September 2, 2015

In This Issue

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ARCTIC: OBAMA CALLS FOR CLIMATE ACTION AT ALASKA CONFERENCE

On August 29, President Obama spoke before the conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER) in Alaska where he discussed how climate change is impacting the Arctic and called on world leaders to join in global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama’s visit makes him the first sitting president to visit the Arctic.

“Warmer, more acidic oceans and rivers, and the migration of entire species, threatens the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, and local economies dependent on fishing and tourism,” said the president. “Reduced sea levels leaves villages unprotected from floods and storm surges.  Some are in imminent danger; some will have to relocate entirely.  In fact, Alaska has some of the swiftest shoreline erosion rates in the world.”

The president used the forum to call on the world’s nations to agree to a climate treaty when they meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris later this fall. The president discussed the efforts the United States and China are implementing to cut carbon emissions while stressing that addressing climate change requires action from multiple nations.

“Even America and China together cannot do this alone,” said the president. “Even all the countries represented around here cannot do this alone.  We have to do it together.” 

While embarking on a three-day tour in Alaska this week, the president also highlighted his administration’s efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the Arctic. These efforts include acquiring new coast guard icebreakers, enabling safe marine operations and transportation in the region, gathering marine biodiversity data and hosting an international workshop on community-based ecological monitoring.

Some of the Obama administration’s policy decisions in the Arctic have been wrought with controversy, including his decision to allow Royal Dutch Shell PLC to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea and the recent move to rename Alaska’s Mount McKinley as Denali. While there is some division between native leaders and some local environmental activists on the drilling issue, Alaskans had been requesting the mountain name change for years. The Department of Interior secretarial order authorizing the name changed noted that Gov. Jay Hammond (R-AK) had petitioned the department to make the change back in 1975.

“For generations Alaskans have known this majestic mountain as The Great One,” stated Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in a video response to the renaming. “Today we’re honored to be able to officially recognize the mountain as Denali. I’d like to thank the president for working with us to achieve this significant change to show honor, respect, and gratitude to the Athabascan people of Alaska.”

Click here to view the president’s full remarks before the GLACIER conference.

Click here for additional Obama administration efforts to address climate change in the Arctic.

WATER: COURT RULING IMPEDES OBAMA CLEAN WATER RULE

US District Court Chief Judge Ralph Erickson in North Dakota has granted a preliminary injunction impacting 13 states against the Obama administration’s Waters of the United States rule, which redefines which streams and wetlands merit federal protection under the Clean Water Act that is administered by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The agency contends the injunction will only apply to the 13 states that filed the lawsuit: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, while the new rule will proceed in the 37 other states. 

Judge Erickson concluded that the regulation likely oversteps the US Supreme Court’s decision in Rapanos vs. the United States. The injunction serves to halt implementation of the rule for as long as litigation persists and can be overturned. The 2008 guidance that has been on the books to govern Clean Water Act decisions will remain in effect for the 13 states.

Several other states and businesses have also filed challenges to the rule. District court judges in West Virginia and Georgia have rejected granting litigants an injunction. EPA could seek to overturn the injunction through the US 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

Click here to view the full ruling.

Click here for additional information on the EPA clean water rule.

ENDANGERED SPECIES: USDA ANNOUNCES SAGE GROUSE CONSERVATION EFFORT

On August 27, the US Department of Agriculture announced a new plan that calls for spending $211 million over the next four years to conserve sage grouse habitat on private lands.

Under the plan, ranchers will receive financial assistance to implement conservation efforts that benefit the sage grouse and their agricultural operations. Dubbed “Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0,” the plan builds upon sage grouse habitat conservation efforts that began in 2010 and involves collaboration with the states of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

Click here for additional information.

SENATE: RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS PRAISE LAWMAKERS FOR SUPPORTING SCIENCE CONFERENCES

The Ecological Society of America was among 74 scientific and medical organizations that sent a letter of thanks to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Vice Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) for acknowledging the importance of federal employed and contracted scientists being able to attend scientific and technical conferences.

The organizations also sent a thank you letter to Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chris Coons (D-DE) for offering an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2016 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill that sought to grant the executive branch increased flexibility in revising its travel policies. Sen. Schatz agreed to withdrawal his amendment after committee leaders offered to work with him on the issue further.

Click here to view the letter to Senate Appropriations Committee leaders.

Click here to view the letter to Sens. Schatz and Coons.

Click here to listen to the full hearing.

SENATE: SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES RESPOND TO AMERICA COMPETES COMMENT REQUEST

On August 21, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) joined the American Institute for Biological Sciences and 47 other biological science organizations in sending a letter to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that offers input on the committee’s efforts to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act.

The letter expresses support for the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) existing merit review system and urges the committee not to “pick winners and losers among NSF research programs.” It also calls for sustained investment in NSF.

“Unpredictable annual swings in federal funding disrupt research programs, create uncertainty in the research community, and stall the development of the next great idea,” the letter notes. “Funding for basic research has been stagnant in recent years, particularly when adjusted for inflation. Given the importance of research and development to our economic growth and global competitiveness, Congress should make new, multi-year investments in NSF.”

ESA also sent its own letter to the committee earlier this summer.

Click here to view the scientific society letter.

Click here to view the ESA letter.

WHITE HOUSE: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR CLIMATE ASSESSMENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The White House is accepting nominations for a new federal advisory committee for the National Climate Assessment.

The 15-member committee is being created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and will advise the Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the Director of the Office of Science Technology Policy on processes related to the National Climate Assessment, which is slated to produce a new report every four years.

Nominations must be submitted by September 14. Click here for additional information.

NOAA: WHALE DEATHS IN ALASKA TRIGGER PROBE

The death of 30 whales in Alaska has triggered a probe by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into the cause.

Since May, 14 humpback whales, 11 fin whales, one gray what and four unidentified cetaceans in the area comprising the western Gulf of Alaska and the southern shoreline of the Alaska Peninsula. According to NOAA, this is three times the annual historical average for the region.

Declaring the deaths an “unusual mortality event,” gives the agency expanded resources in investigating the event. These events are defined as involving an unexpected significant die-off of a marine mammal population that demands an immediate response. The declaration allows NOAA to collaborate with federal, state and local entities to conduct a rigorous scientific investigation develop a response plan.

Click here for additional information.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 13, 2015

Notice of Availability of Treatment Evaluation Documents and Supplemental Environmental Assessment for Pesticide Use for the Imported Fire Ant Program

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19700

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Oct. 13, 2015

90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Smooth Hammerhead Shark as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19550

US Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations must be received by Sept. 9, 2015

Request for Public Comments on the List of Candidates for EPA’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) Agricultural Science Committee

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-20511

Notice: Public comment period ends Sept. 28, 2015

Pesticide Cumulative Risk Assessment; Framework for Screening Analysis; Notice of Availability and Request for Comment; Extension of Comment Period

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21483

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Nov. 23, 2015

Pesticides; Certification of Pesticide Applicators

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19988

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Oct. 26, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Determination of Critical Habitat for the Marbled Murrelet Seabird

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-20837

Notice: Nominations must be received by Sept. 9, 2015

Request for Nominees for the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-19519

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends November 2, 2015

Removal of the plant Solidago albopilosa (White-haired Goldenrod) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21410

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 3202, the Lionfish Elimination and Prevention Act (LEAP) Act – Introduced July 23 by Rep. Curt Clawson (R-FL), the bill would amend the Lacey Act to add all eleven species of lionfish to the list of injurious species that are prohibited from being imported or shipped. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

H.R. 3293, the Scientific Research in the National Interest Act – Introduced July 29 by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the bill would require the National Science Foundation to specify how its grant award are “in the national interest.” The language is similar to Section 106 of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1806), which passed earlier this year. Research and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) is a cosponsor of the bill. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. 

H.R. 3392, the Carbon Capture Research and Development Act – Introduced July 29 by Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Matt Salmon (R-AZ), the bill would help speed the development and deployment of new technologies that can convert captured carbon dioxide to fuels, chemicals, and other products by adding “conversion, use, and storage of carbon dioxide” to the Department of Energy Fossil Energy Office’s list of research areas. The bill has been referred to the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S. 1886, the Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act – Introduced July 29 by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the bill would create a national ocean acidification monitoring strategy to prioritize investment in ocean acidification sensors for areas that need it most. It also directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation to make investments in adaptation and mitigation research that will increase coastal resiliency to ocean acidification. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S. 1918, the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act – Introduced Aug. 3 by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to extend its import and export-related provisions to species that are proposed for listing as threatened or endangered under the Act. The bill has been referred to the Environmental and Public Works Committee.

S. 1935, the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act of 2015 – Introduced Aug. 4 by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to undertake activities that support waterfront community revitalization and resiliency. Among its provisions, the bill would create a voluntary Resilient Waterfront Community designation within the Department of Commerce to recognize communities that adopt a waterfront revitalization and resiliency plan integrating economic, ecosystem and infrastructure challenges and opportunities. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S.1999, the Caribbean Oil Spill Intervention, Prevention, and Preparedness Act – Introduced Aug. 5 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the department in which the Coast Guard is operating to act, without liability for certain damages, to prevent and respond to the threat of damage from pollution of the sea by crude oil. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Approved by Senate Committee

On July 29, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee approved the following bill:

S. 779, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act of 2015 – Introduced by John Cornyn (R-TX), the bill requires every federal agency with an annual extramural research budget of $100 million or more to implement a public-access policy. The bill requires that these agencies make peer-reviewed articles publicly available within one year of publication.


Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill