Policy News: June 28, 2021

In this issue:

House Science Committee Advances NSF for the Future Act
Bill increases authorized funding for the National Science Foundation to $17.9 billion in FY 2026.

Senate confirms NOAA administrator.

Executive Branch
EPA announces new members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.

Federal judge strikes down Biden executive order putting an indefinite hold on new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters.



Scientific Community
Presidents of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine issue statement about science and investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Federal Register opportunities

House Science Committee Advances NSF for the Future Act

The House Science Committee advanced the NSF for the Future Act (H.R. 2225) and the Department of Energy Science for the Future Act (H.R. 3593) to the full House. Both are authorizing bills that give appropriators permission to provide funding amounts, but the appropriators may chose to decrease yearly funding. Additionally, the bills provide guidelines for agency policies.

The full House is expected to vote on both the DOE Science for the Future Act and the NSF for the Future Act this week.

The bills reauthorize the Department of Energy Office of Science and the National Science Foundation through 2026. The NSF for the Future Act is the House’s response to the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260), formerly known as the Endless Frontier Act. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act passed the full Senate in early June. The House NSF bill creates a new Science and Engineering Solutions Directorate within NSF and authorizes funding for this directorate at $1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2022. The Directorate’s budget reaches $3.4 billion in FY 2026. In total, the NSF for the Future Act increases authorized funding for NSF to $17.9 billion by FY 2026. The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act increases authorized NSF funding to $29 billion by FY 2026.

The Department of Energy Science for the Future Act increases recommended funding levels for the Office of Science to $11.1 billion by 2026. Congress funded the DOE Office of Science at $7 billion in FY 2021.

House Science Committee members approved a handful of amendments for the NSF for the Future Act during the committee hearing:

  • An amendment from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) decreases authorized topline NSF funding to $17.9 billion in FY 2026 from the $18.4 billion proposed in the original version of the bill and decreases funding for the new Science and Engineering Solution directorate to $3.5 billion from $5 billion.
  • Another amendment from Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA) directs NSF to fund research about graduate student mental health and well-being.
  • The full Committee also approved amendments adding solar radiation management and wildfire science to the list of climate change research topics funded by the bill.
  • An amendment from Rep. Randy Feenstra (D-CA) prohibits NSF from funding scientists who participate in a “foreign talent recruitment program” including those supported by China, Russia, North Korea, Iran or any country deemed to be a country of concern by the State Department.

ESA has endorsed the NSF for the Future Act and issued an action alert encouraging individual members to sign on to a scientific community letter supporting the NSF for the Future Act.


Senate: The full Senate approved the Growing Climate Solutions Act (S. 1251) with a bipartisan, nearly unanimous vote. This bill creates USDA programs to increase farmers’ access to voluntary carbon markets and help farmers adopt “climate-smart practices.” Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Ranking Member John Boozman (R-KS) and Committee Member Mike Braun (R-IN) are the bill’s lead sponsors. The bill has 55 sponsors and co-sponsors total, including 27 Republicans and 27 Democrats.

House: The full House of Representatives voted to overturn a Trump administration rule that stopped the EPA from directly regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. The Senate voted to overturn this rule in April 2021. This measure effectively restores Obama-era methane regulations, which could eliminate emissions of 400,000 tons of methane through 2030.

Appropriations: The House Appropriations Committee’s Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA funding bill includes a 10% increase for agriculture programs, including $3.324 billion for the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This amount represents a 7.3% increase for these agencies.

The Interior-Environment funding bill includes a half-billion dollar increase for programs in the Department of the Interior, the EPA and the US Forest Service. This includes a $2.11 billion increase for the Environmental Protection Agency over FY 2022. 

  • The U.S. Geological Survey receives an 18% increase to $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2022.
  • House Appropriators increase funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to $1.9 billion, a 17% increase.
  • The Bureau of Land Management receives an 18% increase and the National Park Service receives an 11% increase.
  • The U.S. Forest Service receives a $680.5 million increase for discretionary programs.

The committee will hold a hearing for its bill funding the National Science Foundation, NOAA and NASA July 12.

Nominations: The Senate confirmed a group of environmental nominees, mostly with wide bipartisan support.

  • Senators confirmed Richard Spinrad to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by a voice vote. Spinrad is a professor of oceanography at Oregon State University. He served as NOAA’s chief scientist from 2014 and 2016 and has also led both NOAA’s Office of Atmospheric Research and the National Ocean Service. NOAA did not have a Senate-confirmed administrator during the Trump administration.
  • Senators also confirmed Shannon Estenoz to the Interior’s assistant secretary of fish and wildlife and parks by a voice vote. Estenoz led Everglades restoration initiatives in the Interior Department during the Obama administration and received ESA’s 2016 Regional Policy Award. This position oversees the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • The Senate confirmed Radhika Fox to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant administrator for water. Fox is the former CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance. Most Senate Republicans opposed Fox’s nomination over concerns about the EPA’s plans to repeal the Trump administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • Senators also confirmed Tanya Trujillo as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary of Interior for water and science. This position oversees the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation. Trujillo formerly led the Colorado River Board of California and worked for the Interior Department during the Obama administration.
  • The Senate voted 88–9 to confirm Tommy Beaudreau as deputy secretary of 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.

Senate Commerce Committee: The full Committee voted to advance serval ocean-related bills to the full Senate:

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)’s South Florida Clean Coastal Waters Act (S. 66) tasks the Interagency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms with developing a plan for reducing, mitigating, and controlling harmful algal blooms and hypoxia in South Florida.
  • Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) ’s Regional Ocean Partnership Act (S.1894), which formally authorizes the Regional Ocean Partnership Program and authorizes $10 million annually to NOAA for this program through fiscal year 2026. Regional Ocean Partnerships bring together the federal government and state, local and tribal governments and other stakeholders to address ocean and coastal issues. Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL introduced a companion bill (H.R. 3817).
  • Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-WA) ’s Fish Restoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act ( 1995), which reauthorizes the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. This fund supports about $650 million annually in fishery restoration and conservation programs, boating access and infrastructure and fish stocking programs.
  • Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ’s Fluke Fairness Act (S. 1747) requires the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to create a management plan for the summer flounder fishery and prohibits state-by-state quotas for summer flounder based on historical landings data.

House Natural Resources Committee: Committee members held a legislative hearing for a dozen oceans-related bills to the full House, as well as a package of ocean bills titles, the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act (H.R. 3764). Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) said that these bills could be considered by the full House as stand-alone bills or as package. A provision in the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act places a five-cent tax on virgin, single use plastic products.

  • The Bolstering Long-term Understanding and Exploration of the Great Lakes, Oceans, Bays and Estuaries (BLUE GLOBE) Act (H.R. 3728) directs the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee, the Federal Geographic Data Committee and the Interagency Committee on Ocean and Coastal Mapping to expand their ocean and Great Lakes monitoring and data collection collaboration and efforts.
  • The Marine Mammal Climate Change Protection Act (H.R. 3692) which requires the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop climate impact management plans for marine mammals that are at significant risk due to climate change.
  • The Blue Carbon for Our Planet Act (H.R. 2750) establishes an Interagency Working Group on Coastal Blue Carbon.
  • The National Coastal Resilience Data and Services Act (H.R. 3228) directs NOAA to collect and centralize data on flood risks across the nation. This central database entitled the National Coastal Data Information System, would help coastal communities prepare for future natural disasters through data analysis product development and the collection of maps and data on rising sea levels.
  • A bill (H.R. 3864) from Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD) requires NOAA to fund grants oyster conservation, management and restoration research in estuarine ecosystems.

Legislative updates:

  • Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) introduced a bill (H.R. 3952) that requires set standard for the NOAA chief scientists. Specifically, the bill requires that the chief scientist have an established record of producing work of scientific merit and be highly respected by the scientific community. The bill also requires the chief scientist to establish and enforce scientific integrity standards within NOAA and to provide yearly public reports on NOAA’s scientific work.

More News:

Executive Branch

White House:  The Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a request for information to help improve the effectiveness of federal scientific integrity policies. Specifically, the notice seeks information the effectiveness of current federal scientific integrity policies, good practices to improve scientific intergrity policies and concerns that federal scientific integrity policies should address. Responses to this request for information are due July 28, 2021.

Infrastructure: President Joe Biden and congressional negotiators announced that they have reached an agreement on a framework for an infrastructure bill. This bill will include funding for roads, public transportation and electric vechicles charging stations as well $47 for climate resilency projects but does not include many of the climate provisions orginally proposed by the adminstration. Congressional leader expect to take up this legislation in July.

National Monuments: Interior Secretary Debra Haaland has recommended that President Biden restore the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments in Utah to their original size. Former President Donald Trump shrank the size of both of monuments in 2017. President Obama established the Bears Ears National Monument in late 2016 and President Clinton created the Grand Staircase-Escalate National Monument in 1996. Native American Tribes, environmental groups and scientific societies challenged Trump’s decision to shrink the monument in the courts. Now, President Biden must make a final determination regarding the national monuments.

EPA: Administrator Michael Regan reconstituted the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and announced seven new committee members. Regan dismissed all CASAC members in March 2021, citing concerns about scientific integrity. University of Washington biostatistics professor Lianne Shephard will chair the CASAC. Shepard previously served on the committee during the Obama administration but left when the Trump administration instituted a ban on grantees serving on EPA scientific advisory committees. Other previous CASAC members returning to the committee are retired University of Rochester pulmonologist Mark Frampton, Georgia Department of Natural Resources air quality modeling and monitoring expert James Boylan and Desert Research Institute research professor Judith Chow. The new CASAC members are Christina Fuller, an associate professor of environmental health at Georgia State University; Alexandra Ponette-González, an associate professor of geography and the environment at the University of North Texas; and Michelle Bell, a professor of environmental health at Yale University’s School of the Environment.

The EPA also opened a call for nominations to serve on the CASAC Particulate Matter Panel. This panel will advise the CASAC about Clean Air Act standards for particulate matter and will be involved in the agency’s reconsideration of the December 2020 decision to retain the PM National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Nominations for this panel are due July 16, 2021.

The EPA’s deputy principal deputy administrator for research and development Jennifer Orme-Zaveleta will retire from the agency July 31. Orme-Zaveleta led the EPA’s Office of Research and Development as a career official for all of the Trump administration. The Trump administration never named a political appointee to this position.

NOAA: The Biden administration named Janet Coit to lead NOAA Fisheries, which manages commercial and recreational fisheries in U.S. federal waters, marine mammal protection and marine protected species conservation. Coit was the director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for ten years. This position does not require Senate-confirmation. Coit will also serve as the assistant secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator, overseeing all of the agency’s coastal and oceans work.

USFWS: The agency released a list of 269 Birds of Conservation Concern. USFWS uses this list to identify conservation projects to fund under the American Wetlands Conversation Act and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. This is first list of Birds of Conservation Concern released since 2008. Notably, the number of birds on the Pacific Islands list increased from 23 in 2008 to 35 in 2021.

USDA: President Biden nominated Homer Wilkes to serve as the USDA’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment. Wilkes is a career USDA employee who currently leaders the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Restoration Team. This position oversees the US Forest Service.

More News:


Oil and Gas: A federal judge in Louisiana overturned a Biden executive order putting an indefinite hold on new oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters. Red states, including Louisiana, quickly moved to challenge this administration after Biden issued in late January 2021. The judge determined that Biden’s executive order violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

More News:





Scientific Community

NASEM: The Presidents of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine issued a statement urging that “investigations into the origins of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 be guided by scientific principles.”

NOAA: The National Weather Service will hold a webinar June 30 for partners about NOAA’s demonstration to support the National Centers for Environmental Prediction Numerical Weather Prediction data in the cloud. The webinar will provide:

  • Overview of NOAA’s Big Data Project and NOAA’s plans for the cloud demonstration
  • Feedback received to date and options for moving forward
  • Open discussion among all participants

Register for the webinar here and see more information here.

OECD: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is seeking scientists’ input on the issues relevant to the global scientific community to inform science policy, including working conditions and COVID-19. Scientists are urged to complete the 2021 International Survey of Science that “aims to provide a timely picture of the state of science to complement other available statistical evidence and indicators and provide new insights that inform science policy around the world.” The survey is available in multiple languages. The deadline to complete the survey is June 30, 2021.

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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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