Welcome to Federal Policy Week, a blog that covers federal policy developments in conservation, natural resources, wildlife, and animal welfare.
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IN THIS ISSUE:
- Senator McConnell is NOT a Scientist.
- Other Notable News and Happenings:
- Republicans Investigate the Administration, Again.
- Shale & Energy Prices
- Illegal Drilling on Public Lands
- ESA Endangered
- Ethanol and RFS
- Obama Climate Action Plan: Next Steps
- Walruses without Ice
- San Gabriel National Monument
- Climate Rule Rejected, For Now
- An Ocean of Change
- Climate Change and the Flu
I am NOT a Scientist: Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-KY) joined the growing chorus of Republican lawmakers with the stock response to the question of whether humans are contributing to climate change, by declaring he is “not a scientist,” so he could not answer. McConnell did make clear that he is more concerned with keeping energy prices low than climate change. McConnell rejected the notion that the US should limit emissions, relying on the argument that it won’t help because no other countries will do that, although some other countries are actually moving forward with some emissions limitations. Of course, we all know that the vast majority of scientist (97%) believe that human actions are contributing to climate change. (The Courier-Journal and Huffington Post)
Other Notable Happens and News (from sources provided in links):
Republicans investigate EPA. In what has become a routine event in DC, Rep Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Vitter (R-LA) are investigating the Obama Administration, specifically EPA for its interactions with NRDC (an environmental organization) in EPA’s development of climate regulations. The Congressmen allege their interactions amounted to collusion, thus violating the APA. (NY Times)
Shale and Energy Prices. As the debate over resource extraction and regulations continues (including safety concerns), House Republicans on the Energy & Commerce Committee extolled the benefits of shale, specifically in the form of lower gasoline and energy prices.
Illegal Drilling: Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to BLM Director Kornze requesting BLM to adopt practices to prevent illegal drilling for resources on public lands, which deprives the government of resources and may potentially damage the environment.
ESA Endangered. In what seems like déjà vu, House and Senate Republicans are seeking ways to undermine ESA. Several House Republicans asked the FWS Director to extend a comment period for an ESA listing for the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, alleging the listing proposal, which they oppose, would “have devastating negative effects on small businesses, farmers, ranchers, forest management, and American energy production in nine states throughout the West.” Meanwhile, Republican Senators sent a letter to Secretaries Jewell and Pritzker opposing two proposed rule-makings and a draft policy on critical habitat designation authority under ESA. The Senators claim the new definitions impinge on private property rights and wrongly expand agencies’ ESA authorities.
Ethanol. Ethanol, a darling of agriculture because of the value-added, income generating potential, is also a favorite of many, but not all, Members of Congress. The fight over the RFS and the benefits of ethanol (esp. with respect to the environment) is long-standing and bitter, and often snares members of the same party in battle. Two Democratic Senators are urging the Administration increase, not lower, the RFS mandate for ethanol as a tool to battle climate change.
Obama Climate Action Plan – Next Steps. The President announced a “Climate and Natural Resources Priority Agenda” that lays out actions for the federal government to take to battle climate change. Some actions include actions “to foster climate-resilient lands and waters; enhancing U.S. carbon sinks such as forests, grasslands, wetlands and coastal areas; promoting innovative 21st century infrastructure that integrates natural systems into community development…and modernizing Federal programs, investments, and services to build resilience and enhance carbon storage.” In addition, the announcement spoke of “new executive actions and a series of private, public, and nonprofit sector commitments that support resilient natural resources and the communities that depend on them,” including grant programs, conservation programs, assessment programs, competitions, and engaging private landowners.
Walruses: Did you see the photo of all the walruses on the land? The absence of ice in Chukchi Sea, as reported in the United States Geological Survey, is forcing walruses to move to land, instead of gathering on icy platforms. The consequences are unknown, but not promising; because of the extra distances walruses must travel for food and the young pups that may get trampled. (The NY Times)
National Monument in the San Gabriel Mountains. President Obama announced that nearly 350,000 acres of forest in the San Gabriel Mountains in California would be designated a national monument, using the Antiquities Act. The new monument allows existing property and water rights, as well as rights-of-way for roads, public access, as well as recreational activities to remain intact. Although groups who have been advocating for the designation for a long time applauded the designation, others, including the Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, objected.
Climate Rule Challenge Rejected…For Now. A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the State of Nebraska against EPA concerning EPA’s proposed rule for emissions from power plants concluding that the suit was not ripe until a final rule was issued. The State can still bring a suit once EPA issues a final rule. (The Hill).
An Ocean of Change. According to a recent study, oceans have warmed significantly more than previously believed. In fact, temperatures may be almost 60 percent higher than thought previously. One consequence is that rates of sea-level rise may need to updated (upward!) (The NY Times)
SMOG! Facing a court-ordered deadline of December 1, EPA sent its proposed rule for regulating smog to OMB for a final review. The current levels, which were set during the Bush Administration, exceed what agency scientists deem safe. The rules have faced continual delays, but the final rules must be released by October 1, 2015. Several environmental groups brought the lawsuit that lead to the court order. (Huffington Post)
Climate Change and the Flu. In a video, NASA describes climate change causing the Earth to have the flu. This animated presentation explains that the Earth has a fever from excess greenhouse gases. (National Journal)
RFF, “Assessing State Goals and Challenges under EPA’s Clean Power Plan,” October 14 (webcast available).