The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources discussed three bills that would boost offshore wind projects on June 26. One of the draft bills would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to include a leasing program for offshore renewable energy. Another draft bill would expand the Act to pertain to U.S. territories, such as Guam. The third bill would create a federal grant program to train workers who want to transition to offshore wind from other industries.
At the end of June, Senate committees held hearings to consider nominees for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Christopher Fall, the nominee for director of DOE’s Office of Science; Daniel Simmons, the nominee for assistant secretary of DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; and Peter Wright, the nominee for assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Land and Emergency Management. On June 12, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Mary Neumayr to be the Chairwoman of the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which oversees the implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) across federal agencies. To track the confirmation process of key geoscience presidential nominations from the Trump Administration, visit AGI’s Federal Nominations page.
On June 19, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order (E.O.) 13840, “Ocean Policy to Advance Economic, Security, and Environmental Interests of the United States,” revoking and replacing much of the previous administration’s ocean policy. E.O. 13840 seeks to improve interagency coordination on ocean-related matters, public access to data, and engagement with marine industries, the science and technology community, and other stakeholders.
On June 25 and 26, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted the 2018 State-Federal STEM Education Summit, bringing together education and science leaders from eighteen federal agencies along with more than two STEM leaders. Throughout the summit, stakeholder groups provided input for development of the upcoming Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan, which is required by the America COMPETES Act of 2010 (PL 11-358) to be updated every five years.
On June 21, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a plan to reform and reorganize executive branch departments and agencies of the federal government, following President Donald Trump’s March 13, 2017, executive order (E.O. 13781) intended to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch. The plan outlines over eighty recommendations for structural realignment across the executive branch, including changes to geoscience-related federal agencies.
In June 2018, the House and Senate consecutively passed the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, 2019 (H.R. 5895) to make progress on the appropriations process before the fiscal year (FY) 2019 deadline of September 30, 2018. More FY 2019 appropriations bills are slated to be considered in July, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowing to shorten the Senate’s August recess to proceed with appropriations legislation and nominee confirmation.
The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing to consider several pieces of public lands legislation with potential impacts in Montana and Utah. Two of the bills would remove Wilderness Studies Area (WSA) designations from various lands in Montana managed by the Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), respectively. The Emery County Public Land Management Act of 2018 would establish a National Conservation Area, a National Monument, and wilderness areas in Utah, potentially affecting almost one million acres of land.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved their Commerce, Justice, and Science fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bill. Similar to the House bill, the Senate Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019 (S. 3072) would increase funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) compared to FY 2018 levels, but decrease funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
In response to President Donald Trump’s request to terminate direct federal funding to the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, lawmakers in the House and Senate held several hearings beginning in May and June 2018 to discuss the future of the ISS. The Senate Subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness held the first in a series of two hearings on May 16, and the second on June 6. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology also held a hearing to discuss the ISS on May 17.