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Policy News Update

May 4, 2012

In this issue: [Contract All : Expand All]

SENATE: APPROPRIATORS APPROVE ENERGY AND WATER, AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILLS

The week of April 26, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its Energy and Water Development and Agriculture Appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013.

Energy and Water

The Energy and Water Appropriations Act for FY 2013 is funded at $33.361 billion, $373 million less than FY 2012. The bill is primarily responsible for funding the Department of Energy, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation. The legislation’s funding overall is slightly more than the $32.1 billion approved by the House in committee. For additional information on the House Energy and Water bill, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0420.php.

Unlike the House measure, the Senate Energy and Water bill does not include funding for the controversial nuclear waste site under Yucca Mountain, which is opposed by the Obama administration. The Department of Energy would receive $27.128 billion, $1.38 billion more than in FY 2012 to boost research related to clean energy technologies. Investment in the Senate Energy and Water bill in FY 2013 includes the following:

 

Agriculture

The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Act for FY 2013 includes $20.785 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2013, an increase over the $19.565 billion FY 2012 enacted amount. Programs of interest in the agricultural funding bill include:

Agriculture Research Service: $1.101 billion, an increase from $1.09 billion in FY 2012.
Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service: $816.534 million, level with FY 2012.

National Resources Conservation Service: $828.498 million, an increase from $828.159 million in FY 2012.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS LOCAL EFFORTS ON STEM EDUCATION

On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Science Education held a field hearing in Madison, Alabama to review science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs and partnerships at the local level and their impact on the economy. The hearing was entitled “STEM Education in Action: Local Schools, Non-Profits, and Businesses Doing Their Part to Secure America’s Future.”

Among the subcommittee leadership, there was consensus on the important role STEM education can play in boosting the economy. “Our commitment to STEM education is exemplified by contributions to STEM programs in the community by the University of Alabama-Huntsville’s Propulsion Research Center and related scholarships and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s educational programs, as well as many other local initiatives supporting STEM programs for students ranging from elementary school through high school,” stated Research and Science Education Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). Ranking Member Dan Lipinski (D-IL) noted that fewer than 40 percent of college students who start in a STEM-related field obtain a degree in that field, leading to a shortage of qualified employees to fill positions in science and technology, for which there is growing demand in the economy.

Individual panelists touched on ways to further STEM education in schools. Robert Altenkirch, President of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, emphasized the need for educators to give students a broader view of how STEM education can become a foundation for high-tech jobs.  “At younger ages — elementary and middle school — we need to help students gain a better appreciation of what engineers and scientists do,” Altenkirch said. He noted that internships with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other outside training opportunities help students better understand how STEM education can be applicable beyond the classroom.

Camille Wright, Director of Secondary Instruction at Madison City Schools, spoke about the need for increased investment in educators, lamenting that the state of Alabama has cut funding for textbooks and teacher development initiatives. She also criticized the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which she said has forced school districts to focus on reading and math at the expense of  science education.

Several bills have been introduced in the 112th Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly called the No Child Left Behind Act). Many scientific societies and education groups point to the Senate legislation authored by Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY) as the legislation that most adequately addresses the need for STEM education.

Additional information on the hearing can be found here:

http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-science-education-field-hearing-stem-education-action-local

OCEANS: HOUSE GOP SEEKS TO BLOCK FUNDING FOR OBAMA ADMINISTRATION INITIATIVE

On April 25, a group of 23 Republican House Members sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) requesting that he prohibit funding for the Obama administration’s National Ocean Policy.

The letter was spearheaded by Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX), who also serves on the House Natural Resources Committee. It expresses concern that funding for the National Ocean Policy will divert scarce discretionary funds and have detrimental economic effects on a number of industries including agriculture, fishing, energy development and tourism. Prominent signers include House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Chairman John Fleming (R-LA) and House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX). Several industry groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Petroleum Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Recreational Fishing Alliance have also expressed concerns with the policy.

“The proposed policy guidelines and processes in the National Ocean Policy have the potential to change the permitting criteria and requirements for a large number of economic sectors including agriculture, fishing (recreational and commercial), development of traditional and renewable energy, mining, power production, inland river transportation, maritime shipping, manufacturing, housing development, recreational boating, and tourism, among others,” states the letter.  “At a time when we are looking at all opportunities to address our struggling economic recovery, it is important that we closely examine how this overly ambitious effort will affect jobs as well as ocean, coastal and inland economies.”

Administration officials maintain that the National Ocean Policy is necessary to increase coordination, streamline processes and reduce duplicity between more than two dozen federal agencies with jurisdiction over issues affecting the ocean, marine life and related commerce. The administration points out that the idea for the National Ocean Policy originated from recommendations of the George W. Bush administration’s U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy in 2004.

Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a similar letter in early April. Chairman Hastings has voiced his criticism of the National Ocean Policy in previous hearings. For more information, see the November 4, 2011 edition of ESA Policy News here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/11042011.php

To view the Flores letter, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/LtrToChairmanRogers04.25.12.pdf

To view the Hastings letter, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/LtrToChairmanRogers04.02.12.pdf

For additional information on the National Ocean Policy, click here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/oceans/policy

EDUCATION: EPA AWARDS GRANTS TO COLLEGES FOR INNOVATION PROJECTS

On April 25, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an award of over $1 million in grants to 15 university and college teams from across the country for their work in environmental sustainability.  The teams participated in the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, DC. 

EPA’s People, Prosperity and the Planet (P3) award competition was held at the expo, and featured more than 300 college innovators showcasing projects designed to protect the environment, encourage economic growth and use natural resources more efficiently.  Each P3 award-winning team will receive a grant of up to $90,000 to further develop their design, apply it or move it to the marketplace. Previous P3 award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing the technologies both across the country and around the world.

Following an initial peer review process, this year’s winners were selected from 45 competing teams after two days of judging by a panel of national experts convened to provide recommendations to the  American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  
For a listing of the winners and additional information on the program, click here: 
http://www.epa.gov/p3/2012winners
To view a fact sheet on the P3 program, click here:
http://www.epa.gov/ncer/p3/p3_factsheet.pdf

SCIENCE EDUCATION: ESA ENGAGES PUBLIC IN URBAN ECOLOGY AT SCIENCE FESTIVAL

On April 28 and 29, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) participated in the USA Science and Engineering Festival held at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.  The free event, hosted by Lockheed Martin, featured over 3,000 exhibits and drew thousands of people from the Metro-Washington area. 

ESA’s booth focused on urban ecology and children and adults alike were particularly drawn to the terrarium of pill bugs (Armadillidiidae), centipedes and other small creatures.  The booth also featured an urban ecology game, teaching visitors about the urban heat island effect, DC’s buried streams, and unexpected wildlife living in cities. 

ESA President Steward Pickett, who participated in the event both days, said: “Many people don’t think about ecology in the context of cities.  There’s still this notion that you have to go to a national park or other far-away places but, in fact, ecology happens everywhere--in rivers, agricultural fields and heavily developed urban areas.   

Photos can be viewed here:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.337997659600519.77403.133905383343082&type=3

Read more here:
http://www.esa.org/esablog/ecologist-2/ecology-education/talking-urban-ecology-at-the-usa-science-festival/

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in the House

H.R. 4483, the Broadening Participation in STEM Education Act – Introduced April 24 by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the bill would seek to increase the number of students from underrepresented minority groups earning degrees in Science Technology, Mathematics and Engineering (STEM) fields. The legislation also authorizes the National Science Foundation to award grants to colleges and universities that seek to expand minority participation in STEM fields. The bill has 10 original cosponsors, all Democrats.

Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee

On April 25, the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law held a hearing on the following bill:

H.R. 4377, the Responsibility and Professionally Invigorating Development Act – Introduced by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), the bill would reform certain environmental review requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). The bill would set the first-ever permanent deadlines to complete NEPA reviews. The bill proposes setting a 54-month deadline on the entire process that would including a maximum of 18 months for completing environmental assessments and 36 months for completing more complex environmental impact statements.

The bill also includes language to grant more control of the environmental review process to the respective business or entity seeking a federal review permit, which has earned the bill criticism from House Democrats and environmental organizations. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is an original cosponsor of the bill.

On April 27, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on the following bill:

H. R. 4094, the Preserving Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area Act – Introduced by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), the bill would overturn a National Park Service (NPS) decision restricting vehicle access to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina. NPS made the decision with the intention of protecting nesting birds and sea turtles. The bill’s sponsor contends that the restrictions will impose hardship on the Hatteras Island economy and are unnecessary to protect wildlife. 

On May 3, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a field hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 1620, the Federal Land Asset Inventory Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), the bill seeks to improve federal land management and resource conservation by requiring the Secretary of Interior to develop an inventory of all its real estate property.

H.R. 4233, the Map It Once, Use It Many Times Act – Introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the bill would establish the National Geospatial Technology Administration within the United States Geological Survey to enhance the use of geospatial data, products, technology, and services in an effort to increase the economy and efficiency of Federal geospatial activities.

Approved by House Committee

On April 24, the Energy and Commerce Committee marked up the following bills:

H.R. 4471, the Gasoline Regulations Act – Introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the bill would require an interagency study of how various Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules affect gas prices. The legislation would bar EPA from finalizing those three rules until six months after the study is complete.

H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act – Introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the bill would require any sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to be matched by a plan to open an equivalent portion of federal lands and waters to oil drilling.

On April 25, the Natural Resources Committee marked up the following bills:

H.R. 460, the Bonneville Unit Clean Hydropower Facilitation Act - Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the bill would eliminate a requirement that a developer of hydropower along the Diamond Fork System of the Central Utah Project reimburse the Bureau of Reclamation $106 million for the cost of developing the project.

H.R. 919, the Mohave Valley Land Conveyance Act of 2011 - Introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the bill would provide for the conveyance of certain public lands in Mohave Valley, AZ, administered by the Bureau of Land Management to the Arizona Game and Fish Commission for use as a public shooting range.

H.R. 1237, to provide for a land exchange with the Trinity Public Utilities District of Trinity County, California – Introduced by Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA) the bill would provide for a land exchange with the Trinity Public Utilities District of Trinity County, CA, involving the transfer of land to the Bureau of Land Management and the Six Rivers National Forest in exchange for National Forest System land in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

H.R. 2621, the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act - Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill would establish the Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado.

H.R. 3874, the Black Hills Cemetery Act - Introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), the bill would provide for the conveyance of eight cemeteries that are located on National Forest System land in Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.

S. 925, Mt. Andrea Lawrence Designation Act of 2011 - Introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bill would designate a peak located 0.6 miles northeast of Donahue Peak on the northern border of the Ansel Adams Wilderness and Yosemite National Park in California, as Mt. Andrea Lawrence.

Considered in Senate Committee/Subcommittee

On April 24, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife held a hearing on several conservation bills, including the following:

S. 810, Great Apes Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, the bill would prohibit traumatic invasive research from being conducted on great apes.

S. 357, Wildlife Disease Emergency Act of 2011 - Introduced by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the bill would authorize the Secretary of Interior to declare wildlife emergencies, lead coordinated responses to emergencies, and establish a wildlife disease emergency fund.

S. 1494, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization Act of 2011 – Introduced by Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the bill reauthorizes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Establishment Act through FY 2015.

S. 1266, Delaware River Basin Conservation Act of 2011 - Introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE), the bill would establish a Delaware River Basin restoration program with competitive matching grants.

S. 2282, North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act of 2012 – Introduced by Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK), the bill would reauthorize wetlands conservation programs through 2017. Chairwoman Boxer is also a lead sponsor of the bill.

Approved by Senate Committee

On April 26, 2012, The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry approved the following bill:

The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 – Introduced by Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), the bill reauthorizes agricultural programs through 2017. The bill cuts funding for agricultural programs by $23 billion by restructuring commodity programs, capping most commodity payments at $50,000, consolidating 23 conservation programs into 13 and eliminating nearly 100 program authorizations. The bill passed committee by a vote of 16-5.

The committee approved an amendment by Sens. Kent Conrad and Dick Lugar (R-IN) that authorized $800 million in mandatory funding to the bill’s rural energy programs, which had previously received no mandatory funding in the original bill. The amendment also would create a new Rural Energy Savings Program to fund electric infrastructure. Additional information on the bill can be found here:
http://www.ag.senate.gov/issues/farm-bill


Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Agriculture Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the Huntsville Times, Senate Appropriations Committee, the White House

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