AAAS Policy Alert -- July 13, 2011
The House Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its bill last week for agencies under its jurisdiction, including NSF, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NSF's total budget would remain at FY 2011 levels or $6.9 billion, $907 million below the President's request for FY 2012. NSF's Research and Related Activities would receive $5.6 billion (up $43 million from FY 2011), Education and Human Resources would receive $835 million (down $26 million), and Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction would decline by $17 million to $100 million. In anticipation of potential threats to de-fund specific grants within NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Research (SBE) program, AAAS and more than 140 professional societies and universities sent a letter to House appropriators urging them to protect the peer-review process and emphasizing the importance of SBE fields in the broader context of science and national needs.
NASA, meanwhile, would receive a total budget of $16.8 billion, a cut of $1.6 billion below last year's level and $1.9 billion below the President's request. Space Exploration would drop $152 million for a total budget of $3.65 billion, and Science programs would fall $431 million for a total budget of $4.5 billion. The subcommittee's recommendation also would terminate the James Webb Space Telescope, arguing that it is "billions of dollars over budget and plagued by poor management.” NOAA would receive $4.5 billion, a cut of $103 million below last year's level and $1 billion below the President's request. The subcommittee provided an increase of $430 million for the Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program. NIST would receive $701 million, a reduction of $49 million below FY 2011 levels and $300 million below the President's request. The subcommittee bill also retains language first introduced in the FY 2011 bill that prohibits NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) from engaging in bilateral activities with China. The CJS bill is scheduled to be marked up by the full Appropriations Committee on July 13.
The full House of Representatives takes up the FY 2012 Energy and Water appropriations bill July 11-12. DOE's Office of Science received $4.8 billion, a cut of $43 million, in the Appropriations Committee mark-up. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) is expected to offer a floor amendment to restore full funding to the Office of Science and to offset that increase by reducing funding for the NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) weapons account. An amendment by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to cut a wide range of DOE programs by $3.3 billion, nearly 40% of DOE's energy (non-defense) budget, was defeated on the floor. However, McClintock is expected to offer another amendment to strike all funding for DOE's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs. The Committee's bill also rejects the Administration's efforts to close the controversial Yucca Mountain nuclear repository site and restores that project's funding at $35 million.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest action on the FY 2012 budget.
Other Congressional News
House Panel Approves Bill to Review EPA Rules. The Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved by voice vote a bill that would require an analysis of several rules recently proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation Act, or TRAIN Act, (H.R. 2401) is sponsored by Subcommittee Vice Chairman John Sullivan (R-OK) and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT). Under the bill, an interagency committee would examine the impact of the rules on consumers, small businesses, regional economies, state, local, and tribal governments, local and industry-specific labor markets, and agriculture.
PCAST to Meet This Week. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology will hold its next public meeting Friday, July 15. The meeting will be held at the Marriott Metro Center Hotel (Ballroom Salon A), 775 12th St., NW, in Washington, DC, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. (see online registration). It will also be webcast live. The agenda will include: the National Academies' study on the Future of Research Universities; the American Academy of Arts and Sciences study on the Impacts of Federal and Industry Funding of Science, Engineering, and Medicine on American Universities (ARISE II); reflections from outgoing Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra; an overview of the Patent and Trademark Office; and an update of the PCAST study, The Role of Biological Carbon Sequestration in Climate Change.
USAID, NSF Collaborate to Promote Research with Developing Countries. In an effort to build research capacity in developing countries through partnerships with U.S. scientists, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) on July 7. The joint initiative with NSF makes about $7 million of USAID funding available to researchers from developing countries for collaborating with American scientists already receiving NSF grants. Based on six pilot programs, PEER will focus on applied research on water, climate change, biodiversity, renewable energy, disaster mitigation, and food safety, especially in Islamic countries, to solve development challenges and create lasting partnerships.
NSB Nominations Sought. The National Science Board (NSB) is soliciting nominations for persons to serve on the NSB for the years 2012-2018. Nominations are due August 12.
CEQ Releases Draft Plan for Freshwater Management. The White House Council on Environmental Quality has released a Draft National Action Plan for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. The Plan provides recommendations for federal agencies to help freshwater resource managers manage and protect freshwater. The plan, released on June 2, is available for public comment for 45 days.
Education Department to Scrutinize Regulations. In response to Executive Order 13563, the Department of Education is requesting public comment on a preliminary plan "for the retrospective analysis of […] existing regulations.” The plan will determine how the Department conducts a review to determine if regulations should be modified, streamlined, expanded, or repealed. Since the Department of Education has a role in higher education regulations, issues such as the use of animals in research could be affected by the Department's review.
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EPA Releases Clean Air Rule. The Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its final Cross-State Air Pollution rule, which requires power plants to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide that contribute to harmful levels of smog (ground-level ozone) and soot (fine particles) in other states. The agency projects that the rule will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 19,000 cases of acute bronchitis, and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma - achieving up to $280 billion in annual health benefits. EPA noted: "The benefits far outweigh the $800 million projected to be spent annually on this rule in 2014 and the roughly $1.6 billion per year in capital investments already underway.” The rule replaces the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), a Bush-era standard which courts found violated the Clean Air Act. The current proposal, which was promptly criticized by House and Senate Republicans for its allegedly negative impact on the economy, is open for public comment for 45 days.
New Hampshire Remains in Regional Program. New Hampshire Democratic Governor John Lynch vetoed a bill that would have ended the state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Lynch stated that the program provides the state a net benefit of $16 million a year.
Australia Announces Carbon Tax Plan. The plan, released July 10, places a three-year tax of $23 on every metric ton of carbon emissions produced by Australia's 500 largest polluters, starting in July of 2012. Among other things, the tax revenue will partially compensate industries for becoming more energy-efficient and will provide tax cuts for households as the industries being taxed pass the costs through to consumers. Revenue will also fund new clean energy, with the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation to invest in clean energy enterprises, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), a newly created independent authority, managing $3.2 billion of renewable energy funding.
Innovation Reports Released. The third annual Worldview Bio-Innovation Scorecard was released by Scientific American. The report measures countries' biotechnology innovation capacity by means of such items as intellectual property protection, research intensity, education, and workforce availability. Both Portugal and Spain saw notable gains this year. Also, the Global Innovation Index 2011 report - led by the international business school INSEAD in collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent, Booz and Company, the Confederation of Indian Industry, and the World Intellectual Property Organization - was released. It ranks 125 nations' economies in terms of their innovation capabilities. The U.S. was ranked 7th, and 17 Sub-Sahara African countries ranked in the bottom 25.
Academy Report Warns of Gaps in Ocean-Sensing Capability. Monitoring the ocean surface color by satellite remote sensing is essential to measuring a variety of ecological characteristics, including photosynthesis, sediment transport, and dispersion of pollutants. A new report, issued last week in pre-publication form by the National Research Council Committee on Assessing Requirements for Sustained Ocean Color Research and Operations, cautioned that the continuing U.S. capability to collect this vital information is at risk due to the demise of one monitoring satellite and the aging of sensors on another. The report, prepared at the request of NOAA, NASA, NSF, and the Office of Naval Research, specifies the minimum requirements needed to sustain the remote sensing capability for ocean color.
Stem Cell News. On the heels of the introduction of a new stem cell bill in the House (HR 2376 - see last week's Policy Alert), stem cell research made headlines last week when doctors announced they had implanted a synthetic windpipe created in a lab using the patient's own stem cells and no human donor tissue.
Update on Animal Research in Wisconsin. Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (R) signed a budget bill June 26 that includes a provision exempting animal researchers from state criminal penalties for animal cruelty, protecting them from lawsuits.
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