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Policy News Update

July 09, 2007

In this issue: [Contract All : Expand All]

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE DROPS DEMOCRATIC AMENDMENTS, APPROVES INTERIOR BILL

On June 27, the House dropped major amendments from the Interior spending bill on Western rights of way and natural gas leasing and defeated an attempt to limit hunting of polar bears.

After dropping the amendments, the House voted 272-155 to approve H.R. 2643, the fiscal 2008 appropriations measure for the Interior Department, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Forest Service.

While policy amendments failed, Democrats defeated Republican attempts to strike earmarks and institute across-the-board cuts to the $27.6 billion bill, which includes substantial funding increases for the environmental and land management agencies. President Bush has threatened to veto the measure.

The House did approve an amendment from Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) to extend oil shale study deadlines in the Rocky Mountains, but only after holding the vote open to allow Democrats to switch their votes.

Among the amendments dropped from the bill were:

CLIMATE: TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT ATTEMPTS TO SINK CALIFORNIA EMISSION LAW

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) released documents the week of June 25 showing that the U.S. Transportation Department sought to mobilize state and federal lawmakers against California 's bid to implement its own emission standards.

Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, described the agency's attempt to interfere with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision on the matter as inappropriate and possibly illegal. Last month, Waxman said he would open an investigation into the lobbying efforts of DOT's Special Assistant for Governmental Affairs, Heideh Shahmoradi. The Transportation Department said it was merely trying to disseminate information.

As EPA's June 15 deadline for public comment on the issue approached, the Transportation Department compiled a list of senators, House members and governors in states with significant numbers of auto plants and employees and called them, saying the California proposal would create "a patchwork of regulations on vehicle emissions, which would have significant effect on the light truck and car industry."

California wants to require new cars and trucks with a model year of 2009 or later to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide. Under the state law adopted in 2002, greenhouse emissions would be reduced 22 percent by 2012 and 30 percent by 2016. EPA has said it will issue a decision on the issue by the end of the year.

AGRICULTURE: BEE DIE-OFF COULD CAUSE $75 BILLION IN LOSSES, FEDS ESTIMATE

The mysterious malady affecting honeybees could cause $75 billion in economic losses in the United States, said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns.

Johanns said the Colony Collapse Disorder already threatens $14.6 billion in pollinated crops.

The disorder has been found in 35 U.S. states, one Canadian province and parts of Asia, Europe and South America . Its origin remains unknown.

Johanns said the Department plans to spend $7.4 million researching colony collapse this year and noted that USDA would allocate an additional 2.7 million for pollinator projects from state extension service offices and other parts of the department.

According to the White House budget request for fiscal 2008, USDA spent $2.7 billion on agricultural research last year.

Troy Fore, Executive Director of the American Beekeeping Federation, said the disparity between those numbers shows USDA should be doing more to fight colony collapse. In the week of June 25, which was National Pollinator Week, Democrats and scientists asked Congress to boost research funding for pollinators and to make more federal and private conservation programs available to conserve habitat for the bees and other insects, birds and bats that help pollinate plants and keep natural systems in order.

The Ecological Society of America held a congressional briefing regarding ecosystem services, such as pollination, in agricultural systems: www.esa.org/pao/policyActivities/briefing032007.php

WOLVES: FEDS MAY CHANGE RULES LIMITING KILLINGS IN IDAHO, MONTANA, WYOMING

The Fish and Wildlife Service may make it easier to kill wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming by strengthening protections for other wildlife and domesticated animals, agency spokeswoman Sharon Rose said.

Rose said that the agency will publish its proposal to change the rules in the Federal Register by the end of the week of July 2, and there will be public hearings in all three states in July on the issue.

Under the new proposal, states and tribes would only have to prove that wolves are one of the major causes of declining wildlife herd populations in order to justify asking the federal government for authority to kill the wolves, Rose said. The rule would also require the state or tribal determination to be reviewed and commented upon by the public before a final determination by FWS on whether to allow the wolves to be killed, she added.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: INTERIOR DELISTS BALD EAGLE

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced the bald eagle's removal from the Endangered Species List June 28, in a ceremony on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial. Kempthorne signed the final decision document removing the "threatened" protection for bald eagles. The bird will be officially dropped from the Endangered Species List in one month.

Federal officials first proposed delisting the eagle eight years ago, after the number of nesting eagles nearly doubled the recovery goal. Thousands more eagles have joined the population since then -- some 10,000 nesting pairs in the lower 48 states. In 1962 -- when the pesticide DDT was still being heavily used -- the United States counted just 417 nesting pairs of eagles in the lower 48.

The final delisting has been tied up as Fish and Wildlife Service officials have struggled to put in place a management regime for the eagles once they are delisted. The eagles will still fall under the protection of two federal laws: the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Sources: Sources: Energy and Environment Daily and Greenwire

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