A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Department of Energy (DOE), Department of the Interior (DOI), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and more.
The House Science Subcommittee on Research and Technology convened a hearing titled “A Review of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct in Science” to review sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct in science. The hearing highlighted the need to reform workforce culture in the scientific sphere and showcased modern and relevant policies that federal agencies and scientific organizations are implementing to address harassment.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is moving forward with major plans to reorganize his department, which includes agencies such as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Each of the nine agencies within the Department of the Interior (DOI) currently operate under separate and unique regional structures. The Secretary’s proposal would change this management structure by establishing unified regional boundaries for all Interior bureaus in an effort to reduce administrative redundancy, shift resources to the field, and improve interagency coordination.
On February 22, the U.S. District Court for Northern California issued a preliminary injunction against suspension of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) 2016 rule on Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation. The Obama-era rule seeks to reduce methane waste from venting, flaring, and leakage during oil and gas production on onshore federal and Indian lands. The latest court decision is one in a series driven by legal sparring between proponents and opponents of the measure, which began almost immediately after the rule was finalized.
Oo February 15, the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus introduced their first piece of legislation, the Challenges & Prizes for Climate Act (H.R.5031). Sponsored by Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL-3) with five other caucus members signed on as original cosponsors, the bill aims to establish a Climate Solutions Challenges program within the Department of Energy to fund clean energy prize competitions and consequently spur innovation in key areas critical to combating climate change.
On February 15, the House Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing to explore how participation in mentoring, training, and apprenticeship opportunities impact science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and workforce development. In his opening remarks, Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) emphasized the increasing STEM workforce demand and importance to the nation’s economic prosperity.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, signed into law by President Trump on February 9, contained language that provides tax incentives for carbon sequestration. The bill expands the carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) tax credits and allows new CCUS technologies, such as direct air capture (DAC), to qualify. This language was initially proposed in the FUTURE Act (S.1535) introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) on July 12, 2017.
On February 13, the House passed five bipartisan bills to more equitably allocate National Science Foundation (NSF) research funding towards early childhood studies and to support research facilities and programs at Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories.
President Trump released his $4.4 trillion budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2019 on February 12 prioritizing defense, border security, infrastructure, and the opioid crisis, while proposing significant cuts to many domestic programs, including science agencies. The President’s FY 2019 Budget was released along with a last-minute addendum outlining additional spending priorities that effectively rolled back some of the initially proposed cuts to a few science agencies, such as the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, even with the addendum additions, the President’s request for non-defense discretionary spending remained $57 billion below the caps agreed upon by Congress.
In conjunction with the fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request, President Donald Trump released his Legislative Outline for Rebuilding Infrastructure in America on February 12. The proposal asks Congress to act soon on infrastructure legislation that will stimulate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment over the next ten years, shorten the process for approving projects to two years or less, address unmet rural infrastructure needs, empower state and local authorities, and train the American workforce of the future.
For the second time in 2018, the federal government went into a partial shutdown on February 9 – this time for just under nine hours – until H.R.1892 passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by President Trump. The bill funds the federal government at fiscal year (FY) 2017 levels until March 23, 2018, raises the budget caps for FY 2018 and FY 2019 by almost $300 billion, increases the debt limit through March 1, 2019, and provides nearly $90 billion in disaster relief for recent fires and hurricanes.
Last month, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report titled Thriving on Our Changing Planet: A Decadal Strategy for Earth Observation from Space. Commissioned by the civilian agencies involved with space-based Earth observations – the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Geological Survey – the study identifies key science and application priorities for 2017-2027. The report calls for the overall U.S. government’s program of Earth observations from space to be robust, resilient, and appropriately balanced, and for federal agencies to ensure efficient and effective use of U.S. resources.