RFG 2018 Conference

115th congress

House Agricultural Committee approves farm bill package

Hawaiian flower

The House Committee on Agriculture voted 26-20 to advance the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2), commonly referred to as the “farm bill,” which was introduced by Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX-11). With authorization of the Agricultural Act of 2014 lapsing at the end of September, the massive farm bill package approved by the committee authorizes programs across the USDA including sections on commodities and trade, loans and insurance, conservation and forestry, research, nutrition, and rural development.

House passes PREPARE Act and Disaster Recovery Reform Act to improve disaster resilience

Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.

The House passed a five-year reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on April 27, which included a section requiring changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to increase the agency’s emphasis on pre-disaster planning and mitigation. Included in the disaster section is the Disaster Recovery Reform Act (H.R.4660) and the PREPARE Act (H.R.4177).

Congress introduces legislation to enhance flood mapping

Atlantic waves

On April 18, congressional members from Illinois, Florida, Maryland, and Texas introduced a bipartisan, bicameral initiative to enhance the mapping of urban flood hazard zones. In addition, Representative Rick Crawford (R-AR-1) introduced the Scientific Flood Mapping Act (H.R.5559), which would transfer functions related to the preparation of flood maps from FEMA to the USGS due to concerns regarding FEMA’s flood map oversight and management.

Senate Commerce Committee discusses hurricane preparation and response capabilities

NASA hurricane satellite image

The Senate Committee on Commerce, Transportation, and Science held a hearing to examine the status of local and federal agencies’ recovery from the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, and ongoing preparation for the 2018 season. The hearing focused on the importance of disaster relief funds for local communities, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of the 2015 sinking of the US-flagged El Faro cargo ship.

EPA proposes new transparency rule for regulatory science

IES Water Glyph

The EPA released a new proposed rule, titled Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, in the Federal Register on April 30. The rulemaking summary states, “the proposed regulation provides that when EPA develops regulations, including regulations for which the public is likely to bear the cost of compliance, with regard to those scientific studies that are pivotal to the action being taken, EPA should ensure that the data underlying those are publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent validation.”

Senate confirms USGS Director, NASA Administrator, Secretary of State, EPA Deputy Administrator

U.S. Capitol with flag

The Senate unanimously confirmed Dr. James Reilly as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey on April 9. In April, the Senate also voted  to confirm Andrew Wheeler as Deputy Administrator of the EPA, Representative James Bridenstine as Administrator of NASA, and Michael Pompeo as Secretary of State. To track the confirmation process of key geoscience presidential nominations from the Trump Administration, visit AGI’s Federal Nominations page.

EPA announces revision of greenhouse gas emission standards

The White House

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that the agency would revise fuel economy standards for cars and trucks for model years 2022 through 2025, citing recent data that suggest the current standards are not appropriate. The current standards, requiring automakers to engineer their fleets so gas mileage would average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, were established by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee discusses bipartisan bill to boost carbon capture technology

Cumulonimbus clouds

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to discuss the bipartisan Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies Act, or the USE IT Act (S.2602). Introduced by Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY), the USE IT Act supports research and development of carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies and facilitates a new permitting process for CCUS projects and carbon dioxide pipelines. 

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