Policy News: September 26, 2022

In this issue:

Senate ratifies the Kigali Amendment that will reduce HFCs mainly used in air conditioning and appliances.

Executive Branch
Arati Prabhakar confirmed to be the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Nature covers the Supreme Court’s War on Science.

Louisiana and the Army Corps of Engineers move closer to a $2 billion land-building project.

UN General Assembly meets in New York ahead of COP27.

Scientific Community
NSF to host lecture titled “Trends in U.S. faculty hiring and retention from ten years of data series.”

Federal Register opportunities


Appropriations: Congress is working this week to pass a short-term spending deal to keep the government open after the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30. The text of the short-term measure, known as a continuing resolution, has not been released. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has pledged to include a permitting reform measure from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). It remains unclear if 60 Senators will vote to support Manchin’s permitting proposal — the proposal has attracted opposition from both Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA). Kaine has pledged to vote against the measure because it would permit the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which would carry natural gas from West Virginia to southern Virginia. Sanders and progressive Democrats in the House are opposing Manchin’s permitting proposal, citing concerns that the reforms would helps fossil fuel projects and undermine the National Environmental Policy Act and the Clean Water Act.

Senate: The full Senate voted 67-29 to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol with wide bipartisan support. This is an international agreement that requires countries to reduce their use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) by 85% over 15 years. HFCs are coolant gases which are used in heating, refrigeration, air condition and refrigeration and emit potent greenhouse gases. The Obama administration negotiated this agreement in 2016 and the Trump administration did not send it to the Senate for ratification. The business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, strongly supported passing this agreement, arguing that passing the amendment would help U.S. manufacturers retain their competitiveness. This is the first time that the United States has ratified a international climate treaty in thirty years.

House: The full House passed the Preventing a Patronage System Act (H.R. 302). This bill, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) prevents the federal government from creating a “Schedule F” classification for federal workers. An executive order issued by former President Donald Trump created this classification. Employees in the “Schedule F” classification would be easier to fire. ESA and the scientific community opposed this executive order over concerns that it could be used to fire scientists whose results contradict the preferences of political appointees. President Joe Biden revoked the executive order during his first week in office.

House Natural Resources Committee: The committee held a hearing for bills sponsored by Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) intended to protect tribal cultural sites. The Advancing Tribal Parity on Public Land Act (H.R. 8108) prohibits the sale of public land containing a Tribal cultural site, where a Tribal nation retains treaty or other reserved rights, or that contains a former reservation and increases tribal consultation in public land use planning. The Tribal Cultural Areas Protection Act (H.R. 8109) establishes a national Tribal Cultural Areas System to designate public lands with culturally significant sites. At the hearing, Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Brian Newland indicated that the Biden administration supports these bills.

House Science Committee: The committee held a hearing to discuss the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee’s Arctic Research Plan for 2022-2026 and gaps in current arctic research and needed improvements to scientific infrastructure. The hearing featured testimony from Dr. Larry Hinzman, the executive director of the Interagency Arctic Research and Policy Committee, Dr. Mike Sfraga, the chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, Vera Kingeekuk Metcalf, the executive director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission and Dr. Susan Nalati of the Woodwell Climate Research Center.

Geopolitics weighed heavily over the hearing. Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in March 2022, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden announced that they are suspending their participation in the Arctic Council, which coordinates on Arctic issues, including scientific cooperation. Russia controls approximately half of the land mass in the Arctic, making scientific research in the region difficult without Russian collaboration.

House Science Committee: The Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics and the Subcommittee on Environment held a hearing about weather satellites with testimony from Dr. Stephen Volz of NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Services, John Gagosian of NASA and Fred Meny of the Commerce Department’s Inspector General. Among other satellite projects, Volz and Gagosian laid out plans from NOAA and NASA to launch the next generation of Geostationary Earth orbiting (GEO) satellites and Low Earth Orbit satellites to improve global weather forecasting models and support terrestrial weather prediction and warning. Improved satellite capabilities will benefit climate adaptation and mitigation, healthy oceans and resilient coastal communities.

Climate: House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) introduced a bill (H.R. 8802) requiring the Interior Department and the U.S. Forest Service to pause all fossil fuel leasing and permitting on federal lands until the agencies can prove that permitting these projects are consistent with the Biden administration’s climate change targets. The bill also requires land management agencies to create a comprehensive strategy to guide the agencies’ efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to keep the public informed of the progress. The bill is co-sponsored by six other House Natural Resources Committee Democrats. The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing about the bill Sept. 20.

GAO: A new report recommends that federal government take a more comprehensive approach towards climate resilience and adaptation. Recommendations include creating a “climate information system” that centralizes climate models and observations that are currently housed in agencies across the federal government. The national climate information system would provide authoritative climate data and guidelines for how to use the data, while the government watchdog recommends that a nonfederal entity would be better positioned to provide on-the-ground technical assistance and facilitate connections between decision makers and experts.

Legislative updates:

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) introduced the Save Our Sequoias Act (S. 4833). Among other provisions, this bill codifies the already existing the National Park Service’s Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition, provides the National Park Service with authority to expedite projects that make sequoia groves more resilient to wildfire, insects or disease and create an Interior Department grant program to support sequoia nurseries. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Scott Peter (D-CA) and 49 other bipartisan co-sponsors introduced similar legislation in June 2022 (H.R. 8186).
  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced the Continued Rapid Ohia Death Response Act (S. 4883), which authorizes $55 million over the next eleven years to support the work of federal agencies, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, to combat Rapid Ohia Death in Hawaii. Rapid Ohia Death is a fungal pathogen that kills an average of 10% of native Ohia trees each year and has killed over a million Ohia trees since it was first found in Hawaii in 2014.

More News

Executive Branch

Nominations: The full Senate voted to confirm Arati Prabhakar as the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Prabhakar is an applied physicist who previously led the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.  Once she is sworn in, Prabhakar be the first woman and first person of color to be the permanent OSTP director. The Biden administration notes that once Prabhakar joins the cabinet, the President’s Cabinet will be the first majority female cabinet in U.S. history.

White House: The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met Sept. 21. Agenda item included a discussion of advancing the U.S. innovation ecosystem with PCAST Co-Chair Frances Arnold and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and discussion about the implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act. View the meeting recording here.

Interior: The Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued guidance outlining how the agencies will increase and strengthen co-stewardship of federal lands and waters. For example, the Bureau of Land Management memo directs state directors to create state-specific plans for outreach to identify co-stewardship opportunities, including identifying potential Tribal partners and sources of Indigenous Knowledge with instructions to evaluate and incorporate Indigenous Knowledge in its analysis and decision-making. The Fish and Wildlife Service memo also commits the agency to increasing staff understanding of Tribal and Native expertise and Indigenous Knowledge and incorporating this knowledge into the agency’s decision making.

Interior: The USGS released a Tribal Climate Adaptation Guidebook that provides a comprehensive framework for climate change adaptation planning that explicitly recognizes the distinct circumstances of Tribal governments, culture, and knowledge systems while highlighting exemplary efforts by Tribes to adapt to climate change. The guidebook was originally published as a PDF in 2018 and then updated and adapted to a website in 2022. Development of the guidebook was led by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute and Adaptation International, with advisors from Native American Tribes, the USGS’ Climate Adaptation Science Centers and the EPA.

Interior: A new report from the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and other agencies concludes that significantly more attention and commitment to targeted restoration and management will be needed to halt ecosystem degradation in the sagebrush biome if threats to biodiversity continue. The report identifies 33 million acres of healthy, intact sagebrush ecosystems that state and federal land managers should work to protect.

USFWS: The agency is proposing listing the tricolored bat as an endangered species, citing population declines of more than 90% of in tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) colonies affected by white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome is a deadly fungal infection impacts bats. The fungal infection was first discovered in New York in 2006 and is now found in most of the tricolored bat’s range, which spans North America. USFWS is accepting public comments on the proposed rule through Nov. 14, 2022.

Similarly, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed changing the status of the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) from threatened to endangered species in March 2022.

NOAA: The Interagency Working Group on Ocean Acidification Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology released a draft Strategic Plan for Federal Research and Monitoring of Ocean Acidification. The Federal Ocean Acidification and Monitoring Research Act requires the federal government to revise this strategic plan every 5 years. The plan focuses on seven priority themes: monitoring, research, modeling, technology development. socioeconomic impacts, education, outreach, and engagement strategies; and data management and integration. The document is open for public comment through Nov. 12, 2022.

USDA: The National Institute of Food and Agriculture is holding a listening session Nov. 2 to receive stakeholder input about the challenges, needed breakthroughs and priorities for agricultural research. The agency will also accept written input through Nov. 30, 2022. For more information, see the Federal Register notice and NIFA website.

More News:




Scientific Community

NSF: ‘Trends in U.S. faculty hiring and retention from ten years of data series’ is the title of the 2022 Alan T. Waterman Award Lectures by Dr. Daniel Larremore who will discuss his research using mathematical methods and network analyses to examine the academic employment and doctoral education of all tenure-track faculty at Ph.D.-granting U.S. universities from 2011 to 2020 Sept. 28 at 1:00pm. The results reveal inequalities in faculty production, prestige, retention and gender, exacerbated by recurring patterns of attrition. Larremore is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Register for the lecture: https://beta.nsf.gov/events/waterman-lecture-trends-us-faculty-hiring-and-retention-ten-years-data

NSF: The Biological Sciences (BIO) Directorate Advisory Committee met Sept. 13-14. Discussion included the National Science strategic plan and how BIO programs align to the goals of the strategic plan. Topics included broadening participation in research and the requirements in the Chips and Science Act (H.R. 4346) to dedicate  20% of NSF research and related activities and education and human resources funding to EPSCoR states. NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)  aims to improve research infrastructure in states and jurisdictions that receive a comparatively small amount of NSF funding, enabling them to compete more successfully for federal R&D funding. View the meeting agenda here and the recordings on YouTube (day 1day 2).

White House: The Executive Office of the President, including the Office of Science and Technology Policy and other offices, are offering paid internship opportunities for the spring semester. The internships will run from Jan. 23, 2023 through April 14, 2023. Full-time participants will receive a stipend of $9,000 and part-time participants will receive a stipend of $4,500. The application window for the program closes 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Interested students may apply at the following link: https://apply.whitehouse.gov/eop-internships.

Climate: The George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication released a white paper offering guidance about sharing science-based information with decision-makers and the public and helping people and new organizations to change their climate change-relevant behaviors.

NASEM: Research at Multiple Scales: A Vision for Continental Scale Biology- The Board on Life Sciences is assembling an ad hoc committee to identify important themes and evolving or missing theory for biological research connecting micro to macro spatial scales and to describe how to structure such research most effectively. This study, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, will explore potential pathways to realizing the promise of continental-scale biology. The National Academies encourages nominations of candidates from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, women, and early- and mid-career professionals. Nominations are due by Oct. 8.

NASEM: The Division on Earth and Life Sciences and the Health and Medicine Division will hold a two-day hybrid workshop exploring opportunities to improve integration of public health and nature and to bridge the knowledge-to-action gap. Go to the workshop webpage to register and see the workshop agenda.

NASEM: The Board on Atmospheric Science and Climate released a review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s Draft Decadal Strategic Plan for 2022-20223. The review committee found that advances in the draft plan include an increased emphasis on social sciences, community engagement with marginalized groups, and promotion of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in the production of science. Strengthening the interconnections between the plan’s core pillars and expanding opportunities for coordination among federal agencies tasked with responding to global climate change would improve the plan. The draft plan could more strongly convey a sense of urgency throughout the plan and would benefit from additional examples of key research outputs that could advance policy and decision making on global change challenge.

NASEM: Dr. Shirley Malcom will give a lecture titled “Where Science and Society Meet” as the 2022 Henry and Bryna David Lecture Oct 12. The lecture will discuss the importance of the behavioral and social sciences and education in evidence-based public policy and will bring Dr. Malcom’s considerable expertise in public science literacy, issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and STEM education to bear on the challenges facing our society. Dr. Malcolm is Senior Advisor and Director of SEA Change Initiative at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which aims to advance institutional transformation in support of diversity, equity, and inclusion, especially in colleges and universities. RSVP here.

Register to Vote and Request an Absentee Ballot

The midterm elections are happening this November. On a national level, all seats in the House of Representatives and a third of the seats in the Senate will be contested. Several state governorships and many other state and local elections will also be contested. Be sure you are registered to vote in time to participate! Learn more about voting policies and rights in your state and register to vote at Rock the Vote, a nonprofit dedicated to engaging young people in politics.

Voting procedures and requirements for requesting an absentee ballot during the coronavirus pandemic vary by state. Visit your state board of elections website or Vote.org for deadlines and to request a ballot.

ESA Correspondence to Policymakers

View more letters and testimony from ESA here.

Federal Register Opportunities

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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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