June 17, 2015

In This Issue


Over the past few weeks, the House and Senate have moved their Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bills, which include funding for key science agencies. The bills fund the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The House FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill reached a floor vote and passed June 3 by a vote of 242–183. Twelve Democrats joined all but ten Republicans in voting for the bill. The bill includes $51.4 billion in discretionary spending for the federal agencies under its jurisdiction. Total funding in the bill would increase by $1.3 billion, although most agencies would be funded at amounts lower than in the president’s FY 2016 budget request. The White House submitted a Statement of Administration policy stating the president would veto the bill, setting-up the prospect of another government shutdown fight between the White House and Congress this fall.

The House bill would fund NSF at $7.4 billion in FY 2016, a $50 million increase over FY 2015, but $300 million less than the president’s request for the agency. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $5.2 billion, $274 million below the FY 2015 enacted level. The National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $18.5 billion in FY 2015, a $519 million increase over FY 2015. NASA science programs would decrease by $7 million compared to the FY 2015 enacted level.

The House bill includes cuts to several important environmental research programs. NOAA’s National Ocean Service would receive $14 million less than the FY 2015 enacted level. NOAA climate research would be cut by $30 million compared to FY 2015. NASA earth science would be cut by $200 million.

The accompanying committee report language on the House bill states “The Committee directs NSF to ensure that Mathematical and Physical Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering; and Biological Sciences comprise no less than 70 percent of the funding within Research and Related Activities.”  This would result in sharp cuts to the NSF directorates that fund social and geosciences.

In addition to objecting to the funding levels for NSF and other federal agencies, the White House Statement of Administration policy also expressed concern with language in the committee report for the bill that targets geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences.

“Especially hard hit by this reduction would be the geosciences and social, behavioral, and economic sciences, which would be reduced by 20 percent. The Committee’s allocation of resources to specific disciplines would interfere with NSF’s ability to respond to scientific opportunity,” the White House noted.

The Ecological Society of America recently joined with other scientific societies in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee reiterating concern with efforts to legislatively direct funding to NSF by directorate.

While the Senate FY 2016 CJS appropriations bill does not include accompanying committee report language directing NSF funding by directorate, House and Senate leaders will need to negotiate a final conference report compromise bill that resolves differences between the House and Senate CJS bills this fall.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its CJS bill June 11 by a heavily bipartisan vote of 27–3, although it has yet to be considered on the Senate floor. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jon Tester (D-MT) opposed the bill. The Senate CJS bill includes $51.1 billion in total discretionary spending for FY 2016, slightly less than the House bill.

In the Senate bill, NSF would receive $7.3 billion in FY 2016, comparable to the FY 2015 enacted level. NOAA funding in the Senate bill would be funded at $5.4 billion, also similar to the FY 2015 enacted level. NASA would receive a $279 million increase over FY 2015.  NASA science would be funded at $50 million above FY 2015.

While the White House has not submitted a statement on the Senate CJS bill, many of the concerns directed towards the House bill would be applicable to the Senate bill, including the NSF funding levels.

Click here to view the scientific society letter:


Click here to view the White House statement:


Click here to view a summary of the House FY 2016 CJS bill:


Click here to view a summary of the Senate FY 2016 CJS bill:



On June 9, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled its Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill includes several provisions that would block funding for Obama administration environmental protection regulations.

The bill includes $30.17 billion for the Department of Interior (DOI), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Forest Service, $3 billion less than the president’s FY 2016 request for the agency and $246 million below the FY 2015 enacted level.

EPA would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2016, a $718 million reduction in funding. The bill prohibits funding to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan as well as clarify federal jurisdiction over “navigable waters.” 

The House bill does increase wildland fire prevention activities by $52 million over the FY 2015 enacted level. The US Forest Service is funded at $5 billion, a $13 million reduction from FY 2015.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service would be prohibited from preparing a potential Endangered Species Act listing rule for sage grouse. The agency is under a court mandate to decide by Sept. 30 whether to propose listing the bird.

Many US Department of Interior bureaus budget includes slight increases or are flat funded. Funding levels for specific Interior sub-agencies are below:

Office of Surface Mining: $180 million; $30 million above FY 2015. The bill includes a provision to stop changes to the “stream buffer rule,” intended to protect streams from coal mining.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion; a $30 million increase from FY 2015.

National Park Service: $2.7 billion; a $53 million increase over FY 2015. The added funding is attended to address a maintenance backlog ahead of its centennial in 2016.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): $1.4 billion in the bill; $8 million below FY 2015.

US Geological Survey: $1.05 billion; level with FY 2015.

The Senate Interior and Environment Subcommittee also approved its Interior Appropriations bill this week. The Senate bill provides $30.01 billion in funding and also would prohibit funding to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. It also prohibits EPA from implementing its Clean Water rule. The bill also would continue a prohibition on the Fish and Wildlife Service listing the greater sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species, but  follows the House bill’s lead by meeting the  president’s $60 million  request to conserve the species throughout its 11-state Western range.

Below are funding levels for agencies and bureaus under the Senate bill:

EPA: $7.6 billion, $538.8 million below FY 2015.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.18 billion; a $65 million increase over FY 2015.

National Park Service: $2.72 billion; a $112.7 million increase over FY 2015.

US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): $1.43 billion in the bill; $2 million below FY 2015.

US Forest Service: $5.12 billion; a $67 million increase over FY 2015.

US Geological Survey: $1.06 billion; a $17 million increase over FY 2015.

On June 15, the White House submitted a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) expressing opposition to the spending cuts in the bill as well as the policy riders that would prohibit implementation of the administration’s Clean Power Plan and other environmental protection efforts.

Click here to view the White House statement:


Click here for additional information on the House FY 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill:


Click here for additional information on the Senate FY 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill:



On June 10, the US Environmental Protection Agency began its process for considering whether to regulate greenhouse gas emissions for commercial airlines.

The effort is spurred by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body that has been working with the aviation industry to develop greenhouse gas emissions standards for aircraft. The standards are expected to be adopted in early 2016.

According to EPA, US aircraft comprises 11 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector and 29 percent of all aircraft globally. The EPA actions will not apply to small recreational piston-planes or military aircraft.

Click here for additional information.



On June 15, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) demanding records of communications and documents related to its regulatory efforts.

“Since January 2014, the EPA has announced intentions to propose or finalize rules pertaining to the new and existing source performance standards for electricity generating units, the renewable fuel standard, National Ambient Air Quality Standards for ozone, the definition of Waters of the United States, methane emissions at natural gas production sites, and carbon emissions from commercial airlines, to name just a few,” the letter states. “Given the breadth and scope of these regulations, as well as their impact on the American people and the economy, it appears that EPA is engaging in an effort to obfuscate Congressional oversight of these rules by delaying its production of key documents to the Committee.”

The letter references three separate letters sent to EPA this past month submitted to EPA requesting documents and communications for various proposed rules and regulations that allegedly have not been responded to.

The letter sets a deadline of June 22 for the agency to submit requested documents and a June 29 for EPA staff members to make themselves available for a transcribed interview with committee staff.

Earlier this year, the agency did send Chairman Smith a large number of documents in response to a subpoena over EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s various methods of communication, including text messages.

Click here to view Chairman Smith’s letter:


Click here to view EPA’s response to past communications inquiries:



On June 12, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a rule that classifies wild and captive chimpanzees as endangered.

The rule effectively removes the captivity exemption for chimpanzees, giving individuals in zoos and research facilities the same endangered species protections as wild chimpanzees, which are already listed. FWS will restrict the import, export and sale of chimpanzees in the United States, but will grant permits for scientific and research purposes. The rule does not apply to owners of legally acquired chimpanzees or to those held in zoos and sanctuaries.

In cases of biomedical research where chimps, laboratories will be required to demonstrate the research promotes the survival of the species in the wild. According to FWS, poaching, capture for the pet trade, deforestation and disease is causing the species’ decline.

The new rule will go into effect Sept. 14.

Click here for additional information:



Department of Interior

Notice: Nominations due July 8, 2015

Reopening of Nomination Period for Members of the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Nominations due July 20, 2015

Nominations to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee


National Park Service

Notice: Nominations due July 13, 2015

Notice of Request for Nominations and Meeting Cancellation for the Na Hoa Pili O Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Advisory Commission


US Army Corps of Engineers

Notice: Applications and endorsement letters due July 17, 2015

Notice of Solicitation of Applications for Stakeholder Representative Members of the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee


US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed rule: Public comments due August 17, 2015

Removing Eastern Puma (Cougar) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife


Notice: Public comments due July 17, 2015

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the California Tiger Salamander and California Red-Legged Frog, Sonoma County, California


Proposed rule: Public comments due July 27, 2015

Identification and Proposed Listing of Eleven Distinct Population Segments of Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas) as Endangered or Threatened and Revision of Current Listings; Public Hearings; Extension of Comment Period



Introduced in House

H.R. 2681, the Training Highly Skilled Americans Act – Introduced June 4 the Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), the bill would increase federal investment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs at minority-serving colleges and universities. The bill also creates scholarships for economically disadvantaged and minority students. Additionally, its grants loan forgiveness to economically disadvantaged students who obtain a STEM degree. The bill also creates a economically disadvantaged scholarship for groups underrepresented in STEM fields, including minorities and women. The bill was referred to the House Education and Workforce Committee, House Judiciary Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

H.R. 2717, the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act Amendments of 2015 – Introduced June 10 by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK) and Lois Capps (D-CA), the bill would reauthorize NOAA’s existing ocean acidification program and add an advisory board of 15 members from industry, academia and non-governmental organizations to coordinate activities and communications related on the effects of ocean acidification. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Introduced in Senate 

S. 1500, the Sensible Environmental Protection Act – Introduced June 3 by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the bill would clarify congressional intent of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act by restricting the US Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to issue Clean Water Act permits for pesticides sprayed over navigable waters. The bill is a response to a 2009 federal court decision directing EPA to require permits for applicators that spray over waterways. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S.1523, the National Estuary Program Reauthorization Act – Introduced June 10, by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and David Vitter (R-LA), the bill would amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program. The bill also reforms how the program is authorized and creates a competitive grant program targeting urgent issues like habitat loss and flooding. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 944) passed the House June 1 by voice vote.

S.1554, the Focused Reduction Effluence Stormwater Runoff through Hydraulic-Fracturing Environmental Regulation (FRESHER) Act – Introduced June 11 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill removes Clean Water Act exemptions for oil and gas companies involved in hydraulic fracturing. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 1573, the National Weather Service Improvement Act – Introduced June 15 by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD), the bill seeks to modernize the National Weather Service (NWS) by reinvesting funds in six regional forecasting offices. The six regional offices would take over forecasting from the nation’s 122 local forecasting offices, which would instead focus solely on communication and coordination.

In response to an Inspector General report that found that an NWS official improperly arranged his own post-retirement contracting job, the bill also requires its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to submit an annual report to Congress detailing its number of full-time contractors and those who formerly worked for the agency. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act – Introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), the bill would overturn the Obama administration rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways and require the administration to set a new criteria for determining which streams and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The bill passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee June 10 by a partisan vote of 11–9. No Democrats supported the measure.

Sources: House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill