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Policy News Update

March 9, 2012

In this issue: [Contract All : Expand All]

BUDGET: SCIENCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS ADMINISTRATION PRIORITIES

The House Science, Space and Technology committee recently convened hearings that examined the science and research investments outlined in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget proposal. During a Feb. 17 hearing that focused on research and development, there was a consensus among committee leaders on certain investments while views differed sharply on where the administration’s priorities should lie.

“I continue to believe that while it is true that prudent investments in science and technology, including STEM education, will almost certainly yield future economic gains and help create new jobs of the future, it is also true that these gains can be hindered by poor decision-making,” said Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX). Hall expressed his concern for increases in programs he views as “duplicative and wasteful” as well as increases for climate change related research. Hall also expressed concern for the National Aeronautical and Space Administration’s (NASA) request, which would cut funding by $59 million.

Committee Democrats were overall supportive of the budget, mindful of the current political climate that has members of both parties urging some manner of fiscal restraint. “Investments in research and development and STEM education are critical to fostering innovation and maintaining our nation’s competitive edge.  But these are also fiscally challenging times,” stated Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). “We will have some concerns and disagreements, but let me be clear.  This is a good budget for research, innovation, and education under the circumstances,” she added.

Chairman Hall, a vocal climate change skeptic, also took the opportunity to question White House Science Advisor John Holdren on the issue. Holdren’s written testimony cited a $136 million (5.6 percent) increase for the multi-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program to “continue its important work of improving our ability to understand, predict,  mitigate, and adapt to global change, including but not limited to climate change.”

Holdren testified that “every major national academy of sciences in the world, and virtually all of the major professional societies that deal with the relevant disciplines have issued statements saying that the evidence for climate change outside the realm of natural variability is overwhelming.” 

“You will be able to produce on the witness stand a few who will say they don’t believe it, but they are very much in the minority,” Holdren continued. “You could also produce people on this witness stand who will say, with Ph.D.’s attached to their names, that they don’t believe cigarette smoking increases the risk of lung cancer.”

National Science Foundation (NSF)

With regard to the administration’s budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF), austerity concerns from the majority were somewhat more tepid. “While a nearly five percent increase for NSF in FY 13 shows stronger fiscal constraint than the FY 2012 request at 13 percent, I remain concerned that our federal agencies still are not doing enough to encourage austerity and properly prioritize scarcer federal funds,” stated Research and Education Subcommittee Chairman Mo Brooks (R-AL). “NSF has a long and proven track record, one in which we are all proud, and I have every reason to believe NSF will continue this good work with whatever budgets are forthcoming from Congress,” he concluded.

NSF Director Subra Suresh maintained that the five percent increase in the president’s FY 2013 budget will have direct economic benefits for Americans. “NSF has the mandate not only to fund all fields of science and engineering, but also supports human capital development.  Since 1952, NSF has supported 48,000 graduate students in the country through NSF fellowships.  [These graduate students] have been the engines of innovation in this country,” said Suresh. 

View the R&D hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/full-committee-hearing-overview-administration%E2%80%99s-federal-research-and-development-budget

View the NSF hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-research-and-science-education-hearing-overview-nsf-budget-fy-2013

BUDGET: EPA ADMINISTRATOR CRITICIZED OVER REGULATORY EFFORTS

The week of February 27 brought Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson to Capitol Hill for congressional hearings concerning the agency’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request.

Funding for EPA under the president’s budget request would be cut by one percent for a total of $8.3 billion in FY 2013. Nonetheless, congressional Republicans have been steadfast in calling for additional cuts, noting the substantial increases the agency received during FY 2009 and 2010. They are also critical of many EPA regulations and initiatives making it likely that environmental policy riders will again be attached to appropriations bills  when legislation is considered this spring and summer.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Moran (D-VA) asserted that the policy riders included in the previous House bill to fund EPA only slowed the bill down to the point that it did not even pass the House as a stand-alone bill. Moran suggested that if Members wanted to change existing environmental laws, they should do so through the more traditional means, not through the appropriations process.

With a proposed budget $105 million below the fiscal year 2012 level, EPA’s budget would decline for the third year in a row. The agency has never faced a declining budget for three consecutive years,” noted House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID).  “However, if enacted at this level, the budget would still provide EPA with $700 million above its fiscal year 2009 level, and its 5th highest appropriation ever.”

 

Much of the critique from majority Republicans is related to EPA’s hydraulic fracturing study, clean water and air quality regulations as well as proposals to improve the water quality of  the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) was particularly critical of EPA’s handling of coal mining permits, contending the agency’s failure to approve permits in the Appalachian region has cost jobs in his congressional district. EPA administrator Jackson maintained that the 37 mining permits to which the agency has objected were rejected because scientists said they would have contaminated local water.

An equal level of partisanship was evident during a joint hearing of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) and Environment and Economy, chaired by Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL). A recurring theme among committee Republicans during the hearing was the sentiment that implementation of EPA’s regulations ultimately prove to be doubly costly for American taxpayers.

“Each dollar EPA spends can end up costing us many more dollars as a consequence of the agency’s ill-advised actions,” contended Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “For example, when EPA uses funds to come up with regulations that contribute to rising gasoline prices, it costs us both as taxpayers and at the pump. A similar thing happens when the agency raises our electric bills through burdensome power plant regulations.”

Like his Kentucky colleague Rogers, Subcommittee Chairman Whitfield chose to focus his opening statement on coal regulations. “Now, let me be clear, I am all for reasonable EPA regulations to control emissions from coal-fired power plants as spelled out in the Clean Air Act,” he stated. “But what we have seen in the last few years goes well beyond what EPA is supposed to be doing, and constitutes an effort to force this nation away from coal by imposing an avalanche of regulations that are technologically and economically impossible to meet.”

Committee Ranking Member Henry Waxmann (D-CA) criticized House Republicans for their attempts to curb EPA regulations. “This has been the most anti-environmental House of Representatives in history.  House Republicans have voted over 200 times to undermine basic environmental protections that have existed for decades,” he said. “The American people want a safe and healthy environment.  They want to know that the air they breathe and the water they drink is safe.  And they want Congress to start listening to them instead of the oil and coal industries. One-quarter of one percent of our budget is not too much to spend on clean air and clean water and a healthy environment.”

For additional information on the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee hearing, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277064

For additional information on the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, click here:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=9317

BUDGET: HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES REVIEW NOAA PRIORITIES

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco endured critique from both chambers and both parties during committee hearings on the agency’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request.

Lubchenco said that the NOAA budget reflects numerous tough choices, including program terminations and budget cuts that include cutting the National Weather Service, terminating the National Mesonet, a network of weather stations designed to observe certain meteorological phenomena and cutting the budget for the NOAA Education Program by more than half.  “To ensure that we can deliver on these core services, we have prioritized our activities, made limited targeted investments, reduced or terminated activities that while important could not be accommodated in the current fiscal environment without threatening our capacity to deliver our core services and sought out administrative efficiencies to ensure that every dollar is maximized,” asserted Lubchenco.

During the March 6 House Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing, Republicans expressed concerns that the Obama administration was prioritizing “political environmental agendas” over quality science. “Only in Washington, as we face an unprecedented fiscal train wreck and continue to be forced to borrow 40 cents on the dollar, can a requested budget increase of 3.1 percent for NOAA and 1.4 percent for EPA be characterized as making ‘tough choices,’” said Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (R-MD).

Critique from Democrats was totally contrary to that of Republicans “Despite the challenging economic times, it is unwise to sacrifice services that the public relies on, such as weather forecasting and warning capabilities,” said Subcommittee Ranking Member Brad Miller (D-NC). “Nor should we undermine America’s future by failing to invest in the next generation workforce of scientists.  We can be fiscally responsible while still making the necessary investments to keep our country and environment healthy and the American economy competitive.”

This sentiment was more or less echoed the following day by Democrats during a Senate Commerce Science and Transportation Committee hearing on NOAA’s budget request. “I’m pleased the administration is now working more aggressively to keep weather satellites on track and on budget, but I’m troubled by the proposed cuts to local forecasting jobs across the country, as well as the decision to forego several cost-effective weather technology innovations that would significantly improve storm predictions,” stated Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). “The FY 2013 budget request for NOAA is $5.1 billion.  I have questions about several of the proposed program terminations, particularly with regard to weather services and restoration programs.”  

View the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing here:
http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-energy-and-environment-hearing-overview-noaa-epa-fy13-budget

View the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing here:
http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=5b7a1990-39a6-41cf-89f5-cc4b612b4e88&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=b06c39af-e033-4cba-9221-de668ca1978a

BUDGET: INTERIOR OFFICIALS TESTIFY ON AGENCY PRIORITIES

In recent weeks, representatives of the Department of Interior (DOI) and its various sub agencies have ascended Capitol Hill for a series of congressional meetings of the president’s FY 2013 budget request for the agency.

On Feb. 27, DOI Secretary Ken Salazar appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee. DOI would receive $11.4 billion (a one percent increase) for FY 2013 under the president’s budget request. During the hearing, Senators generally expressed bipartisan support for investments in programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which would see a 30 percent increase to $450 million under the president’s FY 2013 budget.

Many of the concerns were state-based. Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) urged Salazar to accelerate efforts to complete a wind energy lease off the Rhode Island shore. These sentiments were echoed by Susan Collins (R-ME) whose state also benefits from investment in offshore wind energy. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) expressed concern with Interior's proposal to cut $200 million from a coastal impact assistance program for states affected by offshore drilling. Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) expressed concerns with cuts to the Alaska Conveyance Program and increased fees and royalties for leasing and development on federal lands.

Salazar had previously appeared Feb. 15 before the House Natural Resources Committee where Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) took the opportunity to question him on the agency’s coal regulations and its six year moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Hastings was also critical of the administration’s attempt to slash oil industry tax breaks. Ranking Member Ed Markey (D-MA) expressed support for DOI’s decision to increase investment in both renewable energy permitting and offshore oil and gas oversight. He also highlighted Interior's proposal to boost research into water supplies and management options in the West by $20 million, raising the program to $75 million. These concerns were also expressed by Republican leaders during a House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee meeting that same week.

Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands convened Feb. 28 to review the National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau for Land Management (BLM).

Committee Republicans objected to a proposal in BLM’s budget to impose a first-ever royalty fee on hardrock mining companies digging on public lands for resources like gold and silver. The plan also calls for a new fee on those companies to pay for pending reclamation projects. Concerns were also expressed over the bureau’s $450 million proposal for land acquisition, arguing that the department should spend more money on managing the land it already owns. 

NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis touted a new report showing that visitors to the National Park System contributed more than $31 billion to local economies and supported more than 250,000 jobs, a marked increase from the year before. He also stressed efforts to hire more veterans and for park managers to find savings without hurting visitor experiences. NPS has garnered criticism from conservation groups for its $2.6 million budget, which on balance, cuts millions from the agency’s base operations and is expected to lead to the loss of several hundred jobs. 

To view the House Natural Resources Committee Interior hearing, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277782

To view the House Appropriations Committee Interior hearing, click here:
http://appropriations.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=277058

To view the Senate Appropriations Committee Interior hearing, click here:
http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/ht-interior.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=c1f720cb-ad28-4041-ae86-192bbb70a860

To view the House Natural Resources BLM/NPS hearing, click here:
http://naturalresources.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=281076

SENATE: AG COMMITTEE CONSIDERS CONSERVATION IN FARM BILL REAUTHORIZATION

On Feb. 28, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee met to discuss the importance of conservation programs in the next farm bill, which is up for reauthorization this year. The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, 2012.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) asserted that conservation programs benefit Americans in a variety of ways. “Conservation helps farmers and ranchers to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber while taking care of the land and water,” she said. “As we continue our work, this farm bill must focus on making our programs simpler, locally driven, science-based, and flexible. These programs must ensure that taxpayers’ investments in conservation are enabling agriculture to remain healthy and productive across the diverse landscapes of this great nation. We must be certain those 1.3 billion acres produce clean water, abundant and safe food, wildlife habitat, and conserve this way of life for future generations.”

Ranking Member Pat Roberts (R-KS), however, called for streamlining programs in the conservation title of the next farm bill. “A single program will not meet the needs of all producers, but we have gone too far in the other direction,” he said. “We now have duplicative programs that have become more and more complicated…My goal during this farm bill process is to maintain options for producers while simplifying the programs for producers and those tasked with implementation.”

The farm bill’s largest conservation programs include the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to idle their lands for habitat purposes, and the Conservation Stewardship Program, which is designed to reward farmers who work their way up stewardship tiers and take steps to reduce nutrient runoff into local waterways. The title also includes the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, a cost-share program that helps farmers with environmental improvements.

The Conservation Reserve Program has been criticized by Congressional Republicans. During a recent budget hearing, House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston (R-GA) touted the idea of sponsoring an amendment that would either drastically reduce the program or phase it out completely. Kingston believes the program is oversubscribed and claimed that much of the enrolled land is not erodible enough to qualify.

Senators heard from agency officials and conservation groups on how to best continue federal agricultural programs related to conservation. Representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both David White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Bruce Nelson, Administrator of the Farm Service Agency, called for targeted assistance to environmentally sensitive areas and expanding state and local input into conservation decisions.

“In an era of reduced resources, we look forward to working closely with Congress to meet critical U.S. conservation needs,” stated White in his opening testimony. “We also look forward to working more closely with not only our inter-agency partners within USDA, but also with the private sector and other government agencies. By doing so, we aim to better leverage resources, share ideas, and deliver programs that ensure sustainable conservation activities and programs for agriculture and rural areas.”

Other panelists echoed the sentiment that continued investment in agricultural conservation programs will require a collaborative effort between the public sector and private nonprofits. Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) touted what his organization is doing to enhance conservation initiatives. According to Trandahl, NFWF has worked with NRCS, other federal agencies and over 50 corporations to leverage funding for conservation efforts that sustain wildlife while benefiting working lands and local economies. NFWF is an independent 501(c)(3) chartered by Congress in 1984.

Becky Humphries, Director of Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited, Inc. expressed her support for federal programs such as the Wetlands Reserve Program and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which she touted as a model federal/state partnership. “Regional partnerships fueled by local diverse interest groups and supported by federal, state and private funders, are a key to accomplish watershed approaches and solutions that will yield a good farm economy and a healthy sustainable environment,” she said.

The full hearing is viewable here:
http://www.ag.senate.gov/hearings/strengthening-conservation-through-the-2012-farm-bill

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: AGENCIES RELEASE DISPARITY MITIGATION STRATEGIES

On Feb. 27, several federal agencies, led by the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency released environmental justice strategies that aim to protect communities facing disproportionately high health and environmental risks. The effort seeks to address disparities that currently exist in low-income and minority communities.

The federal effort constitutes an administration-wide strategy across a diverse cross-section of federal agencies. Examples given by EPA include:

 

Federal agencies releasing new environmental justice strategies include: the Department of Agriculture, Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Interior, Department of Veterans Affairs and General Services Administration. The EPA and the Department of Energy published strategies in 2011 and 2008, respectively, and released annual implementation plans last year.

Additional information regarding each agency’s environmental justice strategies can be found here: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/interagency/iwg-compendium.html

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA SEEDS STUDENTS ADVOCATE FOR STEM EDUCATION

On March 1, several small teams of Ecological Society of America (ESA) SEEDS students ascended Capitol Hill to advocate for federal investment in Science Technology Education and Mathematics (STEM) Education.

The groups compromising nine students and staff from ESA’s Education and Public Affairs offices met with the offices of over 20 Senators and Representatives to request their support for a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that includes provisions related to STEM education. Specifically, the students called on policymakers to support the bipartisan bill introduced by Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Michael Enzi (R-WY) that takes an all-encompassing approach to advancing science education programs.

Many of the meetings were attended by the actual lawmaker, affording the students a unique opportunity to personally meet their elected representative. The students, some of whom participated in STEM education programs in various capacities, were able to relate a local perspective to the policymakers and their staffers as well as anecdotes on how science education has benefited them as they advance through college.

Many of the policy sentiments related to reauthorization of ESEA were echoed from feedback given from various science and education organizations on how to best reauthorize the legislation. ESA recently endorsed a letter spearheaded by the STEM Education Coalition, which provided input on the various House and Senate bills that would reauthorize ESEA.

To view the STEM Education Coalition letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/Letter-STEM-Ed-Coalition-to-Kline.pdf

POLICY ENGAGEMENT: ESA JOINS SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES IN OPPOSITION TO GRANT ACT

In February, the Ecological Society of America was among 84 scientific organizations as part of the Coalition for National Science Funding who joined together in sending a letter to Congress expressing concerns with H.R. 3433, the Grant Reform and New Transparency (GRANT) Act.

Introduced by Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), the GRANT Act directs federal agencies to establish uniform standards for how they notice, award, and disclose discretionary competitive grants, with the goal of increasing transparency of the award process. However, the scientific societies were specifically concerned about a provision in the GRANT Act that would require the posting of a complete copy of a funded grant proposal to a new government-wide website.

“Requiring a complete copy of a funded grant proposal to be available on a public website would seriously limit the ability of grant recipients to reap benefits from their own research.  A proposal can contain intellectual property of the researcher and the institution that employs the researcher,” the letter states. “The ideas and directions of research outlined are, in most cases, based on years of work.  These ideas can also be the basis for other research performed by the proposer, including research that may not be funded by the federal government.”

The letter also expresses concern with a provision that would allow identification of grant peer reviewers, forgoing the anonymity that is important in maintaining an impartial peer-review process. “The success of the peer-review process depends on the willingness of qualified reviewers to be candid and critical as needed in the evaluation of research proposals and, in fact, without the anonymity provided in the current process, many researchers would not be willing to review proposals,” the letter states.

In addition to ESA, scientific societies cosigning the letter include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute for Biological Sciences, the Geological Society of America and several prominent universities.

To view the full letter, click here:
http://www.esa.org/pao/policyStatements/Letters/GRANTActletterfeb2012.pdf

CURRENT POLICY

Considered by House Committee

On March 8, the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on the following bills:

H.R. 752 Molalla River Wild and Scenic Rivers Act – Introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the bill would designate segments of the Molalla River in the State of Oregon, as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

H.R. 1415, Chetco River Protection Act of 2011 - Introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the bill would make technical corrections to the segment designations for the Chetco River, DeFazio also introduced H.R. 3436, which would expand the Wild Rogue Wilderness Area in Oregon and provide additional protections for Rogue River tributaries.

H.R. 3377, the Pine Forest Range Recreation Enhancement Act of 2011 - Introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), the bill would designate the Pine Forest Range Wilderness area in Humboldt County, Nevada as federal land.

Approved by House Committee

H.R. 511, to prohibit the importation of various injurious species of constrictor snakes – Introduced by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL), the bill bans the importation and interstate transport of the reticulated python, green anaconda, Beni or Bolivian python, DeSchauensee's anaconda and boa constrictor. The bill’s bipartisan cosponsors include a dozen members of the Florida and California delegations as well as Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi (D-Puerto Rico).

The bill builds on a recent move by the Obama administration that effectively bans the Burmese python, yellow anaconda, and northern and southern African pythons. The House Judiciary Committee approved the bill by voice vote on Feb. 28.

On Feb. 29, the House Natural Resources Committee approved a host of bills related to mining and land management, including the following:

H.R. 785, to clarify that uncertified States and Indian tribes have the authority to use certain payments for certain non-coal reclamation projects and acid mine remediation programs – Introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM), the bill would ensure that states that have not finished cleaning up their priority abandoned coal mines can use Abandoned Mine Land reclamation dollars, which come from coal industry fees, for hardrock mines. Companion legislation (S. 897) has been introduced by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

H.R. 2512, the Three Kids Mine Remediation and Reclamation Act – Introduced by Rep. Joseph Heck (R-NV), the bill would approve a land deal between the federal government and the Henderson Redevelopment Agency in Nevada that would involve clean up of the Three Kids Mine in Henderson, Nevada. Companion legislation (S. 1492) has been introduced by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).

H.R. 3409, the Coal Miner Employment and Domestic Energy Infrastructure Protection Act – Introduced by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH), the bill would block the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining from issuing or approving any new rule that would have a negative effect on jobs production before Dec. 31, 2013.

H.R. 3452, the Wasatch Range Recreation Access Enhancement Act – Introduced by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), the bill would provide for the sale of approximately 30 acres of federal land in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Salt Lake County, Utah, to permit the establishment of a minimally invasive transportation alternative for skiers, called "SkiLink," and to connect two ski resorts in the Wasatch Mountains. Companion legislation (S. 1883) has been introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

 

Passed the House

 

H.R. 1837, the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act – Introduced by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the bill modifies current water allocation practices in California’s Central Valley to provid increased water access for agricultural and municipal purposes. Opponents of the legislation assert that the bill makes modifications to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act that would limit the enforcement of environmental regulations under the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act. The bill passed the House Feb. 29 by a vote of 246-175 with Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) voting “present.”

H.R. 2842, the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development Act – the bill clarifies the Bureau of Reclamation’s role in permitting hydropower projects on federal canals and water pipelines. It also would exempt small-scale hydropower projects on federal canals and pipelines from federal environmental review requirements. This bill passed the House March 7, by a vote of 265-154.

Introduced in the Senate

S. 2146, the Clean Energy Standard Act – Introduced by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the bill would require the nation's largest utilities to generate a percentage of their electricity from clean energy sources, including renewable energy, nuclear power, biomass, coal with carbon capture and sequestration, and natural gas, beginning in 2015. The bill has eight original cosponsors, all Democrats.

 

Considered by Senate Committee/Subcommittee

On March 7, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks held a hearing on a number of bills that would establish national parks and heritage areas, including the following:

H.R. 1141, the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act – Introduced by Rep. Gregoria Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to study the suitability and feasibility of designating prehistoric, historic, and limestone forest sites on Rota, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, as a unit of the National Park System. The bill passed the House Jan. 23, 2012 under suspension by a two-thirds vote of 278-100 with 55 Members not voting.

H.R. 2606, the New York City Natural Gas Act – Introduced by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY), the bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to allow the construction and operation of natural gas pipeline facilities in the Gateway National Recreation Area, which lies along the port of New York and New Jersey. The bill passed the House Feb. 7 by voice vote.

S. 29, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Establishment Act – Introduced by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the bill would establish the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area in California.

S. 1150, the Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area Act - Introduced by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), the bill would establish the Susquehanna Gateway National Heritage Area in Pennsylvania. S. 2131, a bill to reauthorize the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the Lackawanna Valley National Heritage Area, and the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor, was also introduced by Sen. Casey.

S. 1708, the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park Establishment Act – Introduced by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the bill establishes the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island as a unit of the National Park System.

S. 2133, the America's Agricultural Heritage Partnership Reauthorization Act – Introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), the bill would reauthorize the America's Agricultural Heritage Partnership in the State of Iowa.


Sources: CNS News, Energy and Environment Daily, E&E News PM, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, the Hill, House Appropriations Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, House Natural Resources Committee, House Space, Science and Technology Committee, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Committee, STEM Education Coalition

Send questions or comments to Terence Houston, Science Policy Analyst, Terence Huston or Nadine Lymn, ESA Director of Public Affairs, Nadine Lymn

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