Policy News: February 28, 2022

In this issue:

Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee leaders introduce legislation to reauthorize the Department of Energy Office of Science.

Executive Branch
White House announces new leadership for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Supreme Court to hear climate case.

Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approves new PFAS standards.

UN report warns of unavoidable climate hazards with 1.5 degrees of warming.

Scientific Community
ESA Traditional Ecological Knowledge section to hold webinar with Office of Science and Technology Policy staff.

Federal Register opportunities


Nominations: The full Senate voted to confirm Martha Williams as the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Williams joined the Biden administration in January 2021 and is currently serving as the agency’s principal deputy director. She previously worked as the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks director from 2017–2020 and was an assistant professor of law at the University of Montana.

Appropriations: Congress approved a measure to keep the government open through March 11. President Biden signed the Further Additional Extending Government Funding Act (H.R. 6617) Feb. 18. In early February, House and Senate Appropriators announced that they reached an agreement on a framework for domestic and defense spending, setting the stage for Congress to complete appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2022. The federal government has been operating under a continuing resolution since October 2021. Congress has not passed appropriations bills since December 2020.

Department of Energy: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chair Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced legislation reauthorizing the Department of Energy Office of Science (S. 3699). The bill is the Senate companion to the House’s Department of Energy Office of Science for the Future Act (H.R. 3593), which was included in the America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4521). The House passed the America COMPETES Act earlier this month. Similar to the House bill, the Senate bill authorizes the creation of up to six bioenergy research centers and climate and earth modeling research. The House and Senate bills authorize slightly different funding levels for the Office of Science. The House bill authorizes annual budget increases for the Office of Science, reaching $11.1 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2026. The Senate bill authorizes $12 billion in FY 2026.

Sen. Manchin says that the Senate bill complements the Senate’s U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA, S. 1260), which the Senate passed in June 2021 and addresses competitiveness with China and science and technology policy.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing to consider the Department of Energy Office of Science for the Future Act March 1 as well as legislation to modernize the national laboratories.

Natural Resources: The House Natural Resources Committee advanced a group of bills of interest at Feb. 16:        

  • The Keeping Ecosystems Living and Productive Act (Kelp Act, H.R. 4458), from Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), authorizes a $50 million grant program to fund conservation, restoration and management projects focused on kelp forest ecosystems.
  • The Combatting Online Wildlife Trafficking Act (H.R 1546), sponsored by Rep. Earl Carter (R-GA), reauthorizes the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking and requires this group to develop recommendations to address wildlife trafficking on the internet and on social media.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Science, Education and Ecosystem Enhancement Act (H.R. 3540), from Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), reauthorizes the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office through 2025.
  • A bill (H.R. 5973) from Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) reauthorizes the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act of 1990. This bill reauthorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with states and other agencies to develop and execute proposals to conserve, restore and manage fish and wildlife populations and habitats in the Great Lakes.

The House Natural Resources Committee also held a subcommittee hearing to consider Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)’s legislation (H.R. 6654) to reauthorize the U.S. Geological Survey’s Climate Adaptation Science Centers. Grijalva’s bill permanently reauthorizes the National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers and increases the authorized funding level for the Climate Adaptation Science Centers from $97 million in FY 2023 to $145 million in FY $145 million in FY 2027.

Legislative updates:

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) introduced the Right Whale Coexistence Act (S. 3664, H.R. 6785), which creates a new grant program to fund collaborative research between government agencies, non-governmental organizations and maritime industries to reduce human impacts on North Atlantic right whales.

More News:

Executive Branch

White House: President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address will be held March 1. To watch the State of the Union speech live, visit WH.gov/sotu.

President Biden announced that Francis Collins and Alondra Nelson will replace former Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Eric Lander temporarily. Collins will serve as the science advisor to the president and Nelson will be the acting Office of Science and Technology Policy director. Lander served in both roles. Collins is a geneticist who recently retired from his position as the director of the National Institutes of Health. Nelson is a sociologist who has been the OSTP deputy director for science and society since 2021.

Interior: As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s work to prioritize equity and inclusion across the federal government, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today established the first-ever Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Council to incorporate these practices into the Department’s work across its many bureaus. Read the entire press release.

The Interior Department announced a list of candidate replacement names for more than 660 geographic features on federal lands with the name “squaw,” which was officially declared a derogatory term as a result of Secretary’s Order 3404. The Department has initiated Tribal consultations and an opportunity for public comment to recommend and review proposed replacement names. Read the entire press release

Environmental Justice: The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a beta version of its Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool. Federal agencies will use this tool to implement the Biden administration’s Justice40 Initiative goal. This goal directs 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain federal investments in environmental cleanup, climate mitigation and clean energy to disadvantaged communities.

The Biden administration drew criticism for not including race in the tool. The administration excluded race from the tool’s consideration due to legal concerns. CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory said the race-neutral approach will lead to same results as a race-based approach.

CEQ is accepting public comments on the beta tool through April 25, 2022.

USGS: The U.S. Geological Survey, along with the rest of the Department of the Interior, has released its spend plan for investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The largest geoscience investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is to the USGS Earth Mapping Resource Initiative (Earth MRI).

These resources are detailed in the newly released spend plan from the U.S. Geological Survey that details how the agency will invest the funds appropriated in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The USGS Bipartisan Infrastructure Law spend plan can be found here. More information on the Department of the Interior’s Infrastructure Law investments can be found here

More information about the USGS Earth MRI initiative can be found here.

More information about the USGS National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program can be found here.

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States and Tribes


UN: A new report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that world faces unavoidable climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5 degreees Celsius (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding 1.5 degrees C of warming will result in additional severe climate impacts, some of which will be irreversible.

Another report from the United Nations Environment Program, released ahead of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, warns that the number of global wildfires will rise by 50% by 2100. The report authors also find that the likelihood of unusually intense wildfire seasons will increase between 31 to 57 percent by 2100. The publication recommends that governments allocate most of their spending to wildfire planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery, rather than wildfire response.

See also:

More news:

Scientific Community

NASEM: Submissions will be accepted from March 1 – April 3 for the National Academies Eric and Wendy Schmidt Awards for Excellence in Science Communication. The award aims to encourage high-quality science communication and build a diverse community of science journalists, research scientists, and institutions that will help society meet the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change, future pandemics, human genome editing and other issues that can only be understood and navigated with the help of effective science communication. 

The awards will present prizes to science journalists and research scientists who have developed creative, original work that addresses issues and advances in science, engineering, and/or medicine for the general public. Up to 24 awards will be given  in amounts ranging from $20,000 to 40,000.

Submissions are accepted in six categories: freelance journalists, early career journalists, and reporting at the local/regional level (science journalism); and graduate students, early career researchers, and later career researchers (science communication by research scientists). Submissions may include a single work, a series of works, or as many as six unrelated works.

Visit this link for more information.

Entries must be submitted through the online submission form

ESA: The Traditional Ecological Knowledge Section is hosting a webinar series to facilitate a virtual space to welcome and hear from Indigenous voices who work to help sustain and nurture TEK within their communities. The speakers share tools, processes and practices they have learned through activities that work for them in their journey to utilize TEK.

The March 11 webinar will feature Gretchen Goldman, assistant director for environmental science, engineering, policy and justice, and Haley Case-Scott, junior policy advisor, from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who will present about the Biden-Harris Administration’s initiative to elevate Indigenous TEK in federal decision making. 

More News:

ESA Correspondence to Policymakers

View more letters and testimony from ESA here.

Federal Register Opportunities 

Upcoming Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

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.

Send questions or comments to Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@nullesa.org or Nicole Zimmerman, public affairs manager, Nicole@nullesa.org

Visit the ESA website to learn more about our activities and membership