July 22, 2005
In This Issue
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton’s (R-TX) request for the personal and financial records of three scientists who wrote a controversial climate change study is an attempt to intimidate them, the head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) said.
In a letter to Barton, AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan Leshner said the “aggressive congressional inquiry into the professional history of scientists” could intimidate other researchers. He said the Barton’s requests “give the impression of a search for some basis on which to discredit these particular scientists and findings, rather than a search for understanding.”
At issue is a four-year-old graph, published in the journal Nature by the three scientists that depicts global average temperature records stretching back 1,000 years. It shows a sharp increase during the 20th century, with an upward curve resembling the blade of a hockey stick. Often cited as evidence that human emissions are the dominant cause of rising global temperatures, the graph became controversial after it appeared in a 2001 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
Barton’s request came after two Canadians with no expertise in climate change published academic papers and opinion articles challenging the methods used to generate the graph. He requested detailed explanations as well as raw data, documents and financial information from the scientists.
The inquiry has since been criticized by scientists, Democratic lawmakers, and the Chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who sent a letter to Mr. Barton calling the investigation “misguided and illegitimate.”
Larry Neal, a spokesman for the Energy and Commerce Committee, responded to Mr. Boehlert’s letter. “Requests for information are a common exercise of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s responsibility to gather knowledge on matters within its jurisdiction,” he said. “When global warming studies were criticized and results seemed hard to replicate by other researchers, asking why seemed like a modest but necessary step. It still does.”
Scientists expressed concerns about Mr. Barton’s apparent presumption that Congress might reveal truths that the scientific process cannot. That sentiment was echoed in a letter sent to Mr. Barton by Ralph J. Cicerone, the new president of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the country’s leading atmospheric chemists.
Dr. Cicerone said a Congressional investigation “is probably not the best way to resolve a scientific issue, and a focus on individual scientists can be intimidating.” He offered the services of the academy, which traditionally has served as an arbitrator on complicated, controversial scientific issues.
Advocates for creating national fishing quota standards are hoping a pending bill on Capitol Hill will help influence lawmakers to deal with the issue while debating fishery management reauthorization.
Reps. Tom Allen (D-ME), William Delahunt (D-MA) and Robert Simmons (R-CT) introduced “The Fishing Quota Standards Act of 2005”, which draws on recommendations for quota standards from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy.
Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) systems are market-based approaches to fishing. Under an IFQ, a fisher is allocated a certain percentage share of a fishery that can be used at any time during a fishing season. IFQs are controversial, with some conservationists arguing that standards need to be instituted to avoid privatizing a public resource at the expense of ecosystem health. Congress previously placed a moratorium on IFQs to study their potential effects, but that expired in 2002.
The President’s Ocean Action Plan last year endorsed IFQs, and several are under development in different fishery management councils, including red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and the Alaska and West coast reef groundfish fisheries.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) and House Fisheries Subcommittee Chairman Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) have each said they would like to introduce and pass their own Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization bills. The large fisheries management bills would likely deal in some way with IFQs.
Meanwhile, the Bush administration is also working on its own Magnuson-Stevens proposal, which it is expected to release later in July.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) plans to reintroduce legislation to permanently place 58.5 million acres of national forests off limits to roadbuilding, logging and other development. He will be joined by House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and over 150 original cosponsors, said an Inslee spokesman. A “Dear Colleague” letter on the roadless issue was circulated shortly after the Bush administration officially replaced the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule in May. The proposed legislation would codify the Clinton rule.
Inslee and Boehlert introduced a similar bill during the 108th Congress, as did Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and John Warner (R-VA). The only vote on the issue came in 2003 during debate over the FY ’04 Interior Department spending bill; the House defeated an Inslee amendment to codify the Clinton rule, 185-234.
Many Western lawmakers and industry groups criticized the 2001 Clinton rule as a last-minute, arbitrary move to limit industry activities in forests. Critics said the roadless designations were often drawn randomly with little input from communities or businesses and applauded the effort to get states involved. The Bush administration officially repealed it in May 2005, replacing it with a program granting governors 18 months to petition the Agriculture Department to protect inventoried roadless areas on national forests in their states.
A House Resources Committee spokesman said it is doubtful Inslee’s bill will receive a hearing.
ESA has issued comments on roadless areas in the past:
Congressional Democrats called U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft plans for crafting a new environmental justice strategy badly flawed because they “disregard” consideration of race. Several — including Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) are considering a bid to add new language to the Interior and Environment spending bill in conference, a House aide said. The provision would say EPA’s plans contravene a Clinton-era executive order and bar spending on any efforts to violate the order.
More than 70 Democrats sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson that also includes other criticisms. It raises concern that the draft plan is too tilted toward crafting national environmental justice priorities, without sufficient regard to the needs of specific communities. EPA hopes to create about a half-dozen priority areas and has floated possibilities, including reducing asthma attacks, revitalizing contaminated sites and providing safe drinking water.
Two draft documents EPA released in June — the “Environmental Justice Strategic Plan Outline” and “Framework for Integrating Environmental Justice” — are meant to form the basis for the environmental justice strategic plan for 2006-2011. EPA is drafting the plan to integrate its environmental justice efforts into the planning and budgeting process.
Environmental justice refers to addressing the problem that minority and poor areas bear disproportionate environmental effects from industrial facilities and other sources of pollution. The 1994 executive order instructs federal agencies to make environmental justice a part of their missions by addressing the disproportionate effects of their policies on low-income and minority populations.
But lawmakers who signed the letter fault the planning documents for failing to address race specifically when making decisions on environmental justice policies.
“This is a significant departure from existing environmental justice policies and is in direct contradiction with the intent of the Executive Order. We believe it will do nothing to reduce the existing disparate impacts suffered by low-income and minority communities and may contribute to the future increase of these impacts,” the letter says.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency is committed to environmental justice and implementing the Clinton order. “The draft Environmental Justice Strategic Plan Framework is designed to ensure significant, measurable environmental and public health benefits for communities that have disproportionate environmental burdens, many of which have predominantly minority and low-income populations,” said spokeswoman Stacie Keller.
European Commission members are expected to proceed with tough new environmental regulations after meeting to address the future of the European Union’s (EU) environmental policy.
The 25 members of the European Commission debated whether to postpone proposals concerning air pollution and carbon-dioxide emissions, but a majority of members favored going ahead with the regulations. Commission President José Manuel Barroso had called for a delay to the debate after seeing the details of a plan to tackle air pollution, leading some to think the laws would be shelved in favor of pro-business regulation.
At issue is whether the 25-nation bloc can accelerate economic growth while maintaining its environmental commitments. Earlier in July, the commission delayed plans to carry out environmental initiatives in the European Union while members reconsidered the financial effect on Europe’s economy. Additionally, Barroso called for a review of six other strategies that propose environmental policies that would have entailed a series of new regulations on water quality, waste, soil, natural resources, pesticides and the urban environment.
Experts said that the latest meeting was just the first in what is likely to be an ongoing battle over the regulations’ economic impact.
Sources: Environment & Energy Daily; Greenwire; The New York Times; The Washington Post