Policy News: December 20, 2021
In this issue:
Senate committee holds hearing for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.
NOAA releases the annual Arctic Report Card.
California, Arizona, Nevada and the federal government reach agreement to reduce water consumption in the Colorado River basin.
A draft of IPBES’ thematic assessment of invasive alien species and their control is open for review.
The National Academics seeks experts for the Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Ecosystem Services in the Built Environment.
Conservation: The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (S. 2372). This bill provides a combined $1.4 billion annually to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies for conservation and the implementation of state wildlife action plans. ESA and other scientific societies have endorsed previous versions of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. There is broad bipartisan support for the bill. The lead sponsors in the Senate are Sens. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and the lead sponsors in the House of Representatives are Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE).
The key difference between the Senate and House bill (H.R. 2773) is that the Senate bill funds the program through penalties paid for natural resources and environmental violations while the House bill does not specify a funding source. Previous versions of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act funded conservation through royalties paid to the federal government for mineral extraction. During the Senate hearing, Environment and Public Works Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) expressed concerns that the revenues from environmental penalties are unreliable.
NDAA: The full Senate voted to pass the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill includes $514.3 million for PFAS clean-up. It also directs the Department of Defense to ensure that its core processes fully consider and make adjustments to account for climate change and ensure the climate resilience of DoD assets. It also directs the secretaries of the military departments to conduct an assessment of climate risks to infrastructure under their jurisdiction.
The NDAA also includes a provision prohibiting DoD from providing funding to the EcoHealth Alliance. This nonprofit has been at the center of conspiracy theories that a lab in Wuhan, China allowed the novel coronavirus to emerge. The National Institutes of Health provided a grant to the EcoHealth Alliance to investigate the risk of bat coronavirus emergence. Some of the funding for this grant went to the Wuhan lab.
This year’s NDAA does not include research security provisions. Previous versions of the bill have included measures aiming to prevent foreign espionage in US research.
However, a draft version of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee’s section of the bill published by Politico included important environmental and scientific provisions:
- The Department of Energy Office of Science receives $866 million, including $274 million for Biological and Environmental Research.
- The Department of Energy receives $5 billion for science and laboratory infrastructure.
- Lawmakers propose increasing royalties for off- and on-shore oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters. Onshore royalties would increase to a minimum of 16.75% from 12.5%. Offshore royalties would increase to a minimum of 14% from 12.5%.
- The bill retains a provision from the House bill repealing section 20001 of the 2017 Tax Act, which required the Bureau of Land Management to offer oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and cancels the leases sold in January 2021. However, Senators removed measures banning off-shore drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Scientific provisions in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee bill is largely similar to the House bill:
- The Fish and Wildlife Service receives $200 million for Endangered Species Act recovery plans and $9.7 million for wildlife corridor programs.
- The Environmental Protection Agency receives $100 million for air quality and climate research.
- The White House Council on Environmental Quality receives $65 million for environmental and climate data collection.
- Senators allocated $50 million to the U.S. Geological Survey for grants and other financial assistance to water resources research and technology institutes and centers.
- The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee advanced the Restoring Resilient Reefs Act ( S. 46). This bill reauthorizes the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 through 2024, directs NOAA to provide block grants to states to support state coral reef management and restoration and establishes a National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program, among other provisions. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2020 but did not advance in the House of Representatives.
- Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a bill (H.R. 6180) to incentivize removing invasive lionfish from the oceans. This bill allows fishermen to exchange lionfish tails for fishing tags for other species.
White House: President Biden issued an executive order setting a course for the federal government to become carbon neutral by 2050. The executive order requires the federal government to only purchase energy from renewable sources by 2030 and to exclusively buy zero-emissions vehicles by 2035.
NOAA: The Annual 2021 Arctic Report Card shows that the Arctic is transforming into a “dramatically different state” that is warmer, wetter and less icy than before due to climate change. The October-December 2020 period was the warmest Arctic autumn on record dating back to 1900 and 2021 was the Arctic’s seventh warmest year on record.
Other report highlights include the cascading impacts of warming on Arctic ecosystems:
- The Arctic is experiencing high rates of ocean acidification, with implications for marine food chains. For example, studies indicate a high occurrence of severe dissolution of shells in natural populations of sea snails, an important forage species, in the Bering Sea and Amundsen Gulf.
- Beavers are colonizing the Arctic tundra of western Alaska, transforming lowland tundra ecosystems and degrading permafrost by increasing the amount of unfrozen surface water on the landscape in winter.
- Satellites provide evidence of widespread tundra greening, but extreme events and other drivers of local-scale “browning” have also become more frequent, highlighting regional disruption as an increasing component of Arctic change.
After the release of the Arctic Report Card, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy published the Arctic Research Plan for 2022-2026. The plan outlines steps for the federal government to obtain the information that will enable effective response to the rapid social, environmental, cultural, and geopolitical changes happening in the Arctic.
- Billions for Climate Protection Fuel New Debate: Who Deserves It Most – The New York Times
- Concern Over President’s Choice to Head Federal Wildlife Agency – Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Colorado River: California, Arizona, Nevada, the Central Arizona Project and the federal government reached an agreement to voluntarily reduce water consumption to avoid mandatory cuts. The plan requires the states to reduce their consumption by 500,000-acre feet in 2022 and 2023. The parties also agreed to contribute a combined $200 million for water conservation, efficiency and reduction measures.
- Western Governors reiterate need for federal-state consultation during NOAA development of “30 by 30” conservation proposal – Western Governors’ Association
- New York City to ban gas hook-ups in new buildings – The Independent
- Youngkin says he will take Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to save ratepayers money – The Washington Post
- decarbonization vote was years in the making – E&E News
- House votes to ‘disapprove’ of entering Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, defying Gov. Wolf – The Philadelphia Inquirer
IPBES: A draft of the chapters and the summary for policymakers of the thematic assessment of invasive alien species and their control is open for review. This second external review is addressed to governments and interested and qualified experts, including scientists, decision-makers, practitioners and other knowledge holders. To ensure this assessment’s highest scientific quality and policy relevance, the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel seeks the widest possible participation from experts from all relevant disciplines and backgrounds. Expet reviwers can register on the IPBES website. The draft is open for review through Feb. 15, 2022, and IPBES will hold an online workshop for reviewers Jan. 20, 2022.
IPBES is also seeking external reviewers of the draft deliverables for sections of the IPBES rolling work program up to 2030 and the workplans for IPBES task forces for the intersessional period 2022–2023. Comments are due Jan. 17, 2022.
- Europe Met a Climate Target. But Is It Burning Less Carbon? – The New York Times
- What You Need to Know About COP26 Climate Deals – PoliticoPro
- The Millions of Tons of Carbon Emissions That Don’t Officially Exist: How a blind spot in the Kyoto Protocol helped create the biomass industry – The New Yorker
- What Sci-Hub’s latest court battle means for research – Nature
- Russia Blocks U.N. Move to Treat Climate as Security Threat – The New York Times
ESA: The society issued a statement expressing concern about the recent news report on sexual misconduct associated with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and commend the courageous women who came forward to share their experiences and hold the perpetrators accountable. For ecologists, this situation hits us close to home because many of the women targeted are colleagues. In the short term, ESA calls on Smithsonian Secretary Bunch, Undersecretary Stofan, and Deputy Secretary Park to immediately address the sexual misconduct reports and implement new policies so that researchers, visitors and residents of the field station are safe. ESA will be seeking member input through a listening session on how we can further contribute to changing the culture of ecology so that all ecologists can help stop sexual harassment and misconduct in the classroom, in the lab and in the field.
NASEM: The National Academies is seeking experts to serve on the Strategy Group on COVID-19 and Ecosystem Services in the Built Environment. This group of 15-20 experts will garner information on the physical and mental health benefits of interacting with natural spaces and the consequences of disparities in accessing these natural spaces during the pandemic. The group will also use scenario planning to propose interventions that maximize the health, social, and economic benefits of access to natural spaces and the ecosystem services they provide. This new activity is part of the National Academies Response and Resilient Recovery Strategic Science Initiative which aims to inform policymakers and community leaders across the U.S on critical decision-making for crisis response and future recovery related to COVID-19. Nominations are Dec. 30, 2021.
The National Academies will hold a webinar about Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal (Ocean CDR) Jan 20 as part of a monthly climate webinar series. Ocean CDR is a set of strategies to sequester carbon dioxide in ocean waters. Speakers will discuss social acceptance, environmental governance, and other issues around ocean CDR strategies. The webinar will include a discussion of the new National Academies report, A Research Strategy for Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration. The conversation will be webcast on the Climate Conversations: Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal webpage on from 3-4 pm ET.
NSF: The annual 2020 Survey of Earned Doctorates, compiled by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, finds that the number of doctorate recipients in the life sciences decreased slightly from 12,753 in 2019 to 12,561 in 2020. However, longer term trends show that number of doctorates awarded in the life sciences is increasing. In 2010, 11,319 people earned a doctorate in the life sciences. The number of earned doctorates awarded is increased in the geosciences, atmospheric sciences and ocean sciences from 862 degrees in 2010 to 1,243 degrees in 2020. This data does not yet reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic – the 2021 survey will include questions about the pandemic’s impact.
- Meet an Ecologist Who Works for God (and Against Lawns) – The New York Times
- Panel: Consider tinkering with oceans to suck up more carbon – Associated Press
- Harvard chemist on trial: a guide to the Charles Lieber case – Nature
ESA Correspondence to Policymakers
- Multiorganization letter in support of the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (Nov. 18, 2021)
- ESC – Recommendation to the White House Office of Management and Budget for FY 2023 Budget (Nov. 9, 2021)
- CNSF – Recommendations to the White House Office of Management and Budget for FY 2023 Budget (Nov. 5, 2021)
- CNSF – FY 2022 Appropriations Conference Committee Statement (Nov. 2, 2021)
View more letters and testimony from ESA here.
Upcoming Public Meetings:
- BLM – Missouri Basin Resource Advisory Council Meeting, Montana (Jan. 12)
- BLM – Public Meetings for the Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council (Jan.19-20)
- EPA – Public Meetings of the Science Advisory Board Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Review Panel (Jan. 4, 6, 7)
- EPA – Public Hearing for RFS Annual Rules (Jan. 4)
- EPA – National Environmental Justice Advisory Council Meeting (Jan. 5)
- NOAA – Public Meeting of the National Sea Grant Advisory Board (Jan. 6)
- NOAA – Sanctuary System Business Advisory Council Meeting (Jan. 19)
- NPS – Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park Advisory Commission Meeting (Jan. 13)
- NPS – Gateway National Recreation Area Fort Hancock 21st Century Advisory Committee Public Meeting (Jan. 6)
Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:
- APHIS – Notice of Availability of an Environmental Assessment for Release of Lophodiplosis indentata for Biological Control of Melaleuca quinquenervia (Myrtaceae) in the Contiguous United States. The agency will consider all comments that received on or before Jan. 18, 2022.
- BLM – Notice of Intent To Prepare the Bridge Creek Area Allotment Management Plans Environmental Impact Statement in the Andrews Field Office, Burns District, Oregon. Comments may be submitted in writing until Jan. 3, 2022.
- BLM – Notice of Application for Withdrawal Extension and Opportunity for Public Meeting; Alaska. Comments and requests for a public meeting regarding this withdrawal application must be received by Jan. 6, 2022.
- BLM – Notice of Proposed Extension of Public Land Order No. 7873 and Public Meeting; Nevada. Comments on the proposed 4-year withdrawal should be received on or before Jan. 10, 2022.
- BLM – Call for Nominations to the San Juan Islands National Monument Advisory Committee, Washington. All nominations must be received no later than Jan. 10, 2022.
- EPA – Pesticide Registration Review; Proposed Interim Decisions for Several Pesticides; Notice of Availability. Comments must be received on or before Dec. 21, 2021.
- EPA – Proposed Consent Decree, Clean Air Act Citizen Suit. Written comments on the proposed consent decree must be received by Dec. 23, 2021.
- EPA – Draft Human Health and/or Ecological Risk Assessments for Several Pesticides; Notice of Availability. Comments must be received on or before Dec. 28, 2021.
- EPA – Proposed Settlement Agreement, Clean Water Act. Written comments on the proposed consent decree must be received by Jan. 3, 2022.
- EPA – Notice of Request for Nominations of Candidates to the Environmental Financial Advisory Board. Nominations should be submitted in time to arrive no later than Jan. 18, 2022.
- NOAA – Request for Information on NOAA Actions To Advance the Goals and Recommendations in the Report on Conserving and Restoring America The Beautiful, Including Conserving At Least 30 Percent of U.S. Lands and Waters By 2030. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before Dec. 28, 2021.
- NOAA – Draft Revised Management Plan for the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve. Comments must be received at the appropriate address on or before Jan. 18, 2022.
- NOAA – Notice of Intent To Conduct Scoping and To Prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Comments are due by Jan. 31, 2022 (comment period extended).
- NOAA NMFS – Establishment of Time-Area Closures for Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Comments on this proposal must be received by Dec. 27, 2021.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; Proposed 2022 and 2023 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish. Comments must be received by Jan. 3, 2022.
- NOAA NMFS – Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone Off Alaska; Gulf of Alaska; Proposed 2022 and 2023 Harvest Specifications for Groundfish. Comments must be received by Jan. 5, 2022.
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Island Fisheries; Rebuilding Plan for Guam Bottomfish. NMFS must receive comments by Jan. 10, 2022.
- NOAA NMFS – Endangered and Threatened Species; Notice of Initiation of a 5-Year Review of the Common Angelshark (Squatina squatina). To allow NMFS adequate time to conduct this review, they must receive your information no later than Jan. 14, 2022.
- NOAA NMFS – Pacific Island Fisheries; Amendment 6 to the Fishery Ecosystem Plan for the Mariana Archipelago; Rebuilding Plan for Guam Bottomfish. NMFS must receive comments on Amendment 6 by Jan. 14, 2022.
- NSF – Request for Information: Undergraduate Training in Biology Mathematics and Computer Science. Interested persons are invited to submit comments on or before Dec. 31, 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 Dec. 23, 2021 (comment period extended).
- USFWS – Designation of Critical Habitat for the Coastal Distinct Population Segment of the Pacific Marten. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Dec. 27, 2021.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for the Diamond Y Invertebrates. USFWS must receive any comments on or before Jan. 3, 2022.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Initiation of 5-Year Status Reviews of Six Listed Animal and Plant Species. To ensure consideration, please send written information by Jan. 4, 2022.
- USFWS – Notice of Proposed Withdrawal and Opportunity for Public Meeting for the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge, Arizona. Comments and requests for a public meeting must be received by Jan. 6, 2022.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Draft Recovery Plan for Desert Yellowhead. USFWS must receive any comments on the draft recovery plan on or before Jan. 7, 2022.
- USFWS – Incidental Take Permit Application; Habitat Conservation Plan Amendment for Montana Department of Natural Resources Lazy-Swift Addition and Wolf Creek Land Exchange; Flathead and Lincoln Counties, Montana. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Jan. 7, 2022
- USFWS – Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Egyptian Tortoise. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Jan. 10, 2022.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Threatened Species Status With a Section 4(d) Rule for Bracted Twistflower and Designation of Critical Habitat. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Jan. 10, 2022.
- USFWS – Threatened Species Status With Section 4(d) Rule for Alligator Snapping Turtle. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Jan. 10, 2022.
- USFWS – Aitkin-Carlton Counties Habitat Conservation Plan, Aitkin and Carlton Counties, Minnesota; Receipt of an Application for an Incidental Take Permit, Proposed Habitat Conservation Plan; Categorical Exclusion. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Jan. 10, 2022.
- USFWS – Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Okaloosa Darter From the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. USFWS will accept comments received or postmarked on or before Jan. 18, 2022.
Visit this page on ESA’s website for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment.