ESA Policy News July 29: White House teams with businesses to advance climate pledge, agriculture spending bills advance, ESA responds to Senate COMPETES comment request

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


Thirteen of the largest companies in the United States are joining the Obama administration in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge: Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart. The companies making pledges represent more than $1.3 trillion in revenue in 2014 and a combined market capitalization of at least $2.5 trillion.

In signing the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge,” the businesses 1) voice their support for a strong outcome in the Paris climate negotiations 2) pledge to reduce their carbon emissions and take other actions that improve sustainability and address climate change 3) set an example that will pave the way for a second round of pledges from additional companies this fall.

Click here for additional information.


Over the past several weeks, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved their respective Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bills for FY 2016.

The bills provide funding for most US Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. Overall FY 2016 funding in both bills is lower than the enacted FY 2015 spending level to comply with sequestration funding levels. However, the Senate bill does increase funding for most agricultural research programs. Though the White House has yet to issue a veto threat of either bill, it did submit a letter of concern on the House bill.

Below are summaries of funding for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2015 enacted funding:

Agricultural Research Service

House: $1.12 billion; $10.17 million less than FY 2015.

Senate: $1.14 billion; a $4.2 million increase over FY 2015.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

House: $870.95 million; $370,000 less than FY 2015.

Senate: $876.47 million; a $5.15 million increase over FY 2015.

Natural Resources Conservation Service

House: $832.93 million; $13.5 million less than FY 2015.

Senate: $855.21 million; an $8.78 million increase over FY 2015.

Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

House: $335 million; a $10 million increase over FY 2015.

Senate: $325 million; level with FY 2015.

Click here to view the White House letter of the House Agriculture FY 2016 spending bill.


On July 22, the Obama administration granted Shell conditional approval to conduct limited exploratory drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea offshore Alaska in Arctic waters.

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) issued the permits allow Shell to drill only the top sections of wells and prohibit the company from penetrating oil-bearing rock. The prohibition on penetrating oil-bearing rock could be lifted once repair is complete on a vessel carrying necessary emergency response equipment for Shell, if the equipment meets BSEE safety requirements.

The company will be allowed to drill only one well at a time in order to comply with marine mammal protection requirements. Trained wildlife observers will also be required on all drilling sites as well as support vessels to minimize impacts to federally protected species.

Click here for additional information.


On July 24, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) responded to a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee request for comments from the scientific community as the committee begins work in drafting its version of an America COMPETES Reauthorization.

The letter requests that the committee draft a bipartisan bill that prioritizes investment for all scientific fields in order to maintain the nation’s global competitiveness. The approach the Senate has taken, seeking comments from the scientific community before beginning work on its COMPETES reauthorization, sets a markedly different tone than that of the US House of Representatives.

In May the House passed a 2015 America COMPETES Reauthorization. It was opposed by the scientific community, all House Democrats, and nearly two dozen House Republicans. The bill would fund the National Science Foundation (NSF) by directorate, effectively deciding scientific research at the congressional level. Currently, NSF determines research priorities and funding levels for directorates based on decadal reports, input from the scientific community, convening expert workshops and seeking input from the scientific community. The ESA letter requests that the Senate bill not authorize funding for NSF by directorate, as the House bill does.

Comments from the scientific community can be sent to through August 21, 2015.

Click here for additional information. Click here to view the ESA letter.


On July 29, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) issued a finalized rule listing the Honduran emerald hummingbird (Amazilia luciae) as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency estimates that 90 percent of the birds’ habitat has been lost and only 5,000 to 10,000 breeding pairs remain in small isolated valleys within the country. The rulemaking prohibits “take” (defined under the Endangered Species Act as harm, harass, kill or injury) of the bird and also bans the species form being imported into or exported out of the United States.

Click here for additional information.


Policy News will be on hiatus for August. We hope to see you in Baltimore next week for ESAs Centennial Meeting.

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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