Policy News Briefs

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The Policy News Briefs page features an ongoing newsfeed of the most up-to-date geoscience policy information.

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Ocean Core Sampling
Senate passes bipartisan ocean monitoring and research act
Date: Monday, January 8, 2018

On January 8, the Senate unanimously passed Senator Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act (S.1425). The bipartisan bill revises and reauthorizes the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System (ICOOS) Act of 2009, which established the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) to consolidate and coordinate the efforts of hundreds of federal, state, and local observing programs through fiscal year (FY) 2021. In addition to reauthorizing the ICOOS Act, S.1425 promotes best practices regarding data sharing for public use, investment in autonomous unmanned underwater and surface ocean research vehicles, closing gaps in high frequency radar, and assisting Coast Guard search and rescue operations.

 

Earth
National Academies release second decadal survey for earth observations from space
Date: Saturday, January 6, 2018

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.

 

The White House
Trump administration moves to revise Obama-era energy regulations through rulemaking process
Date: Friday, December 29, 2017

Following several executive orders issued by President Donald Trump, the Department of the Interior and the EPA announced rulemaking revisions to offshore drilling protections, fracking regulations, and the Clean Power Plan in the final days of 2017. 

 

House chamber
Congress ends session by passing tax reform and continuing federal funding into January, but delays disaster aid
Date: Friday, December 22, 2017

On December 22, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill to provide for tax reform and legislation to continue funding the federal government under fiscal year (FY) 2017 levels through January 19. Lawmakers from various states impacted by hurricanes and wildfires this year were seeking billions more in disaster aid funding, but Congress stopped short of sending an $81 billion relief package to the President before the end of the year. 

 

Drilling rig
USGS releases new assessment of oil and gas resources in Alaska’s North Slope, following annual lease sale
Date: Friday, December 22, 2017

On December 22, the USGS released a new assessment of undiscovered oil and gas resources in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPR-A). Just weeks before release of the USGS report, the Bureau of Land Management held its annual oil and gas lease sale for all available tracts in the NPR-A on December 6. The sale lasted less than 10 minutes and received only 7 bids.

 

Hazards fire houses
Congress reauthorizes U.S. Fire Administration and grant programs in wake of recent wildfire disasters
Date: Friday, December 22, 2017

Following a highly destructive wildfire season this year for the west coast, the House passed the United States Fire Administration, AFG, and SAFER Program Reauthorization Act of 2017 (H.R.4661) to reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration, the Assistance to Firefighters Grants program, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants program through fiscal year 2023. 

 

Bingham Copper Mine
President Trump and Secretary Zinke sign orders to advance domestic production of critical minerals
Date: Thursday, December 21, 2017

Following the release of a USGS report on 23 mineral commodities that are critical for the U.S. economy and security, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reduce America's dependence on foreign sources of critical minerals. Shortly after the executive order, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released a secretarial order on December 21 directing the initial steps to producing a nationwide geological and topographical survey of the U.S.

 

Books and Apple
House passes three bipartisan bills to advance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
Date: Wednesday, December 20, 2017

On Monday, December 18, a day that was informally declared “Science Day in Congress”, the House considered three bipartisan pieces of legislation that support careers and education in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

 

IES Soils Glyph
Senate Commerce Committee votes to advance earthquake and drought bills and NOAA nominee
Date: Wednesday, December 13, 2017

At an executive session on December 13, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the nomination of Barry Myers as Administrator of NOAA, the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Reauthorization Act of 2018 and the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act of 2017.

 

Technology background
House Natural Resources hearing revisits U.S. dependence on foreign minerals
Date: Tuesday, December 12, 2017

On December 12, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing, “Examining Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Foreign Minerals,” to discuss reasons for the declining self-sufficiency of the United States for mineral commodities, and the consequences of relying on foreign sources for critical minerals. 

 

IES Fossils glyp
Trump administration slashes 2 Utah monuments, with ongoing reviews to spur more reductions
Date: Thursday, December 7, 2017

On December 4, following an ongoing review by the Department of the Interior of 27 national monuments, President Donald Trump signed two proclamations reducing the Bears Ears National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah by about 85 percent and 47 percent, respectively. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke publicly released his final report to the President one day later, which recommended modifications to national monuments in Nevada, Oregon, and California.

 

Gold Panning
House lawmakers discuss Grand Staircase-Escalante during Natural Resources subcommittee hearing
Date: Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a legislative hearing on December 14 to consider the Grand Staircase Escalante Enhancement Act, introduced by Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT-2) to create Utah’s sixth national park - the Escalante Canyons National Park and Preserve.

 

House chamber
House natural resources subcommittee hearing on geothermal energy, geologic mapping, and hazards
Date: Thursday, November 30, 2017

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on November 30 to discuss a draft bill to promote timely geothermal energy exploration under federal leases, and three other bills related to geologic mapping and hazards research, monitoring, and response.

 

The White House
President Trump nominates Assistant Secretary of the Interior as Congress continues confirmation process for numerous nominees
Date: Wednesday, November 29, 2017

On November 13, President Donald Trump nominated Dr. Tim Petty to be Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science, with direction to oversee the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation. On November 2, the Senate confirmed by voice vote three previous nominees to serve at the Department of Energy: Steven Winberg as Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), Mark Wesley Menezes as Under Secretary of Energy, and Paul Dabbar as Under Secretary for Science. 

 

U.S. Money
Senate releases spending bill for Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
Date: Monday, November 20, 2017

The Senate Committee on Appropriations released the fiscal year 2018 appropriations legislation for Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which outlines their proposed budget for the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, among other agencies. The appropriations bill totals $32.6 billion in discretionary funding, including $12.17 billion for the Department of the Interior.

 

Drilling rig
Nebraska approves Keystone XL pipeline
Date: Monday, November 20, 2017

Nebraska regulators from the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved the building of the Keystone XL pipeline on November 20. 

 

Earth
NASA and NOAA successfully launch next-generation polar orbiting satellite
Date: Saturday, November 18, 2017

On November 18, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new satellite for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has significantly better imaging capabilities than any of its predecessors.

 

Books and Apple
House passes legislation repealing tax exemptions of tuition waivers for graduate assistants
Date: Friday, November 17, 2017

On November 16, the House of Representatives passed H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, introduced by Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX-8). Generally, the bill restructures the tax code with fewer tax brackets and repeals or modifies a number of provisions. The House bill would repeal Sec. 117(d)(5) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, which allows for the tax exemption of tuition waivers for graduate students serving as teaching and research assistants. If the provision was to become law, student taxable income would include both the graduate assistant stipend and the value of the tuition waiver.

 

Hazards fire houses
Congress considers legislation to improve forest management in wake of recent wildfires
Date: Thursday, November 16, 2017

In response to the catastrophic wildfires in 2017 thus far, and the escalating costs of battling fire-related damages, Congress is fielding legislation to promote forest management techniques that would return resilience to overgrown, fire-prone forested lands.

 

Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.
House lawmakers reach deal for reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program
Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

On November 14 the House of Representatives passed legislation that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five more years, while making several operational changes. According to the Office of Management and Budget, the NFIP is not fiscally sustainable in its present form, and is currently set to expire on December 8.

 

The Noble John Sandifer jackup rig
Senate takes first step to open ANWR for oil and gas leasing
Date: Wednesday, November 8, 2017

On November 8, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources introduced reconciliation legislation, fulfilling instructions in the fiscal year 2018 budget resolution for the committee to provide legislative recommendations to the Senate Committee on the Budget that would result in $1 billion in new revenue over ten years to offset federal tax cuts. 

 

Icebergs in Greeland
Trump administration releases draft of comprehensive report on latest climate science
Date: Friday, November 3, 2017

The U.S. Global Change Research Program released a draft of the highly-anticipated Fourth National Climate Assessment for public comment on November 3. The NCA is a quadrennial scientific assessment, which analyzes the impacts of both human-induced and natural global climate change, mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act of 1990.

 

NASA hurricane satellite image
Congress discusses emergency response following the 2017 hurricane season
Date: Thursday, November 2, 2017

The devastating 2017 hurricane season has prompted Congress to take action in recent months, with a number of committee hearings held in both chambers and new legislation introduced relating to natural disaster preparedness and response.

 

House chamber
Texas 21st District Representative Lamar Smith will not seek re-election in 2018
Date: Thursday, November 2, 2017

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX-21) announced in a statement shared on Twitter on November 2 that he will not seek re-election in 2018 for his seat representing the 21st district of Texas. Representative Smith has served as a member of Congress since 1987, and will complete his six-year term as Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology at the end of the 115th Congress, which will conclude on January 3, 2019. 

 

House chamber
Congress passes $36.5 billion aid package for recent natural disasters; more funds needed
Date: Thursday, October 26, 2017

Responding to the widespread destruction from three catastrophic hurricanes, massive wildfires, and a bankrupt federal flood insurance program, the House passed a $36.5 billion disaster aid package on October 12.

 

U.S. Money
Budget resolution requires natural resource committees to find $1 billion in increased revenue
Date: Thursday, October 19, 2017

On October 19, the Senate passed a fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget resolution (H.Con.Res.71) with an amendment in the nature of a substitute (S.Amdt.1116), which sets the stage for passing tax reform legislation. Part of the Senate amendment includes instructions for both the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to write legislative recommendations by November 13 that would result in $1 billion in new revenue over ten years to offset federal tax cuts.

 

U.S. Capitol
Senate hearings on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill canceled
Date: Thursday, October 19, 2017

The U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations has four major appropriation bills remaining to consider during the current Congressional session, including an appropriations bill for the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which will determine the FY 2018 budget for the U.S. 

 

Books and Apple
Senator Rand Paul introduces bill to reform the federal grant review process
Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On October 17, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced the BASIC Research Act, a bill that would fundamentally change how the federal government reviews research grant proposals. The bill seeks to make several changes to peer review processes and broaden public access requirements for grant applications and research results.

 

Flow of data
United States and Taiwan scrap mission for next generation radio occultation satellites
Date: Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Taiwan’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) agreed in a joint memorandum that the two agencies would halt plans to develop a second set of Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC) 2 satellites, known as COSMIC-2B. However, for FY18, President Trump’s budget did not include a funding request for COSMIC 2B.   

 

The White House
President Trump taps his picks to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Army Corps of Engineers; other nominees confirmed
Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Setting a new record for waiting longer than any other president to nominate a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator, President Donald Trump officially tapped Barry Myers, CEO of AccuWeather, to lead the federal agency in charge of weather and climate predictions, ocean and coastal research, and fisheries management.  

 

The Noble John Sandifer jackup rig
Lawmakers consider expanding oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf
Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017

On October 11, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources met to review a draft of the Accessing Strategic Resources Offshore (ASTRO) Act. Modeled after the successful revenue sharing scheme GOMESA, the ASTRO Act seeks to improve access to oil and gas resources and to provide more reliability in the federal management of OCS exploration and development.

 

Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.
National Science Foundation awards over $5 million in grants to study hurricanes
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2017

In the wake of this year’s disastrous hurricane season, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 59 grants totaling $5.3 million for projects that aim to that study how hurricanes form and intensify, and how we can best respond to the devastating effects of such disasters. 

 

Atlantic waves
Climate Solutions Caucus hits 60 members
Date: Thursday, October 5, 2017

On October 4, 2017 the Climate Solutions Caucus hit a record 60 members, with the addition of California representatives Mimi Walters (R-CA-45) and Pete Aguilar (D-CA-31).

 

Hazards fire houses
Committees discuss forest management and wildfire mitigation
Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On September 27, both the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held hearings to explore methods of restoring the health and resiliency of national forests and to mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildfires. 

 

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
Senate moves legislation to address harmful algal blooms
Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Senate unanimously passes the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017, introduced on May 4 by Senators Bill Nelson (D-FL), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Rob Portman (R-OH).

 

U.S. Capitol
Congress considers presidential nominations to key agency positions
Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on September 27 for four presidential nominations, including Howard “Skip” Elliott to head the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and Rear Admiral Timothy Gallaudet, an oceanographer and climate expert, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere.

 

Bingham Copper Mine
Hardrock mining reform bill introduced in Senate
Date: Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), along with four Democratic cosponsors, introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2017.

 

Power lines. Image Credit: U.S. Department of Energy
Bipartisan legislation introduced to curb carbon pollution
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

Representative Mike Conaway (R-TX-11) introduced the Carbon Capture Act (CCA). This legislation incentivizes Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) projects, which use technologies to capture up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions produced from industrial processes, including electricity generation.

 

Hawaiian flower
White House issues plans for prompt National Environmental Policy Act reviews
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

On September 14, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) published a list of actions that it will take to revise the federal environmental review process and authorization for infrastructure projects.

 

EarthandYouDVD logo
Bill introduced to reauthorize geologic mapping program through 2023
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and King (I-ME) introduced a bill (S.1787) to reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) through 2023. 

 

House chamber
House passes 8 remaining appropriations bills
Date: Thursday, September 14, 2017

The House passed 8 remaining appropriations bills in a single package on September 14 to provide all discretionary funding for the Federal Government in fiscal year (FY) 2018.

 

EarthandYouDVD logo
Bill introduced to reauthorize geologic mapping program through 2023
Date: Monday, September 11, 2017

On September 11, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program through 2023.

 

Cracked road from earthquake
Bill to reauthorize National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program introduced in Senate
Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill to permanently reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP).

 

Cracked road from earthquake
Bill to reauthorize National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program introduced in Senate
Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill to permanently reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). The bill calls for the creation of a set of maps showing active faults and folds, liquefaction risk, landslide risk, and susceptibility to seismically induced hazards.

 

Excavator mining
House discusses 3 bills on energy and mineral development
Date: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources discussed three bills introduced before the August recess. Two of these bills seek to amend to the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, while the third bill proposes a new method for state onshore oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

 

Earth
Jim Bridenstine nominated to NASA Administrator
Date: Saturday, September 2, 2017

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-OK-1) to serve as the next Administrator for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). If confirmed by the Senate, Bridenstine would be the first NASA Administrator to be appointed with a professional background in politics, rather than a science and engineering background.

 

Capitol at night
Legislative deadlines loom as August recess comes to an end
Date: Thursday, August 31, 2017

After Congress returns from the August recess, the Senate will have 17 legislative days and the House will have 12 legislative days remaining before the September 30 deadline to agree upon and pass all discretionary appropriations legislation in order to avoid a government shutdown.

 

Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.
Hurricane Harvey puts additional strain on the federal appropriations process
Date: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Gulf coast of Texas as a category 4 storm on August 25, dumping massive amounts of rain on southeast Texas and surrounding areas. The projected disaster relief costs may put a large financial strain on Congress when it returns to session after the August recess.

 

NASA hurricane satellite image
Federal science agencies help prepare and respond to Hurricane Harvey
Date: Tuesday, August 29, 2017

In anticipation of Hurricane Harvey making landfall on the Gulf Coast, several federal science agencies prepared for the massive storm by monitoring its development and helping direct FEMA's resources to the likely hard-hit areas.

 

The White House
White House releases research and development budget priorities for FY 2019
Date: Thursday, August 17, 2017

The White House issued guidance for reasearch and development priorities for fiscal year 2019, focusing on shifting projects to private industry and supporting basic research that can best serve the American people.

 

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