ESA Policy News May 4: Senate committee moves NSF, DOE funding bills, ESA grad students visit Capitol Hill

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

APPROPRIATIONS: SENATE COMMERCE, JUSTICE AND SCIENCE BILL CLEARS SUBCOMMITTEE

On April 19, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Subcommittee approved its Fiscal Year 2017 spending bill. The bill includes $56.3 billion, $563 above the FY 2016 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the Obama administration’s FY 2017 budget request.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $7.5 billion in FY 2017, a $46.3 million increase over FY 2017. The added funding is directed solely towards NSF major research and facilities construction, specifically the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels. NSF research and related activities remains flat at the FY 2016 enacted level.

Below are funding levels for other science agencies in the bill, compared to the FY 2016 enacted level:

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: $5.7 billion, a $33.5 million increase.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration: $19.3 billion, a $21 million increase.

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy: $5.6 billion, level.

Click here for additional information on the Senate CJS bill.

 

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE, SENATE REPORT ENERGY AND WATER SPENDING BILLS

On April 20, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees moved their respective energy and water spending bills for Fiscal Year 2017, which begins Oct 1, 2016.

The House bill would provide $37.4 billion in funding, a $259 million increase over the FY 2016 enacted level. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016:

US Army Corps of Engineers: $6.1 billion, a $100 million increase.

Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase.

Advanced Research Agency-Energy (ARPA-E): $306 million, a $15 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $1.8 billion, a $248 million cut.

DOE Environmental Management: $6.2 billion, a $66 million cut.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $645 million, a $13 million increase.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.1 billion, a $131 million cut.

In contrast, the Senate Energy and Water appropriations bill passed committee with bipartisan support. Its Energy and Water bill would provide $37.5 billion in FY 2017, slightly larger than the House measure. Below are funding levels for specific federal entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

The US Army Corps of Engineers: $6 billion, an $11 million increase.

The DOE Office of Science: $5.4 billion, a $50 million increase.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs: $2 billion, level.

DOE Environmental Management: $6.4 billion, a $133 million increase.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development: $632 million, level.

Bureau of Reclamation: $1.14 billion, a $327 million increase.

Click here to view additional information on the House bill.

Click here to view additional information on the Senate bill.

 

APPROPRIATIONS: HOUSE AGRICULTURE SPENDING BILL INCREASES FUNDING FOR CONSERVATION, RESEARCH

On April 19, the House Appropriations Committee approved H.R. 5054, the House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017.

The bill includes $21.3 billion in discretionary spending, $451 million lower than the FY 2016 enacted level. Overall US Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs are funded at $868 million, level with FY 2016. Below are funding levels for specific USDA entities of interest to the ecological community compared to FY 2016 enacted levels:

Agricultural Research Service: $1.15 billion, an $8 million increase.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: $930.83 million, a $36.42 million increase.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture: $832.86 million, a $13.18 million increase.

Natural Resources Conservation Service: $855.26 million, a $4.4 million increase.

Click here for additional information on the bill.

 

SENATE: COMPREHENSIVE ENERGY REFORM BILL PASSES WITH BIPARTISAN SUPPORT

On April 20, the US Senate passed S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act by a vote of 85-12. Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the comprehensive energy legislation would modernize federal energy policies to prioritize investment in renewable energy sources and promote energy efficient infrastructure.

Among its conservation-related provisions, the bill would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and create a National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund to address maintenance backlogs at national parks. The bill also incorporates (S. 1408), which would support research and development of fuel-efficient and advanced safety technologies for motor vehicles.

One of the bill’s  amendments from Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN),calls on the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Energy and US Department of Agriculture to craft a coordinated biomass policy that reflects “the carbon-neutrality of forest bioenergy.”

Click here to view additional information on the bill.

Click here to view the White House Statement of Administration Policy on S. 2012.

 

EPA: STATES REQUEST GUIDANCE ON CLEAN POWER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION

Over a dozen state regulatory agencies are requesting that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provide additional guidance on how to implement the clean power plan rule in light of the Supreme Court’s stay on the rule.

The EPA cannot require states to comply with its power plant regulations during the stay, although states are can voluntarily meet the regulatory standards.

“We are a group of state environmental agency officials writing to request additional information and technical assistance related to the final Clean Power Plan in a manner that is respectful of the Supreme Court’s stay of the regulations until the conclusion of pending litigation,” states the letter. “This additional information and assistance will be important to our state efforts to prudently plan for and implement a variety of state and federal obligations.”

States signing the letter include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Click here to view the letter.

 

NSF: NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD REPORT EMPHASIZES VALUE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

On May 2, the National Science Foundation’s National Science Board released a policy companion brief outlining the economic benefits provided by the United States’ higher education system, particularly related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

The policy brief utilizes data from the most recent Science and Engineering Indicators report. It also includes a “sense of the Board” statement highlight the broad public benefits that the US higher education system provides.

The National Science Board believes that higher education plays a broader, intangible, and crucial role in supporting the past, current, and future success of our democratic society. “This role must be highlighted and better appreciated,” reads the statement.

Click here to view the report.

 

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: SCIENTISTS ADVOCATE FOR NSF FUNDING ON CAPITOL HILL

On April 28, scientists and graduate students from across the United States visited Capitol Hill, meeting with 60 congressional offices to support $8 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Fiscal Year 2017. They highlighted how federal investment in scientific research, specifically related to NSF’s biological sciences directorate, benefits the communities the lawmakers represent.

The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) event is organized each year by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS). BESC draws participation from Ph.D. scientists and graduate students affiliated with the two organizations. This year’s ESA Graduate Student Policy Award winner participants were Brian Kastl (University of California), Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), Matthew Pintar (University of Mississippi), Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), Jessica Nicole Welch (University of Tennessee), and Samantha Lynn Werner (University of New Hampshire).

Participants in the BESC Hill visits came prepared with personal stories describing how federal funding aids their research, helps them in advancing professional development and benefits their states. While firm commitments to support science funding varied from office-to-office, the graduate students and other participants mostly received collegial receptions from congressional staff and elected officials using local experiences to relate with the congressional staff and lawmakers.

The morning prior to the Hill visits, the students met informally with several ESA members working in policy-related positions in federal offices: Nadine Lymn (National Science Foundation), Rich Pouyat (US Forest Service), Alan Thornhill (US Geological Survey) and Brittany Marsden (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and 2014 GSPA recipient). The afternoon before the visits, all BESC participants were also briefed on the federal budget process and protocols regarding meeting with congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

 

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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