Special Policy News #7: The Transition

In this issue:


Biden administration requests 16% increase in domestic spending, $4 billion for climate and sustainability research
Budget request includes $10.2 billion for NSF.

Interior creates climate taskforce, rescinds Trump-era secretarial orders
The taskforce will “coordinate work across the [Interior] Department, including accelerating renewable energy development and identifying actions to foster investments in energy communities.”

Senate confirms Brenda Mallory as Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Executive Branch
Senate to hold confirmation hearings for NASA and OSTP nominees. Biden announces nominations for top Interior positions.




Scientific Community

Upcoming Events
The first Nobel Prize Summit will focus on sustainability.

Federal Register opportunities

Biden administration requests 16% increase in domestic spending, $4 billion for climate and sustainability research

See article.

See also:

Interior creates climate task force, rescinds Trump-era secretarial orders

by Ben Lefebvre, PoliticoPro

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland signed orders on Friday creating a climate task force and rescinding Trump-era secretarial orders that had made fossil fuel production on federal land a priority.

Details: The new task force will “coordinate work across the Department, including accelerating renewable energy development and identifying actions to foster investments in energy communities,” Interior said in a press release. The task force will include the deputy secretary, the position set to be filled by nominee Tommy Beaudreau, as well as the counselor to the secretary, Liz Klein, who’s nomination to the deputy secretary position faltered amid opposition in the Senate.

The task force will also work to improve and increase adaptation and resilience to the impacts of climate change, address current and historic environmental injustice, protect public health and conserve Department-managed lands, according to the order.

Among other things, the task force will review how to apply the social cost of greenhouse gas to environmental reviews of projects on Interior-managed land, according to the order.

A second secretarial order rescinds a dozen earlier orders from the Trump administration that pushed to expand energy production on public land and water, including measures that expedited permitting for fossil fuel projects and promoted offering as many federal acres as possible for oil production in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The Trump orders were “found to be inconsistent with, or present obstacles to, the policy set forth in” President Joe Biden’s January executive order directing agencies to focus on combating climate change and bolster clean energy jobs, the secretarial order states.

“I know that signing Secretarial Orders alone won’t address the urgency of the climate crisis,” Haaland said in a press release announcing the new orders. “But I’m hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a Department, have a mandate to act.”

Context: The new orders come as the Biden administration prepares to host a climate summit with international leaders next week. Interior has been delaying and rescinding actions taken during the Trump administration that had emphasized fossil fuel production, instead seeking to bolster clean energy and conservation measures.

What’s next: Haaland is scheduled to present the administration’s budget request to the House this week.


Nominations: The full Senate confirmed Brenda Mallory as the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality by a 53-45 vote. All Senate Democrats and Republicans Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Rob Portman (R-OH) voted for Mallory’s confirmation. Mallory is an environmental attorney who worked in President Obama’s Council on Environmental Quality and most recently for the Southern Environmental Law Center. This White House office oversees the National Environmental Policy Act’s implementation and advises the President on other environmental review and environmental quality issues. Mallory has vowed to address environmental justice and climate change in this role.

Climate: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) introduced a bills (S. 1072 & H.R. 2534) to create a Civilian Climate Corps, expand agricultural conservation programs, plant millions of trees and to expand wetland conservation.

Upcoming hearings:

More headlines of interest:

See ESA’s Legislative Tracker for more updates on legislation relevant to the ecological community.

Executive Branch

OSTP: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will be holding a confirmation hearing for Dr. Eric Lander’s nomination to serve as Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on Thursday, April 29, 2021 at 10 am ET. The live stream will be available on this Senate hearing page.

NASA:  The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing for NASA administrator nominee Bill Nelson who is the former senator from Florida April 21.  Check the Senate hearing page for more information.

White House: President Biden nominated Tommy Beaudreau to be deputy secretary of the Interior. Beaudreau is a former Obama administration official who served as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and chief of staff to former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. This nomination comes after the Biden administration withdrew Elizabeth Klein’s nomination to this post. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin reportedly opposed Klein’s nomination because she was too hostile to fossil fuels.

Biden also announced several other Interior and EPA nominations. All of these positions require Senate confirmation.

  • Shannon Estenoz to be assistant secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the Interior Department. Estenoz led Everglades restoration initiatives in the Interior Department during the Obama administration and received ESA’s 2016 Regional Policy Award. She has been serving as the principal deputy assistant secretary of fish and wildlife and parks, a non-Senate-confirmed position since the beginning of the Biden administration. This position oversees the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Tanya Trujillo, to be assistant secretary for Water and Science in the Interior Department. Trujillo formerly led the Colorado River Board of California and worked for the Interior Department during the Obama administration. This position oversees the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation.
  • Radika Fox to be the EPA’s assistant administrator for water. Before joining the Biden administration, Fox was the CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance, where she advocated for environmental justice and water equity. Fox has been the principal deputy assistant administrator for water since the beginning of the Biden administration.

Biden will reportedly nominate Tracy Stone-Manning, to be director of the Bureau of Land Management soon. The agency has not had a Senate-confirmed director since the end of the Obama administration. Stone-Manning is currently a senior advisor for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation and has been a top aide to former Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

EPA: Administrator Michael Regan announced that the Biden administration will increase environmental efforts in underserved, overburdened and tribal communities. Regan also directed agency staff to take steps to incorporate justice consideration in regulatory processes and increase engagement with pollution-burdened and underserved communities.

More Headlines of Interest






The Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has opened the second order draft of the chapters and the first order draft of the summary for policymakers of the sustainable use of wild species assessment for external review. The draft is open for expert review through June 10, 2021. IPBES will hold a stakeholder webinar on May 12 for all interested reviewers.

Scientific Community

NSF Seeks Recommendations for Membership on Directorate and Office Advisory Committees

The National Science Foundation (NSF) requests recommendations for membership on its scientific and technical Federal advisory committees.


Upcoming Events


  • The White House invited 40 world leaders to the Leaders Summit on Climate on April 22 and 23 that will be live streamed.  The Summit will reconvene the U.S.-led Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which brings together 17 countries responsible for approximately 80 percent of global emissions and global GDP.
  • Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for Sustainability and Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering will hold a series of seminars this spring about climate change with topics ranging from implications for agriculture, ecosystems and food systems and economic, ethical, and policy insights on the issue.
  • The Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program is partnering with the Smithsonian Institution and European embassies in Washington D.C. to launch an “Earth Optimism” conversation series focused on solutions and possibilities when it comes to climate risk, conservation and sustainability.
  • The first Nobel Prize Summit will bring together Nobel Prize laureates, scientists, policymakers, business leaders and youth leaders to explore the question: What can be achieved in this decade to put the world on a path to a more sustainable, more prosperous future for all of humanity?” The Nobel Prize Summit is hosted by the Nobel Foundation and organized by the National Academy of Sciences in partnership with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, and the Stockholm Resilience Centre/Beijer Institute. The virtual event takes place April 26-28. Register here.
  • The spring meeting of the National Academies of Sciences’ Water Science and Technology Board (WTSB) will feature discussion with federal agencies and Congressional staff on their water priorities in the coming years, as well as the science research and policy issues that need to be addressed to support action on those priorities. There will also be cross-cutting discussions among the invited speakers and WSTB members on high-priority issues in water quality, water quantity, and climate-related water issues. The meet will take place virtually on May 24-25. Register here.
  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the French government have agreed to hold the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2020 September 3-11, 2021 in Marseille, France. The event, originally scheduled for June 2020, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This event IUCN brings together the global nature conservation community, including top international experts in conservation science, policy and practice. Held every four years, the Congress allows IUCN’s 1,400 Member organizations, including states, civil society and indigenous peoples, to democratically determine the most pressing issues in nature conservation and actions to address them.

Federal Register Opportunities 

Upcoming Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

Visit this page on ESA’s website for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment. 

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.

Send questions or comments to Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@nullesa.org or Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager, Nicole@nullesa.org

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