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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), along with four Democratic cosponsors, introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 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.
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.
Senators Murkowski (R-AK) and King (I-ME) introduced a bill (S.1787) to reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP) through 2023.
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.
On September 11, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a bill to reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program through 2023.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill to permanently reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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 Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) continues to operate without a director and has recently lost some science division staff.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord on Thursday, June 1.