March 18, 2015
In This Issue
On March 17, the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee held a hearing on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget. The request is for $7.7 billion for the agency, a five percent increase over FY 2015.
During the hearing, Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) expressed support for NSF while also asserting that it is important to ensure NSF grant awards continue to reinforce its reputation for funding high-quality research.
“We will do our best to protect you from political influences, whether right or left, but do be aware of your sterling reputation you need to protect,” said Culberson.
NSF Director France Córdova referenced the new guidance released several months ago to promote accountability and transparency for program officers, specifically citing the requirement that a nontechnical description explains each research project’s national significance. Córdova also defended funding for the social and behavioral sciences. She noted that NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economics Sciences Directorate has funded 51 Nobel Prize recipients since 1998.
Chairman Culberson asked Córdova about NSF Inspector General (IG) reports that critique agency expense audits on major research equipment and facilities construction projects. Córdova stated that the agency will continue to strengthen its policies and procedures and address the IG recommendations. She affirmed that the agency properly follows the Office of Management and Budget guidelines for contingency funding and awards.
Chairman Culberson also questioned NSF Director Córdova about whether Congress should fund NSF’s budget by directorates, as has been proposed in the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act, legislation authored by House Science Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX).
Córdova affirmed her support for maintaining Congressional agency-level funding that allows NSF to determine funding for directorates. She noted that decadal reports, workshops and community input factors into a deliberative process for deciding agency priorities. She also asked Chairman Culberson if he would welcome scientists visiting his office requesting funding for specific directorates, which would likely occur if Congress decided directorate-level NSF funding. Culberson concurred that “we do want to do everything we can to prevent politics from being inserted in your decision-making process.”
Ranking Member Chaka Fattah commended Córdova for her efforts to help increase participation in science careers for women. Córdova mentioned NSF’s agency-wide ADVANCE program, which encourages higher-education institutions, professional-scientific societies and other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education non-profits to “address aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators.”
Click here to view the full hearing.
On March 6, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced a ban on import and transport of four nonnative large constrictor snake species under the Lacey Act. A fifth snake species, the boa constrictor, was removed from consideration for the restrictions.
The restrictions define the reticulated python, DeSchauensee’s anaconda, the green anaconda and the Beni anaconda as “injurious” under the Lacey Act. The reticulated python and the green anaconda have been traded commercially as pets in the United States. The Beni and DeSchaunsee’s anaconda are not believed to be present in the US. The ban on all four snakes will go into effect on April 9, which is 30 days after the formal listing in the Federal Register.
The ban will help prevent release of these snake species into the wild where they damage ecosystems and pose a threat to native wildlife and endangered species.
Click here for additional information.
On March 11, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy expressing concern with an internal agency memo proposing to credit wood biomass use in carbon emission reduction efforts.
The EPA memo, issued in Nov. 2014, contends that using biomass as a source of power is likely to have little or no net contributions to carbon dioxide emissions if the biomass is produced with “sustainable forest or agricultural practices.”
The ESA letter references a report form EPA’s Science Advisory Board that criticized the EPA’s determination methodology, noting that it “fails to capture the causal connection between forest biomass growth and harvesting and atmospheric impacts and thus may incorrectly assess net CO2 emissions of a facility’s use of a biogenic feedstock.”
In February, several ESA members were among 78 scientists who penned a similar letter to EPA. The Cary Institute spearheaded the scientists’ letter.
Click here to view the EPA memo.
Click here to view the ESA letter.
Click here to view the Cary Institute letter.
On March 4, ESA sponsored a four-hour interactive workshop on Communicating Climate Science held in coordination with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Washington, DC. Over 50 ecologists attended. The workshop covered much of the information included in the AAAS “What We Know” report.
Click here to view the AAAS report:
Bureau of Land Management
Notice: Public comment closes May 11, 2015
Proposed Collection of Information on Wild Horses and Burros.
Council on Environmental Quality
Notice: Public comment closes March 25, 2015
To Extend the Comment Period for the Revised Draft Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in NEPA Reviews.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Proposed rule: Public comment closes April 10, 2015
Ocean Dumping: Expansion of an Ocean Dredged Material Disposal Site Offshore of Jacksonville, Florida.
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Proposed rule: Public comment closes May 11, 2015
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for Black Pinesnake.
Notice: Public comment closes April 16, 2015
National Control and Management Plan for Members of the Snakehead Family.
Introduced in House
H.R. 1277, the Ocean Acidification Research Partnerships Act – Introduced March 4 by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), the bill would provide for ocean acidification collaborative research grant opportunities and foster collaboration between the seafood industry and the academic community. The bill has been referred to the House, Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Approved by House Committee
On March 4, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bills:
H.R. 874, the American Super Computing Leadership Act – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve the high-end computing research and development program of the Department of Energy and establish an exascale computing program.
H.R. 1119, the Research and Development Efficiency Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), the bill would have federal research regulations reviewed for unnecessary requirements and recommend cost saving reforms. House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) are cosponsors of the bill.
H.R. 1156, the International Science and Technology Cooperation Act – Introduced by Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), the bill would authorize a body under the National Science and Technology Council to identify and coordinate international science and technology cooperation opportunities.
H.R. 1158, the Department of Energy Laboratory Modernization and Technology Transfer Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL), the bill would improve management of the National Laboratories.
H.R. 1162, the Science Prize Competitions Act – Introduced by Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Don Beyer (D-VA), the bill would update provisions authorizing prize competitions under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980.
H.R. 1029, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act – Introduced by Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK), the bill adds new requirements to the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB). It requires SAB to select members that represent a “balanced” view of scientific issues. The bill also requires the advisory board to make publicly available all scientific information used in determining its advisories to EPA. The bill passed the House March 17 by a largely partisan vote of 236–181.
The Obama administration issued a Statement of Administration Policy noting the president would veto the bill. Click here to read the White House statement.
Introduced in Senate
653, the Water Resources Research Amendments Act of 2015 – Introduced March 4 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would reauthorize grants for and require applied water supply research regarding the water resources research and technology institutes. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
697, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – Introduced March 10 by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and David Vitter (R-LA), the bill makes it easier for the US Environmental Protection Agency to remove chemicals from the marketplace. Specifically, it mandates that EPA base chemical safety decisions solely on considerations of risk to public health and the environment. The bill also contains provisions that would preempt future state regulation efforts, drawing concern of the environmental community and some Democrats on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who introduced an alternative measure (S. 725). The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
725, the Alan Reinstein and Trevor Schaefer Toxic Chemical Protection Act– Introduced March 11 by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), the bill would ease the EPA’s ability to consider bans on toxic chemicals while maintaining deference to states’ abilities to impose stricter chemical restrictions. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
741, the Water Infrastructure Resiliency and Sustainability Act – Introduced March 16 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill would create a five-year $50 million grant program to help communities with aging water infrastructure and adapt to threats posed by climate change. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) are lead cosponsors of the bill.
747, the American Innovation Act – Introduced March 16 by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the legislation would authorize a five percent increase in funding over the next decade for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy Office of Science, the Department of Defense Science and Technology programs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology Scientific and Technical Research and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science Directorate. The bill has been referred to the Senate Budget Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 1398) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL).
Sources: US Fish and Wildlife Service, the White House, House Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, POLITICO