May 26, 2017

President Releases FY 2018 Budget Request


President Trump released his first official budget request, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” on Tuesday, May 23. The plan calls for massive cuts to non-defense discretionary spending, with a corresponding increase in defense spending. It also significantly cuts a wide range of social programs. With cuts of $54 billion in the first year, the budget would slash $1.7 trillion in mandatory spending and $3.6 trillion in total spending reductions over a decade.

As expected based on the president’s skinny budget released in March, this spending plan proposes considerable cuts to science, research, and environmental agencies and programs. It would cut about 17 percent from the overall federal research effort, and many individual programs would face even steeper reductions. Climate science across agencies was a particular target of budget reductions.

While this budget is certainly not good for science, it is important to note that it is merely a proposal. It is an aspirational document that mostly serves as a messaging tool for the administration. It is Congress that passes the budget and would have to approve any cuts or increases to government spending. Furthermore, many policymakers – on both sides of the aisle – have criticized or opposed the president’s budget proposal, solidifying the sense that it is dead on arrival. However, this document does reflect the administration’s priorities and is in line with many of the president’s campaign promises. It has no chance of passing in its current form, but it serves as a starting point for budget negotiations going forward.

ESA has updated its Federal Budget Tracker with topline information for FY 2018 and will be continuing to add additional numbers and details over the coming days. In addition, ESA is continuing to submit letters and testimony in support of robust FY 2018 funding for agencies and programs relevant to our members. ESA is also signing on to several joint letters sent by various coalitions. Most recently, ESA joined 148 other organizations in a letter to congressional leaders on the importance of federal research funding. View the letters on the ESA Correspondence to Policymakers page, which will be updated as letters are completed.

Topline agency numbers, compared to FY 2017 enacted budgets*:

  • NSF: $6.7 billion, 11% decrease
  • EPA: $5.7 billion, 31% decrease
  • DOE: Office of Science: $4.5 billion, 17% decrease; Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: $636 million, 70% decrease
  • NOAA: $4.8 billion, 16% decrease
  • USDA/AFRI: $349 million, 7% decrease
  • USDA/ARS: $993 million, 22% decrease
  • USDA/USFS: $4.7 billion, 10% decrease
  • DOI/USFWS: $1.3 billion, 14% decrease
  • DOI/USGS: $922 million, 15% decrease
  • DOI/NPS: $2.55 billion, 13% decrease
  • NASA Science: $5.7 billion, 1% decrease
*Numbers may be slightly different due to rounding. Unless otherwise noted in the summaries that follow, FY 2018 proposed funding is compared to FY 2017 funding as enacted in the Omnibus Appropriations bill.

 

National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation would face an 11 percent budget cut, reducing funding to $6.65 billion. NSF funding for Research and Related Activities would also be cut by 11 percent to $5.4 billion, down from $6.0 billion. Much of this cut would come from geosciences, with the budget proposing $839 million in funding, down 14 percent from FY 2017 annualized CR levels. The budget also proposes cuts to several programs whose budgets had increased during the last administration, including Clean Energy R&D, the Ocean Observatories Initiative, and Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, and Water Services.

The Biological Sciences Directorate (BIO) would see a funding decrease of $72 million, a cut of 10 percent from FY 2017 CR funding. The estimated FY 2018 BIO competitive awards funding rate would fall by 3 percent, down to 23 percent with 1,200 awards with a median size of $200K. The number of people involved in BIO activities would fall by 1,325 from 15,225 down to 13,900. Total NSF STEM education would be cut by $289 million or 22 percent when compared with FY 2016 levels. This cut includes an $85 million decrease or 25 percent cut for Graduate Research Fellowships. EPSCoR would be cut by over $60 million, over 37 percent. The total number of people involved in Education and Human Resources would fall by almost 20,000, mainly affecting K-12 teachers and students although senior researchers and other professionals involved would decrease by 1,000 people.

Environmental Protection Agency

The president’s budget would cut the agency’s funding by 31.4 percent, the largest reduction for any cabinet-level agency. This cut would reduce the agency’s overall budget from $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion, and it would cut EPA Science & Technology funding by 36 percent compared to net FY 2017 appropriations. The proposal eliminates 50 EPA programs and 3,800 of the agency’s 15,000 jobs.

The budget proposes to reduce or eliminate many of EPA’s categorical grants that help fund state environmental program offices and activities. It also eliminates funding for Energy Star and several other voluntary partnership programs related to energy and climate change, which it describes as “not essential” to the EPA’s mission. Additional reductions come from EPA’s environmental enforcement activities. The budget also eliminates funding for geographic programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Chesapeake Bay Program, claiming that such local ecosystem protection activities should be handled by states.

The budget also proposes a restructuring of the EPA’s research and development activities to focus on statutorily required research objectives. This refocus proposes to end funding for Science to Achieve Results (STAR) grants.

Department of Energy Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

DOE’s Office of Science would face a budget cut of 17 percent to $4.5 billion. Within this office, Biological and Environmental Research funding would be reduced by $263 million, or 43 percent. Much of this cut would come from DOE’s climate research.

The budget for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would be slashed 70 percent – from $2.1 billion to $636 million. The remaining funding would be directed at limited, early-stage applied energy research and development. This reduction reflects the budget’s shift to relying on the private sector to fund later-stage R&D.

The budget request proposes to eliminate the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) program within DOE. ARPA-E funds high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. The president’s budget, however, claims that the private sector is better positioned to finance this energy research.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

NOAA would face a 16 percent reduction in funding, cutting its budget to $4.8 billion. The National Ocean Service budget would be cut 26 percent, National Marine Fisheries Service by 4 percent, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research by 32 percent.

The budget proposes to eliminate several NOAA grant and education programs, including Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

US Department of Agriculture

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative: AFRI’s budget would be cut by 7 percent to $349 million, down from $375 million. Funding for AFRI’s parent agency, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, would be reduced to $1.2 billion, an 8 percent cut.

Agricultural Research Service: The president’s budget decreases the ARS budget by 22 percent, cutting it from $1.3 billion to $993 million.

Forest Service: USFS’s budget would be cut by 10 percent, decreasing it to $4.7 billion in discretionary spending for FY 2018. Within USFS, Forest and Rangeland Research funding would be reduced 10 percent, and Wildland Fire Management funding would be cut 12 percent.

Department of the Interior

DOI would face an 11 percent cut to its overall budget, decreasing it to $11.7 billion. The president’s budget proposes to increase federal revenue by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil and gas drilling starting in 2022.

US Fish and Wildlife Service: The budget for USFWS would be reduced by 14 percent to $1.3 billion, down from $1.5 billion. The budget proposes to eliminate funding for the National Wildlife Refuge Fund, which compensates communities for lost tax revenue from federal land acquisitions. The agency’s Ecological Services line item actually receives flat funding compared to FY 2017 at $240 million.

US Geological Survey: The USGS budget would be reduced $163 million, or 15 percent, to $922 million. The president’s budget restructures and realigns the USGS existing Climate and Land Use Change mission area, replacing it with Land Resources and focusing on a narrower set of scientific activities.

National Park Service: In the president’s proposal, the NPS budget would be reduced 13 percent to $2.55 billion, down from $2.9 billion. The budget proposes to reduce federal land acquisition funding considerably to prioritize management and maintenance of existing lands.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Compared to other science agencies, NASA’s budget fared relatively well in the president’s request, with a proposed reduction of 3 percent to $19.1 billion. Science within NASA was cut 1 percent. Earth Science, however, faces a 9 percent proposed reduction to $1.7 billion.

The president’s budget request would achieve these cuts to Earth Science by eliminating five of NASA’s Earth Science Missions that it classifies as lower-priority: Radiation Budget Instrument, PACE, OCO-3, DSCOVR Earth-viewing instruments, and CLARREO Pathfinder. It would eliminate NASA’s Office of Education as well. It also proposes to end NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System, a research program started to develop methods for assessing greenhouse gas emissions from forests and other carbon stocks.

Congressional Review Act, Record 14 Rules Overturned


The Trump administration, working with Republican congressional leaders, has overturned 14 Obama-era regulations covering protecting streams from mining wastes, workplace injury record keeping, Bureau of Land Management planning guidelines (Planning 2.0), limiting gun access by mentally ill individuals, and more.

Shortly after the November election, representatives of President Trump met with congressional staff to shape a strategy for using the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama-era regulations, developing a spreadsheet of targeted regulations. The effort was coordinated by Andrew Bremberg, the president’s domestic policy chief; Marc Short, Trump’s legislative affairs director; Eric Ueland, Senate Budget Committee staff; and Rick Dearborn, deputy chief of staff at the White House.

The Congressional Review Act (CRA) of 1996, Section 251 of the Contract with America Advancement Act of 1996, allows Congress, by joint resolution of disapproval, to withdraw regulations passed in the last 60 legislative days of an administration. These joint resolutions are passed by a simple majority and are not subject to filibuster in the Senate. Once passed by Congress, the resolution must either be signed by the president or be passed over the president’s veto by two thirds of both chambers of Congress. The CRA prohibits the issuing agency from issuing a new rule that is “substantially similar” to the rule that was rejected. This provision is widely interpreted as meaning that new rules would have to be enacted by legislation.

The Congressional Research Service determined that the CRA could be applied to Obama-era rules issued since June 13, 2016. The deadline for introducing new rollback measures under the Congressional Review Act passed on March 30. The last legislative day for repeal of rules under the CRA was May 11.

President Trump signed the first CRA repeal of this Congress on February 14, H.J.Res.41, removing a Securities and Exchange requirement that oil, gas, and coal companies disclose payments made to governments. Prior to that, the only other use of the CRA was to reverse Clinton-era Department of Labor rules relating to workplace ergonomic risks. The Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, protecting waterways from coal mining waste and just finalized in December, was next up, repealed February 16, when the president signed H.J.Res.38. His last signed CRA repeal was of Department of Labor State Retirement Savings Plans Rules, H.J.Res. 66, on May 17, which encouraged states and municipalities to create automatic-enrollment individual retirement accounts for private-sector workers whose employers do not provide pension plans.

Each of the successful CRA repeals was passed with close margins, typically along partisan lines. The largest margins in both the House (240-181) and the Senate (59-40) occurred on the reversal of the Every Student Succeeds Act Teacher Preparation Standards rule. The Senate votes typically were passed with small margins of two or three votes. Vice President Mike Pence was required to break a Senate tie on the Women’s Healthcare Protections, H.J.Res.43, which passed 51-50.

The CRA has never been tested in court. Critics argue that the prohibition against agencies issuing new rules substantially similar to the rejected rule could chill future administrations’ efforts to enact needed regulation. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), with cosponsor Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), on May 16 introduced S.1140, the Sunset the CRA and Restore American Protections (SCRAP) Act, seeking to repeal the Congressional Review Act. The bill was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. A companion bill, H.R.2449, was introduced in the House by Representative David Cicilline (D-RI), with cosponsor Representative John Conyers (D-MI), on May 18 and was referred to the Rules Committee. No further action is currently scheduled on either bill and neither has a chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress.

The 14 CRA reversals constitute the bulk of the legislative accomplishments of the Trump administration to date, with 35 total laws enacted. Republican legislators also hailed the reversals as major accomplishments, having failed to enact any of the president’s other top legislative priorities such as funding for a border wall or repeal of the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare). Four of the laws enacted appointed individuals to federal boards or panels, others named federal buildings, and one recommits the US to seeking a “World Expo,” formerly known as the “World’s Fair.”

A complete listing of laws enacted in the current 115th Congress is available on congress.gov.

President Announces Additional Agency Nominees


On April 28, President Trump announced lobbyist David Bernhardt as his nominee for Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Bernhardt was Interior’s solicitor under President George W. Bush and led the Trump administration’s Interior transition team. With the arrival of the Obama administration, Mr. Bernhardt left government and returned to the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP where he is a shareholder and currently chairs the firm’s natural resources practice. Clients have included the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Noble Energy Inc., and WPX Energy Inc.

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, on behalf of Westlands Water District, the nation’s largest irrigation district, has sued Interior four times. Bernhardt himself argued an appeals case challenging endangered species protections for California salmon. The firm has also received $2.75 million in lobbying fees from Cadiz Inc., a private water company seeking use of a railroad right-of-way crossing federal land managed by an Interior agency to build a water pipeline. Cadiz has partly paid the firm with shares of stock.

In Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearings on May 18, Bernhardt fielded questions about potential conflicts of interest from Democrats led by ranking member Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). Cantwell said that Bernhardt’s “extensive background as a lobbyist” created conflicts of interest that would prevent him from doing his job as deputy secretary or managing the department, and that he would “end up participating in matters involving his former firm or his former clients.”

Conservation groups are largely opposed to Bernhardt’s nomination, with 150 groups sending a letter to Senators citing conflicts of interest that “raise serious questions about his ability to act in the public interest” and that his confirmation would “place our most cherished natural resources at risk.”

Bernhardt has promised if confirmed to “not participate personally or substantially in any particular matter involving” his former clients or “specific parties in which I know the firm is a party or represents a party” for one year, unless he receives authorization to do so. In a May 1 letter to Interior’s ethics office, Bernhardt committed to abide by President Trump’s ethics executive order which bars executive branch personnel from getting involved in matters on which they lobbied for two years.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has pledged to move quickly on a committee confirmation vote. A majority committee staffer, however, commented that it is unclear when that vote might happen.

Susan Bodine was nominated by President Trump on May 12 to be Assistant Administrator for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Trump’s first EPA nomination since Scott Pruitt. Bodine was formerly Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and most recently has been chief counsel for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and previously was staff director and counsel for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment. As a lawyer in private practice, Bodine worked for the lobbying law firms of Barnes and Thornburg (2009 – 2015), as partner, and Covington and Burling as an associate (1988 – 1995).

Sam Clovis is anticipated to be nominated to lead the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) research programs. He is currently the White House representative at the USDA. Clovis was a co-chair of Trump’s campaign and a top adviser on agricultural issues. A 25-year Air Force veteran, after retiring in 1996, Clovis served as Inspector General of the United States Space Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. He has a doctoral degree in public administration from the University of Alabama. Formerly, he worked as an economics professor at Morningside College and as a conservative talk radio host. Clovis is from Sioux City, IA and has built strong support among Iowa farm groups. Clovis has been strongly criticized as someone without a hard science background by former Clinton administration Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman.

As reported in E&E News, AAAS CEO Rush Holt commented on Clovis’s anticipated nomination as reflective of the administration’s wider approach that steers away from scientists, “It’s not just about having a science adviser. It’s having science present in each agency, at all levels,” Holt said.

Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill Advances with Amendment Affecting Invasive Species

The Senate Commerce Committee advanced, by a voice vote on May 18, a Coast Guard reauthorization bill, S.1129, containing a controversial provision that would set uniform federal standards for ballast water discharges. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), however, asked to be recorded as “no” votes because of the ballast water measure.

The ballast provision was taken from a bill sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), S.168, which would direct the US Coast Guard to “address the regulation of discharges incidental to the normal operation of a commercial vessel” and preempt laws and regulations issued under the federal Clean Water Act. Known as the Commercial Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, the provision would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority over ballast water pollution. It sets a “practicability” standard that the Coast Guard would use to review potential standards that would reduce the risk of introducing aquatic nuisance species. The practicability criteria do not take into account the ecosystem impacts associated with the introduction of an invasive species.

The attorneys general of New York, California, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington sent a letter opposing the S.168 ballast provision to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on February 15. Concerns identified include preemption of existing rules enacted under the Clean Water Act, the measure’s use of “inadequate, decade-old invasive species standards,” and the relegation of the Environmental Protection Agency to merely an advisory role while placing primary responsibility for controlling vessel pollution on the US Coast Guard, an agency that has little water pollution expertise. 

Ranking committee member Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), supported the ballast provision when it passed the subcommittee and has said he would be working with opponents to resolve their concerns. “The question is, do we have a national standard or do we allow each state to have its own standard?” he said. “There are pluses and minuses on both sides of the issues, and we are going to attempt to work this out.” Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a co-sponsor of the bill, pointed to Nelson’s support in calling it bipartisan.

Senator Baldwin won inclusion of an amendment to fund icebreakers in the Great Lakes in the bill, but she could not support the larger bill over the ballast provision. “I am disappointed that it was added to an otherwise noncontroversial and otherwise bipartisan bill at the last minute and without consultation with all members of the committee,” she said.

The legislation, which authorizes Coast Guard funding through 2019, now heads to consideration by the full Senate. The House companion bill, H.R.2518, was introduced on May 18 and referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, but has yet to see further action.

Get Involved

Submit Ideas to the White House

The White House is soliciting public input on which agencies should be reformed or eliminated. The administration is also asking for public feedback on management reform and other ideas for reorganizing the federal government. If you have thoughts on agencies to reform, or if you want to express support for agencies that should not be eliminated, comment by June 12.

Comment on Monument Designations

The Department of the Interior released a list of monuments under review under the April 26 executive order and announced a public comment period for the review process. The list of sites under review includes 22 national monuments and 5 marine national monuments. Comments related to Bears Ears National Monument are due by May 26; comments on other designations must be submitted by July 10. Submit comments online or by mail.

Recommend Members for NSF Directorate and Office Advisory Committees

The National Science Foundation is requesting recommendations for membership on its scientific and technical federal advisory committees, including the Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences. These external advisory committees provide advice on program management, discuss current issues, and review and provide advice on the impact of policies, programs, and activities of the directorate or office of NSF. 

Submit Applications for NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Councils

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) within the National Ocean Service (NOS) is seeking applications for vacant seats on 7 of its 13 national marine sanctuary advisory councils and an ecosystem reserve advisory council. Advisory councils are community-based advisory groups that provide advice and recommendations on issues related to management, science, service, and stewardship of national marine sanctuaries and serve as liaisons between constituents and the sanctuary. Applications are due by May 31.

Nominate Members for EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors

The EPA is seeking nominations for technical experts to serve on one of its advisory committees, the Board of Scientific Counselors, after Administrator Pruitt dismissed half of the members of this board earlier this month. The Board provides independent scientific and technical peer review, advice, consultation, and recommendations to EPA’s Office of Research and Development. Nominations must be submitted by June 30.

For more opportunities to get involved, go to the Federal Register section.

Quick Reads

Responses to EPA’s Dismissal of Science Advisors

After the EPA’s decision earlier in May to not renew the terms of half of the members of its Board of Scientific Counselors, there have been several responses questioning or opposing this dismissal. Many members of Congress have expressed concerns over the decision, with leading Committee Democrats in the House and in the Senate (Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Sen. Tom Carper) writing letters to Administrator Pruitt questioning the move or asking for additional information. In addition, two members of one of the agency’s advisory panels resigned in protest of the agency’s decision, stating that “the effective removal of our subcommittee’s co-chairs suggests that our collective knowledge is not valued by the current EPA administrators.”   

Arctic Council Adopts First Invasive Strategy and Action Plan

At the meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska on May 10-11, the Arctic Council adopted the first Arctic Invasive Alien Species (ARIAS) Strategy and Action Plan in recognition that “rapid change in the Arctic is increasing the region’s vulnerability to invasive alien species.” The plan sets forth the priority actions that the Arctic Council and its partners are encouraged to take to protect the Arctic region from the adverse impacts of invasive alien species. 

DOI Reconsidering Oil and Gas Exploration in the Atlantic

On May 10, the Department of the Interior announced it will reconsider applications for permits for oil and natural gas exploration off the Atlantic coast. This announcement reverses an Obama administration decision to deny such permit applications, and it follows on Trump’s executive order from April directing Interior to reconsider the current oil and gas offshore lease schedule. The move represents the first step towards potential drilling in the Atlantic. In response to this announcement, a bipartisan group of over 100 members of the House of Representatives sent Secretary Zinke a letter urging him not to allow any new offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic and Pacific. Led by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Anthony Brown (D-MD), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Mark Sanford (R-SC), and Niki Tsongas (D-MA), the lawmakers represent coastal communities and economies.

Congressional Updates

Senators Urge Zinke to Lift Advisory Panel Suspension

Following Interior’s decision to suspend all of its advisory panels – including over 200 resource advisory councils and committees – eight Democratic Senators representing Western states urged Zinke to lift this suspension to allow essential community input. In a May 11 letter led by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the senators expressed concern over the suspension and emphasized the importance of local input and collaboration.

House Natural Resources Subcommittee Hearing on Forest Management

On May 17, the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Federal Lands held an oversight hearing on “Seeking Better Management of America’s Overgrown, Fire-Prone National Forests.” The hearing was intended to focus on the impacts of wildlife, disease, and infestation on America’s federally owned forests and to explore the need for increased forest management activities. Subcommittee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) is a strong supporter of more active forest management and thinning projects to simultaneously reduce wildfire risks and benefit the timber industry.

House Science Subcommittee Hearing on EPA Rulemaking

On May 23, the House Science Committee Environment Subcommittee held a hearing titled “Expanding the Role of States in EPA Rulemaking.” Led by Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-AZ), the stated purpose of the hearing was to examine the relationship between federal and state agencies and how they work together to address environmental regulations. The minority witness was Deborah Swackhamer, chairwoman of the EPA Board of Scientific Counselors, so Democrats on the Committee used the hearing to question EPA Administrator Pruitt’s recent dismissal of EPA science advisors.

House Science Subcommittee Hearing on Research Costs

On May 24, two subcommittees of the House Science Committee – the Joint Research and Technology Subcommittee and the Oversight Subcommittee – held a hearing “Examining the Overhead Cost of Research.” The hearing was called to examine the costs of conducting federally funded research at universities and non-profit research institutions, including monitoring of indirect costs, and to explore recommendations for improving efficiency and transparency.

Senator Resubmits Request for Information from Pruitt

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has sent several letters to EPA Administrator Pruitt over the last few months requesting information or explanations on some of Pruitt’s actions or intended plans for the EPA. One such letter from Sen. Carper and 22 other Senate Democrats asked Pruitt to explain how the agency plans to address carbon pollution emissions. Pruitt’s reply consisted only of a summary of the executive order rescinding the Clean Power Plan and two public press releases. On May 17, Carper resubmitted his request for information and documents, demanding “actual answers” from Pruitt.

Republican Senators Urge Continued Funding for DOE Research

On May 18, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) led a group of Senate Republicans in a letter urging President Trump not to cut funding for the Department of Energy’s research programs. The senators wrote that DOE’s “research programs have made the United States a world leader in science and technology, and will help the United States maintain its brainpower advantage.”

Legislative Updates

House Passes Legislation to Limit Pesticide Restrictions

On May 24, the House passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH) that would loosen restrictions for using pesticides near navigable waters. The “Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act,” (H.R.953) would reverse a court decision from 2009 that requires pesticides to secure two separate EPA approvals under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Clean Water Act. Similar measures have passed the House in previous sessions of Congress.

Senate Regulatory Reform Bills Pass Committee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has advanced several regulatory reform bills that aim to change the federal rulemaking process. At a May 17 markup, the committee voted on several contentious measures. Among the bills considered were the following:

  • Regulatory Accountability Act (S.951). Introduced by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), this bill would require more scrutiny of major rules and would require agencies to issue the most cost-effective rules.
  • Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act of 2017 (2S.21). Introduced by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), this bill would require congressional approval before federal agencies could issue major rules.
  • Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017 (S.34). Introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), this bill would make it easier for lawmakers to overturn multiple regulations at the same time.
  • Providing Accountability Through Transparency Act (S.577). Introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), this bill would require each agency, in providing notice of a rulemaking, to include a link to a 100-word plain language summary of the proposed rule.
  • Early Participation in Regulations Act (S.579). Introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), this bill would require agencies to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking for major rules.

Legislation Introduced

  • Seismic Moratorium Act (H.R.2469). Introduced May 16 by Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL), this bill would establish a moratorium on oil and gas-related seismic activities off the coastline of the state of Florida.
  • Con.Res.55. Introduced May 18 by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), this concurrent resolution expresses the sense of Congress that the United States should withdraw from the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015. The administration has not yet made a decision on whether or not the US will stay in the agreement.
  • H.R.2591. Introduced May 22 by Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA), this bill would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to modernize the funding of wildlife conservation.
  • H.R.2603. Introduced May 23 by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), this bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that nonnative species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered species or threatened species for purposes of that Act.

Federal Register

Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment:

  • NSF – Revisions to Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide
    The National Science Foundation has made revisions to its Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide and is providing the opportunity for public comment on the guide. The revisions update the document to reflect current policies. View the draft here, and comment by July 24.
  • EPA – Draft Risk Assessments for Certain Pesticides
    The EPA is announcing the availability of and requesting public comments on draft human health and ecological risk assessments for the registration review of chlorethoxyfos and the draft human health risk assessments for the registration review of diazinon and phomet. Comment by July 24.