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Congressional Research Service Reports

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Full-Text Articles in Political Science

Nanotechnology And Environmental, Health, And Safety: Issues For Consideration, John F. Sargent Jr. Jan 2010

Nanotechnology And Environmental, Health, And Safety: Issues For Consideration, John F. Sargent Jr.

Congressional Research Service Reports

Nanotechnology—a term encompassing nanoscale science, engineering, and technology—is focused on understanding, controlling, and exploiting the unique properties of matter that can emerge at scales of one to 100 nanometers. A key issue before Congress regarding nanotechnology is how best to protect human health, safety, and the environment as nanoscale materials and products are researched, developed, manufactured, used, and discarded. While the rapidly emerging field of nanotechnology is believed by many to offer significant economic and societal benefits, some research results have raised concerns about the potential adverse environmental, health, and safety (EHS) implications of nanoscale materials.

Some have ...


Capturing Co2 From Coal-Fired Power Plants: Challenges For A Comprehensive Strategy, Larry Parker, Peter Folger Jan 2010

Capturing Co2 From Coal-Fired Power Plants: Challenges For A Comprehensive Strategy, Larry Parker, Peter Folger

Congressional Research Service Reports

Any comprehensive approach to substantially reduce greenhouse gases must address the world’s dependency on coal for one-quarter of its energy demand, including almost half of its electricity demand. To maintain coal in the world’s energy mix in a carbon-constrained future would require development of a technology to capture and store its carbon dioxide emissions. This situation suggests to some that any greenhouse gas reduction program be delayed until such carbon capture technology has been demonstrated. However, technological innovation and the demands of a carbon control regime are interlinked; a technology policy is no substitute for environmental policy and ...


Agricultural Disaster Assistance, Dennis A. Shields, Ralph M. Chite Jan 2010

Agricultural Disaster Assistance, Dennis A. Shields, Ralph M. Chite

Congressional Research Service Reports

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers several permanently authorized programs to help farmers recover financially from a natural disaster, including federal crop insurance, the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), and emergency disaster loans. The federal crop insurance program is designed to protect crop producers from unavoidable risks associated with adverse weather, and weather-related plant diseases and insect infestations. Producers who grow a crop that is currently ineligible for crop insurance may be eligible for a direct payment under NAP. Under the emergency disaster (EM) loan program, when a county has been declared a disaster area by either ...


Agricultural Biotechnology: The U.S.-Eu Dispute, Charles E. Hanrahan Jan 2010

Agricultural Biotechnology: The U.S.-Eu Dispute, Charles E. Hanrahan

Congressional Research Service Reports

In May 2003, the United States, Canada, and Argentina initiated a dispute with the European Union concerning the EU’s de facto moratorium on biotechnology product approvals, in place since 1998. Although the EU effectively lifted the moratorium in May 2004 by approving a genetically engineered (GE) corn variety (MON810), the three complainants pursued the case, in part because a number of EU member states continue to block already approved biotech products. Industry estimates are that the moratorium costs U.S. corn growers some $300 million in exports to the EU annually. Corn gluten exports from the United States to ...


Animal Waste And Water Quality: Epa’S Response To The Waterkeeper Alliance Court Decision On Regulation Of Cafos, Claudia Copeland Jan 2010

Animal Waste And Water Quality: Epa’S Response To The Waterkeeper Alliance Court Decision On Regulation Of Cafos, Claudia Copeland

Congressional Research Service Reports

In October 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a regulation to revise a 2003 Clean Water Act rule governing waste discharges from large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). This action was necessitated by a 2005 federal court decision (Waterkeeper Alliance et al. v. EPA, 399 F.3d 486 (2nd Cir. 2005)), resulting from challenges brought by agriculture industry groups and environmental advocacy groups, that vacated parts of the 2003 rule and remanded other parts to EPA for clarification.

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants from any “point source” to waters of the United States unless authorized ...


Gray Wolves Under The Endangered Species Act (Esa): Distinct Population Segments And Experimental Populations, Kristina Alexander Jan 2010

Gray Wolves Under The Endangered Species Act (Esa): Distinct Population Segments And Experimental Populations, Kristina Alexander

Congressional Research Service Reports

The wolf was among the first animals protected under the Endangered Species Preservation Act, a predecessor to the current Endangered Species Act (ESA). In 1978 the gray wolf was listed as endangered in all of the conterminous 48 states except Minnesota, where it was listed as threatened. With the exception of experimental populations established in the 1990s, the protections for the gray wolf have been diminishing since that date, as wolf populations have increased in some areas. The use of distinct population segments (DPSs), a term created in the 1978 ESA amendments, has played a role in that reduced protection ...


Water Quality Issues In The 111th Congress: Oversight And Implementation, Claudia Copeland Jan 2010

Water Quality Issues In The 111th Congress: Oversight And Implementation, Claudia Copeland

Congressional Research Service Reports

Although much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established more than 35 years ago in the Clean Water Act (CWA) to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or “nonpoint” sources, to toxic substances discharged from factories and sewage treatment plants.

There is little agreement among stakeholders about what solutions are needed and whether new legislation is required to address the nation ...


Biofuels Incentives: A Summary Of Federal Programs, Brent D. Yacobucci Jan 2010

Biofuels Incentives: A Summary Of Federal Programs, Brent D. Yacobucci

Congressional Research Service Reports

With recent high energy prices, the passage of major energy legislation in 2005 (P.L. 109-58) and 2007 (P.L. 110-140), and the passage of a new farm bill in 2008 (P.L. 110-246), there is ongoing congressional interest in promoting alternatives to petroleum fuels. Biofuels—transportation fuels produced from plants and other organic materials—are of particular interest.

Ethanol and biodiesel, the two most widely used biofuels, receive significant government support under federal law in the form of mandated fuel use, tax incentives, loan and grant programs, and certain regulatory requirements. The 22 programs and provisions listed in this ...


Agricultural Conservation: A Guide To Programs, Megan Stubbs Jan 2010

Agricultural Conservation: A Guide To Programs, Megan Stubbs

Congressional Research Service Reports

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) currently administer over 20 programs and subprograms that are directly or indirectly available to assist producers and landowners who wish to practice conservation on agricultural lands. The number, scope, and overall funding of these programs has grown in recent years. This growth can cause some confusion over which problems and conditions each program addresses, and specific program characteristics and performance.

This tabular presentation provides basic information introducing each of the programs. In each case, a brief program description is followed ...


Asian Carp And The Great Lakes Region, Eugene H. Buck, Harold F. Upton, Charles V. Stern, James E. Nicols Jan 2010

Asian Carp And The Great Lakes Region, Eugene H. Buck, Harold F. Upton, Charles V. Stern, James E. Nicols

Congressional Research Service Reports

Four species of non-indigenous Asian carp are expanding their range in U.S. waterways, resulting in a variety of concerns and problems. Three species—bighead, silver, and black carp—are of particular note, based on the perceived degree of environmental concern. Current controversy relates to what measures might be necessary and sufficient to prevent movement of Asian carp from the Mississippi River drainage into the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. Bills have been introduced in the 111th Congress to direct actions to avoid the possibility of carp becoming established in the Great Lakes.

According to the Great ...


Previewing Dairy Policy Options For The Next Farm Bill, Dennis A. Shields Jan 2010

Previewing Dairy Policy Options For The Next Farm Bill, Dennis A. Shields

Congressional Research Service Reports

Financial stress in the dairy industry in 2009, brought on largely by sharply lower milk prices, activated standing federal programs to support dairy farmers. In calendar year 2009, the federal government spent more than $1 billion to support the industry through the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) Program, the Dairy Product Price Support Program (DPPSP), and the Dairy Export Incentive Program (DEIP). Following appeals from dairy farmers for more financial assistance, Congress granted another $350 million in October 2009 in the form of supplemental payments to dairy farmers and government purchases of dairy products.

While farm milk prices have increased ...


Forestry In The Next Farm Bill, Ross W. Gorte Jan 2010

Forestry In The Next Farm Bill, Ross W. Gorte

Congressional Research Service Reports

Forest management generally, as well as forest research and forestry assistance, have long been within the jurisdictions of the Agriculture Committees. Although most forestry programs are permanently authorized, forestry has usually been addressed in the periodic farm bills to reauthorize many agriculture programs. The 2008 farm bill (the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, P.L. 110-246) contained a separate forestry title, with provisions establishing national priorities for forestry assistance; requiring statewide forest assessments and strategies; providing competitive funding for certain programs; creating new programs for open space conservation and for emergency reforestation; reauthorizing four existing programs; and prohibiting ...


Energy And Water Development: Fy2011 Appropriations, Carl E. Behrens Jan 2010

Energy And Water Development: Fy2011 Appropriations, Carl E. Behrens

Congressional Research Service Reports

The Energy and Water Development appropriations bill provides funding for civil works projects of the Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

Funding for FY2010 Energy and Water Development programs is contained in H.R. 3183, which the House passed July 17, 2009. The Senate passed its version of H.R. 3183 July 29. The Conference Committee issued its report (H.Rept. 111-278) September 30, and the House passed the conference bill October 1, and the Senate October 15. The President signed ...


Fy2010 Supplemental Appropriations For Agriculture, Jim Monke Jan 2010

Fy2010 Supplemental Appropriations For Agriculture, Jim Monke

Congressional Research Service Reports

Two separate bills are advancing in the 111th Congress that could provide nearly $4 billion of supplemental funds for agricultural programs in FY2010. The agricultural provisions in these bills have a relatively small funding impact compared with the nonagricultural provisions in the bills.

H.R. 4213 (commonly known as the “tax extenders” bill) would provide up to $3.6 billion for agriculture-related programs. The House and Senate are trading amendments to reconcile differences between each chamber’s version of the bill. The most recent House-passed version from May 28, 2010, includes $1.48 billion for agricultural disaster assistance, $1.15 ...


Agriculture-Based Biofuels: Overview And Emerging Issues, Randy Schnepf Jan 2010

Agriculture-Based Biofuels: Overview And Emerging Issues, Randy Schnepf

Congressional Research Service Reports

Since the late 1970s, U.S. policymakers at both the federal and state levels have enacted a variety of incentives, regulations, and programs to encourage the production and use of agriculture-based biofuels. Initially, federal biofuels policies were developed to help kick-start the biofuels industry during its early development, when neither production capacity nor a market for the finished product was widely available. Federal policy has played a key role in helping to close the price gap between biofuels and cheaper petroleum fuels. Now, as the industry has evolved, other policy goals (e.g., national energy security, climate change concerns, support ...


Biomass Crop Assistance Program (Bcap): Status And Issues, Megan Stubbs Jan 2010

Biomass Crop Assistance Program (Bcap): Status And Issues, Megan Stubbs

Congressional Research Service Reports

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, 2008 farm bill) created the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). The two main purposes of BCAP are (1) to support the establishment and production of eligible crops for conversion to bioenergy in selected areas, and (2) to assist agricultural and forest land owners and operators with collection, harvest, storage, and transportation of eligible material for use in a biomass conversion facility. BCAP is intended to assist with the bioenergy industry’s hurdle of continuous biomass availability.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Farm Service Agency (FSA ...


Carbon Capture: A Technology Assessment, Peter Folger Jan 2010

Carbon Capture: A Technology Assessment, Peter Folger

Congressional Research Service Reports

Carbon capture and sequestration (or carbon capture and storage, CCS) is widely seen as a critical strategy for limiting atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the principal “greenhouse gas” linked to global climate change—from power plants and other large industrial sources. This report focuses on the first component of a CCS system, the CO2 capture process. Unlike the other two components of CCS, transportation and geologic storage, the CO2 capture component of CCS is heavily technology-dependent. For CCS to succeed at reducing CO2 emissions from a significant fraction of large sources in the United States, CO2 capture technologies would ...


Ballast Water Management To Combat Invasive Species, Eugene H. Buck Jan 2010

Ballast Water Management To Combat Invasive Species, Eugene H. Buck

Congressional Research Service Reports

The 111th Congress may elect to consider legislation (H.R. 500 and S. 237) that has been introduced to amend and reauthorize the Nonindigenous Aquatic Nuisance Prevention and Control Act of 1990 to further study vessel ballast water management standards and modify how ballast water is handled.

In recent years, many people have become increasingly aware that the globalization of trade, the increased speed of travel, the massive volume of cargo shipments, and rising tourism have combined to increase the chance of accidental introductions of foreign species into the United States. Aquatic species arrive through a variety of mechanisms—unintentionally ...


Agricultural Biotechnology: Background And Recent Issues, Tadlock Cowan Jan 2010

Agricultural Biotechnology: Background And Recent Issues, Tadlock Cowan

Congressional Research Service Reports

U.S. soybean, cotton, and corn farmers have rapidly adopted genetically engineered (GE) varieties of these crops since their commercialization in the mid-1990s. Over the last decade, GE varieties in the United States have increased from 3.6 million acres to 143 million acres. Worldwide, 25 countries planted GE crops on approximately 309 million acres in 2008. GE varieties now dominate soybean, cotton, and corn production in the United States, and they continue to expand rapidly in other countries. As adoption has spread, policy debates have continued over the costs and benefits of GE products.

Ongoing concerns include the impacts ...


Agriculture In The Wto: Limits On Domestic Support, Randy Schnepf Jan 2010

Agriculture In The Wto: Limits On Domestic Support, Randy Schnepf

Congressional Research Service Reports

Most of the provisions of the current farm bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246), do not expire until 2012. However, hearings on the 2012 farm bill have already begun. Congress is in the process of reviewing farm income and commodity price support proposals that might succeed the programs due to expire in 2012.

A key question likely to be asked of virtually every new proposal is how it will affect U.S. commitments under the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture (AA), which commits the United States to spend no more than $19.1 billion ...


Renewable Energy Programs In The 2008 Farm Bill, Megan Stubbs Jan 2010

Renewable Energy Programs In The 2008 Farm Bill, Megan Stubbs

Congressional Research Service Reports

The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-246, the 2008 farm bill) extends and expands many of the renewable energy programs originally authorized in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-171, 2002 farm bill). The bill also continues the emphasis on the research and development of advanced and cellulosic bioenergy authorized in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (P.L. 110-140).

Farm bill debate over U.S. biomass-based renewable energy production policy focused mainly on the continuation of subsidies for ethanol blenders, continuation of the import tariff for ethanol, and the ...


Wetlands: An Overview Of Issues, Claudia Copeland Jan 2010

Wetlands: An Overview Of Issues, Claudia Copeland

Congressional Research Service Reports

Recent Congresses have considered numerous policy topics that involve wetlands. Many reflect issues of long-standing interest, such as applying federal regulations on private lands, wetland loss rates, and restoration and creation accomplishments. In the 110th Congress, a few of the topics were new, such as wetlands provisions in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-246). The 110th Congress also considered wetland topics at the program level, responding to legal decisions and administrative actions affecting the jurisdictional boundary limits of the federal wetland permit program in the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Perhaps the issue receiving the greatest attention has been determining ...


Science, Technology, And American Diplomacy: Background And Issues For Congress, Deborah D. Stine Jan 2009

Science, Technology, And American Diplomacy: Background And Issues For Congress, Deborah D. Stine

Congressional Research Service Reports

Science and engineering activities have always been international. Scientists, engineers, and health professionals frequently communicate and cooperate with one another without regard to national boundaries. This report discusses international science and technology (S&T) diplomacy, instances when American leadership in S&T is used as a diplomatic tool to enhance another country’s development and to improve understanding by other nations of U.S. values and ways of doing business. According to the National Research Council, five developmental challenges where S&T could play a role include child health and child survival, safe water, agricultural research to reduce hunger and ...


The U.S. Science And Technology Workforce, Deborah D. Stine, Christine M. Matthews Jan 2009

The U.S. Science And Technology Workforce, Deborah D. Stine, Christine M. Matthews

Congressional Research Service Reports

In the 21st century, global competition and rapid advances in science and technology will challenge the scientific and technical proficiency of the U.S. workforce. Policymakers often discuss policy actions that could enhance the nation’s science and technology (S&T) workforce— deemed by some as essential to both meet U.S. workforce demands as well as to generate the new ideas that lead to improved and new industries that create jobs.

The America COMPETES Act (P.L. 110-69) addresses concerns regarding the S&T workforce and STEM education, and the 111th Congress is debating funding for the programs authorized ...


Drought In The United States: Causes And Issues For Congress, Peter Folger, Betsy A. Cody, Nicole T. Carter Jan 2009

Drought In The United States: Causes And Issues For Congress, Peter Folger, Betsy A. Cody, Nicole T. Carter

Congressional Research Service Reports

Drought is commonly defined as a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more, relative to some long-term average condition. Droughts have affected the United States, particularly the American West, for centuries. Drought affects societies because of the combination of reduced supply (e.g., less precipitation, reduced reservoir levels, a lower groundwater table) and competing demand (e.g., for irrigation, municipal and industrial supply, energy production, species protection). This report focuses on the physical causes of drought, its history in the United States, and what may be expected in the near future. Although currently ...


The President's Office Of Science And Technology Policy (Ostp): Issues For Congress, Deborah D. Stine Jan 2009

The President's Office Of Science And Technology Policy (Ostp): Issues For Congress, Deborah D. Stine

Congressional Research Service Reports

Congress established the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) through the National Science and Technology Policy, Organization, and Priorities Act of 1976 (P.L. 94-282). The act states that “The primary function of the OSTP Director is to provide, within the Executive Office of the President [EOP], advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of issues that require attention at the highest level of Government.” Further, “The Office shall serve as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.” The OSTP Director ...


The Sport Fish Restoration And Boating Trust Fund, Eugene H. Buck Jan 2009

The Sport Fish Restoration And Boating Trust Fund, Eugene H. Buck

Congressional Research Service Reports

An Aquatic Resources Trust Fund, with two accounts—a Sport Fish Restoration Account and a Boat Safety Account—was created in 1984 and subsequently amended to support a variety of programs administered by three federal agencies, including wetlands management, recreational vessel docking and sewage disposal infrastructure, and aquatic resource education. In 2005, the Boat Safety Account was terminated and remaining programs were consolidated into a renamed Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund. This report details sources of funding for this trust fund and summarizes the various programs and activities receiving funding.

The five sources of income to the Sport ...


Whales And Sonar: Environmental Exemptions For The Navy's Mid-Frequency Active Sonar Training, Kristina Alexander Jan 2009

Whales And Sonar: Environmental Exemptions For The Navy's Mid-Frequency Active Sonar Training, Kristina Alexander

Congressional Research Service Reports

Mid-frequency active (MFA) sonar emits pulses of sound from an underwater transmitter to help determine the size, distance, and speed of objects. The sound waves bounce off objects and reflect back to underwater acoustic receivers as an echo. MFA sonar has been used since World War II, and the Navy indicates it is the only reliable way to track submarines, especially more recently designed submarines that operate more quietly, making them more difficult to detect.

Scientists have asserted that sonar may harm certain marine mammals under certain conditions, especially beaked whales. Depending on the exposure, they believe that sonar may ...


Water Infrastructure Funding In The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009, Claudia Copeland, Nicole T. Carter Jan 2009

Water Infrastructure Funding In The American Recovery And Reinvestment Act Of 2009, Claudia Copeland, Nicole T. Carter

Congressional Research Service Reports

On January 28, 2009, the House passed H.R. 1, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. On February 10, the Senate passed an amended version of H.R. 1 (S.Amdt. 570). On February 13, the House and Senate adopted a conference report (H.Rept. 111-16) that reconciled differences between the two bills. The President signed the bill into law on February 17 (P.L. 111- 5). This report identifies funding for water infrastructure programs and projects contained in the legislation, including amounts in the House- and Senate-passed versions that preceded the conference agreement. Among the purposes identified ...


Pipeline Safety And Security: Federal Programs, Paul W. Parfomak Jan 2009

Pipeline Safety And Security: Federal Programs, Paul W. Parfomak

Congressional Research Service Reports

Nearly half a million miles of oil and gas transmission pipeline crisscross the United States. While an efficient and fundamentally safe means of transport, many pipelines carry hazardous materials with the potential to cause public injury and environmental damage. The nation’s pipeline networks are also widespread, running alternately through remote and densely populated regions; consequently, these systems are vulnerable to accidents and terrorist attack. The 109th Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-468) to improve pipeline safety and security practices. The 110th Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of ...