Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in conservation, natural resources, wildlife, and animal welfare. 

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  • Climate: The Race is On
  • Other Notable News and Happenings:
    • Wyoming Wolves
    • Marine Reserve in Pacific Ocean
    • Fracking Rules
    • Keystone & Senate GOP
    • Horses On the Range
    • Extinction Everywhere
    • Flooding by Country
    • FBI & Animal Cruelty

Climate News:

With the Climate Summit at the UN in September, climate change remains a hot topic. Pledges were made by UN agencies and some emission-producing industries to reduce emissions. President Obama spoke of a need for a more aggressive approach to tackling climate change, calling on all nations to take action.

Domestically, the President has released a Climate Action Plan that requires federal departments and agencies to increase efforts to reduce emissions (domestically and internationally) and prepare the country for the impacts of climate change. EPA continues to work on regulations for emissions on power plants. The most EPA recent report on greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities found that the emissions record was mixed – with increases from some sectors and decreases in others. An overall decrease since 2010 from the largest source of emissions, power plants, was upset by an increase in 2013. Petroleum and natural gas showed a slight decrease, with methane emissions decreasing by 12 percent.

Despite the clear scientific evidence of the human actions accelerating climate change, key policy makers, including members of the House Science Committee continue to question federal action and the human role in climate change.

Other Notable Happens and News (from sources provided in links):

  • Wyoming Wolves: Giving wolves in Wyoming a temporary reprieve, a federal judge found that the Fish & Wildlife Service failed to adequately protect them by accepting a flawed state management plan. Although the Court did accept much of the FWS’ conclusions, the ruling provides some protection until an acceptable plan that maintains the wolves’ numbers is devised. The Obama Administration ended ESA protection for many Wyoming wolves in 2012.
  • Obama Expands Marine Reserve in Pacific Ocean: President Obama recently announced the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands National Marine Monument, which was created by President G.W. Bush, through an executive order. This new designation prohibits commercial fishing and resource extraction in the Marine Monument, protecting important ecosystems there.
  • Fracking: The use of chemicals in fracking remains controversial. Some companies have agreed to list the chemicals used in the process publicly, but not all. As OMB reviews Interior’s rules on fracking, several Senate Democrats are seizing the opportunity to encourage OMB to require the rules to require disclosure of chemicals prior to commencing fracking operations, not afterward.
  • Keystone & GOP: If the Republicans win the Senate, one of the first actions will be a vote on approving the Keystone Pipeline, one that is widely expected to pass the Chamber. Most environmental and climate groups oppose the Pipeline.
  • Horses on the Range: The on-going saga of wild horses, protected since 1971, on federal lands continues to brew controversy as private ranchers want access to the lands. As the wild horses eat the grasses in what some argue are limited territory, the lands used by private cattleman are made unusable by ranchers. BLM efforts to round up and store horses have failed to solve the problem.
  • Extinction Everywhere: As the World Wildlife Fund’s new Living Planet Index report shows, since 1970, humans have eliminated a large percentage of the non-human vertebrate population. The massive declines are primarily due to over exploitation of animals and destruction of habitats. In very sobering news, some populations, like freshwater animals, say a decrease of 76 percent.
  • Flooding by Country: As the NY Times reports, Climate Central released a new sobering report on flooding by country (in the context of climate change). The report was released in anticipation of the international meetings on climate change. Most of the at-risk countries are in Asia, but the impacts are everywhere, including in Europe and the US.
  • : The FBI announced that animal cruelty is now a Group A felony (same as arson and homicide) with its own category, giving it the serious attention it deserves. Data on animal cruelty will start being collected in January 2016 and the first analysis should come several months later.

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