October 28, 2015
In This Issue
The White House and Congressional leaders have finalized a budget deal that raises the debt limit and sets spending levels for Fiscal Years 2016 and 2017. The bill passed the House Oct. 28 by a vote of 266-167. All voting Democrats were joined by 79 Republicans in support of the measure. All 167 opposing votes came from Republicans.
Dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015,” the deal would extend the debt ceiling until March 5, 2017. Similar to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), it would provide relief for sequestration—automatic spending cuts to discretionary spending programs that are set to go into effect next year. The bill would increase overall discretionary spending by $80 billion over the next two years, equally divided between defense and nondefense discretionary programs.
The discretionary spending increases are slated to be offset through numerous measures, including a one-year extension of mandatory spending sequestration, selling oil reserves, crop insurance reform and changes to entitlements that intend to improve program integrity. A majority of Congressional Republicans are expected to vote against the deal. House and Senate leaders are expected to rely on Congressional Democrats and a minority of pragmatic and defense-hawk Republicans to get the bill to President Obama’s desk.
The discretionary spending increases would provide an additional $50 billion above the sequestration spending caps for discretionary programs in FY 2016 and $30 billion in FY 2017. It also includes an additional $32 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations for defense and non-defense security programs for the next two fiscal years.
US Department of Treasury Secretary Jack Lew indicated that the current $18.1 trillion debt ceiling needs to be raised by Nov. 3. In setting overall discretionary spending levels for the next two fiscal years, the budget agreement will also make it easier for Congressional appropriators to negotiate a long-term spending deal for the remainder of the current fiscal year 2016, which began Oct. 1, 2015. The short-term continuing resolution that extended federal funding for federal agencies expires on Dec. 11.
Politically, if the bill passes the House and Senate, Congress avoids tackling sequestration or the debt ceiling until the next president takes office. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had favored a two-year agreement as part of an effort to affirm his party can be a functional governing majority. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) had also sought to ensure his successor did not inherit a budget crisis after he resigns at the end of this week.
In September, the Ecological Society of America joined 2,500 national, state and local organizations in signing a letter to Members of Congress requesting they replace sequestration with a more balanced approach to deficit reduction. Click here to view the letter:
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) was selected by House Republicans today as their nominee for speaker of the House. This will be followed by a formal vote on the floor of the US House of Representatives on Oct. 29. Boehner will resign from the House on Oct. 30.
Ryan’s agreement to be speaker rested upon his colleagues assurance of the necessary 218 Republican votes needed to win, which he secured at the close of last week when a majority of the far-right House Freedom Caucus indicated their support.
Despite holding sharp differences over budget priorities, Democratic leaders praise Ryan as someone with whom they can work. As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan worked with then-Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) to craft the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L. 113-67), which alleviated the effects of budget sequestration by providing temporary increases in discretionary spending for Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. At age 45, Ryan will be the youngest speaker elected to the House since 1881, when J. Warren Kiefer, also 45, was elected speaker.
On October 19, the White House announced that 68 additional companies have signed its “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” joining 13 others who first signed the pledge in June.
In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” they voiced support for a strong outcome in the upcoming Paris climate negotiations by pledging to reduce their carbon emissions and improve sustainability.
Collectively, the 81 companies “have operations in all 50 states, employ over 9 million people, represent more than $3 trillion in annual revenue, and have a combined market capitalization of over $5 trillion,” according to the White House.
Click here for additional information.
On Oct. 7, the White House released a memorandum directing federal agencies to factor ecosystem services in their planning and decision-making.
The guidance is intended to support federal agencies currently using ecosystem services approaches and encourage other agencies to incorporate these services when developing policy. The memo directs federal agencies to submit a written description of their work plan to incorporate ecosystem services into their planning, management, and regulatory decisions to the Council on Environmental Quality no later than March 30, 2016.
Click here to view the memo.
The Oct. 19 Canada national elections resulted in an overwhelming victory for the country’s Liberal Party, culminated in the election of Justin Trudeau as Canada’s new prime minister.
As prime minister, Trudeau has pledged to focus on addressing climate change and renewable energy investment. He also vowed to appoint a new chief science adviser, a position his predecessor Stephen Harper eliminated. As part of its party platform, the Liberal Party pledges to “restore credibility in environmental assessments.” The election could have consequences for how the Canadian government reviews the Keystone XL pipeline and may influence the Obama administration’s final decision on whether to approve the pipeline.
The Canadian scientific community overwhelmingly views Trudeau’s election as a welcome departure from the tenure of Harper, who cut funding for government research projects.
The Canada parliament Liberal Party also won 184 seats, clearing the 170 seats necessary for a governing majority.
US Environmental Protection Agency
Proposed Rule: Public comments due Jan. 21, 2016
Federal Implementation Plan for Clean Power Plan
National Science Foundation
Notice: Public comments due Dec. 21, 2015
Biological Sciences Proposal Classification Form
Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015
Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Dec. 28, 2015
90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the Thorny Skate as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Notice: Public comments due Dec. 14, 2015
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Initiation of a 5-Year Review of the Polar Bear
Notice: Public comments due Dec. 28, 2015
Gila Chub Draft Recovery Plan
Introduced in House
H.R. 3828, the Land-Grant Opportunity Act – Introduced Oct. 26 by Rep. Corrine Brown, the bill would amend the National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 to provide for an equitable distribution of formula funds between land-grant colleges and universities. The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture Committee.
Considered by House Committee/Subcommittee
On Oct. 22, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee considered the following bill:
H.R. 3094, the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act – Introduced by Garret Graves (R-LA), the bill would transfer management of the red snapper fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico from the federal government to the states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The bill has 28 bipartisan cosponsors, largely from the Gulf states.
H.R. 1937, the National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill would reduce environmental reviews for mining operations on federal public lands and limit judicial review of mining permits by barring any civil action not filed within 60 days after a final federal agency regulation. The bill passed the House by a vote of 254-177. Eight Democrats joined all Republicans in support of the bill.
The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing the bill. Click here to read the statement.
Introduced in Senate
S. 2189, the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Reauthorization Act – Introduced Oct. 21 by Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Dean Heller (R-NV), the bill would permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Act, which promotes sales and purchases of federal lands. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA).
S. 2199, the Regulatory Authority Clarification Act – Introduced Oct. 22 by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), the bill would allow Congress to use concurrent resolutions as a way to clarify federal agencies’ regulatory authority. As concurrent resolutions do not require the president’s signature, the bill would effectively allow Congress to unilaterally clarify what regulatory authority Congress has granted to federal agencies. The bill is an attempt to grant Congress the power to unilaterally overrule any new regulations it deems are improper interpretations a federal agency’s regulatory power under existing law. The bill has been referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Cleared for White House
H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Madeline Bordallo (D-Guam), the bill would streamline enforcement of fishing laws to further deter illegal fishing activities. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent on Oct. 21 after passing the House by voice vote in July. The president is expected to sign the measure.
Sources: The White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, National Journal, the Hill, Roll Call