Policy News Briefs & Monthly Review

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AGI policy news briefs summarize geoscience policy activities and related events in Washington, D.C. Every month our news briefs are compiled into the Geoscience Policy Monthly Review digest, along with important announcements and opportunities, as part of a continuing effort to keep AGI member societies and other audiences informed about relevant federal policy and legislative updates.

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Natural gas pump
Senate lawmakers consider series of energy bills
Date: Friday, November 30, 2018

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy met on November 29 to consider a series of energy-themed bills as Congress begins look toward the next session. The hearing considered fourteen pieces of legislation, including bills to provide for the full operations of a fast neutron nuclear reactor by 2025 and to change access to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

 

U.S. Capitol
Mid-term elections bring new members of Congress and shifts in leadership
Date: Friday, November 30, 2018

The results of the November 6, 2018, mid-term elections will shape geoscience-related legislative priorities for the next two years and beyond. The Democratic Party won control of the U.S. House of Representatives, while the Republican Party retained control of the U.S. Senate.

 

Atlantic waves
Administration releases second decadal report on ocean science and technology
Date: Friday, November 30, 2018

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) released a report this month entitled, “Science and Technology For America’s Oceans: A Decadal Vision.” The report outlines the Trump administration’s goals to advance U.S. ocean science and technology in the coming decade.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
Federal Register Summary: November 2018
Date: Friday, November 30, 2018

A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.

 

Cracked road from earthquake
Congress reauthorizes national earthquake hazards program
Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2018

A bill to reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) through fiscal year 2023 passed the House on November 27 and now awaits final approval by the President. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program Reauthorization Act of 2018 (S. 1768) serves as a follow-up to the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Act of 1977, which established NEHRP as the nation’s interagency platform for seismic hazards.

 

Earth
National Climate Assessment warns of environmental impacts and societal and economic damages
Date: Thursday, November 22, 2018

The White House released the second volume of the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s (USGCRP) Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) on November 22, warning of potential damage to the U.S. economy, environment, and human health in the coming decades as a result of climate change.

 

Geological Surveys Database
House approves reauthorization of National Geologic Mapping Act
Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The House of Representatives passed the National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4033) on November 13, sending the bill to the Senate where it currently awaits further action. The act, introduced by Representative Doug Lamborn (R-CO-5), reauthorizes the National Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) through fiscal year 2023 and provides for the Associate Director for Core Science Systems to replace the Associate Director for Geology as the chairperson of the geologic mapping advisory committee.

 

 

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
Senate subcommittee field hearing addresses effects of PFAS chemicals in Michigan
Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), ranking member of the Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management Subcommittee, convened a field hearing titled “Local, State and Federal Response to PFAS Contamination in Michigan” in his home state on November 13. The hearing focused on the emerging health and environmental impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
Federal Register Summary: October 2018
Date: Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.

 

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
President Trump signs America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 into law
Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2018

President Trump signed America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018 (S. 3021), which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) of 2018, into law on October 23. The biannual WRDA legislation contained in S. 3021 authorizes investments in water infrastructure, including reauthorization of the Levee Safety Initiative and the National Dam Safety Program through 2023. 

 

U.S. Capitol
Senate hearing addresses the EPA proposed transparency rule
Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing on October 3 to gauge expert opinion on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science” proposed rule. The proposed rule directs the EPA to use “peer-reviewed information, standardized test methods, consistent data evaluation procedures, and good laboratory practices to ensure transparent, understandable, and reproducible scientific assessments.” Two witnesses testified in favor of the rule, asserting it would ensure timely scientific and administrative accountability, while a third witness expressed concern that the rule is focused on reducing regulations, not promoting transparent or sound science.

 

Geological Surveys Database
Senate committee approves Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization
Date: Friday, October 12, 2018

On October 2, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on legislation that would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Although Congress was unable to pass a reauthorization bill for the LCWF before its funding expired on September 30, the authority to carry out the program does not expire. The proposed legislation, called the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act (S. 569), seeks to provide consistent and reliable authority for and funding of the LCWF.

 

Study group
OPM announces direct-hire for federal government STEM positions
Date: Thursday, October 11, 2018

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a new direct hiring authority in various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) positions in a memorandum issued by acting director Margaret Weichert to all federal agency heads on October 11. Federal agencies can use a direct-hire authority, which expedites the hiring process, to fill vacancies when a critical hiring need or severe shortage of candidates exists.

 

Atlantic waves
Lawmakers reauthorize NOAA Marine Debris Program
Date: Thursday, October 11, 2018

President Trump signed the Save Our Seas Act of 2018 (S. 3508) into law on October 11. The Act reauthorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Debris Program through fiscal year 2022. It also strengthens certain Coast Guard requirements to promote safety in the maritime industry and promotes awareness and implementation of marine technology within the Coast Guard.

 

Cracked road from earthquake
USGS briefing and report highlight expanded rollout of earthquake early warning system
Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) held a briefing on October 2 to discuss the ongoing rollout of the ShakeAlert Earthquake Early Warning System. The briefing was held in conjunction with the release of a new USGS report on the status of and implementation plan for ShakeAlert. Effective implementation of the ShakeAlert System can reduce the impact of earthquakes, save lives, and protect property in earthquake-prone areas.

 

NASA hurricane satellite image
FAA reauthorization bill passes with riders for disaster policy reform, Hurricane Florence funding, and geospatial data
Date: Friday, October 5, 2018

President Trump signed a long-sought reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) into law on October 5, which included a major set of reforms to address the rising costs of natural disasters in the U.S. and help communities improve their pre-disaster mitigation and recovery practices. The FAA reauthorization also contained supplemental appropriations for victims of Hurricane Florence and provisions of the Geospatial Data Act.

 

U.S. Capitol
Representative Johnson introduces bill to combat sexual harassment in STEM
Date: Friday, October 5, 2018

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) introduced H.R. 7031, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act of 2018, on October 5. H.R. 7031 would expand research efforts to better understand the causes and consequences of sexual harassment affecting individuals in the scientific workforce, including students and trainees, and coordinate federal science agency efforts to reduce the prevalence and negative impacts of sexual harassment. Independent from Representative Johnson’s legislative proposal, several science agencies and organizations have announced new initiatives to combat sexual harassment in science in the last month.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
Federal Register Summary: September 2018
Date: Sunday, September 30, 2018

A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.

 

Geoscientist working in a wetland.
President signs bill authorizing DOE Office of Science
Date: Friday, September 28, 2018

On September 28, President Donald Trump signed the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act (H.R. 589) into law after the House passed the bill by voice vote on September 13. Originally sponsored by Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, H.R. 589 establishes the Department of Energy’s policies for science and energy research and development programs.

 

Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic
Bill encouraging private-public nuclear energy collaboration signed into law
Date: Friday, September 28, 2018

On September 28, President Donald Trump signed NEICA, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S. 97), into law after the House passed the bill by voice vote on September 13. The bill, sponsored by Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), encourages partnerships between the Department of Energy (DOE) and private companies to develop new nuclear energy technologies.

 

U.S. Money
President approves two minibus appropriations bills, continuing resolution for FY 2019
Date: Friday, September 28, 2018

President Donald Trump signed two spending bill packages into law this month, allocating funding for parts of the federal government through fiscal year (FY) 2019 and providing short-term funding for other agencies at FY 2018 levels until December 7, giving Congress more time to agree upon the final FY 2019 appropriations for those remaining agencies while avoiding a government shutdown before the start of the fiscal year on October 1.

 

Natural gas pump
House passes bipartisan legislation to lease unused space in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The House passed the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Reform Act (H.R. 6511) on September 25, which would create a pilot program to lease underutilized storage facilities in the reserve to private entities. Under current policy, the Department of Energy (DOE) may only lease those facilities to foreign governments.

 

 

U.S. Capitol
House and Senate committees hold hearings on PFAS chemical exposure
Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Both the House and Senate held separate subcommittee hearings this month to address the emerging health and environmental impacts of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a group of manufactured chemicals used in a variety of applications such as firefighting foam and many household products. Prior to the two hearings, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the senior senator from Michigan, introduced two bills that seek to address the PFAS crisis.

 

Gold Panning
House passes bill to establish Every Kid Outdoors program
Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2018

On September 12, 2018, the House passed the Every Kid Outdoors Act (H.R. 3186) to provide fourth grade students and accompanying individuals with free access to federally managed public lands and waters, including historic sites such as national parks. Introduced by Representative Niki Tsongas (D-MA-3), H.R. 3186 codifies the already-existing “Every Kid in a Park” initiative launched in 2015 by President Barack Obama under the Department of the Interior.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
Federal Register Summary: August 2018
Date: Friday, August 31, 2018

A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.

 

U.S. Money
Congress moves forward on appropriations bills including Interior and Environment
Date: Friday, August 31, 2018

By the end of August, the Senate passed nine of their 12 appropriations bills, while the House – on recess in August – passed six. The bills passed by both chambers include funding for the Department of the Interior, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of Energy, but only the Senate voted on spending for the Department of Agriculture. The two chambers must conference to negotiate mutually agreeable final language, then pass reconciled versions of the appropriations packages. Neither chamber has yet passed their Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bills.

 

Mount Saint Helens
Department of the Interior releases revised reorganization proposal
Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2018

On August 29, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke released a revised reorganization proposal to establish twelve unified regional boundaries for agencies and bureaus in the Department of the Interior (DOI). Discussed at a round table with Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) in Utah on August 28, the plan is modified from the original restructuring proposal released in February, which was based solely on watershed boundaries.

 

Study group
House Natural Resources Committee field hearing discusses nexus of energy and education
Date: Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The House Committee on Natural Resources held a field hearing, entitled “Energy and Education: What’s the Connection,” on August 29, 2018, in Roosevelt, Utah. Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) led the hearing, which considered testimony from two panels of local stakeholders and aimed to explore energy development on federal lands as a potential revenue source for public education.

 

Climate and Weather glyph
Senate subcommittee holds hearing on algal bloom monitoring and impacts
Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2018

On August 28, the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing on U.S. Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) events and the status of the algal-bloom research, technology, and monitoring techniques. During opening remarks, senators highlighted the health, economic, and cultural impact impacts from HABs in Wisconsin, Alaska, and Florida.

 

Capitol at night
Senate Committees consider White House CEQ and OSTP nominees
Date: Friday, August 24, 2018

On August 24, the nominees for director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and deputy administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) appeared before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Technology for a nomination hearing. Earlier in the month, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved the nominee to Chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

 

Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.
EPA releases revamped regulations on emissions from coal power plants and passenger vehicles
Date: Friday, August 24, 2018

On August 21, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants across the country. The Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule would replace the 2015 Clean Power Plan (CPP) Rule. On August 24, the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to amend Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks and establish new standards for model years 2021 through 2026.

 

IES Soils Glyph
BLM releases management plans for lands associated with reduced national monuments in Utah
Date: Friday, August 17, 2018

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released draft management plans on August 17 for the revised Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments that aim to provide more flexibility for the use and management of these public lands. Developed following President Donald Trump's removal of more than 2 million acres from the two Utah monuments in December 2017, the draft plans generally focus on maximizing resource development, recreation, and other uses, while still providing for resource protection. BLM is accepting public comments on the Bears Ears plans through November 15 and the Grand Staircase-Escalante plans through November 30.

 

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
South Carolina District Court reinstates the Clean Water Act WOTUS rule in twenty-six states
Date: Thursday, August 16, 2018

On August 16, the South Carolina District Court ruled that President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13778 to suspend the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Finalized in 2015, the Clean Water Rule—also called the Waters of the United States or WOTUS rule—clarified the scope of federal water protected under the Clean Water Act. The nationwide halt of the applicability date rule effectively reinstates the WOTUS rule in twenty-six states.

 

Cracked road from earthquake
House introduces a NEHRP reauthorization bill as a companion to the Senate bill
Date: Friday, August 3, 2018

On August 3, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA-48) introduced the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act of 2018 (H.R. 6650). NEHRP is a program that provides coordination and leadership in monitoring seismic activity, studying impacts, and improving earthquake resilience in communities nationwide.

 

NASA hurricane satellite image
Senate Committee advances space and coastal community bills
Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2018

On August 1, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation amended and advanced several bills including the Space Frontier Act (S. 3277), the Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act (S. 3265), and the COASTAL Implementation Act (S.2242).

 

The White House
EPA Acting Administrator testifies before Senate committee on agency operations
Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Andrew Wheeler, the acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), appeared before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on August 1 to discuss the EPA’s priorities going forward under this administration. Wheeler assumed his current position after Scott Pruitt resigned on July 6. During the hearing, Wheeler emphasized the EPA’s focus on certainty and transparency, specifically in risk communication, enforcement and regulation, and communications with state and local governments.

 

Silhouette of an idealized head with radiating profile outlines, cogs inside to show that there are new thoughts being constructed.
White House directs research and development priorities for FY 2020 agency budget
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Mick Mulvaney sent a memorandum on July 31 to heads of executive departments and agencies highlighting the administration's research and development (R&D) priorities and providing guidance to agencies as they formulate their fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget submissions. The memorandum defined eight R&D priority areas and five R&D priority practices. Agency R&D budgets will be incorporated into the President’s annual budget submission to Congress in early February.

 

Geoscientist working in a wetland.
President Trump establishes workforce council and signs career and technical education bill into law
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2018

On July 19, President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order (E.O. 13845) establishing the President’s National Council for the American Worker. The council will develop recommendations for a national strategy to empower American workers. In late July, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353). The act amends and reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 until fiscal year 2023.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
EPA Administrator resigns while other natural resources and energy nominations progress
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Following numerous ethics investigations, President Donald Trump announced the resignation of Scott Pruitt as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on July 5, with Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler now as acting administrator. On July 18, President Trump nominated Lane Genatowski for Director of Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) in the Department of Energy (DOE), and Dr. Scott for Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics in the Department of Agriculture.

 

The White House
Federal Register Summary: July 2018
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.

 

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
Lawmakers address $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog at national parks
Date: Wednesday, July 25, 2018

In late June, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT-1) and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-3) introduced bills in each chamber to address the backlog of maintenance at U.S. national parks via a new funding program. S. 3172 and H.R. 6510 are nearly identical to address the $11.6 billion backlog.

 

Atlantic waves
Senate Commerce Subcommittee considers NOAA Blue Economy Initiative
Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet, appeared before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard on July 24 to answer questions about NOAA’s Blue Economy Initiative. At the hearing, Gallaudet also vowed that NOAA is committed to the climate and conservation elements of its mission.

 

Sun
House Science Committee moves forward with the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act
Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a full committee markup on July 24 to consider the Space Weather Research and Forecasting Act (S. 141), which passed the Senate by unanimous consent in May 2017. During the House markup, committee members offered three amendments to the space weather bill—two of which were agreed upon by a voice vote.

 

Drilling rig
Florida Representative Carlos Curbelo introduces controversial carbon tax bill
Date: Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Representative Carlos Curbelo (R-FL-26) introduced the first Republican carbon pricing bill in nearly a decade on July 23. The proposal, called the MARKET CHOICE Act (H.R. 6463), seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by imposing a federal tax on carbon, and to use the revenue to fund infrastructure modernization. It would also impose a rolling, performance-based moratorium on federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from sources covered by the carbon tax, and eliminate the excise taxes on gasoline and diesel fuels.

 

IES Materials and Minerals Glyph
Senate committee discusses U.S. foreign dependence on critical minerals
Date: Thursday, July 19, 2018

On July 19, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources convened a hearing on critical minerals. The hearing was held to review the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) recently published final list of critical minerals, which are minerals required for basic civilian and/or military manufacturing and with a supply chain vulnerable to disruption.

 

Technology background
EPA holds public hearing for proposed rule on Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science
Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held a twelve-hour public hearing on July 17 to hear oral comments on the proposed rule entitled “Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science.” More than one hundred preregistered individuals presented testimony to a panel of EPA representatives. The comment period for the proposed rule ends on August 16, 2018.

 

Natural gas pump
House subcommittees hold joint hearing to discuss fossil energy technology developments
Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2018

On July 17, two subcommittees of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee – the Subcommittee on Energy and the Subcommittee on the Environment – held a joint hearing to discuss the future of fossil fuel as a primary energy source. The hearing also focused on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) partnerships with industry groups to develop technology that aids in the management of carbon dioxide.

 

The White House
Federal Register Summary: June 2018
Date: Saturday, June 30, 2018

A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.

 

Hawaiian flower
House and Senate pass versions of the 2018 Farm Bill
Date: Thursday, June 28, 2018

Following the House passage of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) by party line vote on June 21, the Senate amended H.R. 2 with text from S. 3042, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, and an amendment providing a one-year extension of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The Senate passed the bill on June 28 before breaking for July recess.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
House and Senate pass appropriations legislation funding FY 2019 Energy and Water Development
Date: Thursday, June 28, 2018

In June 2018, the House and Senate consecutively passed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 5895) to make progress on the appropriations process before the fiscal year (FY) 2019 deadline of September 30, 2018. More FY 2019 appropriations bills are slated to be considered in July, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowing to shorten the Senate’s August recess to proceed with appropriations legislation and nominee confirmation.  

 

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