policy

Public lands package passes the House

Geological Surveys Database

Congress overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan package of more than one hundred public lands, natural resources, and water bills in February. The package, originally titled the Natural Resources Management Act (S. 47), includes measures to improve the nation’s volcano monitoring network, reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, and permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

House holds a series of climate hearings

Mammatus clouds that are usually associated with thunderstorms.

House Democrats held a series of hearings throughout February to highlight the evidence and impacts of climate change. Beginning on February 6, two simultaneous hearings were held on the societal impacts of climate change and the potential adaptation and mitigation strategies. The following week, two more hearings were held about preparing for the energy transition and the state of climate science. The House continued to showcase its focus on climate change with six additional climate-related hearings during the last week of February.

Legislation could block relocation of USDA offices

Hawaiian flower

On February 14, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) introduced H.R. 1221, the Agriculture Research Integrity Act of 2019, to block the relocation of two U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offices out of the National Capital Region. Secretary Sonny Perdue announced his intent to move the offices in August 2018, in order to place USDA resources closer to many stakeholders who live outside of the region and attract staff with training and interests in agriculture who may otherwise be discouraged by Washington D.C.’s high cost of living. However, the relocation would affect approximately 700 employees currently at the USDA offices, some of whom may choose to find new jobs rather than move to a different city.

Lawmakers reintroduce bill to protect communities from landslides

IES Soils Glyph

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate reintroduced legislation to improve research and coordination needed to help communities prepare for and respond to landslides. The bill, called the National Landslide Preparedness Act (S. 529/H.R. 1261), would create a unified national program run by USGS to better understand the risks and reduce losses from landslide hazards. It would also officially establish the 3D Elevation Program, managed by USGS in coordination with other federal agencies and nonfederal entities.

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.

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