Policy News: November 20, 2017


The Katherine S. McCarter
Graduate Student Policy Award

Applications now open.

ESA is now accepting applications for its 2018 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award. Offered each year, this award gives graduate students an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC for science policy training and meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

Visit the ESA website for more information and details on application requirements.

The deadline to apply is January 10.


In This Issue:

ESA Joins Other Societies in Opposition to Higher Education Changes in Tax Bill

ESA Holds Inaugural Science Communication Workshop

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration 2017-2022 Priorities Presented to Science Advisory Board

Increase economic contribution of US fisheries and improve weather forecasts and national security

Paris Climate Update: Bonn Conference of Parties

US presentation sparks walkout, shadow delegation says #WeAreStillIn

Confirmation of EPA Nominee Dourson in Doubt

NC senators announce opposition, Sen. Collins leaning against

Quick Reads

Elephant trophy import reversal, Stream Protection Rule nullified, Kigali Amendment, USGS nominee, senators urge science appointments, Pruitt scheduled on Capitol Hill, and more

Get Involved

Comment on NCA4, NSF seeking white papers on STEM education, nominate marine fishery advisory committee members, other opportunities to provide comments and input

Legislative Updates

House passes evidence-based policy bill, Senate panel approves ANWR drilling legislation, other legislation of interest

Opportunities from the Federal Register

Upcoming meetings and other opportunities for public involvement

ESA Correspondence to Policymakers


ESA Joins Other Societies in Opposition to Higher Education Changes in Tax Bill

The tax reform bill passed by the House on Nov. 16 includes changes that would affect higher education, making it less affordable and less accessible by eliminating tax provisions for graduate students and imposing an excise tax on nonprofit private university endowments. In response to the proposed changes, ESA joined other scientific societies to send a letter to House leadership as well as every Member of Congress, urging them to preserve the critical graduate student tax benefit provisions. The proposed Senate version of the tax bill maintains many of the education tax credits and tax exemptions that the House bill eliminated.

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ESA Holds Inaugural Science Communication Workshop

ESA’s Public Affairs Office held a Communicating Science, Policy, and Public Engagement Workshop at Bowie State University on Nov. 2-3. This workshop, funded by an award provided by Wiley Publications and distributed by the ESA Governing Board, provided ESA members with the basics of science communication and public engagement. Attendees learned about effective science communication in a variety of settings and developed skills for engaging with the media, Congress, and other audiences. ESA plans to hold additional workshops in the future at locations throughout the country.

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National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration 2017-2022 Priorities Presented to Science Advisory Board

Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, Ph.D., USN Ret., assistant secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) addressed the 60th Meeting of the NOAA Science Advisory Board on Oct. 30, in Silver Spring, MD, on NOAA’s priorities for 2017-2022. His presentation focused on weather research, forecasting, and ocean economies. Underlying each of the priorities is an emphasis on security—national, economic, homeland, resource, and cyber. Any mention of climate change was conspicuously absent in Dr. Gallaudet’s prepared remarks.

Noting an environment of accelerating technological and information growth, as well as a reemergence of “great power competition,” Gallaudet committed NOAA to continuing the development and capability of agency resources, including ships, aircraft, and satellites, as well as NOAA’s earth science system observation networks.

The Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017 (Public Law 115–25) directs NOAA to make “affordable and attainable advances in observational, computing, and modeling capabilities to  support substantial improvement in weather forecasting and prediction of high impact weather events, to expand commercial opportunities for the provision of weather data.”

Gallaudet commented that NOAA is moving forward with a “specific eye in implementing everything in the [law],” calling it “a great path forward to realize the first priority to have the best [weather prediction] model in the world.” Meanwhile he observed the stagnation of federal budgets and increasing investments in weather observation and prediction by private industry and academia, encouraging new partnerships and innovations.

The focus on ocean economies continues NOAA’s emphasis on using ecosystem-based approaches for species management and developing sustainable coastal communities and fisheries, while increasing attention to their contributions to the national economy.

The absence of climate change content in the presentation did not go unremarked, however, with Susan Avery, SAB member and president emeritus of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, pressing on this point. Gallaudet replied that climate “is absolutely part of the priority.” He continued, “[The Department of Commerce and Secretary Wilbur Ross] absolutely want us to keep doing our climate mission, advance our understanding and predictive capability and monitoring capability, because so much of the national economy depends on it and protection of life and property.” It is notable that the NOAA website, on Nov. 17, led with the story, “Globe had 3rd warmest year to date and 4th warmest October on record.”

NOAA is currently awaiting Senate action on the nomination of Barry Meyers, chief executive of AccuWeather since 2007, as NOAA administrator (ESA Policy News, October 23). Meyers was nominated by President Trump on Oct, 11, but at this writing, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has yet to schedule a hearing on the nomination. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), ranking minority member of the committee, has characterized Meyers as facing a potential conflict of interest, commenting, “We can’t afford to have someone in this position that might be tempted to feather their own nest by privatizing the National Weather Service.”

Dr. Gallaudet was nominated by President Trump on Sept. 5, advanced by the Senate Commerce Committee on Oct. 4, and confirmed by the full Senate the next day, Oct. 5. In the absence of a confirmed NOAA administrator, Gallaudet is the acting lead. Before his nomination, Gallaudet served as Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, where he helped develop the plan to address climate change impacts.

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Paris Climate Update: Bonn Conference of Parties

Delegations of the nearly 200 countries pledged to the Paris Climate Accord met in Bonn, Germany, Nov. 6-17, to firm up the commitments and groundwork for the next meeting in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 3-14, 2018, which will set the rules of the accord going forward.,

President Trump, in a June 1 speech, announced his intention to withdraw from the Paris agreement on Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the next US presidential election (ESA Policy News, June 8). On the second day of the Bonn meeting, Syria announced it would join the Paris agreement, leaving the US the only country opposed to the deal.  Nonetheless, the administration sent a delegation of political White House officials and career State Department negotiators to Bonn.

The US political delegation, led by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, announced its presence in Bonn on Monday, Nov. 6, with an informal panel discussion on international energy issues, with an emphasis on continued use of nuclear energy, coal, and other fossil fuels.,  However, protesters delayed the panel’s start by more than 10 minutes. After the protesters left, the room was largely empty.

Later, on Nov. 16, Judith Garber, the acting assistant secretary of state for oceans, environment and science, delivered a more palatable speech, noting the US intention to remain engaged in the Paris process, while making no mention of coal. She also underscored the US commitment to help less advantaged countries “adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

For the first time, the US declined to sponsor a pavilion at the climate summit, and a door to the office of the official delegation sported a sign, “Authorized Delegation Staff Use Only.” A US Climate Action Center, however, was set up in a nearly 27,000-square-foot inflatable tent, paid for by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) and hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer.  That pavilion, with banners proclaiming “#WeAreStillIn,” supported the group “America’s Pledge” which sent a shadow delegation of US federal, state, and local elected officials and business interests representing 20 states, 110 cities, and more than 1,400 businesses.

Led by Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown (D), the shadow delegation welcomed guests with free coffee and jelly doughnuts. In remarks Saturday, Nov. 11, Bloomberg observed, “The group of U.S. cities, states, and businesses who remain committed to the Paris Agreement represents a bigger economy than any nation outside the US and China. We should have a seat at the table—and the ability to work with peers in other nations.”

“We came to Bonn to send a message to the global community—the President of the United States is a powerful person, but he cannot stop clean energy,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). Other senators in the “shadow delegation” included Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Ed Markey (D-MA).

The America’s Pledge delegation was welcomed by diplomats from other countries, who were nonetheless uncertain if they could prove effective partners.

At the close of the Bonn meeting, Andrew Deutz, director of international governmental relations for The Nature Conservancy said, “The conference gets a grade of ‘meets expectations.’” He continued, “The absence of national U.S. leadership was evident within the negotiating process this week.” With no substantive decisions taken, Tosi Mpanu-Mpanu, a senior negotiator for the Democratic Republic of Congo, was disappointed, “I have a feeling that people were a little bit complacent.”

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Confirmation of EPA Nominee Dourson in Doubt

The nomination of Michael Dourson to be the assistant administrator for toxic substances of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in doubt. Although advanced by a party-line vote of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on Oct. 25, a confirmation vote by the full Senate has not yet been scheduled. Just prior to the committee vote, it was learned that Dourson was already at work as an advisor to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, an apparent violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 (ESA Policy News, October 23).,

On Nov. 15, North Carolina Republican Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis said they would not vote to confirm Dourson, pointing to concerns about his water safety record. “I will not be supporting the nomination of Michael Dourson,” Burr said. “With his record and our state’s history of contamination at Camp Lejeune as well as the current Gen X water issues in Wilmington, I am not confident he is the best choice for our country.” Trichloroethylene (TCE), one of the contaminants of concern at Lejeune, is scheduled to be among the first to be evaluated under the newly updated Toxic Substances Control Act. Dourson, as a consultant, had argued for TCE standards much weaker than those already established by the EPA.

With the Senate’s current 52-48 Republican majority, the Dourson nomination cannot afford to lose one more Republican vote. The day following the Burr-Tillis announcement, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters, “I have a lot of concerns about Mr. Dourson. I have not yet made a final decision. But I certainly share the concerns that have been raised by Sen. Burr and Sen. Tillis, among others.” “I think it’s safe to say that I’m leaning against him,” she continued. Other Senate Republicans, including Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Bob Corker (R-TN), John McCain (R-AZ), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are “non-committal” on support for Dourson.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), an occasional Democratic cross-over vote, has also come out against Dourson. “In West Virginia, we are unfortunately familiar with the dangers that can arise when we neglect to properly comply with and enforce our chemical regulations,” Manchin said in a statement. “After reviewing his qualifications, I am not convinced that Dr. Dourson is the proper fit to oversee the federal agency responsible for overseeing chemical safety.”

Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) seemed to abandon Dourson when asked about a floor vote Thursday, saying “Senator McConnell [Senate Majority Leader, R-KY] will have to do the scheduling.”

Sen. Tillis (R-NC) told reporters that he expects the Dourson nomination to be withdrawn. “I do know that we have a good queue of other nominees that the administration has considered,” he remarked. “So I expect us to have a nominee that we can support, moving quickly with the confidence of the administration.”

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Quick Reads

Appropriations Update
The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution, a short-term funding measure that funds the government until Dec. 8. Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said another short-term spending bill will likely be needed to keep the government operating for the rest of the year. With tax reform efforts occupying much of lawmakers’ attention, another continuing resolution would avoid a government shutdown and continue to fund agencies at Fiscal Year 2017 spending levels. The House has already passed an omnibus spending bill for FY 2018. The Senate has marked up eight of the twelve appropriations bills for FY 2018 and plans to release the remaining four this week.

Elephant Trophy Import Decision Reversed
The Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Nov. 16 that it would be reversing a 2014 ban on the import of elephant trophies killed in Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2016 and 2018. In a Nov. 17 Federal Register notice, the agency explained its decision to reverse the ban, based on a determination that “the killing of trophy animals […] will enhance the survival of the African elephant.” However, in response to widespread outcry over this decision to allow the import of elephant trophies, President Trump announced in a tweet that he was reversing the decision, stating “Put big game trophy decision on hold until such time as I review all conservation facts. Under study for years. Will update soon with Secretary Zinke. Thank you!” A follow-up tweet on Nov. 19 said a decision will be announced this week, but that Trump “will be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.”

Stream Protection Rule Nullified
In February, Congress passed and the president signed a Congressional Review Act resolution overturning the Stream Protection Rule issued by Interior’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. This Obama-era regulation was meant to protect streams and waterways from pollution from mining operations. A notice published in the Federal Register on Nov. 17 formally nullified the Stream Protection Rule, which “shall be treated as if it had never taken effect.” The notice removes any amendments or modifications made by the nullified rule and reverts to the text of the regulations in effect prior to the rule’s effective date.

UN Treaty Phases Out Hydrofluorocarbons by 2019
Sweden became the 20th country to ratify the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol last week, which means the measure has enough countries that have joined for it to go into effect. All counties will be required to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons beginning in 2019. HFCs are used as coolants in air conditioners and other products. The US has not ratified the treaty, which may lock American companies that use HFCs out of global markets.

Nominee for USGS Head Announced
On Nov. 13, President Trump announced his nomination of Timothy Petty to serve as assistant secretary of the Interior for water and science, the position that oversees the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). Petty is the legislative director for Sen. James Risch (R-ID) and formerly served as acting assistant secretary for water and science under the George W. Bush administration. Petty holds a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, an M.S. from University of Maryland University College, and a B.S. from Purdue University. He previously worked as a geologist and a hydrogeologist.

NSF Creates a New Facilities Governance Board
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced it is creating a Facilities Governance Board (FGB) that will oversee major research infrastructure projects for its entire lifecycle. Neither the current Major Research Equipment, and Facilities Construction (MREFC) Panel nor the Director’s Review Board solely focuses on a facility’s entire lifecycle. The FGB aligns with the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA), which directs NSF to increase its oversight for infrastructure projects. FBG will provide oversight for MREFC and also smaller infrastructure projects. A new senior facilities advisor will lead the FGB, who effectively will be a chief facilities officer. All three MREFC boards provide information to the NSF Director and National Science Board who have ultimate responsibility for infrastructure projects.

Senators Urge Trump to Fill Science Posts
A group of seven Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), sent a letter to President Trump on Nov. 17 calling on him to nominate experts for key positions at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The letter identifies the important contributions of OSTP experts on matters related to national security, the economy, and innovation, and it urges the president to select well-qualified nominees for currently vacant positions. The senators sent a similar letter in April voicing support for OSTP and calling for nominations of experts to key positions.

Democrats Ask for Probe of EPA Advisory Panel Policy
Led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), ten Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking it to expand its investigation into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s treatment of science and scientists at the agency. The Nov. 9 letter followed the announcement the week before of EPA’s new policy barring scientists receiving EPA grants from serving on advisory committees. The letter claims that the new policy represents a “striking” double-standard: “an academic scientist that receives an EPA grant for any purpose cannot provide independent advice on a completely different subject matter […] while industry scientists are presumed to have no inherent conflict even if their research is entirely funded by a company with a financial stake in an advisory board’s conclusions.”

Former EPA Lawyers Urge Pruitt to Reconsider Directive
On Nov. 13, E&E News reported that 57 former EPA lawyers sent a letter to Administrator Scott Pruitt urging him to rethink his October directive targeting the “sue and settle” practice used by groups to force regulations by taking the agency to court. The new directive established new provisions and requirements that the lawyers—former attorneys from EPA’s Office of General Counsel and regional offices—say are unnecessary and a waste of agency resources. The letter states that the directive will work against both the agency and the public’s interest.

Pruitt Scheduled to Appear on Capitol Hill
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is scheduled to appear at two hearings in the coming month, his first oversight hearings since he became administrator. He will appear before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment on Dec. 7 and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Jan. 31. Pruitt’s last appearance on Capitol Hill was at appropriations hearings in June. He has recently faced bipartisan pressure to testify before Congress.

WOTUS Delay Proposed
On Nov. 16, the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers proposed to delay the effective date of the Clean Water Rule until 2020. According to the agencies, this delay of the 2015 rule would give them time to reconsider and revise the definition of “waters of the United States.” The Obama-era rule is currently stayed nationwide. In response to a February executive order from President Trump, the agencies are in the process of repealing and replacing the 2015 rule. This proposal, separate from the repeal and replacement process, would delay the effective date until two years after the action is finalized. EPA and Army Corps are accepting public comments on this proposed delay for 21 days after publication in the Federal Register.                                                                             

France to Fill Gap in Climate Panel Funding
At the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France would cover the U.S. contribution to the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The U.S. has given about €2 million (about $2.35 million U.S. dollars) per year in the past; however, Trump’s decision in June to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement has cast uncertainty over the IPCC and global efforts to combat climate change. Macron’s Nov. 15 announcement asserted that the panel, “will not miss a single euro.” The UK also announced that it would help support the IPCC financially.

Acting BLM Director Selected
Interior Secretary Zinke has named Brian Steed, former chief of staff for Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), to be the new acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, according to an E&E News article. Steed had been appointed deputy director for programs and policy at BLM in October and now replaces career employee Mike Nedd as acting director. Nedd had been serving in the position since March. Some environmental groups are questioning whether Steed’s appointment violates a federal law that requires an employee to work at an agency for a certain period of time before being eligible to run it. Interior, however, claims that Secretary Zinke is allowed to delegate the responsibilities of any confirmed post within the agency. The president has not yet nominated a permanent BLM director.

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Get Involved

NIFA Accepting Public Feedback on Priorities and Opportunities in Agricultural Sciences
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is accepting input from stakeholders regarding research, extension, and education priorities in food and agriculture. The responses should reflect personal or organizational priorities and emerging needs and opportunities. This information will help inform NIFA on prioritizing science emphasis areas and identifying gaps in programming. NIFA is soliciting written feedback through an online input form. Written comments can also be submitted via NIFAlistens@nifa.usda.gov. Comments are being accepted through Dec. 1. Find more information here.

Provide Input on National Climate Assessment
On Nov. 3, the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released volume one of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), as well as drafts of volume two and the State of the Carbon Cycle Report. The congressionally mandated climate science report assesses the science of climate change and its impacts. Volume two is a technical, scientific assessment of climate change impacts, risks, and adaptation across the US. The carbon cycle report assesses the state of the carbon cycle across North America. USGCRP is seeking public comments for both drafts. Comments on volume 2 of the NCA4 are due by Jan. 31, and comments on the carbon cycle report are due Jan. 8. All comments must be submitted via the USGCRP Review and Comment System.

NSF Seeking White Papers on Science, Engineering, STEM Education for Collaboration
The National Science Foundation Office of International Science and Engineering (OISE) is inviting white papers from the U.S. research community on topics in science, engineering, and/or STEM education that are ripe for international network-to-network collaboration. Topics should hold the potential to accelerate discovery and advance research outcomes. OISE will use the white papers to inform planning. Read the Sept. 14 Dear Colleague letter inviting white papers here. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 30.

Nominate Members to the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking nominations to fill vacancies on the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee (MAFAC) that are open or will be pending in Feb. 2018. MAFAC advises the Secretary of Commerce on matters concerning living marine resources that are the responsibility of the Department of Commerce. Nominees should possess expertise in a field related to the management of living marine resources. Nominations are due by Nov. 27 and should be submitted by email or mail.

Comment on Sage-Grouse Plan Review
The Department of the Interior announced its plans to reconsider greater sage-grouse conservation land use plans across ten states. The plans, finalized in 2015, amended BLM and Forest Service land use plans in Western states over the sage-grouse’s 173-million acre range. They were designed to keep the bird off of the endangered species list. The decision to reconsider the plans could lead to amendments that would increase resource extraction and commercial activities across the bird’s habitat. Public comments on the review of the plans or on proposed changes are being accepted until Dec. 1.

Provide Information on Research Infrastructure Projects
The National Science Foundation is requesting information on existing and future needs for mid-scale research infrastructure projects from the US-based NSF science and engineering community. The input will be used to assess the needs for mid-scale research infrastructure and to develop a strategy to address these needs. Submissions must be received by Dec. 8.

Recommend Members for NSF Directorate and Office Advisory Committees
The National Science Foundation is requesting recommendations for membership on its scientific and technical federal advisory committees, including the Advisory Committee for Biological Sciences. These external advisory committees provide advice on program management, discuss current issues, and review and provide advice on the impact of policies, programs, and activities of the directorate or office of NSF.

DOE Office of Science Graduate Student Research Program Accepting Applications
The Department of Energy Office of Science is accepting applications for the Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) program. The program prepares graduate students for STEM careers critically important to the DOE Office of Science mission by providing graduate thesis research opportunities at DOE laboratories. Applicants must be pursuing graduate research in an area that is aligned with one or more of the priority research areas of the Office of Science’s six research program offices (including Biological and Environmental Research). Applications are due Nov. 16.

Provide Input on DOI Regulations
The Department of the Interior is seeking public comments on regulations for repeal, replacement, or modification. The president’s February executive order on reducing regulatory burdens directed federal agencies to address outdated or unnecessary policies. DOI is seeking input from the public on policies of Interior agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey. Submit comments online or by mail.

Apply for an OSTP Internship
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is accepting applications for the OSTP Internship Program. OSTP offers both policy internships and legal internships. Read more on the White House website.

For more opportunities to get involved, go to the Federal Register section.

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Legislative Updates

Evidence-Based Policy Bill Passes House
On Nov. 15, the House passed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act, H.R.4174, legislation aimed at improving federal management and use of data. The bill was introduced on Oct. 31 by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI). It was the result of a bipartisan effort led by Ryan and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who created an evidence-based policymaking commission in 2016. Murray introduced the Senate version of the bill, S.2046, also on Oct. 31. The legislation would require agencies to submit an evidence-building strategy, which would be combined into a plan for the whole government. It would also require agencies to appoint someone to coordinate evidence-building activities and data collection, and it establishes an advisory committee for coordinating data policy and procedures. The bill must next pass the Senate.

Senate Panel Approves ANWR Drilling Legislation
On Nov. 15, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced legislation from Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) to meet budget instructions for Fiscal Year 2018 to raise $1 billion in federal revenues. This budget reconciliation legislation approved by the committee raises this revenue by opening a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to oil and gas drilling. It authorizes energy development on 2,000 acres of the refuge, with the increased revenue coming from royalties, rents, and federal taxes from this development. Allowing drilling in ANWR has been a decades-long goal of the Alaska delegation, in particular Sen. Murkowski, and has been heavily opposed by committee Democrats.

Other Legislation Introduced

  • National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R.4306). Introduced Nov. 8 by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), this bill would reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act. The Senate companion bill, S.129, was introduced by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and passed the Senate in September.
  • Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act (H.R.4323). Introduced Nov. 9 by Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL), this bill would promote veteran involvement in STEM education, computer science, and scientific research.
  • Missed Opportunities in Science and Engineering Research Act of 2017 (H.R.4354). Introduced Nov. 9 by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), this bill would require reporting by the National Science Foundation on requests for funding research that were not granted and had the greatest potential for promoting scientific progress and advancing national health, prosperity, and welfare.
  • STEM Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act (H.R.4375). Introduced Nov. 13 by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA), this bill would provide for a study on broadening participation in certain National Science Foundation research and education programs would collect data on federal research grants to science agencies.
  • S.2128 and H.R.4395. Introduced Nov. 15 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in the Senate and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR) in the House, this bill would improve the coordination and use of geospatial data.
  • Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017 (H.R.4417). Introduced Nov. 16 by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), this bill would amend the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 to address harmful algal blooms. The companion Senate bill, S.1057, was introduced in May.
  • H.R.4425. Introduced Nov. 16 by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), this bill would reform the safety net for farmers and ranchers, enhance soil, water, and habitat conservation, encourage beginning farmers and ranchers, strengthen nutrition for Americans, support agriculture research and innovation, reduce food waste, improve animal welfare, and invest in regional food systems.
  • Sustainable Energy Development Reform Act (SEDRA) (H.R.4426). Introduced Nov. 16 by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), this bill would reform federal onshore and offshore fossil fuel leasing, exploration, and development; promote renewable energy on public lands; prepare for the impacts of climate change; increase industry accountability; improve returns to taxpayers for the development of federal energy resources; and protect special places.

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Opportunities from the Federal Register

Public Meetings:

Opportunities for Public Comment and Nominations:

  • NOAA – National Marine Fisheries Service Advisory Panel Nominations
    The National Marine Fisheries Service is soliciting nominations for the Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) Advisory Panel (AP). The HMS AP assists in the collection and evaluation of information relevant to the development of Fishery Management Plans. Nominations are being sought to fill eleven seats on the panel for a 3-year appointment. Submit nominations by email or mail by Nov. 22.
  • FWS – Establishment of Wildlife Conservation Council
    The Fish and Wildlife Service is establishing an International Wildlife Conservation Council to advise the government on the benefits of international hunting on foreign wildlife and habitat conservation, illegal wildlife trafficking programs, and benefits for human populations. The Department of the Interior is seeking comments on the establishment of the Council as well as nominations for members. Submit comments by Nov. 24 and nominations by Dec. 8.
  • BLM – Resource Advisory Council Nominations
    The Bureau of Land Management issued a second call for public nominations for Resource Advisory Councils (RAC) with members whose terms have expired or are scheduled to expire. RACs provide advice and recommendations on land use planning and management of public lands within their area. A list of RACs with openings can be found here. Submit nominations by Dec. 1.
  • NIFA – Stakeholder Listening Opportunity for Priorities
    The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture is holding stakeholder listening sessions to collect stakeholder input on NIFA’s science priorities to inform the research, extension, and education priorities of the agency. NIFA has the mission of investing in and advancing agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges. (Listening Session dates are above; first is Oct. 19). In addition to the listening sessions, NIFA is accepting stakeholder input online to inform the science priority-setting process. Online input is due by Dec. 1.
  • Fish and Wildlife Service – Proposal to List Species of Darters as Threatened
    The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list two species of darters as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. After a 12-month review of scientific and commercial information, the agency is proposing to list the trispot darter and the candy darter as threatened. Public comments on the separate findings and proposed rules for the two species are being accepted until Dec. 4.
  • NPS – National Park System Advisory Board Nominations
    The National Park Service is seeking nominations for individuals to be appointed to the National Park System Advisory Board. The Board advises the Secretary of the Interior and NPS Director on matters relating to the NPS, the National Park System, and programs administered by the agency. NPS is seeking to appoint 3 members to the Board and is soliciting nominations in fields including ecology and biology. Nominations are due Dec. 18.
  • NSF  – Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee, Principles for Conduct of Research in Arctic
    The Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC) is seeking public comments on how to revise and strengthen the Principles for the Conduct of Research in the Arctic, originally adopted in 1990. The Principles address the need to promote mutual respect and communication between scientists and northern residents. The update will focus on community engagement, the contributions of Indigenous knowledge, and dissemination and implementation of the Principles. Comments are due by Jan. 16.

Visit this page on ESA’s blog for updates on opportunities from the Federal Register, including upcoming meetings and regulations open for public comment.

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ESA Correspondence to Policymakers

View letters and testimony from ESA here.


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.

Send questions or comments to  Alison Mize, director of public affairs, Alison@esa.org, or Julia Marsh, public affairs officer, Julia@esa.org.

Visit the ESA website  to learn more about our activities and membership.

Author: Julia Marsh

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