ESA Policy News: December 10

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: GOP NAMES COMMITTEE CHAIRS House Republican leaders on Tuesday, Dec. 7 announced their roster of committee chairmen, all of whom have vowed to conduct vigorous oversight of the Obama Administration. Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), a noted climate skeptic, was picked by House GOP leaders to chair the Science and Technology Committee. “Our Committee will help ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested wisely in research and development programs by providing effective oversight of existing programs and by eliminating wasteful and duplicative programs and streamlining programs where needed,” said Hall in a subsequent statement. Hall was among 143 Republicans to support the first America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-069) enacted in 2007, which authorized funding for three agencies: the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy. However, he voted against the reauthorization bill, which passed by a more partisan vote of 262-150 and will have to be reintroduced if the Senate fails to send the bill to the president before year’s end. Hall expressed concern in committee that “some of these new programs” established in the reauthorization “are potentially duplicative of current efforts” and “increase the cost of the bill by billions.” The steering committee also selected Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) over Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to head the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Tea party activists had opposed Upton, whom they felt was not conservative enough. Upton had supported a bipartisan measure that increased the use of energy-efficient light bulbs in the energy law (P.L. 110-140), signed by President Bush in Dec. 2007. A committee lineup of the incoming House Committee Chairmen and Ranking Members, as elected by the Republican and Democratic Caucuses, includes the list below (*indicate expected Ranking Members as Democrats expect to vote on their remaining slots next week): Agriculture: Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), *Collin Peterson (D-MN) Appropriations:  Hal Rogers (R-KY), Norman Dicks (D-WA) Budget: Paul Ryan (R-WI), *Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) Education and Labor: John Kline (MN), *George Miller (D-CA) Energy and Commerce: Fred Upton (R-MI), Henry Waxman (D-CA) Natural Resources:  Doc Hastings (R-WA), *Ed Markey (D-MA) Science & Technology:  Ralph M. Hall (R-TX), *Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Transportation & Infrastructure:  John L. Mica (R-FL), *Nick Rahall (D-WV) CLIMATE: SUPREME COURT TO HEAR GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS CASE The U.S. Supreme Court announced Dec. 6 that it will take on a potentially landmark case examining if states can hold individual power plants accountable for their greenhouse gas emissions. American Electric Power Co., Duke Energy, Southern Co., Xcel Energy Inc. and the...

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ESA Policy News: Dec. 22

  Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by ESA’s Science Policy Analyst, Piper Corp. Read the full Policy News here.    COPENHAGEN SUMMIT ENDS IN NON-BINDING ACCORD–The UN climate summit in Copenhagen concluded on December 19, with the world’s largest emitters vowing to cut emissions and help developing countries adapt to the changing climate, and with the almost 200 countries present agreeing to “take note” of this pledge. Just before midnight the day prior, President Obama and leaders from Brazil, India, South Africa and China emerged from 13-some hours of last-minute negotiations, unveiling an outline for future action to be pursued by more than two dozen major emitters. The agreement established an overarching goal of limiting increases in global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius or less. The accord also include some language on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), calling for the “immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus” (“REDD-plus” includes additional forest-related reductions, such as reforestation and sustainable forest management). Although leaders left the summit without a formal agreement or hard targets on REDD, many see the negotiations as an important step and expect to finalize an agreement in 2010, possibly independent of the broader climate talks. The Kyoto agreement did not address forest offsets and deforestation. SENATE CLIMATE DEBATE–On December 10, Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) released a framework for the climate legislation on which they’ve been working.  This effort comes on the heels of a similar bill from Kerry and Environment and Public Works Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), which failed to win bipartisan support.  The framework contains few specifics, but rather lays out a foundation on which committees with jurisdiction can build.  Kerry said that both the Agriculture and Finance committees are planning to hold hearings next year, giving leaders time to “pull this language together in January or February.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled floor time for a climate and energy bill next spring, giving lawmakers time to tackle the controversial matter before the 2010 elections.  But it’s still unclear if, when the Senate does take it up, this effort will have a better shot at reaching 60 votes. New industry incentives and protections, while necessary to win the support of Republicans and conservative Democrats, may drive away some of the more liberal senators.  In addition, lawmakers could have several other options to consider, including bills that would regulate only emissions from power plants (a strategy that many moderate Republicans see as more palatable) and a cap-and-dividend bill recently introduced by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).  FOREST SERVICE...

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