ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill
Oct14

ESA Policy News October 14: Republican speaker search continues, OSTP seeking interns, White House signs STEM bill

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. HOUSE: MCCARTHY DROPS OUT OF SPEAKERSHIP RACE On Oct. 8, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) dropped his bid to succeed John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. With no clear successor in place, Boehner postponed the speakership election until further notice. McCarthy had undergone criticism for statements that linked the creation of the House Select Committee on Benghazi with an effort to damage 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) also announced his intent to run against McCarthy for speaker. The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of over 40 far-right conservatives, had also endorsed Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) for speaker. Collectively, these alternative candidates raised doubt on whether McCarthy could easily secure the 218 majority votes necessary to win among the 247 member House Republican conference. Much of the media speculation for alternative candidates for speaker has centered on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who currently chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the most sought-after committees in the House. To date, Ryan has declined interest in the role. Other House members reportedly mulling a run include Michael Conaway (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Pete Sessions (R-TX)  and Lynn Westermoreland (R-CA). INVASIVE SPECIES: COURT RULES FOR STRONGER BALLAST WATER REGULATIONS In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit sided with environmental groups who contended that  existing  US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations did not go far enough to reduce the spread of invasive species through cargo ship ballast water. Environmental groups sued EPA in 2008 seeking stronger regulations related to the spread of aquatic invasive species through cargo transport vessels. While EPA eventually finalized ballast water rules in March 2013, the groups argued that the standards did not sufficiently protect waterways from future species invasions. As a result of the ruling, the agency will reconsider its technology decisions and its exemption for certain older vessels. The existing standards will remain in place until the agency can finalize stricter regulations. Click here to view the full ruling. EPA: COURT STAYS OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WATER RULE On Oct. 9, the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an order granting the request of eighteen states to place a nationwide stay on the Obama administration’s rule clarifying Clean Water Act jurisdiction over US waterways. The US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers had finalized the rule in May. In a 2-1 ruling the court decided that the rule,...

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ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’
Apr15

ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.    DROUGHT: CALIFORNIA ORDERS MANDATORY CUTS IN WATER USAGE On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a landmark executive order requiring state residents to cut their water usage by 25 percent through February 28, 2016. The first-ever water restrictions target watering on lawns, campuses, cemeteries and golf courses. The order also instructs the California Energy Commission to pass appliance efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals and other appliances resulting in saving 10 billion gallons of water in the first year. It also directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to discourage overuse. On April 9, the California Energy Commission adopted new efficiency standards for water-using appliances. The emergency situation allowed the Commission to prohibit the sale and installation of certain toilets, urinals and faucets that do not meet minimum water efficiency requirements as of Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of the manufactured date. Click here to view the full executive order announcement. Click here to view the California Energy Commission announcement. EPA: LETTERS SEEK TO CURB USAGE OF PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO POLLINATORS The US Environmental Protection Agency issued correspondence notifying manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use that applications to the agency seeking approval for usage may not be approved until risk assessments to pollinators are complete. The agency asks manufacturers with pending registrations for outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides to withdraw or change any references to using the product outdoors by April 30. Click here for more information. EUROPEAN ACADEMIES: NEONICOTINOIDS STUDY RELEASED On April 8, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its latest study on neonicotinoids and their effects on ecosystem services. It concludes that widespread preventive use of neonicotinoids has adverse effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity. David Inouye, ESA president offered his insight on the report. “The effects on pollinators (other than honey bees and bumble bees) and organisms that contribute to natural pest control and soil functioning have rarely been addressed in research so far, but acute lethal or sub-lethal effects have been observed on several natural pest control species such as insects and birds, and soil dwelling species such as earthworms. Thus neonicotinoids appear to have many of the same detrimental features that previous generations of pesticides, starting with DDT, have ultimately been found to have.” Click here for more information. EPA: CLEAN WATER RULE SENT TO WHITE HOUSE FOR FINAL REVIEW On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency and...

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ESA Policy News October 8: Obama designates world’s largest marine reserve, Science committee reviews NSF grants
Oct08

ESA Policy News October 8: Obama designates world’s largest marine reserve, Science committee reviews NSF grants

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  WHITE HOUSE: OBAMA DESIGNATES WORLD’S LARGEST MARINE RESERVE On Sept. 25, President Obama signed a proclamation designating the largest marine reserve in the world off-limits to commercial resource extraction including fishing. The proclamation expands the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to an area 490,000 square miles, six times its current size and fully protects its deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems which are vulnerable to climate change impacts. The move is in line with the administration’s broader National Ocean Policy and its Climate Action Plan. Click here for additional information. HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE CONTINUES EFFORTS TO REVIEW NSF GRANTS House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) continues to single out National Science Foundation (NSF) peer-reviewed research projects viewed as frivolous or wasteful. Through press releases and direct meetings with NSF officials, the chairman has sought to bring attention to dozens of grants he views as a misuse of taxpayer money. Chairman Smith has also used the legislative process to advance the issue. His bill, H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, includes language requiring the agency to specify how grants funded by the agency serve national economic and security interests. The effort has stirred partisan tensions among members of the traditionally bipartisan committee.  On Sept. 30, Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), issued a letter outlining the unprecedented nature of Chairman Smith’s efforts. The letter is only the most recent instance of written correspondence between the two senior members of the committee over NSF’s merit review process. Click here to read the Ranking Member Johnson letter. EPA: COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED FOR CLEAN WATER RULE The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is extending its public comment period until Nov. 14 for its proposed rule clarifying federal jurisdiction of US waterways. This is the second time EPA has extended the rule’s comment period. Recent US Supreme Court decisions, including Rapanos v. United States, have called into question the term “navigable waterway” as defined under the Clean Water Act. The proposed EPA rule would clarify that narrower water bodies such as streams, wetlands and smaller rivers, are under the law’s jurisdiction. Click this link for additional information on the proposed Clean Water rule. HOUSE: CAFETERIAS INSTITUTE BAN ON POLYSTYRENE FOOD CONTAINERS The House cafeteria elected to stop serving food in polystyrene food containers following a letter from House Democrats urging a ban on the containers. The National Research Council affirmed the listing of styrene, the monomer used to create polystyrene packaging, as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Polystyrene was...

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ESA Policy News July 11: Report urges US military to improve climate planning, House DOE, Interior spending bills advance
Jul11

ESA Policy News July 11: Report urges US military to improve climate planning, House DOE, Interior spending bills advance

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.  DEFENSE: GAO REPORT CONCLUDES MILITARY NEEDS TO IMPROVE CLIMATE PLANNING On June 30th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report finding the Department of Defense (DOD) can improve infrastructure planning and processes for climate change impacts. DOD manages a global real-estate portfolio that includes over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land with a replacement value of close to $850 billion. Within the US, the department’s extensive infrastructure of bases and training ranges, which is critical to maintaining military readiness, extends across all regions, as well as Alaska and Hawaii. The GAO noted that the government currently lacks a shared understanding of strategic priorities and adequate interagency coordination to adapt to a changing climate. The report found that while many military planners are noting the impacts of climate change on their installations, they are not always certain about how to proceed with adaption efforts. The report recommends that the military formulate a climate change adaption plan setting firm deadlines to assess which of its military bases across the globe are vulnerable to climate change impacts. DOD has begun to assess installations’ vulnerability to potential climate change impacts and directed its planners to incorporate consideration of climate change into certain installation planning efforts. Additionally, it is a DOD strategic goal to consider sustainability, including climate change adaptation, in its facility investment decisions. View the full report by clicking this link. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE APPROVES FY 2015 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL On July 10th, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 4923, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015. The $34 billion bill includes $10.3 billion funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE) and $5.5 billion US Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The Obama administration threatened to veto the bill over its many provisions to curb the enforcement of environmental regulations. The bill would block funding for enforcement of the Obama administration’s proposed rule to clarify federal jurisdiction in the Clean Water Act. The House rejected several conservative amendments that sought to sharply reduce funding in the bill. One that was rejected from Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) would have cut all FY 2015 funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. It failed by a vote of 110–310. For additional information on specific funding levels in the bill, see the June 13th edition of ESA Policy News by clicking here. To view the White House Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 4923 click this link. APPROPRIATIONS: INTERIOR, EPA SPENDING BILL WOULD...

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ESA Policy News: November 22
Nov22

ESA Policy News: November 22

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here. SCIENCE: SUBCOMMITTEE REVIEWS LEGISLATION TO REAUTHORIZE NSF On Nov. 13, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research considered the Frontiers in Innovation Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, draft legislation to reauthorize programs in the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as various Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education programs. Committee Democrats were concerned about provisions of the bill that would supersede NSF’s existing merit review process. Chief among Democrats’ concerns was Section 104 of the bill, which requires the NSF director to provide a written justification for each grant verifying that it meets certain requirements, including furthering “the national interest,” being “worthy of federal funding,” furthering economic competitiveness and advancing the health and welfare of the general public. The requirements are similar to those laid out in a previous draft bill authored by science committee Republicans, the High Quality Research Act, which was opposed by the scientific community. The Ecological Society of America joined the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) in sending a letter to the science committee expressing concerns with such efforts earlier this year. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-LA) states that the language is necessary to ensure accountability to the American taxpayer over federal funding decisions. “They [government employees] should explain why grants that receive taxpayer funding are important research that has the potential to benefit the national interest. It’s not the government’s money; it’s the people’s money,” asserted Smith. “Enhanced transparency and accountability isn’t a burden; it will ultimately make NSF’s grant award process more effective.” The draft is the second bill House Republicans have put forward to reauthorize the AMERICA COMPETES Act. Several weeks ago, the committee considered a bill to reauthorize Department of Energy science initiatives. For additional information, see the Nov. 11 edition of ESA Policy News. To view the CNSF letter to Chairman Smith, click here. For more information on the hearing, click here. SENATE: COMMITTEE APPROVES SCIENCE AGENCY NOMINEES AHEAD OF RULE CHANGE On Nov. 12, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved several of President Obama’s choices to lead key positions at the administration’s science agencies. The committee approved Kathryn Sullivan for the position of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator, Jo Handelsman to be Associate Director for Science for the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Robert Simon for Associate Director for Environment and Energy for OSTP. Sullivan has previously served as NOAA’s chief scientist...

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ESA Policy News: September 27
Sep27

ESA Policy News: September 27

WILDLIFE: letter of support for conservation programs
UNITED NATIONS: IPCC report released
HOUSE: testimony on climate action plan
EPA: new carbon standards for powerplants
SCIENCE: Golden Goose awards

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ESA Policy News: June 28
Jun28

ESA Policy News: June 28

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Science Policy Analyst Terence Houston.  Read the full Policy News here.   CLIMATE CHANGE: OBAMA OUTLINES PLAN TO REGULATE GREENHOUSE GASES On June 25, President Obama announced his plan to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The plan seeks to implement federal action on addressing climate change in lieu of  Congress that has not passed comprehensive legislation  to reduce carbon emissions throughout the president’s first-term. “Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants.  But here’s the thing:  Right now, there are no federal limits to the amount of carbon pollution that those plants can pump into our air,” said President Obama. “We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air or our water, but power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air for free.  That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.” The president asserted that rising sea-levels over the past century have contributed to more damaging hurricanes and that temperature changes have caused more severe droughts and increased the duration and reach of wildfires. Implemented largely through the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, the plan would set carbon limits on coal-fired industrial plants and invest in renewable energy usage on public lands. To brace for the continued impacts of climate change, the plan utilizes strategies developed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to help communities guard against flooding and extreme weather events. It also intends to apply scientific knowledge to help farmers, ranchers and landowners manage droughts and wildfires and improve forest restoration efforts. Recognizing that mitigating climate change is a global effort, the White House plan also increases federal government involvement in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and sets guidelines for how foreign assistance is spent. For additional information on the plan, click here. To read President Obama’s full remarks, click here. APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES PASS ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS This month, the House and Senate appropriations committees move forward on legislation to fund federal energy and water development programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. Such programs are implemented largely through the Department of Energy (DOE) and US Army Corps of Engineers. The $30.4 billion House energy and water bill slashes funding for a number of renewable energy and research programs at DOE. Funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be cut by 40 percent compared to existing sequester level funding. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would be cut by 80 percent below the sequestered funding. The...

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Managing water with natural infrastructure: win-wins for people and wildlife

By Terence Houston, Science Policy Analyst The US Senate is moving forward with a new Water Resources Development Act, a comprehensive bill that authorizes funding for Army Corps of Engineers projects related to flood management, environmental restoration and other water resources infrastructure issues. The bipartisan legislation (S. 601) is sponsored by Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA). In light of this, the Consortium for Aquatic Science Societies recently held a congressional briefing that highlighted problems with aquatic invasive species and “natural infrastructure” solutions. David Strayer, Senior Scientist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies discussed the varied ways in which invasive species can harm ecosystems, recreation and tourism for communities living alongside major waterways. Invasive species cost the US economy $100 billion a year and cause significant lasting ecological changes, often hindering  recreation and leading to proliferation of less desirable  wildlife. Among the most costly of these is the zebra mussel, which has cost industry and business billions since its initial introduction to the United States several decades ago. The mussels damage boats, invade water treatment and power plants and clog pipes. Strayer also highlighted nutria, plant-eating rodents that can severely erode river banks,  leaving surrounding communities more vulnerable to floods; Japanese knotweed, which crowds out native plants and damages existing infrastructure; and didymo (commonly known as “rock snot”), which – in addition to its obvious aesthetic damage to otherwise scenic landscapes – alters streambeds and cuts out food sources for native aquatic species such as trout. Strayer noted that reservoirs, alteration of water flows in rivers and streams and fish stoking (which can unintentionally include contaminants and undesirable wildlife) can buttress proliferation of invasive species. He praised language in the new WRDA legislation that would establish a program to mitigate invasive species in the Columbia River Basin and manage invasive plants in the northern Rockies and urged support for an amendment recently incorporated into the bill from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that would seek to restrict invasive species from dispersing into the Great Lakes. Emma Rosi-Marshall, also with the Cary Institute on Ecosystem Services, focused her presentation on the general ecology of rivers. Many animals, including salmon and sturgeon, adapt their migration and breeding patterns on the dynamics of rivers. She also expanded on the important role of natural infrastructure such as wetlands and floodplains in mitigating floods and controlling erosion. Dams, while providing services such as water storage and power generation, can also disrupt wildlife migration and alter the manner in which sediment and nutrients are delivered along waterways. These alterations can impact fish abundance as well as...

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