May 4, 2016

In This Issue

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APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMERCE, JUSTICE AND SCIENCE BILL CLEARS SUBCOMMITTEE

On April 19, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. The bill includes $56.3 billion, $563 above the FY 2016 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the Obama administration’s FY 2017 budget request.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.5 billion in FY 2017, a $46.3 million increase over FY 2017. The added funding is directed solely towards NSF major research and facilities construction, specifically the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. NSF research and related activities remains flat at the FY 2016 enacted level.

Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.7 billion, a $33.5 million increase. National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $19.3 billion, a $21 million increase.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: $5.6 billion, level.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-74) authorized an additional $50 billion above existing sequestration spending caps for FY 2016 and additional $30 billion above existing sequestration spending caps for FY 2017. Consequently, the total federal funding available for FY 2017 discretionary spending is less than the previous fiscal year.

Click here for additional information on the Senate CJS bill.

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE REPORT ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS

On April 20, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees moved their respective energy and water spending bills for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins Oct 1, 2016.

The House bill would provide $37.4 billion in funding, a $259 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $6.1 billion, a $100 million increase.

Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase.

Advanced Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $306 million, a $15 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $1.8 billion, a $248 million cut.

DOE Environmental Management: $6.2 billion, a $66 million cut.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $645 million, a $13 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $131 million cut.

Several amendments put forward by Democrats failed. One sought to strike policy riders in the bill to block the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing its Clean Water Rule and allowing firearms on Army Corps of Engineers land. Another failed amendment would have provided emergency funding for Flint, Michigan to address its drinking water crisis. 

In contrast, the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill passed committee with bipartisan support. Its Energy and Water bill would provide $37.5 billion in FY 2017, slightly larger than the House measure. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

The US Army Corps of Engineers: $6 billion, an $11 million increase.

The DOE Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $2 billion, level.

DOE Environmental Management: $6.4 billion, a $133 million increase.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $632 million, level.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.14 billion, a $327 million increase.

Like the House bill, the Senate bill prohibits EPA from revising enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The Senate did adopt an amendment that would increase total funding for ARPA-E to $325 million by a vote of 70-26.

Senate Democrats are blocking the energy and water spending bill over an amendment from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) that would bar the United States from buying heavy water, a product used in nuclear reactors, from Iran. Democrats view the amendment as a political ploy to undermine the Iran deal.

The House energy and water appropriations bill passed on May 1. Floor debate on the Senate bill will resume when the Senate reconvenes May 9. Both the House and Senate are in recess the week of May 2.

In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House stated it would veto the House bill if the policy riders are maintained, but it has not yet taken a firm position on whether it would veto the Senate bill.

Click here to view additional information on the House bill.

Click here to view additional information on the Senate bill.

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILL INCREASES FUNDING FOR CONSERVATION, RESEARCH

On April 19, the House Appropriations Committee approved H.R. 5054, the House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

The bill includes $21.3 billion in discretionary spending, $451 million lower than the FY 2016 enacted level. Overall US Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs are funded at $868 million, level with FY 2016. Below are funding levels for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

Agricultural Research Service: $1.15 billion, an $8 million increase.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $930.83 million, a $36.42 million increase.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $832.86 million, a $13.18 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: $855.26 million, a $4.4 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the bill.

SENATE: COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY REFORM BILL PASSES WITH BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

On April 20, the US Senate passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act by a vote of 85-12. Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the comprehensive energy legislation would modernize federal energy policies to prioritize investment in renewable energy sources and promote energy efficient infrastructure.

Among its conservation-related provisions, the bill would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and create a National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund to address maintenance backlogs at national parks. The bill also incorporates (S. 1408), which would support research and development of fuel-efficient and advanced safety technologies for motor vehicles.

The 12 Senators who opposed the bill were all Republicans. Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) missed the vote.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy praising the bill for its conservation provisions. It also also expressed concern with other language, including restrictions on Department of Energy oversight of technology demonstration and commercial activity at National Laboratories and limitations on National Environmental Policy Act reviews.  Provisions in the bill to modernize the electric grid were also commended by Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

One of the bill’s  amendments from Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),calls on the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy and US Department of Agriculture to craft a coordinated biomass policy that reflects “the carbon-neutrality of forest bioenergy.”

Environmental groups oppose the biomass provisions and others that expedite natural-gas-export permitting decisions.

The House passed a more partisan energy bill (North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2015) in Dec. 2015 by a vote of 249-174. If a conference agreement were negotiated and signed into law, the legislation would be the first comprehensive energy policy package enacted since the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140).

Click here to view additional information on the bill.

Click here to view the White House Statement of Administration Policy on S. 2012

EPA: STATES REQUEST GUIDANCE ON CLEAN POWER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION

Over a dozen state regulatory agencies are requesting that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide additional guidance on how to implement the clean power plan rule in light of the Supreme Court’s stay on the rule.

The EPA cannot require states to comply with its power plant regulations during the stay, although states are can voluntarily meet the regulatory standards.

“We are a group of state environmental agency officials writing to request additional information and technical assistance related to the final Clean Power Plan in a manner that is respectful of the Supreme Court’s stay of the regulations until the conclusion of pending litigation,” states the letter. “This additional information and assistance will be important to our state efforts to prudently plan for and implement a variety of state and federal obligations.”

States signing the letter include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Click here to view the letter.

 

NSF: NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD REPORT EMPHASIZES VALUE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

On May 2, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board released a policy companion brief outlining the economic benefits provided by the United States’ higher education system, particularly related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education. 

The policy brief utilizes data from the most recent Science and Engineering Indicators report. It also includes a “sense of the Board” statement highlight the broad public benefits that the US higher education system provides.

 The National Science Board believes that higher education plays a broader, intangible, and crucial role in supporting the past, current, and future success of our democratic society. “This role must be highlighted and better appreciated,” reads the statement.

Click here to view the report.

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: SCIENTISTS ADVOCATE FOR NSF FUNDING ON CAPITOL HILL

On April 28, scientists and graduate students from across the United States visited Capitol Hill, meeting with 60 congressional offices to support $8 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Fiscal Year 2017. They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research, specifically related to NSF’s biological sciences directorate, benefits the communities the lawmakers represent. 

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event is organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BESC draws participation from Ph.D. scientists and graduate students affiliated with the two organizations. This year’s ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner participants were Brian Kastl (University of California), Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), Matthew Pintar (University of Mississippi), Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), Jessica Nicole Welch (University of Tennessee), and Samantha Lynn Werner (University of New Hampshire).

Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared with personal stories describing how federal funding aids their research, helps them in advancing professional development and benefits their states. While firm commitments to support science funding varied from office-to-office, the graduate students and other participants mostly received collegial receptions from congressional staff and elected officials using local experiences to relate with the congressional staff and lawmakers.

The morning prior to the Hill visits, the students met informally with several ESA members working in policy-related positions in federal offices: Nadine Lymn (National Science Foundation), Rich Pouyat (US Forest Service), Alan Thornhill (US Geological Survey) and Brittany Marsden (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and 2014 GSPA recipient). The afternoon before the visits, all BESC participants were also briefed on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 

Notice: Public comments due June 28, 2016

Notice of Request for Revision to and Extension of Approval of an Information Collection; Scrapie in Sheep and Goats; Interstate Movement Restrictions and Indemnity Program

Environmental Protection Agency

Notice: Public comments due June 17, 2016

Extension of Public Comment Period for the Draft EPA-USGS Technical Report: Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration

Proposed rule: Public comment period ends June 27, 2016

Ocean Disposal; Designation of a Dredged Material Disposal Site in Eastern Region of Long Island Sound; Connecticut

Federal Aviation Administration

Notice: Public comments due July 5, 2016

Agency Information Collection Activities: Requests for Comments; Clearance of Renewed Approval of Information Collection: Bird/Other Wildlife Strike Report

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Notice: Public comments due May 20, 2016

Notice of Availability of a Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Fisheries and Ecosystem Research Conducted and Funded by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

Proposed Rule: Public comments due May 31, 2016

Intent to Conduct Scoping and Prepare a Draft Environmental Assessment for Changes in Regulations for Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries

US Department of Interior

Notice: Public comments due May 16, 2016

Draft 2016-2020 Environmental Justice Strategic Plan

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Proposed Rule: Public comments due May 19, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Proposed Rule to Amend the Listing of the Southern Selkirk Mountains Population of Woodland Caribou

Proposed Rule: Public comments due June 13, 2016

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

Notice: Public comments due July 14, 2016

Availability of the Draft Midwest Wind Energy Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement

US State Department

Notice: Public comments due May 30, 2016

Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Upland Pipeline in Williams, Mountrail, and Burke Counties, North Dakota and Conduct a Public Scoping Meeting

CURRENT POLICY

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 5049, the NSF Research Facility Reform Act of 2016 – Introduced by House Science, Space and Technology Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), the bill would enhance management and oversight of major multiuser research facilities funded by the National Science Foundation. The bill passed the House Science, Space and Technology Committee April 27 by voice vote.

Passed House

H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – Introduced by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH), the bill would reauthorize $300 million in spending for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The bill passed the House April 26 by voice vote. Companion legislation (S. 1024) introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Feb. 24, 2016.

H.R. 1684, the Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2016 – Introduced by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), the bill would amend the 1990 Oil Pollution Act to include foreign offshore companies as entities liable for oil spill damage. The bill passed the House April 26 by voice vote and has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Introduced in Senate

S.2843, to provide emergency supplemental appropriations to address the Zika crisis – Introduced April 21 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the bill would provide the Obama administration with its $1.9 billion request in emergency supplemental funding for its Zika initiative. The bill has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Companion legislation (H.R. 5044) has been introduced in the House by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). 

S. 2886, the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act – Introduced April 28 by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the bill would reauthorize the Fisheries Restoration and Irrigation Mitigation Act of 2000. The bill has been referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

Approved by Senate Committee

S. 2848, the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 – Introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) and Ranking Member Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the $9.4 billion bill would reauthorize US Army Corps of Engineers water infrastructure, flood control, and environmental restoration programs. The committee approved the bill April 28 by a vote of 19-1. The bill also incorporates legislation (S. 2579) authored by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to authorize $170 million to repair aging water infrastructure nationally and $50 million for health care needs linked to lead poisoning.

Click here for a summary of the bill.


Sources:House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, National Science Foundation, the White House, Bloomberg BNAEnergy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill