March 03, 2008

In This Issue

Opportunity to support National Science Foundation

ESA would like to alert you to an opportunity to help increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Bob Inglis (R-SC), and Brian Baird (D-WA) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to each member of House of Representatives asking for their signature on a letter requesting that the Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations subcommittee make NSF a priority in the fiscal year (FY) 09 appropriations process.The Dear Colleague letter requests that the CJS subcommittee restore NSF to a pathway to double its budget as outlined in the America COMPETES Act. Specifically, the letter is seeking a FY 09 appropriation for NSF of $7.326 billion. The President’s FY 09 request is $6.854 billion.

The House Dear Colleague letter also requests that Representatives include the NSF in their “programmatic requests” to the Appropriations Committee.

Similarly, Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Kit Bond (R-MO) are circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter on the Senate side asking the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science to support NSF by providing at least the President’s FY 09 request of $6.85 billion.

If you are interested in supporting this effort, contact your Representative and Senators to request support for NSF. Encourage them to sign the NSF Dear Colleague letter. When speaking with your Representative’s office, please also request that he or she includes NSF in their programmatic requests to the Appropriations Committee. The deadlines for signatures in the Senate and House are Friday, March 7, and Wednesday, March 12, respectively. Contact information for your members of Congress is available at and

Please let us know of any communication you make and of any response you receive – contact Colleen Fahey at gro.asenull@nelloc.

CLIMATE: EPA chief finalizes denial of California waiver

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Stephen Johnson signed off on a notice February 29 finalizing his rejection of California’s request for a waiver that would allow it to regulate motor vehicles’ emissions of greenhouse gases.

Johnson’s notice reiterates views he presented to House and Senate panels recently, saying the Clean Air Act does not allow California to create state standards aimed at addressing global climate problems.

California did not present a “compelling” argument in its bid to receive the waiver, the notice says. House and Senate Democrats had urged Johnson during hearings this week to reconsider his denial of the waiver. Several, including Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), predicted the courts would overturn his decision.

The Senate panel produced documents revealing that several top EPA staffers and a former EPA Administrator warned that EPA would lose a lawsuit challenging the denial.

California and nearly 20 other states hoping to implement similar standards are suing EPA over the waiver denial. Boxer has noted that leading presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), John McCain (R) and Barack Obama (D) all have promised to sign the waiver.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: Interior will evaluate 71 listing proposals this year

The Interior Department will decide this year on proposed endangered species listings for 71 species, a nearly tenfold increase in the number of species listed in the Bush Administration’s first seven years.

Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dale Hall told a House panel that the Administration would chip away at a backlog of hundreds of species awaiting protection. The Service will decide on listings for 71 species this year and 21 more in 2009.

There are more than 280 species on the candidate list, whose listing is “warranted but precluded” because of lack of funding or other higher priorities, federal scientists say. And there are hundreds of additional plants and animals on whose behalf environmentalists have filed petitions.

The effort marks a turnaround for the Administration that has hesitated to list any new plants or animals. President Bush’s Interior Department has listed only eight species — compared with 62 by the Clinton Administration and 56 under President George H.W. Bush. All eight listings came in response to lawsuits.

If the agency decides to protect any of the 92 species on its list for determinations, the long timeline for such considerations would likely move final decisions to the next administration.

The Bush Administration’s most high-profile listing decision, the polar bear, should be made “within weeks,” Hall said. He said the FWS has completed its work and the Interior Department is reviewing the decision.

If listed, the polar bear would be the first mammal protected under the Endangered Species Act because of global climate change.

OCEANS: House approves research and exploration bill

The House approved a bill on February 14 that would authorize more than $750 million for ocean research and exploration at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The bill would formally establish existing ocean exploration and undersea research programs at NOAA. It would authorize $486 million for ocean exploration and $265 million for undersea research between fiscal years 2008 and 2017. It would also create a public-private task force to help transfer new exploration and research technology and improve data management.

CLIMATE: California company abandons controversial ocean-offsets plan

The California company Planktos is halting plans to sell ocean-based carbon credits, citing money concerns and strong opposition from �anti-offset crusaders.”

The company had proposed producing the credits by seeding the world’s oceans with iron. That would theoretically spur the growth of carbon dioxide-consuming plankton that would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The company said it would “indefinitely” abandon those plans.

In January, 16 researchers published a cautionary essay in the journal Science, arguing that it is not clear whether fertilizing the world’s oceans with iron would actually reduce CO2, despite at least 12 field trials over the last 15 years. Furthermore, they warned, the technique could have unanticipated effects on marine life. The essay called for “targeted research” to determine the safety and effectiveness of ocean fertilization.

Another California-based company with a business model similar to Planktos’ has already responded to such criticism. Climos said last fall that it would set a “code of conduct” for ocean fertilization projects. The draft plan requires companies to follow fertilization methods that have been approved by an independent body, avoid sensitive ecosystems, and track and register offsets.

CAMPAIGN 2008: Scientists rally to former DOE official's bid for Hastert's seat

For much of President Bush’s tenure in the White House, members of the scientific community have often complained they are being squeezed out of the political process on issues such as climate change, energy policy, and federal spending.

Now, with one of their own locked in a high-profile congressional race, scientists from across the country are rallying to support Democratic nominee Bill Foster, a physicist who spent much of his career at the Energy Department’s Fermilab.

Foster is running to fill the seat left vacant by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in a March 8 special election. But observers say it is unlikely that his scientific background or the issues that are important to the scientific community will be much of a factor when voters head to the polls.

Officials from various scientific organizations say it is important to get people into the halls of Congress who understand their scientific issues and who employ the logical decision-making embraced by the scientific community.

EPA: Agency names Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appointed Kevin Teichman to be Deputy Assistant Administrator for Science at the agency’s Office of Research and Development.

Teichman has been serving as Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator and previously was the Director of the Science Policy Office.

He directed the Science Policy Office’s air staff during enactment of the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990. He also managed EPA’s indoor air quality research program. Teichman has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, all in mechanical engineering.

Sources: Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, and Land Letter