Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
january 2017

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federal agencies

Obama Administration releases plan to address potential meteorite strikes

December 30, 2016

The Obama Administration released the National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy on December 30. This strategy acts to evaluate the nation’s current capacity to identify near-earth objects (NEO’s).

This document identifies which detection systems can be improved upon within our current infrastructure and recommends future investment areas. The strategy builds upon the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) efforts to detect NEO’s and the Federal Emergency Management Administrations plans to address impacts.

This document will provide a roadmap to future action for federal agencies or for the future formulation of congressional bills that authorize investigation into these hazardous impacts. 

Source: The White Office of Science and Technology Policy

Federal scientists recommend geoengineering research

January 1, 2017

The National Global Change Research Plan 2012-2021: A Triennial Update was released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program on January 1. This report updates the current national global change research plan. For the first time, federal researchers recommend investment in geoengineering research. Geoengineering directly intervenes to make global atmospheric changes. One geoengineering proposal mimics the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions by increasing sulfate aerosol emissions from airplanes.

The effects and consequences of geoengineering are not well understood. The plan requests research that would provide a scientific framework to understand potential geoengineering impacts. The report calls for the explicit definition of implementation plans, including scale, scope, and modeling for future geoengineering experiments.   

Geoengineering, the report states, while not a solution to the pressing matter of global climate change, could address part of this issue.

Sources:  U.S. Global Change Research Program, Science magazine

EPA Administrator nominee, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, questioned by Senate

January 18, 2017

Scott Pruitt, nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was questioned by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee during a confirmation hearing on January 18. Committee members questioned Pruitt on topics including the role of science, the regulatory role of the EPA, and potential conflicts of interest.

If confirmed, Pruitt believes he will play an important role in carbon dioxide regulation, and promised to uphold a 2009 EPA ruling that identifies carbon dioxide as a hazardous air pollutant. The nominee stated that, if appointed, he will ensure regulatory action is based on current and objective scientific data.

During the hearing, Pruitt stated the EPA’s central role in upholding interstate water and air quality.  Pruitt feels that the EPA has strayed from this role and has overstepped its authority in regulating fossil fuel production. Furthermore, Pruitt stressed the need to clarify EPA procedure and jurisdiction, commenting on the vital role of states in enforcing environmental regulations. He proposed refocusing the EPA towards concrete goals such as superfund site cleanup and air pollution reduction.

As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, Pruitt is well known for his lawsuits against the EPA. He does not expect these lawsuits to affect his unbiased performance as EPA administrator, and if appointed, agrees to follow the advice of the EPA ethics council.

On January 25 Pruitt supplemented his responses with a 242-page document.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee was sharply divided over this nomination. Democrats boycotted the nomination vote, which passed on February 2. 

The Senate confirmed Pruitt's nomination on February 17.

Sources: Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Regulations.gov

Last updated: 3-6-2017

White House releases America First Energy Plan

January 20, 2017

Following his inauguration on January 20, President Trump’s administration released the America First Energy Plan. The energy plan emphasizes economic stimulation, national security, and environmental health.

The plan centers on lowering energy costs and removing dependence on foreign oil through increased use of American resources.  It calls for a “shale oil and gas revolution” focus and developing resources on federal lands. President Trump’s administration intends to revive the coal industry via clean coal technology. To address terrorism, the plan dictates an energy relationship with Gulf allies.

Finally, President Trump’s energy policy calls for the removal of regulations affecting the energy industry, including the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. Rule. These Obama administration actions mandate reduced greenhouse gas emissions and expand the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) jurisdiction. In place of these initiatives, the Trump Administration’s plan proposes refocusing the EPA’s primary mission towards protecting air and water.

Sources: White House Office of the Press Secretary, The Environmental Protection Agency

President Trump signs executive order to accelerate infrastructure construction

January 24, 2017

On January 24, President Trump signed an executive order to advance “high priority infrastructure projects.” Under this order, the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) may expedite federal review of infrastructure projects at the request of a state governor or head of an executive branch agency. The order places these projects in an accelerated environmental review process overseen by the CEQ.

Potential infrastructure projects outlined in the order include upgrades and additions to the electrical grid, telecommunication projects, port facilities, highways, and pipeline construction. This order was issued with two presidential memoranda on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The memoranda direct the Secretary of the Army, for both pipelines, and the Secretary of State and Secretary of the Interior, for the Keystone XL pipeline, to expedite pipeline construction.

Source: White House Office of the Press Secretary