ESA Policy News: August 16, 2021

In this issue:

New United Nations Climate Report Warns of a ‘Code Red for Humanity’
IPCC report warns world will reach 1.5 of warming earlier than expected.

Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Budget Resolution
Two measures total nearly $5 trillion in new spending, including money for climate resilience.

The hard part: Committee priorities for reconciliation
Senate leadership tasks committees with developing plans for $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.

Senate Appropriations Committee approves spending bills for agriculture and energy programs.

Executive Branch
President Biden announces USDA research and NOAA nominees.

Former Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists say she was fired for raising alarm about dolphin deaths.

Scientific Community
The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council and NOAA’s Scientific Advisory Board to meet.

Federal Register opportunities

New United Nations Climate Report Warns of a ‘Code Red for Humanity’

The Intergovernmental Panel on Panel on Climate Change released its sixth assessment report, ahead of the UN Conference of Parties Climate Meeting in Glasglow, Scotland in October and November 2021. The report paints a dire picture, with the world’s leading scientists predicting that the world will reach 1.5 degree Celsius of warming earlier than previously predicted. Under every climate scenario considered in the report, temperatures will continue to rise until at least “mid-century.” However, the world could avoid the more extreme scenarios in the report if governments sharply reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

The report’s authors conclude that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land and that widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere have occurred. Furthermore, human-induced climate change is already affecting every region across the globe as seen in weather and climate extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones.

World leaders agreed in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to try to limit to warming to 1.5 degrees. The IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C found any increases above this amount will result in widespread flooding, droughts and poverty. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial revolution in the late 19th century.

The report more directly links climate change to increases extreme weather events. Advances in attribution science since the last report was issued in 2013 have allowed experts to connect individual events to climate change with more certainty.

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Senate Passes Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Budget Resolution

The Senate passed two separate measures totaling nearly $5 trillion in new spending: a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and most recently a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that sets an amount of money for the Senate’s next infrastructure bill. Both bills include money for climate resilience. However, the budget resolution contains more money for climate initiatives, including the Civilian Climate Corps, and funding for social programs. The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill is more focused on hard infrastructure like roads and bridges, but it does include money for soft infrastructure too.

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill includes $47.2 billion for “resiliency” projects, which includes cyber security improvements, waste management, flood and wildfire mitigation, drought, and coastal resiliency, ecosystem restoration, heat stress and weatherization. The bill also contains $55 billion for water infrastructure which includes $10 billion for the clean-up of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other emerging contaminants. The highway provisions of the bill include $350 million for competitive grants for projects that reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. The bill includes other major climate provisions: $27.65 billion for electric grid resilience and infrastructure improvements, $7.5 billion for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $27 billion for clean energy research, development, demonstration and commercialization.

The $3.5 trillion budget resolution could be passed under reconciliation that would only require a simple majority to pass the Senate. All Senate Democrats would have to vote for the final package. It is unclear yet if Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kirsten Sinema (D-AZ) will vote for the bill. Both Senators voted for a procedural motion to advance consideration of the bill but have expressed concerns about the total price tag.

The Senate Budget Committee issued a memo to Democratic senators that provides direction to Senators on spending the $3.5 trillion upcoming infrastructure bill to include funding for the Civilian Climate Corps and a Native Civilian Climate Corps, a National Science Foundation research and technology directorate, climate research, coastal resiliency, research infrastructure at the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories and more. The total amount dedicated to these initiatives is to be determined. The memo also notes that one of the main goals of $3.5 trillion budget resolution is to make significant investment in tackling the climate crisis in US history and put the country on a path to meet President Biden’s climate change goals of 80% clean electricity and 50% economy-wide carbon emissions reductions by 2030.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that the House will not consider either infrastructure bill until both final bills have passed the Senate.

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The hard part: Committee priorities for reconciliation

by George Cahlink, E&E Daily, 8/12/2021 

When the Senate backed a massive budget package last week, it set off a monthlong sprint by committees to divide up $3.5 trillion among a host of domestic programs with a major focus on climate change.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said yesterday he’s already met with committee chairs and given them a Sept. 15 deadline for producing their share of the final legislation, which will be merged into a single reconciliation package in the Senate this fall without the threat of a filibuster. The budget plan gave each committee a spending or savings goal and listed some priorities they should pursue.

“Every committee chair is going to be meeting at least on a weekly basis, maybe more often with their members,” Schumer told reporters yesterday. “And we will do weekly Zooms with them as well. We’re going to be working very hard in the next few weeks.”

The legislation, the centerpiece of President Biden’s domestic agenda, promises historic efforts to curb climate change — from setting federal clean electricity standards to making unprecedented investments in environmental justice.

Here’s a look at the eight Senate committees that will have a lead role in drafting the bill’s energy and environmental provisions and what they may include.

Energy and Natural Resources

  • Allocation: $198 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)
  • Top Priorities: Clean Energy Payment Program; Energy Department climate research; consumer rebates to weatherize and electrify homes; financing for domestic manufacturing of clean energy and auto supply chain technologies

No committee will be watched more closely than ENR, which is aiming to establish a new federal program to meet Biden’s goal of achieving 80% clean energy by 2030.

The initiative, known as the “Clean Electricity Payment Program,” would set up direct payments to utilities to meet goals for delivering clean energy to consumers. Those that do not meet the goals would pay a fee. It’s seen as a way to quickly increase clean energy use without hiking electric bills for consumers.

But a major question is whether Manchin, a backer of fossil fuels, will go along with an effort that could eventually lead to less coal production in West Virginia. He has not ruled out supporting a clean energy standard, although he has been emphatic in saying he would fight any aimed at eliminating fossil fuels.

“I’m concerned about the energy for our whole country, how we are going to be able to maintain a reliable, affordable and dependable energy grid, not just a wish thing,” Manchin said this week.

Notably, a summary of the reconciliation priorities circulated by Senate Democrats says ENR will also look at “hard rock mining” without offering specifics. That could provide an opening for Manchin to direct federal assistance to coal communities hurt by a transition to cleaner energy sources.

Environment and Public Works

  • Allocation: $67 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE)
  • Top priorities: Clean vehicles; environmental justice; EPA climate and research programs.

EPW is likely to look to make investments in clean energy efforts that greens and progressives believe were overlooked or underfunded in the infrastructure bill — including clean vehicles and environmental justice programs.

Biden wants half of all cars sold in the U.S by 2030 to be electric, but some advocates warn the nation is lagging in the charging infrastructure to meet that mark.

A compromise in the bipartisan infrastructure bill provided about $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure, which is about half of what the Biden administration sought. Democrats could make up that difference in their partisan reconciliation bill.

Another area where EPW Democrats could shore up funding is in lead pipeline replacement, a top priority for environmental justice groups. Biden had initially requested $45 billion for repairing lines in communities across the nation, but only $15 billion was provided in the infrastructure bill.

The committee also has jurisdiction over any potential taxes tied to methane emissions, a proposal floated by some Democrats earlier this spring. It’s not clear, though, how serious that tax is being considered.


  • Savings target: $1 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Top Priorities: A clean energy tax overhaul; carbon import tax fee

An overhaul and expansion of clean energy taxes and the creation of a new fee for carbon imports could be among the thorniest issues to be worked out in the package.

Many environmental groups have said their top priority is expanding clean energy taxes, which they say would transform both the clean energy and clean transportation sectors. Nearly 200 House Democrats recently signed on to a letter calling for robust clean energy and clean transportation incentives in the bill’s tax title.

Wyden himself authored a partisan plan that passed his committee earlier this year that could serve as a starting point for negotiations. It consolidates more than 44 clean energy taxes into three technology-neutral tax provisions to encourage clean electricity, clean transportation and energy efficiency. He has proposed paying for the new breaks by ending fossil fuel subsidies.

Also in the mix is a recently proposed border carbon adjustment tax, favored by some moderate Democrats. It would place a fee on carbon-intensive goods imported from abroad.

Wyden and some progressives have been skeptical of the plan, warning its costs could be passed on to consumers via higher prices, but the proposal was nevertheless included in reconciliation instructions.

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

  • Allocation: $726 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA)
  • Top Priorities: Civilian Climate Corps; clean energy workforce development and training

The creation and scope of a new Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), favored by the White House and many Democrats, will be hashed out by HELP.

Murray has called for “landmark” spending on a climate package, including establishing CCC, but has not weighed in on how much money she wants.

Progressives, including Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), have pushed for upward of $100 billion for their effort, while other plans have ranged between $9 billion and $16 billion.

The assignment of CCC to HELP suggests it is likely to be housed in the existing AmeriCorps program, which the committee oversees. Some backers had initially favored a stand-alone effort.

House progressives says CCC is one of their top priorities and won’t support the package without robust funding, but have not set a specific level.

HELP is also likely to propose billions for clean energy workforce training to underscore a Democratic talking point that a shift in the energy economy will create new jobs.

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

  • Allocation: $37 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
  • Top Priorities: Electrifying federal vehicle and Postal Service fleets; electrifying and making federal building more energy-efficient; green procurement

Chair Peters, an ally of his state auto industry, is likely to welcome federal efforts to electrify vehicles that could build momentum for a similar shift in the commercial sector.

Biden earlier this year pledged to transition the current gas- and diesel-powered federal fleet to “clean energy” vehicles. The federal government currently owns more than 600,000 vehicles, not counting tens of thousands of Postal Service vehicles.

Republicans blocked the electrification effort in the bipartisan infrastructure plan, but Democrats are expected to push ahead with funding it in reconciliation.

The panel is also expected to provide billions of dollars to make energy-efficient upgrades and retrofits for federal buildings. Additionally, the committee is likely to get behind pilot “green” procurement programs that would require agencies to buy goods and services that comply with certain environmental standards.

Commerce, Science and Transportation

  • Allocation: $83 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
  • Top Priorities: Coastal resiliency; healthy oceans investments; modernizing the National Weather Service

Climate resiliency projects and environmental research are likely to get significant boosts under the reconciliation bill.

“There’s big priorities from everything from transportation to climate to NOAA,” said Cantwell this week. She has a track record of prioritizing climate research and is likely to direct more dollars to the National Science Foundation in the package.

She said investing in federal weather information is a “huge priority,” and she said getting better weather forecasts can help with both resiliency and global commerce.

Democrats are also expected to increase funding for the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund, a federal grant program that partners with state and local governments and other organizations on resiliency projects.

Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs

  • Allocation: $332 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Top Priorities: Healthier and sustainable public housing

Brown, a leading progressive voice in the Senate, is likely to direct billions of dollars toward housing efforts favored by the environmental justice community.

“We will go big on public housing and go big on help for first time homebuyers’ down payments and Section 8 vouchers and removal of lead in pipes,” Brown said this week. “We have lot of things on the agenda.”

The Banking panel, which has jurisdiction over federal housing, could spend billions to address environmental issues in current units, like lead pipes, and make energy efficiency upgrades to them. It also will make investments via Community Development Block Grants and Community Land Trusts to create more efficient and sustainable housing.

Notably absent from the reconciliation instruction is any mention of public transit. Brown has said the record-setting $39 billion for public transit in the bipartisan infrastructure deal makes it less of a priority in the budget bill.


  • Allocation: $135 billion
  • Chair: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
  • Top Priorities: Conservation; drought and forest management to reduce carbon emissions and prevent wildfires

Stabenow is likely to push to include a Senate-passed bill that would make it easier for farmers to access carbon markets.

Stabenow’s “Growing Climate Solutions Act,” S. 1251, cleared the Senate 92-8 earlier this summer, and would set up a Department of Agriculture program to certify companies and third-party providers in carbon credit markets to boost voluntary participation by farmers. It’s backed by the White House and many agriculture groups.

It could face resistance from progressives, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who worry it may lead to a certification system vulnerable to fraud and potentially allow companies to continue increasing emissions by purchasing offsets.

As wildfires rage in the West, investments are also expected in forest management techniques favored by environmentalists. Additional dollars are likely for USDA research aimed at helping farmers mitigate the impact of climate change.

Reporter Jeremy Dillon contributed.


Appropriations: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved spending bills for agricultural and energy programs for FY 2022. The agriculture bill includes $1.72 billion for the Agricultural Research Service, an increase of over 12 percent and $1.656 billion for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a 5.5% increase. These numbers are roughly similar to the amounts proposed in the House’s spending bills. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), the USDA’s primary competitive grants program, receives $445 million, a 2.3% increase. House Appropriators proposed $700 million for AFRI.

The Energy and Water Appropriations bill provides $7.49 billion for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. This is $464 million above the FY 2021 enacted level and $170 million more than the House bill.

It is likely that Congress will pass a temporary stop-gap measure to buy more time for funding negotiations and avert a government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts on October 1, 2021. The House passed most of its spending bills earlier this summer.

See ESA’s budget tracker for more details about the House appropriations bills and information about the appropriations process.

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Executive Branch

Nominations: President Joe Biden nominated Chavonda Jacobs-Young to be the US Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, the top scientific position at the USDA and Jainey Bavishi to be NOAA’s assistant secretary for conservation and management.  Jacobs-Young currently serves at the administrator of the Agriculture Research Service and she has led the National Institute of Food and Agriculture on a temporary basis. The Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics oversees the Agriculture Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, among other agencies. Jacobs-Young has a Ph.D. in wood and paper science.

The full Senate confirmed Todd Kim as the assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. This division s responsible for criminal and civil cases to enforce environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. Kim is the former solicitor-general for the District of Columbia and previously worked for seven years as an appellate attorney for the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

White House: Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Eric Lander announced that the White House will begin implementation of a research and security directive issued late in the Trump administration, amid concerns that the Chinese government is working to “illicitly acquire, and in some cases outright steal U.S. research and technology.” Lander also that it’s important that these policies do not “fuel xenophobia or prejudice.” The directive requires funding agencies to mandate that personnel named on grants disclose their participation in  “foreign government-sponsored talent recruitment program,” defined as “an effort directly or indirectly organized, managed, or funded by a foreign government or institution to recruit S&T professionals or students.” OSTP will issue implementation guidance for the directive within 90 days of Aug. 10. The White House is accepting public input by email at

Arctic: The Interior Department announced its intent to prepare a new environmental impact statement for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). A provision in the 2017 tax reform bill opened up the refuge to drilling and required the Bureau of Land Management to offer at least two oil and gas lease sales by December 2024. In September 2019, the Bureau of Land Management completed an environmental impact statement for the area and in January 2021, the Trump administration held a lease auction for drilling area, which attracted scant interest. President Joe Biden suspended drilling in the ANWR as one of his first actions in office.

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Scientific Community

EPA: The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council will hold a teleconference Aug. 18-19. The agenda includes discussion and deliberation of work group activity and recommendations to the EPA Administrator. Registration is required for the dial-in information.

NOAA: The agency’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) will hold a meeting Aug. 25. Agenda items include a Climate Working Group Review of the NOAA Climate and Fisheries Implementation Approach and the NOAA Coastal Inundation at Climate Timescales white paper, priorities for a weather research draft report and a Tsunami Science and Technology Advisory Panel Draft Report. Register for the meeting at the SAB website.

NSF:  The agency announced the 19 members of the Committee on the Future of Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). This committee will lead a process to evaluate the effectiveness of EPSCoR’s current investment strategies and whether there are novel strategies or changes to current strategies that would enable NSF EPSCoR to achieve its mission more effectively. The EPSCoR program aims to improve research infrastructure in states and jurisdictions that receive a comparatively small amount of NSF funding, enabling them to compete more successfully for federal R&D funding. The committee’s membership include James Rattling Leaf, Sr, who is the chair of ESA’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge section and a member of the ESA’s Public Affairs Committee.

Members of Congress are increasingly interested in the ESPCoR program. A provision in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, which passed the full Senate this summer, requires at least 20% of all NSF funds go to ESPCoR programs.

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