July 15, 2015

In This Issue

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APPROPRIATIONS: BILL FUNDING INTERIOR, EPA STALLS IN HOUSE

 

On July 9, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pulled the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill over a contentious amendment related to the confederate flag.

The appropriations bill funds the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the US Forest Service and most of the US Department of Interior. Sub-agencies within Interior funded by the bill include the Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Geological Survey and the National Park Service (NPS). Earlier in the week, Democrats successfully attached several amendments to the bill banning display and sale of the confederate flag on NPS grounds for all purposes except historical usage.

Spurred by concerns from southern Republicans over the added language related to the confederate flag, Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA) offered an amendment that would undo the aforementioned amendments, allowing the display of the confederate flag at NPS cemeteries and codifying existing law regarding sale of the confederate flag at NPS gift shops.

Rather than have his Republican conference go on record with a vote on a contentious issue, Speaker Boehner elected to pull the entire bill. With most Democrats expected to oppose the bill and a significant number of Republicans opposed to the adopted confederate flag amendments, the bill likely no longer had the majority votes necessary to pass the House.

The bill’s failure to advance has been viewed as a victory by conservation groups who had largely opposed the bill due to many contentious provisions, including language to restrict funding to implement the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the EPA rule clarifying federal jurisdiction over US waterways.

Given that the Senate currently lacks the 60 bipartisan votes necessary to pass its FY 2016 Interior funding bill, it is increasingly likely that funding for the Department of Interior, EPA and the US Forest Service will be incorporated into an omnibus spending measure later this year.

For additional information on the House FY 2016 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, see the June 17 edition of ESA policy news:

https://www.esa.org/esa/june-17-2015/

STEM: HOUSE, SENATE ADVANCE EDUCATION REAUTHORIZATION BILLS

 

This past week, two comprehensive measures to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) moved through the House and Senate. The last ESEA reauthorization signed into law was the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110).  That reauthorization expired in 2007, and to date, Congress has been unable to reach a consensus approach to renewing the law.

House Republicans have put forward H.R. 5, the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act, which would reauthorize federal education programs through FY 2021.  The House reauthorization bill flat-funds educational programs at existing FY 2015 levels.

The bill eliminates a poverty-threshold requirement in current law, eliminates collective bargaining protections for teachers and repeals a highly-qualified teacher requirement intended to ensure some areas of the country are not disproportionately served by unqualified teachers. H.R. 5 passed the House July 8 by a narrow vote of 218–213. Twenty-seven Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the bill.

Many educational organizations oppose the bill. The STEM Education Coalition released a statement when it was reported out of committee in February, then titled the “Student Success Act.”

“As written, the Student Success Act places no funding priority on the STEM subjects and would eliminate the Math and Science Partnership program at the Department of Education, the sole existing program at the Department focused exclusively on teacher professional development in STEM subjects,” read the statement from the coalition. “Further, it does not establish any significant linkage between teacher quality initiatives and critical workforce needs.”   

The White House also released a Statement of Administration Policy declaring the president would veto the bill.

“H.R. 5 abdicates the historic federal role in elementary and secondary education of ensuring the educational progress of all of America’s students, including students from low-income families, students with disabilities, English learners, and students of color,” read the White House statement. “It fails to maintain the core expectation that States and school districts will take serious, sustained, and targeted actions when necessary to remedy achievement gaps and reform persistently low-performing schools.”

Meanwhile, the Senate began consideration of its ESEA reauthorization bill, S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The White House released a statement urging changes to certain provisions of the bill, but stopped short of declaring the president would veto it.  

The STEM Education Coalition recently praised the bill for its retention of two key STEM education components: 1) retention of current-law requirements for states to continue to assess student performance in math and science and 2) a provision to provide each state with dedicated resources focused on improving teaching and learning in STEM-related subjects. The bill’s STEM language was incorporated in committee through an amendment sponsored by HELP committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL).

An amendment by Sen. Alexander to include school vouchers in the Senate bill was defeated by a vote of 45-52. Republican Sens. Kelly Ayote (NH), Shelly Moore Capito (WV), Susan Collins (ME), Deb Fischer (NE), Dean Heller (R-NV), Mark Kirk (IL), Jerry Moran (KS), Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined all Democrats in voting against the amendment.

The Senate is expected to vote on S. 1177 at the end of this week.

Both the House and Senate bill versions would need to be reconciled in a conference committee to draft a compromise bill that both houses can accept.  

This week, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) sent a letter to the Senate in support of including STEM language in any final conference report negotiated between the two chambers.

Click here to view the ESA letter:

https://www.esa.org/esa/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/2015-Elementary-and-Secondary-Education-Act-letter.pdf  

Click here to view the White House statement on H.R. 5:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr5r_20150225.pdf

Click here to view the White House statement on S. 1177:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saps1177s_20150707.pdf

SENATE: SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY INPUT SOUGHT FOR COMPETES REAUTHORIZATION

 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation announced that it will be taking steps to gain input from the scientific research community as it moves forward to craft legislation reauthorizing the America COMPETES Act.

The legislation authorizes funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy Office of Science and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. It also sets policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Gary Peters (D-MI) will lead the effort.

Comments should be submitted to sciencepolicy@commerce.senate.gov by August 21, 2015.

Click here for additional information:

http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=63280708-209f-4b5e-bdaa-ddd4c5fbb63e&ContentType_id=77eb43da-aa94-497d-a73f-5c951ff72372&Group_id=4b968841-f3e8-49da-a529-7b18e32fd69d

INTERIOR: OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES THREE NEW WESTERN MONUMENTS

 

On July 10, the White House announced that President Obama will use his executive authority to designate new monuments in Nevada, Texas and California. Collectively the monument designations will provide federal protection to over one million acres of land.

The Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada will protect 704,000 acres of public land in a remote section of the broader Great Basin region. The designation allows for the continuation of certain historical uses, including livestock grazing and military activity. According to Interior, the area is home to desert bighorn sheep, golden eagles and several bat, lizard and snake species. The site will be managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The 330,780-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument in California is cited by the Obama administration as a “biodiversity hotspot.” It is home to several plant and animal species for which federal protections either exist or are being proposed, including northern spotted owls, martens and fishers. The site will be managed jointly by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service.

Waco Mammoth National Monument in Texas features the well-preserved remains of Columbian Mammoths from over 65,000 years ago. The monument’s excavation area also includes remains for the Western Camel, Saber-toothed Cat, Dwarf Antelope, American Alligator, and giant tortoise. The site will be managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the City of Waco and Baylor University.

Click here for additional information on the new monument designations:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/07/10/fact-sheet-president-obama-designates-new-national-monuments

FEDERAL REGISTER PUBLIC COMMENT OPPORTUNITIES

 

Bureau of Reclamation

Notice: Public comments due August 31, 2015

Notice of Availability of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan/California WaterFix Partially Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Announcement of Public Meetings

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16903

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proposed Rule: Public comment period ends Sept. 14

Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; 12-Month Finding and Proposed Rule To List Three Angelshark Species as Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-17016

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Notice: Public comments due August 3, 2015

Sonoran Pronghorn Draft Recovery Plan

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16292

Notice: Public comment period ends August 10, 2015

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly for Repair of Five Bridges, Point Sur State Historic Park, Monterey County, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16765

Notice: Public comments due August 20, 2015

Notice of Availability of Draft Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16249

Notice: Public comments due September 8, 2015

Barton Springs Salamander Recovery Plan Draft Addendum

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16595

US Forest Service

Notice: Nominations due August 14, 2015

Notice Of Intent To Renew The Charter For The Forest Resource Coordinating Committee And Call For Nominations

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-15991

Notice: Public comment period ends August 10, 2015

Proposed Low-Effect Habitat Conservation Plan for the Endangered Smith’s Blue Butterfly for Repair of Five Bridges, Point Sur State Historic Park, Monterey County, California

https://federalregister.gov/a/2015-16765

CURRENT POLICY

 

Introduced in House

H.R. 2960, the To Aid Gifted and High-Ability Learners by Empowering the Nation’s Teachers (TALENT) Act – Introduced July 7 by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and David Young (R-IA), the bill seeks to improve methods of identifying outstanding students and address the challenges that impede school districts ability to provide services to talented and gifted students. The bill includes provisions to support research into the learning needs of talented and gifted students. The bill has been referred to the House Education and Workforce Committee and the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.

Approved by House Committee

On July 9, the House Natural Resources Committee approved the following bill:

H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), the bill would seek to provide drought relief to the state of California. It includes provisions to modify the science formulas used to provide federal protection to the state’s endangered smelt and salmon populations and also streamline the review and permitting process for water projects. The committee approved the bill by a vote of 23-14. The bill is expected to be voted on by the full House this week.

Passed House

H.R. 2647, the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015 – Introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), the comprehensive bill would modify existing forest management practices in an effort to increase timber production and reduce the risk of forest fires. Among its provisions, the bill would allow the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to shorten National Environmental Policy Act reviews for logging projects that are designed to reduce wildfire risk, increase forest resilience to insects and disease, protect water supplies and preserve habitat for at-risk species.

The bill also includes a provision limiting legal challenges to forest projects by requiring litigants to post a bond to cover the government’s anticipated legal costs. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) had introduced an amendment to remove the language from the bill, which was defeated by a vote of 247-181, largely along partisan lines. The final bill passed July 9 by a vote of 262-167 with 19 Democrats joining all but one Republican in support of the bill.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy threatening to the veto the bill, stating “H.R. 2647 falls short of fixing the fire budget problem and contains other provisions that will undermine collaborative forest restoration, environmental safeguards, and public participation across the National Forest System and public lands.”

Click here to read the full statement: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2647h_20150708.pdf

Introduced in Senate

S. 1724, the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act of 2015 – Introduced July 9 by Sens. Dean Heller (R-NV), Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would authorize $415 million over 10 years to improve water clarity, reduce the risk of wildfires, invest in infrastructure  and address the threat of invasive species in the Lake Tahoe region. The bill has been referred to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands Chairman Tom McClintock (R-CA) recently put forward a discussion draft for a similar bill that would authorize only $60 million over the same period.

S. 1733, Forest Incentives Program Act of 2015 – Introduced July 10 by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the bill directs the US Department of Agriculture to create a program allowing forest owners to receive assistance for adopting practices that help sequester carbon over the long term and promote the use of biological products in building construction. The bill has been referred to the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.


Sources: Department of Interior, US Environmental Protection Agency, the White House, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Greenwire, the Hill, STEM Education Coalition

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