ESA Policy News July 25: Senators review EPA power plant rules, rural CA receives drought relief, ESA to aid Interior science group
Jul25

ESA Policy News July 25: Senators review EPA power plant rules, rural CA receives drought relief, ESA to aid Interior science group

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  EPA: MCCARTHY TESTIFIES BEFORE SENATE COMMITTEE ON CLEAN POWER PLAN A recent Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee hearing offered US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy her first opportunity to testify before Capitol Hill legislators on her agency’s Clean Power Plan. The proposed rule in the EPA plan falls under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and seeks to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels. “The President’s plan is a win-win for the American people, because by addressing climate change through carbon pollution reduction, we can cut many types of air pollutants that also threaten human health,” stated EPW Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “Climate change and rising temperatures will lead to increased ground level ozone and smog which could worsen respiratory illnesses like asthma, increased air pollutants from wildfires, and more heat-related and flood-related deaths.” While Chairwoman Boxer other committee Democrats were supportive of the rule, committee Republicans put Administrator McCarthy on the defensive, questioning EPA’s authority to implement the carbon rules as well as the level of consensus behind the science that prompted them. Some, such as Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MI), denied that global temperatures have been on the rise in recent decades. In her testimony, McCarthy emphasized that individual states will have flexibility in designing their own compliance strategy for adhering to the carbon-reduction rules. She also noted the many economic benefits of implementing the Clean Power Plan. View the full hearing here. EPA: SENATE REPUBLICANS INTRODUCE ‘SECRET SCIENCE’ BILL On July 16th, Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced legislation that would prohibit the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from implementing regulations based on science that is not reproducible. S. 2613, the Secret Science Reform Act, would effectively restrict the quality and quantity of research data that the agency can utilize to inform its regulatory efforts. EPA states that much of the data (including public health records) is confidential. The bill’s seven original cosponsors include Republicans Mike Crapo (ID), Mike Enzi (WY), Deb Fischer (NE), James Inhofe (OK), James Risch (ID) and David Vitter (LA). Senate Democrats, like their House counterparts, are largely opposed to the measure. The Ecological Society of America recently joined a number of scientific organizations in cosigning a letter outlining a number of unintended negative consequences implementation of the legislation would have on scientific research at the EPA. The organizational letter will be sent to House leadership and the Senate EPW Committee next week. USDA: RURAL...

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The importance of investing in the researchers of the future
Jul09

The importance of investing in the researchers of the future

In the most recent edition of the Ecologist Goes to Washington podcast, 2014 Graduate Student Policy (GSPA) Award winner Brittany West Marsden (the University of Maryland) reflects on her meeting with various congressional office staff this past spring. She explains how this experience “demystified” the perceived complexity of engaging in the policymaking process. During the podcast, Marsden elaborates on her conversation with a congressional staffer who she cited as being strong advocate for science. The congressional staffer asked Marsden and the other students in attendance about their long-term career goals. The students voiced their reservations about pursuing careers that rely on grant funding. Increasingly, they see their professors spend more time applying for funding at the expense of doing actual scientific research. “We think about investing in the products of research, but we also can’t overlook investing in the future researchers themselves,” stated Marsden. The Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition meetings, which Marsden and other 2014 GSPA winners attended, allowed the graduate students to highlight various federal research programs that aid in their science-career development. The meeting conversations included federal programs such as the National Science Foundation Interdisciplinary Graduate Research and Education Traineeship and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship, in which Marsden participated. In the podcast, Marsden noted how the EPA STAR Fellowship fostered her progress throughout graduate school and expanded her network of scientific contacts around the country. Unfortunately, the residual impacts of the 2013 sequestration cuts to the federal budget including spending cuts to EPA and other federal agency programs are diminishing the funding opportunities available for graduate-student career development. The practical and long-term residual effects of this reduced funding are multifold. As mentioned above, one effect is graduate students choosing careers outside of science; another effect is the possibility of students taking their talents to other countries. Insufficient or lack of sustained funding also limits the ability of career scientists to conduct the research that has led to discoveries that help improve American society. Many scientific breakthroughs occurred by chance or happenstance such as commonplace microwave ovens or Alexander Fleming’s accidental encounter with penicillium mold in 1928. Over the long term, lack of federal-science investment hinders the United States’ capacity to compete globally and create the jobs of the future that bolster economic development and opportunity. Recent reports conclude the United States is on the precipice of falling behind other countries in its share of research and development investment. In short, if the US wants to remain a leader in scientific innovation and achievement, it is critical for the nation to invest in programs and initiatives that draw young...

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GLOBAL CHANGE IS NOW. Ecology can help.
May06

GLOBAL CHANGE IS NOW. Ecology can help.

Third US National Climate Assessment released today.

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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, February 14, 2014: Keystone Pipeline, fisheries reauthorization debate, and FWS criticized in wolf delisting.
Feb14

ESA Policy News, February 14, 2014: Keystone Pipeline, fisheries reauthorization debate, and FWS criticized in wolf delisting.

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. DEBT CEILING: CONGRESS PASSES BILL EXTENDING DEBT LIMIT TO 2015 This week, the House and Senate passed a bill to extend the debt ceiling through March 2015. The bill was passed shortly after the US Department of Treasury announced it had to resort to extraordinary measures to keep the nation from defaulting on its federal debt. Passage of the clean debt ceiling occurred after several alternative proposals, including one to add legislation approving the Keystone pipeline, could not garner a majority of the Republican conference. Consequently, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), realized he would have to rely on a proposal that could gain backing of a majority of House Democrats. Congressional Democrats were steadfast in echoing the president’s sentiments that any legislation to increase in the debt ceiling be a clean bill free of extraneous measures. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 55-43 with all Republicans voting no. It passed the House with the support of 28 Republicans and opposition from two Democrats (Reps. Jim Matheson (UT) and John Barrow (GA). The 28 Republicans consisted of House Speaker John Boehner (OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA), Ken Calvert, (CA), Dave Camp (MI), Howard Coble (NC), Chris Collins (NY), Charlie Dent (PA), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA),Michael Grimm (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), Doc Hastings (WA), Darrell Issa (CA), Peter King (NY), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Kevin McCarthy (CA), Buck McKeon (CA), Pat Meehan (PA), Gary Miller (CA), Devin Nunes (CA), Dave Reichert (WA), Harold Rogers (KY), Peter Roskam (IL),Ed Royce (CA), Jon Runyan (NJ), John Shimkus (IL), Chris Smith (NJ), David Valadao (CA) and Frank Wolf (VA). NSF: US GLOBAL LEAD IN SCIENCE INNOVATION INVESTMENT CONTINUES TO FALL On Feb. 6, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board (NSB) released a report, which concludes that a select group of foreign countries, including China and South Korea, are now contributing a greater share of their economies to research and development (R&D) investment than in decades past. Since 2001, the share of the world’s R&D performed by the United States has decreased from 37 percent to 30 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Asian countries’ share of global R&D has risen from 25 to 34 percent over the same period. China’s share alone spiked from four percent to 15 percent over that decade. The report found that women compromised a higher proportion of occupations in social sciences (58 percent) and life sciences (48 percent) than in engineering (13 percent) and computer and mathematical sciences (25 percent). It also stated that while Hispanics, blacks and...

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National Science Board report highlights need for continued science investment
Feb12

National Science Board report highlights need for continued science investment

Southeast Asia’s R&D performance shoots up through the aughts, eclipsing US A Feb. 11 Capitol Hill briefing orchestrated by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Science Board (NSB) showcased the board’s latest biannual Science and Engineering Indicators report, which outlines the current state of science investment domestically in the United States as well as internationally among other countries. The briefing was held in a hearing from of the Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee (Russell 253). The 25 member board sets policy for the NSF and advises the President and Congress on science and engineering. Biannual indictors reports fulfill a statutory mandate to report to Congress and executive agencies on the status of science and engineering, including R&D trends and the demographics of the S&E workforce. Entitled “What the latest Federal data tell us about the US Science and Technology Enterprise,” the briefing spotlighted a number of statistics from the report of interest to policymakers. The report highlighted a shift in the global science landscape with countries such as China and South Korea rapidly eclipsing the United States in their share of worldwide research and development (R&D) investment. Collectively, the information compiled the support helps showcase both the importance science investment plays in economic development and the importance of this investment in maintaining America’s global competitiveness in innovation. Since 2001, the share of the world’s R&D performed by the United States has decreased from 37 percent to 30 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Asian countries’ share of global R&D has risen from 25 to 34 percent over the same period. China’s share alone spiked from four percent to 15 percent over that decade. The Great Recession (2008-2009) caused declines in R&D expenditures attributable to business R&D, which contributes the largest share of US R&D spending. The NSB report notes that the decrease was partially offset by a one-time bump in federal funding for scientific research included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5). According to the report, the US has rebounded better than other developed countries in overall R&D funding. The report also found that science and technology degree holders “weathered” the recession better than other sectors of the US workforce. It also stated that workers in S&E occupations have almost always had lower unemployment than workers in other jobs. In 2011, the federal government was the primary financial support source for 19 percent of full-time S&E graduate students. Graduate students in the biological sciences, physical sciences and engineering received relatively more federal support than those in computer, math, health, or social sciences. The report also found that tuition and fees for colleges and universities have grown...

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President presses for action on climate, research in 2014 SOTU
Jan29

President presses for action on climate, research in 2014 SOTU

This post contributed by Terence Houston, Policy Analyst and Liza Lester, Communications Officer President Obama’s 5th State of the Union address came after a year where Congress experienced an unprecedented amount of partisan gridlock and the first lengthy government shutdown in nearly 18 years. Consequently, the theme of President Obama’s most recent State of the Union address was a call to action on numerous legislative fronts. The president made clear that 2014 will be a year of action, in not from the legislature, than certainly from the executive. “America does not stand still – and neither will I.  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” said President Obama. The president’s with-you-or-without-you tone received mixed reviews in Congress, currently enjoying a 19 percent approval rating. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) commented that he doesn’t like it, and as a former governor, “I don’t think it works,” at a Wednesday morning debrief, cosponsored by The Atlantic and the National Journal. “Watch this debt ceiling issue” to see how the President’s strategy plays out, he said. But Congressman Aaron Shock (R-IL) saw opportunities to work with the president on transportation infrastructure, tax and immigration reforms, and on fast-tracking international trade agreements. Shock is not in favor of debt ceiling brinksmanship. He challenged his own leadership in the House to recognize a need for bipartisan legislation. “It behooves us to work with pragmatic, centrist Democrats,” he said, during the Wednesday debrief. The president’s call to get the economy moving included a request for Congress to increase funding for scientific research. “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow,” said Obama.  “This is an edge America cannot surrender.  Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smart phones.  That’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery – whether it’s vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel.” A representative of Research America asked Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO) this morning about the climate in Congress for working with the President to “fix the damage” to research funding, noting the impact of the sequester on top of several years of stagnant federal science budgets.  DeGette echoed the president’s statement that federally-supported science is a job creator necessary to keep the US at the forefront of science and technology. She feels hopeful that science funding will receive bipartisan support as our economy improves. DeGette, a representative from...

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Endangered Species Act turns 40
Dec30

Endangered Species Act turns 40

This past week, the Endangered Species Act celebrated its 40th birthday. Throughout 2013, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) commemorated the occasion with special news articles highlighting the major success stories for various plant and animal species protected by the Act. President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law on Dec. 28, 1973. Since its enactment, FWS reports that 99 percent of species under its protection have been saved from extinction. The law currently provides protection for over 1,400 plant and animal species in the US, as well as 600 foreign species. The Act is administered primarily by FWS (terrestrial and freshwater species) as well as the US Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service (marine life). Over the years, the law has garnered its share of criticism from policymakers concerned with the constraints that complying with the law places on hunters and land developers. The US Congress (predominantly the House of Representatives) has held various hearings questioning the law’s effectiveness, including hearings on legislative proposals to modify the law. In recent years, there have also been increasing actions to legislatively delist species, circumventing scientific review processes. In addition to informing the general populace, FWS activities commemorating the law’s anniversary seek to counter such criticism of the law’s success. Many species’ recovery plans span decades from the date on which they were first listed. FWS also created a “tool kit” of resources to help inform the general public about the many species protected under the law. The agency has also created a state map spotlighting wildlife species under protection in the United States and territories. A special ignite session at the Ecological Society of America’s 2013 annual meeting in Minneapolis also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Panelists discussed existing fiscal and political factors that affect the law’s implementation and ideas to improve species protection. An August, 2013, EcoTone post outlines the arguments, and includes links to the participants’ slide presentations. Photo Credit:...

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