May 18, 2016

In This Issue



On May 11, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee convened a hearing entitled “Leveraging the US Science and Technology Enterprise.” The hearing is part of the committee’s ongoing efforts to solicit input from the scientific community as it drafts legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act.

In his opening statement, Chairman John Thune (R-SD) praised the work of committee members Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) in their bipartisan efforts to solicit input from and convene roundtables allowing members of the scientific community to weigh in on the Senate’s efforts to reauthorize the bill.

“Common themes arising from the roundtables included support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research, as well as encouragement of wider participation in STEM subjects; stronger partnerships among government, the private sector, and academia that could better leverage discoveries emerging from our research universities to drive innovation; and the importance of minimizing barriers and improving incentives for universities and the private sector to better maximize the scientific and economic return on limited federal research resources,” said Thune.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), filling in as ranking member, touched on some of those findings, “Experts from the scientific community, industry, academia, nonprofits and economic development organizations agree that modest, sustained and predictable increases in federal research and development investments are critical to ensuring the economic competitiveness of the United States moving forward,” said Peters.

Witnesses testifying included  Kelvin Droegemeier, vice chairman, National Science Board; Jeannette Wing, corporate vice president for research, Microsoft Corp.; Robert Atkinson, president, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; and David Munson, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of engineering, University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Click here to view the hearing.


On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee released its Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. In total, the bill includes $56 billion in discretionary spending, a $279 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.4 billion in FY 2017, a $57 million decrease over FY 2016. Research and Related Activities is increased by $46 million targeted to programs that foster innovation and US economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience and STEM education. Reductions are made in equipment and construction costs. Unlike the Senate CJS appropriations bill, there is no increased funding allocated towards the construction of Regional Class Research Vessels, setting up a potential showdown if the two chambers negotiate a final bill this fall.

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

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.6 billion, a $185 million decrease 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration:$19.5 billion, a $223 million increase

National Institute of Standards and Technology: $865 million, a $99 million decrease

As in past years, the House has rescinded NOAA funding related to climate research and its National Oceans Policy. The bill maintains existing funding for NOAA’s current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program.

Click here for additional information on the House CJS bill.

Click here for ESA testimony in support of FY 2017 funding for NSF.



On May 12, the Senate passed its version of the Energy and Water Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 by a vote of 90-8.

The House also passed its FY 2017 energy and water spending bill (H.R. 2028) earlier this month by a vote of 240-177. The Senate took up the House version of the bill and added an amendment in the nature of a substitute, replacing the House-passed language with the text of the Senate bill (S. 2804). The Senate bill provides $37.5 billion for FY 2017, $100 million more than the House bill.

The bill cleared the Senate after a protracted fight involving an amendment to bar the administration from purchasing heavy water used in nuclear reactors from Iran failed by a vote of 57-42. Under Senate cloture rules, 60 votes were needed to adopt the amendment. The vote was largely partisan. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rand Paul (R-KY) joined most Democrats in opposing the amendment. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-NE) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined most Republicans in support of the amendment.

The House and Senate will negotiate a final bill in conference before sending it to the president. In recent years, it’s been more likely that the energy and water appropriations bill will be incorporated into an omnibus measure that funds all or most federal agencies for Fiscal Year 2017. It is unlikely Congress will complete negotiations on all appropriations measures before the Nov. 2016 elections, meaning Congress will likely enact a continuing resolution that will run through the first part of FY 2017, which begins Sept. 30, 2016.

Historically, Congress waits until finalizing appropriations during a presidential year until after the election, passing a short-term continuing resolution to maintain federal funding instead. The presidential election results could influence whether Congress finalizes its existing FY 2017 appropriations bills before or after the next president takes office.

The White House released a Statement of Administration Policy that objects to many of the funding levels in the Senate bill, but it stopped short of declaring the president would veto it.

Click here to view the statement.



On May 17, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2017 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

The Senate bill includes $21.25 billion in discretionary spending for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), $250 million lower than the FY 2016 enacted level, though slightly higher the House’s FY 2017 agricultural spending bill.

The legislation provides $2.54 billion to support agricultural research conducted by the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.  This amount includes $375 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, a $25 million increase above the FY2016 enacted level. 

Below are funding levels for additional USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $939.3 million, a $44.9 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service:  $864.5 million, a $4.1 million increase.

Click here to view for additional information on the bill.


The second annual United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) will convene in Nairobi, Kenya from May 23-27 under the overarching theme of Delivering on the environmental dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SD) UNEA-2 will reflect the latest global, regional and national developments related to the environment. It will also provide the first global platform for reviewing progress on the SDGs, particularly their environmental dimensions. 

The UNEA is the world’s highest level decision-making body for environmental issues. UNEA enjoys the universal membership of all 193 UN Member States and the full involvement of major groups and stakeholders. UNEA-2 will also witness the launch of a global UN thematic report on health and the environment as well as several brand new studies on the state of the world environment, air pollution, and sustainable food production. Other issues the body hopes to address include the illegal trade of wildlife, coral reefs, food waste, global natural capital, green economy, and microplastics.

In advance of UNEA-2, ESA penned a letter to to Dr. Oyun, president, United Nations Environment Assembly, asking for her support for a proposal to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to recognize 2020 as an “International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.” Nearly half of the Earth’s land surface is classified as rangeland and grassland, and the health and productivity of these lands are critical to the livelihoods of an estimated 500 million people around the world. Rangeland and grassland habitats provide a multitude of ecosystems services. 

Others groups that are in support of an “International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists” are the Society for Range Management & The Rangelands Partnership, ILRI/International Land Coalition, International Rangelands Congress, and International Grasslands Congress.

Click here to view the ESA letter. 

 Click here for additionalUNEA-2 information.


On May 2, the National Science Foundation released a nine-point plan for its vision for the future of fundamental research.

Six of the goals concern research ideas:

  • Accelerating future discovery by providing the fundamental techniques, tools, research cyberinfrastructure, and educational foundations to harness the data revolution.
  • Understanding how technologies affect human behavior and testing new learning environments inside and outside schools.
  • Developing our capacity to predict the phenotype of a cell or organism.
  • Identifying and supporting research that answers deep questions about quantum behavior and develops the means of accessing and manipulating quantum systems.
  • Establishing an observing network of mobile and fixed platforms and tools across the Arctic to document ongoing rapid biological, physical, chemical and social changes.
  • Examining the universe’s beginnings and seek to improve understanding of some of the universe’s most exotic properties.

Three of the goals concern concept ideas: 

  • Focusing on convergent multi-disciplinary research among the physical sciences, biological sciences, computing, engineering, and the social and behavioral sciences
  • Increasing support for midscale research infrastructure.
  • Identifying bold, long-term foundational research questions to set the stage for breakthrough science and engineering all the way to NSF’s Centennial in 2050.

The plan is supported by the National Science Board, but would require funding support from Congress and the next administration for its implementation.

Click here to view the plan.



On May 13, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy announced its National Microbiome Initiative. The new initiative seeks to expand our knowledge of microbiomes to “aid in the development of useful applications in areas such as health care, food production, and environmental restoration.”

The federal agencies will collectively invest $121 million, while institutions, businesses, and other stakeholders will invest an additional $400 million towards the effort.

Click here for additional information.



Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA issued for the first time regulations that will reduce methane emissions from oil and gas production. 

Methane is a key constituent of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. The regulations are part of the administration’s Climate Action Plan to reduce methane emissions, and stay on course to achieve its goal of cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. The regulations received praise from environmental groups, while industry criticized them.

Click here for more information.



On May 9, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law (P.L. 114-152). The new law designates the bison as the national mammal.

The original legislation (H.R. 2908) was sponsored in the House by Reps. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Kristi Noem (R-SD) and José Serrano (D-NY). Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) subsequently introduced companion legislation (S. 2032) in the Senate. H.R. 2908 passed the House April 26 by voice vote and passed the Senate April 28 by unanimous consent.

The Vote Bison Coalition, which is led by steering committee members from the Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council, National Bison Association, and Wildlife Conservation Society, championed the legislation.

The bison joins the bald eagle (animal), oak (tree), and rose (flower) as official United States symbols.


Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Field Testing of a Vaccine for Use Against Infectious Laryngotracheitis, Marek’s Disease, and Newcastle Disease

Environmental Protection Agency

Proposed rule: Public comments due June 16, 2016

Approval of California State Air Plan Revisions, Eastern Kern Air Pollution Control District

Proposed rule: Public comments due June 17, 2016

Approval and Promulgation of Implementation Plans; California; San Joaquin Valley; Revisions to Motor Vehicle Emissions Budgets for Ozone and Particulate Matter

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due June 9, 2016

Proposed Gopher Tortoise Conservation and Crediting Strategy

Notice: Public comments due June 13, 2016

Incidental Take During Specified Activities; Proposed Incidental Harassment Authorization for Northern Sea Otters From the Southcentral Stock in Cook Inlet, Alaska

Notice: Public comments due June 13, 2016

Receipt of Incidental Take Permit Applications for Participation in the Amended Oil and Gas Industry Conservation Plan for the American Burying Beetle in Oklahoma

Proposed Rule: Public comments due July 5, 2016

Revisions to Regulations for Eagle Incidental Take and Take of Eagle Nests

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comments due July 11, 2016

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; 90-Day Finding on a Petition To List the Taiwanese Humpback Dolphin as Threatened or Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

National Science Foundation

Notice: Public comments due July 15, 2016

Comment Request: National Science Foundation Proposal/Award Information-NSF Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide 


Introduced in House

H.R. 5243, the Zika Response Appropriations Act – Introduced May 16 by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY), the bill would provide $622.1 million to deter the spread of the Zika virus over the next five months through the end of current Fiscal Year 2016. The funding is offset by cuts to unobligated funding to address Ebola and the H1N1 virus. The bill has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee and the House Budget Committee.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the bill, primarily because it falls short of the administration’s request of $1.9 billion in emergency supplemental funding. Click here to view the statement.

Passed by House Committee/Subcommittee

On May 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a mark-up of the following bills:

H.R. 4775, the Ozone Standards Implementation Act of 2016 – Introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), the bill would delay the deadline for the US Environmental Protection Agency to implement its70 parts per billion ozone standards for states by eight years to 2025. Companion legislation (S. 2882) has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).

H.R. 4979, the Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 – Introduced by Reps. Bob Latta (R-OH) and Jerry McNerney (D-CA), the bill would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and US Department of Energy to craft a new framework for reviewing advanced reactors and vet them publicly within 270 days.

Failed Passage

H.R. 897, the Zika Vector Control Act – Introduced by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), the bill would have eliminated pesticide permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act, while providing a two-year waiver for permits mandated by the Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. The bill failed to pass the House May 17 by a vote of 262 – 159. Twenty-three Democrats joined all Republicans in support of the bill. The bill was considered under “suspension of the rules,” where a two-thirds majority vote is required for passage.

The language of the bill is nearly identical to the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act of 2014, which failed passage in the House under suspension along similar partisan lines in July 2014.

Considered by Senate Committee

On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered the following bills:

S. 2533, the California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act– Introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would authorize $1.3 billion for long-term drought mitigation, including water storage, recycling and desalination projects, as well as authorize short-term operational changes to increase pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Companion legislation (H.R. 5247) has been introduced by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA).

S. 2902, the Western Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act– Introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the bill would direct the Army Corps of Engineers to update their forecasting methods to improve planning for water storage in light of climate change.

Sources: Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, ClimateWire, Greenwire, the Hill, Science Magazine