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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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.

 

Technology background
USGS provides information for partnering with 3DEP in 2018
Date: Thursday, August 17, 2017

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hosted two informational webinars about partnering with the 3-Dimensional Elevation Program (3DEP) for fiscal year (FY) 2018, and changes for this year's Broad Agency Announcement.

 

The Noble John Sandifer jackup rig
Federal agency declares Gulf of Mexico safe for seismic surveys
Date: Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Four years after beginning an Environmental Impact Survey, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) declared that the Gulf of Mexico is safe for seismic surveys. 

 

Earth
Scientific societies question red team/blue team climate debate
Date: Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sixteen scientific societies sent a letter to EPA Administrator Pruitt questioning the need for a red team/blue team debate on climate science in light of the decades of peer review done on the subject.

 

House chamber
Senate confirms Federal Energy Regulatory Commission nominees
Date: Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Senate confirmed two new members for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on August 3. Neil Chatterjee, former aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Robert Powelson from the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission have joined Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, bringing the number of empty FERC seats down to two.

 

Hazards fire houses
Wildfires emerging as a hot topic on the Hill
Date: Thursday, August 3, 2017

As the U.S. endures another fire season, legislators on the Hill are seeking to address some of the challenges associated with managing wildland fires on federal land. A hearing held by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on August 3 tackled the complex challenges in reducing wildland fire risk, focusing primarily on wildfire management programs and technologies.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
House and Senate committees approve five appropriations bills for DOE, CJS, and Interior and Environment
Date: Thursday, July 27, 2017

The House of Representatives has been moving Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget bills out of committee more quickly than the Senate. The full House has passed one bill, for the Department of Defense; no appropriations bills have reached the Senate floor yet. Congress and the President must agree a budget or a Continuing Resolution by September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. More detail on agency budgets is available here.

 

Mount Saint Helens
DOI announces Craters of the Moon, Hanford Reach, and Canyons of the Ancients no longer under review
Date: Friday, July 21, 2017

On July 13, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho and Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington are no longer under review by the Department of the Interior (DOI). The announcement of another unaltered monument, the Canyons of the Ancients in Colorado, came days later.

 

Capitol at night
Zinke defends DOI budget proposal to Senate ENR Committee
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017
On June 20, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke met with the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to defend the President’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI).

 

House chamber
President Trump announces nominations for key positions
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017

On July 20, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing to consider nominations for key positions at the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of the Interior (DOI). 

 

Excavator mining
House holds oversight hearing on hardrock mining
Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017

On July 20, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing to discuss the future of hardrock mining in the United States. Streamlining the permitting process, royalties reform, and reclamation concerns were among the topics discussed at the hearing.

 

The Noble John Sandifer jackup rig
Atlantic offshore oil and gas development discussed in House
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on July 12 to evaluate the potential development of offshore drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

 

The White House
White House OSTP remains understaffed following recent departures
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) continues to operate without a director and has recently lost some science division staff. 

 

Galaxy NGC 3310
President Trump reestablishes National Space Council
Date: Friday, July 7, 2017

On July 7, the Executive Office of the President published Executive Order 13803, which was signed by President Trump on June 30 reestablishing the National Space Council. 

 

Natural gas pump
Secretary Zinke signs order to streamline permitting for onshore resources development
Date: Thursday, July 6, 2017

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3354 on July 6 to promote energy exploration and development through better management of leasing programs for onshore oil and gas resources and solid mineral resources on federal lands. 

 

Atlean Lake in British Columbia
Appropriations subcommittee holds EPA budget hearing
Date: Thursday, June 15, 2017

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies held a hearing on June 15 to evaluate President Trump’s budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 

Natural gas pump
BLM postpones compliance deadlines for methane emissions
Date: Thursday, June 15, 2017

On June 15, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) posted a notice in the Federal Register indefinitely postponing certain compliance dates within the Methane Waste Prevention Rule.

 

Salt marsh near Pescadero, California
Secretary Zinke recommends reduction of Bears Ears
Date: Monday, June 12, 2017

An interim report by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke released on June 12 provides preliminary recommendations regarding the review of the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

 

A glacier meets the ocean at Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
House committee questions Secretary Zinke about DOI FY2018 budget
Date: Thursday, June 8, 2017

On June 8, Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke testified before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies at a hearing on the DOI Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget.

 

U.S. Capitol with flag
NSF budget hearing for FY 2018
Date: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

On June 7, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies held a hearing to discuss the President’s fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget request for the National Science Foundation (NSF).

 

Bingham Copper Mine
House holds oversight hearing on Abandoned Mine Lands Program
Date: Wednesday, June 7, 2017

On June 7, the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing about the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Program. The AML Program is set to expire in 2021.

 

The White House
President Trump withdraws U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement
Date: Thursday, June 1, 2017

President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord on Thursday, June 1.

 

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