EE Hill Report - September 23, 2007

By Jim Elder

Unprecedented momentum continues to build for environmental education in Washington:

FY08 Appropriations

EPA: Both the House and the Senate have again restored EPA’s $9 million of environmental education funding.

NOAA: The Senate passed all three of our requests: they increased NOAA’s environmental literacy grants program from $4.3m to $12m, increased the BWET (Bay Watershed Education and Training) program from $7m to $12m and added a new BWET program, and gave NOAA permanent authority to engage in education. Their total for NOAA education is $42 million (vs. $19 million proposed by the President). The House also significantly increased NOAA’s education budget to $38 million.

NSF/NASA: The House added $10 million to NSF’s budget and another $10 million to NASA’s budget for climate change education (and directed that $7 million of NOAA’s education budget above) to be spent on climate change education.

The different House and Senate numbers above need to be reconciled in a conference between the two chambers. We are working hard to insure that all these funds stay in the final budget, which Congress currently hopes to conclude before October. However, it is likely that the NOAA and climate change education funding, and perhaps the EPA funding will not be resolved for several more months

New Legislation

America COMPETES Act” (HR 2272): This law recently signed by President Bush formally authorizes NOAA to engage in education, which significantly strengthens the status of NOAA’s education program (and will thus make it more difficult to cut NOAA education appropriations in the future).

The "No Child Left Inside Act" (NCLI): In August, Congressman John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced NCLI (HR 3036), and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a Senate version (S 1981). NCLI amends the No Child left Behind Act to:

  • Create a new EE grant program to help build national and state capacity
  • Create a $100 million EE grant program for teacher training  (and identifies environmental education as an eligible activity for the existing pool of teacher training funds)
  • Require states applying for the above funds to produce and submit State EE Plans
  • Creates an Office of Environmental Literacy at the Department of Education which will hold a national environmental education summit as well as develop a national k-12 plan, voluntary national standards and a national model curriculum
  • Include EE as an authorized program in Title V’s Fund for the Improvement of Education
  • Include environmental education in the list of subjects to be assessed under the National Assessment of Educational Progress (House bill only)
  • Give priority in funding applications to schools offering or creating environmental magnet schools (House bill only)

The House Education and Labor Committee recently released a draft of the new No Child Left Behind Act, which includes several of the more important NCLI provisions.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) are planning to reintroduce the Higher Education Sustainability Act (HESA) this month. HESA amends the Higher Education Act to create a new $50 million grant program at the Department of Education that will annually support between 25 and 100 projects at higher education institutions and consortia/associations.

  • Higher education associations and consortia are eligible for funding to conduct faculty and administrator trainings; disseminate best practices, case studies, and educational guidelines; engage external stakeholders such as business, alumni, and accrediting agencies; and create analytical tools to assess institutional progress.
  • Individual institutions are eligible for funding to implement administrative and operations sustainability practices; establish multidisciplinary sustainability education, research, and outreach programs; conduct energy management, green building, waste and toxics management, green purchasing, transportation, etc. initiatives; establish sustainability literacy as a requirement for degree programs; and integrate sustainability in all programs of instruction.

Global Warming Education: The Global Warming Education Act (HR 1728) introduced by Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) and the similar Climate Change Education Act (S1389) introduced by Senator Obama (D-IL) have not yet been scheduled for Committee consideration. These bills authorize an unspecified amount of funding for two programs at NSF: a national information campaign and a competitive grant program to fund informal education materials, K-12 curricula development and publish information.

Representative Honda also introduced a shortened Global Warming Education amendment to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867) which was passed by the House on May 2.

  • The recently passed House energy bill (HR 3221) includes a provision for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Grants for Institutions of Higher Education which:
  • Authorizes 100 demonstration grants of up to $1,000,000 each to institutions of higher education for energy sustainability projects which will be highly visible to both the student community and the larger community outside the university 
  • Authorizes 250 innovation grants of up to $500,000 each to institutions of higher education for energy sustainability projects and/or energy pollutant reduction which have the greatest potential for testing or modeling new or emergent technologies/processes
  • Requires student involvement in project planning, development, implementation, and/or evaluation

S 1321 Energy Savings Act (Jeff Bingaman, D-NM), S 1419 Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection and Energy Efficiency Act (Harry Reid, D-NV), and S 1115 Energy Efficiency Promotion Act (Jeff Bingaman, D-NM) all include similar provisions to HR 3221.

Representative Jay Inslee (D-WA) introduced HR 2809, the New Apollo Energy Act. Title V, Subsection B of this act would:

  • Create a grant program to support carbon neutrality efforts at colleges and universities
  • Create a grant program to support environmental literacy efforts at colleges and universities
  • Develop and implement standards for a national green ranking system for institutions of higher education