July 29, 2015

In This Issue


Thirteen of the largest companies in the United States are joining the Obama administration in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. The companies making pledges represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion.

In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” the businesses 1) voice their support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations 2) pledge to reduce their carbon emissions and take other actions that improve sustainability and address climate change 3) set an example that will pave the way for a second round of pledges from additional companies this fall.

Each company will announce personalize measures that include purchasing 100 percent renewable energy, zero net deforestation and reducing water intensity in addition to tackling emissions. According to the White House, the collective actions represent $140 billion in new low-carbon investment and more than 1,600 megawatts of new renewable energy.

Click here for additional information:



Over the past several weeks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bills for FY 2016.

The bills provide funding for most US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. Overall FY 2016 funding in both bills is lower than the enacted FY 2015 spending level to comply with sequestration funding levels. However, the Senate bill does increase funding for most agricultural research programs. Though the White House has yet to issue a veto threat of either bill, it did submit a letter of concern on the House bill.

“The bill cuts approximately $500 million from the president’s request for research activities needed to meet the challenges of the 21st Century,” the White House letter notes. “Specifically, the bill fails to support the president’s requested increases in critical intramural research areas such as climate change, antimicrobial resistance, pollinator health, and agricultural sustainability.”

Below are summaries of funding for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2015 enacted funding:

Agricultural Research Service

House: $1.12 billion; $10.17 million less than FY 2015.

Senate: $1.14 billion; a $4.2 million increase over FY 2015.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

House: $870.95 million; $370,000 less than FY 2015.

Senate: $876.47 million; a $5.15 million increase over FY 2015.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

House: $832.93 million; $13.5 million less than FY 2015.

Senate: $855.21 million; an $8.78 million increase over FY 2015.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

House: $335 million; a $10 million increase over FY 2015.

Senate: $325 million; level with FY 2015.

Click here to view the White House letter of the House Agriculture FY 2016 spending bill.


On July 22, the Obama administration granted Shell conditional approval to conduct limited exploratory drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska in Arctic waters.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued the permits allow Shell to drill only the top sections of wells and prohibit the company from penetrating oil-bearing rock. The prohibition on penetrating oil-bearing rock could be lifted once repair is complete on a vessel carrying necessary emergency response equipment for Shell, if the equipment meets BSEE safety requirements.

The company will be allowed to drill only one well at a time in order to comply with marine mammal protection requirements. Trained wildlife observers will also be required on all drilling sites as well as support vessels to minimize impacts to federally protected species.

Click here for additional information.


On July 24, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) responded to a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee request for comments from the scientific community as the committee begins work in drafting its version of an America COMPETES Reauthorization.

The letter requests that the committee draft a bipartisan bill that prioritizes investment for all scientific fields in order to maintain the nation’s global competitiveness. The approach the Senate has taken, seeking comments from the scientific community before beginning work on its COMPETES reauthorization, sets a markedly different tone than that of the US House of Representatives.

In May the House passed a 2015 America COMPETES Reauthorization. It was opposed by the scientific community, all House Democrats, and nearly two dozen House Republicans. The bill would fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) by directorate, effectively deciding scientific research at the congressional level. Currently, NSF determines research priorities and funding levels for directorates based on decadal reports, input from the scientific community, convening expert workshops and seeking input from the scientific community. The ESA letter requests that the Senate bill not authorize funding for NSF by directorate, as the House bill does. 

“Authorizing NSF funding by directorate would leave the agency more vulnerable to the partisan motivations of whatever political party controls Congress,” the letter notes. “A strong COMPETES reauthorization recognizes the importance of all fields of science, including the biological, geological and social sciences, and maintains the agency’s flexibility to adapt to unanticipated scientific discoveries.”

Any legislation introduced in the Senate would need significant bipartisan support in order to pass, making it likely that any Senate bill introduced would look markedly different than the House bill. A timeline for introduction of a Senate version of the America COMPETES Reauthorization remains unclear, but it most likely wouldn’t come earlier than the fall, after the committee has reviewed comments submitted by the scientific community.

Comments from the scientific community can be sent to vog.etanes.ecremmocnull@ycilopecneics through August 21, 2015.

Click here for additional information. Click here to view the ESA letter.


On July 29, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a finalized rule listing the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Amazilia luciae) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. 

The agency estimates that 90 percent of the birds’ habitat has been lost and only 5,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs remain in small isolated valleys within the country. The rulemaking prohibits “take” (defined under the Endangered Species Act as harm, harass, kill or injury) of the bird and also bans the species form being imported into or exported out of the United States.

According to FWS, the final rule was based upon review of available scientific and commercial information, including all information received by the agency during its public comment period. The public comment period was open for 60 days, ending March 4, 2013. The final rulemaking goes into effect August 28, 2015.

Click here for additional information.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comments due Aug. 24, 2015

Taking of Marine Mammals Incidental to Specified Activities; San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Pier E3 Demolition via Controlled Implosion


National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comments due Sept. 21, 2015

Request for Public Comment on an Updated Standardized Research Performance Progress Report Format to be Used for Both Interim and Final Performance Progress Reporting


Office of Service Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Proposed Rule: Public comments due Sept. 25, 2015

Stream Protection Rule


US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due Aug. 24, 2015

Pesticides; Risk Management Approach to Identifying Options for Protecting the Monarch Butterfly; Notice of Extension of Comment Period


US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due Aug. 26, 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; Second Extension of Comment Period


Proposed Rule: September 28, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Revision of the Section 4(d) Rule for the African Elephant (Loxodonta africana)


Notice: Public comments due Sep. 14, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for the Salt Creek Tiger Beetle



Passed House

H.R. 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), the bill would require Congress to approve federal agency regulations that have an annual economic impact greater than $100 million. The bill passed the House July 28 by a vote of 243–165 with two Democrats joining all Republicans in voting in favor of the bill. Similar legislation passed the House in 2013, but was stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced a companion bill (S. 226) that has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, yet not been acted on.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill. Click here to read the full White House statement.

H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam), the bill would streamline enforcement of fishing laws to further deter illegal fishing activities. The bill passed the House July 27 by voice vote.

H.R. 1138, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and Jerry Peak Wilderness Additions Act – Introduced by Rep. Michael Simpson (R-ID), the bill would establish three new wilderness areas in the central part of Idaho, protecting over 275,000 acres of land in the state.  The bill passed the House July 27 by voice vote.

H.R. 1734, the Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), the bill would replace the US Environmental Protection Agency’s December 2014 rule on coal combustion waste with a state-based permit program for coal combustion waste disposal. The bill passed the House July 22 by a vote of 258–166 with 19 Democrats joining all but one Republican in support of the bill. Companion legislation (S. 1803) has been introduced by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV). 

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to veto the bill. Click here to read the full White House statement.

Introduced in Senate

S. 1794, the Stop Arctic Ocean Drilling Act – Introduced July 16 by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the bill would block the renewal of new or existing oil and gas drilling permits in the Arctic. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S.1824, the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area Study Act of 2015 – Introduced July 21 by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to assess the suitability and feasibility of designating certain land as the Finger Lakes National Heritage Area. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

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