September 25, 2017

Trump Administration Climate Update

International Climate Agreements

President Trump addressed the 72nd annual general session of the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, Tuesday, Sept. 19. In his comments, Trump called out the global threats of “terrorists and extremists,” “rogue regimes,” and “international criminal networks.” Tensions with North Korea and conflicts in the Middle East figured prominently. There was no mention of environmental threats such as climate change.

Expectations had been high that meetings surrounding the U.N. general session might see Trump administration officials begin to talk about what changes of terms might keep the U.S. engaged in the Paris Climate Agreement.  Possible renegotiation of terms more favorable to the U.S. was mentioned in President Trump’s June 1 announcement that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris accord. The U.S. remains a member of both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change pending its earliest withdrawal from the Paris accord on Nov. 4, 2020, which is one day after the next U.S. presidential election.

The State Department sent representatives to the 46th meeting of the IPCC in Montreal, Sept. 6-10, and has requested nominations for the IPCC’s upcoming 6th assessment report on science related to climate change. On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15-16, in Montreal, Everett Eissenstat, U.S. National Economic Council (NEC) deputy director, attended a meeting of officials from more than 30 nations on the Paris climate accord.  After the meeting, The Wall Street Journal reported that European Commission’s Miguel Arias Canete said the U.S. would not pull out of the agreement and had offered to re-engage in the deal.

Later that Saturday, however, the White House denied reports that it planned to remain in the Paris agreement., “There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement,” White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Saturday. “As the president has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country.”

On Monday morning, Sept. 18, NEC Director Gary Cohn, a leading architect of the administration’s Paris policy, invited climate officials from major economies to discuss “international energy and climate issues” over breakfast.  Emerging from the breakfast, Cohn remarked that the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris agreement and that he had “made the president’s position unambiguous” to the other foreign officials.  

Other participants in the deal have urged the U.S. to remain in the agreement, pointing to common interests of energy security and cleaner use of fossil fuels. Claire Perry, a U.K minister of state and Conservative MP, noted “All countries with the exception of Germany have some level or some commitment to use fossil fuels in our future,” she said. “Britain is phasing out unabated coal use in electricity, but we still will be using natural gas going forward.”

 

EPA Nominations for Climate Change Policy Positions

A number of nominations for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) senior positions are currently pending Senate confirmation. Two have particular importance for EPA’s expected climate change roll-backs: Matthew Leopold, nominee for EPA general counsel; and William Wehrum, nominee for director of the Office of Air and Radiation. Both lawyers have a long history of representing utilities, mining, the oil and gas sector, and other industries with a direct stake in environmental regulations, such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Power Plan.

Wehrum believes that the EPA does not have the authority to control carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. “The Act clearly is designed to deal with very different kinds of pollution and very different kinds of health and environmental effects,” he said in a 2013 interview, a view in line with that of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Wehrum has decades of experience with the Clean Air Act. He formerly worked as counsel for the Office of Air and Radiation for Jeff Holmstead, director under President George W. Bush. Bush later nominated Wehrum to succeed Holmstead, although he was never confirmed. “Mr. Wehrum’s record at EPA has demonstrated to me a pattern of discounting health impacts and ignoring scientific findings, and substituting industry positions for the clear intent of Congress,” then-Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said during a 2006 confirmation hearing.

Wehrum is a partner at Hunton & Williams, a Washington, DC law firm, where he represents clients in the fossil fuels, forests, mining, and chemical industries interested in environmental regulation. His profile page at the firm touts Wehrum as “one of the finest Clean Air Act attorneys in the country.”

While serving under Bush, Wehrum helped oversee inadequate Bush administration policies on greenhouse gases that led to successful state lawsuits compelling the EPA to issue the “endangerment finding” in 2009. The endangerment finding is seen by many as the basis of all EPA authority to regulate carbon under the Clean Air Act.

A former EPA official commented to E&E News that, “He’s going into it for all the right reasons, I think. This is not a resume builder for Bill [Wehrum]; he’s basically going back to the job he had before…. I think he is going into it because he wants the agency to work.”

Matthew Leopold, nominee for EPA general counsel, is critical of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), proposed by the Obama administration and currently under a stay issued by the U.S. Supreme Court. As general counsel, Leopold would help guide Pruitt’s planned roll-back of the CPP; details of the plan are expected to be announced in early October.

Previously general counsel at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and a staff attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, Leopold is currently of counsel at Carlton Fields, based in Tallahassee, FL. According to his financial disclosure forms, his clients there include Ford Motor Co., BASF Corp., and mining company Edgar Minerals Inc., each with business before the EPA. Florida is among the states party to the 2015 suit temporarily winning a stay of the CPP from the U.S. Supreme Court, pending appeals court rulings.

Nonetheless, Leopold’s work has been praised by Republicans and Democrats alike, with Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, pointing to his role in Everglades restoration and Ethan Shenkman, an Obama-era EPA deputy general counsel and deputy assistant attorney general, saying “I respect him as an attorney and a person of integrity.”

Wehrum’s and Leopold’s government and private practice experience with the Clean Air Act and the endangerment finding set up the question of whether endangerment may be subject to an upcoming reevaluation. Trump advisor and EPA transition team leader Myron Ebell has long advocated revoking endangerment. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) notes that “Congress has never explicitly given the EPA the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, and the Senate EPW committee has no plans to do so.” However, the endangerment finding has been challenged and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court twice, most recently in 2014. Administrator Pruitt has repeatedly said that he has no intention of reopening the endangerment finding.

 

EPA Science Advisory Board Nominees Include Climate Skeptics

The Environmental Protection Agency submitted for public comment 132 names of possible nominees for the agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) on Sept. 7. The SAB, established by Congress in 1978, is charged with helping to ensure that agency actions are based on sound scientific data, analyses, and interpretations.

Some of the nominees reject mainstream climate science, some come from fossil fuel industries, and others from conservative advocacy groups. Nominee Paul Driessen, of the Libertarian Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, co-founded the group Climate Exit. The group’s founding statement says, “The world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming crusade,” and “Man does not and cannot control the climate.”

Joseph D’Aleo, a meteorologist and cofounder of The Weather Channel, is also a nominee and a prominent climate change skeptic. “We’re going to push for reconsideration, start from scratch, and put together the best science,” he told E&E News. “If CO2 is not a serious pollutant, let’s focus the attention of the EPA on other issues,” he continued.  D’Aleo joined 13 other scientists in an amicus brief challenging the agency’s key science findings in the 24-state suit against the EPA’s CPP that won a temporary stay by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015.

Public comment on the SAB nominations will be accepted until Sept. 28 and should be submitted by email to Thomas Carpenter at vog.apenull@samoht.retneprac. Note that public comments are subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

 

“Red-Team, Blue-Team” Climate Change Debate

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has repeatedly proposed staging a “red-team, blue-team” review, a military-style adversarial critique, of the science of climate change and whether it’s an “existential threat.”  Raising the suggestion again on Sept. 19 at the Concordia Summit in New York and later that day on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” Pruitt gave a few more details. “So the red-team, blue-team approach … is something that puts experts in a room and lets them debate an issue,” Pruitt said. “The American people deserve that type of objective, transparent discussion.”

“The red-team scientists are the ones you see across the spectrum who don’t take for granted that the climate is on this unsustainable path of existential threat and that humans are 99 percent responsible for that,” Pruitt said. “We need to have a meaningful debate on what we are facing as a country and internationally.” He told the Concordia Summit that the debate could include other agencies and “It would last many, many months.” Pruitt has previously suggested the debates would be televised, though he has given no clear indications regarding production and location.

In a 2016 letter to Congress, ESA joined with 30 other scientific societies in stating that “rigorous scientific research concludes that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver” of climate change.  In July 2017, ESA signed a joint-society letter requesting a meeting with EPA Administrator Pruitt to discuss plans for a red-blue team exercise. The letter states that “The peer review process itself is a constant means of scientists putting forth research results, getting challenged, and revising them based on evidence. Indeed, science is a multi-dimensional, competitive “red team/blue team” process whereby scientists and scientific teams are constantly challenging one another’s findings for robustness.”

Climate denying advocacy organizations, such as the Heartland Institute, see climate science as a debatable topic and favor more aggressive strategies.  For example, Heartland has developed and distributed an alternative science curriculum to science teachers across the country.  Heartland was also a prominent source of nominations to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board.  Meanwhile, the Earth Science Communications Team at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) notes that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate change is real, worsening, and primarily due to human activities.  

Some observers suggest highlighting uncertainty in climate science as an avenue to challenge the basis of the endangerment finding which underlies EPA regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. While on Fox & Friends, Pruitt indicated that highlighting uncertainties could aid administration efforts to revoke Obama-era regulations such as the Clean Power Plan.

 

EPA Anti-Leak Campaign

EPA employees are currently receiving instruction in “unauthorized disclosure training,” teaching them not to leak classified or near-classified information. This training is part of a government-wide eradication effort following National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster’s memo to agency heads on anti-leak instruction earlier in the week. Agency spokeswoman Liz Bowman had said in an email last week that, “EPA is developing training to support the White House’s request.”

Some are concerned that the focus on leaks will hurt morale and inhibit normal public communication of sometimes critical information. Others observe that EPA employees broadly seem more willing to talk to reporters.  In comments to E&E News, a longtime EPA employee says, “Look, we have an administrator with staff who don’t even want to talk to those of us who have dedicated our lives to the agency and the public good. The public trusts us to protect the planet and their health, and I am going to honor that trust by staying true to the EPA mission.” Another longtime EPA employee said, “What’s concerning to workers is that [the Trump appointees] have no respect for the rule of law and could do anything to retaliate, even though it’s illegal. That’s why there’s a chilling effect.”

Waters of the U.S. Rule Comment Period Extended

The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are accepting public comments on the proposal to repeal the Clean Water Rule. This Obama-era rule defines “waters of the U.S.,” (WOTUS) governing Clean Water Act protections for waterways. Following a February executive order initiating review of WOTUS, the administration is pursuing a two-step process of repealing and replacing the rule. The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are accepting comments on the proposed first step undoing the rule and recodifying regulations that were in effect prior to the 2015 rule. The comment period is open until Sept. 27. In addition, teleconferences tailored to specific sectors have been scheduled to hear recommendations from stakeholders on revising the WOTUS definition. The webinar for scientific organizations and academia is Nov. 7, and a webinar open to the general public is Nov. 21. Find the entire schedule here.

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Tom Carper (D-DE), with 19 other Senators, sent a letter to EPA Administrator Pruitt opposing the agency’s plan to repeal the Clean Water Rule and reverse the Clean Water Act protections for Waters of the US as defined under the rule. The Senators specifically urge the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the proposal to repeal the rule.

ESA joined with other scientific societies in submitting comments to the EPA strongly opposing the move to rescind the 2015 WOTUS rule. The comments note the EPA’s lack of science-based policy to repeal the rule: “The proposed repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule, unlike the 2015 Clean Water Rule itself, is unsupported by the peer-reviewed science and evidentiary analysis, has not been subjected to rigorous independent peer review, nor to a robust public comment process, and poses a significant threat to the integrity and security of our drinking water, public health, fisheries, and wildlife habitat while significantly increasing the risks and costs associated with flood and storm damage.”

House Passes Government-Wide Funding Bill

On Sept. 14, the House passed a massive spending package of twelve bills to fund the federal government for Fiscal Year 2018. This package includes the four appropriations bills previously passed by the House in July, in addition to eight new bills. Together, this Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act provides all discretionary funding, $1.2 trillion in total, for the federal government for the next fiscal year. The bill passed the House 211 to 198.

The bill cuts funding for many agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Science Foundation (NSF), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). It would also reduce funding to agricultural research and climate research. The funding cuts in the House bill, however, are for the most part less severe than those proposed in the president’s budget.

The House considered 324 amendments on the floor. One amendment, introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), would increase NSF funding for basic research in the physical and biological sciences by 0.5 percent of the NSF research budget, or $30.2 million. This amendment does not increase overall funding for NSF’s research account, but shifts allocation of appropriated funds. Other amendments that passed included one introduced by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) to increase funding for the National Ocean Service to do coastal monitoring and assessment of harmful algal blooms, and an amendment from Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL) to increase funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System by $500,000 for wildlife and habitat management of invasive species.

Passage of this government-wide funding package marks the first time since 2009 that the House has passed all twelve appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year. However, the Senate is almost certainly sure to reject the House spending package. It will take time for the two chambers to come to an agreement on government funding priorities for the next fiscal year. Since the president stunned Republicans by agreeing to a budget deal with Democrats earlier in the month that passed Congress on Sept. 8, a continuing resolution will fund the government starting Oct. 1 until Dec. 8.

Administration Releases Plans for Expediting Environmental Reviews

On Aug. 15, President Trump signed an executive order on “Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure,” designed to expedite federal approval of major infrastructure projects. Among other provisions, the order directs agencies to complete environmental reviews within two years and to issue one decision covering all the agencies reviewing a project. The order also directs the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to develop a framework for the process of implementing one federal decision for infrastructure projects.

In accordance with this order, on Sept. 14 CEQ released a notice and fact sheet describing plans for expediting and streamlining environmental reviews. The plans target reviews conducted in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a major federal statute protecting the environment. NEPA was enacted in 1970 in order to “declare a national policy which will encourage productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to promote efforts which will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere […]; to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural resources important to the Nation […]” (42 USC § 4321). NEPA also requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of proposed actions prior to making decisions. These NEPA reviews have been the focus of the administration in its efforts to streamline project approval.

CEQ’s Federal Register notice outlines a list of actions to “enhance and modernize” the environmental review and authorization process for infrastructure projects. Among the identified actions are plans to revise CEQ guidance related to NEPA, including categorical exclusions, environmental assessments, efficient reviews, simplification of the process for infrastructure projects, and reliance on prior studies or decisions or on state, local, or tribal impact analyses. Additionally, CEQ plans to convene an interagency working group to review NEPA implementation and other environmental procedures to “identify impediments to the efficient and effective processing of environmental reviews.”

This plan comes on the heels of reporting from E&E News that an internal memo at the Department of the Interior directed that environmental impact statements under NEPA be no more than 150 pages or 300 pages for “unusually complex reports.” The Aug. 31 memo from Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt, who was confirmed at the end of July, also sets a target of completing NEPA studies within one year.

Opponents of changes to NEPA or the NEPA environmental review process fear that attempts to expedite reviews and project approval could undermine the underlying purpose of NEPA and of conducting environmental reviews in the first place.

Monument Review Report Leaked: Zinke Recommends Changes to Sites

When the president signed an executive order in April initiating review of certain designations under the Antiquities Act, he directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to submit a report with his recommendations for 27 national monuments and marine national monuments under review.

Prior to the Aug. 24 deadline for this report, Zinke announced six national monuments that were no longer under review and to which he would not recommend changes: Craters of the Moon (ID), Hanford Reach (WA), Upper Missouri River Breaks (MT), Grand Canyon-Parashant (AZ), Canyons of the Ancients (CO), and Sand to Snow (CA). In addition, in June, he submitted an interim report specifically on Bears Ears National Monument recommending the site be “right-sized.”

On Aug. 24, Zinke submitted his full report with recommendations to the president, saying that he was recommending changes to a “handful” of national monuments, but not suggesting any eliminations. At the time of the report’s submission, neither Zinke nor Interior provided more specific details, and the report was not made available to the public.

However, a memorandum of Zinke’s recommendations has recently been leaked, revealing that he suggested reducing six sites and making changes to four others. The monuments that Zinke proposes to shrink, without specifying the size of the reductions, are Bears Ears (UT), Grand Staircase-Escalante (UT), Gold Butte (NV), and Cascade-Siskiyou (OR) national monuments as well as the Pacific Remote Islands and Rose Atoll marine national monuments. Furthermore, Zinke recommends management changes to four other sites—Katahdin (ME), Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks (NM), and Rio Grande Del Norte (NM) national monuments and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts marine national monument. 

The memo does suggest the possibility of establishing three new national monuments: Camp Nelson in Kentucky, Medgar Evers Home in Mississippi, and the Badger-Two Medicine area in Montana.

In response to the leak of Zinke’s memo, environmental and outdoor groups responded by condemning the recommendations and promised legal action if the president acts on them. While the president can establish national monuments, the authority of the president to reduce or alter monument designations has not been tested in court.

In a Senate hearing on Sept. 19, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) identified and raised concern about factual errors in Zinke’s memo. Specifically, Heinrich pointed out inaccuracies about the two New Mexico monuments. The report claimed that the Rio Grande Del Norte monument had resulted in road closures that affected ranching, which BLM staff disputed. Zinke also raised border security concerns related to Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks, which the report claims “abuts” the international border; however, the monument is actually miles away from the border.

ESA submitted comments with AAAS on Interior’s review of national monuments.

Quick Reads

Climate Solutions Caucus Grows to 56

The bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus continues to add new members. Most recently, Reps. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), John Larson (D-CT), Chris Collins (R-NY) and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) have joined the group, bringing total membership to 56. The caucus, which adds members in bipartisan pairs, is dedicated to exploring economically viable ways to address climate risks and to approach climate adaptation and mitigation.

USGS Climate Webpages Disappear

E&E News is reporting that access to climate data available on the U.S. Geological Survey’s website has declined considerably. Tweets from climate scientist Peter Gleick alerted of changes in search results for “climate change” and “effects of climate change” on the website compared to results returned in Dec. 2016. The agency is claiming that the decrease in search results is due to issues with the search tool on the website and technical issues with the content management system.

Forest Service Fire Borrowing Continues

While wildfires continue to rage in the western U.S., the Forest Service’s necessary practice of fire borrowing—using resources from other forest management accounts to fund fire suppression—continues as well. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) had added a provision to the hurricane relief bill (passed on Sept. 8) that was intended to prevent the agency from being forced to borrow funds from other accounts and programs. However, while this provision gives the Forest Service flexibility to help quickly repay accounts from which funds were borrowed, it does not end the practice—or need for—fire borrowing.

British Tabloid Acknowledges Inaccurate Article on Climate Data

After a ruling from the Independent Press Standards Organization, a self-regulating group within the British news industry, British tabloid The Mail has been forced to acknowledge that an article it published about US scientists manipulating climate data was inaccurate. The article in question—titled “EXPOSED: How world leaders were duped over global warming”—had misrepresented comments of a former NOAA scientist about the AAAS Science journal’s 2015 climate change paper detailing evidence against a pause in global warming. The Mail published a statement admitting that it “failed to take care over the accuracy of the article.”

Federal Court Orders Revised BLM Environmental Impact Statement

On Sept. 15, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when evaluating the impacts of coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. NEPA requires in-depth analysis of the potential climate impacts of federal actions. The court ruled that the BLM failed to accurately consider these impacts and irrationally weighed greenhouse gas emissions. The decision requires the BLM to revise the environmental impact statement evaluating the coal leases. 

California Sues Administration Over Border Wall

California filed a lawsuit on Sept. 20 against the administration’s proposed border wall. The lawsuit claims that, in expediting construction of the wall, the Department of Homeland Security improperly waived environmental laws and other federal statutes. Among the laws that the government violated, according to California, are the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

Bird Conservancy Asks California to Prohibit Neonics on State Wildlife Refuges

On behalf of the American Bird Conservancy, environmental law group Earthjustice asked the California Fish and Game Commission to ban neonicotinoid pesticides in state wildlife refuges. The petition filed on Sept. 18 asks for a statewide prohibition on neonics, which can be deadly to pollinators and other wildlife.

USGS Coalition Award Honors Reps. Amodei and DelBene

On Sept. 12, the USGS Coalition awarded its 2017 Leadership Award to Reps. Mark Amodei (R-NV) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA). The award recognizes the two recipients for their support of science that furthers the mission of the U.S. Geological Survey. The coalition honored Rep. Amodei for his commitment to addressing invasive species and his support of investments in science. It honored Rep. DelBene for her support of the USGS natural hazards mission and her commitment to natural resource stewardship. ESA is a member of the USGS Coalition.

Get Involved

EPA Accepting Feedback on Advisory Board Nominations

The EPA is requesting public comments on nominations for its Science Advisory Board, a key advisory panel that advises the EPA on scientific and technical information. The agency is asking for feedback on 132 candidates nominated in response to a June Federal Register notice calling for experts to be considered for appointment to the board. The terms of 15 members of the board expire at the end of the month, though it is not clear how many openings the agency is looking to fill. Find the full list of nominations here. Comments are due by Sept. 28.

USGCRP Seeking Nominations for IPCC Sixth Assessment Report

The State Department and US Global Change Research Program are accepting nominations for scientists to serve as Coordinating Lead Authors, Lead Authors, or Review Editors on the Working Group I, II, and III contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Sixth Assessment Report. More information can be found here. Submit nominations for scientists with relevant expertise online by Oct. 17.

National Invasive Species Council Call for Papers

The National Invasive Species Council (NISC) is undertaking a National Invasive Species Assessment for the United States. This assessment will evaluate the impact of invasive species on major U.S. assets from ecological, social, and economic perspectives. The NISC Secretariat is seeking contributions from topic area experts for a special issue of Biological Invasions that will serve as the first version of the assessment. Paper/author team proposals are due by Oct. 20. Find more information here.

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. 

DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program Accepting Applications

The Department of Energy Office of Science is accepting applications for the Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program. The program prepares graduate students for STEM careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission by providing graduate thesis research opportunities at DOE laboratories. Applicants must be pursuing graduate research in an area that is aligned with one or more of the priority research areas of the Office of Science’s six research program offices (including Biological and Environmental Research). Applications are due Nov. 16.

NSF Accepting Nominations for Honorary Awards

The National Science Foundation is accepting nominations for its 2018 Vannevar Bush and Public Service awards recognizing remarkable contributions in public service in science and engineering. Nominations are being accepted through Oct. 1. Eligibility and selection criteria and nomination guidelines are available on the Vannevar Bush Award website.

Provide Input on DOI Regulations

The Department of the Interior is seeking public comments on regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification. The president’s February executive order on reducing regulatory burdens directed federal agencies to address outdated or unnecessary policies. DOI is seeking input from the public on policies of Interior agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. Submit comments online or by mail.  

Apply for an OSTP Internship

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is accepting applications for the OSTP Internship Program. OSTP offers both policy internships and legal internships. Read more on the White House website

Legislative Updates

Bill to Reauthorize Sea Grant Program Passes Senate

On Sept. 14, the Senate passed S.129, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2017. This legislation, introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), would reauthorize NOAA’s National Sea Grant College Program, a network of university-based programs across the country that are involved in coastal, marine, and Great Lakes research, education, and extension. The program had been targeted for reduction in the president’s proposed FY 2018 budget. However, this bill would extend it through 2022. The legislation now goes to the House. 

Senate Version of HONEST Act Introduced

On Sept. 12, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) introduced a Senate version of the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment (HONEST) Act (S.1794). This bill is a companion to the House version, H.R.1430, which was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and passed the House in March. The legislation targets the EPA’s use of science by requiring that any science used to inform agency regulations be transparent and reproducible. Under the HONEST Act, the EPA could only use studies with data that is publicly available online—a requirement that would limit the research eligible for agency use—or would have to make the data available themselves—a requirement that would be both time- and cost-intensive for the EPA.

ESA joined with other societies in opposing the House companion bill: Multisociety Letter on H.R. 1430, the HONEST Act (March 28, 2017).

Other Legislation Introduced

  • Federal Flood Management Act of 2017 (S.1798). Introduced Sept. 12 by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), this bill would establish a federal standard in order to improve the nation’s resilience to current and future flood risk.
  • Carbon Capture Act (H.R.3761). Introduced Sept. 13 by Rep. Michael Conaway (R-TX), this bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve and extend the credit for carbon dioxide sequestration.
  • Reducing Waste in National Parks Act (H.R.3768). Introduced Sept. 13 by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), this bill would encourage recycling and reduction of disposable plastic bottles in units of the National Park System.
  • Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Act of 2017 (H.R.3786). Introduced Sept. 14 by Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI), this bill would require the Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere to update periodically the environmental sensitivity index products of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for each coastal area of the Great Lakes.
  • S.1842. Introduced Sept. 19 by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), this bill would provide for wildfire suppression operations.

From the Federal Register

Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

  • Comment on Proposed USDA Reorganization
    Consistent with the president’s March executive order on “Reorganizing the Executive Branch,” the Department of Agriculture has proposed changes intended to strengthen customer service and improve efficiencies. USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed reorganization. Find more details here. Comments are due by Oct. 7. 
  • NASA – Nominations for Federal Advisory Committees
    NASA is seeking nominations for its federal advisory committees, including the Earth Science Advisory Committee. Nominations are due by Sept. 30.
  • Forest Service – Nominations for Forestry Research Advisory Council
    The USDA Forest Service is seeking nominations for members of the Forestry Research Advisory Council (FRAC). The FRAC includes members from federal and state agencies, forest industry, academics, and voluntary organizations. Nominations must be received by Oct. 16.
  • NIFA – Stakeholder Listening Opportunity for Priorities
    The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is holding stakeholder listening sessions to collect stakeholder input on NIFA’s science priorities to inform the research, extension, and education priorities of the agency. NIFA has the mission of investing in and advancing agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. (Listening Session dates are above; first is Oct. 19). In addition to the listening sessions, NIFA is accepting stakeholder input online to inform the science priority-setting process. Online input is due by Dec. 1.