On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee approved the chamber’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 5952). The bill would provide $8.2 billion for NSF, which is $407.5 million more than the FY 2018 enacted amount; $5.2 billion for NOAA, a $750 million reduction from last year; $21.6 billion for NASA, an increase of $840 million; and $985 million for NIST, a decrease of $214 million.
Lawmakers from both the House and the Senate introduced bipartisan bills to reauthorize the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which should be passed every two years. The legislation provides for improvements to the nation’s ports, dams, flood protection, ecosystem restoration, and other water infrastructure administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure each approved their chamber’s version of the WRDA reauthorization on May 22 and May 23, respectively.
Groundwater is a critically important source of water in the U.S., supplying fresh water for drinking supplies, agricultural irrigation, and streams, rivers, and ecosystems. However, groundwater is becoming increasingly depleted in most aquifers around the country, with impacts including shrinking aquifer storage capacities, land subsidence (and associated impacts like higher flood risk), and declining freshwater resources for communities and ecosystems. To mitigate and reverse the depletion of groundwater storage in local aquifers, many communities are turning to managed aquifer recharge (MAR) and aquifer storage and recovery (ASR). MAR and ASR practices vary depending on local geology, groundwater and recharge water composition, local land use practices, and water use requirements. Implementing MAR and ASR requires careful planning to both maximize groundwater replenishment and protect groundwater supplies from contamination.
A summary of notices posted to the Federal Register by geoscience-related federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of the Interior (DOI), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and more.
The House Committee on Agriculture voted 26-20 to advance the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R.2), commonly referred to as the “farm bill,” which was introduced by Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX-11). With authorization of the Agricultural Act of 2014 lapsing at the end of September, the massive farm bill package approved by the committee authorizes programs across the USDA including sections on commodities and trade, loans and insurance, conservation and forestry, research, nutrition, and rural development.
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.”