Conservation Friday #2

For those of you who missed last week’s post, I’m beginning a new Friday post series that covers important (or just sometimes silly) environmental legislation that was introduced sometime that week. This may sound like a bunch of drudgery, but I’m hoping to raise awareness of what actually goes on at the Congressional level and, perhaps, make some people laugh with my synopses.

Building upon last week, I remembered that oftentimes, the actual text of major pieces of legislation is not available until the following week. So, I’m going to divide these posts into three parts:

1) Enviro/Sci (explained)
2) Enviro/Sci (introduced)
3) Random Legislation

Enviro/Sci (explained)

S.147 : Keystone XL Pipeline Approval Act
What: More of the same (similar bills introduced last week)
Importance: This isn’t going away and is on track to be the first bill vetoed by the President int he 114th Congress

H.R.239 : Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act
What:
Would protect the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on the north coast of Alaska.
Importance: These bills are big deals as public lands are increasingly viewed as areas of energy (e.g. oil/gas) development.

H.R.326 : To amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to allow the importation of polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada.
What: 
The MMPA protects many marine mammal (or terrestrial mammals that depend on marine environments) from “take” (i.e., killing).
Importance: This bill would would basically accelerate the demise of polar bears, the only species listed under the Endangered Species Act due primarily to climate change.

H.R.327 : To amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to allow importation of polar bear trophies taken in sport hunts in Canada before the date the polar bear was determined to be a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
What: 
Along with the previous bill, this would allow the importation of “trophies” (e.g., stuffed polar bears) that were killed before the species was listed under the ESA.
Importance: This has become a big issue with Ivory and the proposed all-out ban on ivory, regardless of when I was harvested. The argument is a contentious one that will likely carry on for a long time.

H.R.335 : To reauthorize the African Elephant Conservation Act, the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act of 1994, the Asian Elephant Conservation Act of 1997, the Great Ape Conservation Act of 2000, and the Marine Turtle Conservation Act of 2004, and for other purposes.
What: The authorities of these bills expired long ago, putting them on autopilot. That means that no changes or updates have been proposed and funding priorities are unclear.
Importance: Reauthorization is a big deal as it doesn’t happen often. If these Acts are reauthorized, many changes would likely be implemented that could either strengthen or weaken them.

S.145 : A bill to require the Director of the National Park Service to refund to States all State funds that were used to reopen and temporarily operate a unit of the National Park System during the October 2013 shutdown.
What: During the gov’t shutdown last year, all National Parks were closed. In some states, the parks were reopened during the shutdown with the help of funds from the states. This bill would require the federal government to pay back those funds to states.
Importance: So we don’t have the language for this yet, but this is likely a pretty interesting bill. The 2014 Appropriations Act (funding the gov’t) including funds to retroactively fund the NPS. So, on it’s face, this is just reimbursing the states that helped out the parks.

S.146 : A bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to enter into agreements with States and political subdivisions of States providing for the continued operation, in whole or in part, of public land, units of the National Park System, units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and units of the National Forest System in the State during any period in which the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture is unable to maintain normal level of operations at the units due to a lapse in appropriations, and for other purposes.
What: Basically safeguarding against a situation in the previous bill.
Importance: Planning for the next government shutdown?

Enviro/Sci (introduced)

S.152 : A bill to prohibit gaming activities on certain Indian land in Arizona until the expiration of certain gaming compacts.

S.156 : A bill to protect consumers by prohibiting the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating as final certain energy-related rules that are estimated to cost more than $1,000,000,000 and will cause significant adverse effects to the economy.

H.R.349 : To require the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create an electronic database of research and information on the causes of, and corrective actions being taken with regard to, algal blooms in the Great Lakes, their tributaries, and other surface fresh waters, and for other purposes.

H.R.352 : To rescind funds made available to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency if the Administrator fails to meet certain deadlines.
Random Legislation

H.R.317 : To provide for the admission of the State of New Columbia into the Union.
What: Making DC a state (roughly, the actual Capitol can never become a state, but major parts of DC could).
Importance: DC’s state motto is “taxation without representation”. If you are unfamiliar with the plight of DC residents (e.g., Congress recently blocked a D.C. ballet measure to legalize marijuana in the District), do some goggling. It’s actually pretty sad…

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