ESA Policy News: September 13, 2021

In this issue:

House Reconciliation Bill Includes Funding for Climate Science, Research Infrastructure
House Science Committee proposes nearly $11 billion for the National Science Foundation.

Executive Branch
Forest ecologist named OSTP assistant director for climate and biodiversity.

Federal judge strikes down the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule.

Puerto Rico governor declares ecological emergency in response to coral loss.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature holds World Conservation Congress.

Scientific Community
NSF requests input about EPSCoR investment strategies.

Federal Register opportunities

House Reconciliation Bill Include Funding for Climate Science, Research Infrastructure

Congressional committees are in the process allocating funds from the $3.5 trillion  reconciliation bill to agencies under their jurisdiction. The process is moving swiftly as leadership to advance President Biden’s domestic agenda. The Senate is similarly working on allocating the $3.5 trillion (see ESA Policy News, Aug. 16, 2021). Leaderships’ plan is to advance both the House and Senate versions of the bill this fall.

The House Natural Resources Committee and the House Science Committee passed their portions of the reconciliation bill out of committee Sept. 9.

The House Science Committee is proposing an additional $7.5 billion for the National Science Foundation to be spent over the next ten years to fund or extend new and existing research awards, scholarships, COVID relief and more. This includes $400 million for climate research and $700 million for minority-serving institutions (MSIs). NSF also receives $3.43 billion for research infrastructure, including $1 billion for academic facilities, of which $300 million is earmarked for Minority Serving Institutions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration receives $1.24 billion to spend through fiscal year (FY) 2026 on weather, ocean and climate research and forecasting while the Environmental Protection Agency receives $264 million for climate change research and development. NOAA also receives $765 climate adaptation and resilience.

The Department of Energy Office of Science receives $11.6 billion for infrastructure improvements and upgrade to the national laboratories.

The House Natural Resources Committee intends to spend $3 billion on the Civilian Climate Corps, divided among the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as $120 million for the NOAA Civilian Conservation Corps and $500 million for to the Bureau of the Tribal Civilian Conservation Corps. The House Agriculture committee allocates $2.25 billion for the Civilian Conservation Corps and $2.25 billion for Civilian Climate Corps.

The House Natural Resources Committee also plans to allocate $550 million to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for conservation 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.

The House Agriculture Committee allocates $3.65 billion for agricultural research facilities. The Agricultural Research Service receives $250 million, including funding for the USDA Climate Hubs. The Agricultural and Food Research Initiative, the USDA’s largest competitive grants program, receives a $500 million boost.

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 they have expressed concerns about the total price tag.

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Executive Branch

White House: Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy Eric Lander issued a memo to federal agencies outlining the White House’s priorities for research and development spending in fiscal year (FY) 2023. The memo names pandemic readiness and prevention, tackling climate change, critical and emerging technologies, innovation for equity and national security and economic resilience as priority areas. The White House urges agencies to prioritize climate adaption and resilience, nature-based climate solutions and improving monitoring of greenhouse gases and access to climate data.

The Office of Science Technology Policy is rounding out its climate team with the recent appointment of Patrick Gonzalez as assistant director for climate and biodiversity. Gonzalez is being tapped to advance President Biden’s climate and environmental agenda. He will assess the latest research for U.S. climate change and biodiversity conservation policies, including the 2050 net-zero emissions goal and the “30 by 30” conservation goal.

Gonzalez is a forest ecologist who is adjunct faculty at the University of California, Berkeley and the leading climate scientist for the National Park Service. He also contributed to the IPCC reports and served as an author on the reports of the IPCC, for which it shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He testified to Congress about the science of climate change wearing his UC Berkeley hat while also working for the NPS. Gonzalez carefully organized the Hill work by not using any federal resources for the effort and by clearly identifying himself as UC Berkeley staff while testifying and not as an NPS employee. The Trump administration tried to stop his appearances and he continued to testify and upheld scientific integrity.

EPA: A new report finds that the most severe harms of climate change fall disproportionately on socially vulnerable populations. The report defines socially vulnerable populations as individuals living in households with income that is at or below 200% of the poverty level, individuals identifying as Black or African American; American Indian or Alaska Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander; and/or Hispanic or Latino, individuals without a high school diploma and individuals ages 65 and older. A key finding of the report is that Black and African American individuals are projected to face higher impacts of climate change for all six impacts analyzed in this report when compared with all other demographic groups. One example is that Black and African American individuals are more likely to live in areas with the highest projected increases in childhood asthma diagnoses and with the highest projected increases in extreme temperature-related deaths. Hispanic and Latinos are especially have high participation in weather-exposed industries, such as construction and agriculture, which are especially vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures.

Interior: The Biden administration revealed that the Bureau of Land Management is reviewing a plan to open over 80% of the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska to drilling. The Trump administration finalized the plan in early January 2021. Interior Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Daniel-David directed the BLM to determine whether the plan is consistent with Biden’s executive order “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science To Tackle the Climate Crisis.”

Pebble Mine: The Biden administration asked a federal court to re-instate Obama-era protections for Alaska’s Bristol Bay Watershed, effectively reversing Trump-era permits allowing Pebble Unlimited to construct a gold and copper mine in the area. The administration says that this move is in line with a circuit court decision that the EPA could only withdraw the 2014 Proposed Determination vetoing the project “if the discharge of materials would be unlikely to have an unacceptable adverse effect.” The agency believes the Trump administration’s withdrawal notice did not meet the court’s standard. The Bristol Bay Watershed is home to the most productive salmon fishery in North America. Conservation groups and Alaska native groups strongly opposed the mine.

NSF: According to a press release, the National Science Foundation announced six new science and technology centers to advance ambitious, complex research in fields ranging from mechanobiology to particle physics to climate change. For decades, NSF science and technology centers have transformed cellular biology, combined scientific disciplines to enhance accelerator capabilities, and revolutionized real-time functional imaging by providing the ability to observe the activity of a single atom.

The release goes on with more detail, the centers will focus on establishing new scientific disciplines and developing transformative technologies that have the potential for broad impacts on science and society. The centers will shine light on emerging STEM fields to develop a globally competitive STEM infrastructure and conduct outreach to inform the public of breakthrough science.

The six science and technology centers include:

  • NSF Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet
  • NSF Center for Integration of Modern Optoelectronic Materials on Demand
  • NSF Center for Learning the Earth with Artificial Intelligence and Physics
  • NSF Center for Oldest Ice Exploration
  • NSF Science and Technologies for Phosphorus Sustainability Center
  • NSF Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems

Visit this link to read the entire press release announcement.

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Climate: A federal judge in Missouri dismissed a case filed by 13 Republican Attorneys General seeking to block the Biden administration’s efforts to use the social cost of carbon while crafting regulations. A Biden executive order established an Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases and directed the working group to publish interim values for the “social costs” of greenhouse gas emissions and determine a final value for the social cost of carbon. The judge ruled that the lawsuit was too early for the states to demonstrate harm from the executive order.

A federal judge in Louisiana will consider a similar case Sept. 16.

Clean Water Act: A federal judge sided with Native American tribes and struck down the Trump administration’s “Navigable Waters Protection Rule” that replaced the Obama administration’s Waters of the US Rule (WOTUS) that included protections for ephemeral streams and wetlands that do not have surface connections to intermittent or perennial streams.

The EPA and Army Corps of Engineers has successfully argued during other recent Clean Water Act court challenges to leave the Trump rule while the administration crafts a new regulation, but the judge struck down the rule because it would possibly lead to serious environmental harm if it is left in place. The agencies aim in arguing to leave the Trump rule into place was to allow them time to rewrite the rule for a more “enduring” definition of the rule.

ESA and the Consortium of Aquatic Science Societies actively supported the 2015 Waters of the US Rule and opposed the Trump administration’s rollback of the rule, citing the 2015 rule’s strong basis in the peer-reviewed science. In 2017, ESA joined the Society of Wetland Scientists, American Fisheries Society, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Phycological Society of America, Society for Ecological Restoration and Society for Freshwater Science to endorse a scientists’ Amici Curiae Brief in support of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.

In June 2021, the Biden administration had announced that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are crafting a new version of the rule.



Biodiversity: Indigenous delegates to the International Union on the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress launched a “Global Indigenous Agenda” calling for further recognition of indigenous rights, indigenous management of natural resources and strengthening Indigenous leadership in decision-making processes.

Indigenous leaders and conservationists also called to protect 80% of the Amazon River basin by 2025, with indigenous people managing protected areas. The groups called on governments to recognize 100% of indigenous lands and ban extractive industries on those lands. Currently, 45% of the Amazon River basin is protected.

IUCN members elected Razan Al Mubarak to serve a four-year term as the president of the organization. Al Mubarak is the Managing Director of Abu Dhabi’s Environment Agency and the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund. She is the first woman from the Arab world to lead the IUCN. Al Mubarak replaces retiring IUCN President Zhang Zinsheng.

IPBES: The draft Natures Futures Framework and methodology is open for external review through Oct. 31, 2021. To ensure the highest scientific quality and policy relevance of the draft nature futures framework and methodological guidance, IPBES is seeking the widest possible participation from experts from all relevant disciplines and backgrounds. The international body will also hold three online workshops for stakeholders across time zones Oct. 6.

Climate: Climate Central and Covering Climate Now will hold a series of briefings, targeted towards journalists, ahead of the Conference of Parties 26 taking place in Glasglow in October and November. The Sept. 15 briefing will provide background on the most relevant science, politics, justice, and solutions. Then, drawing on the recent IPCC report, the panelists will explain why it is imperative to limit future global warming to 1.5 C and how that can be accomplished. Finally, they will explain the processes of UN summits, how progress is (or is not) achieved and key players to watch.

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Scientific Community

NSF: As part of the Future of the National Science Foundation Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NSF EPSCoR) visioning process, NSF invites the public to provide input on NSF EPSCoR’s investment strategies and opportunities for increased success. Consideration will be given to all comments received by Oct. 11, 2021.

Stakeholders can submit comments anonymously. Stakeholders who include their contact information may receive an email to follow up on their input and/or an invitation to participate in a future opportunity through the Future of NSF EPSCoR visioning activity. 

NASEM: The National Academies is seeking nominations for 15-35 Climate Security Roundtable members drawn from academia, the private sector, and civil society, as well as government. Nominees will possess a mix of expertise, including the biological and ecological sciences. This roundtable will provide support to the Climate Security Advisory Council, which is a joint partnership between the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Federal Science community to better understand and anticipate the ways climate change affects U.S. national security interests. The Roundtable’s Statement of Task can be viewed on the project website. Nominations are due Sept. 30, 2021.

As part of the National Academies Climate Conversations webinar series, University of Georgia meteorologist Marshall Shepherd will moderate a conversation with former FEMA administrator Craig Fugate and Marissa Aho of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources about the connections between climate change and extreme events Sept. 15 at 3:00 pm eastern. The event will cover how communities and governments at different scales can plan for and become more resilient to the risks from extreme events today and into the future. 

Research!America: The 2021 National Health Research Forum runs this week Sept. 13-15 and is free and open to all. All content can be accessed to by registering here: American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO Sudip Parikh will moderate a discussion about whether current policy efforts are sufficient to equip our nation with the S&T capabilities to out-innovate threats, compete in the global economy, and collaborate internationally to maximize S&T progress with NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan and NAS President Marcia McNutt and others. First Lady Jill Biden will also offer remarks.

Awards: The Golden Goose Award Virtual Ceremeony will take place Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 4:00pm eastern. This annual award honors federally funded research with silly-sounding or obscure beginnings that has gone on to have enormous societal impact. This year’s ceremony will recognize three teams of researchers whose work demonstrates how scientific and technological advances that result from foundational scientific research supported by the federal government can profoundly impact society in unforeseen ways. Please RSVP here by Sept. 21.

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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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