May 14, 2009
Julie Palakovich Carr, Public Policy Associate
Robert Gropp, Ph.D., Director of Public Policy
American Institute of Biological Sciences
1444 I (Eye) Street, NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20005
Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
United States Senate
The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) encourages Congress to provide the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Research and Development (ORD) with at least $700 million for fiscal year (FY) 2010. Within this amount, we encourage you to provide at least $190 million for human health and ecosystem research. This funding level would help restore past funding cuts and make an important investment in our nation's environmental sciences research enterprise.
AIBS is a nonprofit scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society. Founded in 1947 as a part of the National Academy of Sciences, AIBS became an independent, member-governed organization in the 1950's. AIBS is sustained by a robust membership of some 5,000 biologists and nearly 200 professional societies and scientific organizations; the combined individual membership of the latter exceeds 250,000.
As EPA's scientific division, ORD supports valuable extramural and intramural research that is used to understand, prevent, and mitigate environmental problems facing the United States. ORD research informs decisions made by public health and safety managers, resource managers, businesses, and other stakeholders concerned with climate change, air and water pollution, land management and restoration, and environmental contaminants. In short, ORD provides the scientific basis upon which EPA monitoring and enforcement programs are built.
Unfortunately, a lack of investment in EPA science in recent years has hindered ORD's ability to fully meet its mission. Funding for research programs at EPA peaked in FY 2004, when ORD was funded at $646.5 million. Since then, the budget has declined by over $100 million. These budget cuts have come at the expense of the research needed by EPA to address emerging environmental challenges.
Within ORD, research on human health and ecosystems has also been negatively affected by a shrinking budget. These programs have collectively suffered a 15% decline in their budgets since FY 2004. Restoration of funding to at least the FY 2004 levels, as adjusted for inflation, would be an important first step to meeting our nation's environmental science research needs.
The Ecosystem Services Research (ESR) program is one of the important areas within ORD that would benefit from increased funding. The ESR is responsible for enhancing, protecting, and restoring ecosystem services, such as clean air and water, rich soil for food and crop production, pollination, and flood control. Research conducted by the Ecosystem Services Research program provides scientific data, methods, models, and tools needed by state and local resource managers to account for the cost and benefits of using and preserving ecosystem services.
Another key program affected by the declining human health and ecosystem research budget is the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship. This program supports graduate students pursuing an advanced degree in environmental science. Since the program's inception in 1995, EPA has awarded STAR Fellowships to 1,500 promising scientists who have gone on to pursue careers as scientists and educators. This fellowship contributes to the role of the United States as a world leader in scientific discovery and innovation. Despite the program's success, the STAR Graduate Fellowship has lost approximately 35% of its funding in real dollars between FY 2004 and FY 2008. Even with repeated restorations of funding by Congress, the number of STAR Fellowships awarded each year has been drastically reduced, down from 124 fellowships in 2004 to 32 fellowships in 2008. The President's budget request of $10.9 million for the program will restore funding to the FY 2005 level and provide 131 new fellowships.
Revitalization of ecosystem research has also been a concern of the EPA Science Advisory Board. Over the past several years, the EPA Science Advisory Board has made multiple requests to then-EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson for increased funding for ecological research. In a letter dated May 2008, Dr. M. Granger Morgan, Chair of the EPA Science Advisory Board, expressed grave concerns about the agency's funding declines. He stated his concern about not being able to adequately address future problems due to current underinvestment of emerging scientific needs. Dr. Morgan stated that we "run the risk of incurring much larger future costs because we do not understand the subtle intricacies of these risks and hence could blunder into difficulties ... from which it may be much more expensive to recover." Clearly, the EPA Science Advisory Board feels that the current funding levels are jeopardizing the agency's ability to fulfill its missions down the road.
We urge Congress to consider the Board's concerns and provide EPA with at least $700 million for ORD for fiscal year 2010 and at least $190 million for human health and ecosystem research. Providing these amounts to ORD will restore them to FY 2004 levels and begin to provide the resources needed to address a backlog of research needs.
Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request and for your past support of EPA science programs.