Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) reintroduced a bipartisan package of more than one hundred public lands, natural resources, and water bills, which they negotiated last year with their counterparts on the House Natural Resources Committee. The lands package—S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act—was placed directly on the Senate calendar for expedited consideration. It contains measures to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, and improve the U.S. volcano monitoring network.
On January 2, the Senate confirmed a lengthy list of President Trump’s nominations by voice vote. Some of the confirmed geoscience-related agency nominees include Kelvin Droegemeier as director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Daniel Simmons as assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy at the Department of Energy, and Teri Donaldson for inspector general at the Department of Energy. Mary Neumayr was also approved to head the Council on Environmental Quality and Alexandra Dunn to lead the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemicals office.
Throughout January, several bills were introduced in the House relating to natural resource sustainability. Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) and Frank Lucas (R-OK-3) cosponsored the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2019 (H.R. 34), which directs the Department of Energy to consider the critical link between energy and water use in its programs. Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO-3) later introduced two energy-related bills, the Planning for American Energy Act (H.R. 785) and the Education and Energy Act (H.R. 786), to support responsible energy development and additional funding for education.
On January 7, President Trump signed a bill (S. 2200) into law that reauthorizes the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) through fiscal year 2023. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s NIDIS program provides drought information to farmers, ranchers, and other industries affected by extreme weather.
The longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history ended on January 25, when President Trump signed a short-term spending deal that temporarily reopens affected agencies—including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Department of the Interior—which had been shut down since the end of last year. The legislation provides continued funding at last year’s levels for certain agencies through February 15, pushing back the deadline for Congress and the administration to agree upon the final 2019 appropriations bills for those agencies or enter into another partial government shutdown.
On January 18—day twenty-six of the government shutdown—the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Andrew Wheeler for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Wheeler has served as the acting administrator since July 2018, following the resignation of former administrator Scott Pruitt in light of a series of ethics scandals. (UPDATE: On February 5, the committee voted 11-10 to advance Wheeler’s nomination, sending it to the full Senate for consideration.)
On January 16, the House passed the Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 268) to provide over $12 billion in emergency funding for communities affected by earthquakes, wildfires, and other natural disasters in 2018. Republicans repeatedly stressed the futility of moving forward any appropriations bill that does not include funding for the president’s border wall. Ultimately, this bill did not make it to a vote in the Senate as a short-term spending bill was agreed upon to re-open the government on January 25.
A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Science Foundation, and more.
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) welcomes new members to the AGI Executive Committee and congratulates Dr. Rodney C. Ewing as he takes office as AGI President. The new and departing members of the Executive Committee were recognized at the Friends of AGI Reception on November 5, 2018, in Indianapolis, Ind.