ESA Policy News: August 30, 2021

In this issue:

House passes $3.5 trillion budget resolution, paving the way for infrastructure bill.

Executive Branch
President Biden nominates Charles F. “Chuck” Sams to lead the National Park Service.

Federal judge cancels permits for “Willow” drilling project in Alaska.

New Mexico governor signs executive order creating a “30 by 30” conservation committee.

UN plans virtual Biodiversity Conference in October 2021 and in-person meeting in April and May 2022.

Scientific Community
Duke University event to discuss the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act with representatives from the White House and the Commerce Department.

Federal Register opportunities


House: The full House of Representatives approved a $3.5 trillion budget resolution, paving the way for House committees to write legislative text for an infrastructure bill. The House expects to pass its final bill in late September or October. The Senate is also working on allocating the $3.5 trillion and is expected to pass a bill in late September (see ESA Policy News, Aug. 16, 2021). The House also expects to pass the Senate’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill (see ESA Policy News, Aug. 16, 2021).

An internal House Natural Resources Committee document obtained by E&E News shows that the committee intends to spend $3 billion on the Civilian Climate Corps, $120 million for the NOAA Civilian Conservation Corps and $500 million for the Tribal Civilian Conservation Corps. The House Natural Resources Committee also plans to allocate $550 million to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, including $25 million each for conserving plants in Hawaii and insular areas, butterflies, freshwater mussels and desert fish and $10 million for wildlife corridors. The Climate Adaptation Science Centers receive $100 million. Under the plan, Congress will pay for these programs through increased royalties for drilling on federal lands and waters and others fees and taxes on polluters. The committee also hopes to repeal the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge leasing program through the reconciliation bill. The House Natural Resources Committee plans to hold a hearing for its section of the reconciliation bill Sept. 2.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told colleagues in a letter that passing both infrastructure bills would put the country on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030. Moreover, additional state-level and executive branch actions could bring the country on track to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, in line with the U.S. commitments Paris Climate Agreement.

Executive Branch

Nominations: President Joe Biden nominated Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III to be the director of the National Park Service. If confirmed, Sams would be the first Native American to lead the agency and the first Senate-confirmed National Park Service director since the Obama administration. According to the Interior Department announcement, he has held a variety of roles with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, most recently as their Executive Director. He has also had roles as the President/Chief Executive Officer of the Indian Country Conservancy, Executive Director for the Umatilla Tribal Community Foundation, National Director of the Tribal & Native Lands Program for the Trust for Public Land, Executive Director for the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Executive Director for the Community Energy Project, and President/Chief Executive Officer for the Earth Conservation Corps.

Sams holds a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Administration from Concordia University-Portland and a master’s of legal studies in Indigenous Peoples Law from the University of Oklahoma. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy. Sams is an enrolled member, Cayuse and Walla Walla, of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.

EPA: The agency announced that it will ban the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on food crops. This decision comes after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals directed the Environmental Protection Agency to ban the use of chlorpyrifos in instances where it harms workers and children.

Chlorpyrifos is widely considered dangerous for children’s brain development and can poison bees and other nontarget insects for up to 24 hours after application. In 2015, the Obama administration announced that it would ban chlorpyrifos, but former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt reversed that decision in 2017. The New York Times reported in 2019 that former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt killed a study by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, concluding that chlorpyrifos jeopardizes the survival over 1,200 endangered species.

Three draft biological evaluations from the EPA conclude that common insecticides – clothianidin, midacloprid and thiamethoxam – are “likely to adversely affect” federally threatened and endangered species. These insecticides are all neonicotinoids. The draft documents are open for public comment through Oct. 25, 2021.

Clean Water Act: A memo from the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers provides guidance about how the Biden administrations will implement a 2020 Trump administration Clean Water Act rule limiting states’ ability to block infrastructure projects over water quality concerns. The memo aims to maximize states’ flexibility and give states a year to review projects, the maximum allowed under the rule. The Biden administration intends to repeal this rule but leaves the rule in place in the interim.

Interior: The department will resume new oil and gas lease sales on public lands. President Joe Biden issued an executive order in January 2021, putting a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on public lands. Red states, including Louisiana, quickly moved to challenge the executive order in the courts. In June 2021, a federal judge in Louisiana issued a preliminary injunction stopping this executive order. The judge determined that Biden’s executive order violated the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Mineral Leasing Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.

A federal magistrate judge recommended Aug. 23 that a federal district court in Louisiana allow the state’s challenge to the oil and gas moratorium to advance. The Biden administration asked the court to dismiss this case.  The district court is expected to make a final decision in the coming weeks. In court filings, the Interior Department revealed that the agency plans to consider greenhouse gas emissions from proposed oil and gas lease sales in decision-making. This analysis could also allow the agency to comply with the court order while still blocking oil and gas development.

USFWS: The agency is proposing listing five Texas freshwater mussel species — the Guadalupe fatmucket (Lampsilis bergmanni), the Texas fatmucket (Lampsilis bracteata), Guadalupe orb (Cyclonaias necki), Texas pimpleback (Cyclonaias (=Quadrula) petrina) and false spike (Fusconaia (=Quincuncina) mitchelli) — as endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Additionally, USFWS is proposing listing Texas fawnsfoot (Truncilla macrodon) as a threatened species. The agency attributes the species status to declining water quality and quantity. This proposed rule also designates 1,944 river miles as critical habitat for the species. The proposed rule is open for public comment through Oct. 25, 2021.

USFWS is also proposing listing the Amur Sturgeon as an endangered species under this Endangered Species Act. This fish species is native to Russia and China and is threatened by illegal harvesting for meat and caviar. This proposed rule is open for comments through Oct. 25, 2021.

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Alaska: A federal judge canceled the permits for an oil drilling project on public lands on Alaska’s North Slope. The judge sided with conservation groups and ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management underestimated the project’s impacts on polar bear populations in their analysis of the project.

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IUCN: The IUCN World Conservation Congress will take place from Sept. 3-11 in Marseille, France. Offering both in-person and virtual participation, this inclusive event will enable broad engagement from around the world.

Its agenda states that the event will drive global action needed to address biodiversity issues, and offer a unique platform for government, business, and civil society to collaborate for nature conservation. In addition, the outcomes from the Congress will impact future meetings and decision-making bodies such as the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP-15 in Kunming, China.

CBD: According to the UN media release, host country China and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) announced dates for the UN Biodiversity Conference, which includes the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15), to be convened in two parts, the 10th meeting of Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (CP-MOP 10) and the 4th meeting of Parties to the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and  Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization (NP-MOP 4). The first part of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15/COP-MOP10/COP-MOP4) will be held virtually Oct 11-15, 2021. The second part of the UN Biodiversity Conference is scheduled for Apr. 25 – May. 8, 2022 will be held in-person to conclude negotiations and decide on the new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

This is the third time that the UN Biodiversity Conference has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

IBPES: There is an open call for fellows to participate in the upcoming IPBES nexus and transformative change assessments. Applications are due Sept. 20, 2021.

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Scientific Community

Afghanistan: ESA and 29 other scientific organizations sent a letter to the White House Office of Science and Technology asking the White House to give P-2 Priority designation visas to members of global professional societies and STEM professionals to facilitate their rapid evacuation from Afghanistan.

NASEM: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a new rapid consultation to address COVID-19 impacts on women in the workforce. Undertaken by the Societal Experts Action NetworkShort-term Strategies to Address the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Women’s Workforce Participation was sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The accompanying media release surmised, “The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession have led to major changes in women’s lives and employment, ranging from lost jobs to reduced working hours and increased caregiving responsibilities at home. Providing direct financial support, investing in the child care system, changing workplace policies to better support families, and promoting women’s access to male-dominated jobs are short-term strategies that policymakers can use to ease the harms of the pandemic and increase women’s participation in the post-COVID workforce.”

A NASEM report “Motivating Local Climate Adaptation and Strengthing Resilience” provides guidance for active and ongoing efforts to move science and data into action and to enable and empower applied research that will strengthen capacities for hazard mitigation and resilience in communities, across the nation, and around the world. The Federal Emergency Management Agency commissioned this report.

OCTO: A panel discussion on Sept. 28, organized by Open Communications for the Ocean, will address how to conduct marine science that impacts policy. The panel will feature insights and recommendations from researchers and decision-makers with expertise in applying research to policy in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Panelists will share their experiences, highlight useful resources for scientists, and discuss different approaches to improving research impact. Register here.

Duke University: The Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law’s seminar series “Conversations on Innovation: New Thinking and New Approaches” seeks to shed light on innovation policy issues that are on the horizon. The Sept. 9 program features Dr. Ronnie Chatterji, Chief Economist at the U.S. Department of Commerce and Kei Koizumi, Chief of Staff at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, in conversation with Stuart Benjamin of Duke Law. They will discuss the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260, formerly known as the Endless Frontiers Act) and  larger innovation and competition issues. In the short-, medium-, and long-term, how will we know if the Act is achieving its goals? What else will need to be done to ensure the future competitiveness of the American economy? This bill was approved by the Senate in June and is pending in the House. Register here.

RFF: Resources for the Future will host EPA Administrator Michael Regan for an event today at 3:30 eastern, discussing discuss the role of economic analysis in informing environmental rulemaking and policy, regulations for greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, EPA’s approach to environmental justice considerations and more.

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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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