Policy News: October 8, 2021
In this issue:
White House revisiting Trump-era NEPA rule to consider all climate impacts
Proposed changes would require developers to more carefully consider how their projects contribute to climate change and pollution.
Senate confirms Tracy Stone-Manning as the director of the Bureau of Land Management.
President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology meets for the first time in the Biden administration.
California Governor vetoes tropical deforestation bill.
European countries agree to protects parts of the North Atlantic to conserve seabird species.
Landscape ecologist Lisa Schulte Moore receives 2021 MacArthur fellowship.
by Zack Colman, PoliticoPro, 10/6/2021
The Biden administration proposed Wednesday reviving portions of a regulation underpinning federal environmental reviews, reversing Trump administration changes that limited consideration of climate impacts in agency project evaluations.
The changes, if adopted, would require developers to more carefully consider how their projects contribute to climate change and pollution.
The news: The White House Council on Environmental Quality proposed reversing Trump administration changes to the National Environmental Policy Act regulation, which carries implications for environmental reviews on everything from highway projects and fossil fuel lease sales to pipelines and electric transmission lines.
“The basic community safeguards we are proposing to restore would help ensure that American infrastructure gets built right the first time, and delivers real benefits — not harms — to people who live nearby,” CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory said in a statement. “Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help reduce conflict and litigation and help clear up some of the uncertainty that the previous administration’s rule caused.”
The details: CEQ said it would once again direct federal agencies to consider all “direct,” “indirect” and “cumulative” impacts from projects and decisions.
Trump-era changes did away with cumulative considerations, meaning agencies only needed to calculate the effects from siting, building and operating a project.
Assessing cumulative impacts means agencies would analyze the ramifications for climate change by weighing how many greenhouse gases projects and decisions unleash at the end of the value chain. That means, for example, including the emissions from constructing a natural gas pipeline along with the emissions from burning the fuel it would transport for generating electric power.
The changes also encouraged greater communication with and input from affected communities — including an emphasis on developing alternative plans for projects that could limit harms — and would offer federal agencies flexibility to alter procedures that exceed the NEPA guidelines.
Context: Reducing permitting time has been a priority for both Republican and Democratic administrations. But environmental groups and environmental justice groups made nixing some of former President Donald Trump’s NEPA revisions a top early target and challenged the revisions in court.
“This is a necessary first step to restoring these critically important environmental rules, but we have a long way to go and not much time,” Randi Spivak, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s public lands program, said in a statement. “The Biden administration must move urgently and go much further to begin breaking down systemic environmental injustice and addressing climate chaos and the extinction crisis. Otherwise the catastrophic oil spills, wildfires and mass extinctions that appall us today will become frighteningly commonplace.”
Environmental justice groups have said Trump alterations removed opportunities for them to comment on projects that would affect their communities’ public health and quality of life. Environmental justice communities already face a disproportionate amount of pollution emanating from political disenfranchisement and racist policies like redlining.
But Trump’s changes also sought to speed permitting for major projects. The Trump administration and allies in the business community contended project opponents and environmental groups had weaponized NEPA to slow development with lawsuits and cumbersome environmental reviews.
What’s next: CEQ said it would propose another set of guidelines over the coming months that would “help ensure full and fair public involvement in the environmental review process; meet the nation’s environmental, climate change, and environmental justice challenges; provide regulatory certainty to stakeholders; and promote better decision-making consistent with NEPA’s goals and requirements.”
Read the proposed rule here, comments are due Nov. 22, 2021.
Nominations: The full Senate confirmed Tracy Stone-Manning to be the director of the Bureau of Land Management along a strict party-line vote. All Senate Republicans opposed Stone-Manning’s nomination due to her involvement in a tree-spiking case in 1980s and 1990s.
Stone-Manning most recently was a senior advisor for conservation policy at the National Wildlife Federation and has been a top aide to former Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT). She is the first Senate-confirmed director since the end of the Obama administration.
The full Senate also confirmed Monica Medina to be assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs by a 61-36 vote. Medina worked for NOAA during the Obama and Clinton administrations and published a sustainability newsletter, Our Daily Planet. During her confirmation hearing, Medina pledged to prioritize addressing biodiversity loss, ocean protection and space policy.
- The full Senate approved Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) Flood Level Observation, Operations, and Decision Support Act (S. 558). Among other provisions, this bill directs NOAA to establish a National Integrated Flood Information System to better inform and provide for more timely decision-making to reduce flood-related effects and costs and establishes partnerships with institutions of higher education and federal agencies to improve total water predictions.
- Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) introduced the Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act (H.R. 5345). This bill authorizes a Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Assessment and Monitoring Program which would include scientific monitoring and assessments to establish effective management and conservation efforts to preserve Saline Lake habitats within the Great Basin network. The bill authorizes the U.S. Geological Survey to receive $5 million each year through FY2027. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, is a co-sponsor of this bill.
- Senate Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration Act (S. 2836). Among other provisions, the bill directs the Forest Service to create a voluntary carbon credit system in which non-federal entities can provide funds to the Forest Service to contract and implement projects designed to increase carbon sequestration or avoid carbon emissions. The bill also formally authorizes the experimental forest program and directs the Forest Service to conduct additional climate resiliency research within the experimental forest network and requires all data and research findings developed from projects undertaken on the network to be made available to the public. Sens. Angus King (I-ME) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) are also co-sponsoring this legislation.
White House: President Biden’s President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met for the first time during the current administration Sept. 28-29. The meeting featured panels about U.S. competitiveness and leadership and public health and preparedness. The PCAST’s next public virtual meeting will be held Oct. 18-19, 2021 and will focus on “combatting and adapting to climate change, including ongoing work within individual federal agencies, implications for national security, and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.” Additional information about the upcoming meeting and PCAST’s future meetings can be found at here.
The White House released climate adaptation and resilence plans from over 20 federal agencies, as part of the Biden adminstration’s whole-of-government approach climate change. The plans are available at www.sustainability.gov/adaptation.
USFWS: The agency finalized a rule revoking a January 2021 final rule codifying a Trump administration legal opinion which determined that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act does not apply to the accidental killing of birds. This legal opinion contradicted decades of precedent under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Most notably, the US Fish and Wildlife Service fined BP $100 million under the Migratory Bird Treaty after the 2009 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Along with this rule, USFWS issued a notice of proposed rulemaking announcing the agency’s intent to draft new rules regulating the incidental take of migratory birds. USFWS is accepting public comments through Dec. 3, 2021.
Department of Energy: Secretary of Jennifer Granholm announced the membership of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. Stanford University engineer Arjun Majumdar is the chair of the board and Madelyn Creedon is the vice-chair. Majumdar was the director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy during the Obama Administration. Creedon was the deputy director of the National Nuclear Security Administration under the Obama Administration.
ARPH-H: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institutes of Health released a summary report from stakeholder listening sessions held this summer about a potential Advanced Research Project Agency – Health. Stakeholders advised that advised ARPA-H to avoid areas that are already well-resourced by NIH or the private sector. They suggested that ARPA-H should focus on ambitious, large-scale research topics that complement and do not overlap with various NIH programs, especially those research problems that are not compatible with traditional academic or commercial research funding structures. OSTP and NIH will continue to seek perspectives from stakeholders on ARPA-H. Public comments can be submitted to ARPAHcomments@nullnih.gov.
NSF: The agencies announced a $75 million investment to establish five new Harnessing the Data Revolution Institutes.
- The NSF Institute for a New Frontier of Biological Information Powered by Knowledge-Guided Machine Learning, led by the Ohio State University, will establish a new field of Imageomics, in which biologists use machine learning to analyze vast stores of existing image data, such as publicly funded digital collections from field stations, museums and individual laboratories. The institute will characterize patterns and gain insights into how function follows form in all areas of biology and will expand public understanding of the rules of life on Earth and how life evolves.
- The NSF Institute for Harnessing Data and Model Revolution in the Polar Regions, based at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, will serve as a research hub where experts in data science, Arctic and Antarctic science and cyberinfrastructure come together to address challenges related to climate change, sea-level rise and the rapidly changing Arctic.
- The NSF Institute for Geospatial Understanding through an Integrative Discovery Environment, led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will create an integrative geospatial discovery environment that harnesses geospatial data to understand interconnected interactions across diverse socioeconomic-environmental systems — to enhance community resilience and environmental sustainability.
The two other Harnessing the Data Revolution Institutes are the NSF Institute for Accelerated AI Algorithms for Data-Driven Discovery and the NSF Institute for Data-Driven Dynamical Design.
- EPA’s “scientific integrity” program lacks teeth, group alleges – Environmental Health News
- US says ivory-billed woodpecker, 22 other species extinct – Associated Press
- USDA pledges billions for climate-smart farm projects, resilience – E&E News
- Bipartisan energy bill could reshape power production, climate change in North Carolina – WUNC
- N.C. Republicans target tree canopy plans – E&E News
- Wisconsin DNR defies board, reduces fall wolf quota – Associated Press
- California governor vetoes tropical deforestation bill – Associated Press
- What you need to know about the U.N. climate summit this fall — and why it matters – The Washington Post
- New rules will make UK gene-edited crop research easier – Nature
- South Africa pledges more ambitious climate targets – Associated Press
- Vast area of Atlantic to be protected in effort to conserve seabird species – The Irish Times
NSF: The Biological Sciences Directorate’s Advisory Committee (BIO AC) will meet virtually Nov. 3-4. Agenda items will include an update on BIO’s broadening participation portfolio, a joint session with the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee to discuss their report on “MPS and the Living World”, updates from the BIO AC liaisons to the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering and to the AC for Environmental Research and Education and discussion with the NSF Director. Livestreaming will be accessible through this page.
NSF Assistant Director for Biological Sciences Joanne Tornow notes in a letter to the scientific community that the directorate made $12 million in awards under the the Research Experience for Post-Baccalaureate Students (REPS) program to provide research expereinces for students whose research opportunities were cut short by the pandemic. The directorate also extended post-doctorate fellowships for 156 reseachers and increased the number of new fellowships in the past two years over previous years. Read the full newsletter here.
NEON: The Science, Technology and Education Advisory Committee (STEAC) announced three new committee members. Dr. Karen Lips is a professor of Biology at the University of Maryland College Park and a member of ESA’s Public Affairs Committee. Dr. Steve Petruzza is an assistant professor at Utah State University and a research associate at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute of the University of Utah. Dr. Shawn Serbin is a scientist in the Environmental and Climate Sciences Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The STEAC provides strategic advice to Battelle, the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) Chief Scientist and Observatory Director and NEON program staff on the planning and operation of the Observatory. Members serve three-year terms.
Awards: Iowa State University landscape ecologist Dr. Lisa Schulte Moore is one of 25 recipients of this year’s MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the “genius” grants. Schulte Moore received the fellowship for her work implementing locally relevant approaches to build soil, improve water quality, protect biodiversity and strengthen the resilience of row crop agriculture. She is an ESA fellow and a member of ESA’s Rapid Response Team.
SEJ: Ahead of the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the UN Foundation are bringing together biodiversity experts and journalists to discuss what to watch for as the international science community seeks to protect and repair damaged ecosystems as the climate changes. A webinar titled ‘All Life, Great and Small: Covering Biodiversity and Climate’ is the third in a series providing journalists with background, tools and tips on covering the latest in climate change science and its connections to other global priorities. Join the webinar Oct. 13 from 3-4 p.m. ET. Register here.
Columbia University: Climate School Founding Dean Alex Halliday will lead a conversation about global hazards and the path to resilence with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory climate scientist Suzana Camargo; Director, National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Columbia Climate School Jeff Schlegelmilch; and former New York City Chief Climate Policy Advisor Daniel Zarrilli on Oct. 18. Register here.
- Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Study of Humanity’s Role in Changing Climate – The New York Times
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 – Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 21)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors Executive Committee Meetings (Oct. 20)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) Air Climate and Energy Subcommittee Meeting (Oct. 12-14)
- EPA – Public Meetings of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee Particulate Matter Panel (Oct. 12)
- EPA – Virtual Public Meeting of the Environmental Financial Advisory Board (Oct. 13)
- EPA – Meeting of Mobile Sources Technical Review Subcommittee (Oct. 14)
- EPA – Local Government Advisory Committee and Small Communities Advisory Subcommittee Meeting (Oct. 15)
- EPA – Clean Air Act Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 18-19, comments due Oct. 16)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors Sustainable and Healthy Communities Subcommittee Meeting (Oct. 28-29)
- EPA – Board of Scientific Counselors Chemical Safety for Sustainability and Health and Environmental Risk Assessment Subcommittee Meeting (November 4-5)
- Forest Service – Trinity County Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 11, Oct. 25)
- Forest Service – Shasta County Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 13, Oct. 27)
- Forest Service – Gallatin Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 13)
- Forest Service – Wrangell-Petersburg Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 13-14)
- Forest Service – White Pine-Nye Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Nevada) (Oct. 14)
- Forest Service – Siskiyou County Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 14, 28)
- Forest Service – Southern Arizona Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 19)
- Forest Service – Wenatchee-Okanogan Resource Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 27)
- NOAA – Evaluation of National Estuarine Research Reserve Public Meeting (Oct. 20, public comments due Oct. 29)
- NOAA – Public Meeting of the National Sea Grant Advisory Board (Nov. 4-5)
- NOAA NMFS – Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee Meeting (Oct. 12-14)
- 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)
- NOAA NMFS – Fall Meeting of the Advisory Committee to the U.S. Section of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Oct. 18)
- NOAA NMFS – Workshop To Inform Recovery Planning for ESA Listed Rice’s Whale (Balaenoptera Ricei) (Oct. 18, Nov. 1)
- NOAA NMFS – Council Coordination Committee Meeting (Oct. 19-21)
- NOAA NMFS – Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council Meeting (Oct. 20)
- NOAA NMFS – New England Fishery Management Council Scientific and Statistical Committee Public Meeting (Oct. 25)
- NOAA NMFS – Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council Public Meeting (Oct. 25-28)
- NPS – National Park Service Alaska Region Subsistence Resource Commission Program Public Meetings (Cape Krusenstern National Monument SRC – Oct. 26, Kobuk Valley National Park SRC – October 28-29)
- NSF – Advisory Committee for Geosciences Meeting (October 13-14)
- NSF – National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force Meeting (Oct. 25)
- NSF – Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering Meeting (Oct. 28)
- NSF – Advisory Committee for Education and Human Resources Meeting (Nov. 3-4)
Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:
- Army Corps of Engineers – South Atlantic Coastal Study Notice of Availability of Draft Report. Written comments must be submitted on or before Nov. 8, 2021.
- 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.
- BLM – Notice of Proposed Withdrawal and Opportunity for Public Meeting for the McPhee Dam and Reservoir, Dolores Project; Colorado. Comments and requests for a public meeting must be received by Nov. 1, 2021.
- 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.
- DOE – Assessing the National and International Standing of BER Basic Research. Written comments and information are requested on or before Oct. 31, 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.
- EPA – National Priorities List. Comments regarding any of these proposed listings must be submitted on or before Nov. 8, 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 is accepting written public comments on the adequacy of the DMP and DEIS for the proposed designation of the CT NERR through 5 p.m. (EST), Oct. 18, 2021.
- NOAA – Notice of Matching Fund Opportunity for Ocean and Coastal Mapping and Request for Partnership Proposals. Proposals must be received via email by 5 p.m. ET on Oct. 29, 2021.
- NOAA – Solicitation for New Members: Ocean Exploration Advisory Board. Application materials must be received no later than Nov. 5, 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.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Northeastern United States; Atlantic Sea Scallop Fishery; Amendment 21. Comments must be received by Nov. 4, 2021.
- NOAA NMFS – Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan for Thurston County, Washington. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Nov. 8, 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.
- USDA – Intent To Establish an Equity Commission and Solicitation of Nominations for Membership on the Equity Commission Advisory Committee and Equity Commission Subcommittee on Agriculture. The USDA will consider nominations that are submitted via email or postmarked by Oct. 27, 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.
- USFWS – Eagle Permits; Incidental Take. The public may submit comments on or before Oct. 29, 2021.
- USFWS – Threatened Status With Section 4(d) Rule for the Dolphin and Union Caribou and 12-Month Finding for the Peary Caribou. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Nov. 1, 2021.
- USFWS – Draft Recovery Plan for Umtanum Desert Buckwheat. Comments on the draft recovery plan must be received on or before Nov. 1, 2021.
- USFWS – Draft Environmental Impact Statement and Habitat Conservation Plan for Thurston County, Washington. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Nov. 8, 2021.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Designation of Critical Habitat for the Miami Tiger Beetle (Cicindelidia Floridana). USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Nov. 8, 2021.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Pyramid Pigtoe. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Nov. 8, 2021.
Visit this page on ESA’s website for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment.
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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