April 15, 2015

In This Issue


On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a landmark executive order requiring state residents to cut their water usage by 25 percent through February 28, 2016.

The first-ever water restrictions target watering on lawns, campuses, cemeteries and golf courses. The order also instructs the California Energy Commission to pass appliance efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals and other appliances resulting in saving 10 billion gallons of water in the first year. It also directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to discourage overuse.

On April 9, the California Energy Commission adopted new efficiency standards for water-using appliances. The emergency situation allowed the Commission to prohibit the sale and installation of certain toilets, urinals and faucets that do not meet minimum water efficiency requirements as of Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of the manufactured date.

The order comes as California’s Sierra Nevada mountain snowpack, which supplies 30 percent of California’s water supply, is at its lowest measurement since 1950. The state has entered its fourth year of severe drought.

The order did not include cuts for agricultural users, which account for nearly three-quarters of California water usage. The order does require agricultural water suppliers to report their water supplies and demand for 2013, 2014 and 2015. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the state provides 69 percent of the nation’s commercially available fruits and nuts.

Conservation groups argue the order could have included restrictions on the planting of water-intensive crops and education about water usage. Agriculture industry advocates contend that farmers are already facing hardships due to the drought and have moved ahead of the state government in taking steps to increase crop-production per acre-foot of water.

Click here to view the full executive order announcement.

Click here to view the California Energy Commission announcement.


The US Environmental Protection Agency issued correspondence notifying manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use that applications to the agency seeking approval for usage may not be approved until risk assessments to pollinators are complete.

The agency asks manufacturers with pending registrations for outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides to withdraw or change any references to using the product outdoors by April 30.

Neonicotinoids have been linked to a decline in bee health. The White House is expected to release a major report on pollinator health later this month.

Click here for more information.


On April 8, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its latest study on neonicotinoids and their effects on ecosystem services. It concludes that widespread preventive use of neonicotinoids has adverse effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity.

David Inouye, ESA president offered his insight on the report.

“The effects on pollinators (other than honey bees and bumble bees) and organisms that contribute to natural pest control and soil functioning have rarely been addressed in research so far, but acute lethal or sub-lethal effects have been observed on several natural pest control species such as insects and birds, and soil dwelling species such as earthworms. Thus neonicotinoids appear to have many of the same detrimental features that previous generations of pesticides, starting with DDT, have ultimately been found to have.

“The report specifically addresses the issue of integrated pest management, and concludes that for a variety of reasons IPM appears to be incompatible with the prophylactic use of neonicotinoids in coated seeds.  One of the major concerns is that only a small proportion of the insecticide enters the plant and most is released into the environment immediately, where it may have a variety of unintended consequences.

“As we learn more about the unintended consequences of releasing neonicotinoids into the environment it is becoming clear that there can be significant undesirable effects, such as those recently shown for aquatic organisms. The report concluded that ‘The effect that neonicotinoids might have on constraints to the restoration of biodiversity on farmland (one of the priorities of European agricultural policy) has been completely neglected.’ So although we can’t make a definitive pronouncement about the consequences for restoration of biodiversity, it seems likely that future studies will document negative effects.”

Click here for more information.


On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers sent a final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clarifying waterways that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The agency’s “Waters of the United States” rule would clarify that the Clean Water Act’s enforcement over “navigable waters” includes streams and wetlands, which can influence larger waterbodies and ecosystems. It also would continue existing exemptions for agriculture. The rule clarifies that only ditches that function as tributaries that carry pollution downstream qualify for the law’s protection.

The OMB review is the last step in the regulatory finalization process. The rule is expected to be finalized in coming months.

Congressional Republicans have continued their critique of the rule and may seek policy riders to block it in Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations legislation. Most recently, the rule was the focus of an April 14 House Natural Resources Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing.

“These proposals – and the Waters-of-the-US regulation sitting at the White House now – have been drafted under the guise of quote ‘clarifying’ unquote the authority of federal agencies,” said Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee Chairman John Fleming (R-LA). “Only in Washington, DC would ‘clarification’ mean federal expansion.   The end result could be federal jurisdiction over ditches and other water bodies currently regulated at the state and local levels and regulatory chaos.”

The Environmental Protection Agency maintains that the rules were formulated through an open process, noting it held “400 meetings across the country and received more than one million public comments from farmers, manufacturers, business owners, hunters and anglers, and others.”

Click here for additional information on the rule.

Click here to view the Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing.


On April 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it is teaming with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Geological Survey on a research project that will use satellite data to detect harmful algal blooms.

The $3.6 million initiative will function as an early warning system. Algal blooms pose a threat to ecosystems, wildlife, water resources and human health. Based off this information, state and local agencies can provide the public with public health advisories. The five-year project plans to convert satellite data on algal blooms developed by the federal agency partners into a format that the public can access through mobile devices and web portals.

According to NOAA, the annual cost of US freshwater degraded by harmful algal blooms is estimated to be $64 million in additional drinking water treatment, loss of recreational water usage, and decline in waterfront real estate values. In August 2014, local officials in Toledo, Ohio, banned the use of drinking water supplied to more than 400,000 residents after it had been contaminated by an algal bloom in Lake Erie.

Click here for additional information.


The Ecological Society of America was among 60 national, regional and state education, environmental and scientific societies writing to Congress in support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Education Program.

The letters, addressed to the House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittees, request $20 million for the Chesapeake Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) and Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) programs for Fiscal Year 2016. The letter also discusses the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and environmental literacy efforts.

These education programs have enabled NOAA, as the nation’s leading expert on weather, coastal and ocean information, to partner with the nation’s top non-profit organizations and educators to bring this information and hands-on experiences to students. The programs have demonstrated their effectiveness and value to stakeholder communities. And as our nation begins to grapple with the complexities and challenges of diminishing ocean, coastal and watershed resources, they are timely and highly relevant.

Click here to view the House NOAA letter.

Click here to view the Senate NOAA letter.


The Ecological Society of America sent letters to House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee leaders expressing support of $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The number is similar to the Obama administration’s FY 2016 funding request for the agency.

The letter notes that the United States’ share of the world’s research and development has decreased and highlights the importance of funding biological sciences.

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports that between FY 2005–2014, overall investment in environmental research and development at federal agencies has fallen 10.3 percent,” the letter states. “A better understanding of life on Earth helps us to make new biological discoveries in the realms of food, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and bio-inspired innovation. This research also increases our understanding of how biological systems, infrastructure and natural resources are affected by environmental changes.”

Both the House and Senate CJS Subcommittee have new chairs in the 114th Congress. Due to the retirement of former Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), the House CJS Subcommittee is now chaired by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). With Republicans now in control of the upper chamber, the Senate CJS Subcommittee is now chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL), who also chairs the full committee. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chaired the full committee and CJS subcommittee under Democratic control, now serves as Ranking Member.

Click here to view the House letter.

Click here to view the Senate letter.


Department of Education

Notice: Applications due May 29, 2015

Applications for New Awards; Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comment period ends May 14, 2015

Takes of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; Taking Marine Mammals Incidental to Marine Seismic Survey in the Beaufort Sea, Alaska


National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment closes June 5, 2015

Comment Request: Research Performance Progress Report


US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comment closes May 11, 2015

Draft Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances, Receipt of Application for an Enhancement of Survival Permit for the Greater Sage-Grouse on Oregon Department of State Lands, and Draft Environmental Assessment; Reopening of Comment Period


Proposed Rule: Public comment closes May 14, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Zuni Bluehead Sucker


Proposed Rule: Public comment closes May 14, 2015

6-Month Extension of Final Determination on the Proposed Threatened Status for the West Coast Distinct Population Segment of Fisher


Proposed Rule: Public comment closes June 8, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Endangered Species Status for the Big Sandy Crayfish and the Guyandotte River Crayfish


Proposed Rule: Public comment closes June 9, 2015

Establishment of a Nonessential Experimental Population of Black-Footed Ferrets in Wyoming


Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Environmental Protection Agency, House Natural Resources Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the LA Times, USA Today