May 20, 2015

In This Issue

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SCIENCE: AMERICA COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION BILL HITS HOUSE FLOOR

This week, the US House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. The bill is expected to pass along partisan lines in the early evening of May 20.

The bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The Ecological Society of America was among many scientific and education societies who issued action alerts to membership calling for scientists to express concern with the bill.

Title I of H. R. 1806 would authorize specific funding levels for each of NSF’s directorates placing certain directorates over others. This is a significant departure from how NSF currently determines its research priorities. NSF is unique among federal agencies because it supports a balanced portfolio of basic research in all disciplines, using the scientific peer review system as the foundation for awarding research grants based on merit.

The original America COMPETES Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-69) was a strongly bipartisan measure passed by a Democratic-controlled Congress and signed by a Republican president. It contained significant increases for federal science agencies. The 2007 bill and its 2010 reauthorization (P.L. 111-358) received strong support from the scientific community.

In contrast, the 2015 bill is expected to pass the House largely along partisan lines and includes only mild increases for the federal agencies authorized in the bill. These increases also come at the cost of targeted cuts to the DOE Biological and Environmental Research Office and the NSF directorates for the social, behavioral, and economic sciences and the geosciences.

Prospects for the bill are less clear in the Senate where the legislation would likely need 60 bipartisan votes to advance. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) has expressed support for the House’s effort to pass a reauthorization bill, though he has yet to provide specifics on how similar or different a Senate bill would be from the House version.

The White House also issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill. Read the statement here:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1806r_20150518.pdf

Click here to read NSF’s Impact Statement about the bill’s consequences to the research community:

http://www.nsf.gov/about/congress/114/hr1806_impact.jsp

Click here to read ESA’s letter:

https://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/2015-April-ESA-America-COMPETES-Reauthr-letter.pdf  

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 CJS FUNDING BILL

On May 13, the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee unveiled its Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding bill.

The bill includes funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Commerce and several key federal science agencies for the coming fiscal year that starts October 1, 2015. In total, the bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending in FY 2016, a $1.3 billion increase over the FY 2015 enacted level.

The bill includes $7.4 billion for the National Science Foundation; a $50 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted funding level, but $300 million less than the president’s request for FY 2016. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The bill also fully funds NOAA’s two satellite programs—the Joint Polar Satellite System and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.

The National Aeronautic and Space Administration would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. Science programs at the agency would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level.

Additional information on the bill is available by following this link:

http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=394203

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMITTEE RELEASES FY 2016 ENERGY AND WATER FUNDING BILL

On May 19, the Senate released its Energy and Water Appropriations bill for FY 2016. The bill provides $35.4 billion in funding for the US Department of Energy (DOE), the US Army Corps of Engineers and the US Department of Interior’s (DOI) major water office, and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The final bill was crafted with bipartisan support from Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Diane Feinstein (D-CA).

Overall the measure provides the agencies under its jurisdiction with $1.2 billion more than the enacted level FY 2015, though $633 million less than the president’s FY 2016 budget request. The total funding a similar to the total funding included in the House bill, but the Senate bill allocates the funding among the federal agencies differently.

Enclosed are FY 2016 funding levels for specific federal agencies and programs compared to the FY 2015 enacted level:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.5 billion; a $45 million increase.

DOE Office of Science: $5.1 billion; a $73 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion; a $3 million increase.

DOE Environmental Clean Up: $6 billion; a $167 million increase.

The bill notably does not include provisions to restrict the administration’s effort to clarify federal agency jurisdiction over US waterways as the recently passed House bill does, though Republicans are expected to attempt to amend the bill with the language either when it passes the full committee or on the Senate floor.

Click here for additional information on the Senate bill:

http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/subcommittee-approves-fy2016-energy-water-development-appropriations-bill

For additional information on the House bill, see the April 29 edition of ESA policy news: https://www.esa.org/esa/april-29-2015/

WHITE HOUSE: NEW REPORT EMPHASIZES GLOBAL SECURITY RISKS FROM CLIMATE CHANGE

In concert with a recent presidential commencement address to the US Coast Guard, the White House has released a new report highlighting the national and international security threats posed by posed by climate change.

The report compiles information from recent federal agency reports on climate change impacts, including the US Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Homeland Security and the National Intelligence Council. DOD is assessing the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases, installations and other facilities to climate change, and studying the implications of increased demand for our National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events.

The report also focuses on climate changes effects that may increase of refugee flows around the globe spurred by food and natural resource scarcity and the national security implications of increasing human activity in the Arctic.  

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/05/20/white-house-report-national-security-implications-changing-climate

WHITE HOUSE: POLLINATOR TASK FORCE STRATEGY REPORT RELEASED

On May 19, under the leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the White House announced its Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. The strategy is supported by a science-based Pollinator Research Action Plan. The USDA and the Department of Interior also issued a set of Pollinator-Friendly Best Management Practices for Federal Lands, providing practical guidance for planners and managers with land stewardship responsibilities. 

The White House reports that number of managed honeybee colonies in the US has dropped from 5.7 million in the 1940s to 2.74 million today. In addition to addressing honeybee colony collapse, the new strategy will seek to increase the eastern population of the monarch butterfly and restore seven million acres of pollinator land through federal actions and public-private partnerships.

Click here for additional information:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/05/18/announcing-new-steps-promote-pollinator-health

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ECOLOGISTS AND BIOLOGISTS ADVOCATE FOR SCIENCE INVESTMENT ON CAPITOL HILL

On May 14, ecologists and biologists from across the US fanned out across Capitol Hill, visiting 54 congressional offices to support President Obama’s request of $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research benefits the communities the lawmakers represent. 

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event is organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BESC draws participation from Ph.D. scientists and graduate students affiliated with the two organizations. This year’s participants included 2015 ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winners Sydney Blankers (University of Illinois-Chicago), Cleo Chou (Princeton University), Natalie Hambalek (Oregon State University), and Emlyn Resetarits (University of Texas-Austin).

Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared with personal stories describing how federal funding aids their research, helps them in advancing professional development and benefits their states. While firm commitments to support science funding varied from office-to-office, the graduate students and other participants mostly received collegial receptions from Congressional staff and elected officials using local experiences to relate with the congressional staff and lawmakers.

The visits came ahead of House consideration of H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Act, which would significantly alter how NSF prioritizes scientific research. The bill also includes targeted cuts to key areas of science, including the social, behavioral and geosciences at NSF and environmental research at the Department of Energy. Participants also encouraged lawmakers to oppose the bill.

The day before the Hill visits, the students met informally with several ESA members working in policy-related positions in federal offices: Alan Thornhill (USGS), Laura Petes (OSTP), Alexis Erwin (USAID) and Rich Pouyat (USFS). The afternoon before the visits, all BESC participants were also briefed on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

NSF: NEW REPORT OFFERS INSIGHT INTO THE STATE OF STEM WORKFORCE

In concert with its biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board has released a new report examining the current state of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) workforce in the United States.

The report offered three key insights:

  • The STEM “workforce” is extensive, complexly defined and critical to innovation and competitiveness
  • STEM knowledge and skills offer pathways to careers to both STEM and non-STEM occupations.
  • Strengthening access to and participation in the STEM workforce is critical for the US to maintain national prosperity and global competitiveness.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=134866&org=NSF&from=news

FWS: PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION GRANTED ON INVASIVE CONSTRICTOR RULE

A US federal judge has temporarily blocked the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from banning the importation and interstate transport of two constrictor snakes by granting a preliminary injunction sought by the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK). The preliminary injunction will affect FWS’s proposed ban on the reticulated python and the green anaconda.

In addition to the two aforementioned species, FWS is proposing a rule that would add the Beni anaconda and Deshauesee’s anaconda to the agency’s list of injurious species. While the preliminary injunction does not overturn the ban outright, it puts any effort by FWS to implement the ban on hold until the USARK lawsuit has been decided in court.

Click here to view the preliminary injunction:

http://usark.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Dkt-No-60-Mem-Op-on-Injunction.pdf

STATE DEPARTMENT: NEW POLICY REVIEW DOCUMENT PRIORITIZES CLIMATE CHANGE

The US State Department has released a new policy blueprint that lists climate change among its four major priorities of the agency through 2020.

In its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the agency recommends targeted partnerships with civil society groups and local government officials in foreign nations to address climate challenges. The QDDR recommends integrating climate change mitigation and adaption efforts into all diplomatic and international development efforts.

The report comes days after the US took the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council. Secretary of State John Kerry, who will serve a two-year term as chair of the council, indicated he intends to make climate change a top priority during his tenure. The Council was created in 1996 as an international body to monitor environmental conditions in the Arctic.

For additional information on QDDR, click here: http://www.state.gov/s/dmr/qddr/

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comment period ends July 14, 2015

Draft Recovery Plan for the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-11700

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comment period ends July 20, 2015

NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-12086

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comment period ends June 8, 2015

Draft Environmental Assessment and Draft Habitat Conservation Plan for the Fender’s Blue Butterfly on Private Lands in Yamhill County, Oregon (Reopening of Comment Period)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-10980

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends June 9, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 90-Day Findings on 10 Petitions:

Clear lake hitch (fish), Egyptian tortoise, Golden conure (parakeet), Long-tailed chinchilla, Mojave shoulder band snail, Northern spotted owl, Relict dace (fish), San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly, Western pond turtle, Yellow-cedar (tree)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-07837

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Notice: Public comment period ends June 15, 2015

Public Input on the Sustained Assessment Process of the US National Climate Assessment

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-10352

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 2352, the State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act – Introduced May 15 by Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), the bill would require the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service to make data publicly available to states affected by endangered and threatened species listings. The bill also requires the agencies to treat all data submitted by state, tribal or county governments as the “best scientific and commercial data available.” The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On April 30, the House Science, Space and Technology Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 2039, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act for 2016 and 2017 – Introduced by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) the bill authorizes spending at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for the next two fiscal years. Committee Democrats criticized the bill for its steep cuts to NASA’s earth science program. The bill authorizes $1.45 billion for NASA earth science, $230 million less than the $1.68 billion the program received in FY 2015. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 19-15 along party lines.

Considered by House

H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act – Introduced by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the bill would simplify and make permanent the method for calculating a 20 percent tax credit for qualified research expenses that exceed 50 percent of the average qualified research expenses for the three preceding taxable years. The bill is expected to pass the House May 20 along party lines.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating “making the R&D credit permanent without offsets, H.R. 880 would add $180 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.” Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr880r_20150519.pdf

H.R. 1806, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill reauthorizes funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill cuts biological and environmental research at DOE as well as geoscience and social science research at NSF. It also includes changes that affect how NSF prioritizes grant awards. The bill is expected to pass the House May 20 along party lines.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill, stating the bill “undermines key investments in science, technology, and innovation and imposes unnecessary and damaging requirements on Federal support of research.” Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1806r_20150518.pdf

Passed House

H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act – Introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA), the bill would require the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw their upcoming rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways within 30 days and require the administration to set up a consultation process with state and local officials and stakeholders to help clarify federal implementation of the Clean Water Act. The bill passed the House May 12 by a vote of 261-155 with 24 Democrats joining all Republicans in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill. Click here to view the full statement: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1732r_20150429.pdf

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. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

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. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

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. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

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. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.

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. The bill passed May 19 by voice vote.


Sources: National Science Foundation, US Department of State, the White House, House Appropriations Committee, House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, LA Times