Policy News Briefs

The Policy News Briefs page features an ongoing newsfeed of the most up-to-date geoscience policy information. Click on the topic(s) in the filter menu below to learn more!

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DOI and USDA announce partnership to protect watersheds from wildfire impacts

The Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service announced a partnership to restore forestlands around important watersheds and prevent damaging wildfires.


CRS report on changes in the Arctic

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) released a report on July 5, 2013, which provides an overview of Arctic-related issues for Congress. Prompted by concerns over diminishing sea ice, the report addresses the effects of increased human activity in the Arctic. Although the withdrawal of sea ice raises concerns about climate change, it also provides new opportunities for oil, gas, and mineral resources, trade routes, tourism, and other activities while raising issues of national security.


Energy efficiency bill revised and reintroduced as vote looms

Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) recently revised their energy efficiency legislation, the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2013 (S. 761), in response to concerns that the original bill would not successfully pass the Senate. The new bill, S. 1392, was introduced on July 30, 2013 and is almost identical to the original bill introduced back in March. The new bill, however, excludes a provision providing state grants to implement energy efficiency standards in buildings.


House and Senate Appropriations Committees pass respective Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bills

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed their fiscal year (FY) 2014 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bills this July.


USGS awards State Geologists grant to help preserve data

This August, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced that it will award $606,073 to 25 state geologists and geological surveys across the country for the preservation of national geological and geophysical data. The Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program (NGGDPP), a national initiative at the USGS to create standards, procedures, and protocols for data collection, was established in 2005 as a part of the Energy Policy Act (Public Law 109-58, Sec. 351).


New study suggests warming patterns could cause sea level to rise 30-feet

A new study predicts that human-induced climate change may mimic similar conditions not seen for more than 115 thousand years. Published in Nature Geoscience, the new study has found that during the Eemian, a period of warming that preceded the last ice age approximately 127-116 thousand years ago, high temperatures caused sea levels to rise almost 30 feet.


House Committee on Natural Resources considers water bills

The House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held a hearing on May 23, 2013 to discuss two bills pertaining to water resources. 

The first bill, H.R. 745, would reauthorize the Water Desalination Act of 1996 and extend funding for it through the 2018 fiscal year. Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) introduced the bill, which awards research grants for projects looking into best practices for water desalination techniques.


President poised to sign bi-partisan helium legislation

Both the House and Senate passed crucial helium legislation this September to avert the shutdown of the federal helium reserve near Amarillo, Texas. The reserve provides the United States with 40 percent of its helium supply, and is critical for supplying the private sector with helium for hospital equipment, solar panels, and computer silicon chips. H.R. 527, the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013, passed with an amendment by the House and is expected to be signed by President Obama in the coming weeks.


Environmental lawyer may get top DOI post

Multiple sources reveal the White House is expected to nominate Janice Schneider as the Department of Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Schneider is currently a partner at the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP in Washington, D.C. and was a senior aide to former Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes. Schneider’s experience and specialization is in the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and tribal and cultural resource issues. The appointment awaits nomination and approval.


Carbon pollution standards for new power plants

The EPA proposed Carbon Pollution Standards under the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from new power plants to improve public health and curb the effects of climate change. According to the EPA, the standards would ensure that new power plants are built with available clean technology, and would coincide with investments in clean energy technologies that are already being made in the power industry.



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