Program Update: Advocacy – February 2011
On February 10, 2011, the Consortium for Ocean Leadership and four other organizations (American Geophysical Union, Sea Grant Association, Alliance for Earth Observations, and the National Federation of Regional Associations on Coastal and Ocean Observing) hosted an Ocean and Coastal Science Community Welcome Reception for the 112th Congress. Participants heard remarks by Ocean Leadership President & CEO, Bob Gagosian, followed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), sponsoring member Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), and Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA). Dr. John Holdren, The President’s Science Advisor, Dr. Subra Suresh, Director of the National Science Foundation, and Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, also provided remarks. Over 200 ocean and coastal experts and congressional members and staffers attended the event to discuss innovative policy solutions in the 112th Congress.
In mid-February, Ocean Leadership’s Public Affairs staff attended the 2011 ASLO, Advancing the Science of Limnology and Oceanography, Aquatic Sciences Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The organization had a booth in the exhibit hall and the staff was busy answering questions and talking about Ocean Leadership’s programs and activities to a large crowd of interested scientists. Many leaders in the field of aquatic science, including Nancy Rabalais who provided a keynote address on her research in the Gulf of Mexico, attended the conference and Ocean Leadership’s staff took the opportunities to meet with them and talk about the most pressing issues in ocean sciences.
Government Shutdown Avoided
The President signed into law a continuing resolution (CR) (HJ Res44) this week to keep the federal government running through March 18th. The resolution funds ongoing activities at FY10 levels minus $4 billion in spending cuts derived from eliminating some earmarks and terminating eight programs that were targeted for elimination in the President’s FY12 budget request. The House has passed a year-long CR (HR 1) which would cut $62 billion in spending from FY10 levels or $100 million below the President’s requested level. Senate Democrats have unveiled a year-long CR that would trim $51 billion from the President’s request, or basically an additional $6 billion below the FY10 level. House Republicans and Senate Democrats derided each other’s spending plans, meaning another showdown could take place in two weeks. The Senate mark would fund NSF at $6.87 billion, $573 million below the FY11 request, but $284 million more than the House is proposing in its CR. The Senate proposes to spend $3.2 billion on NOAA operations; a reduction of $110 million below the FY11 requested level. The Senate bill would also fund NASA at $18.5 billion, $461 million below the FY11 request, but $412 above the house proposed level.
FY12 Presidential Budget Request
The President released his FY 2012 budget request on February 14th resulting in numerous hearings focused various aspects of the proposed budget. Below is a brief synopsis of budget hearings on ocean and science-related agencies.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies both held hearings this week on the President’s FY 2012 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA’s budget request is $18.7 billion, the same as FY 2010 levels. Charles F. Bolden, Jr., the Administrator of NASA, was the witness at both hearings. Bolden noted that the proposed budget represented a balance of human space flight, science, aeronautics and technology development. He also highlighted NASA’s education programs and their contribution to increased proficiency in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Department of Energy
Both the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and the Senate Budget Committee held hearings on the President’s proposed FY 2012 budget for the Department of Energy (DOE). The Presidential Budget Request called for an increase of 12% in the DOE budget compared to FY 2010, asking for $29.5 billion total for the department. Steven Chu, the Secretary of the Department of Energy, was the witness at both hearings. Chu has already participated in one Senate budget hearing (summarized in our February 11th newsletter). Chu’s testimony emphasized the investment in a Clean Energy Standard, scientific and technological research, and nuclear energy, as well as outlined the cutbacks seen in the Fossil Energy program, hydrogen technology, and administrative costs.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was the focus of two hearings (House and Senate) dedicated to their budget, one to “management challenges” for the Agency, and another focused on greenhouse gas regulations and their effect on jobs. As with many recent hearings involving the EPA, climate change and the EPA’s attempt to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) were issues at the forefront of budget and non-budget hearings. Most Democrats cited public health concerns and the consensus by the scientific community on climate change science as reasons to act, while Republicans highlighted potential job losses in certain economic sectors due to EPA regulation of GHGs. The FY 2012 budget proposed for the EPA is approximately $9 billion, which is a 13% decrease from funding levels in FY 2010 ($10.3 billion). Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the EPA, emphasized that budget cuts were made carefully and in a way that would not undermine the agency’s ability to provide for public health. Jackson noted that the agency prioritized action in the areas of climate change, air quality, water quality, building state and tribal partnerships, strengthening enforcement and compliance, enhancing chemical safety, supporting healthy communities, and maintaining a strong science foundation.
Department of the Interior
The House Committee on Natural Resources as well as the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held hearings to discuss the proposed FY 2012 budget for the Department of the Interior (DOI). Ken Salazar, the Secretary for the U.S. DOI, was the witness at both hearings. The proposed budget for DOI is $12.2 billion, a freeze at FY 2010 levels. Salazar’s testimony highlighted the department’s role in energy resources, and noted their commitment to a robust, environmentally responsible oil and gas program as well as investment in renewable energy projects. He also emphasized their role in conservation and the economic benefits which can be reaped by DOI’s conservation measures. Many congressmen asked questions related to the BP Deepwater Horizon spill and oil and gas permitting and leasing policies. As with USFWS, issue was raised repeatedly with the increase in budget money (about 200%) dedicated to federal land acquisition policies.
On Wednesday, March 2, 2011, The House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs held a hearing “on the proposed fiscal 2012 budget for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Office of Insular Affairs.” Rowan Gould, Acting Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), an agency within the Department of Interior, was the witness representing the agency. Gould discussed the requested budget of $1.7 billion, which was a $47.9 million increase compared to FY 2010. He discussed savings measures taken by the agency, as well as investment in priority areas, such as conservation, ecosystem restoration, and renewable energy. He also highlighted jobs (4,020 total) created or retained by the agency through the stimulus package. Questioning focused on specific areas of the budget that members felt had been over- or underfunded. Republicans took particular issue with the increase in the budget for federal land acquisition (300%), suggesting that money should be prioritized to take care of existing lands owned, instead of acquiring more.