ESA Policy News April 15: California orders new water restrictions, EPA moves to protect pollinators, NOAA initiates algal bloom ‘early warning system’

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

 

DROUGHT: CALIFORNIA ORDERS MANDATORY CUTS IN WATER USAGE

On April 1, California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a landmark executive order requiring state residents to cut their water usage by 25 percent through February 28, 2016.

The first-ever water restrictions target watering on lawns, campuses, cemeteries and golf courses. The order also instructs the California Energy Commission to pass appliance efficiency standards for toilets, faucets, urinals and other appliances resulting in saving 10 billion gallons of water in the first year. It also directs the State Water Resources Control Board to develop rate structures and other pricing mechanisms to discourage overuse.

On April 9, the California Energy Commission adopted new efficiency standards for water-using appliances. The emergency situation allowed the Commission to prohibit the sale and installation of certain toilets, urinals and faucets that do not meet minimum water efficiency requirements as of Jan. 1, 2016, regardless of the manufactured date.

Click here to view the full executive order announcement.

Click here to view the California Energy Commission announcement.

EPA: LETTERS SEEK TO CURB USAGE OF PESTICIDE HARMFUL TO POLLINATORS

The US Environmental Protection Agency issued correspondence notifying manufacturers of neonicotinoid pesticides for outdoor use that applications to the agency seeking approval for usage may not be approved until risk assessments to pollinators are complete.

The agency asks manufacturers with pending registrations for outdoor use of neonicotinoid pesticides to withdraw or change any references to using the product outdoors by April 30.

Click here for more information.

EUROPEAN ACADEMIES: NEONICOTINOIDS STUDY RELEASED

On April 8, the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) published its latest study on neonicotinoids and their effects on ecosystem services. It concludes that widespread preventive use of neonicotinoids has adverse effects on non-target organisms that provide ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest control, as well as on biodiversity.

David Inouye, ESA president offered his insight on the report.

“The effects on pollinators (other than honey bees and bumble bees) and organisms that contribute to natural pest control and soil functioning have rarely been addressed in research so far, but acute lethal or sub-lethal effects have been observed on several natural pest control species such as insects and birds, and soil dwelling species such as earthworms. Thus neonicotinoids appear to have many of the same detrimental features that previous generations of pesticides, starting with DDT, have ultimately been found to have.”

Click here for more information.

EPA: CLEAN WATER RULE SENT TO WHITE HOUSE FOR FINAL REVIEW

On April 6, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers sent a final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clarifying waterways that fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

The agency’s “Waters of the United States” rule would clarify that the Clean Water Act’s enforcement over “navigable waters” includes streams and wetlands, which can influence larger waterbodies and ecosystems. It also would continue existing exemptions for agriculture. The rule clarifies that only ditches that function as tributaries that carry pollution downstream qualify for the law’s protection.

The OMB review is the last step in the regulatory finalization process. The rule is expected to be finalized in coming months.

Congressional Republicans have continued their critique of the rule and may seek policy riders to block it in Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations legislation. Most recently, the rule was the focus of an April 14 House Natural Resources Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing.

Click here for additional information on the rule.

Click here to view the Water, Power and Oceans Subcommittee hearing.

NOAA: NEW PROJECT TO PROVIDE ‘EARLY WARNING SYSTEM’ FOR ALGAL BLOOMS

On April 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced it is teaming with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Geological Survey on a research project that will use satellite data to detect harmful algal blooms.

The $3.6 million initiative will function as an early warning system. Algal blooms pose a threat to ecosystems, wildlife, water resources and human health. Based off this information, state and local agencies can provide the public with public health advisories. The five-year project plans to convert satellite data on algal blooms developed by the federal agency partners into a format that the public can access through mobile devices and web portals.

Click here for additional information.

NOAA: ESA SIGNS LETTER SUPPORTING EDUCATION LITERACY GRANTS

The Ecological Society of America was among 60 national, regional and state education, environmental and scientific societies writing to Congress in support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Education Program.

The letters, addressed to the House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittees, request $20 million for the Chesapeake Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) and Environmental Literacy Grants (ELG) programs for Fiscal Year 2016. The letter also discusses the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and environmental literacy efforts.

Click here to view the House NOAA letter.

Click here to view the Senate NOAA letter.

NSF: ESA SENDS HOUSE, SENATE FY 2016 FUNDING SUPPORT LETTERS

The Ecological Society of America sent letters to House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee leaders expressing support of $7.7 billion for the National Science Foundation in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The number is similar to the Obama administration’s FY 2016 funding request for the agency.

The letter notes that the United States’ share of the world’s research and development has decreased and highlights the importance of funding biological sciences.

Both the House and Senate CJS Subcommittee have new chairs in the 114th Congress. Due to the retirement of former Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA), the House CJS Subcommittee is now chaired by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX). With Republicans now in control of the upper chamber, the Senate CJS Subcommittee is now chaired by Richard Shelby (R-AL), who also chairs the full committee. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who chaired the full committee and CJS subcommittee under Democratic control, now serves as Ranking Member.

Click here to view the House letter.

Click here to view the Senate letter.

 

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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