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Policy News Update

May 18, 2012

In this issue: [Contract All : Expand All]

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE CJS BILL CUTS NOAA, RESEARCH INITIATIVES

On May 10, the House passed H.R. 5326, the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2013, which includes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), among other agencies.

The bill passed by a vote of 247-163 with 23 Democrats joining all but eight Republicans in supporting the measure. Democrats supporting the measure included House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) and House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Chaka Fattah (D-PA). In total, the bill provides $51.1 billion in funding for FY 2013, $1.6 billion below FY 2012 and $731 million below the president’s FY 2013 budget request.

The White House has released a statement of administration policy declaring that President Obama will veto the bill, if it is presented to him in its current form. The administration asserts that the bill’s overall funding level violates those set by the Budget Control Act (P.L. 112-25), agreed to in August of last year, and says  that the cuts included in the bill will be a detriment in furthering “economic growth, security, and global competitiveness” for the nation. While applauding the funding for the Office of Science and Technology Policy as well as the $7.3 billion funding level for NSF, the White House says that significant funding cuts to NOAA would adversely affect the agency’s ability to implement the nation's fisheries and oceans stewardship programs.

In total, 36 amendments were adopted to the bill, including measures that diverted funding away from certain NOAA programs. An amendment from Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) that diverted $18 million from NOAA weather forecasting, satellite and other operations and research programs to fund regional information-sharing systems for law enforcement agencies passed by a vote of 209-199. An amendment from Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX) to deny funding for implementation of the Obama administration’s National Oceans Policy was approved by a vote of 246-174.

An amendment from Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA) would prohibit implementation of a rule that would require certain ships to use turtle excluder devices to protect sea turtles was adopted 218-201. Shrimpers have complained the devices, which function as escape hatches for turtles, reduce catches and make it hard for them to compete with foreign shrimpers that don’t have to use the devices.

Several amendments were also passed related to NSF.  An amendment from Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN) to prohibit funding to implement activities of NSF’s Climate Change Education Program was passed 238-188. An amendment from Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to prohibit funding  to carry out the functions of the political science program within NSF’s Social Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate narrowly passed 218-208 with 27 Republicans joining all but five Democrats in opposing the measure. Another amendment from Rep. Flake to cut $1.2 billion from NSF’s Research and Related Activities account failed 121-291.

An amendment by Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI) to increase funds for NOAA Operations, Research, and Facilities by $1,600,000 and reduce funds for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Salaries and Expenses by $1,900,000 was adopted by voice vote. Additionally, an amendment by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) to cut the Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Program by $15 million was rejected 168-239.

The House bill must be reconciled with the Senate CJS bill approved in committee last month.  For additional background on the House and Senate CJS appropriations bills, see the April 20 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0420.php

To view the full White House statement of administration policy on the House CJS appropriations bill, click here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/112/saphr5326r_20120507.pdf

HOUSE: SCIENCE SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERS POTENTIAL OF OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT

On May 10, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “American Jobs and the Economy through Expanded Energy Production:  Challenges and Opportunities of Unconventional Resources Technology.” 

“The amount of energy under own soil is striking.  With continued technological advances and the right policies to enable access to these resources, America could become the global leader in energy production for the next generation and beyond,” stated Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD). “The Green River Basin, located in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming, may contain up to three trillion barrels of oil, more potential oil than the rest of the world’s current oil reserves combined. If this energy, which is overwhelmingly on Federal lands, is made available, I am confident American ingenuity will find ways to responsibly explore and produce this resource.”

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), serving as the Ranking Member due to Rep. Brad Miller’s (D-NY) absence, asserted that Republicans demonstrate discrepancy in their support for oil shale over alternative sources of energy. “I have listened as many of my Republican colleagues questioned the wisdom and need for public investments in renewable energy resources either through support of research or through tax incentives,” he said.  “But when it comes to offering subsidies to one of the wealthiest and most profitable industries in the world – the oil industry – their generosity knows no bounds.”

Most of the witnesses sought to emphasize how oil shale development benefits local communities and the overall economy. “Despite the lack of efforts of some federal agencies, the unconventional energy industry is alive and growing in Utah” asserted Utah Office of Energy Development Director Samantha Mary Julian.  “Utah actively manages its lands to promote the responsible development of its energy resources as it produces the main source of funding for our schools,” she continued. “Simply put, Utah educators and students depend on responsible energy development.”

Representing the Obama administration were Charles McConnell, the Department of Energy’s  Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Anu Mittal, Director of Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). While noting that oil and gas production has increased annually since 2008, McConnell urged that energy development be implemented with safety and environmental protections and guided by the best available science.

In her testimony, Mittal urged that several environmental concerns and uncertainties be considered before implementing commercial oil shale development. “Developing oil shale and providing power for oil shale operations and other associated activities will require significant amounts of water, which could pose problems, especially in the arid West where an expanding population is already placing additional demands on available water resources,” said Mittal.   She noted that industry experts believe that oil shale development is at least 15-20 years away. 

Mittal also referenced a 2010 GAO report that found oil shale could have several negative socioeconomic costs on tourism and natural resources. It stated that the oil shale industry's impacts on air, water and wildlife are unknown because the technology is in its infancy. The report recommended that federal agencies should prepare for oil shale development by investing in research and testing that establishes baseline environmental conditions.

View the full hearing here: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-energy-and-environment-hearing-challenges-and-opportunities-unconventional

SENATE: SUBCOMMITEE REVIEWS CORPORATIONS’ ENVIRONMENTAL PRACTICES

On May 16, the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility convened for a hearing that examined how large companies have taken steps that both save money and protect the environment. During the hearing, witnesses representing businesses including FedEx Corp, Intel, Eastman Chemical Co. and Procter & Gamble discussed various steps they were implementing that take advantage of new technologies and reduce energy costs for business and consumers.

Procter & Gamble executive Len Sauers discussed his company’s Tide Detergent that clean clothes using cold water with the same type of efficiency expected from hot water. His company estimates that if every household in the United States used cold water for laundry, the country would save 33 billion kilowatt-hours a year. Todd Brady, Intel's global environment director, discussed how his company implements a new manufacturing process for semiconductor chips every two years, allowing it to create faster chips with smaller features, ultimately leading to the use of less natural resources. Parker Smith of Eastman Chemical Co. touted his organization’s collaboration with both the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce energy use and become more efficient, partially by doing assessments of the company’s air and river water pumping systems.

There was a consensus among the subcommittee leadership that investment in corporate sustainability will have multi-faceted benefits for the nation. "Businesses need water, energy and raw materials, and they will need them on an ongoing basis, even after those of us in this room are gone," said Subcommittee Chairman Tom Udall (D-NM). "If businesses harness market forces to reduce energy use, raw materials, emissions and waste, they will improve their own future and future generations…More and more businesses like the ones here today are recognizing that competitive advantage, market share and innovation lie in doing more with less."

Subcommittee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) discussed what the federal government could do to support businesses with sustainable goals, including giving them incentives similar to the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which is administered by the federal government in conjunction with private industry and designed to make U.S. businesses more competitive.

View the full hearing here:
http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=3708ac0d-802a-23ad-4de6-d525315a5936

-Energy and Environment Daily

ENDANGERED SPECIES: REPORT TOUTS SUCCESS OF FEDERAL RECOVERY EFFORTS

On May 17, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) released a report entitled “On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife,” documenting the successful recovery of federally protected species.
The CBD report concludes that 90 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act are on track to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists. The study analyzed population data for 110 species from the year each was placed on the endangered species list through 2011. CBD reports that each species’ actual population trend and trajectory was compared to the timeline for recovery set out in government plans and that nearly all the animals and plants are recovering on time to meet federal goals.

The report was published as a rebuttal to claims among leading Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives that the Endangered Species Act has not been effective.

In July of last year, Republican appropriators sought to pass an Interior appropriations bill that would have prevented any new species from being added for any level of protection under the Act. That effort failed as an amendment by House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) to remove the language was adopted by a vote of 224-202 with the support of 37 Republicans.

The report notes that 80 percent of species have not been listed long enough to determine whether they will recover in the predicted time frame. Current species have been listed for an average of 32 years  but their recovery plans have a typical expected recovery period of 46 years.

Additional information on the report can be found here: http://www.esasuccess.org/

EPA: COLLEGE STUDENTS ENCOURAGED TO ENGAGE IN STORMWATER MANAGEMENT

On May 16, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water announced a new design competition called the Campus RainWorks Challenge to encourage student teams on college and university campuses across the country to develop innovative approaches to stormwater management. 

EPA intends for the competition to raise awareness of green design and planning approaches at colleges and universities and train the next generation of landscape architects, planners, and engineers in green infrastructure practices. The project seeks to advance the idea that green infrastructure provides multiple environmental, social and economic benefits on college and university campuses.

EPA particularly encourages Minority Academic Institutions (MAIs) to apply. MAI’s are defined for the purposes of this competition as Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities as defined by the Higher Education Act, universities with a full-time undergraduate Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent and universities that have a full-time Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander enrollment of not less than 10 percent.

Registration for the Campus RainWorks Challenge opens September 4, and entries must be submitted by December 14, 2012 for consideration. Winning entries will be selected by EPA and announced in April 2013. Winning teams will earn a cash prize of $1,500 - $2,500, as well as $8,000 - $11,000 in funds for their faculty advisor to conduct research on green infrastructure.

Additional information can be found here:
http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/greeninfrastructure/crw_challenge.cfm

GREEN JOBS: EPA, COMMERCE ANNOUNCE ENVIRONMENTAL TECH EXPORTS INITIATIVE

On May 14, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Commerce announced a new effort to invest in environmental technology exports. The Environmental Technologies Export Initiative builds on President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014 and support millions of American jobs. 

The web-based tool, scheduled to be launched this fall and hosted on export.gov, will offer U.S. environmental companies detailed information on federally supported activities including market research, scientific analysis, regulatory information and financial support programs. When launched, the online service will provide a more systematic approach for U.S. companies looking to expand markets for their environmental products and services abroad. 
The new initiative will build on the Obama administration's efforts to help companies market more of their goods and services abroad, particularly in the area of renewable energy, where the United States faces stiffening competition from China. According to EPA, the U.S. environmental industry generates approximately $312 billion in revenues each year, with a global market of more than $800 billion. The industry employs nearly 1.7 million Americans and includes over 60,000 small businesses across the country. 

For additional information, click here: http://www.epa.gov/international/trade/

INTERIOR: CHEMICAL DISCLOSURE RULES ANNOUNCED FOR HYDRAULIC FRACTURING

On May 4, the Department of Interior released a plan to require companies to report the chemicals they use to stimulate oil and gas production. The rules would apply only to federal and tribal land although the vast majority of fracking operations occur on private land. 

According to the Department of Interior, existing regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations on public lands are more than 30 years old and were not written to address modern hydraulic fracturing activities. Currently, there is no specific requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals on federal and Indian lands, where approximately 90 percent of the wells drilled use hydraulic fracturing to greatly increase the volume of oil and gas available for production. The proposed rule would require public disclosure of chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing within one month after fracturing operations have been completed.

Environmental groups contend that the plan is a major improvement over regulations last updated in the 1980s, but that it falls short of state regulations and will fail to protect human health and the environment. The groups are concerned that disclosure is only mandated after the fracking has occurred, not before. Industry critics said the new rules represent another disincentive to develop oil and gas on federal lands, where companies already face significant delays associated with well permits and endangered species compliance, among other requirements.

The reaction on Capitol Hill was also mixed. “The Obama Administration is imposing more regulation and more red-tape, and the result will be less American jobs and less American energy. Adding duplicate, burdensome regulations to the safe-practice of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands is the fastest way to drive away job-creating American energy producers,” stated House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). “This technology has the potential to revitalize our economy and provide an abundance of American energy, but that’s not possible if it becomes strangled in the web of bureaucratic rules and delays.”

“Natural gas on public lands holds tremendous potential to lower energy costs for businesses and consumers,” said Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA). “The Interior Department has a responsibility to ensure that oil and gas companies are accessing natural gas on public lands in a way that protects the safety of workers, local economies, water supplies and the environment. We already know that oil and gas companies are committing many serious violations when drilling on public lands and the regulations proposed by the Interior Department today will ensure that companies are not operating under outdated requirements and that they are drilling safely.”

Interior officials state that they plan to finalize the rules by the end of the year. Click here for further information on the rule as well as directions how to submit public comments:
http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=293916

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SPONSORS EXHIBIT AT CAPITOL HILL SCIENCE EVENT

On May 15, the Ecological Society of America participated in the Coalition for National Science Funding’s 18th Annual Exhibition and Reception entitled “STEM Research and Education: Underpinning American Innovation.”

ESA’s exhibit featured the research of ESA graduate student Sarah Roley of the University of Notre Dame. She spoke with numerous attendees, including federal agency and congressional staff, about her work on mitigating nutrient pollution in the agricultural Midwest. Roleyalso met  with congressional staff from the state of Indiana earlier that day to discuss her research and its application to Indiana. Nearly 40 exhibit booths presented a wide range of topics to policymakers including robotic sensors for monitoring water quality, social media and tweens, nanomaterials and environmental interactions and gender in STEM fields.

Read more at ESA’s blog, EcoTone: http://www.esa.org/esablog/research/showcasing-science-on-capitol-hill/ or view the photo album on ESA’s FB page:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.348600815206870.79215.133905383343082&type=3

CURRENT POLICY

Passed by Committee/Subcommittee

On May 16, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 4471, the Gasoline Regulations Act – Introduced by Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY), the bill would stall three Environmental Protection Agency rules setting limits on sulfur in gasoline, a new ozone standard and emissions curbs for refineries for at least 13 months while requiring the agency to consider costs when crafting future ozone standards.

H.R. 4480, the Strategic Energy Production Act of 2012 – Introduced by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), the bill would block the president from selling oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve without also expanding oil and gas drilling on public lands.

On May 16, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bills:

H.R. 3973, the Native American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), the bill would reduce the number of federal regulations governing energy development on tribal lands. The bill includes a provision that would  prevent BLM from implementing a controversial new rule requiring disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals, among other steps, on American Indian lands unless requested by the tribe. The amendment would block the rule's implementation on more than 50 million acres held in trust by the federal government (passed by voice vote).

H.R. 4381, the Planning for American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill would require the Interior secretary to develop a strategic plan every four years for meeting future energy demand through increased development of oil, natural gas, coal and renewable energy (passed 24-14).

H.R. 4382, the Providing Leasing Certainty for American Energy Act – Introduced by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), the bill would set minimum thresholds for leasing, bar the administration from withdrawing or withholding leases, and nullify certain existing Obama administration oil and gas leasing standards from the Bureau of Land Management (passed 24-17).

H.R. 4383, the Streamlining Permitting of American Energy Act – Introduced by Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the bill would give the Bureau of Land Management a 60-day deadline for approving oil and gas wells, funnel drilling and renewable energy application fees into agency permitting and charge a new $5,000 fee for citizens to challenge oil and gas decisions (passed 25-15).

H.R. 4402, the Natural Strategic and Critical Minerals Protection Act –  Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodie (R-NV), the bill streamlines the permitting process for mineral development by coordinating the actions of federal, state, local and Tribal agencies and sets time limits for mining permit reviews and legal challenges (passed 24-10).

Passed House

H.R. 205 – the Helping Expedite and Advance Responsible Tribal Home Ownership (HEARTH) Act of 2011 – the bill extends to any Indian tribe the discretion granted under current law only to the Navajo Nation to lease restricted lands for business, agricultural, public, religious, educational, recreational, or residential purposes without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. (The Secretary must still approve the tribal regulations under which those leases are executed and mining leases still require the Secretary's approval). The bill, which has 20 bipartisan cosponsors, passed May 15 by a vote of 400-0. Companion legislation (S. 703) has been introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY).

H.R. 2621 – the Chimney Rock National Monument Establishment Act – Introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), the bill designates the Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. The bill would maintain existing uses such as grazing near Chimney Rock, while protecting the area from mineral development and elevating its status as a tourist destination. The bill passed the House May 16 by voice vote. Companion legislation (S. 508) has been introduced by Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO).

Considered by Senate Committee

On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the following bill:

S. 2146, the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 – Introduced by Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the comprehensive bill would require large utilities to generate 84 percent of their electricity by 2035 from clean sources, including renewables, natural gas, and new nuclear and hydroelectric plants. Among its provisions, the bill requires utilities to obtain credits for each megawatt-hour of generation, beginning with a target of 24 percent from clean sources in 2015, and credits are distributed based on the carbon intensity of an electricity source. The Energy Information Administration predicts that the bill would cause carbon dioxide emissions to fall 44 percent by 2035.

Passed Senate

H.R. 4849, the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Backcountry Access Act – Introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (D-CA), the bill would restore access to a roadless area in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for backcountry horsemen. Overall, the bill helps to ensure commercial tour guides can continue taking vacationers into Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park while the National Park Service (NPS) completes a wilderness management plan. An amendment offered by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) gives NPS discretion to set limits on pack guides until it completes a wilderness stewardship plan, which must be finalized within three years. The bill passed the Senate on May 17 by unanimous consent after passing the House in April by voice vote. The amended bill must now pass the House in its current form before it can be sent to the president.


Sources: Center for Biological Diversity, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, POLITICO, the White House

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