December 9, 2013
In this Issue
WHITE HOUSE: ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL CHAIR TO STEP DOWN
On Dec. 3, White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) Chairwoman Nancy Sutley announced she will resign from her post in February. Sutley has held the position since Jan. 22, 2009, when the Senate confirmed her by unanimous consent.
As CEQ chair, Sutley played a pivotal role in advancing the administration’s Climate Action Plan and National Ocean Policy. Sutley was one of the last environmental advisers remaining from President Obama’s first term. The top spots at the Departments of Energy, Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency have all garnered new faces this year.
Prior to joining CEQ, she served as deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles. She was an energy adviser to former California Gov. Gray Davis and served as deputy secretary for policy and intergovernmental relations at the California EPA from 1999-2003. During the Clinton administration, she served as senior policy advisor to the EPA regional administrator in San Francisco. Sutley grew up in Queens, NY and is an alumna of Harvard and Cornell Universities.
CEQ serves as the focal White House office for coordinating environmental initiatives among federal agencies and other White House offices. CEQ was first established by Congress under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. A successor for Sutley has not been named.
BUDGET: ORGANIZATIONS CALL FOR AN END TO SEQUESTER CUTS
On Dec. 4, the Ecological Society of America joined several hundred national organizations from health, education, environmental, research and other communities in sending a letter to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to forgo continued cuts to discretionary spending programs.
The 470 signature letter, timed to coincide with the budget conference talks this month, urges lawmakers to replace the sequester cuts with a bipartisan balanced approach to deficit reduction that relieves non-defense discretionary spending (NDD) programs. “Despite the vast array of important services provided through NDD programs—from education and job training, to housing and science, to National Parks and veterans services, to public health, safety and security—these programs have been cut dramatically and disproportionately in recent years as lawmakers work to reduce the deficit, even though experts agree these programs don’t contribute to our nation’s mid- and longer-term debt problem,” the letter notes.
The letter also references the recent Faces of Austerity report from NDD United, which spearheaded the letter. The comprehensive report spotlights the impact discretionary spending cuts implemented through the 2013 sequestration have had on education, scientific discovery, infrastructure investment and natural resource conservation, among other areas.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) are currently negotiating a budget deal expected to lift some NDD spending cuts as well as give agencies increased flexibility in implementing the cuts. The lawmakers have until Dec. 13 to reach a deal on the budget for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014 as part of the agreement that ended the October government shutdown. The House plans to adjourn for the year Dec. 13 while the Senate is plans to adjourn at the end of the following week.
View the Faces of Austerity report here.
View the NDD programs letter here.
APPROPRIATIONS: THREE NEW REPUBLICANS JOIN SPENDING COMMITTEE
Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV), Martha Roby (R-AL) and Chris Stewart (R-UT) were approved by the House Steering Committee this past week to fill Republican vacancies on the House Appropriations Committee that were opened by several retirements and one death.
The subcommittee memberships have yet to be named, though there are vacancies on the Commerce Justice and Science (CJS) Subcommittee, the Energy and Water Subcommittee, and the Defense Subcommittee, among others. The CJS Subcommittee has jurisdiction over funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The vacancies had opened due to the resignations of Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) and Jo Bonner (R-AL) and the death of Rep. Bill Young (R-FL). The vacancies also prompted the move of Rep. Mike Simpson to chair the Energy and Water Subcommittee and Rep. Ken Calvert to chair the Interior and Environment Subcommittee, previously chaired by Simpson. Rep. Young had chaired the Defense Subcommittee that former Energy and Water Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) now heads.
The appropriations committee ascensions open up spots on the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Science, Space and Technology Committees, which the members had previously served on. Stewart was previously chairman of the Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment. Amodei had served on the Agriculture Committee while Roby was a member of the Natural Resources Committee.
The single vacancy on the House Agriculture Committee and one of the two vacancies on the Natural Resources Committee will be filled by recently elected member Vance McAllister (R-LA), who succeeds Alexander.
INTERIOR: RULE PERMITS EAGLE DEATHS FOR WIND FARM PROJECTS
On Dec. 6, the US Department of Interior (DOI) announced a new rule that would allow renewable energy projects such as wind farms to obtain permits to disturb, injure or kill bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years.
The permits are contingent on applicants adhering to adaptive management measures to limit detrimental impacts on the eagles. According to DOI, “permits will be closely monitored to ensure that allowable take numbers are not exceeded and that conservation measures are in place and effective over the life of the permit.” The US Fish and Wildlife Service would review the permits and eagle conservation measures every five years.
The rule drew strange bedfellows of criticism from not only environmental groups, but Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member David Vitter (R-LA). “Permits to kill eagles just seems unpatriotic, and 30 years is a long time for some of these projects to accrue a high death rate,” said Ranking Member Vitter. “The administration has repeatedly prosecuted oil, gas, and other businesses for taking birds, but looks the other way when wind farms or other renewable energy companies do the exact same thing.” The Natural Resources Defense Council asserted that Interior rejected recommendations that would have allowed the wind projects to move forward while increasing safety for the eagles.
For additional information on the rule, click here.
AGRICULTURE: ESA SENDS LETTER ON USDA DRAFT RESEARCH ACTION PLAN
On Dec. 2, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) issued a letter to Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki on the US Department of Agriculture’s draft Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area Action Plan.
ESA sought to enhance the focus of ecology in the USDA research and education action plan. “Most fundamentally, agroecology works from the acknowledgment that agricultural systems are inescapably ecological and social systems, and thus must be analyzed from these contexts,” the letter states. “Agroecologists study agriculture’s effects on natural resources, the socioeconomic viability and effects of different farming systems and practices, disease ecology and prevention in crops and livestock, forestry, conservation biology, biotechnology and crop genetics, biodiversity, pest control, soil science, and agriculture’s responses to and effects on climate change, among other areas. In other words, its areas of focus precisely align with USDA REE objectives.”
In addition to bolstering ecology’s presence in the plan, the letter calls for USDA REE to have a dedicated budget for agroecology research. It also calls for a USDA agroecology conference to foster collaboration among the agency, the agroecological research community, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.
View the full letter here.
PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITY: FWS CONSIDERS PROTECTIONS FOR TARANTULAS
On Dec. 3, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was considering federal protection under the Endangered Species Act for 11 foreign tarantula species.
The species include six native to India (Poecilotheria formosa, P. hanumavilasumica, P. metallica, P. miranda, P. rufilata, and P. striata) and five species native to Sri Lanka (P. fasciata, P. ornata, P. pederseni, P. subfusca and P. smithi). The original petition for the listing came in Oct. 2010 from WildEarth Guardians. The petition cites destruction of forest habitat, collection for the pet trade, international killing and inadequate regulatory mechanisms among the reasons for a potential listing for the tarantulas.
Comments must be received by Feb. 3, 2014. For additional information, click here.
Introduced in House
H.R. 3640, the Innovation, Research and Manufacturing Act – Introduced Dec. 3 by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), the bill would make permanent the research and development tax credit and increase the existing credit by 50 percent. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.
Approved by House Committee/Subcommittee
On Dec. 4, the House Natural Resources Committee approved several bills by voice vote, including the following:
H.R. 3286, the Protecting States, Opening National Parks Act – Introduced by Rep. Steve Daines (R-MT), the bill would direct the Secretary of the Treasury to reimburse states that opened national parks during the Oct. 2013 federal government shutdown. The bill has 26 bipartisan cosponsors. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1572) that also has bipartisan support.
H.R. 1425, the Marine Debris Emergency Act of 2013 – Introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), the bill would amend the Marine Debris Act to encourage the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and state governors to improve response to severe marine debris.
H.R. 1491, The Tsunami Debris Cleanup Reimbursement Act – Introduced by Rep. Bonamici, the bill would provide funding to address the marine debris impacts of the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.
On Dec. 5, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bipartisan bills by voice vote:
H.R. 2413, the Weather Forecasting Improvement Act – Introduced by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK), the bill seeks to reprioritize weather forecasting and tornado warning data within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The bill was amended from a previous version by Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-UT) and Environment Subcommittee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) to prioritize weather related activities, including climate and ocean research. A previous version of the bill sought to move funding away from climate research.
H.R. 2431, the National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act of 2013 – Introduced by Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), the bill would reauthorize the National Integrated Drought Information System. The bill was also amended to include research on extreme weather and climate variability.
H.R. 2981, the Technology and Research Accelerating National Security and Future Economic Resiliency (TRANSFER) Act of 2013 – Introduced by Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), the bill would direct each federal agency to establish a small business technology transfer (STTR) program to help accelerate the commercialization of federally funded research.
Sources: ClimateWire, Department of Interior, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, House Natural Resources Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, National Journal, Natural Resources Defense Council, NDD United, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House