Lawmakers introduce bipartisan carbon capture bills

Capitol at night

Two bipartisan carbon capture bills were introduced in the Senate on February 7. First, the Carbon Capture Modernization Act (S. 407) was introduced by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) to modify the existing tax credit for investment in clean coal facilities so that it would more effectively encourage the use of carbon capture and sequestration technologies. Second, the Utilizing Significant Emissions with Innovative Technologies (USE IT) Act (S. 383) was introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) to support carbon utilization and direct air capture research.

Green New Deal resolution emerges in the House and Senate

Natural gas pump

On February 8, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) introduced a resolution proposing an economic stimulus program known as the Green New Deal. The resolution (H.Res. 109/S.Res. 59) calls for a complete overhaul of U.S. energy production infrastructure and sets a goal for meeting the nation’s energy demand with 100 percent renewable sources by 2030.

House subcommittee holds hearing on spending restrictions during shutdown

House chamber

On February 6, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies held its first hearing of the 116th Congress to review how the recent government shutdown affected agency spending. Subcommittee Chair Betty McCollum (D-MN) began the hearing by emphasizing the importance of Congress protecting federal agencies, and reviewing the legal framework surrounding the executive branch’s decision to continue operating certain agencies, like the National Park Service (NPS), in the absence of appropriations during a shutdown.

Negotiators pass bipartisan spending package

U.S. Capitol

On February 14, Congress passed legislation containing the final FY 2019 spending agreements for certain agencies that had recently been caught up in the 35-day partial government shutdown. NSF and NASA each received a 4 percent increase to their total budgets in FY 2019, compared to last year’s enacted budget levels, while USGS received a 1 percent increase. NOAA received an 8 percent decrease in its FY 2019 budget.

Senators Murkowski and Cantwell reintroduce lands bill package

Geoscientist working in a wetland.

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.

Senate confirms nominations for energy and environment agency positions

Capitol at night

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.

House lawmakers introduce natural resource sustainability bills

Nuclear power plant, Czech Republic

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.

President Trump approves National Integrated Drought Information System Reauthorization Act

Atlean Lake in British Columbia

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.

35-day government shutdown ends with temporary funding through mid-February

The White House

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.

Senate holds confirmation hearing to consider Andrew Wheeler for administrator of EPA

U.S. Capitol

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.)


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