Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
june 2017

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NSF budget hearing for FY 2018

June 7, 2017

On June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held a hearing to discuss the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Chairman John Culberson (R-TX-7) emphasized the overarching bipartisan support for the NSF and its goals in his opening statement.

The President’s FY 2018 budget request proposes cuts to NSF’s budget for the first time in the agency’s 67-year history; overall, the request includes an 11% decrease in funding for NSF compared to the FY 2017 enacted amount. During the hearing, members of the subcommittee heard testimony from Dr. France Córdova, Director of NSF, who expressed her concern that the proposed budget would force  NSF to reduce the amount of grants and awards given to universities across the nation, and let go of key resources and assets such as the Greenbank Observatory in West Virginia. When questioned by Ranking Member José Serrano (D-NY-15), Dr. Córdova assured the subcommittee that the NSF is not preemptively implementing cutbacks within the FY 2017 budget and will not plan their allocations for FY 2018 until Congress passes an FY 2018 appropriations bill.

Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA-17) also asked about rumors of selective funding for certain NSF projects based on priorities of the Executive Branch. Dr. Córdova insisted that investing in a greater diversity of disciplines leads to better science and that such selective action would be detrimental to the goals of the NSF.

Source: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations

House committee questions Secretary Zinke about DOI FY2018 budget

June 8, 2017

On June 8, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies at a hearing on the DOI Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget. Overall, the President’s proposed FY2018 budget for DOI would cut 13% from the FY2017 enacted level, which Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN-4) noted is comparable to the FY2010 enacted level after adjustment for inflation. The FY2018 budget decreases funds for multiple federal science agencies including the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Among many other cuts, the proposed DOI budget calls for the elimination of the USGS Earthquake Early Warning System and decreases USGS climate change-related programs by about 80% compared to FY2017. The Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service would also experience cuts of 14% and 10%, respectively, in FY2018 compared to their FY2017 enacted levels.

During the hearing, Sec. Zinke defended many of the budget cuts, particularly to climate change research programs, stating that the cuts reflect program consolidation between agencies into National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers, rather than complete reduction or elimination. Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA-42) stated that the cuts to USGS, especially for the Earthquake Early Warning System, pose a threat to U.S. public health.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) budget would be cut by 46% in FY2018 under the President’s proposal. The majority of the cuts to the OSMRE budget come from the elimination of DOI grants for OSMRE’s Abandoned Mine Lands Economic Development program, which Zinke cited as an example of reducing overlapping program funding between OSMRE and other agencies.

Sources: House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, U.S. Department of the Interior

Appropriations subcommittee holds EPA budget hearing

June 15, 2017

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies held a hearing on June 15 to evaluate President Trump’s budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, provided witness testimony at the hearing, answering questions about the proposed cuts to projects within the EPA for fiscal year (FY) 2018.

The President’s FY 2018 budget request cuts overall EPA funding by 31% and contains steep cuts to many EPA programs. Research and development would be cut by 46% and radon detection programs would be eliminated entirely. Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R-CA-42) noted that although President Trump considers the EPA’s Superfund sites a priority given his infrastructure plan, the program’s budget would be cut by nearly a third. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ-11) was similarly alarmed by the proposed cuts to Superfund sites and pointed out that 70% of the budget for EPA cleanup programs comes from pollution fees paid by private organizations. Some argue that reducing the EPA’s funding will negatively affect the agency’s ability to collect the fees necessary to support cleanup activities.

In Chairman Calvert’s opening statement, he reminded Pruitt that citizens need healthy economic growth in tandem with a healthy environment—one does not have to come at the expense of the other, but rather, they can and should be developed together.

Source: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies

Zinke defends DOI budget proposal to Senate ENR Committee

June 20, 2017

On June 20, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to defend the President’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI). Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) told Secretary Zinke that she does not expect all of the proposed cuts to pass into law, but she is optimistic that the final budget for FY 2018 will reflect a compromise between the President’s request and a budget that Congress deems justifiable.

Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) echoed Chairman Murkowski’s sentiments about the proposed cuts to successful programs being unlikely to pass. Ranking Member Cantwell expressed her disagreement with several of the proposed cuts to agencies within DOI, particularly highlighting the work done by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on natural hazard mitigation, climate research, and other mission areas which serve the public interest. The proposed budget for DOI also calls for cuts to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Abandoned Mine Lands (OSMRE/AML) program funding. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) pointed out that the funds from AML are crucial to providing pensions to miners through the Miners Protection Act.

Regarding the scale of personnel cuts within the various DOI agencies, Secretary Zinke explained that the hiring freeze on operations in Washington, DC, and Denver was implemented to increase employment at the “front lines” of DOI agencies, which includes USGS regional scientists, by shifting the workforce away from headquarters-based projects and back into the field.

Source: Senate Committee on Natural Resources