January 14, 2008

In This Issue

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATES: President Bush signs omnibus spending bill into law

On December 26, President Bush signed the 2008 omnibus appropriations bill into law, bringing the 2008 appropriations process to a close.

According to the budget analysis prepared by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), overall highlights for individual agencies are as follows:

National Science Foundation (NSF): overall funding increase of 2 percent over Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 for a total budget of $6.0 billion, nearly $400 million less than the Administration’s original request and nearly $600 million less than earlier House and Senate appropriations levels. For more details, please see: http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/nsf08f.htm

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Research Initiative ( NRI ): funding remains flat at $191 million, well short of the $257 million request.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS): funding for R&D increased 3.4 percent, $19 million over FY 2007.

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE): overall funding increase for Office of Science of 4.6 percent over FY 2007.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): overall funding decreased 3.2 percent from FY 2007.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): funding for R&D increased 7.6 percent over FY 2007.

For more information on all agencies, please visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program website at: http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/

BIOTECHNOLOGY: USDA investigating environmental effects of genetically modified hay – Opportunity for public comment until February 6.

The U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA) announced January 7 that it is preparing an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the environmental effects of the widespread planting of genetically modified, herbicide-resistant hay, or alfalfa seeds.

The EIS will take up to two years to complete, and there is a 30-day public comment period until February 6, 2008 on what ecological health issues USDA should consider.

The findings of the EIS will be key for Wyoming , which annually produces 1.5 million tons of alfalfa for forage, grown over 600,000 acres.

Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Co. developed the genetically modified seeds for resistance to the company’s broad leaf herbicide line of Roundup Ready weedkillers. The company claims the alfalfa seeds are genetically altered so that farmers can spray an entire crop indiscriminately with Roundup to kill weeds and maximize yields.

Last year, the Center for Food Safety sued USDA on behalf of farmers in South Dakota who complained that the biotech alfalfa could contaminate organic or conventional alfalfa if planted nearby.

Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California upheld an injunction barring new plantings of Roundup Ready alfalfa and the resale of seeds, saying more studies are needed to determine the environmental effects of the biotech hay.

The decision marked the first time a court reversed a USDA decision to approve a biotech crop.

Request for public comments: Comments are being solicited from the public until the deadline of February 6, 2008 . For instructions on submitting comments, please visit: http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2007-0044

For the complete announcement in the Federal Register, please see:

INTERIOR: Major changes proposed for department's NEPA regulations

The Interior Department has proposed major changes to its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations, potentially formalizing the use of adaptive management.

Adaptive management would allow agencies to change decisions as circumstances change or as new scientific information becomes available. While allowing adaptive management, the rule specifies agencies must analyze the effects of such an action.

In its NEPA proposal, the Interior Department also adopts guidance language from the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and states that past actions must be “relevant” in illuminating or predicting the direct or indirect effects of the proposed action.

The complete proposal may be viewed at: http://frwebgate2.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/waisgate.cgi?WAISdocID=086572372669+0+0+0&WAISaction=retrieve

EVERGLADES RESTORATION: Advocates focus on White House race in bid to revive restoration

The Everglades Coalition gathered in Florida for its annual meeting, hoping to rekindle enthusiasm for the ambitious environmental restoration effort that has floundered in the face of growing federal budget deficits during the Bush Administration.

It has been seven years since Congress authorized the $7.8 billion restoration — the largest environmental program in the nation’s history, known as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, or CERP. The effort — comprising roughly 60 projects to be completed over 30 years — is aimed at reversing a century of ecological decline wrought by intensive agriculture, massive water diversions to control flooding, and the continuing commercial and residential construction to support Florida’s burgeoning population.

Regardless of which candidates emerge from this month’s 2008 presidential primaries, Everglades advocates say their top priority is electing a president who will give strong, sustained direction to the federal agencies working to implement restoration goals.

They believe that some of that can be achieved through the appointment of committed leaders at the Interior Department and Army Corps of Engineers, the two federal agencies with primary responsibility for Everglades restoration. But also key is loosening federal purse strings on key restoration projects that promise only to get more expensive as the years pass.

President Bush, while consistent in his verbal support for Everglades restoration, has not proposed budgets that are robust enough to move the projects forward, critics say. For example, the president vetoed last year’s Water Resources Development Act bill, a measure that included roughly $2 billion in spending authorizations for Everglades projects.

The WRDA bill became law on a congressional override vote, securing a place for three projects that officials say will help restore public confidence in the

Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, and Land Letter