Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15th, 2011-House Representative Mentions Energy Sciences Coalition Letter in Energy and Water Bill Floor Debate

The House continued discussion on the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill yesterday, July 14th, 2011 During that time, debate ensued on Rep. Rush Holt’s (D-NJ, 12th) and Rep. Tim Bishop’s (D-NY, 1st) amendment. The amendment would have increased funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science by $42.7 million.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA, 29th) spoke in favor of the amendment, and specifically highlighted the support of the Energy Sciences Coalition (ESC) (of which our office is a part of) and referenced some of the points from the Coalition’s May 2011 letter Supporting the DOE Office of Science when appealing to the floor. He also entered a copy of the letter into the Congressional Record. Here is an excerpt from Congressman Schiff’s remarks:

“I have a letter here from the Energy Sciences Coalition in support of Mr. Holt and Mr. Bishop's efforts that talk about the need for scientific research, world-class user facilities, teams of skilled scientists and engineers that are funded by the Department of Energy Office of Science at universities and national labs around the country. Economic experts have asserted as much, crediting past investments in science and technology for up to half the growth in GDP in the 50 years following the end of World War II. At this time when we're being challenged by other nations for our leadership in science and technology, this is not the right time to disinvest from this vital research.

The amendment by Mr. Holt and Mr. Bishop is supported by countless associations of physics and chemistry, countless universities and institutions of higher learning--my own University of California campuses at Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz, but also around the country, from the University of Chicago to U.S.C. to the University of Tennessee and the University of Virginia, all over the Nation, not to mention Princeton University. And why? Because these institutions of higher learning have been leading the way in path-breaking developments that have just boosted our economy and our understanding of energy and the world around us.

So this is a vital investment in the future, and I urge support for my colleagues' amendment.”

While the amendment ultimately failed (final vote: 164-261), it was a proud moment for the members of the ESC. Even so, there is much maintenance work to be done in the Senate, who just received the outline of the Senate’s FY 2012 budget allocation by the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND). The Senate Budget Committee’s proposal provides $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. To view a video and written copy of the Chairman’s speech, please go here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Despite Democrat Efforts, House Appropriations Committee Republicans Get Their Way, Leading to Large EPA and Interior Cuts

The House Appropriations Committee met on Tuesday, July 12, to mark up the House Subcommittee of the Interior and Environment and Related Agencies funding allocations for fiscal year (FY) 2012. After the measure had moved out of subcommittee, things looked dismal for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of the Interior. Democrats promised to propose amendments, and come Tuesday, they did. However, despite numerous attempts to restore funding to the EPA to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide from industry sources and coal ash from power plants, they faced heavy opposition from Republicans, and many significant amendments failed.

The Endangered Species Act also came under fire, and language in the bill coming from the Committee now prohibits the Fish and Wildlife Service to use any funding to list new species and habitats for protection. Similarly, language in the legislation contains a reversal of the moratorium enacted by the Interior Department on mining on lands near the Grand Canyon. Both of these provisions enraged environmentalists who say the measures will lead to further species and habitat destruction. The Committee’s Ranking Member, Representative James Moran of Virginia (D-8th), said that the bill is “a virtual — shall I say it —dump truck of special-interest legislative riders.”

Additionally, the legislation included a provision that prevented the implementation of a public land use management policy, a provision which the Department of Interior has said it will not enforce. The Department of Interior's United States Geological Survey (USGS) also got hit hard, especially in the area of Climate Variability. Climate Variability received a $9 million decrease in reasearch and development funding, and cuts that signify program elimination for carbon sequestration and scientific support for Department of Interior bureaus.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky (R-5th), defended the effort saying “This legislation is a great example of the hard but necessary work the Appropriations Committee is doing to get our fiscal house in order by cutting extraneous, duplicative, and unnecessary spending.”

The FY 2012 Appropriations Interior and Environment and Related Agencies will be discussed on the House Floor sometime in the coming weeks.

Friday, July 08, 2011

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science Boosts NSF and NIST Research Budgets in Their FY 12 Bill

The meeting of the subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies went fairly smoothly Thursday July 7th, ending with a unanimous voice vote that approved a $50.2 billion funding bill. The amount is $3.1 billion below current levels and $7.4 billion below the amount requested by the Obama administration. NSF and NIST, however, received significant increases in their research budgets. NSF received an increase of $43 million and NIST received $10 million. Subcommittee chairman, Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) remarked on the decision saying that the members recognized the need to protect research spending in order to encourage economic growth and security for future generations.

The research increases did, however, come at a cost. NIST’s total budget was dealt an overall $50 million cut. The National Science Foundation’s total budget remained the same as FY 2011, meaning the boost to research had to come at a cost to another NSF department. A $17 million chunk was carved out of NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, which raised concerns from some subcommittee democrats. Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Washington) cited that the cuts would lead to government termination of approximately $100 million in contracts used to advance ecological and oceanographic research facilities, and would ultimately raise costs for such work in the future.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Launch of Joint NSF-USAID Program, PEER

A new joint program between US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) — PEER, "Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research"—was launched today, July 7, at the NSF Headquarters in Arlington, VA. USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, and Dr. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation signed a formal interagency Memorandum of Understanding to put the program into action. Since 2008, the two agencies have supported an informal pilot program which has played a role in enhancing scientific research in Tanzania, Bangladesh, Mali, Kenya and Burkina Faso related to ecosystems, climate change, seismology, hydrology and biodiversity. Success stories from the pilot prompted wider investment in competitive awards via PEER for U.S. institutions and researchers working with international counterparts in the developing world. U.S. scientists will be provided awards via NSF, and USAID funding will support international scientific and technical capacity. Longevity is a key factor in PEER, as it will support collaborations beyond the award tenure.

Dr. John Holdren—who plays multiple roles in the Obama Administration, as Science Advisor to the President, Director of Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and Co-chair of President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), provided the opening remarks. He began by saying that PEER would capitalize on the agency strengths governed by the mandate of USAID as well as the level of excellence and peer-review based merit that NSF is founded on. The partnership promises to ‘build bridges where diplomats cannot’, he said. He continued, saying that, we (the U.S.) ‘eagerly anticipate building upon these bridges’. Dr. Suresh, whose remarks followed Holdren’s, said that this program will not only allow U.S. scientists to more effectively collaborate globally, it will forge new and essential science-diplomacy alliances. He also mentioned that he will attend the G-8 Summit for international research agencies in England next week. In 2012, the United States will assume the Presidency of the G8 Group of Nations. Over the past decade, discussions at the G8 have included a science dimension, tackling issues such as climate change, energy and maternal health. Finally, Dr. Suresh identified the increasing need to have an “ecosystem” for basic research based on scientific merit, principles, and integrity. He also announced that there will be a Summit, hosted by NSF, on Scientific Integrity next year (2012).

Concluding the event was USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah, who highlighted the advances that he anticipates PEER to make in the areas of climate change, energy, environment, and maternal health. Citing the example of rapid rehydration to combat diarrhea, Dr. Shah said that not every scientific endeavor will be a frontier-level discovery, but rather a new application of current knowledge or a simple approach that can be swiftly used. He said that he anticipated further building the program in the future. To see more information about the PEER program, please go here.

Related information:

USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures

US Government Information on Scientific Integrity

The Royal Society Event during the Conference of Scientific Leadership from the G8 Nations

Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Supports Significant Cuts to the EPA and Department of the Interior

The House Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior and Environment met on the morning of Thursday, July 7th to discuss the draft fiscal 2012 spending bill. The subcommittee approved the $ 27.5 billion measure in a vote of 8-5, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats opposed.

The EPA received $7.1 billion, a $1.5 billion cut from 2011’s appropriations and $1.8 billion less than the Obama administration’s request. Subcommittee chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) supported the cuts remarking that stimulus funding, some of which he said remains unobligated, is the key reason for cutbacks. A majority of the reductions were to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving fund, both which supply funding to state and local water infrastructure. The draft also included policy riders that would limit the EPA in several areas-including:

  • A one-year delay of EPA regulations on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from stationary industrial sources
  • Language that prohibits the agency from regulating coal ash produced by power plants as hazardous waste
  • An amendment to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act which states that permits will no longer be required for pesticide use that creates discharge from a point source to navigable water.
  • A block to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s use of appropriations to pursue new listings under the Endangered Species Act

The Interior Department also received funding cut-backs when they were allocated $9.9 billion, a $720 million reduction from current funding levels and $1.2 billion less than the Administration’s request. The full committee is expected to consider the bill on July 12, 2011.