(Science and) Conservation Monday #1 (#8)

Yes, it’s Monday. And yes I usually do this on Friday. Recently though, I have realized that while a ton of legislation is introduced on Friday, the text of the bills oftentimes are not available until the following Monday. This is especially problematic when a bill has some sort of innocuous name that does not explain what said bill is about. So, I’ve made a switch to move to Monday. This way we can be depressed by the state of our science and conservation policies all week!

I also decided to start dividing things up by topic instead of by how much I explain. This way readers can quickly browse to determine if anything is potentially of interest. Enjoy!

Endangered Species

H.R.1589 : To prohibit the use of funds by the Secretary of the Interior to make a final determination on the listing of the northern long-eared bat under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
-DetailsThe NLEB was recently listed as threatened under the ESA by the USFWS. Originally proposed in 2013, this is one of the longer listing decisions. There has been considerable push back from a number of groups, including many members of Congress. This bill likely acts more of a statement as the listing has already occurred.
H.R.1668 : To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide for suspension of application of the Act to water releases by Federal and State agencies in river basins that are affected by drought, and for other purposes.
-Details: The text of the bill isn’t out, but if I had to guess, this is to circumvent issues similar to those of the Delta Smelt, an endangered fish that made news last year because water had to be rerouted to protect the habitat of the fish; water that could have been use as drought relief.
S.855 : Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act
Details: This bill would take the authority to list and protect endangered species out of the hands of the federal government and would place it in those of the local and state governments. This would be especially helpful to states whose priorities are development versus conservation. The bill cites the shortcomings of the ESA (e.g. 1% recovery) but fails to mention that without ESA protections, extinctions rates would likely be higher.

Pollution

H.R.1623 : To amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to increase the length of time for a certain permit.
-Details: Minor revision to language.
H.R.1644 : STREAM Act
-Details: The bill would essentially block the administration’s efforts to restrict the mountaintop removal coal mining process. The bill is touted as an effort to reduce over regulation by the federal government.
H.R.1684 : To amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to impose penalties and provide for the recovery of removal costs and damages in connection with certain discharges of oil from foreign offshore units, and for other purposes.
-Details: Aims to strengthen the Oil Pollution Act and Federal Water Pollution Control Act by providing more funds and imposing greater penalties upon guilty parties.
S.854 : A bill to establish a new organization to manage nuclear waste, provide a consensual process for siting nuclear waste facilities, ensure adequate funding for managing nuclear waste, and for other purposes.
Details: With the announcement of Senator Harry Reid’s retirement, nuclear energy advocates are in renewed spirits (read why here). Look for more bills on nuclear energy to come.
S.859 : A bill to protect the public, communities across America, and the environment by increasing the safety of crude oil transportation by railroad, and for other purposes.
DetailsCrude oil rail accidents have been hot issue over the past year. The issue is an especially hot topic here in the U.S. as debate over the Keystone XL pipeline has focused on oil-shipment alternations (e.g. rail). In Canada, this is also a hot issue as numerous train accidents have resulted in the deaths of many individuals (excuse the inflammatory headline). Canada recently passed new rail car standards to ensure that cars can more safer transport these volatile liquids. This bill is a U.S. version that will likely face strong opposition from the rail lobby.
S.853 : Rail Shipper Fairness Act of 2015
Details: Similar to S.859.
Wildlife Conservation

H.R.1729 : To amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exempt certain Alaskan Native articles from prohibitions against sale of items containing nonedible migratory bird parts, and for other purposes.
Details: The MBTA protects migratory birds from “take” (i.e. killing). This bill is meant to exempt certain Alaskan tribes from the MBTA for heritage and cultural reasons.
S.834 : Sport FishRestoration and Recreational Boating Safety Act
Details: Extends the Act so that sport and recreation fishing areas receive habitat care and restoration.
STEM

S.867 : A bill to improve student academic achievement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics subjects.
Details: I don’t really get into the weeds on STEM bills, it’s just good to see that there’s still an interest in the area.
Energy

S.848 : Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act of 2015
S.888 : A bill to promote Federal-State partnerships for developing regional energy strategies and plans to mitigate risks in changing energy systems, and for other purposes.

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