September 16, 2015

In This Issue

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BUDGET: ESA JOINS ORGANIZATIONAL LETTER REQUESTING SEQUESTRATION RELIEF

The Ecological Society of America was among 2,500 national, state and local organizations that signed a letter to Members of Congress requesting that they work to replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction.

The letter comes as Congress debates how to continue funding federal agencies beyond the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. Republicans, who control both the House and Senate for the first time since 2006, have put forward Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 appropriations bills that have adhered to the spending constraints set in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25).

In Dec. 2013, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairs Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in that year were able to work out a short-term deficit reduction agreement that provided spending increases for overall discretionary spending and prevented sequestration from taking effect in FY 2014 and 2015. Congress will need to enact a new deficit reduction agreement for FY 2016 and beyond in order to raise the caps on spending above those set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Congressional Democrats and the White House have pushed for a budget agreement that provides additional relief to discretionary spending programs and negates the effects of sequestration. Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans may seek to include riders defunding planned parenthood in any short-term or long-term continuing resolution Congress takes up to extend government funding into the next fiscal year at existing spending levels. Inclusion of such language would garner opposition from Congressional Democrats and a veto threat from the White House.

Any successful agreement to continue government funding through FY 2016 would need bipartisan support to clear both chambers of Congress and be signed by the president. To date, Republican leaders in Congress have frequently relied on the combined votes of Democrats and pragmatic Republicans to shepherd must-pass legislation through Congress.

Click here to view the organizational letter:

https://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/09.10.15NDDSignOnFall2015FinalWithSignatures.pdf

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: ECOLOGICAL SOCIETIES URGE CLIMATE ACTION AT PARIS CONFERENCE

The Ecological Society of America joined with a dozen ecological societies in issuing a joint statement requesting that the countries meeting at this year’s United Nations climate conference in Paris take decisive steps to deter the effects of global climate change.

“Given that an important cause of these changes is the impact of people on the climate, the Presidents urge the Parties meeting in Paris in December during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences, to take the decisive steps urgently needed to prevent a 2°C rise in average global temperatures as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” reads the statement. “This is very likely the last decade when it will be possible to achieve this together and to establish a global legacy of a healthy planet for generations to come.”

Click here to view the full statement:

https://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/09.11.15COP21-CALL-ENGLISH-_FINAL1.pdf

WILDFIRES: AGENCY HEADS URGE CONGRESS TO REALLOCATE SUPPRESSION EXPENSES

The Secretaries for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US Department of Interior (DOI), and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congress this week requesting that lawmakers fix the way wildfire expenses are allocated on order for the agencies to better invest in forest and rangeland restoration efforts. Since August, the USDA Forest Service has been forced to transfer $700 million to fund firefighting through the remainder of this fiscal year. Over 8.5 million aces have burned in the 2015 fire season. These funds are diverted from funds for fuels management and restoration efforts that are crucial to reducing risks of wildland fire and the ability for lands to recover from fire.

“The Forest Service and Interior agencies set their firefighting budget based on their average costs of fighting fires over the last 10 years,” the letter notes. “Due to longer fire seasons resulting from climate change, increased fuel loads in our forests and on our rangelands, and the expense associated with protecting lives and homes along an expanding wildland urban interface, the 10-year average keeps rising and will continue to rise. As a result, unless Congress changes its budgeting strategy for fire suppression in the Forest Service and Interior, firefighting suppression as a proportion of the agencies’ budgets will continue to increase.”

The Administration proposes that DOI and the Forest Service would be able to access a discretionary disaster cap adjustment after the amount spent on fire suppression exceeds 70 percent of the 10-year average. This proposal is similar to provisions included in H.R. 167, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). Though the bill has 132 bipartisan cosponsors, it has not been acted on since it was referred to the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands.

Click here to view the letter:

http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2015/09/0254.xml&printable=true&contentidonly=true

HOUSE: REPUBLICAN INTRODUCES CLIMATE RESOLUTION AHEAD OF POPE VISIT

This week, retiring Congressman Chris Gibson (R-NY) plans to introduce a resolution that affirms humans are contributing to climate change. The resolution is said to be cosponsored by at least nine other Republicans.

Original cosponsors include Reps. Ileana Ros-Le­htin­en, (R-FL), Car­los Cur­belo (R-FL), Robert Dold (R-IL), Dave Reich­ert (R-WA), Pat Mee­han (R-PA), Ry­an Cos­tello (R-FL) and Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Richard Hanna (R-NY) Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Many hail from swing congressional districts.

The timing for introduction of the resolution is intended to coincide with the arrival of Pope Francis in Washington, DC next week. Pope Francis will speak before Congress on Sept. 24 and is expected to urge Americans to act on climate change. Environmentalists will also be using the pope’s visit to organize a climate rally the day he speaks on Capitol Hill.

POLLINATORS: COURT OVERTURNS EPA APPROVAL OF BEE-KILLING INSECTICIDE

On Sept. 10, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the law when it approved an insecticide produced by Dow AgroSciences.

Four beekeeping organizations and three individual beekeepers petitioned the court to review the agency’s approval of the pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act in 2013. The case is the first challenge to EPA’s approval of neonicotinoids. The court ruled that Dow AgroSciences provided incomplete data and studies to EPA that didn’t conform to international guidelines.

“Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence,” the court wrote in its opinion.

Environmental groups praised the decision, contending it will incentivize the agency to be more judicious in future insecticide reviews. EPA is set to review the registration of five other neonicotinoid insecticides by 2019.

Click here to read the full opinion:

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2015/09/10/13-72346.pdf

Click here to view the five other neonicotinoids under EPA review

http://www2.epa.gov/pollinator-protection/schedule-review-neonicotinoid-pesticides

NSF: NOMINATIONS SOUGHT FOR RESEARCH AWARD

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is accepting nominations for the 2016 Alan T. Waterman Award, recognizing the “talent, creativity, and influence of a singular young researcher.”

Named after NSF’s first director, the award is NSF’s highest honor for early-career researchers and accepts nominees from any field of science and engineering. In addition to attending the formal awards ceremony in Washington, DC, the recipient will be awarded $1,000,000 over five-years for research or advanced study at the institution of their choice.

Candidates must be 35 years old or younger and must have received their Ph.D. degree within the past seven years. Nominations are due by Oct. 23, 2015.

The nominations and letters must be sent through the FastLane system. To submit a nomination, please visit https://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/honawards/. Questions should be addressed to Dr. Sherrie Green, Program Manager for the Alan T. Waterman Award at vog.fsnnull@namretaw or 703-292-8040.

Click here for additional information: http://www.nsf.gov/od/waterman/waterman.jsp

FWS: NEW ENGLAND COTTONTAIL DELISTED FROM ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT

On Sept. 11, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that due to the successful habitat conservation and captive breeding efforts, it will exclude the New England cottontail from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

The New England cottontail is the only rabbit native to New England and east of the Hudson River in New York. Though nearly identical in appearance to the more common Eastern cottontail, the New England cottontail is less of a generalist in its ability to thrive in diverse habitats. The rabbits’ preferred ground-level habitat has shrunk by 86 percent since 1960 due to human development. 

The rabbit had first been considered as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protections in 2006. FWS credits voluntary restoration efforts on private lands with playing a critical role in habitat restoration efforts. Presently, about 10,500 cottontails exist across five isolated populations in the Northeastern United States, three quarters of the 13,500 population goal set by the administration for 2030.

Click here for additional information:

https://www.fws.gov/northeast/newenglandcottontail/index.html

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Field Testing a Swine Influenza Vaccine, H1N1 & H3N2, Modified Live Virus

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 5, 2015

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21995

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: public comments due Nov. 16, 2015

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species Status for Platanthera integrilabia (White Fringeless Orchid)

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-22973

Proposed Rule: public comments due Nov. 13, 2015

Clean Vessel Act Grant Program

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-22723

US Forest Service

Notice: Public comment period ends Oct. 1, 2015

Dakota Prairie Grasslands, North Dakota; Oil and Gas Development Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-21688 

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

On Sept. 10, the House Natural Resources Committee approved by the following bill:

H.R. 1644, the Supporting Transparent Regulatory and Environmental Actions in Mining (STREAM) Act – Introduced by Rep. Alexander Mooney (R-WV), the bill would delay implementation of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s stream protection rule to protect waterways from coal mining. The bill would require scientific data used in the development of the rule publically available 90 days before the rule can be implemented. The bill passed committee by a vote of 23-12. Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) was the only Democrat to vote for the bill.

Considered by House

H.R. 23, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015 –  Introduced by Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL), the bill reauthorizes the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, implemented by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The program carries out research to help mitigate damage from windstorms such as hurricanes and tornadoes. The bill passed the Senate in July with an amendment by unanimous consent. It is expected to pass the House this week.

H.R. 2961, to establish a research, development, and technology demonstration program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in combined cycle and simple cycle systems – Introduced by Reps. Paul Tonko (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-WV) – The bill requires the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy to carry out a research, development, and technology demonstration program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in power generation systems and to identify the technologies that will lead to gas turbine combined cycle efficiency of 65 percent or simple cycle efficiency of 50 percent. The bill is expected to pass the House this week.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2025, the National Oceans and Coastal Security Act – Introduced Sept. 10 by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the bill would direct 12.5 percent of revenues from offshore energy development, including oil, gas, and renewable energy to strengthen coastal infrastructure and fund marine ecosystem research. The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

S. 2026, the Stop Nuclear Waste by Our Lakes Act – Introduced Sept. 10 by Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), the bill would require more scientific analysis of a proposal to store radioactive waste from reactors in Canada near Lake Huron. The bill has been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 3483) has been introduced in the House by Reps. Daniel Killdee (D-MI) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).

S. 2032, the National Bison Legacy Act – Introduced Sept. 15 by Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), the bill would adopt the bison as the national mammal of the United States and recognizes the historical, cultural and economic significance of the bison to the nation. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Sources: the National Science Foundation, US Department of Agriculture, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, the National Journal