ESA Policy News April 13: Senate reviews USGS FY 2017 budget request, faith groups support climate fund, feds revise sea turtle protections
Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here.
SENATE: LAWMAKERS REVIEW USGS PROPOSED FY 2017 BUDGET REQUEST
The US Geological Survey (USGS) received bipartisan praise for its nonpartisan scientific research during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the agency’s $1.2 billion Fiscal Year 2017 budget request.
“I am among those who appreciate both the work of the USGS and the spirit in which it is typically undertaken,” said Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in her opening statement. “The agency is known for being non-partisan, and for seeking out concrete scientific evidence. And let me tell you, it’s quite refreshing to have an agency come before our Committee that does not have a significant regulatory agenda moving full speed ahead.”
She also praised the agency’s work to understand the nation’s water resources. Murkowski did press USGS Director Suzette Kimball on critical minerals research, urging the agency to give greater priority towards funding its energy and minerals division. Kimball noted that the USGS has an open a call to hire a new associate director for its energy and mineral resources program that would help advance and prioritize the mission area’s budget.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) commended USGS’s climate change research and noted the importance of its satellite imagery in collecting climate data. Observing that Kimball refers to the USGS as “the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] of wildlife,” he also highlighted the importance of tracking and monitoring the spread of zoonotic diseases, including Ebola and Zika.
Click here to view the hearing.
Click here to read more about the USGS budget request.
USGS: STUDY AFFIRMS ECOSYSTEM RESTORATION PROMOTES ECONOMIC GROWTH
On April 6, the US Geological Survey (USGS) published a report finding that various ecosystem restoration efforts create jobs and benefit local, state, and national economies.
The study, examining 21 US Department of Interior (DOI) restoration projects, finds that for each dollar invested in ecosystem restoration, there is between double and triple the return in economic growth. The report quantified economic impact analysis by focusing on the jobs and business activity generated through money spent on ecosystem restoration activities.
The report was a collaborative effort between the USGS, the DOI Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Program, the DOI Office of Policy Analysis and the Bureau of Land Management Socioeconomics Program.
Click here to view the individual restoration projects.
Click here to review the report.
WHITE HOUSE: REPORT HIGHLIGHTS CLIMATE CHANGE IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH
On April 4, the US Global Change Research Program released a three-year study that articulates global climate change health impacts. Most of the projections are fairly grim for human health, especially vulnerable populations of society.
Certain demographics, including minority communities, pregnant women, children, elderly, low-income communities, and the mentally ill will suffer disproportionately from climate change impacts. Extreme heat-related deaths are projected to outweigh deaths from extreme cold. Warmer winters and spring temperatures will promote a northward expansion of the ticks that carry Lyme disease and increase the number of cases of vector-borne diseases in the northern US.
Regarding extreme weather events, the report found that “climate change will increase exposure risk in some regions of the United States due to projected increases in the frequency and/or intensity of drought, wildfires, and flooding related to extreme precipitation and hurricanes.” These events will disrupt essential infrastructure, including water, power, transportation and emergency response services.
Click here to view the report.
UNITED NATIONS: RELIGIOUS GROUPS ASK CONGRESS TO SUPPORT GREEN CLIMATE FUND
A coalition of 120 multifaith groups penned a letter to Congress requesting approval of $750 billion for the Obama administration’s contribution to the international Green Climate fund. Signers of the letter include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Green Muslims, the National Council of Churches, and the Evangelical Environmental Network, and others.
“Our scriptures and religious texts call us to care for God’s creation and our most vulnerable neighbors. We believe that climate change presents an unprecedented threat to all of Creation, but particularly to those living in poverty around the world,” stated the groups.
The Green Climate Fund is part of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change used for mitigation and adaption efforts in developing countries. President Obama pledged the US would offer $3 billion over the next four years.
Click here to view the faith groups’ letter.
Click here for additional information on the Green Climate Fund
COURT: DIVERSE GROUPS FILE AMICUS BRIEFS IN SUPPORT OF CLEAN POWER PLAN
The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan garnered backing by industry and mayor’s across the country.
Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft filed an amicus brief with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on April 1 in support of the Plan. Twenty-eight states and more than 50 cities, together with The US Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the mayors of Dallas, Knoxville, and Orlando also submitted an amicus brief on April 1. Additionally, other religious and health groups sent amicus briefs.
The Clean Power Plan seeks to reduce US carbon emissions from the power sector (and primarily coal-fired plants) by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The EPA rule assigned states specific emissions targets, but allows each state the flexibility to tailor its plan.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for June 2, 2016 in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Click here to read more about the mayor’s amicus brief.
EPA: STUDY CONCLUDES THREE PESTICIDES HARM MOST PROTECTED WILDLIFE
On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft biological evaluation stating that 97 percent of plant and animal species protected under the Endangered Species Act are likely being harmed by two widely-used pesticides: chlorpyrifos and malathion.
The two chemicals are used primarily in agriculture to kill insects, but similarly enter the environment through stormwater runoff. For chlorpyrifos and malathion, the study concludes that they are “likely to adversely affect” 1,725 out of the 1,782 plant and animal species protected under the Endangered Species Act.
A third pesticide used in agriculture, diazinon, is “likely to adversely affect” 1,416 listed species, or 79 percent of all protected animals and plants, EPA determined. The US Fish and Wildlife Service will review the findings and provide an analysis of the chemicals’ impact on federally protected species.
Click here for additional information on the study and how to comment on it.
ENDANGERED SPECIES; NMFS, FWS RELAX SEA TURTLE PROTECTIONS
On April 5, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service issued a final rule for the protection green sea turtles. The decision is part of a larger reclassification that separates green sea turtles into 11 distinct populations globally. The final rule moves two green sea turtle populations in the Florida and Mexico region from “endangered” to “threatened.”
The federal agencies cited various coordinated conservation efforts, including protecting nesting beaches and reducing direct harvesting and fishery bycatch as critical in the species recovery. The revised protections go into effect on May 6.
NEON: BATTELLE ASSUMES MANAGEMENT
Battelle is the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, with over 22,000 employees at more than 60 locations globally. The management transition appears to have gone smoothly between the NEON, Inc Board of Directors and Battelle at NEON’s Boulder headquarters.
Read more about NEON.