Special Policy News 7: The Transition
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In This Issue:
Pruitt Begins at Environmental Protection Agency
Newly confirmed and sworn in, Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt met with agency staff, broad changes hinted
Other cloture and confirmation votes to follow
Republicans seek to “modernize” the Act
Obama rules issued since June 13, 2016 may be up for disapproval, broader sweep may reach back earlier
S.338 would codify scientific integrity policies enacted following 2009 executive order
Executive order from President Trump on federal regulations
More subcommittee rosters and leadership announced; resolutions targeting Obama-era regulations; many new bills of interest
Upcoming meetings and opportunities for public comment
NSF National Science Board meeting and changes to Systematics and Biodiversity Science Cluster, administration sued over bee listing, congressional environmental scorecard, and more
Pruitt begins at Environmental Protection Agency
Newly confirmed and sworn in, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt had his first meeting Tuesday, February 21, with agency staff anxious about broad changes. In an 11 minute speech, Pruitt asked listeners to give him a chance before judging. He also, however, hinted at broad changes on his agenda. Without getting into specifics, Pruitt described an approach built on civility and federalism. He emphasized, “I seek to ensure that we engender the trust of those at the state level.”
Pruitt’s confirmation to be the director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was almost a strictly partisan 52-46 Senate vote on Friday, February 17. Only Republican Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) opposed Pruitt while two Democrats, Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), voted with the Republican majority. Senator Collins voiced a concern shared by many voting in opposition: “His actions leave me with considerable doubts about whether his vision for the EPA is consistent with the agency’s critical mission to protect human health and the environment.”
Democrats fiercely opposed Pruitt’s nomination, staging an overnight debate Thursday in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to delay his final confirmation. The final vote was held at 1 p.m., as scheduled by the majority leader, and Pruitt was sworn in as the EPA’s 14th administrator later that evening.
Earlier in the week, Tuesday February 14, the Democratic members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, led by Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) seeking a delay on the vote pending a court-ordered release of emails from Pruitt’s time as Oklahoma attorney general. “The majority leader said no,” Carper said at a news conference Thursday, February 16. “He was not rude about it, but he said no.”
Emails were released Wednesday, February 23, in compliance with a court ruling in the Center for Media and Democracy’s suit to enforce a January 2015 open records request. The messages showed a pattern of Pruitt’s close cooperation with fossil fuel interests, particularly Devon Energy, an oil and gas exploration and production company based in Oklahoma City. This aspect of the story continues to develop as readers wade through some 3,500 emails.
Meanwhile, expectations are high for sweeping changes at EPA under Pruitt’s leadership. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Pruitt questioned EPA’s authority to regulate carbon. “There will be a rule-making process to withdraw those rules, and that will kick off a process,” Pruitt said. “And part of that process is a very careful review of a fundamental question: Does EPA even possess the tools, under the Clean Air Act, to address this? It’s a fair question to ask if we do, or whether there in fact needs to be a congressional response to the climate issue.” In that same interview, Pruitt also signaled his support for withdrawing the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S rule, a rule that defines which waters and marshes fall under the jurisdiction of the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.
President Trump is expected to issue executive orders to roll back both the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule in the coming week.
Zinke Nomination to See Cloture Vote Monday, Others to Follow
Representative Ryan Zinke’s (R-MT) nomination for Interior secretary is scheduled for a cloture vote in the Senate, Monday evening, February 27, moving it to the near final step before his expected confirmation. The vote will follow the scheduled 7 p.m. confirmation vote for Wilbur Ross as Commerce secretary.
Zinke, like Energy nominee Rick Perry (R-TX), cleared his committee hearing with broad bi-partisan support. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) had hoped Zinke could be confirmed last week, before the recess, but anticipated the resulting delay.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) commented to reporters on Friday, February 17, that he had offered to confirm a nominee that day if Republicans would give Democrats a delay on Scott Pruitt’s EPA nomination. The offer was rebuffed. The cabinet confirmation votes are now expected in the order announced last week by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)— Zinke for Interior, then retired-neurosurgeon Ben Carson for Housing and Urban Development, followed by former-governor Rick Perry (R-TX) for Energy.
Endangered Species Act in Jeopardy
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on “modernizing” the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Wednesday, February 15. Committee Chairman Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) led the two-hour meeting. In opening remarks Barrasso claimed the act “is not working today,” particularly land use and management plans in Western states.
House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) has previously promised a fight to repeal the ESA saying, “It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species.” Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) echoed that assertion when he repeated Chairman Barrasso’s note that of 1,600 species listed under the ESA as threatened or endangered, only 50 have been removed. ESA supporters pointed to additional successes in stabilizing and recovering populations.
The committee heard from a diverse panel: former Wyoming Governor David Freudenthal, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director Gordon Myers, and Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President James Holte, representing Republican positions, and Defenders of Wildlife Chief Executive Jamie Rappaport Clark and Association of Zoos and Aquariums Chief Executive Daniel Ashe, both former directors of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), representing Democrats.
Each of the Republican witnesses declined to respond to a question by Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE), citing science and conservation journals, if they believed that the Earth is seeing a sixth mass extinction. Both Clark and Ashe answered emphatically, “Yes.”
Governor Freudenthal voiced strong support for “modernizing” the law. One key revision he and the other Republicans advanced was requiring that critical habitat requirements and recovery plans be released at the time the species is listed. Ashe noted that this requirement, “could make the work impossible to do.”
Following the hearing, Ashe commented favorably on the chemistry between Ranking Member Carper and Chairman Barrasso, a dynamic that could contribute to constructive, bipartisan changes.
Meanwhile, Republican senators are advancing three related bills that would make it harder for FWS to settle ESA lawsuits and to force new requirements for proposed protections for Mexican wolves. Two of the bills were introduced by Majority Whip Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) Thursday, February 16.
The “Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act,” S.375, would require Interior to give public notice of ESA suits and lowers standards for when other parties can intervene. It also would require proposed settlements to obtain approval from affected local governments, and it would block successful litigants from receiving legal payments.
Cornyn’s reintroduction of the “21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act,” S.376, would require the departments of the Interior and Commerce, who together implement the ESA, to publish any scientific and commercial data online that are used for adding or removing animals and plants from the endangered or threatened species lists.
The third bill, Senator Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) reintroduced “Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Act,” S.368, would require FWS to set “an enforceable maximum population of the Mexican grey wolf” within an area below Interstate 40 in New Mexico and Arizona that is also acceptable to local governments, ranchers, landowners, and recreational interests. The bill would enable state wildlife agencies to take control of the recovery if they find FWS in noncompliance with the revised plan. The bill’s sole co-sponsor is Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who also co-sponsored it in the last Congress.
Congressional Review Act Repeals of Obama-era Regulations
Congress is moving through a lengthy roster of Obama-era regulations under the provisions of the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress, by joint resolution, to withdraw regulations passed in the last 60 legislative days of an administration. As commonly interpreted, that period would include all rules issued since June 13, 2016.
It is notable that 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.
President Trump signed the first CRA repeal of this Congress on Monday, February 20. H.J.Res.41 removed a Securities and Exchange requirement that oil, gas, and coal companies disclose payments made to governments. This was only the second regulatory repeal under CRA since the act was passed in 1996.
The Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, protecting waterways from coal mining waste and just finalized in December, was next up, repealed Thursday, February 16, when the president signed H.J.Res.38. Also on Thursday, the House passed H.J.Res.69, introduced by Representative Don Young (R-AK), which would repeal recent rules strengthening federal management of predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska.
The House is currently considering H.J.Res.36, introduced by Representative Bob Bishop (R-UT), which repeals prohibitions on methane flaring on federal lands, and H.J.Res.44, introduced by Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), which repeals Interior’s “Planning 2.0” land planning guidance.
These CRA actions are seen as just the beginning of a larger onslaught of disapproval and repeal. Congressional Republicans in the Western Caucus have a wide-ranging agenda for repeal, including Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Arctic drilling rule, National Park Service’s oil and gas rule, and FWS’s oil and gas refuge rule. More than 150 recent rules could be subject to CRA disapproval.
Indeed, it seems that in addition to repealing all Obama-era regulations issued since June 13, some Republicans are discussing options to reach further back, enforcing a sometimes-overlooked CRA requirement for agencies to report final rules to Congress and the Government Accountability Office before they can take effect. Many have argued that the 60-day review clock begins with notification of Congress and that without notification the regulations may be unenforceable. A 2014 report to the Administrative Conference of the United States, an independent federal agency, authored by staff member Curtis Copeland, found that fewer than half the final rules issued during the first half of 2014 were sent to GAO. As a result, many more rules from the Obama administration may be eligible for CRA disapproval and repeal.
Scientific Integrity Act Introduced in Senate
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Scientific Integrity Act, S.338, on February 7. The bill, currently co-sponsored by 29 Senate Democrats, seeks to protect scientific integrity in federal research and policymaking. Though introduced in the previous Congress, the bill is seen as having special importance given the uncertainty of administration directives that seem to limit open scientific communication. A House version of the bill is expected soon.
In the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s “Make the EPA Great Again” hearings in early February, Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) made clear his intention of targeting science informing policy at the EPA, with reintroduction of the Secret Science Reform Act, which failed to gain traction in the last Congress, one of his priorities.
Nelson’s bill, S.338, would amend the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act of 2007 (America COMPETES). Though overdue for renewal with spending authorizations expired in 2010, America COMPETES’ science policymaking provisions remain in effect. In January of this year, Congress passed and the president signed into law the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, legislation that is a partial successor to the America COMPETES Act. It includes provisions from the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 and represents the first update to the COMPETES law since 2010.
S.338 would codify policies enacted under a 2009 executive order, and released over the last seven years, requiring agencies to specify how they would protect scientific integrity. The bill would also protect scientists’ communications with the public and Congress, make scientific integrity policies public, require review of scientific integrity across the government, and compel procedures for scientists to review public materials based on their work, such as press releases.
The Ecological Society of America sent letters supporting scientific integrity to President Trump and congressional leaders in the last week of January. It seems unlikely, however, that the Scientific Integrity Act will make much headway in the current Congress.
On Feb. 24, the president signed an executive order titled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda.” The order requires federal agencies to set up task forces to identify regulations that should be rolled back, replaced, or changed.
House Natural Resources Committee approves panel rules
The House Committee on Natural Resources, led by chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) held an organizational meeting on Feb. 7 during which it adopted a rules package for the committee and approved an oversight plan outlining initial priorities for the committee. Democratic proposals and amendments to the rules package and oversight plan – such as an addition of language referencing human activity as a cause of climate change – were rejected.
House Natural Resources Democrats launch “Better Know a Member” video series
Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee launched a “Better Know a Member” video series featuring each of their members. First was Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who spoke of outdoor activities in his home state and environmental laws he plans to protect.
Climate Solutions Caucus adds new members
The bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus added four new members on Feb. 9, bringing total membership to 24, split evenly between Republicans and Democrats. The new members are Reps. David Reichert (R-WA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Don Bacon (R-NE), and Charlie Crist (D-FL).
Grijalva encourages federal employees to anonymously report wrongdoing
Ranking Member Grijalva of the House Natural Resources Committee launched a Tip Line page on the Committee’s website that allows federal employees at the Department of the Interior and other agencies working on environmental issues to anonymously report unethical activity, risks to safety or public health, or fraud.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee releases GOP roster
On Feb. 9, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, announced the subcommittee chairs and GOP subcommittee rosters for the 115th Congress.
House Science Chairman Lamar Smith reiterates request for NOAA information
In a Feb. 14 letter to the acting NOAA administrator, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, renewed his request for NOAA documents and communications related to its study published in 2015 refuting the pause in global warming. Prompted by recent comments of former NOAA scientist Dr. John Bates, Smith has asked for new information related to the study. In November of 2015, ESA and other scientific societies wrote a letter to Rep. Smith expressing concern over the committee’s inquiry into this paper, and in January, ESA wrote a letter to the president on the importance of scientific integrity.
House Science Ranking Member Johnson announces subcommittee assignments
On Feb. 14, House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson announced Democratic subcommittee assignments and subcommittee ranking members for the 115th Congress.
Grijalva investigates Interior claim on job impact of repealing Stream Protection Rule
In a Feb. 23 letter to the acting secretary of the Interior, House Natural Resources Ranking Member Grijalva asked for an explanation of the claim in a DOI blog post that the cancellation of the Stream Protection Rule – repealed through a Congressional Review Act resolution earlier this month – would prevent the loss of 7,000 “clean coal” jobs. This statement contradicts previous DOI claims that had estimated that the rule would actually add 156 jobs.
- H.J.Res.38. This joint resolution, introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), disapproves the Department of the Interior’s Stream Protection Rule. The president signed this legislation into law on Feb. 16, overturning the Office of Surface Mining’s regulation protecting waterways from coal mining waste. See above for more information
- H.R.255 – Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act. This bill, introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT), authorizes the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women. It passed Congress on Feb. 14 and has been sent to the president.
- H.R.321 – Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act. This bill, introduced by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), seeks to inspire women to enter the aerospace field, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, through mentorship and outreach. It passed Congress on Feb. 14 and has been sent to the president.
Passed the House
- H.J.Res.44. This joint resolution, introduced by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), disapproves the rule submitted by the Department of the Interior relating to Bureau of Land Management regulations that establish the procedures used to prepare, revise, or amend land use plans pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. This rule, known as Planning 2.0, had been finalized by the BLM in December. The joint resolution, which passed the House on Feb. 7, is part of Congress’s push to use the Congressional Review Act to overturn Obama-era regulations.
- H.J.Res.57. This joint resolution, introduced by Rep. Todd Rokita (R-IN), provides for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Department of Education relating to accountability and State plans under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The joint resolution, which passed the House on Feb. 8, is another Congressional Review Act resolution.
- H.J.Res.69. This joint resolution, introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), provides for congressional disapproval under chapter 8 of title 5, United States Code, of the final rule of the Department of the Interior relating to “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska.” This 2016 Fish and Wildlife Service rule gave the federal government tighter control over managing predatory animal populations on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. The joint resolution, which passed the House on Feb. 16, is another Congressional Review Act resolution.
Introduced in the Senate
- S.334. Fracturing Regulations Are Effective in State Hands Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), this bill would clarify that a state has the sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land within the boundaries of the state. Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Companion bill is H.R.928.
- S.335. Federal Land Freedom Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), this bill would seek to achieve domestic energy independence by empowering states to control the development and production of all forms of energy on all available federal land. Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
- S.338. Scientific Integrity Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), this bill would protect scientific integrity in Federal research and policymaking. Referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. See above for more about this bill.
- S.340. Sensible Environmental Protection Act of 2017. Introduced Feb. 7 by Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID), this bill would clarify congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters. Referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. Companion bill is H.R. 953.
- S.346. National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System Act. Introduced Feb. 8 by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), this bill would provide for the establishment of the National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System. Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
- S.Res.59. Introduced Feb. 10 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), this resolution expresses support for the designation of February 12, 2017, as “Darwin Day” and recognizes the importance of science in the betterment of humanity. Referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Companion resolution is H.Res.44.
- S.368. Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Plan Act. Introduced Feb. 14 by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), this bill would require the Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a scientifically valid and state-supported recovery plan for the Mexican gray wolf. Referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
- S.375. Endangered Species Act Settlement Reform Act. Introduced Feb. 14 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), this bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to establish a procedure for approval of certain settlements. Referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
- S.376. 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act. Introduced Feb. 14 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), this bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require publication on the Internet of the basis for determinations that species are endangered species or threatened species. Referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.
- S.390. Buffalo Tract Protection Act. Introduced Feb. 15 by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM), this bill would withdraw certain Bureau of Land Management land from mineral development. Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Companion bill is H.R.1085.
- S. 401. Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area Act. Introduced Feb. 15 by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VW), this bill would establish the Appalachian Forest National Heritage Area. Referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Introduced in the House
- H.R.926. American Science Principal and Interest Reduction and Employment (ASPIRE) Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), this bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to reduce the principal amount on loans made to STEM majors. Referred to House Committee on Education and Workforce.
- H.R.928. Fracturing Regulations Are Effective in State Hands Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), this bill would clarify that a state has the sole authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal land within the boundaries of the state. Referred to the House Committees on Natural Resources; Agriculture; Transportation and Infrastructure; Energy and Commerce. Companion bill is S.334.
- H.R.943. Finding Innovative Lionfish Elimination Technologies Act of 2017.. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), this bill would authorize the Secretary of Commerce to award competitive grants to combat the certain species of lionfish in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
- H.R.953. Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act on 2017. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH), this bill would amend the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to clarify congressional intent regarding the regulation of the use of pesticides in or near navigable waters. Referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Committee on Agriculture. Companion bill is S.340.
- H.R.958. Wasteful EPA Programs Elimination Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX), this bill would eliminate certain programs of the Environmental Protection Agency. Referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce; Transportation and Infrastructure; Agriculture; and Science, Space, and Technology.
- H.R.961. Ban Aquaculture in the Great Lakes Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI), this bill would prohibit aquaculture in the Great Lakes. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Committee on Agriculture.
- H.R.962. Preserve Fishing on Wild and Scenic River Act. Introduced Feb. 7 by Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-MI), this bill would prohibit operation of aquaculture facilities that contribute to pollution of wild and scenic rivers. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and Committee on Agriculture.
- H.R.1008. Ensuring the Reliability of Our Hurricane Hunter Aircraft Act. Introduced Feb. 13 by Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), this bill would ensure reliable observation of hurricanes. Referred to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Companion bill is S.153.
- H.R.1054. Botanical Sciences and Native Plant Materials Research, Restoration, and Promotion Act. Introduced Feb. 14 by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), this bill would promote botanical research and botanical sciences capacity. Referred to the House Committees on Natural Resources, Agriculture, Armed Services, Transportation and Infrastructure, and House Administration.
- H.R.1085. Buffalo Tract Protection Act. Introduced Feb. 15 by Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), this bill would withdraw certain Bureau of Land Management land from mineral development. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources. Companion bill is S.390.
- H.R.1099. North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act. Introduced Feb. 15 by Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA), this bill would extend the authorization of appropriations for allocation to carry out approved wetlands conservation projects under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act through fiscal year 2022. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
- H.Con.Res.27. Introduced Feb. 15 by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), this concurrent resolution expresses the sense of Congress that America’s federal public lands are national treasures that belong to all Americans. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources.
- H.R. 1105. Stop WOTUS Act. Introduced Feb. 16 by Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), this bill would repeal the rule entitled “Clean Water Rule: Definition of ‘Waters of the United States.'” Referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
- H.R. 1106. Small Tracts Conveyance Act. Introduced Feb. 16 by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), this bill would provide for the conveyance of small parcels of National Forest System land and small parcels of public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management to private landowners, state, county, and local governments, or Indian tribes whose lands share a boundary with the National Forest System land or public lands. Referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Agriculture.
- H.R. 1154. Introduced Feb. 16 by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), this bill would provide for the establishment of nationally uniform and environmentally sound standards governing discharges incidental to the normal operation of a commercial vessel. Referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
- H.R. 1170. Introduced Feb. 16 by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), this bill would require each federal agency to review rules made after the enactment of the Congressional Review Act to ensure that all such rules were made in compliance with the Act. Referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
- H.R. 1179. Introduced Feb. 16 by Rep. Tom Price (R-SC), this bill amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act with respect to citizen suits and the specification of disposal sites. Referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
- H. Con. Res. 29. Introduced Feb. 16 by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), this concurrent resolution expresses the sense of Congress regarding the need for increased diversity and inclusion in the tech sector, and increased access to opportunity in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) education. Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
- Joint Resolutions: The House introduced several more joint resolutions providing for congressional disapproval of various Obama-era regulations: BLM rule on standards for measuring and reporting gas removal or sales; DOI rule on take of wildlife on Alaska Wildlife Refuges; DOI rule on drilling on the Arctic Outer Continental shelf; DOI’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue rule related to oil, gas, and coal valuation; BLM rule on oil and gas operations and leases.
BLM Resource Advisory Councils:
- Wyoming Resource Advisory Council (March 1-2)
- Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council (March 2)
- Mojave-Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council (March 2)
- Coastal Oregon Resource Advisory Council (March 14-15)
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service:
- Western Pacific Fishery Management Council (March 6)
- New England Fishery Management Council
- Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council
NOAA Sea Grant Advisory Board (March 6-7)
USDA Forest Service Resource Advisory Committees and Boards:
- Butte County Resource Advisory Committee (Feb. 28)
- Lake Tahoe Basin Federal Advisory Committee (Feb. 28)
- Land Between The Lakes Advisory Board (March 2)
- Siskiyou Resource Advisory Committee (March 8-9)
Opportunities for Public Comment:
BLM Environmental Assessment for proposed St. George oil and gas lease parcels near Zion
Comment period extended from Feb. 10 to March 9.
EPA Draft Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2015
Notice of availability for public review and request for comments by March 17.
EPA Draft Field-Based Methods for Developing Aquatic Life Criteria for Specific Conductivity
Public comment period extended from Feb. 21 until April 24.
NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service:
- Pacific Halibut Fisheries
Proposed changes to the Pacific Halibut Catch Sharing Plan. Request for comments by March 15.
- Northeast Multispecies Fisheries
Notice of intent to prepare EIS and initiate scoping process related to Northeast multispecies fishery management. Request for comments by April 3.
Opportunities for Public Nominations:
NASA Federal Advisory Committees
Invitation for public nominations for service on four new federal advisory committees, including an Earth Science Advisory Committee, that advise NASA on science. Deadline for nominations is March 8.
FAQs Related to Programmatic Changes to the Systematics and Biodiversity Science (SBS) Cluster
Frequently asked questions on changes to NSF’s SBS Cluster are available.
First results from NASA’s Oceans Melting Greenland (OMG) mission
NASA program studying Greenland’s melting.
NRDC Sues Trump Administration for Suspending Protections for Endangered Bumble Bee
On Feb. 14, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the administration for illegally suspending the Fish and Wildlife Service rule to put the rusty patched bumble bee on the endangered species list.
The Conservative Case for Carbon Dividends
A group of Republican statesmen released a proposal for a carbon tax plan citing the “need for a conservative climate solution.”
NSF National Science Board Meeting
The National Science Board met on Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 in Arlington, VA, at the NSF headquarters. This was the first meeting with the board’s newly reorganized committee structure, which includes a new committee dedicated to engagement with external stakeholders.
Dakota Access Pipeline
The administration granted final approval for the project on Feb. 7. Construction has resumed and the tribes opposing its construction have reinvigorated their ongoing legal challenges to the pipeline. Protest camps were evacuated last week.
LCV releases scorecard on the second session of the 114th Congress
League of Conservation Voters’ annual congressional scorecard reviews members of Congress on environmental votes.
Green groups send letter on Endangered Species Act
280 organizations sent a letter to the National Governors Association urging them to reject changes to the Endangered Species Act.
ESA’s policy activities work to infuse ecological knowledge into national policy decisions through activities such as policy statements, Capitol Hill briefings, Congressional Visits Days and coalition involvement. Policy News Updates are bi-monthly summaries of major environmental and science policy news. They are produced by the Public Affairs Office of the Ecological Society of America.
Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership.