have expertise in one or more disciplines within natural science, social science or humanities, represent or have expertise in indigenous and local knowledge systems, or be policy experts and practitioners.” Nominations are due May 5, 2016. IPBES began a three-year study into humanity’s impact on ecosystems and biodiversity on March 1, 2016. The study, due in 2019, will examine a wide array of lifeforms, habitats, and measure progress towards meeting commitments under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity of the United Nation’s Convention on Biological Diversity. It released its first summary on pollinators in late February 2016. Click here for additional details on how to submit a nomination. Click here to read the unedited advanced summary for policymakers for the pollinator report. SUPREME COURT: OBAMA NOMINEE SUPPORTIVE OF EPA RULES On March 16, President Obama nominated Merrick Garland, Chief Justice of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to...

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ESA Policy News Dec. 16: World leaders reach climate accord, Congress finalizes FY 2016 spending deal, NEON to undergo management restructuring
Dec16

ESA Policy News Dec. 16: World leaders reach climate accord, Congress finalizes FY 2016 spending deal, NEON to undergo management restructuring

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: WORLD LEADERS REACH FIRST EVER CLIMATE ACCORD On Dec. 12, over 190 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to the first-ever international climate change agreement in Paris. The 31-page agreement sets a goal of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and  pursues efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Assessments on the progress of countries’ pledges will be conducted every five years, beginning in 2018. All countries will update and revise existing climate targets every five years, starting in 2020 with a goal of each target reflecting progress over the prior one. As part of the agreement, developed countries will pledge to raise $100 billion to aid developing nations in tackling climate change. For the first time, the agreement requires all countries to report on national inventories of emissions by source, allowing the general public to understand better the level of pollution generated by countries around the world. The agreement is considered a win for President Obama, who had pledged that the United States would lead by example in mitigating the effects of climate change. Click here for a summary of the agreement. APPROPRIATIONS: CONGRESS REACHES FUNDING AGREEMENT FOR REMAINDER OF FY 2016 On the evening of Dec. 15, congressional leaders released a bipartisan $1.149 trillion omnibus spending deal that funds the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill comes after enactment of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which made it possible for moderate increases in overall discretionary spending for the next two fiscal years. To prevent a shutdown, Congress passed a stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 22. The House is expected to take up the measure on Dec. 18. with the Senate expected to vote on the bill shortly after. The legislation is expected to pass both chambers of Congress and the president has indicated he will sign the measure. Most of the major harmful environmental riders from House appropriations bills were not included from the final bill. For NSF, the bill includes $7.46 billion, a $119 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill does not include restrictions on the NSF directorates that fund the geosciences or social and behavioral sciences. The bill requires federal agency Inspector Generals to conduct random audits of grant funding to combat waste and fraud and establishes an early warning system on cost overruns and requires agencies to notify congressional committees when costs grow...

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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 December 5: House floats FY 2015 spending deal, NEON scrutinized, Apply for 2015 GSPA
Dec05

ESA Policy News December 5: House floats FY 2015 spending deal, NEON scrutinized, Apply for 2015 GSPA

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE FLOATS FY 2015 SPENDING BILL This week, House leadership announced its plan to continue spending for most government agencies throughout the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 and avert a government shutdown. The House’s 2015 omnibus appropriations bill would fund most government agencies through Sept. 30, 2015. The sole exception would be the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which would only be funded through March. The deal has often been nicknamed a “cromnibus” package, given that it’s mostly an omnibus, save for DHS, which is funded at existing levels, much like a continuing resolution.  An omnibus is preferential to a continuing resolution in that it gives appropriators more leeway to direct spending levels at a programmatic level. GOP lawmakers singled out the DHS because it has jurisdiction over implementation of the president’s controversial immigration executive order to provide a pathway to legal status for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants. The shortened extension would allow next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate to pass an FY 2015 funding bill with spending constraints on the agency related to the executive order. The bill is expected to be introduced on Dec. 8. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXAMINES NEON ACCOUNTING On Dec. 3, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a hearing to review a series of audits of spending by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of the Inspector General and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) conducted the audits. The first 2011 audit found that the documentation proposing a $433.7 million NEON construction project was inadequate to audit as “none of its proposed cost elements for labor, overhead, equipment, etc., reconcile to its supporting data.” Subsequent audits reports were conducted. Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) acknowledged “in response to these audits, NSF has made a number of adjustments to how the agency evaluates costs of major projects” while maintaining that “$150 million in unsupported and questionable costs in the NEON proposal demonstrates that major problems at NSF continue.” Democratic committee members noted there was no representative from NSF itself to provide a balanced perspective.  An NSF spokesperson has stated that the agency has already addressed some issues raised in the audits and is actively working to resolve others. Click here to view the 2011 audit report. Click here to view the 2012 audit report. Click here to view the 2014 audit report. Click here for additional information on the hearing. NSF: CORDOVA ANNOUNCES REVISED TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY GUIDELINES At the November National Science Board (NSB) meeting, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova outlined...

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ESA Policy News: June 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE MOVES AGRICULTURE, INTERIOR SPENDING BILLS  This month, the House Appropriations Committee has continued work on its Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 spending bills. Most recently, it has released legislation funding environmental and agricultural federal programs. On June 19, the committee approved its Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY 2013. That day, the committee also released its FY 2013 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which was marked up by subcommittee the following day. Agriculture In total, the Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY 2013 includes $19.4 billion in discretionary spending, a $365 million reduction from FY 2012 and $1.7 billion less than Obama’s FY 2013 budget request. Agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute for Food and Agriculture, would be funded at $2.5 billion, a $35 million reduction from FY 2012. The Natural Resources Conservation Service would receive $812 million, a $16 million decrease from FY 2012. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would receive $787 million, $33 million below FY 2012. A funding program to help farmers make environmental improvement on their lands was cut by $500 million compared to the current farm bill’s authorized levels. Interior The House Interior and Environment Appropriations Act for FY 2013 contains $28 billion in funding, a cut of $1.2 billion below FY 2012 and $1.7 billion below the president’s FY 2013 budget request. The bill funds the Department of Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service and related environmental initiatives. EPA funding undergoes a particularly high number of cuts in the House bill. The bill funds EPA at $7 billion, a $1.4 billion (17 percent) cut from FY 2012. This brings total funding in the bill below FY 1998 levels. The legislation continues a cap on EPA’s personnel at the lowest number since 1992 and cuts the office of the EPA administrator by over 30 percent. The EPA Congressional Affairs office receives a 50 percent cut. For additional information on the Agriculture bill, click here. For additional information on the Interior bill, click here. OSTP: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS WHITE HOUSE PRIORITIES On June 20, 2012, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hosted White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren for a hearing entitled “Examining Priorities and Effectiveness of the Nation’s Science Policies.” During the hearing several Republicans inquired if the U.S. was maintaining investment in certain areas, including space technology and high-energy physics, relative to other countries. Holdren responded that the U.S. remains “on the cutting edge” and “unmatched”...

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ESA Policy News: March 23

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: FY 2013 BUDGET PROPOSAL CUTS INNOVATION, FEDERAL WORKFORCE On March 20, House Republicans unveiled their proposed budget resolution for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. Sponsored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), the budget bill sets an overall discretionary spending limit of $1.028 trillion in FY 2013, $19 billion below the spending caps established in the Budget Control Act. Among its provisions, the House budget resolution includes significant cuts to Department of Energy programs while expanding oil and gas drilling. It also supports the sale of 3.3 million acres of federal lands identified in a 1997 Department of Interior report that were deemed suitable for sale or exchange to benefit the Everglades restoration effort in Florida. The White House released a statement asserting that the Ryan plan would cut clean energy programs by 19 percent and slash $100 billion from science, space and technology programs over the next decade. The budget also proposes to cut the federal government workforce by 10 percent, providing $368 billion in savings. Under the proposal, federal employee retirement contributions would also rise from 0.8 percent to 6.3 percent. The bill would also extend the current federal pay freeze to 2015. View the full FY 2013 House budget proposal here. The White House response to the House budget proposal can be viewed here. SENATE: COMMITTEE REVIEWS EPA MERCURY STANDARDS FOR POWER PLANTS On March 20, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety met for a hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s new mercury rules for power plants. EPA finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide on Dec. 16, 2011. “I believe it’s possible to have a clean environment and a strong economy. I think it’s a false choice to say that we have to have one or the other; we can have both. That is especially true for cleaning up our air pollution,” declared Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) in his opening statement. “In fact, as the EPA has implemented the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, our nation’s air has gotten cleaner, while electricity rates have stayed constant and our economy has grown by 60 percent. For every dollar we spend cleaning the air, we’ve seen $30 returned in reduced health care costs, better workplace productivity, and lives saved.” Subcommittee Ranking Member James...

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President’s budget reflects priorities in STEM, renewable energy, climate, and “bio-economy”

This post was contributed by Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs As is tradition on the first Monday in February, the President yesterday unveiled his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year of 2011.  All over Washington, DC, federal agencies held budget briefings, with more to come over the next several days. Although President Obama called for some fiscal belt-tightening, Administration officials presenting the budget pointed out that Obama was preserving—and in some cases boosting—key science research and development (R&D) programs.  Presidential Science Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren said during a briefing that the President: …managed to preserve what needed to be preserved for science while holding the line on spending. Among other areas that Holdren highlighted, is a 63 percent increase proposed for the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture competitive grants program.  That increase would bring the program to $429 million and a significant part of it would focus on bioenergy research. Holdren also pointed to the President’s proposed $3.7 billion spread across multiple agencies to foster education in STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.  That proposal includes $1 billion to improve science and math achievements of K-12 students.   Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that her agency’s proposed R&D budget is the largest boost that NOAA has seen in over a decade.  Lubchenco characterized strengthening science at the agency as part of her “personal mission” and said agency priorities include addressing ocean acidification, detection of marine pathogens, and aquaculture. The Administration’s budget also reflects renewed emphasis on the US Global Change Research Program, proposing a 21 percent increase to $2.6 billion for the multi-agency program.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would get a boost to its Earth science program to improve forecasting of climate change and natural disasters.  The Department of Interior’s lead science agency, the US Geological Survey is proposed to receive an $18 million increase for its USGCRP programs, focused on understanding the impacts of climate change on natural resources. At the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget briefing, Director Arden Bement’s highlights included the agency’s plans to integrate its existing climate science and engineering research with new education and cyber-based activities through its Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability initiative.  In addition, the agency is interested in fostering the “bio-economy” by drawing on biology to boost agricultural productivity, industrial processes, and environmental sustainability. NSF’s National Ecological Observatory Network—which promises to open up new horizons for large-scale biology—is slated to receive $15 million to complete design of the network and $20 million...

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