March 2, 2016

In This Issue

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POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SCIENTISTS MEET ON CAPITOL HILL TO DISCUSS CLIMATE SCIENCE

 

In February, ESA participated in Climate Science Days, an annual outreach event sponsored by the Climate Science Working Group (CSWG) to advance understanding of climate change research among lawmakers on Capitol Hill.  ESA is a CSWG member as are other scientific associations.

Multiple teams of scientists, paired by geographic location, met with over 100 House and Senate offices and committee staff. Meetings with Republican Senate and House members were given priority along with lawmakers who serve on committees with jurisdiction over climate science issues.

ESA member participants included Matthew Hurteau (University of New Mexico), Knute Nadelhoffer (University of Michigan) and Adam Rosenblatt (Yale University). All three are seasoned veterans of Capitol Hill. Hurteau previously met with Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Forestry to discuss prescribed burns. Nadelhoffer testified before the House Energy and Commerce committee during a 2011 hearing examining climate science. Rosenblatt is a 2012 recipient of the ESA Graduate Student Policy Award.

Other participating CSWG organizations included the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Chemical Society, American Geophysical Union, American Meteorological Society, American Society of Agronomy, American Statistical Association, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, the Geological Society of America, the Soil Science Society of America and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

HOUSE: SCIENCE COMMITTEE EXPANDS REQUEST FOR NOAA CLIMATE SCIENCE DOCUMENTS

On Feb. 22, House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent a letter to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) demanding more documents related to the agency’s analyses of global temperature data. This follows a previous subpoena sent to NOAA by the Committee on October 13, 2015. So far, NOAA has given the committee 301 pages of emails between NOAA officials (excluding scientists’ emails) regarding a study published last year in the journal Science.

The Committee’s latest letter is asking NOAA to provide documents with specific words: “Karl,” “buoy,” “ship,” “Night Marine Air Temperature,” “temperature,” “climate,” “change,” “Paris,” “U.N.,” “United Nations,” “clean power plan,” “regulations,” “Environmental Protection Agency,” “President,” “Obama,” “White House,” and “Council on Environmental Quality.”

The original Committee subpoena from October 2015 included requests for documents and communications from NOAA scientists. ESA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, the American Statistical Association, and the Geological Society of America, sent a letter to the Committee objecting to subpoena.

“The integrity of federal scientists’ research published in the journal Science is being questioned despite a lack of public evidence of scientific misconduct. The progress and integrity of science depend on transparency about the details of scientific methodology and the ability to follow the pursuit of scientific knowledge,” the letter states.

Although the Committee is no longer seeking communications from NOAA scientists, the sparring between NOAA and the House Science Committee is likely to continue. So far, NOAA has not made a public statement about the recent request although the original deadline of Feb. 29 to submit the documents to the Committee has passed.

INTERIOR: NEW FRAMEWORK SEEKS TO IMPROVE FEDEARL RESPONSE TO INVASIVE THREATS

The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a report on Feb. 18: Safeguarding America’s Lands and Waters from Invasive Species: A National Framework for Early Detection and Rapid Response. 

The National Invasive Species Council (NISC) assisted DOI in the report’s development, including the US Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, State Department, and Department of Defense.

According to DOI, “Hundreds of invasive species are already established in the US, including brown rats, house mice, emerald ash borer, Asian carp, cheatgrass, kudzu, Asian tiger mosquitos, and the microscopic chytrid fungus that has devastated amphibian populations. Of substantial concern are the potentially harmful organisms that have not yet established in the US, but are threatening to do so. Examples include the spotted lanternfly and Zika virus.”

The report aims to improve federal agency coordination for early detection and rapid response (EDRR) efforts to eradicate invasive plant and animal species before they become established. It makes five recommendations for federal action: 

  • Establish a multi-stakeholder EDRR Task Force
  • Convene high-level decision makers to assess funding mechanisms for a nationwide preparedness and emergency response initiative
  • Advance pilot projects targeted for high priority areas
  • Scale partnerships across government and with private, non-profit and scientific communities
  • Foster the development and application of innovative scientific and technical approaches to EDRR

EPA: SUPREME COURT REJECTS CHALLENGE TO CHESAPEAKE BAY CLEAN-UP RULE

On Feb. 29, the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan. Farming and agricultural industry groups had sought to have the lower court ruling overturned.

The Supreme Court’s decision upholds the ruling of the 3rd US District Court of Appeals that the EPA is within its authority, under the Clean Water Act to enforce and oversee the pollution-reduction progress within the 64,000 square mile watershed. Stormwater pollution from impervious surfaces and agricultural runoff dump large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment into the Bay causing algal blooms, that create dead zones. Toxic algae, such as some blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), can sicken people, as well, but animals are especially susceptible.

Representatives from conservation organizations lauded the ruling as a pivotal step towards  Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

EPA: NOTICE ISSUED TO BAN PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO AQUATIC ENVIRONMENTS

 

On March 1, the US Environmental Protection Agency issued a Notice of Intent to Cancel registration of the pesticide flubendiamide, which research suggests poses risks to aquatic invertebrates.

According to the EPA, the company that manufactures the pesticide, Bayer CropScience LP and Nichino America Inc., failed to comply with the condition to discontinue the product when a scientific study issued by the agency on Jan. 29 found the pesticide was harmful. EPA had requested that the company cancel the product by Feb 5.

Click here to read the full notice.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Nominations due April 15, 2016

Nominations request for the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due March 28, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of Solidago albopilosa (White-Haired Goldenrod) From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due April 24, 2016

90-Day Finding on a Petition To List Three Manta Rays as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

CURRENT POLICY

Introduced in House

H.R. 4582, the Save our Salmon Act – Introduced Feb. 23 by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), the bill would amend the 1992 Central Valley Project Improvement Act to remove the provision mandating increases in striped bass populations. The bill is intended to protect the region’s salmon, which are preyed upon by the striped bass. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee.

H.R. 4595, the Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 23 by Reps. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Dan Benishek (R-MI), the bill would authorize $17.5 million in funding through FY 2026 for the US Geological Survey Great Lakes Science Center to conduct research into the Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industry. The bill has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. Companion legislation (S. 2569) has been introduced by Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Considered by House Committee

On March 2, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a mark-up of the following bills:

H.R. 223, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), the bill would reauthorize the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through Fiscal Year 2020.

H.R. 1684, the Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2015  – Introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), the bill would impose penalties and provide for the recovery of removal costs and damages. It would also impose penalties on foreign entities responsible for oil spills that contaminate US waters. The bill would also provide for the recovery of removal costs and damages in connection with oil discharges from these sources.

Passed House

H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act – Introduced by Rep. Rob Whittman (R-VA), the bill would expand access to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on federal lands. The bill also would block the administration’s rule to restrict trade in elephant ivory and allows the importation into the US of polar bear hunting trophies taken before polar bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The measure prohibits the EPA from regulating lead contained in bullets, angling lures, and other hunting and fishing equipment.  The bill would also prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from restricting firearms on Corps properties. The bill passed the US House of Representatives Feb. 26 by a vote of 242-161. Twelve Democrats supported the bill while four Republicans joined most House Democrats in voting against it.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring that the president would veto the bill due to “harmful provisions that impair Federal management of federally-owned lands and undermine important existing public land and environmental laws, rules, and processes.”

Click here to read the statement.

H.R. 4084, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act – Introduced by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), the bill would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to revise the objectives of the civilian nuclear energy research, development, demonstration, and commercial application programs of the Department of Energy (DOE) to encourage private investment in advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the United States. The bill passed the House Feb. 29 by voice vote.

Introduced in Senate

S. 2568, the California Desert Conservation, Off-Road Recreation, and Renewable Energy Act– Introduced Feb. 23 by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would create five off-road vehicle areas, designate 230,000 acres as wilderness areas, add 43,000 acres to Death Valley National Park and Joshua Tree National Park, designate 77 miles of Wild and Scenic Rivers and clarify how desert land can be used for renewable energy development. The bill encourages the development of new renewable energy in solar zones established by the federal government to avoid conflicts over lands intended for conservation. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

S. 2583, the Firm, Unwavering National Dedication to Water (FUND Water) Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 25 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill more than triples the authorized appropriations to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 2587, the Cooper and Lead Evaluation and Reporting (CLEAR) Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 25 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill updates the Safe Drinking Water Act to require the US Environmental Protection Agency to develop new regulations to improve reporting, testing and monitoring related to lead and copper levels in drinking water. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

S. 2588, Grants and Education To Tackle Homeowner Exposure to Lead Ensuring America Drinks Only from Unpolluted Taps (GET THE LEAD OUT) Act of 2016 – Introduced Feb. 25 by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), the bill provides grants to reduce lead in community drinking water supplies and delivery systems. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


Sources: Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, US Forest Service, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill