policy

President Trump approves earthquake hazards bill

Cracked road from earthquake

On December 11, President Donald Trump signed a bill to reauthorize the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) through fiscal year 2023. The bill provides the first reauthorization of NEHRP since 2004, while clarifying the responsibilities of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in carrying out the program. It also calls for a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s earthquake risk reduction strategy.

President signs farm bill into law, setting national agriculture policy for next five years

Natural gas pump

President Donald Trump signed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) into law on December 20, following months of drawn-out negotiations in the House and Senate. The legislation, commonly referred to as the “farm bill,” modifies and extends some of the major programs for land conservation, food and nutrition assistance, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other programs within the Department of Agriculture (USDA) through fiscal year 2023.

White House releases 2018-2023 STEM education plan

Writing hands

The White House unveiled its five-year strategic plan for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education on December 4. The report, entitled “Chartering a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education,” outlines the administration’s goals and approaches for advancing STEM education and workforce, highlighting the federal government’s role in promoting STEM education by working with private partnerships and removing barriers to participation in STEM careers.

US federal government goes into partial shutdown as Congress struggles to agree on 2019 budget

U.S. Capitol

For the third time in 2018, the federal government went into a partial shutdown on December 22, with Congress and the president still at an impasse over border security funding. The year ended with several unfinished spending bills, leaving agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) with a funding lapse until another short-term resolution or permanent funding deal is enacted for fiscal year (FY) 2019. 

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigns

Ayers Rock, Australia

On December 15, 2018, President Donald Trump announced that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke would be stepping down at the end of the year. During his time as secretary, Zinke faced a string of investigations over allegations that he violated ethics rules, while the Department of the Interior has been under scrutiny over concerns about scientific integrity. Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt will be taking charge as acting secretary amid a partial government shutdown.

EPA and Department of the Army announce intent to redefine WOTUS rule

Salt marsh near Pescadero, California

On December 11, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Army proposed a revised definition of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule to clarify the scope of waters federally regulated under the Clean Water Act. The proposed revision would limit where federal regulations apply, clearly outlining what would be considered “waters of the United States” in addition to specific exclusions from the definition.

Nominations for energy and environmental agency positions move forward in lame duck

The White House

A series of nomination processes moved forward in December as Congress wrapped up their lame duck session following the November 6 midterm elections. On December 6, the Senate confirmed Bernard McNamee to be a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The nominations of Rita Baranwal to be assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy (DOE) and Raymond Vela to be director of the National Park Service (NPS) were still awaiting a final confirmation vote by the Senate at the end of December 2018.

Forrest Lewis

Forrest is a 2017 graduate of Harvard College with a joint degree in Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Science and Public Policy. As an undergraduate, his research focused on tree leaf respiration as it pertained to the global carbon cycle. He also worked for the Harvard University Office for Sustainability for three years in the Resource Efficiency Program. After graduation, Forrest spent a year teaching in The Gambia as a Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Traveling Fellow.

During his 2018 Geoscience Policy fall internship, Forrest published news briefs for the AGI Monthly Review. He also represented AGI at coalition meetings, attended Congressional hearings and briefings, managed AGI’s website and social media content, and wrote an article on early volcano warning systems for EARTH magazine.

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