Policy News: September 27, 2021
In this issue:
House passes stop-gap federal government funding measure, fate in the Senate remains unclear.
President Biden appoints 30 members to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.
Judge orders U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reconsider 2019 decision to not list Joshua Trees under the Endangered Species Act.
Illinois Governor signs climate legislation.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals report finds that 70% of protected species are hunted for wild meat.
National Academies report finds NSF should create Next-Generation Earth Systems Science Initiative.
Appropriations: House Democrats approved a stop-gap spending measure to keep the government open after fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The bill includes $28.6 bill for natural disaster response, recovery and resiliency. NSF receives $25 million to million to cover unanticipated Hurricane Ida related costs associated with NSF Regional Class Research Vessel construction and NASA receives – $321.4 million to repair NASA facilities and equipment damaged by Hurricanes Zeta and Ida. This funding expires Dec. 3. The package faces an uncertain fate in the Senate, where Senate Republicans oppose tying the passage of this stop-gap measure to raising the country’s debt ceiling.
Meanwhile, negotiations about the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package are likely to extend into October. House Democrats had set a deadline of Sept. 27 to pass the Senate’s bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. House Progressives want to send over its version of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill before passing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, while moderates want to pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill first and to reduce the overall size of the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
NDAA: The full House of Representatives debated the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4350), an annual bill that sets defense policy. During the floor debate, the full House approved several amendments relevant to public lands.
- Lawmakers approved an amendment adding the text of Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO)’s Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (H.R. 577) to the bill. The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act protects 400,000 acres of land in Colorado.
- The House voted to approve a provision from House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva that permanently bans new mining claims near Grand Canyon National Park.
- Member of Congress also approved parts of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO)’s Protecting America’s Wildnerness and Public Lands Act (H.R. 803). This amendment protects more than 1 million acres in Colorado, California and Washington State.
- The full Senate passed the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act (S. 273) which phases out large-mesh drift gillnets used in commercial fishing in the federal waters off the coast of California. The Senate also passed this bill last year before former President Donald Trump vetoed the bill.
- Dems seek ‘historic’ changes to U.S. flood program – E&E News
- Democrats Seek Billions for R&D at Minority-Serving Institutions – FYI
- Congress Weighs Major Expansion of EPSCoR Program – FYI
White House: President Joe Biden appointed MIT’s Maria Zuber, Caltech’s Frances Arnold and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Eric Lander to be the co-chairs of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and announced the 30 new members Sept. 22. The administration states that this is the most diverse PCAST in history. The membership includes former NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan. This group advises the president on “policy that affects science, technology and innovation, as well as science and technology information that is needed to inform public policy.”
Shortly before this announcement, Biden issued an executive order expanding the size of the PCAST from 26 to 32 members.
The National Science and Technology Council released a report about increasing diversity in STEM education and research, targeted towards federal agencies and written by an STEM inclusion interagency working group. The report notes that while women and individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups comprise about 43% and 38% of the total federal workforce, respectively; they only comprise 29% and 10% of the federal STEM workforce.
Nominations: President Biden nominated Christopher Frey to be the Environmental Protection Agency’s assistant adminstrator for research and development. Frey is a former chair of the EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and was a member of the CASAC Particulate Manner Review Panel that former EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler dismissed in 2018. He was a prominent critic of the EPA during the Trump adminstation. This position requires Senate-confirmation.
The STEM labor force report finds that the STEM workforce represented 23% of the U.S. workforce in 2019 and that unemployment was lower among the STEM labor force than the non-STEM labor force. This pattern persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The academic research and development report finds that biological and biomedical science and engineering have accounted for 60% of total research space growth from 2007 to 2019. The amount of institution support from universities for research and development has also increased over the past ten years — in 2019, institutional funds constituted more than a quarter of university R&D, up from less than a fifth in 2010. Overall, academic institutions perform about half of all U.S. basic research and federal agencies fund more than half of all academic research and development.
Interior: Secretary Deb Haaland told Bureau of Land Management staffers that the administration will move the agency’s headquarters back to Washington, DC. The Trump administration moved the BLM headquarters to Grand Junction, CO and relocated positions previously with a Washington, DC duty station to locations across the west. Almost 90 percent of headquarters employees chose to leave the agency instead of relocating. The Grand Junction office will remain the agency’s “western headquarters.”
USFWS: The agency announced that it is initiating an endangered species status review for the gray wolf in the western U.S., in response to a petition filed by environmental groups. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concludes that the petition presents credible and substantial information that human-caused mortality may be a potential threat to the species in Idaho and Montana, due to new state laws that permit increased wolf hunting. The Trump administration removed gray wolves from the endangered species list in November 2020. The species status review will likely take over a year and USFWS will accept new scientific information about the species throughout the review.
EPA: The Biden administration rescinded a guidance document issued late in the Trump administration applying the Supreme Couty case County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund. The court ruling found that the Clean Water Act requires a permit if a point source of pollution adds pollutants to navigable waters through groundwater, when the pollutants added are “the functional equivalent of a direct discharge” from the source into navigable waters. Environmental groups argued that the Trump administration’s guidance created a loophole for polluters and was inconsistent with the Supreme Court ruling. In a statement, the EPA agreed with this analysis, writing that the previous guidance reduced clean water protections by creating a new factor for determining if a discharge of pollution from a point source through groundwater that reaches a water of the United States is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge to such water. This factor skewed the “functional equivalent” analysis in a way that could reduce the number of discharges requiring a permit.
- Forest supervisor scales back Swan Valley logging project – Missoula Current
- Feds OK plan to cut salmon fishing when needed for orcas – Associated Press
- Farming boom threatens Biden’s climate and conservation ambitions – Food and Environment Reporting Network
- Biden asks world leaders to cut methane in climate fight – Reuters
- EPA to cut greenhouse gases thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide – Washington Post
- 6 tribes sue Wisconsin to try to stop November wolf hunt – Associated Press
- Trump Administration Broke The Law In Refusing To Protect Joshua Trees, Court Rules – Huffington Post
- A. County takes first steps to end urban oil drilling – The Los Angeles Times
- ‘There is no time to lose,’ Pritzker says as he signs energy legislation lawmakers say ‘gives our state a very clear future’ – Chicago Sun-Times
- Wyoming to Ask US to Lift Yellowstone Grizzly Protections – Associated Press
UN: During the annual United Nations General Assembly, President Joe Biden pledged $11.4 billion by 2024 in aid for developing counties to address climate change. Allocating this funding would require approval from Congress. Biden previously pledged to increase the US contribution up to $5.7 billion by 2024 from its current $2 billion contribution.
Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to end Chinese financing of new coal-fired powerplants outside of China and increase funding for renewable energy. China, South Korea and Japan provide 95% of foreign financing for coal-fired power plants. South Korea and Japan pledged to end their support earlier this year.
CMS: A new report from the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals finds that 70% of species protected by the convention are hunted for wild meat. The authors find that that the vast majority of taking of species for wild meat consumption is driven by direct use or domestic trade, rather than international trade. The report finds strong evidence that zoonotic disease outbreaks are linked to human activities. Human encroachment into remaining intact habitats through infrastructure and economic activities have made vast new areas accessible for wild meat taking, thus increasing the zoonotic risk by bringing humans in contact with new hosts and pathogens.
- Peru’s new president is controversial. Here’s why scientists have high hopes for him – ScienceInsider
- WHO slashes guideline limits on air pollution from fossil fuels – The Guardian
NAS: According to the press announcement for the new report, Next-Generation Earth Systems Science at the National Science Foundation, NSF needs to place and emphasis on research inspired by real world problems and it outlines six characteristics for the effort:
- Advance research that is driven by curiosity, as well as research that is driven by real-world needs and uses, across a range of locations and time spans.
- Facilitate the convergence of social, natural, computational, and engineering sciences to inform solutions to problems related to Earth systems — such as how to implement plans that avoid the worst impacts of flooding, by studying and understanding how human activities and climate change impact the water cycle.
- Ensure diverse, inclusive, equitable, and just approaches to Earth systems science.
- Prioritize engagement and partnerships with diverse stakeholders so that they are better included in the research process.
- Synergize observational, computational, and modeling capabilities to accelerate discoveries.
- Educate and support a workforce with the skills and knowledge needed to participate in an integrated research approach.
Committee on Independent Scientific Review of Everglades Restoration: As part of the ninth biennial review, the committee will hold a meeting Oct. 7 to discuss stormwater treatment area performance in support of Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan progress. Register for the virtual meeting here.
EESI: The Environment and Energy Study Institute will hold a briefing series for Congress ahead of the COP26 UN climate change conference. The first briefing is titled Creating Policies, Coalitions, and Actions for Global Sustainable Development and will take place Oct. 8. This briefing will feature Sir Robert Watson, the chair of both the former Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and former U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. Register here.
Upcoming Public Meetings:
- BLM – Northwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council Meetings (Oct. 20)
- BLM – Public Meetings of the Southwest Colorado Resource Advisory Council (Oct. 20-21)
- BLM – Public Meetings for the John Day-Snake Resource Advisory Council, Oregon (Oct. 21-22)
- DOE – Advanced Scientific Computing Advisory Committee Meeting (Sept. 29)
- DOE – Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board Chairs Meeting (Oct. 6-7)
- DOE – Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee Meeting Oct. 21)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors Executive Committee Meetings (Sept. 29, 30, Oct. 8, 20)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Air Climate and Energy Subcommittee Meeting- Oct. 2021 (Oct. 12-14)
- EPA – Public Meetings of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Particulate Matter Panel Oct. 12)
- Forest Service – Daniel Boone Resource Advisory Committee Meeting Sept. 29)
- Forest Service – Northern Utah Resource Advisory Committee Meeting Sept. 29)
- Forest Service – Southern Montana Resource Advisory Committee Meeting Oct. 6)
- Forest Service – Gallatin Resource Advisory Committee Meeting Oct. 13)
- Forest Service – White Pine-Nye Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Nevada) Oct. 14)
- Forest Service – Wenatchee-Okanogan Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 27)
- HHS – National Biodefense Science Board (Sept. 28)
- NOAA – Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee Meeting (Sept. 29)
- NOAA – Evaluation of National Estuarine Research Reserve Public Meeting (Oct. 20, public comments due Oct. 29)
- NOAA NMFS – New England Fishery Management Council Public Meeting (Sept. 28-30)
- NOAA NMFS – Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Public Meeting (Sept. 27-30)
- NOAA NMFS – North Pacific Fishery Management Council Public Meetings Sept. 30 –Oct. 15)
- NOAA NMFS – Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Public Meetings (Oct. 5 & 6)
- NOAA NMFS – Permanent Advisory Committee To Advise the U.S. Commissioners to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Meeting (Oct. 13)
- NOAA NMFS – New England Fishery Management Council Scientific and Statistical Committee Meeting (Oct. 13)
- NPS – National Park Service Alaska Region Subsistence Resource Commission Program Public Meetings (Lake Clark National Park SRC – Sept. 29, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park SRC – Sept. 28)
- NSF – Advisory Committee for Geosciences Meeting (Oct. 13-14)
- NSF – National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force Meeting (Oct. 25)
- State Department – Fourteenth CAFTA-DR Environmental Affairs Council Meeting (Oct. 14)
- USFWS – Alaska Subsistence Regional Advisory Council Meetings for 2021 (Sept. 27 – Nov. 4, 2021)
Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:
- ARS – Notice for Comment on Two Strategic Plans for the Subcommittee on Aquaculture Science Planning and Regulatory Efficiency Task Forces and on Updating the National Aquaculture Development Plan. Comments must be received by Oct. 4, 2021 (correction).
- BLM – Notice of Proposed Supplementary Rules for the Klondike Bluffs Area of Public Lands Managed by the Moab Field Office in Grand County, UT. Comments on the proposed supplementary rules must be received or postmarked by Oct. 18, 2021.
- BLM – National Call for Nominations for Resource Advisory Councils. All nominations must be received no later than Oct. 21, 2021.
- BLM – Call for Nominations to the Steens Mountain Advisory Council. All nominations must be received no later than Oct. 21, 2021.
- BOEM – Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Sunrise Wind Farm Project on the Northeast Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. Comments are due to BOEM no later than Oct. 4, 2021 (comment period extended).
- BSEE – Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Oil and Gas Decommissioning Activities on the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf. BSEE is reopening this public comment period until Oct. 15, 2021.
- EPA – Request for Nominations of Candidates for Two Review Panels of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC). Nominations should be submitted by Sept. 29, 2021.
- EPA – Pesticide Registration Review; Draft Human Health and/or Ecological Risk Assessments for Several Pesticides; Notice of Availability. Comments must be received on or before Oct. 4, 2021.
- EPA – Pesticide Registration Review; Pesticide Dockets Opened for Review and Comment; Notice of Availability. Comments must be received on or before Oct. 4, 2021.
- EPA – Pesticide Registration Review; Proposed Interim Decisions for Several Pesticides; Notice of Availability. Comments must be received on or before Oct. 4, 2021.
- EPA – Proposed Deletion From the National Priorities List. Comments regarding this proposed action must be submitted on or before Oct. 14, 2021.
- EPA – Availability of the Draft IRIS Toxicological Review of Perfluorobutanoic Acid (PFBA) and Related Compound Ammonium Perfluorobutanoic Acid. Comments must be received on or before Oct. 22, 2021.
- Forest Service – Tahoe National Forest; California; North Yuba Landscape Resilience Project EIS. Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received 30 days from date of publication in the Federal Register (Oct. 16, 2021).
- Forest Service – Manti-La Sal National Forest; Utah; Revision of the Manti-La Sal National Forest Land Management Plan. Comments concerning the preliminary need for change and the proposed action will be most useful in the development of the revised LMP and draft EIS if received by Oct. 25, 2021.
- NOAA – Notice of Public Hearings and Availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Draft Management Plan for the Proposed Designation of the Connecticut National Estuarine Research Reserve. NOAA will accept oral or written public comments on the adequacy of the DMP and DEIS for the proposed designation of the CT NERR during public hearings held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m. (EST) on Oct. 7, 2021,
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Amendment 7 to the Atlantic Bluefish Fishery Management Plan. Comments must be received by Oct. 13, 2021.
- NOAA NMFS – Notice of Availability of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Halibut Abundance-Based Management of Amendment 80 Prohibited Species Catch Limit. Comments must be received on or before Oct. 25, 2021.
- NPS – Request for Nominations for the Gateway National Recreation Area Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee. Written nominations must be received by Oct. 25, 2021.
- NSF & OSTP – Request for Information (RFI) on an Implementation Plan for a National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource. To be considered, responses and comments must be received, no later than 11:59 p.m., EDT on Oct. 1, 2021 (comment period extended).
- USFWS – Removing Adiantum vivesii From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Sept. 28, 2021.
- USFWS – Migratory Bird Hunting; Proposed 2022-23 Migratory Game Bird Hunting Regulations (Preliminary) With Requests for Indian Tribal Proposals; Notification of Meetingsublic may comment on the general duck season regulatory alternatives and other preliminary proposals for the 2022-23 season until Sept. 30, 2021. The SRC will meet on September 28-29, 2021, to consider and develop proposed regulations for the 2022-23 migratory game bird hunting seasons.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for White Bluffs Bladderpod. Comments on the draft recovery plan must be received on or before Oct. 4, 2021.
- USFWS – Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Emperor Penguin. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Oct. 4, 2021.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Enhancement of Survival Permit Application; Programmatic Safe Harbor Agreement and Candidate Conservation Agreement With Assurances for 14 Aquatic Species and Associated Categorical Exclusion; State of Kansas. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Oct. 15, 2021.
- USFWS – Draft Environmental Assessment; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit and Habitat Conservation Plan for Five Bat Species, Missouri. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Oct. 15, 2021.
- USFWS – Endangered Species Status for Amur Sturgeon. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Oct. 25, 2021.
- USFWS – Endangered Species Status With Critical Habitat for Guadalupe Fatmucket, Texas Fatmucket, Guadalupe Orb, Texas Pimpleback, and False Spike, and Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule and Critical Habitat for Texas Fawnsfoot. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Oct. 25, 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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