The Strengthening the Economy with Critical Untapped Resources to Expand (SECURE) American Energy Act (H.R. 4239) was discussed in a hearing by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The next day, it was marked up by the full committee, passing along a nearly party line vote (19-14).
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved the nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) to be NASA Administrator this morning on a party-line vote. The committee also approved Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction on a voice vote. The nominations next will go to the full Senate for a vote. Dates have not been announced.
(Click to enlarge) Kathleen Hartnett White (Credit: Paul Morse/Heritage Foundation/Flickr) Senators from both parties on Wednesday criticized Kathleen Hartnett White, a key environmental nominee from President Trump, using her past statements on climate change and fuel policy to raise concerns about her nomination. (From The Hill/ by Devin Henry) -- Hartnett White, a think tank official [...]
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to consider four presidential nominees subject to Senate confirmation, including The Honorable James Bridenstine (OK-1) to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Dr. Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Environmental Observation and Prediction at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans held a hearing on three water bills, including the Hydrographic Services Improvement Amendments Act (H.R. 221) and Keep America’s Waterfronts Working Act (H.R. 1176). The use of our ocean is increasing, and this hearing focused on two pieces of legislation that would address the backlog of coastal surveys (which could help prevent oil spills, ship collisions, and habitat destruction) and ensure working waterfronts persist through coastal development.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior, Energy, and Environment held a hearing, “Examining the Regulation of Shark Finning in the United States.” There are nearly 500 species of sharks, and these top predators play a key role in maintaining ecosystem balance, which allows for thriving fisheries, robust habitats, and a healthy ocean. In turn, a healthy ocean is critical to life on this planet – from supplying oxygen and food to its role in international commerce.
Two bills in COL’s legislative tracker were signed into law this month. The timely H.R. 1117 (P.L.115-69) aims to increase reliability of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) post-disaster. It requires the agency to create a plan, which includes identifying new technologies to facilitate response partnerships between federal, state, tribal, and non-profit responders, for consistent and timely guidance during disaster response.
The Trump administration rolled out a new policy Tuesday that scientists receiving Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants cannot serve on the agency's advisory boards, a move critics said is part of a war on independent science. The policy, rolled out at an EPA event by Administrator Scott Pruitt, would shut hundreds of expert scientists working in environmental and health fields at universities from serving on the boards, and would almost certainly increase the representation from companies and industry groups.
NDD United, which was established after the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) created caps on spending through 2021, works to ensure nondefense discretionary (NDD) federal spending is treated on par with defense spending. NDD United held a briefing “Faces of Austerity 2.0: How Budget Cuts Continue To Make Us Sicker, Poorer, And Less Secure” in conjunction with their release of a new report with the same title.
The Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; P.L 109-479) reauthorization on Tuesday titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Fisheries Science.” The MSA, the nation’s primary law to regulate commercial and recreational fisheries, has enabled rebuilding of numerous U.S. fish stocks and decreased overfishing. Over the last 41 years, science-based management has played an increasingly important role, which should continue with this reauthorization.
The Congressional Estuary Caucus Co-Chairs, Representatives Bill Posey (FL-8), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), and Rick Larsen (WA-2), hosted a briefing, “Natural Infrastructure 101: What are living shorelines and how do they protect coastal communities?” More than half of the U.S. population lives in coastal areas. Urban development has contributed to the destruction of shoreline ecosystems, such as wetlands, marshes, mangroves, and coral reefs.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Energy Management held a hearing, “Broken Beakers: Federal Support for Research.” Subcommittee members agreed on the importance of research and its daily benefits, but the role government should play in funding studies was split along party lines. The three main points of contention had to do with research merit, proposal selection process, and return on investment.
The state Department of Ecology is seeking public comment on a draft plan to address how to make decisions about potential new projects along the Pacific Coast. Requests could be received for such projects as renewable energy, dredging disposal, mining, marine product harvesting, military uses and offshore aquaculture operations, Ecology said. “The Department of Ecology has been leading a state effort to plan and prepare for these potential new coastal uses,” Ecology said in a press release.
On Wednesday, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Mr. Barry Myers (CEO, AccuWeather) to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Several other science and technology nominations and confirmations of interest to the ocean science community also occurred. Why It Matters- As our nation recovers from extreme weather events from coast to coast, the importance of NOAA to public safety cannot be understated.
The House Natural Resources Committee held a markup on Wednesday to consider the National Monument Creation and Protection Act (H.R. 3990) and a resolution concerning the Interior Department’s review of the Antiquities Act (H.Res. 555). The National Monument Creation and Protection Act, which passed out of committee along a party line vote (23-17) would eliminate the president’s ability to designate marine monuments and would require consent from Congress to protect large terrestrial areas. H.Res. 555, which failed along the same vote margin, would have asked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to provide Congress with more information about his recent report that would significantly reduce the size of at least four national monuments.
House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on a discussion draft of the Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore Act (ASTRO Act) (draft bill). Why It Matters - Drilling for oil in the ocean has an impact on our economy and environment. Outer continental shelf (OCS) drilling has been banned in certain areas for several reasons, including disruption to tourism, threats to ecosystems and species, noise pollution, and risk of oil spills. Determining where OCS lease sales can occur involves rigorous assessment. This bill would open all areas of the ocean to drilling, eliminate the president’s ability to designate marine national monuments, and give OCS lease sales authority to the secretary of interior instead of relying solely on the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) five-year plan.
Barry Myers, the chief executive of the private weather forecasting company AccuWeather, is President Trump’s pick to run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The appointment of Myers, a businessman and lawyer, breaks from the recent precedent of scientists leading the agency tasked with a large, complex and technically demanding portfolio.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has moved to remove Endangered Species Act protections from Pacific Walruses, citing their ability to adapt and persist during changes in their climate and environment. "The Pacific walrus population has persisted through past climate change events however, the ability of the Pacific walrus population to adapt to ...
(Click to enlarge) (Credit: Kevin J. Neff/U.S. Coast Guard ) What It Was The Senate Arctic Caucus, Senate Oceans Caucus, and Congressional Arctic Working Group, in conjunction with the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), hosted a briefing, “A New Ocean In The North: Perils And Possibilities.” Why It [...]
The United States Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and partners, in conjunction with Senators Shelley Moore Capito (WV) and Bill Nelson (FL) hosted a briefing, “How Science Supports Flood Forecasting and Public Safety.”
One bill in COL’s legislative tracker, Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017 (H.R. 601) was signed into law this month. It includes a continuing resolution to fund the federal government below Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 levels (there was a 0.7 percent across-the-board cut) through December 8, extends the National Flood Insurance Program through the same date, and provides $15.25 billion in emergency disaster relief funds. The Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 3354), which consists of all FY 2018 House appropriations bills, passed out of the House this month by a vote of 211-198.
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to address four federal fisheries management bills. Two would reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA; PL 109-479) – the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (H.R. 200) and the Strengthening Fishing Communities through Improving Science, Increasing Flexibility, and Modernizing Fisheries Management Act (a discussion draft that has not been introduced).
The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing to consider four presidential nominees subject to Senate confirmation, including Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) to be deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
During the 2016 presidential campaign, it was Hillary Clinton who talked about spending federal money to provide more STEM education — especially computer science classes for all students. Donald Trump wasn’t much interested then — and his proposed fiscal 2018 budget didn’t spread much love in that direction either. It zeroed out one of the Education Department’s main programs that could be used for such a purpose, and it eliminated funding for NASA’s education office (which, among other things, oversees efforts to support women and underrepresented minorities in STEM fields).
The Senate Oceans Caucus and U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Association hosted a briefing on Thursday to address advances in ocean observing and technology that are important to national security, the economy, and environmental health.
The Senate Science, Commerce, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a third hearing on the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act reauthorization on Tuesday titled “Reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act: Oversight of Fisheries Management Successes and Challenges.”
The House voted to pass H.R. 3354, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018 along a largely party line vote (211-198). Congress has until December 8 to pass bills funding federal agencies for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 (thanks to a three-month continuing resolution approved two weeks ago) or the government shuts down. The House has now passed all 12 bills in one omnibus package.
To avert a government shutdown at the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 (September 30), the Senate and House both voted to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR), Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018 and Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, 2017 (H.R. 601). Simultaneously, the House began floor debate on an omnibus consisting of eight spending bills, the Make America Secure and Prosperous Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 3354).
The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually, assigning final funding decisions to a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience. In this role, John Konkus reviews every award the agency gives out, along with every grant solicitation before it is issued. According to both career and political employees, Konkus has told staff that he is on the lookout for “the double C-word” — climate change — and repeatedly has instructed grant officers to eliminate references to the subject in solicitations.
Big business, lobbyists say it's too costly to make sure the fish they sell is what the labels say it is. A new federal plan to combat seafood fraud by requiring the fishing industry to trace their catches from boat or farm to the U.S. border has survived a court challenge. The Seafood Traceability Rule surfaced during President Barack Obama’s final days in office and is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2018. For the first time, it requires seafood importers of species like tuna, grouper, swordfish, red snapper and blue crab to track fish entering the U.S. by species and origin.
Sooner or later, Congress will have to start wading through dozens of fights that go along with re-approving the key law that governs federally managed fisheries. Sen. Dan Sullivan is pushing for sooner, pressing the Commerce Committee to start advancing a revisit of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, historically brushed up in Washington every decade or so, but not since 2007. As part of Sullivan's effort to advance MSA to re-authorization, the Republican senator on Wednesday convened a meeting in Soldotna for a subcommittee that deals with fishery policy to hear testimony from a variety of industry leaders. State and federal government leaders were among the 14 panelists, and so were commercial and sport fish business owners.
Panel sought to help businesses and state and local governments prepare for the effects of global warming. President Donald Trump's administration has disbanded a government advisory committee that was intended to help the country prepare for a changing climate. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration established the committee in 2015 to help businesses and state and local governments make use of the next national climate assessment. The legally mandated report, due in 2018, will lay out the latest climate-change science and describe how global warming is likely to affect the United States, now and in coming decades.
President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that he said would streamline the approval process for building infrastructure such as roads, bridges and offices by eliminating a planning step related to climate change and flood dangers. Speaking in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York, Trump said that the approval process for projects was “badly broken” and that the nation’s infrastructure was a “massive self-inflicted wound on our country.” Trump said that “no longer” would there be “one job-killing delay after another” for new projects. But he did not provide any proposal on how his much-promised infrastructure program would be financed or what it would include.
The Pentagon has released its long-anticipated report detailing plans to restructure the organizations that manage acquisition and technology research for the Department of Defense. The so-called Section 901 report, officially titled "Restructuring the Department of Defense Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Organization and Chief Management Officer Organization," was delivered to Congress on Aug. 1.
The Trump administration on Tuesday chose not to list the Pacific bluefin tuna as an endangered species, rejecting a petition by the largest global conservation group that the U.S. is a member of, with France, South Korea, Australia, and several other countries. The Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service announced the decision after a 12-month review of the request that started under the Obama administration.
A climate report based on work conducted by scientists in 13 federal agencies is under active review at the White House, and its conclusions about the far-reaching damage already occurring from global warming are at odds with the Trump administration’s views. The report, known as the Climate Science Special Report, finds it is “extremely likely” that more than half of the rise in temperatures over the past four decades has been caused by human activity — in contrast to Trump Cabinet members’ views that the mag nitude of that contribution is uncertain.
Making science-based decisions requires data and information. Ocean and coastal policies and management decisions also require current and robust observations and monitoring. All three bipartisan bills will advance monitoring and research of the ocean, Great Lakes, and fisheries through grants, linking programs (ICOOS and FOARAM) and topics (ocean observations with sound and with economy), and by updating important indices.
Despite broad agreement that the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) has worked incredibly well – currently, 90 percent of U.S. stocks fall below their annual catch limits, making the U.S. a world leader in fisheries management – there was disagreement on how to update the law to make it as effective as possible.
Nothing in COL’s legislative tracker was signed into law this month, but several items did pass out of committee, the House, or the Senate. Notably, the Save Our Seas Act of 2017 (S.756) passed the Senate with unanimous consent last week. The legislation (and its counterpart in the House (H.R. 2748)) reauthorizes and amends the Marine Debris Act (P.L. 109-332) “to promote international action to reduce marine debris.”
Dry weather continues to be problematic for Western states, and climate change predictions indicate droughts will only worsen. The president’s budget request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 proposes funding cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by 16 percent – and the proposed four percent decrease to the agency’s National Weather Service would challenge the program. The National Weather Service plays a crucial role in understanding drought patterns, preparing communities for limited water availability, and helping scientists understand the changing climate. Stakeholders say forecasting research and technology innovations are key to future preparedness.
On Thursday, the House passed an appropriations “minibus” (H.R. 3219) in a mostly-partisan 235-192 vote. The minibus combines the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water, and Legislative Branch appropriations bills; Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) said the package “ensure[s] the safety of the homeland and the American people.” An effort from several Democrats, led by Representative Chellie Pingree (ME-1), to reverse the National Ocean Policy implementation funding prohibition was rejected 192-235.
Eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year – and in total, the amount already in existence outweighs each human by ten to one (approximately the same as a cow or female giraffe), according to Dr. Melissa Duhaime (Assistant Professor, University of Michigan). At a hearing held by the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, lawmakers explored efforts to tackle marine debris in the ocean and Great Lakes. Marine debris refers to any kind of discarded human litter, including derelict fishing equipment; sunken vessels; and trash from fabrics, metal, cardboard, or other substances, but the most abundant – and problematic – form is plastic.
Few ships have a strong enough hull, the appropriate shape, or enough power to push through multiple meters of solid sea ice. Icebreakers are becoming increasingly necessary ships for the Coast Guard as the climate warms and the Arctic thaws, opening the once-inaccessible area to traffic and foreign nations like Russia and China. The House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing to discuss these much-needed vessels (vital for conducting Artic research) with the Coast Guard.
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a Research and Technology subcommittee hearing on Wednesday to explore the future of STEM and computer science education in the United States to prepare today’s youths for much-needed science and engineering jobs. Citing American students’ 19th (science) and 31st (mathematics) rank out of 35 countries, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (TX-21) advocated the need to “capture and hold the desire of our nation’s youth to study science and engineering so they will want to pursue these careers.” His STEM Education Act of 2015 (P.L.114-5) encourages students to enter STEM fields.
Prior to the Chesapeake Bay Program, the largest bay in the country was so polluted and disease-ridden that oysters, seagrass beds, and blue crabs declined in alarming numbers, threatening the economy of the region and wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Since the creation of the program in 1983, the conditions in the bay have been slowly, but surely, improving. The HELP for Wildlife Act (S. 1514), which passed out of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public by a vote of 14-7, is a comprehensive (though controversial) recreational hunting and conservation bill that reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program.
On Thursday, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed the $53.4 billion Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2018 (S.1662) bill in a 30-1 vote. “The committee has made difficult but responsible decisions to produce a bill that strikes a financial balance between the competing priorities of law enforcement, national security, scientific advancement, and economic development,” declared Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Richard Shelby (AL). In the Senate bill, the National Science Foundation (NSF) would be funded at $7.31 billion, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at $5.59 billion, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at $19.5 billion, representing cuts from FY 2017 of 2.2 percent, 1.5 percent, and 0.6 percent, respectively. The total reductions in the bill amount to $3.2 billion below the FY 2017 enacted level, but overall funding remains $4.4 billion above the president’s budget request.
Only 31 years ago, fleets from foreign countries could fish as close as 12 nautical miles to the United States shoreline. Fish populations were severely depleted, impacting livelihoods for fishers and threatening biodiversity. As a result, Congress passed the bipartisan Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). This law extends U.S. jurisdiction to 200 nautical miles, uses science-based management to rebuild stocks and prevent overfishing, and ensures an economically sustainable yield via quotas and annual catch limits. The 1976 law created eight regional fishery management councils and has been updated twice, once in 1996 and again in 2007. Thanks to these efforts, U.S. fish populations are rebuilding, and now, 90 percent of fisheries fall below their annual catch limits. Last week, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing to discuss areas for improvement to consider upon reauthorization. Both sides of the aisle praised the successes of the law and conceded need for change but had different ideas for what those alterations might be.
What do blue whales, loggerhead sea turtles, southern bluefin tuna, dugongs, manatees, sea otters, hammerhead sharks, and Elkhorn corals have in common? They’re all listed as endangered – and therefore federally protected – under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With alarming numbers of North Atlantic right whale deaths and fishing entanglements this summer, this 1973 law is at the forefront of marine scientists’ minds. In a House Natural Resources hearing on Wednesday, the full committee gathered to discuss five Republican-authored bills to reform the landmark act. The majority press release identifies the goals of the bills as increasing responsibilities of states, improving data transparency, altering listing and delisting processes, and discouraging costly lawsuits.
The nation’s water infrastructure is in a truly dire state; with a D+ grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, it is time for an update. Last week, the House and Senate held hearings to address this issue. The House Transportation Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment focused on the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Chairman Garret Graves (LA-6) said the Corps has an “absolutely critical mission,” which centers around building and maintaining infrastructure that bolsters the economy while integrating environmental sustainability. However, both sides of the aisle were concerned with the Corps’ backlog of unfinished projects and lack of implementation guidance for the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (P.L.113-121) and the Water Resources Development Act of 2016.
At a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing, as lawmakers explored the potential for offshore drilling in Alaska and the Atlantic, seismic testing was once again a controversial topic. Seismic tests are used to determine the presence and abundance of oil; registering at 120 decibels, Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2) said the blasts have “an enormous and obvious impact" on marine mammals. Witness Nikki Martin (President, International Association of Geophysical Contractors) disagreed, claiming that there is no scientific evidence showing harm to marine mammals (despite studies showing otherwise).