Science, Environment Slated for Funding Boosts by House

The House Appropriations Committee has approved fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations legislation for Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS), Interior, Environment related Agencies, and Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies, rejecting the President's proposed budget cuts for science. The measure must still navigate the full House, Senate, and secure the President's signature.

On May 22, 2019, House appropriators approved funding increases for most science agencies that fall under the jurisdiction of the CJS appropriations:

  • The National Science Foundation would receive $8.64 billion, $561 million above the FY 2019 enacted level. President Trump had requested a $1 billion (-12.5 percent) cut to the agency. The Research and Related Activities Account, which includes the Biological Sciences Directorate, would receive $7.1 billion, an increase of $586 million or 8.9 percent.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $22.3 billion in FY 2020, an increase of $815 million, with its science programs receiving $7.2 billion (+3.7 percent). NASA was slated for an overall 2 percent cut in the President's budget, with its science programs facing an 8.7 percent cut.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology would receive $ 1.04 billion (+$54.7 million), with $751 million (+3.7 percent) targeted to core research activities.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, slated for a nearly $1 billion budget cut under the President's proposal, would receive a flat budget of $5.4 billion under the House bill. Funding would be targeted to priorities such as climate research, improvements in weather forecasting, reduction of harmful algal blooms, and fisheries management.

The House Interior-Environment appropriations bill would boost funding for the Department of the Interior by $833 million to $13.79 billion in FY 2020. The bill does not provide funding for Interior's reorganization efforts and includes standard language requiring the department to submit a more detailed plan for the overhaul. Congress had provided Interior with $14 million in FY 2019 for the reorganization and the department had requested $28 million for the effort in FY 2020. Funding for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) would be augmented by $75 million (+6.5 percent) to $1.24 billion. The Administration had proposed to cut USGS funding by 15 percent in FY 2020. Other agencies covered by the Interior-Environment bill would also see funding boosts:

  • $1.4 billion (+$66 million) for the Bureau of Land Management
  • $1.7 billion (+$79 million) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • $3.4 billion (+$168 million) for the National Park Service
  • $1.07 billion (+$28 million) for the Smithsonian Institution

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would be funded at $9.5 billion (+$672 million) in FY 2020, with its core science and environmental programs receiving $3.41 billion, an increase of $105 million above FY 2019. The bill includes language urging EPA "to continue its support for the Children's Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Research Centers." The agency had announced plans on May 20 to end funding for the network of 13 research centers across the country focused on studying the impacts of pollution and other environmental threats on children.

The Energy-Water spending bill, approved by the House Appropriations panel on May 21, would fund the Department of Energy Office of Science at $ 6.87 billion, an increase of $285 million or 4.3 percent above the FY 2019 level and $1.3 billion above the President's request for FY 2020. The Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), slated for elimination under the President's budget, would receive an increase of $59 million to $425 million.

Although the House and Senate leadership have begun discussions with the White House on a possible two-year budget deal, it is still unclear how the budget cap negotiations will play out. Despite the lack of a budget agreement, House appropriators are continuing to push forward with their own spending plan.

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House Would Block Relocation of NIFA, ERS

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies approved its version of the spending bill for FY 2020 on May 23, 2019. The legislation includes $24.3 billion in discretionary funding, $1 billion above FY 2019.

The bill provides $3.3 billion, $387 million above the President’s budget request, for agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The bill would target funding to research to mitigate crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, increase production, and combat antimicrobial resistance. NIFA, USDA’s premier extramural agricultural science agency, would receive $1.6 billion, an increase of $135 million above FY 2019.

Appropriators have included language in the bill barring the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from relocating the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the NIFA outside the National Capital Region, a move that has raised concerns from more than 100 stakeholder groups, including AIBS. According to a report by the Washington Post, federal employees at NIFA and ERS have quit their jobs in “unusually large numbers” since the relocation announcement was made in August 2018. However, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is proceeding with the department’s plan and announced the top three sites for the relocation of NIFA and ERS earlier this month.

The spending bill would also block USDA’s proposal to move ERS from USDA’s research mission area to the Office of the Chief Economist, which is under the Office of the Secretary. The realignment of ERS has received criticism as an effort to limit the autonomy of a research agency by placing it under the supervision of a political appointee.

The legislation will now be considered by the full Appropriations Committee.

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Former EPA Chiefs Urge Oversight

Seven former Administrators of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including individuals appointed by Republican and Democrat presidents, are offering their assistance to help Congress conduct oversight of the agency.

In an April 8 letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the former agency chiefs said: “We are united that there has never been a more important time for us to put aside our differences and advocate collectively for public health and the environment. Time is of the essence, and much is at stake.” They expressed their eagerness to be a resource on many issues that are “ripe for oversight.”

The former chiefs urged the lawmakers to affirm the “bipartisan public health and environment mission” of EPA; focus on “the most significant and pervasive public health and environmental risks”; support “rigorous consensus science, economics and engineering” and ensure their use in policy decisions; and focus on “substantive policy, management and enforcement” issues.

William Reilly, former EPA Administrator under President George H.W. Bush and one of the signatories, said during an interview, “There are a lot of changes at EPA,” referring to the repeated proposals by the Trump Administration to slash the agency’s budget and the changes to the Science Advisory Board and its membership. He added that they wanted to “encourage the Congress to take notice of this.”

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Register Now: 2019 AIBS Writing for Impact and Influence Course

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is offering a professional development program to help scientists and students hone their written communication skills to increase the power of their message.

Writing for Impact and Influence combines practical instruction and hands-on exercises to improve participants’ general writing proficiency and their ability to reach large audiences. The program will provide participants with the skills and tools needed to compose scientific press releases, blog posts, emails, and memoranda.

Learn to write for stakeholders, decision-makers, and the general public, with a focus on perfecting the reader experience.

The course consists of six 90-minute online modules conducted live and will begin on Thursday, July 11, 2019, with subsequent course sessions held weekly on Thursdays. Individuals who actively participate in and complete the full course will receive a certificate recognizing that they have completed a nine-hour professional development course on business writing for scientists.

Register now: http://io.aibs.org/writing

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Help Inform Science Policy This Summer

Registration is now open for the 2019 Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits event.

This national initiative, organized by the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is an opportunity for scientists from across the country to meet with their federal or state elected officials to showcase the people, facilities, and equipment that are required to support and conduct scientific research and education.

Now in its eleventh year, the event enables scientists, graduate students, representatives of research facilities, and people affiliated with scientific collections to meet with their federal or state elected officials without traveling to Washington, DC. Participants may either invite their elected officials to visit their research facility or can meet at the policymaker’s local office. AIBS works with participants to schedule the meetings with lawmakers and prepare participants through online training and one-on-one support.

“When I found out about the AIBS Biological Sciences Congressional District Visits, I thought that this would be a perfect way to share not only my passion about my work but also my concerns and interests with a local government representative that might be able to influence policy and share advice about how to become even more involved,” said 2018 participant Khailee Marischuk. “I had not had any previous experience with this type of meeting, but AIBS did a fantastic job connecting me with my State Representative and preparing me for the lab tour and conversation. My meeting with Representative Terese Berceau was incredibly rewarding as she shared our enthusiasm for scientific research and our passion for promoting science policy for elected officials and the general public alike, along with giving our group insight in how best to make our voices and opinions known and heard. It was a thought-provoking discussion for me and hopefully everyone else involved.”

The event is made possible by AIBS, with the support of event sponsors American Society of Plant Taxonomists, Botanical Society of America, Helminthological Society of Washington, Natural Science Collections Alliance, Paleontological Society, Society for Freshwater Science, Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections, and Society for the Study of Evolution and event supporter Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology.

Participation is free, but registration is required. Registration will close on July 10, 2019. For more information and to register, visit https://www.aibs.org/public-policy/congressionaldistrictvisits.html

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Short Takes

  • House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) has introduced legislation to protect the nation's most threatened wildlife in response to a recent U.N. report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The report drew attention to the million species of plants and animals worldwide facing extinction within the next few decades. Representative Grijalva said the bill is intended to respond to the report's call for immediate action to protect sensitive species and their habitats. The "Extinction Prevention Act of 2019" would provide $5 million annually for conservation projects for each of the threatened species groups in the bill, namely North American butterflies, Pacific island plants, freshwater mussels, and Southwest desert fish.

  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has extended the comment period for a proposal to delist gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act list of protected plants and animals after receiving a record number of comments opposing the proposal. The proposed rule to remove federal protections for gray wolves was published in the Federal Register by USFWS on March 15 citing success in reviving the species first listed as endangered decades ago.

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Become an Advocate for Science: Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center

Quick, free, easy, effective, impactful! Join the AIBS Legislative Action Center. The Legislative Action Center is a one-stop shop for learning about and influencing science policy. Through the website, users can contact elected officials and sign-up to interact with lawmakers. The website offers tools and resources to inform researchers about recent policy developments. The site also announces opportunities to serve on federal advisory boards and to comment on federal regulations.

This new tool is made possible through contributions from the Society for the Study of Evolution and the Botanical Society of America. AIBS and our partner organizations invite scientists and science educators to become policy advocates today. Simply go to policy.aibs.org to get started.

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