Policy News: May 17, 2021

In this issue:

Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients Virtually Visit the Hill to Advocate for Science Funding and Research Relief 
Students requested $10.2 billion in federal funding for the National Science Foundation in FY 2022.

House and Senate Committee Approve Competing Proposals to Increase Funding for the National Science Foundation
NSF for the Future and Endless Frontiers Act advance in Congress.

Senate confirms deputy secretary of Agriculture.

Executive Branch
EPA receives 100 nominations for the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Idaho governor signs a bill to reduce wolf populations by 90%.


Scientific Community

Federal Register opportunities

Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients Virtually Visit the Hill to Advocate for Science Funding

Twenty-four ESA members and graduate students in ecology participated in virtual Hill visits, as a part of the 2021 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award. Before the Hill visits, students received policy and communications training, networked with ESA members working in policy and workshopped their messages with each other and ESA staff. This year’s award recipients are: Evelyn M. Beaury (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Gabriel R. Chavez (University of Colorado Denver), Daniel J. Desautels (Emory University), Brooke Eastman (West Virginia University), Emily A. Geest (Oklahoma State University), Sara L. Hamilton (Oregon State University), Katherine Hayes (University of Colorado Denver), Julia L. Indivero (University of Washington), M. Inam Jameel (University of Georgia), Sarah M. Klionsky (University of Connecticut), Jasmine Kreig (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Michael W.D. McCloy (Texas A&M University), Zechariah Meunier (Oregon State University), Micah C. Miles (University of Georgia), Zachary J. Miller (University of Missouri), Castilleja F. Olmsted (University of Pittsburgh), Melinda Paduani (Florida International University), Aradhana J. Roberts (Lund University), Milica Radanovic (Washington State University), Kate Ritzel (George Mason University), Gregor-Fausto Siegmund (Cornell University) and Jewel Tomasula (Georgetown University).

Students met with 25 congressional offices to request $10.2 billion in federal funding for the National Science Foundation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 and robust funding for all scientific research programs.

The meetings came shortly after the White House released the first details about its FY 2022 budget. Congress, particularly on the House side, is just beginning to develop the FY 2022 federal budget, so these visits were timely.

The GSPA participants shared personal stories of how federal funding makes their research possible, emphasized the importance of federal funding for their institutions, and described how federal investments in scientific research benefit the Members of Congress’ districts and states. They also discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their research careers. We look forward to seeing how the GSPA experience shapes their future career choices. Many GSPA alumni pursue fellowships and careers in the federal government.

House and Senate Committees Approve Competing Proposals to Increase Funding for the National Science Foundation

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the Endless Frontiers Act (S. 1260) after lengthy debate and significant amendments. The Endless Frontiers Act is Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Todd Young’s (R-IN) proposal to increase competitiveness with China by creating a new technology directorate at the National Science Foundation and authorizing $100 billion in NSF over five years.

Most significantly, lawmakers approved an amendment from Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) that reduces spending for the proposed NSF technology directorate and redirects $19 billion to the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories. Lujan, Sen. James Risch (D-ID) and other Senators from states with national laboratories have expressed concerns that the NSF technology directorate will unnecessarily duplicate and undermine the work of the national laboratories. Sen. Young called this amendment a “poison pill” amendment.

The Senate Commerce Committee also amended the Endless Frontiers Act to add several standalone STEM bills including the RISE Act (S. 289), the Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act and the Rural STEM Act. The RISE Act authorizes additional funding to science agencies to cover research disruptions and delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The Rural STEM Education Act (S. 1374) directs NSF to fund STEM education research focused on rural areas and efforts to increase rural students’ participation in STEM. The Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science Act (S. 1379) creates an inter-agency working group to coordinate federal science agency efforts to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment involving grant personnel and creates a competitive grant program at NSF for research about harassment and the development and assessment of policies, procedures, trainings and interventions intended to address and reduce harassment.

The full Senate will likely consider the Endless Frontiers Act later this week and vote on the bill later this month, where it could possibly be combined with the Strategic Competition Act and Safeguarding American Innovation Act. Universities and the scientific community have criticized both of these research security bills as overly restrictive and harmful to international collaboration in research. It is also unclear how the Endless Frontier Act will be funded or if appropriators will provide amounts close to the authorized funding levels in the bill. Another scenario would see Congress funding the Endless Frontiers Act as part of a larger infrastructure bill package. President Joe Biden included $50 million for an NSF technology directorate in his infrastructure plan.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee also held a subcommittee markup for the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and advanced the legislation to the full Committee. The NSF for the Future Act is the House Science Committee’s alternative to the Endless Frontiers Act. It creates a new Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate within NSF and authorizes funding for this directorate at $1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2022. Lawmakers recommend increasing funding for this directorate by 50 percent each year. The directorate’s budget reaches $5 billion in FY 2026. Before the subcommittee hearing, ESA and 29 other scientific societies and organizations endorsed the NSF for the Future Act. ESA cited the diversity and equity provisions in the bill and a section expanding the Graduate Research Fellowship Program.


Senate Commerce Committee: The Committee voted to advance the Bolstering Long-term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays and Estuaries (BLUE GLOBE) Act (S. 140), which is sponsored by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). This bill directs the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee, the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Interagency Committee on Committee on Ocean and Coastal Mapping to expand their ocean and Great Lakes monitoring and data collection collaboration and efforts. It also adds advancing or applying emerging technologies to the goals of the NOAA Cooperative Institutes. The bill creates a new ocean innovation prize, and tasks the National Academy of Sciences with assessing the potential for an Advanced Research Project Agency–Oceans (ARPA-O).

The Committee also approved the American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act (S. 497) which establishes an advisory committee of representatives of the fishing industry, recreational fishing community and fisheries science community to determine how grants for fisheries research, funded by fishery import duties, should be distributed. The lead sponsors for this bill are Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

Senate confirms Bronaugh as USDA deputy chief

By Ryan McCrimmon, PoliticoPro, 5-13-2021

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Jewel Bronaugh as deputy secretary of the Agriculture Department, making her the first Black woman to hold the No. 2 position at USDA.

Key context: The chamber approved Bronaugh’s nomination on a voice vote after an easy confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Agriculture Committee, where she was widely praised by lawmakers in both parties. She was previously Virginia’s agriculture commissioner.

“Her extensive experience shows she is more than capable of handling the significant responsibilities that come with the role,” ranking member John Boozman (R-AR) said in a statement. “Deputy Secretary Bronaugh is positioned for success at the department, and I look forward to working with her to help meet the needs of our farmers, ranchers and foresters.”

What’s next: Once she is sworn in, Bronaugh will help Secretary Tom Vilsack carry out several administration priorities, including distributing pandemic relief to farmers and hungry families; enlisting the agriculture industry in the fight against climate change; and bringing greater equity to USDA programs after decades of discrimination against farmers of color.

Legislative updates:

  • The full House approved a bill (H.R. 297) requiring the Department of Agriculture to study creating a national forest in Hawaii.
  • The House Financial Services Committee approved Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) ‘s Climate Risk Disclosure Act (H.R. 2570) along a party-line vote. This bill requires publicly listed companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and how climate change will impact their businesses to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has sponsored the Senate version of this bill (S. 1217).
  • Nevada’s Congressional delegation and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the Lake Tahoe Restoration Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3132) which authorizes $415 million for invasive species, wildfire prevention and water quality projects in the Lake Tahoe basin through 2034. Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 1583).

More headlines of interest:

Executive Branch

White House: Representatives for the Biden administration from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, NSF, NOAA and the Arctic Research Commission participated in the third Artic Science Ministerial. Country representatives pledged to take science-based action to slow climate change and ensure a sustainable arctic.

The White House launched a Scientific Integrity Taskforce. The taskforce will be co-chaired by representatives from the EPA, the Department of Education, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Institutes of Health under the leadership of the OSTP Deputy Director for Science and Society Dr. Alondra Nelson, with assistance from OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Energy Dr. Jane Lubchenco:

“Scientific and technological information, data, and evidence are key to the development of effective policies and equitable program delivery throughout government,” wrote OSTP Deputy Directors Nelson and Lubchenco to Scientific Integrity Task Force co-chairs and members. “As evidence-based policymaking becomes increasingly central to the work of the Federal government, it is important to affirm, strengthen, and safeguard the policies, procedures, and diverse and inclusive communities of practice that facilitate the production of rigorous research evidence, free from interference or intervention.”

The taskforce will also include representatives from across the federal government. 

The White House posted a readout of the meeting, 

Biden trade chief wants to put Paris Climate Accord in Trump’s USMCA deal

By Doug Plamer, 5-13-2021, PoliticoPro

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai said on Thursday that she would ask Canada and Mexico at a trilateral meeting next week to update the nearly one-year-old U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement to include a binding commitment for all three countries to honor the Paris Climate Accord.

“I think that would be a great opportunity to do so,” Tai told Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) during a hearing on President Joe Biden’s trade agenda.

Left out of the new NAFTA: House Democrats had wanted to incorporate the Paris Climate Accord in the USMCA, which replaced the NAFTA pact negotiated in early 1990s, but they were rebuffed by President Donald Trump’s administration.

However, Biden has set about reversing many of his predecessor’s environmental actions, including Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord.

The USCMA already requires the three countries to adopt and implement measures to fulfill obligations under seven environmental agreements, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Adding the Paris Climate Accord as an eighth agreement would be a victory for progressive Democrats.

Tai is scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting next week with Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng and Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier to discuss implementation of the USMCA, which went into force on July 1, 2020.

The three ministers have a long list of other issues to discuss, including a dairy case brought by the Trump administration against Canada and new labor complaints filed by Mexico and the United States against each other.

Tai evasive on new trade agreements: During the hearing, Republicans and some Democrats pressed Tai to indicate how soon the Biden administration would begin negotiating its own new trade agreements.

“The Biden administration’s trade agreement moratorium needs to cease,” House Ways and Means Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) said. “It’s not enough to buy American. We need to sell American all throughout the world.”

The Trump administration left behind unfinished deals with Kenya and the United Kingdom, and many Republicans favor U.S. reentry in the Trans-Pacific Partnership despite Trump’s decision to pull out of the pact in 2017.

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) has also called for the Biden administration to negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union.

A key step in pursuing all of those negotiations would be renewal of trade promotion authority, which expires at the end of June. That legislation allows the White House to submit trade agreements to Congress for a straight up-or-down vote without any amendments, greatly facilitating their approval.

In the past, Congress has approved TPA mostly with Republican votes and relatively few Democrats to provide the margin of victory. Tai said she did not want to go down that route.

“In order to do this right, I am interested in having a TPA that is robustly supported in a bipartisan, bicameral way here in Congress,” Tai told Brady.

But when the Texas Republican repeatedly pressed Tai to say when the White House and Congress might begin talks on a renewal package, she gave no clear response.

“If I say this year, is there any chance you could just give us a big wink?” Brady asked.

“Well, let me say this. Let’s do the work. Let’s let’s do the thinking,” Tai responded.

EPA: The agency received 100 nominations for the seven-member Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). EPA Administrator Michael Regan dismissed all CASAC and Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) members in March 2021, citing concerns about scientific integrity. Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Andrew Wheeler stacked the Scientific Advisory Board with industry-friendly scientists. However, the SAB repeatedly opposed major Trump administration rules, including the ‘Transparency in Science’ rule and the Trump administration’s revisions to the Waters of the U.S. rule.

The nominees include four of the individuals fired from the CASAC in March and several former CASAC members. Public comments on the nominations are due June 1. Regan is expected to announce his appointments to the CASAC by Oct. 1, 2021.

The list of nominations for the SAB are expected later this month.

Regan and the EPA’s top water official, Radhika Fox, announced that the agency will hold listening sessions across the country this summer and fall to seek stakeholder input about how the agency should define streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. The Biden administration is currently reviewing the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which replaced the Obama administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule.

Climate: The Environmental Protection Agency released its Climate Change Indicators report for the first time since 2016. The report finds the nation is experiencing unprecedented change from sea-level rise and flooding on the coasts, permafrost loss in Alaska and record heatwaves in cities. These indicators inform the National Climate Assessment.

More headlines of interest:


Idaho: Governor Brad Little (R) signed a bill that expands wolf hunting in the state and creates a program for the state to hire contractors to kill wolves to reduce populations by 90%. The bill passed the state legislature with the support of the cattle industry and hunting interests.

Scientific Community

NAS: The Division of Behavioral and Social Science and Education will convene a two-day national summit Addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in 21st Century STEMM Organizations June 29-30. The summit will highlight how racism operates at different levels in science, technology, engineering, math, and medicine (STEMM) settings.



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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.

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