ESA Policy News December 17: Congress passes “CRomnibus” spending bill, Senate committee chairs announced, US Census public comment opportunity

Here are some highlights from the latest ESA Policy News by Policy Analyst Terence Houston. Read the full Policy News here. 


On Dec. 11, the US House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill to continue funding for most federal agencies through the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The Senate then passed a two-day continuing resolution (CR) to avoid a government shutdown. In a rare evening session on Dec. 13, the Senate passed the bill in a bipartisan vote of 56-40.

Dubbed the “CRomnibus,” (a play on the words continuing resolution and omnibus), the bill funds most federal agencies throughout the remainder of FY 2015 ending on Sept. 30, 2015. The sole exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which is funded under a CR until Feb. 2015. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) negotiated the compromise agreement.

Under the measure, most federal agencies enjoyed only modest increases due to spending caps set forth under the Murray-Ryan budget agreement. The FY 2015 spending levels for federal agencies and programs of interest to the ecological community in comparison to FY 2014 enacted spending are as follows: 

Agriculture Research Service: $1.8 billion, a $55.1 million increase.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $871 million, a $49 million increase.

Bureau of Land Management: $1.1 billion, a $13.7 million increase.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management: $72.4 million, a $3.4 million increase.  

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $25.8 million increase.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement: $81 million, a $2.4 million increase.

Department of Energy Biological and Environmental Research: $592 million, an $18.2 million decrease.

Department of Energy Office of Science: $5.1 billion, level with FY 2014.

Environmental Protection Agency: $8.1 billion, a $60.1 million decrease.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $18 billion, a $364 million increase.

National Science Foundation: $7.3 billion, a $172.3 million increase.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.4 billion, a $126 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: $858.4 million, a $33.5 million increase.

National Park Service: $2.6 billion, a $53.1 million increase

Smithsonian Institution: $819.5 million, a $14.5 million increase.

US Army Corps of Engineers: $5.5 billion, a $15 million increase.

US Forest Service: $5.1 billion, a $423.4 million decrease.

US Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.4 billion, a $12.4 million increase.

US Geological Survey: $1 billion, a $13 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the FY 2015 omnibus bill.

Click here for summaries of individual appropriations bills included in the FY 2015 omnibus. Click here for the White House Statement of Administration Policy.


With the Senate set to change hands in January, Democrats and Republicans announced their picks for top committee positions for the 114th Congress.

The Senate will change from a 55-45 governing Democratic majority to a 54-46 Republican majority (Independents Angus King (ME) and Bernie Sanders (VT) will continue to caucus with Democrats). Committee membership rosters are proportional to the number of party members in the Senate, so committees will lose Democratic members while gaining a few Republican seats on most committees.

Republicans will gain two seats while Democrats will lose two seats on these Senate Committees: Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation; Energy and Natural Resources; Environment and Public Works; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Below is a list of chair and ranking member positions for Senate committees with jurisdiction over legislation of interest to the ecological community:

Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee: Pat Roberts (KS), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Appropriations: Thad Cochran (R-MS), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)

Budget: Republican TBD, Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Commerce Science and Transportation: John Thune (R-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Energy and Natural Resources: Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Environment and Public Works: James Inhofe (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Mike Enzi (R-WY), Patty Murray (D-WA)


The US Census Bureau has identified the “Field of Degree” question as a candidate for removal from its American Community Survey (ACS), which tracks population demographics that help determine how federal and state resources are directed. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) relies on this question to identify scientists and engineers in the US population and to compile and track statistical data trends in the science and engineering workforce.

NCSES has reached a preliminary conclusion that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the same level of quality data collection through alternative means without significant additional costs to the federal government and burden to survey respondents.

NSF’s National Science Board is urging stakeholders to respond to the US Census Bureau’s call for public comment, published in the Federal Register. The public comment period expires Dec. 30, 2014.

Click here for additional background information. Click here to comment on the proposal. For more background on the American Community Survey, click here.


On Dec. 12, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The bill includes an omnibus package of bipartisan public lands bills supported by outgoing Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and retiring House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA).

The 450-page public lands package is the largest federal lands initiative passed by Congress since the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-11). Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) sought to strip the public lands provisions from the defense authorization bill, but his motion failed by a strongly bipartisan vote of 18-82. The president is expected to sign the bill.

The compromise agreement both designates new protected areas while opening other areas to logging and energy development. The bill designates approximately 245,000 acres as wilderness in wilderness in Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington and Montana and protects 140 miles of rivers.  It also releases 26,000 acres of wilderness study areas for private development.

Click here for additional information on the public lands provisions.


Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) has been selected to succeed retiring Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) as the House co-chair of the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force at the start of the 114th Congress. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will continue as the Senate co-chair.

Rep. Waxman and Sen. Whitehouse established the group to draw congressional and public attention to climate change and push for policy action. The group periodically releases fact sheets on alternative energy sources and makes public statements about national policy developments or actions related to climate change.

Congressman Van Hollen is the current Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee and serves as Vice-chair of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus. He has sponsored H.R. 5271, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, which would charge carbon-emitting industries to cut their emissions 80 percent by 2050 to 2005 levels. The revenue generated would be returned to the public in the form of a “Healthy Climate Dividend.”

Click here for additional information on the Bicameral Climate Change Task Force.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Solicitation: Nominations due Jan. 9, 2015

NOAA is requesting nominations for members of its Science Advisory Board.

Notice: Public comment period closes Jan. 26, 2015

National invasive lionfish prevention and management plan

Proposed rule: Public comment period closes Mar. 9, 2015

Critical Habitat Designation for the Arctic subspecies (Phoca hispida hispida) of the ringed seal (Phoca hispida)

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Recovery Plan: Public comment period closes Feb. 9, 2015

Draft recovery strategy for four Santa Rosa Plain CA animal and plant species.


Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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