ESA Policy News: February 6, 2023

In this issue:

Congressional Leadership Releases Committee Rosters
House Science Committee, House Natural Resources and other committees fill out leadership rosters and add freshmen members for the 118th Congress.

Bipartisan members of Congress ask White House to provide $425 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2024 President’s Budget Request.

Executive Branch
Biden administration finalizes rule reinstating roadless protections for the Tongass National Forest.

Republican-led state sue to block environmental, social and governance retirement investing rule.

New Mexico lawmakers advance climate legislation.

Nigerian National Assembly advances bill to increase penalties for illegal wildlife trade.

Scientific Community
National Academies of Science releases provisional committee for Research at Multiple Scales: A Vision for Continental Scale Biology.

Federal Register opportunities

Congressional Leadership Releases Committee Rosters

House and Senate Republican and Democratic leadership continue to announce the members of key natural resources and science committees for the 118th Congress, which began in January.

House Appropriations Committee

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) will be the ranking member of the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. The subcommittee funds the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service. Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) will be ranking member of the House Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, which funds the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) will serve on the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee. Zinke formerly served as the Secretary of the Interior during the Trump administration.

Senate Appropriations Committee

Republican Senators Katie Britt (R-AL) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) will join the Senate Appropriations Committee. Britt was elected to succeed longtime Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL), who retired at the end of the 117th Congress. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is the top Republican on the committee in the 118th Congress.

House Natural Resources Committee

Chairman Bruce Westerman (R-AR) announced the committee leadership. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) will chair the Subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources, Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-WI) will chair the Subcommittee on Federal Lands and Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR) will chair the Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries. Freshman Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-WY) will chance the Subcommittee on Indian and Insular Affairs. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) will chair the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Gosar was previously removed from the House Natural Resources Committee by Democrats after he posted a video depicting violence against Democratic members of Congress.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Kevin McMullin (D-CA), Val Hoyle (D-OR), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-CA) and Seth Magaziner (D-RI) joined the House Natural Resources Committee. Ocasio Cortez will serve as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources and Kamlager-Dove will be the vice ranking member of the full committee. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) will also join the committee leadership as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) will be the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which drafts policy for National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic Administration and more. Former Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) is now the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Cruz previously served as the chairman of the Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness during the 115th session of Congress.

New Sens. Tedd Budd (R-NC) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) will join also join the committee.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee

Freshman Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) will join the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) will take on a new role as the chair of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife.

On the Republican side, freshman Sens. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Pete Ricketts (R-NE) will join the committee.

House Science Committee

Committee Ranking Member Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) released the Democratic roster for the House Science Committee. New members include freshman Reps. Summer Lee (D-PA), Maxwell Frost (D-FL), Yadira Caraveo (D-CO), Andrea Salinas (D-OR), Eric Sorenson (D-IL), Valerie Foushee (D-NC), Kevin Mullin (D-CA) and Jeff Jackson (D-NC). Notably, the committee roster does not include longtime committee members Reps. Bill Foster (D-IL), Don Beyer (D-VA), Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Sean Casten (D-IL). Foster is one of few Ph.D. scientists in Congress. There are still two Democratic vacancies on the committee.

Rep. George Santos (R-NY) recused himself from serving on the House Science Committee amid on-going investigations into his campaign finance irregularities and other issues. Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) previously announced that Santos would join the committee.


Great Lakes: Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Mary Kaptur (D-OH), Bill Huizenga (R-MI) and David Joyce (R-OH) sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget requesting that the administration include $425 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative its fiscal year 2024 president’s budget request. The $425 million amount would represent a $57 million increase over FY 2023 levels. These members of Congress are the bipartisan co-chairs of the House Great Lakes Taskforce and Kaptur and Joyce are both members of the House Appropriations Committee. Last year, the Biden administration released its president’s budget request in late March.

Conservative Climate Caucus: Chair John Curtis (R-UT) announced that Rep. Marianne Miller-Meeks (R-IA) will serve as the Conservative Climate Caucus’ vice-chair during the 118th Congress. This caucus is a group of Republican lawmakers who are interested in climate solutions. The group is primarily focused on educating House Republicans on climate and energy issues through briefings and trips.

House Science Committee: Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) sent a letter to White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Arati Prabhakar requesting information about how the White House has responded to a scientific integrity scandal involving OSTP Deputy Director for Climate and Environment Jane Lubchenco. In this scandal, the National Academies of Science found that Lubchenco violated its code of conduct by accepting an article into the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science that relied on outdated data and failing to recuse herself from reviewing the article because of the authors is her brother-in-law. Lubchenco is ban from participating in National Academies activities and publications for five years, starting in August 2022. Lucas notes in the letter that the House Science Committee will continue its oversight of the matter under his leadership. This is the third letter that Lucas has sent to the White House about Lubchenco’s scientific misconduct.

Climate: Twenty-seven Democratic members of Congress wrote to US Climate Envoy John Kerry asking him to push the United Arab Emirates to remove Sultan Al Jaber as the head of this year’s U.N. climate talks. The United Arab Emirates is set to host the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conference of Parties 28 (COP 28) in November 2023. Al Jaber is the head of the state-run Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Kerry has previously made remarks supportive of Al Jaber’s role in the climate talks. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), who is a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, led the letter.

For the past three COPs, ESA has received official observer status at the international climate talks and badged ESA members to attend the conference. ESA member Morgan Rogers recently submitted a blog post to ESA about her experience at COP27 in Egypt. ESA will announce the process for badging ESA member for COP28 in the coming months.

Legislative updates:

  • The full House passed a bill (H.R. 139) requiring federal agencies to return to telework policies in effect at the end of 2019, largely along party lines with almost all House Republicans supporting this bill and almost all House Democrats opposing the bill. The number of federal employees primarily working from home has declined since 2021, telework is more common for federal employees today than before the pandemic. Federal worker unions urged members of Congress to oppose the bill.
  • Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) reintroduced a bill (H.R. 724) to permanently protect the National Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas development. A press release from Huffman notes that while the Biden administration has taken steps to stop drilling in the refuge, the area is still at risk from drilling due to provisions in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act requiring the federal government to offer oil and gas lease sales in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Sens. Ed Markey, Maria Cantwell, Martin Heinrich and Michael Bennet reintroduced companion legislation in the Senate.
  • Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Michael Waltz (R-FL) introduced the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act (H.R. 676), which aims to improve NOAA’s collaboration with state, local and tribal governments in ocean acidification efforts and maintains the Ocean Acidification Information Exchange to support data sharing on ocean acidification research, data, and monitoring efforts.

More News:

Executive Branch

White House: Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Deputy Director for Science and Society Alondra Nelson will leave the White House at the end of this week to return to Princeton University. Nelson has been a part of OSTP since the beginning of the Biden Adminstration and she led of the office for most of 2022 after former Director Eric Lander resigned in February 2022.

Forest Service: The Biden administration finalized a rule reinstating protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. This move reverses a 2020 Trump administration rule which removed protections for around 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest, effectively re-opening these areas to logging. The rule reinstates protections created by the Forest Service’s 2001 Roadless Rule. During the Trump administration, ESA submitted comments opposing the Forest Service’s proposal to exempt the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from the 2001 Roadless Rule, noting that the Tongass stores a large amount of carbon and fuels productive and commercially important marine ecosystems.

Interior: Secretary Deb Haaland signed a public land order withdrawing 225,000 acres of land near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness from mining for the next twenty years. This order effectively stops a proposed copper-nickel mine near Ely, MN.

The Obama administration previously recommended a mining withdrawal in this area in 2016, but the Trump administration stopped that process.

Shortly after Haaland signed this order, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced a bill (H.R. 668) to permanently protect the area from mining.

USDA: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that his deputy, Jewel Bronaugh will depart the agency in the coming weeks. Bronaugh was the first African American to serve in this role.  She started at the USDA in May 2021. President Biden will now have a nominate someone to fill this role, which requires Senate confirmation. Politico report that Xochitl Torres Small is a top contender for the role. Torres Small represented a rural New Mexico district in Congress from 2018 to 2020 and is the USDA’s current undersecretary for rural development.

EPA: The Science Advisory Board is seeking nominations for new board members. This board provides independent scientific and technical peer review, consultation, advice, and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on the scientific bases for EPA’s actions and programs. The board captured public attention during the Trump administration when it questioned the underlying science in several high-profile agency rules. Area of scientific expertise sought include ecological sciences and ecological assessment, ecological risk assessment, ecosystem services, forestry and environmental justice. Nominations are due March 2, 2023.

EPA: The agency issued a rare Clean Water Act veto, further stopping the proposed Pebble copper and gold mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. The veto finds that mining discharges would cause unacceptable damage to area’s fisheries. This watershed is home to the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery. This follows an Army Corps of Engineers decision made late in the Trump administration to block Clean Water Act permits for the mine.

More News:




Scientific Community

NASEM: The National Academies is now accepting formal comments on the provisional committee selected for the upcoming report Research at Multiple Scales: A Vision for Continental Scale Biology. This committee will conduct a consensus study to identify important themes and theory for biological research connecting micro to macro scales and describe how such research would most effectively be structured. The study is commissioned by the National Science Foundation. The formal comment period on the provisional committee slate ends Feb. 16, 2023, submit a comment here.

NASEM: A consensus study report Advancing Antiracism, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEMM Organizations: Beyond Broadening Participation will be released Feb. 14. The report will review the literature on bias and racism in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine workplaces; approaches to increase racial and ethnic diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in STEM organizations; and offer best policies and practices for DEI and anti-racism initiatives, as well as outline goals for relevant, future research and for organizational strategic planning. The study’s co-chairs and committee members will host a report release webinar Feb. 14 at 11 am eastern to overview of the report and a discussion of the conclusions and recommendations. RSVP here.

NASEM: The Jefferson Science Fellowship Program will host a lecture by Dr. Travis Marisco titled “Biodiversity’s Foundational Role in Planetary and Human Security” tomorrow, Feb. 7 at 11:00 am eastern. Marisco is a professor of botany at Arkansas State University. The description of the lecture on the National Academies website reads: “Human civilizations have developed in a time of stable climate and abundant biodiversity. These planetary conditions and resources have promoted unprecedented population growth and resulted in unsustainable (and sometimes criminal) extractive practices. Destabilized natural systems caused by biodiversity loss, species redistribution, and rapid climate change threaten lives and livelihoods around the world. In addition to a thematic overview, Marisco will provide specific policy-relevant examples.” Register to attend the lecture online or in-person in Washington, DC here.

Climate: An article published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences found that the world could cross critical climate thresholds sooner than previously predicted. The world could pass 1.5 degrees C of warming in a decade and surpass two degrees of warming by mid-century. The authors reached these conclusions using machine learning.

Diversity: The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, a part of the National Science Foundation, released its Diversity and STEM: Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities 2023 report. According to the NSF website, the report contains statistical information about the representation of women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in STEM employment and science and engineering education. New data show that the STEM workforce is growing, employing nearly a quarter (24%) of individuals in 2021, up 20% from 2011. In addition to growth, the STEM workforce continues to diversify; underrepresented minorities accounted for 24% of the STEM workforce in 2021, up from 18% in 2011, while representation of women reached 35% in 2021, up from 32% in 2011.

NSF: E&E News reported that scientific staff at the National Science Foundation are in “revolt” over a plan to increase their pay by 1% annually, rather than the 4.6% cost of living increase approved by the Biden administration for most federal employees. The 1% pay increase applies to 334 employees who are largely program directors and are paid under an “administratively determined” pay scale, rather than the general schedule pay scale used for most federal employees. E&E News published both a list of comments from employees impacted by the decision and a letter from American Federal of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley to NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan.

Shortly after the E&E News report, NSF leadership reversed this decision and told employees that they will “NOT be implementing the proposal that prematurely went to staff last week” and all employees will receive “the full 4.1% increase plus any appropriate locality pay, which totals 4.6% total for the D.C. area.”

More News:

ESA Correspondence to Policymakers

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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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