January 28, 2011
In This Issue
Congressional leadership has spent the past few weeks reorganizing House committees, which will now be led by Republican chairmen. In proportion to the new majority gains, minority committee rosters will also shrink as many Democrats who survived re-election will still loose slots on top committees. Membership on committees in general will decrease slightly as Republicans had pledged to reduce their overall size. The following committees are expected to play some role in science and environmental issues as they are debated in the 112th Congress:
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) intends to follow the GOP’s pledge to ban earmarks as part of its agenda to cut federal discretionary spending, a sentiment recently echoed by President Obama. The first order of business for the committee could be the Continuing Resolution, which expires March 4. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has stated the House could take up an extension covering the remainder of FY 2011 the week of Feb. 14.
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) will serve as chairman of the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee. Most recently, Rep. Simpson has been critical of the Department of Interior’s “wildlands policy,” which directs agency field managers to identify wilderness quality lands as part of the resource planning process. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) will be the subcommittee’s ranking member. The committee may also use funding measures as a vehicle to block certain Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) climate change regulations.
Rep. Simpson, however, has also been looked upon as an important ally on public land issues in general, due in large part to the needs of his state. Simpson recently said he was also interested in finding ways to improve the effectiveness of the Forest Service’s wildfire program, which now consumes roughly half of the agency’s budget and continues to rise.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will chair the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development. In previous years, he allocated a significant amount of funding towards New Jersey projects through appropriations, but has joined his party in supporting the earmark moratorium this year. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN) will be the ranking member.
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) will chair the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration while Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) will serve as the ranking member. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) will serve as chairman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) will serve as the ranking member.
Five Democrats who survived re-election lost their spots on the committee: Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Steve Israel (NY), Tim Ryan (OH), Dutch Ruppersberger (CA) and Ben Chandler (KY). The number of Democrats on the committee shrunk from 37 to 21. The overall size of the committee has shrunk as well with now only 29 majority Republicans on the panel.
The Republican committee roster includes: Chairman Harold Rogers (KY) and Reps. Jerry Lewis (CA), Bill Young (FL), Frank Wolf (VA), Jack Kingston (GA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Tom Latham (IA), Robert Aderholt (AL), Jo Ann Emerson (MO), Kay Granger (TX), Michael Simpson (ID), John Culberson (TX), Ander Crenshaw (FL), Denny Rehberg (MT), John Carter (TX), Rodney Alexander (FL), Ken Calvert (CA), Jo Bonner (AL), Steve Latourette (OH), Tom Cole (OK), Jeff Flake (AZ), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL), Charles Dent (PA), Steve Austria (OH), Cynthia Lummis (WY), Tom Graves (GA), Kevin Yoder (KS), Steve Womack (AR) and Alan Nunnelee (MS).
The Democratic roster includes: Ranking Member Norman Dicks (WA) and Reps. Marcy Kaptur (OH), Pete Visclosky (IN), Nita Lowey (NY), José Serrano (NY), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Jim Moran (VA), John Olver (MA), Ed Pastor (AZ), David Price (NC), Maurice Hinchey (NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA), Sam Farr (CA), Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL), Chaka Fattah (PA), Steve Rothman (NJ), Sanford Bishop (GA), Barbara Lee (CA), Adam Schiff (CA), Mike Honda (CA) and Betty McCollum (MN).
Energy and Commerce
Chairman Upton has divided the former Energy and Environment Subcommittee into two different panels. Rep. Whitfield will chair the Energy and Power Subcommittee while Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) will serve as the subcommittee’s ranking member. Rep. John Schimkus (R-IL) will chair the Environment and Economy Subcommittee while Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) will serve as the ranking member.
Upton and Whitfield have already joined with Senate Environment Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe in strategizing a proposal to permanently block EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Chairman Upton also intends to abolish committee members’ opening statements before hearings with the exception of the chairman, the ranking member and one designee from each side. In past years, committee leaders have infamously allowed all members to give opening statements before witnesses testified, causing hearings to extend for hours. The move has met opposition from Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Upton’s former rival to chair the committee this year. Upton stated, however, that all members will continue to be allowed time to make opening statements at markups, which typically do not have witnesses.
The Republican roster includes: Chairman Fred Upton (MI) and Reps. Joe Barton (TX), Cliff Stearns (FL), Ed Whitfield (KY), John Shimkus (IL), Joe Pitts (PA), Mary Bono Mack (CA), Greg Walden (OR), Lee Terry (NE), Mike Rogers (MI), Sue Myrick (NC), John Sullivan (OK), Tim Murphy (PA), Michael Burgess (TX), Charlie Bass (NH), Marsha Blackburn (TN), Phil Gingrey (GA), Steve Scalise (LA), Robert Latta (OH), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA), Pete Olson (TX), Brian Bilbray (CA), Gregg Harper (MS), Leonard Lance (NJ), Bill Cassidy (LA), Brett Guthrie (KY), Cory Gardner (CO), Mike Pompeo (KS), Adam Kinzinger (IL), David McKinley (WV) and Morgan Griffith (VA).
The Democratic roster now includes: Ranking Member Waxman (CA) and Reps. John Dingell (MI), Ed Markey (MA), Frank Pallone Jr. (NJ), Bobby Rush (IL), Anna Eshoo (CA), Eliot Engel (NY), Gene Green (TX), Dianna DeGette (CO), Lois Capps (CA), Mike Doyle (PA), Jane Harman (CA), Janice Schakowsky (IL), Charles Gonzalez (TX), Jay Inslee (WA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Mike Ross (AR), Anthony Weiner (NY), Jim Matheson (UT), G.K. Butterfield (NC), John Barrow (GA), Doris Matsui (CA) and Edolphus Towns (NY).
The Democratic roster drops to 23 from 36 seats on the panel in the 111th Congress while Republicans now control 31, up from 23. Democrats losing their seats are Democratic Delegate Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands and Reps. Kathy Castor (FL), John Sarbanes (MD), Christopher Murphy (CT), Jerry McNerney (CA), Betty Sutton (OH), Bruce Braley (IA) and Peter Welch (VT).
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) has been critical of the Department of Interior’s current land management and energy regulatory efforts. Many of the views of the new subcommittee chairmen also forecast a dramatic ideological shift from the previous Congress.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) will chair the National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee. Rep. Bishop has pushed for increased access to mineral resources on public lands. Rep. Raul Grijalva will serve as the subcommittee’s ranking member.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), who will head the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee, said he would work to ensure Interior Department policies do not slow the creation of jobs by stopping development of oil and gas, oil shale and minerals on public lands. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) will serve as the ranking member.
Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) will chair the Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs Subcommittee, which will also play a key role in offshore drilling policy. Rep. John Runyan (R-NJ), a member of the subcommittee has said New Jersey residents should be able to vote on whether to permit drilling in federal waters. Rep. Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands will serve as the ranking member.
Rep. Don Young (R-AK) will chair the new Subcommittee on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. Young says he will battle federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act that he says have derailed energy and economic development on tribal lands. Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) will serve as the ranking member.
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) will chair the Water and Power subcommittee while Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) will serve as the ranking member.
The Republican roster includes Chairman Hastings and Reps. Don Young (AK), John Duncan (TN), Louie Gohmert (TX), Rob Bishop (UT), Doug Lamborn (CO), Robert Wittman (VA), Paul Broun (GA), John Fleming (LA), Mike Coffman (CO), Tom McClintock (CA), Glenn Thompson (PA), Jeff Denham (CA), Dan Benishek (MI), David Rivera (FL), Jeff Duncan (SC), Scott Tipton (CO), Paul Gosar (AZ), Raúl Labrador (ID), Kristi Noem (SD), Steve Southerland (FL), Bill Flores (TX), Andy Harris (MD), Jeff Landry (LA), Chuck Fleischmann (TN), Jon Runyan (NJ), and Bill Johnson (OH).
The committee Democrats include: Chairman Markey and Reps. Ben Luján (NM), Bettty Sutton (OH), John Garamendi (CA), Colleen Hanabusa (HI), Dale Kildee (MI), Peter DeFazio (OR), Eni Faleomavaega of American Samoa, Frank Pallone (NJ), Rush Holt (NJ), Grace Napolitano (CA), Jim Costa (CA), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Dan Boren (OK), Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands, Martin Heinrich (NM), Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands, John Sarbanes (MD), Niki Tsongas (MA) and Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico.
Notable departures include Reps. Diana DeGette (CO), George Miller (CA), Lois Capps (CA), Jay Inslee (WA), Maurice Hinchey (NY) and former Chairman Nick Rahall (WV) who left the panel to serve as the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Science, Space and Technology
Representative Ralph Hall (R–TX), the new chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee announced this month that freshmen will lead four of the five subcommittees on his panel. The unusual lineup, for a body in which seniority is still the best ticket to leadership positions, is the result of senior members on the science panel holding subcommittee chairs on more prestigious committees.
The lone holdover from the previous Congress, when Republicans were the minority party, is Representative Paul Broun (R-GA), who will chair the oversight subcommittee. As ranking member, Broun was critical of many Democratic and White House initiatives as well as a vocal skeptic of the need for federal action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) will serve as the subcommittee’s ranking member.
The new chair of the energy and environment subcommittee, Representative Andy Harris (R-MD), is a Johns Hopkins University-trained anesthesiologist. Harris, who served 12 years in the Maryland state legislature, serves a district that includes a large slice of the Chesapeake Bay. Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) will be the subcommittee’s ranking member.
None of the other new subcommittee chairs hold any advanced scientific or technical degrees, although two represent districts with major NASA facilities: Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazoo (R-MS) and Research and Science Education Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) were elected to serve as the ranking members on the respective subcommittees (*Jerry Costello will serve in Giffords’s absence as “Acting-Ranking Member” of the Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee).
The Technology and Innovation Subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Ben Quayle (R-AZ), son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. Rep. Quayle is viewed as a youthful rising star within the Republican Party. David Wu (D-OR) will serve as the ranking member.
The Republican line-up includes: Chairman Ralph Hall (TX) and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (WI), Lamar Smith (TX), Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Frank Lucas (OK), Judy Biggert (IL), Todd Akin (MO), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Paul Broun (GA), Sandy Adams (FL), Ben Quayle (AZ), Chuck Fleischmann (TN), Scott Rigell (VA), Steven Palazzo (MS), Mo Brooks (AL) and Andy Harris (MD).
The Democratic line-up includes: Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Reps. Jerry Costello (IL), Lynn Woolsey (CA), Zoe Lofgren (CA), David Wu (OR), Brad Miller (NC), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Gabrielle Giffords (AZ), Donna Edwards (MD), Marcia Fudge (OH), Ben Lujan (NM), Paul Tonko (NY), Jerry McNerney (CA), John Sarbanes (MD), Terri Sewell (AL), Frederica Wilson (FL) and Hansen Clarke (MI).
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) takes the chairmanship from Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) who will now serve as the ranking member. Unlike other committees, the agenda may not change significantly as policy differences within the committee tend to be more regional than partisan.
Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) will chair the Conservation, Energy and Forestry Subcommittee, which oversees conservation, small watershed programs, energy and bio-based energy, rural electrification and forestry. Rep. Thompson is also a member of the House Natural Resources Committee. Rep. Tim Holden (D-PA) will be the ranking member.
Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-IL) will chair the Subcommittee on Rural Development, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture with Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) as the ranking member. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) will head the Nutrition and Horticulture Subcommittee with Rep. Joe Baca (D-CA) as the ranking member. Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX) will chair General Farm Commodities and Risk Management with Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) as the ranking member. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-TX) will head the Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Subcommittee while Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) will serve as the ranking member.
The new Republican roster includes Chairman Lucas and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (VA), Tim Johnson (IL), Steve King (IA), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Michael Conaway (TX), Jeff Fortenberry (NE), Jean Schmidt (OH), Glenn Thompson (PA) and Tom Rooney (FL). Freshman Members include Rick Crawford (AR), Scott DesJarlais (TN), Stephen Fincher (TN), Renee Ellmers (NC), Bob Gibbs (OH), Chris Gibson (NY), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Tim Huelskamp (KS), Randy Hultgren (IL), Reid Ribble (WI), Martha Roby (AL), Bobby Schilling (IL), Austin Scott (GA), Steve Southerland (FL), Marlin Stutzman (IN) and Scott Tipton of Colorado.
Returning Democrats are Ranking Member Collin Peterson (MN) and Reps. Tim Holden (PA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Larry Kissell (NC), Leonard Boswell (IA), Jim Costa (CA), Joe Baca (CA), Dennis Cardoza (CA), David Scott (GA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Timothy Walz (MN), Kurt Schrader (OR) and Bill Owens (NY). Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama is the only freshman named to the committee. Other new members are Reps. Chellie Pingree (ME), Joe Courtney (CT), Peter Welch (VT), Marcia Fudge (OH), James McGovern (MA) and Del. Gregorio Sablan of the Northern Mariana Islands.
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) has named freshmen Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) to head the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. As the former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Gibbs was active in opposing many clean water initiatives and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) will act as ranking member of the Water Resources Subcommittee. Rep. Bishop succeeds Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in the top Democratic spot as Johnson will now serve as the Ranking Member on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
The Republican roster includes: Reps. Don Young (AK), Thomas Petri (WI), Howard Coble (NC), John Duncan (TN), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Garry Miller (CA), Timothy Johnson (IL), Sam Graves (MO), Bill Shuster (PA), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Jean Schmidt (OH), Candice Miller (MI) and Duncan Hunter (CA). Freshman members include Reps. Tom Reed (NY), Andy Harris (MD), Rick Crawford (AR), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), Frank Guinta (NH), Randy Hultgren (IL), Lou Barletta (PA), Chip Cravaack (MN), Blake Farenthold (TX), Larry Bucshon (IN), Billy Long (MO), Bob Gibbs (OH), Patrick Meehan (PA), Richard Hanna (NY), Stephen Fincher (TN), Jeff Landry (LA), Steve Southerland (FL), Jeff Denham (CA), James Lankford (OK).
The Democratic roster includes: Ranking Member Nick Rahall (WV), Peter DeFazio (OR), Jerry Costello (IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Jerrold Nadler (NY), Corrine Brown (FL), Bob Filner (CA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Elijah Cummings (MD), Leonard Boswell (IA), Tim Holden (PA), Rick Larsen (WA), Michael Capuano (MA), Tim Bishop (NY), Michael Michaud (ME), Russ Carnahan (MO), Grace Napolitano (CA), Daniel Lipinski (IL), Mazie Hirono (HI), Jason Altmire (PA), Timothy Walz (MN), Heath Shuler (NC), Steve Cohen (TN), Laura Richardson (CA), Albio Sires (NJ) and Donna Edwards (MD). All Democrats are previous members of the committee.
Oversight and Government Reform
The Oversight and Government Reform Committee is slated to be among the more contentious and political committees, as is often the case when the committee chairman is of a different party than the executive branch. In a December Washington Times op-ed, Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa wrote that “committees with significant oversight duties must work together to block agencies from freely passing regulations that have no regard or concern for the potential damage to job growth and the economy.” The op-ed was co-penned by Energy and Commerce Chairman Upton who, like Issa, is critical of the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) recently released a letter he sent to Chairman Issa expressing his hope that the two can work together to conduct “responsible oversight” for the committee. Cummings said that such responsible oversight does not include making unsubstantiated claims such as Issa’s recent comment that Obama is presiding over “one of the most corrupt administrations” in modern times.
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) will chair the Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform Subcommittee with Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) as the Ranking Member.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) will chair the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs, Stimulus Oversight and Government Spending. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will serve as the Ranking Member.
Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) will chair the Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management Subcommittee with Rep. Edolphus Towns (NY) as the Ranking Member.
The Republican members include: Chairman Issa and Reps. Dan Burton (IN), John Mica (FL), Michael Turner (OH), Patrick McHenry (NC), Jim Jordan (OH), Jason Chaffetz (UT), Connie Mack (FL), Tim Walberg (MI), James Lankford (OK), Justin Amash (MI), Ann Marie Buerkle (NY), Paul Gosar (AZ), Raul Labrador (ID), Pat Meehan (PA), Scott DesJarlais (TN), Jow Walsh (IL), Trey Gowdy (SC), Dennis Ross (FL), Frank Guinta (NH), Blake Farenthold (TX) and Mike Kelly (PA).
Democratic members include: Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (MD) and Reps. Edolphus Towns (NY), Carolyn Maloney (NY), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Dennis Kucinich (OH), John Tierney (MA), William Lacy Clay (MO), Stephen Lynch (MA), Jim Cooper (TN), Gerald Connolly (VA), Mike Quigley (IL), Danny Davis (IL), Bruce Braley (IA), Peter Welch (VT), John Yarmuth (KY), Chris Murphy (CT) and Jackie Speier (CA).
President Obama’s second State of the Union address was highlighted by the proposal of a five-year spending freeze while seeking to maintain, if not ramp up, investments in education, scientific research, infrastructure and clean energy. The president tied such investments as key to job creation in the nation’s rebounding economy.
“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology…an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people,” said the president.
Obama unveiled a plan to promote renewable energies from sources like wind and the sun by slashing $4 billion annually in government subsidies to oil and gas companies. The cash would finance an effort to obtain 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources and also nuclear, “clean coal” and natural gas by 2035. Under the plan, new standards for electricity generators would create incentives to invest in renewable resources, nuclear power, natural gas, and in technology that strips carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The revised bipartisan focus on clean energy technology and omission of any mention of curbing greenhouse gas emissions was a deliberate and strategic move by the president to reframe the debate to match the reality of governing in the new 112th session of Congress. Any legislative initiatives must first pass the now Republican-controlled House as well as the Democratic Senate (where Republicans have also gained seats) before reaching his desk.
The bipartisan outreach was not limited to energy. The president also pledged to veto any bill that contained the congressional district project appropriations, commonly known as “earmarks.” The remark spurred a highly enthusiastic standing applause from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an avid earmark opponent as well as the 2008 presidential rival of Obama.
Among his education priorities, Obama urged a revamping of the No Child Left Behind Act, a move that also has bipartisan support. The president also called upon Congress to make the tuition tax credit, worth $10,000 for four years of college, permanent. The American Opportunity Tax Credit was included in the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was extended in the comprehensive tax package last year.
Obama also called for an increase in the number of teachers who specialize in math and science, noting that investment in education and technology is critical to fostering job creation and helping the nation compete in the global marketplace. “Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future – if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas – then we also have to win the race to educate our kids,” he said.
To read the President’s full 2011 State of the Union remarks, click here:
The White House may have ignored the advice of federal scientists when crafting a heavily criticized draft report last August accounting for oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico by the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
Several scientists raised concerns about the draft of the so-called oil budget, according to e-mails between scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
An interagency oil spill report from Aug. 4, 2010 claimed that all but 26 percent of the oil could be accounted for at that point. The Obama administration used the document to paint an optimistic picture of the situation in the Gulf, a move that was criticized by academics, lawmakers and environmentalists who said the report and the administration’s presentation downplayed the severity of the spill.
Carol Browner, the outgoing Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Policy, said the report indicated the vast majority of the oil was “gone.” The White House later said she was speaking off the cuff. Findings of the August draft were ultimately backed by an independently peer-reviewed final draft, which was released in November. However, the sampling of internal e-mails made public highlights that some top federal scientists working on the report also had concerns about the draft’s presentation ahead of its release and immediately afterward.
NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco wrote in an e-mail to Commerce Department officials and White House communications staffers on the morning of the report’s release that she was “concerned to hear that the oil budget report is being portrayed as saying that 75 percent of the oil is gone.”
“It’s not accurate to say that 75 percent of the oil is gone,” Lubchenco wrote. “Fifty percent of it is gone — either evaporated or burned, skimmed or recovered from the wellhead. 24 percent has been dispersed, and although much of this is in the process of being degraded, it is not ‘gone’ yet.”
The internal e-mails go on to highlight two other instances when federal scientists disagreed over decisions to gloss over scientific uncertainties and to simplify information in the report. At least one of those came as a result of White House “pushback,” according to the emails.
Spokesmen for the White House and NOAA have subsequently responded that the documents merely highlight a “healthy scientific debate” necessary to implement effective policy. White House spokesman Clark Stevens noted that the oil budget has since been extensively peer reviewed, and Kenney said that revised oil budget report released in November provides the technical documentation for the calculations and validates the early results released in August.
Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, weighed in through a Jan. 25 letter to President Obama: “While there is room for legitimate internal debate about scientific issues, this exchange gives the distinct impression that the White House was more concerned about public image than scientific accuracy in describing the effectiveness of its cleanup efforts.”
The original oil budget, using the Aug. 2 federal estimate of the spill at 4.9 million barrels, says 16 percent of the spilled oil was dispersed naturally and eight percent was dispersed using chemicals. A later revision of the document, released in late November, increased the estimate of chemically dispersed oil to 16 percent. EPA scientists had cautioned officials at other agencies against making misleading characterizations about the federal government’s dispersion efforts.
The internal e-mails also indicate the White House rejected NOAA scientists’ suggestions about describing the amount of spilled oil as a range rather than a precise figure. An early version of the report shows the size of the spill expressed as a range of between three million and five million barrels. Days later, Mark Miller of NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration wrote, “We have received strong pushback from [the White House] on the cumulative total used in our graphic being more than the official 4.93 million barrels.” Later drafts and the final version of the report use the more precise figure.
To view Rep. Grijalva’s letter as well as the actual email exchanges, click here:
Carol Browner has announced Jan. 24 her intention to step down as head of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy. Browner had served for eight years as the Environmental Protection Agency administrator during the Clinton administration (1993-2001).
During her time at the Obama White House, Browner was a key adviser on energy and environmental issues, including the aftermath and cleanup of last year’s massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Her primary role was to help guide the administration’s response to climate change.
Among her successes, Browner helped to broker a 2009 deal between automakers, states and other stakeholders that led to the first nationwide regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks. She was also involved in negotiations that eventually led to the 2009 House passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which later died in the Senate.
It is speculated that her departure is symbolic of a shift in the president’s agenda, away from advancing new climate change programs to defensive approach of existing policies as well as a renewed focused on more centrist renewable energy issues. The move seems to parallel other apparent internal shifts toward the center within the administration, such as the president’s naming of former banking executive William Daley as his new chief of staff.
Browner has attracted heavy criticism from Republicans, in part because she’s one of President Obama’s “czars,” high-level policy advisors who are not confirmed by the Senate. Critics contend that czars are a way to wield executive power outside of Capitol Hill oversight and the federal agency structure, although presidents of both parties have used them.
It has not been made clear yet whether President Obama will appoint someone to replace Browner or eliminate the office altogether.
Republicans members of the House Energy and Commerce and Senate Environment and Public Works Committees are currently formulating strategies to stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse gases, according to insiders who attended the meetings.
During closed-door conversations with industry representatives and technical experts, aides from the respective committees made it clear that their goal is to eliminate EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The aides told those at the meetings that Republicans are evaluating whether to “make a political statement” and seek a vote on a permanent block of EPA, even if they lack the votes for passage. To stop EPA entirely, a bill would state that greenhouse gases are not pollutants that can be regulated under the Clean Air Act or something similar to that, several people said.
The Senate likely will have at least two bills that would prevent EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. A bill from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) would put a two-year stay on EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources like power plants. A bill from Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) would seek to prevent the administration from regulating carbon under all existing environmental laws. If Barrasso’s bill passed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would not be able to say that polar bears are endangered by global climate change in order to regulate carbon under the Endangered Species Act, for example. The GOP probably does not have the votes for the Barrasso approach, but could bring enough Democrats over to have the 60 needed for success on Rockefeller’s bill.
There is also the issue of what bill could get to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said that he will not allow a vote on a bill to block EPA. Republicans are also looking at how to get language on a bill that President Obama would have to sign, like a measure funding a federal agency or one lifting the debt ceiling. Another possibility they discussed is having the GOP-led House vote to stop EPA entirely and the Senate vote for a delay. Then, in a conference committee, a compromise would be sought.
House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) who would be the gatekeeper at the committee level for any legislation pertaining to EPA greenhouse gas authority, has said that he is coordinating with key senators in deciding how best to address climate change. Whitfield said his staff was in contact with staff for Rockefeller, Barrasso and Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and James Inhofe (R-OK), all of whom have introduced legislation to stymie EPA regulation of greenhouse gases in the past or plan to do so in the future.
Republicans also want to look at what language could reverse some of the measures that have passed at the state level. Under pressure from EPA, one person said, a number of states have beefed up their regulation of greenhouse gases. With Rockefeller’s approach, the state measures would stay in place. But Republicans also do not want to step on states’ rights, said those at the meetings.
-E&E News PM
House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) and 46 Congressional Democrats defended a recent decision by Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to allow temporary roadless protections on millions of acres of western public lands in a letter to the agency.
“The decision by former Secretary [Gale] Norton to settle litigation in Utah by unilaterally declaring that the Department of the Interior would no longer seek protection for new areas of public land exhibiting wilderness characteristics exceeded the scope of the litigation and abdicated the Department’s statutory responsibilities,” the Jan. 19 letter states.
“The Bush Administration’s eight-year campaign to subjugate all other uses of public land — recreation, water quality, habitat, ranching — to rampant energy development has been well documented and former Secretary Norton’s ‘No-More-Wilderness’ policy is one of the most destructive examples,” the letter adds.
Salazar’s order “restores balance” by allowing BLM to fulfill its conservation duties while acknowledging Congress’ authority to designate permanent wilderness, the lawmakers said. Final guidance to land managers on the policy is expected in February.
The letter comes as Interior’s “wild lands” policy has taken heat from some Western Governors and Republicans, including House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings, who believe the policy will prevent energy developers and off-highway vehicle users from accessing BLM lands, stifling economic development.
To read the letter, click here:
For additional information on the BLM “wild lands” policy see the Jan. 13 edition of ESA Policy News at:
On Jan. 20, education and public affairs staff of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) met with congressional staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee and House Science, Space and Technology Committee to discuss ESA’s interest in education for a competitive and diverse workforce.
The meetings with both the Republican (majority) and Democratic (minority) staffers promoted the growing need to invest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM) programs that achieve the following: 1) Opportunities for integrated math and science education to meet the needs of the nation in the areas of agricultural production, ecosystem health and energy 2) Mentoring for diversity in the sciences and 3) Bridge programs between K-12 and college supporting a career pathway in the sciences.
The recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2009 Science Report Card for students in grades four, eight, and twelve shows that while the majority of the nation’s students performed at or above the basic level of science, there remains a significant discrepancy between the scores of whites and minorities as well as poor and more affluent students.
To view the NAEP report, click here: http://nationsreportcard.gov/science_2009
Passed the House
H.Res. 38, Reducing non-security spending to fiscal year 2008 levels or less – the non-binding resolution directs the Chairman of the House Budget Committee to establish an overall spending limit for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011. The resolution was agreed to Jan. 25 by a vote of 256-165 with 17 Democrats voting with all Republicans.
Introduced in the House
H.R. 457, to restore the mountaintop mining permit – Introduced by Rep. David McKinley, the bill would prevent the EPA from retroactively vetoing water permits. The legislation was introduced in direct response to the agency’s Jan. 13 veto of a Clean Water Act permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers to the proposed 2,200-acre Spruce No. 1 mountaintop mine. EPA contended the project would damage the environment and nearby West Virginia communities. Original cosponsors include Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Nick Rahall (D-WV), the former chairman of the Natural Resources Committee.
H.R. 501, Implementing the Recommendations of the BP Oil Spill Commission Act – introduced Jan. 26 by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA), the bill would incorporate the recommendations of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, which investigated BP oil spill disaster. The bill includes the following provision inspired from the commission report:
- Reorganizes the Interior Department and strengthens the Department’s offshore oil safety agency.
- Creates a dedicated funding stream for oil spill research and development.
Increases the role of experts in the U.S. Coast Guard and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the decision-making process for where new oil drilling can occur.
- Requires research into gaps in scientific data and response capabilities in the Arctic.
Requires extensive study of the potential effects of dispersant use on aquatic life and the environment.
- Requires the Federal Government to develop realistic worst-case flow-rate models and for oil companies to use them when they create real, worst-case scenario oil spill response plans.
- Increases the per incident payout from the oil spill liability trust fund.
Creates permanent government expertise on estimating and measuring the flow rates from deepwater spills.
Requires new standards for blowout preventers, well design and cementing practices.
- Dedicates 80 percent of the fines from the oil spill to Gulf of Mexico restoration efforts.
- Establishes unlimited liability for companies in the event of an oil spill as a deterrent against risky practices.
The bill is cosponsored by several committee ranking members including Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of the Science Space and Technology Committee, Henry Waxman of Energy and Commerce, George Miller of Education and Workforce, and Nick Rahall of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill has yet to receive any support from the Republican majority, however.
Introduced in the Senate
S. 33, to designate a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness – Introduced by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) Jan. 25, the bill would designate 1.5 million acres along the coastal plain of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as protected wilderness. The bill has 19 original cosponsors, none of which are Republican. A companion bill (H.R. 139) has also been introduced by Rep. Markey.
S. 138, the California Desert Protection Act of 2011 – Introduced by Sen. Feinstein Jan. 25, the bill would set aside new lands in the Mojave Desert for conservation and recreation. The bill intends to expand national parks, designate a quarter-million acres of wilderness, protect four waterways and improve recreation in Southern California.
On Jan. 25, Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced several pieces of legislation intended to safeguard families from dangerous toxins in drinking water:
- S. 76, Strengthening Protections for Children and Communities From Disease Clusters Act – the bill would increase federal assistance to state and local investigations into “disease clusters,” hot spots of public health problems that may be linked to environmental contamination. Sen. Boxer introduced this legislation with Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID).
- S. 77, The Pollution and Cost Reduction Act – the bill would establish a Building Pollution Reduction program at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide financial assistance for activities that reduce pollution and energy use at commercial and residential buildings.
- S. 78, protecting pregnant women and children from Perchlorate in Drinking Water – the bill would require EPA to create a drinking water standard for perchlorate, a toxic component of rocket fuel.
- S. 79, requiring a health advisory and drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium – Introduced with Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) the bill would establish a deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set an enforceable drinking water safeguard for hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, which can present a dangerous cancer risk in drinking water.
On Jan. 26, Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced several bills intended to improve oil and natural gas development methods in the Arctic.
- S. 203, the Responsible Arctic Energy Development Act – the bill directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard and other federal agencies to conduct research to improve oil spill prevention and response in the Arctic.
- S. 204, the Resources for Oil Spill Research and Prevention Act – the bill increases the per barrel contribution to the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund by three cents a barrel for domestic oil and seven cents a barrel for imported oil in order to raise $300 million annually to assist in oil spill research, planning and prevention efforts.
- S. 205, the Alaska Adjacent Zone Safe Oil Transport and Revenue Sharing Act – Secures a share of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas development for the State of Alaska and Alaska’s coastal communities equal to that provided to gulf coast states from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico to help mitigate the effects of development and support infrastructural investment.
Sources: Environment and Energy Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, the National Assessment of Education Progress, POLITICO, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Science Magazine, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the White House