Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tracking the Committee

As we all know, the majority of bills and resolutions (including those that seem fairly sensible and non-controversial) do not make it out of committee.  According to their website, "the House Science and Technology Committee passed 82 bills in the House – 37 resolutions passed, 27 bills were enacted into law, and 18 additional bills passed the House. In order to spearhead as many science and technology priorities and issues, the Committee has set an aggressive agenda for the 111th Congress."  

There hasn't been very much activity on any of the bills introduced by the committee so far, but hopefully there will be.  In the event that the next couple months are slow with respect to science and policy, it's important to think about why, and nevertheless examine the agenda of the committee.  They do indeed have an interesting lineup of hearings.

On February 24, the committee held a hearing entitled "How Do We Know What We Are Emitting? Monitoring, Reporting and Verifying Greenhouse Gas Emissions."  The hearing charter describes its purpose: "The purpose of the hearing is to determine the federal role in supporting research and development of monitoring technologies, emissions factors, models, and other tools necessary to support reliable accounting of baseline greenhouse gas emissions and changes in emissions relative to the baseline under a regulatory program for greenhouse gases."  

The four witnesses included John Stephenson of the Government Accountability Office, Jill Gravender of the Climate Registry, Leslie Wong of Waste Management, Inc., and Rob Ellis of Advanced Waste Management Systems, Inc.  

Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA) surmised in a press release after the hearing:

  “In order to evaluate programs – either mandatory or voluntary – for controlling greenhouse gases, we must be able to track emissions accurately,” said Subcommittee Chairman Brian Baird (D-WA). “We need an accurate measurement of baseline emissions. We need to know the emissions levels we are starting from and we need a good baseline estimate as a benchmark to determine whether control programs are effective or not in reducing emissions.”

Will this be grounds for increased federal funding for greenhouse gas monitoring?  Maybe; ultimately, a lot of that is likely to be in the hands of particular federal agencies with funds.

Today, there was a hearing on water.  Committee chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) introduced  HR 1145, The National Water Research and Development Initiative Act of 2009.  The bill calls for priorities to be set for water research.  One of the witnesses, Dr. Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute made the point, "...the Bill calls for the interagency committee to 'establish the priorities for Federal water research.'  I believe that such priorities are clearly, and comprehensively, laid out in the NRC, SWAQ, and OMB reports already available. We know what we need to do; what is needed is the funding and effort to do it."

The call from the hearing was clear: federal funding for research in water.  It will be interesting to see how this bill progresses, given the attention it's received so far in committee.

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