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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The House Science Committee held a full committee markup of two bills, the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act (H.R.5509) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act of 2018 (H.R.5503). H.R.5509 directs NSF to provide grants for research about STEM education approaches and the STEM-related workforce. The NASA Authorization Act would reauthorize the agency for FY 2018 through FY 2019, and was intensely debated during the markup due to disagreements about language slashing the FY 2019 authorized funds for Earth Science.
The Senate ratified the selection of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) to chair the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, following the resignation of former Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) on April 1. Now the senior Republican member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Shelby replaced Senator Cochran as Chair of the Subcommittee on Defense and handed over his previous chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS).
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt fielded an array of questions at back-to-back congressional hearings, which were originally intended to discuss the EPA’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request of $6.15 billion, a $1.9 billion or 24 percent reduction from FY 2018 enacted levels. The hearings were peppered with questions regarding ethics issues, policy concerns, and parochial projects.