Geoscience Policy Monthly Review
march 2017

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy.
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House passes bill to increase regulatory oversight

March 1, 2017

The House passed the OIRA Insight, Reform, and Accountability Act (H.R.1009) on March 1, 2017.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is part of the Executive Office of the President (EOP). It is the central authority for the review of Executive Branch regulations. OIRA also reviews government collections of information from the public, and oversees the implementation of government-wide policies regarding information policy, privacy, and statistical policy.

The bill would place independent regulatory agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under OIRA’s jurisdiction.

In addition to expanding OIRA’s authority to review the regulatory actions of these agencies, H.R.1009 requires the Administrator of OIRA to convene a working group that assists with the review of regulatory plans. The bill directs OIRA to publish a unified agenda of each regulation that is under review, identify any redundancies or conflicts with existing standards, and determine which standards are outdated and prime for elimination.

After its passage in the House, the bill was introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on March 2.


House passes Regulatory Integrity Act

March 2, 2017

The House passed the Regulatory Integrity Act of 2017 (H.R.1004) on March 2.

The bill would require agencies to publicize any pending regulatory actions and related communications. The bill would also prohibit agencies from using such public communications to directly advocate or lobby in support of the pending action.

This legislation comes on the heels of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) finding in 2015 that the EPA violated anti-lobbying rules by promoting the Clean Water Rule on social media. Democrats failed in their attempts to amend the rule and define "propaganda," "publicity," and "advocacy" as any information or claims that are unsupported by science or empirical data.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs is currently reviewing the bill.

Sources:, Environmental Protection Agency, Government Accountability Office

Science committee hearings delve into NSF priorities

March 9 and 21, 2017

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Research and Technology held two oversight hearings on funding priorities for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

On March 9, NSF Director France Córdova and NSF Inspector General Allison Lerner discussed the agency’s goals, challenges, and overall economic impact. In her testimony, Ms. Lerner provided recommendations to increase accountability, addressing problems such as research fraud and the incurred cost of contract employees. Dr. Córdova indicated that the rising frequency of research misconduct identified by the agency, such as plagiarism and data falsification, is likely due to improved detection, rather than increased occurrence.

Dr. Córdova also highlighted the NSF INCLUDES (Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science) program and its commitment to building diversity in all areas of science and engineering as well as promoting innovation.  Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) said that the NSF needs more guidance to rebalance priorities, improve oversight, and ensure accountability and transparency.

During the second hearing on March 21, four expert witnesses testified on the future of the NSF. The hearing also examined some of the agency’s challenges, such as setting priorities to meet societal needs, opportunities for data sharing, and developing a new generation of STEM workers. Some members of the committee expressed concerns that cuts to geoscience funding could hurt national security and public health. Dr. Maria T. Zuber, Chair of the National Science Board, explained that the United States is in an increasingly competitive global landscape, facing challenges that only the insights of science and technology can address. Dr. Zuber discussed how fundamental research into the geosciences supported by the NSF has provided the scientific framework for hydraulic fracturing, led to better storm and hazard prediction, and increased our understanding of large climatic trends. According to Dr. Jeffrey Spies, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at the Center for Open Science and Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, the results of NSF-funded initiatives are readily observed in our everyday lives, and the return on investment is immense.

Source: House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

House Republicans introduce resolution on climate change

March 13, 2017

House Republicans introduced a resolution on March 13 that emphasizes the importance of conservative environmental stewardship for future generations and recognizes the extreme impacts of increased heat waves, precipitation, wildfires, and droughts, as well as rising sea levels.

H.Res.195 expresses the commitment of the House of Representatives to "working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.”

The resolution was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommittee on Environment.