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Public Policy Report for 4 August 2008

Biologists Attacked, Law Enforcement Suspects Animal Rights Terrorists

Animal rights terrorists are suspected of two fire bombing attacks targeting biologists at the University of California at Santa Cruz, according to various media reports. The most recent attacks occurred during the morning of 2 August and follow other recent threats to researchers at UC Berkeley, UCLA and at Santa Cruz. According to a news report, more than fifty federal and local law enforcement agents from the western regional anti-terrorism task force, FBI, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating the attacks. When apprehended, the individuals responsible will likely face attempted murder charges.

On Saturday morning, an assistant professor of biology at UCSC and his family awoke to an explosion and smoke filling the first floor of their home. All involved, including two small children, escaped from an upstairs window via a fire ladder. Fire and explosives officials reported that the fire appeared to have been caused by a Molotov style device. This incident was the second time this biologist's home was attacked, last year it was vandalized. Also in Santa Cruz on Saturday morning, a car near another biologist's on-campus home was fire-bombed. No one was reportedly injured in that attack.

Authorities suspect animal rights activists because of prior acts and because the devices resemble those used in other animal rights attacks. According to reports from the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Chronicle, the attacks followed recent email threats to researchers by animal rights activists. Visitors to a local Santa Cruz coffee shop recently found copies of 'wanted' posters identifying by name and photograph various scientists.

California Assemblyman Gene Mullin (D, South San Francisco) introduced legislation earlier this year in response to attacks on University of California scientists. Mullin's legislation, AB 2296, which has passed the State Assembly, would prohibit individuals, organizations or associations from posting on the internet the name, home address or telephone number, or physical description "of any employee of an animal enterprise or other individuals residing at the same home address." A "victim of the violation of these prohibitions" would be able to maintain an action for damages and for injunctive relief. The introduced legislation would have also established criminal charges for individuals that interfere with or vandalize animal enterprises.

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NSF Report Shows Growth in Number of Grant Applications

A recent National Science Foundation report shows that the agency once again received a record number of grant applications in fiscal year (FY) 2007. The report, prepared for the National Science Board, indicates that in FY 2007, "NSF received a total of 44,577 proposals, the highest number of proposals to date. This is a 5 percent increase over the number of proposals received in FY 2006 and a 50 percent increase from the 29,508 received in FY 2000." The average duration of grants awarded remains at about three years and the average annualized award size increased slightly to $146,200.

NSF made 11,463 awards in FY 2007 resulting in an agency-wide funding rate of 26 percent. However, the Biological Science Directorate (BIO) remains well below this average mark, and is the lowest in the NSF. Many programs within BIO have single digit success rates. In 2006, the BIO-wide success rate was a mere 14 percent.

For additional information about NSF funding for biology, please visit the AIBS Public Policy Office Federal Budget Resource at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/budgetsource.html and download a free fact sheet at http://www.aibs.org/public-policy/resources/BiofundingMarch2008.pdf .

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EPA Seeks Comments on Greenhouse Gas Rule

On 30 July 2008, the United States Environmental Protection Agency issued a formal notice announcing a proposed rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. For complete details on this notice and for instructions for submitting comments, please go to http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-16432.pdf .

The following remarks from the Administrator of the EPA preface the request for comments on the proposed rulemaking. The following is excerpted from the official Federal Register notice.

In this Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeks comment on analyses and policy alternatives regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) effects and regulation under the Clean Air Act. In particular, EPA seeks comment on the document entitled "Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act'' and observations and issues raised by other federal agencies. This notice responds to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Massachusetts v. EPA and numerous petitions related to the potential regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

EPA's analyses leading up to this ANPR have increasingly raised questions of such importance that the scope of the agency's task has continued to expand. For instance, it has become clear that if EPA were to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act, then regulation of smaller stationary sources that also emit GHGs--such as apartment buildings, large homes, schools, and hospitals--could also be triggered. One point is clear: The potential regulation of greenhouse gases under any portion of the Clean Air Act could result in an unprecedented expansion of EPA authority that would have a profound effect on virtually every sector of the economy and touch every household in the land.

This ANPR reflects the complexity and magnitude of the question of whether and how greenhouse gases could be effectively controlled under the Clean Air Act. This document summarizes much of EPA's work and lays out concerns raised by other federal agencies during their review of this work. EPA is publishing this notice today because it is impossible to simultaneously address all the agencies' issues and respond to our legal obligations in a timely manner.

I believe the ANPR demonstrates the Clean Air Act, an outdated law originally enacted to control regional pollutants that cause direct health effects, is ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases. Based on the analysis to date, pursuing this course of action would inevitably result in a very complicated, time-consuming and, likely, convoluted set of regulations. These rules would largely pre-empt or overlay existing programs that help control greenhouse gas emissions and would be relatively ineffective at reducing greenhouse gas concentrations given the potentially damaging effect on jobs and the U.S. economy.

Your input is important. I am committed to making the data and models EPA is using to form our policies transparent and available to the public. None of the views or alternatives raised in this notice represents Agency decisions or policy recommendations. It is premature to do so. Rather, I am publishing this ANPR for public comment and review. In so doing, I am requesting comment on the views of other federal agencies that are presented below including important legal questions regarding endangerment. I encourage the public to (1) understand the magnitude and complexity of the Supreme Court's direction in Massachusetts v. EPA and (2) comment on the many questions raised in this notice.

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Congress Leaves Town, Appropriations Bills Unfinished

Congress left town on Friday, 1 August 2008, for the August recess. Thus far, only the Military Construction--Veterans Administration (Mil Con-VA) Appropriations bill has been passed by the House and sent to the Senate. After Republicans launched a campaign to focus attention on a proposal for offshore oil drilling as a means to address oil and gas prices, House Appropriations Committee Chairman David R. Obey (D-WI) announced that the House would not consider other appropriations bills this summer. However, it is expected that the House will consider the Defense spending bill in September.

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Senator Reid Attempts to Push Wildlife and Ocean Research Legislation

Before leaving Washington, DC, for August recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrapped nearly a dozen pieces of legislation into a massive measure to expand federal research on ocean acidification, climate change, and coastal observing. The legislative package included S.1498, which would amend the "Lacey Act Amendments of 1981" to prohibit trade of non-human primates as pets, the Federal Ocean Acidification Research and Monitoring Act of 2007 (S. 1581), the Ocean and Coastal Exploration Bill (S. 39), the Coastal and Ocean Observing Systems Act of 2007 (S. 950), and six other similar pieces of legislation geared toward climate change, renewable energy, and coastal issues. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected to the high cost of the proposed package, put a hold on most of the bills included, and forced debate on the Senate floor. The measure was eight votes short of cloture and Republicans joined with Senator Coburn in their fight to focus on oil and gas prices. The package will likely not be addressed again in this Congress.

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House Addresses Water Crisis

On Wednesday, 30 July, the House of Representatives passed the Water Use Efficiency and Conservation Research Act (H.R.3957), which would establish a research and development program within the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Research and Development. The program would promote water-use efficiency and conservation through (1) technologies and processes that enable the collection, storage, treatment, and reuse of rainwater, stormwater, and greywater; (2) water storage and distribution systems; (3) behavioral, social, and economic barriers to achieving greater water use efficiency; and (4) use of watershed planning directed toward water quality, conservation, and supply.

The legislation passed through the House Committee on Science and Technology's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment earlier this summer, led by Subcommittee Chairman Nick Lampson (D-TX). "Water utilities across the country withdraw roughly 40 billion gallons of water per day for domestic consumption, industrial processing, energy production, and fire protection. As population and energy use continues to grow, so will the demand for water," said Lampson. The bill's author, Representative Jim Matheson (D-UT) echoed the Chairman's point, remarking that "thirty six states are anticipating local, regional, or statewide water shortages by 2013. As the West continues to grow, we must face the problem of continually increasing the demands on a finite water supply."

The Water Use Efficiency and Conservation Research Act was sent to the Senate and then referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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Now in BioScience: "A New Farm Bill, Research Structure at USDA"

In the Washington Watch article in the July/August 2008 issue of the BioScience, AIBS senior public policy associate Megan Debranski Kelhart explores the new research framework at the United States Department of Agriculture.

An excerpt from the article follows:

The significant challenges facing national food, fiber, and bioenergy systems call for a robust agricultural research system, whether for addressing food safety, security, and availability; thwarting disruptions to food supplies; or managing agricultural and natural resource systems. The federal framework supporting the agricultural research infrastructure was recently changed in an effort to meet those challenges.

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (also known simply as the Farm Bill, or PL 110-234) is a more than $300 billion response to the range of issues concerning agricultural systems, including research. The new law aims to streamline and boost funding to "ensure the technological superiority of American agriculture," according to the USDA Research, Education, and Economics Task Force appointed by the secretary of agriculture in 2003 at the request of Congress.

To continue reading this article for free, please go to http://www.aibs.org/washington-watch/.

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