June 8, 2012
In This Issue
On June 6, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 5325, the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. The bill funds the Department of Energy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Department of Interior water programs for the fiscal year (FY) 2013. It passed by a vote of 255-165 with 48 Democrats joining all but 29 Republicans in supporting the bill.
In total, the bill funds the aforementioned federal agencies at $32 billion, an overall increase of $87.5 million in spending over the current fiscal year. The Obama administration, however, has pledged to veto the bill as it is part of an overall Republican budget effort to decrease spending by $19 billion for FY 2013. The administration reasons that the increase in this bill as well as a recently approved veterans’ appropriations bill, will lead to funding cuts for other appropriations bills that have not yet been taken up, which include Interior, Commerce Justice and Science, Transportation Housing and Urban Development and Labor Health Human Services and Education.
Amendments adopted on the House floor include the following:
Steve Scalise (R-LA) –adds $10 million for the Army Corps of Engineers Louisiana Coastal Area ecosystem restoration project, offset by a cut to the Department of Energy Salaries and Expenses account (adopted 216-177).
Rush Holt (D-NJ) – adds $2 million to the Corps of Engineers Construction account for flood control, offset by a cut to Army Corps expenses (adopted by voice vote).
Chip Cravaack (R-MN) – prohibits funding to require DOE grant recipients to upgrade their light bulbs to meet certain efficiency standards (adopted by voice vote).
Michael Burgess (R-TX) – prohibits funds from being used to implement or enforce energy efficiency standards regarding incandescent light bulbs and other incandescent light sources (adopted by voice vote).
Gerald Connolly (D-VA) – eliminates the Oil Shale research program ($25 million) and transfers the funding to the spending reduction account. (adopted 208-207-1 (present)).
Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) –increases funding for the Corps of Engineers Flood Control
and Coastal Emergencies account by $3 million to address natural disasters, offset by a cut to Corps expenses.
John Shimkus (R-IL) –increases funding for the Yucca Mountain licensing process by $10 million, offset by a cut to departmental administrative costs.
Peter Welch (D-VT) –allows DOE to use a website management system to encourage energy savings contracts.
Don Young (R-AK) –prohibits funds for introducing salmon into the San Joaquin River.
The bill must be reconciled with the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill before it can be sent to the president. The Senate version has been approved at the committee level, but has not yet been taken up by the full Senate.
For information on specific programmatic funding levels in the House and Senate Energy and Water bills, see the May 4 edition of ESA Policy News: http://www.esa.org/pao/policyNews/pn2012/0504.php
For additional details on the House-passed bill, click here: http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=298625
View the Obama administration statement of administration policy on H.R. 5325 here:
On June 6, the House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment convened for a hearing entitled “EPA’s Impact on Jobs and Energy Affordability: Understanding the Real Costs and Benefits of Environmental Regulations.” The hearing sought to weigh the costs and benefits of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.
In his opening statement, Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD) questioned EPA’s methods. “Our witnesses today will describe a pattern of scientific and economic practices at EPA and OIRA that inflates health-based regulatory benefits, overlooks actual economic, energy affordability, and jobs impacts, and fails to reflect uncertainty in communicating risks. All too often, major EPA regulations have been underpinned by secret science, hidden data, and black box models,” he stated. “More and more of these regulations are almost exclusively justified on the basis of incidental “co-benefits” from particulate matter reductions, raising the specter of double-counting, and private benefits on the assumption that all regulated entities are acting irrationally and against their economic self-interest and that EPA knows what is best for their bottom line.”
Hearing witnesses consisted largely of representatives from industry as no one from EPA was invited. The witness panel included representatives from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the Energy Council of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative and Trinity Consultants. Michael Honeycutt, chief toxicologist at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, asserted that EPA studies demonstrate no direct causation between particulate matter and premature deaths in humans. Health advocates have defended EPA’s calculation methods, asserting that the same formulas have been used in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
Democrats criticized the format of the hearing, in which no witnesses representing EPA were called to testify. “If the Republicans question the EPA’s methods for assessing impacts of environmental and public health safeguards, then they should have EPA here to testify. Then we might have left the hearing with a better understanding of this complex issue,” stated Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC).
Miller submitted several documents from organizations including the American Lung Association, the American Thoracic Society, the American Sustainable Business Council and the EPA that highlighted the economic health benefits of EPA regulations. One such report noted that “air quality improvements under the Clean Air Act will save $2 trillion by 2020 and prevent at least 230,000 deaths annually.” Another document noted that according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “the continental United States could pay an average of $5.4 billion (in 2008 dollars) in healthrelated costs due to the increase in surfacelevel ozone associated with rising temperatures.”
On May 31, House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) sent a series of letters to Obama administration officials inquiring how much the federal government spends on Endangered Species Act litigation.
The first of the four letters are addressed to Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe while the other three are directed to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division Ignacia Moreno and Steve Wright, Chief Executive of the federal Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, Oregon.
“The goal of the ESA was to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species. However, today the law is failing to achieve its primary purpose of species recovery and instead has become a tool for litigation that drains resources away from real recovery efforts and blocks job-creating economic activities,” states the letter to Salazar and Ashe. “At the Committee’s February 15, 2012 hearing to consider the Department of the Interior’s (“Department”) FY 2013 budget request, I asked how much the Department spends on litigation and settlements involving the ESA,” the letter continues. “It is concerning that there was not a readily available answer to this question, and to date, the Department has yet to provide a response.”
The letters request information on court costs, attorney’s fees and also request information on how plaintiffs were awarded nearly $2 million in attorney and other litigation fees related to a biological opinion focusing on the Columbia River in Oregon. The letters all request a response by June 14, 2012.
To view the Chairman Hasting letters, click here:
On May 31, House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Edward Markey (D-MA) spearheaded a letter to President Obama urging him to defend a US law to protect dolphins of the Eastern Tropical Pacific in the wake of a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) Court decision. Ranking Member Markey was joined by 42 Democrats.
The WTO court recently ruled against the use of the voluntary “dolphin-safe” tuna label, claiming that it puts Mexican fisherman at an unfair disadvantage. The labeling standard was created to protect Pacific dolphins threatened by tuna fishing. “The American people deserve to know whether or not the fish they eat was caught by killing Flipper,” said Markey in a related press statement. “Dolphin-safe labeling of canned tuna has been successful in protecting the species and giving consumers informed choices.”
Dolphin and tuna tend to congregate in the Eastern Tropical Pacific region. ‘Fishing on dolphins’ is a technique used by Mexico and several other Central and South American countries by which dolphin schools are chased and encircled with nets in an effort to catch tuna swimming beneath. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the practice has killed an estimated seven million dolphins since the late 1950s. Advocates of the label maintain that it has saved thousands of dolphins since it was enacted by Congress in 1990.
“We cannot stress enough that the Mexican government has been given every courtesy, yet that government continues to refuse to compromise or find a resolution that protects US consumers and dolphins, based on the best available scientific information,” asserted Markey. “Any hardship that the Mexican government claims to be experiencing from its inability to comply with perfectly reasonable dolphin-safe requirements is certainly offset by the $33 million in development assistance Mexico is receiving from the US in FY 2012, and dwarfed by the nearly $200 million it has received since 1999.”
The White House has 18 months to either throw out the current standard or make an exception for Mexican fisherman. The US also has the option to help Mexican fisherman learn tuna-catching practices that minimize threats to dolphins.
An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) contractor has selected a dozen scientists with expertise in mining, water and native Alaskan culture to review the agency’s report on the potential impacts of large-scale mining in the southwestern part of Alaska. The mining is sought by the Pebble LP gold and copper project, which has the potential to become one of the world’s largest mines.
The twelve reviewers were selected out of 86 candidates by Contractor Versar Inc. Among the team members is Ecological Society of America member Roy Stein, who works on fisheries and aquatic biology issues at Ohio State University. The other eleven members include David Atkins, Watershed Environmental LLC, Orcutt, CA; Steve Buckley, WHPacific Inc; Courtney Carothers, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Dennis Dauble, Washington State University; Gordon Reeves , U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Northwest Research Station; Charles Slaughter, University of Idaho; John Stednick, Colorado State University; William Stubblefield, Oregon State University; Dirk van Zyl, University of British Columbia; Phyllis Weber Scannell Scientific Inc; and Paul Whitney, wildlife ecology and ecotoxicology expert.
The EPA study focuses on mining in the Bristol Bay watershed, which the draft report cautions would likely pose a threat to waterways and a thriving salmon fishery. The Bristol Bay watershed is home to all five species of North American Pacific salmon and the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. According to EPA, the salmon fishery and other ecological resources in the area help sustain 14,000 full- and part-time jobs and have an economic value of about $480 million annually. EPA scientists also assert that a large open mine would likely destroy more than 85 miles of streams and more than 6 square miles of wetlands.
The reviewers are scheduled to meet Aug. 7-9 at the Anchorage Convention Center. The first two days will be open to the public. EPA expects to have formal comments from the scientists two weeks later.
Click here for more information:
On June 1, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft management plan for the Lake Tahoe ecosystem.
The plan consists of four alternatives that seek to address issues related to watershed health, aquatic ecosystems, forest health, hazardous fuels and terrestrial wildlife habitat, sustainable recreation and access to national forests via facilities, roads and trails. The final plan will guide management of 154,000 acres of National Forest System lands on California and Nevada surrounding the Lake Tahoe Basin for the next fifteen years. The plan was last updated in 1988.
The draft Forest Service plan is intended to help local authorities maintain the natural landscape of an area in light of increased tourism, vacation resorts and recreational activity. The region draws over three million tourists who contribute over $1 billion to the area’s economy.
Comments will be taken through August 30, 2012. For additional information on how to comment on the plan, click here:
On May 18, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) joined 50 other scientific societies in a letter spear-headed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science regarding far-reaching legislation to limit federal government employees’ ability to travel and attend conferences. The House bill passed by unanimous consent, while the Senate language, which was incorporated into comprehensive postal legislation, passed by a filibuster proof 62-37 vote with the majority of opposition coming from Senate Republicans.
The legislative proposals cited in the letter (the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act, H.R. 2146) in the House and the 21st Century Postal Service Act (S. 1789) in the Senate) are intended to address the recent General Services Administration (GSA) scandal where the abuse of federal travel dollars had drawn bipartisan ire. The House bill specifically would cut the travel budgets of federal agencies by 20 percent from Fiscal Year 2010 levels, the year in which the GSA scandal occurred. Both bills place severe restrictions on travel and the number of conferences an agency can support.
The letter references the 2012 USA Science and Engineering Festival, which drew 150,000 attendees. “Many non-profit scientific and engineering societies participated in the Festival, and almost 40 federal government agencies and offices provided hands-on science exhibits and/or public access to government scientists,” the letter notes. “It is unclear whether government scientists’ participation in this education-oriented activity would then preclude their engagement in any other scientific conference in the same year, under the current amendment language.”
Other signatories of the letter include American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Mathematical Society, American Society of Agronomy, and the Geological Society of America. In addition to the scientific societies, groups such as the National League of Cities, National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures also opposed the bill for similar reasons.
Introduced in the House
H.R. 5826, the Coordinating Water Research for a Clean Water Future Act of 2012 – Introduced May 18 by Science, Space and Technology Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the bill would establish the National Water Research and Development Initiative at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for the purpose of improving coordination of federal water research projects to monitor the nation’s clean water supply.
H.R. 5827, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2012 – Introduced May 18 by Ranking Member Johnson, the bill would direct the Department of Energy to include water research in the agency’s future projects for the purpose of guaranteeing efficient, reliable, and sustainable delivery of energy and clean water resources.
Approved by House Committee/Subcommittee
On June 7, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved the following bill:
H.R. 4965, to preserve existing rights and responsibilities with respect to waters of the United States. Introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), the bill would block the Obama administration’s effort to clarify federal jurisdiction over water pollution and wetlands regulation under the Clean Water Act. The bill passed June 7 by a vote of 33-18.
On June 7, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power approved the following bipartisan bills:
H.R. 4273, the Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2012 – Introduced by Reps. Pete Olson (R-TX) and Mike Doyle (D-PA), the bill would shield utilities operating under an Energy Department-declared emergency from the threat of penalties for environmental laws, including civil or criminal penalties. Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator Gina McCarthy has warned that the bill would deter power generators from working with state and federal regulators to comply with environmental rules during emergencies and would increase the likelihood that generators will violate federal regulations.
H.R. 5892, the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act – Introduced by Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO), the bill would promote expanded development of hydropower. Companion legislation has been introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).
Introduced in Senate
S. 3228, the Sequestration Transparency Act – Introduced May 23 by Senator John Thune (R-SD), the bill would require the president to provide a detailed report on how federal spending will be cut through the sequestration “trigger” set for Jan. 2, 2013. The report would be due to Congress by July 9. Companion legislation (H.R. 5872) has been introduced by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).
S. 3261, to allow the Chief of the Forest Service to award certain contracts for large air tankers – Introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the bill would expedite the contracting process to allow the Forest Service to quickly increase its wildfire air tanker fleet. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent June 7 and has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee.
Cleared for White House
S. 292, the Salmon Lake Land Selection Resolution Act – Introduced by Sen. Murkowski, the bill would resolve the claims of the Bering Straits Native Corp. and the state of Alaska to land adjacent to Salmon Lake in Alaska. The new agreement conveys 1,009 acres in the Salmon Lake area to Bering Straits, as well as 6,132 acres at Windy Cove and 7,504 acres at Imuruk Basin.
S. 363, to authorize the Commerce secretary to convey property of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to the city of Pascagoula, Mississippi. – Introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), the bill allows the Secretary of Commerce to sign off on a land transfer to the city of Pascagoula in order to develop a park with public water access.
The president is expected to sign both measures.
Sources: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Forest Service, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, the White House