April 08, 2011
In This Issue
As of the morning of Friday, April 8, repeated meetings at the White House fostered no definitive agreement between House and Senate leaders to fund the government through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011. Lawmakers and the president have until Friday evening at midnight to avoid a shutdown of the federal government.
On Thursday, April 7, 2011, the House passed H.R. 1363, a bill that would fund the Department of Defense through the remainder of the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2011 and fund all other federal agencies for an additional week through April 15. The legislation would cut discretionary spending by $12 billion. It also includes language that would bar the District of Columbia from using local government funds to pay for abortion services. The bill passed by a vote of 247-181.
Fifteen Democrats voted for the bill, while six Republicans voted against it. The six Republicans opposing the bill were Reps. Justin Amash (MI), Michele Bachmann (MN), Joe Barton (TX), Steve King (IA), Mick Mulvaney (SC), and Ron Paul (TX). Democrats voting for the measure included Reps. Jason Altmire (PA), John Barrow (GA), Sanford Bishop (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Leonard Boswell (IA), Jim Cooper (TN), Joe Donnelly (IN), Tim Holden (PA), Larry Kissell (NC), Tim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Collin Peterson (MN), Mike Ross (AR), Kurt Schrader (OR) and Heath Shuler (NC).
Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (MD) offered an alternative measure that would provide a clean extension of government spending at current levels for an additional week. The measure came to a vote and failed completely along party lines 236-187.
The abortion restrictions, which serve to rally conservative House Republicans, ultimately helped doom the bill’s chances of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) planned to offer an amended Senate version of the House one-week extension, similar to Hoyer’s measure.
In the process of considering the latest funding bill, the House Rules Committee voted to waive a requirement included in House Rules stating that a measure must be introduced three days before it is considered on the House floor. The temporary rule gives the Speaker of the House additional capacity to avert or shorten a government shutdown.
While both President Obama and Congressional leaders seem to agree that talks were “progressing” as of Thursday evening, no definitive number or compromise had yet been reached. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has called on the White House to sign the temporary funding measure. However, President Obama reaffirmed his veto threat against the bill. Majority Leader Reid blamed the stalemate on a partisan dispute over Planned Parenthood and other controversial riders that were included in the House-passed bill.
As of April 8, the numerical differences amounted to $5 billion, roughly 0.14 percent of the $3.5 trillion annual budget. Speaker Boehner is pushing for a deal that would include about $39 billion in spending cuts compared to fiscal year (FY) 2010. Reid and Obama are pushing for about $34 billion in cuts, although there have also been recent reports of a tentative $38 billion agreement.
Republicans also complained that while the White House package accepted additional cuts , the portion coming from domestic discretionary appropriations had not changed significantly. The White House and Senate Democrats have offered a measure that would increase spending cuts to $33 billion by cutting mandatory agricultural spending programs. Republicans have been adamant that the cuts come from discretionary spending.
Reid wants hands off EPA
Majority Leader Reid remained adamant that none of the environmental policy restrictions included in the House-passed continuing resolution (CR) would be acceptable for inclusion in any compromise appropriations bill for the six months remaining in FY 2011.
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Environment Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID), however, said that he expects some of the environmental amendments incorporated into the House-passed CR to be included in a potential compromise agreement.
Obama has not gone as far as signaling that he would veto a bill that included any the environmental riders, though the White House did issue a veto threat specific to legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Simpson, Tester continue wolf delisting push
House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Senator John Tester (D-MT) are continuing to advocate for a provision in the long-term CR that would remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf in the northern Rockies and prohibit the move from being challenged in court.
If the language is included in a CR that is enacted into law, the pending settlement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Defenders of Wildlife would be nullified. In contrast to the settlement, the Simpson-Tester language would also remove protections for smaller populations of wolves in Washington, Oregon and Utah. For more information on the settlement, see the March 25 edition of ESA Policy News: https://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2011/03252011.php
While the lawmakers’ proposal is widely supported by Montana and Idaho state officials, hunters, ranchers and some conservation groups, it is criticized by many Democratic lawmakers, most environmental groups and biologists. On March 30, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) spearheaded a letter signed by 1,293 biological scientists to U.S. Senators asserting that the wolf delisting language would compromise the scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act and urged senators to block it. In February, the Ecological Society of America joined the Society of Conservation Biology in a letter that decried the process used to delist the wolf noting that circumventing the normal process of public hearings and review of scientific evidence opens the door to “directives supported by particular interests, often far more parochial than national.”
Chairman Simpson believes the gray wolf might be the only viable non-U.S. EPA environmental policy rider that makes it into a compromise funding solution between the House and the Senate, thanks to Tester’s support. Chairman Simpson said he informed the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that they would continue to push the provision.
To view the SCB-ESA letter see:
Roughly 800,000 federal employees are expected to be furloughed if a government shutdown occurs. Only activities that have alternate funding sources or that are deemed necessary for the safety of life and protection of property would continue.
Several programs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that are deemed essential would continue under a shutdown, according to an agency official. Among these programs would be the RadNet radiation monitoring system, which EPA uses to provide information to the public in light of the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan.
EPA’s emergency response readiness programs would also remain operational, as would some elements of Superfund projects where there may be ongoing threats to surrounding communities. At EPA’s various labs, the official said that the agency would need staff to protect lab property, protect controlled research elements and conduct activities such as feeding research animals. A limited number of technical support staff will be required to work and some services like the EPA public inquiry hotline would remain in service.
However, other services, such as the environmental crimes hotline, which EPA uses to obtain public reports on potential environmental violations, would be shut down. The agency would also cease all ongoing permitting work, rulemaking activities and environmental impact statement efforts.
According to a representative of the Department of the Interior, the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management will close and restrict visitor access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other facilities on public lands in the event of a government shutdown. Activities that require a permit, including public events such as the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, would be canceled or postponed. Visitor centers will be closed and access to national park areas such as the Statue of Liberty, Independence Hall, Alcatraz and the Washington Monument would also be denied.
Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation, which supports research and education across all the sciences, mathematics, and engineering, issued its guidelines in the event of a shutdown:
On April 5, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal. The blueprint for the coming fiscal year includes cuts to energy research and ends moratoriums on oil drilling and exploration.
Overall, the budget seeks to cut $5.8 billion in projected spending over the next 10 years. While focusing largely on tax reform and mandatory spending programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the budget proposal includes language that criticizes many of the Obama administration’s key energy and environmental initiatives.
Of the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, it states that “burdensome and ineffective regulations on businesses in the service of dubious environmental goals have driven up the prices of many products and services, while creating barriers for needed capital investment and job creation.” The budget also vows to remove “bureaucratic barriers” to domestic energy production by lifting “moratoriums on safe, responsible energy production in the United States.”
The House Budget Committee approved the bill April 6 along a party line vote with 22 Republicans voting yes and 16 Democrats voting no. It is set to be voted on the House floor next week. The Senate is not expected to take up the measure in its current form.
To view a summary of the House Republican budget proposal, see:
To view the full House Republican budget proposal, see:
On Wednesday, March 6, the Senate rejected a series of amendments aimed at blocking or limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
There was never a consensus on any one of the individual amendments to reach a majority, let alone the 60 votes necessary for passage in the body. However, a total of 64 Senators supported at least one of the four amendments offered, indicating a majority support for at least some type of limited enforcement of the EPA regulations.
The Senate rejected an amendment offered by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to permanently block the EPA’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gases. The measure is identical to the legislation introduced by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK). The Senate also rejected three alternative amendments offered by Democrats that sought to limit EPA’s authority to issue climate regulations.
The amendment offered by Minority Leader McConnell received the most support. It failed by a 50-50 vote. Even in the event it had been considered under rules requiring a simple majority, the tie breaking vote of Vice President Joe Biden would have doomed the measure. The four Democrats voting in favor included Sens. Mary Landrieu (LA), Joe Manchin (WV), Ben Nelson (NE) and Mark Pryor (AR) while Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was the only Republican to vote no.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) offered an amendment to delay the EPA climate rules for two years. It failed by a vote of 12-88, winning the support of largely moderates from both sides of the aisle. In addition to Rockefeller, Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Jim Webb (D-VA) voted for the measure.
Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) offered an amendment to delay EPA climate rules for two years, exempt agriculture from greenhouse-gas rules and boost a tax credit program for manufacturing green-energy equipment. The amendment was cosponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). It failed by a vote 7-93 with only the Democratic Senators Bob Casey (PA), Kent Conrad (ND), Tim Johnson (SD), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Mark Pryor (AR) joining the two sponsors in voting in supporting the amendment.
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) offered an amendment to exempt agriculture from EPA climate regulations and codify EPA’s “tailoring” rule, which exempts smaller emitters from the regulations. It also failed by a vote of 7-93 with Democratic Sens. Mark Begich (AK), Kent Conrad (ND), Kay Hagan (NC), Tim Johnson (SD), Amy Klobuchar (MN) and Carl Levin (MI) also voting in favor of the amendment.
The fact that the bill amended S. 493, a bipartisan small business reauthorization bill, may have given some Senators political cover who argued they would rather oppose the amendments than risk lowering the greater bill’s chances of clearing the Senate. Sen. Inhofe noted that some Democratic members who supported more limited EPA amendments are running for re-election in 2012 in states where EPA rules are unpopular and may vote for his measure if there is another opportunity to bring it up.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Upton-Inhofe measure (H.R. 940) passed April 7, by a vote of 255-172 with 19 Democrats voting with all Republicans in support of the measure. The 19 Democrats voting in favor of the measure included Reps. Jason Altmire (PA), John Barrow (GA), Sanford Bishop (GA), Dan Boren (OK), Leonard Boswell (IA), Ben Chandler (KY), Jim Costa (CA), Jerry Costello (IL), Mark Critz (PA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Joe Donnelly (IN), Tim Holden (PA), Jim Matheson (UT), Mike McIntyre (NC), Collin Peterson (MN), Nick Rahall (WV), Mike Ross (AR), Kurt Schrader (OR) and Terri Sewell (AL).
The House defeated nine amendments offered by Democrats that sought to either provide exemptions to the bill’s prohibition on EPA regulations or changed the bill’s “findings” section. Most failed by a largely party line vote and only a few received any support from Republicans.
Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxman (CA) offered an amendment that would have expressed a sense of Congress that it accepts EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health by contributing to climate change. The amendment failed on an overwhelmingly party-line vote with Dave Reichert (WA) being the only Republican supporting the measure.
Reps. Reichert and Republicans Charles Bass (NH), Steve Chabot (OH), Leonard Lance (NJ) and Ted Poe (TX) voted for an amendment offered by Rep. Chris Murphy (CT). His amendment sought to clarify that EPA could continue to provide technical assistance to states taking action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Rep. Mike Doyle (PA) offered another amendment, which won the support of a single Republican vote, Science, Space and Technology Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (MD). Rep. Doyle’s amendment would have called for a study to determine whether repeal of the EPA greenhouse gas regulations would reduce the international competitiveness of United States producers of energy-intensive products.
Since the Senate has voted down similar measures, H.R. 940 faces several political hurdles in reaching the White House, which issued a veto threat against the legislation on April 5.
On March 31, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee convened for a hearing entitled “Climate Change: Examining the Processes Used to Create Science and Policy.”
In his opening remarks, Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX), sought to highlight the leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) in November of 2009 as a case in which the science used to support the consensus views of climate change was developed by a “corrupt process,” despite findings of the Department of Commerce Inspector General that there was “no evidence” that CRU scientists manipulated data.
“[The leaked emails] revealed that the scientists most vocal about the effects humans were having on the climate were not following accepted scientific practices,” said Chairman Hall. “There is an old saying – Caesar’s wife must be beyond reproach. That is to say that even if there has been no evidence of wrong doing, the supposition of wrong doing is enough to undermine the trust in an entire enterprise,” he continued.
The majority of the witnesses sought to categorize the consensus views of the climate scientists, published by entities such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the National Academy of Sciences, as “alarmist.” Dr. John Christy, Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, asserted that the IPCC process of selecting authors of its findings has led to propagation of incorrect and misleading information in its climate assessments. “These reports to do not represent [the] full range of scientific evidence on climate,” he said.
Committee Democrats complained that the make-up of the witness panel did not allow for an accurate analysis of climate science. “I am disappointed in the very broad scope of this hearing, which arguably ranges beyond the jurisdiction of this committee, without sufficient numbers of witnesses to do the topics justice,” said Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). Witnesses included three scientists (two of whom were climate skeptics), a business school professor of marketing, an energy industry lawyer and an economist.
The witness panel’s only climate scientist representing the broad scientific community’s view on climate was MIT Professor of Atmospheric Science Dr. Kerry Emanuel. He asserted that “it is part of the culture of science to avoid going out on limbs, preferring to underestimate risk to [deter] provoking the charge of alarmism from our colleagues.” On the CRU emails, Dr. Emanuel asserted “neither we nor several other investigative panels found any evidence of misconduct…the true scandal here is the enormously successful attempt to elevate this single lapse of judgment on the part of a small number of scientists into sweeping condemnation of a whole scholarly endeavor.”
Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Donna Edwards (D-MD) asserted, “If we want more certainty, continual investment in the field of climate research should be important to everyone, especially in our monitoring and satellite capabilities.”
On March 29, Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV) issued a letter to White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein requesting that the office reconsider last April’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidance on Clean Water Act permits for Appalachian mountaintop removal mining projects.
The interim guidance is part of the Obama administration’s tougher environmental oversight of surface mining projects. Industry leaders are fighting the guidance in court, saying it amounts to rulemaking without going through the proper channels. Friday is EPA’s deadline for releasing a revised final guidance, if the agency deems it necessary.
In the letter to Administrator Sunstein, Rep. Rahall outlines a number of concerns, including that EPA failed to submit the guidance to OIRA or take public comment before it became effective. He also writes “the Guidance Memo set new and binding criteria for the issuance of permits, adversely affecting in a material way the mining sector of the economy of Appalachia.”
EPA said the guidance was meant to clarify current federal authority with regard to pollution permits for mountaintop removal mining projects. But Rahall joins coal boosters on Capitol Hill in saying it goes too far. Rahall wants OIRA to review the guidance measure and determine whether it should be issued instead as a rule.
“The binding nature of this guidance is a clear argument for its review by OIRA, if not a strong case for the guidance being rescinded and issued, instead, under the rulemaking procedures,” Rahall wrote.
To view the letter, see: http://rahall.house.gov/uploads/3.29.11%20OIRA%20letter.pdf
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that it is seeking public comment on a draft report titled Strengthening the Scientific Understanding of Climate Change Impacts on Freshwater Resources of the United States. Written comments are due by April 22, 2011.
The Omnibus Public Lands Act (P.L. 111-11) calls for a report to Congress that describes the current scientific understanding of each impact of global climate change on U.S. freshwater resources. Key impacts of climate change identified in the draft report include changes in rainfall and snow precipitation, decline in the mass of water stored in glaciers, rising sea levels as well as the overall quality of coastal and ocean waters.
The report indentifies key actions to improve the nation’s capacity to identify changes in freshwater resources that are likely impacted by climate change. It also outlines a series of next steps for federal agencies to improve the ability to detect these changes. In addition, the report calls for modernization of climate-relevant data collection and analysis.
To view the report, see: http://acwi.gov/Rpt.Congress3.18.11.pdf
To comment on the report, see: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2011/2011-7615.htm
On March 31, this year’s three Ecological Society of America (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) winners spent the day on Capitol Hill to urge federal support of science.
The 2011 GSPA winners included Daniel Evans (University of Washington), Michael Levy (West Virginia University) and Kellen Marshall (University of Illinois-Chicago). Each of the students joined a small team of scientists to encourage congressional support for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) fiscal year 2012 budget request of $7.67 billion.
The annual Congressional Visits Day is sponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition, jointly spearheaded by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). Together the groups met with upwards of nearly 50 congressional offices in the House and Senate, highlighting the need for investment in scientific research and education and offering personal stories of the positive impact of NSF on the communities elected officials represent.
Prior to their trip to the Hill, participants were briefed by ESA and AIBS staff on the current budget debate and the fiscal climate. Briefings also included speakers from NSF, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean, Energy, Management Regulation and Enforcement as well as staff from the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.
Given the current fiscal crunch, scientists sought to emphasize the many beneficial economic impacts of NSF investment, including that NSF grants support about 150,000 researchers, technicians, undergraduate and graduate students, and post-docs, have generated over 80,000 patents between 2000 – 2009, and have given rise to successful businesses such as Google.
Introduced in the House
H.R. 1375, the Clean Water Protection Act – Introduced by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) on April 5, the bill would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify that fill material cannot be comprised of waste. The bill seeks to prevent industrial mining waste from entering the water supply and is an effort to protect the environment from mountaintop removal mining. The bill has 54 original cosponsors, largely Democrats with the exception of Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA). The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
H.R. 1391, the Recycling Coal Combustion Residuals Accessibility (RCCRA) Act of 2011 – Introduced by Rep. David McKinley (D-WV), the bill would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating fossil fuel combustion waste, effectively restricting the agency from classifying ash from coal-burning power plants as a hazardous waste. Rep. McKinley was successful in having the legislation adopted as an amendment to H.R. 1, the long-term Fiscal Year 2011 appropriations bill passed by the House on Feb. 19.
Passed in the House
H.R. 872, the Reducing Regulatory Burden Act of 2011 – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill would exempt pesticide users who spray over water from obtaining a second permit under the Clean Water Act. The House measure seeks to undo a 2009 federal appeals court ruling in National Cotton Council v. U.S. EPA that said the agency’s current permitting process under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) is insufficient for pesticide users who spray over water. The decision mandated that EPA issue additional permits under the Clean Water Act.The bill passed March 31, 2011 by a vote of 292-130. Fifty-seven Democrats joined all Republicans in voting in favor of the measure. Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced similar legislation (S. 718) in the Senate on April 4.
H.R. 940, the Energy Tax Prevention Act – Introduced by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), the bill amends the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing any regulation concerning greenhouse gas emissions. The bill passed April 7 by a vote of 255-172 with 19 Democrats supporting the bill. Companion legislation (S. 482) has been introduced in the Senate by Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK).
Introduced in the Senate
S. 699, the Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program Amendments Act of 2011 – Introduced March 31 by Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) the bill seeks to encourage development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects at coal-burning power plants. Specifically, the bill would establish a program at the Department of Energy to facilitate up to 10 commercial-scale CCS projects while drawing up a framework to ensure carbon dioxide remains trapped underground.
S. 706, the 3-D, Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy, and Deficit Reduction Act of 2011 – Introduced March 31 by Environment and Public Works Clean Air and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA), the bill would approve oil and gas leases, a coal mine, a pipeline for Canadian oil sands and expand offshore drilling in the Arctic. The measure would also expedite the judicial and environmental review process for energy projects and limit reimbursements that environmental groups can receive from the federal government. Companion legislation (H.R. 1287) has been introduced by House Natural Resources National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT).
S. 730, the Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization and Jobs Protection Act – Introduced April 5 by Energy and Natural Resources Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sen. Mark Begich (R-AK), the bill would allow the Sealaska native corporation to acquire 79,000 acres on Prince of Wales and Koscuisko islands. In addition to portions designated by Sealaska for timber harvesting, some 4,000 acres would be set aside for tourism and other non-timber economic development. An additional 3,600 acres would be preserved as cultural, historical and educational sites.
S. 741, a bill to establish a renewable electricity standard – Introduced April 6 by Tom Udall (D-NM) and Mark Udall (D-CO), the bill would establish a federal renewable energy standard requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources by 2025. Original cosponsors of the legislation include Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), John Kerry (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Environment and Energy Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Budget Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, POLITICO, United States Geological Survey, the Washington Post