ESA Policy News October 28: President, Congress reach two-year budget deal, Ryan nominated House speaker, Canada elects Trudeau prime minister
Oct28

ESA Policy News October 28: President, Congress reach two-year budget deal, Ryan nominated House speaker, Canada elects Trudeau prime minister

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  BUDGET: WHITE HOUSE, CONGRESS REACH TWO-YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT The White House and Congressional leaders have finalized a budget deal that raises the debt limit and sets spending levels for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill passed the House Oct. 28 by a vote of 266-167. All voting Democrats were joined by 79 Republicans in support of the measure. All 167 opposing votes came from Republicans. Dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015,” the deal would extend the debt ceiling until March 5, 2017. Similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), it would provide relief for sequestration—automatic spending cuts to discretionary spending programs that are set to go into effect next year. The bill would increase overall discretionary spending by $80 billion over the next two years, equally divided between defense and nondefense discretionary programs. The discretionary spending increases would provide an additional $50 billion above the sequestration spending caps for discretionary programs in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. It also includes an additional $32 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations for defense and non-defense security programs for the next two fiscal years. In September, the Ecological Society of America joined 2,500 national, state and local organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress requesting they replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Click here to view the letter. HOUSE: RYAN SELECTED TO BE NEW SPEAKER NOMIMEE Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was selected by House Republicans today as their nominee for speaker of the House. This will be followed by a formal vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Oct. 29. Boehner will resign from the House on Oct. 30. Ryan’s agreement to be speaker rested upon his colleagues assurance of the necessary 218 Republican votes needed to win, which he secured at the close of last week when a majority of the far-right House Freedom Caucus indicated their support. WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ADDS 68 BUSINESSES TO CLIMATE PLEDGE On October 19, the White House announced that 68 additional companies have signed its “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” joining 13 others who first signed the pledge in June. In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” they voiced support for a strong outcome in the upcoming Paris climate negotiations by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions and improve sustainability. Collectively, the 81 companies “have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have...

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ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award
Sep16

ESA Policy News September 16: Organizations request sequestration relief, Court blocks bee-killing insecticide, Nominations sought for NSF award

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. BUDGET: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER REQUESTING SEQUESTRATION RELIEF The Ecological Society of America was among 2,500 national, state and local organizations that signed a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they work to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter comes as Congress debates how to continue funding federal agencies beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, have put forward Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills that have adhered to the spending constraints set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25). In Dec. 2013, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in that year were able to work out a short-term deficit reduction agreement that provided spending increases for overall discretionary spending and prevented sequestration from taking effect in FY 2014 and 2015. Congress will need to enact a new deficit reduction agreement for FY 2016 and beyond in order to raise the caps on spending above those set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Click here to view the organizational letter. FOREIGN AFFAIRS: ECOLOGICAL SOCIETIES URGE CLIMATE ACTION AT PARIS CONFERENCE The Ecological Society of America joined with a dozen ecological societies in issuing a joint statement requesting that the countries meeting at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris take decisive steps to deter the effects of global climate change. “Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” reads the statement. “This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come.” Click here to view the full statement. WILDFIRES: AGENCY HEADS URGE CONGRESS TO REALLOCATE SUPPRESSION EXPENSES The Secretaries for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Interior (DOI), and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress this week requesting that lawmakers fix the way wildfire expenses are allocated on order for the agencies to better invest in forest and rangeland restoration efforts....

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ESA Policy News July 29: White House teams with businesses to advance climate pledge, agriculture spending bills advance, ESA responds to Senate COMPETES comment request
Jul29

ESA Policy News July 29: White House teams with businesses to advance climate pledge, agriculture spending bills advance, ESA responds to Senate COMPETES comment request

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  WHITE HOUSE: COMPANIES UNITE WITH PRESIDENT OBAMA ON CLIMATE PLEDGE Thirteen of the largest companies in the United States are joining the Obama administration in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. The companies making pledges represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion. In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” the businesses 1) voice their support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations 2) pledge to reduce their carbon emissions and take other actions that improve sustainability and address climate change 3) set an example that will pave the way for a second round of pledges from additional companies this fall. Click here for additional information. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE MOVE FY 2016 AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILLS Over the past several weeks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bills for FY 2016. The bills provide funding for most US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. Overall FY 2016 funding in both bills is lower than the enacted FY 2015 spending level to comply with sequestration funding levels. However, the Senate bill does increase funding for most agricultural research programs. Though the White House has yet to issue a veto threat of either bill, it did submit a letter of concern on the House bill. Below are summaries of funding for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2015 enacted funding: Agricultural Research Service House: $1.12 billion; $10.17 million less than FY 2015. Senate: $1.14 billion; a $4.2 million increase over FY 2015. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service House: $870.95 million; $370,000 less than FY 2015. Senate: $876.47 million; a $5.15 million increase over FY 2015. Natural Resources Conservation Service House: $832.93 million; $13.5 million less than FY 2015. Senate: $855.21 million; an $8.78 million increase over FY 2015. Agriculture and Food Research Initiative House: $335 million; a $10 million increase over FY 2015. Senate: $325 million; level with FY 2015. Click here to view the White House letter of the House Agriculture FY 2016 spending bill. INTERIOR: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PERMITS OIL DRILLING IN ARCTIC On July 22, the Obama administration granted Shell conditional approval to conduct limited exploratory drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska in Arctic waters. The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)...

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ESA Policy News June 17: Congress advances bills funding NSF, Interior appropriations, Captive chimpanzees get endangered species protections
Jun17

ESA Policy News June 17: Congress advances bills funding NSF, Interior appropriations, Captive chimpanzees get endangered species protections

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE CJS BILLS ADVANCE Over the past few weeks, the House and Senate have moved their Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bills, which include funding for key science agencies. The House FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill reached a floor vote and passed June 3 by a vote of 242–183. Twelve Democrats joined all but ten Republicans in voting for the bill. The House bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion in FY 2016, a $50 million increase over FY 2015, but $300 million less than the president’s request for the agency. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. NASA science programs would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level. The accompanying committee report language on the House bill states “The Committee directs NSF to ensure that Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; and Biological Sciences comprise no less than 70 percent of the funding within Research and Related Activities.”  This would result in sharp cuts to the NSF directorates that fund social and geosciences. In addition to objecting to the funding levels for NSF and other federal agencies, the White House Statement of Administration policy also expressed concern with language in the committee report for the bill that targets geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences. The Ecological Society of America recently joined with other scientific societies in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee reiterating concern with efforts to legislatively direct funding to NSF by directorate. While the Senate FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill does not include accompanying committee report language directing NSF funding by directorate, House and Senate leaders will need to negotiate a final conference report compromise bill that resolves differences between the House and Senate CJS bills this fall. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its CJS bill June 11 by a heavily bipartisan vote of 27–3, although it has yet to be considered on the Senate floor. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) opposed the bill. In the Senate bill, NSF would receive $7.3 billion in FY 2016, comparable to the FY 2015 enacted level. NOAA funding in the Senate bill would be funded at $5.4 billion, also similar to the FY 2015 enacted level. NASA would receive a $279 million increase over...

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ESA Policy News April 1: House, Senate pass FY 2016 budgets, Obama orders federal agencies to cut carbon emissions, NSF releases public access policy
Apr01

ESA Policy News April 1: House, Senate pass FY 2016 budgets, Obama orders federal agencies to cut carbon emissions, NSF releases public access policy

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  BUDGET: HOUSE AND SENATE FY 2016 BUDGET PROPOSALS ADVANCE IN CONGRESS In late March, the House and Senate Budget Committees released their respective budgets for Fiscal Year 2016 that begins Sept. 30. The House passed its FY 2016 budget (H.Con.Res. 27) March 25 by a vote of 228–199. All Democrats opposed the House budget as did 17 Republicans. The Senate budget (S.Con.Res. 11) passed its budget March 27 by a vote of 52–46, also along largely partisan lines. Sens. Rand Paul (R-TX) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) joined all Democrats in voting against the Senate budget. In contrast to the president’s annual proposed budget, House and Senate budgets do not outline spending levels for specific federal agencies and programs. The budgets are nonbinding resolutions that set general polices intended to provide direction to House and Senate appropriators. Leaders of the House and Senate Budget Committees hope to reconcile their budgets by mid-April. As concurrent resolutions simply express the intent of Congress, they are not sent to the president. With Republicans in control of both chambers, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets are fairly similar. Unlike the president’s FY 2016 proposed budget, the House and Senate FY 2016 budgets would seek to balance the budget in ten years. This deficit reduction would be achieved largely through repealing the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid, Pell grants and the Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program that provides food stamps. The president’s proposal would not balance the budget in ten years, but would keep the deficit from substantially increasing. The House and Senate budgets also differ from the president’s proposal because they adhere to the annual automatic sequestration cuts for all federal discretionary spending set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112–25). Both budgets would provide defense discretionary spending with $523 billion and non-defense discretionary with $493 billion in FY 2016. Given that Congressional Democrats and the White House object to many of the policy prescriptions included in the two budgets, it is unlikely that the final FY 2016 appropriations bills will be signed into law without some concessions to Democrats on discretionary spending levels. Click here for additional information on the House budget. Click here for additional information on the Senate budget. Click here for a White House analysis comparing the congressional budgets with the president’s proposal. WHITE HOUSE: PRESIDENT ORDERS REDUCTION IN FEDERAL AGENCY EMISSIONS On March 19, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) output by 40 percent by 2025 compared with 2008 levels. The CO2...

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ESA Policy News March 18: House reviews NSF budget request, FWS bans four constrictor snakes, ESA comments on EPA biomass memo
Mar18

ESA Policy News March 18: House reviews NSF budget request, FWS bans four constrictor snakes, ESA comments on EPA biomass memo

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  APPROPRIATIONS: CJS SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST On March 17, the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget. The request is for $7.7 billion for the agency, a five percent increase over FY 2015. During the hearing, Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) expressed support for NSF while also asserting that it is important to ensure NSF grant awards continue to reinforce its reputation for funding high-quality research. NSF Director France Córdova referenced the new guidance released several months ago to promote accountability and transparency for program officers, specifically citing the requirement that a nontechnical description explains each research project’s national significance. Córdova also defended funding for the social and behavioral sciences. She noted that NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Directorate has funded 51 Nobel Prize recipients since 1998. Chairman Culberson asked Córdova about NSF Inspector General (IG) reports that critique agency expense audits on major research equipment and facilities construction projects. Córdova stated that the agency will continue to strengthen its policies and procedures and address the IG recommendations. She affirmed that the agency properly follows the Office of Management and Budget guidelines for contingency funding and awards. Click here to view the full hearing. INVASIVE SPECIES: FWS BANS IMPORTATION OF FOUR CONSTRICTOR SNAKES On March 6, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a ban on import and transport of four nonnative large constrictor snake species under the Lacey Act. A fifth snake species, the boa constrictor, was removed from consideration for the restrictions. The restrictions define the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda and the Beni anaconda as “injurious” under the Lacey Act. The reticulated python and the green anaconda have been traded commercially as pets in the United States. The Beni and DeSchaunsee’s anaconda are not believed to be present in the US. The ban on all four snakes will go into effect on April 9, which is 30 days after the formal listing in the Federal Register. Click here for additional information. CLIMATE: ESA EXPRESSES CONCERN WITH BIOMASS MEMO ON WOOD BURNING On March 11, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern with an internal agency memo proposing to credit wood biomass use in carbon emission reduction efforts. The EPA memo, issued in Nov. 2014, contends that using biomass as a source of power is likely to have little or no net contributions to carbon dioxide emissions if the biomass is...

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ESA Policy News March 4: Science committee reviews NSF budget request, Mikulski to retire, NSF report highlights participation in science among underrepresented groups
Mar04

ESA Policy News March 4: Science committee reviews NSF budget request, Mikulski to retire, NSF report highlights participation in science among underrepresented groups

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS NSF FY 2016 BUDGET REQUEST During a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on the president’s FY 2016 budget request, Republicans questioned National Science Foundation (NSF) priorities. “Why does the administration increase funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Science Directorate by over seven percent while proposing an average of less than four percent for the Biology, Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematical and Physical science directorates,” asked Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). NSF Director France Córdova defended the importance of social and behavioral science programs by stating that the additional funding was for the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, which participates in compiling the National Science Board’s Indicators report that chronicles US participation in science and engineering education and related fields of work. Chairman Smith did praise NSF for its efforts to increase transparency and accountability within the agency. Click here for additional information on the hearing. SENATE: SENIOR APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE DEMOCRAT MIKULSKI TO RETIRE Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest-serving woman in Congress, announced her retirement at the end of 2016 when her current term expires. Sen. Mikulski serves as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. She is also ranking member of the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Upon the passing of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) in Dec. 2012, she became the first woman to chair the Senate Appropriations Committee, a role she held until Republicans took control of the Senate after the 2014 mid-term election. Click here to read her official statement. NSF: NEW REPORT HIGHLIGHTS PARTICIPATION OF WOMEN, MINORITIES, DISABLED IN SCIENCE The National Science Foundation has released its 2015 “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering” report. Women, persons with disabilities, and three racial and ethnic groups—blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians or Alaska Natives—are considered underrepresented in science and engineering (S&E). Although Asians are also a minority group, they are considered to be overrepresented among S&E degree recipients and employed scientists and engineers. Click here for the report. WATER: ESA CALLS FOR SCIENTIFIC CONSULTATION OVER LAKE NICARAGUAN CANAL PROJECT On Feb. 23, the Ecological Society of America sent a letter to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to request an open dialogue with scientific experts on the potential environmental ramifications of constructing a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean through Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America and the second largest tropical lake...

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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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