There has been truly unprecedented attention by Congress over the past eight to twelve months to environmental education. The chances are high that 2008/09 will see passage of at least one of the bills below – making it the first new environmental education bill passed in 18 years.
Higher Education Sustainability Act:
The President signed S.3180 on June 30 which extended the existing Higher Education Act through July 31, 2008 to give the House and Senate conference committee more time to finish its work on the new higher education act. All indications are that the HESA provisions included in the House version of the higher education act will be included in the final conference bill.
Lieberman-Warner-Boxer Bill (S 3036):
With our support, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced an amendment (SA 4866) to this climate change “cap and trade” bill that allocated 1% (increasing to 4% over time) of the auction proceeds to climate change education. Unfortunately a Republican filibuster effectively killed this bill. However, Congressmen Doggett and Blumenauer have also introduced a climate change “cap and trade” bill (HR 6316, the Climate MATTERS Act) in the House which directs .4% of the proceeds to climate change education. We are continuing to work with both sets of sponsors to advance this important idea.
No Child Left Inside Act:
The House Education and Labor Committee approved an amended version of the No Child Left Inside Act (HR 3036) on June 18, 2008 in a relatively bipartisan vote. NCLI originally amended the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But with reauthorization of NCLB stuck in both the House and Senate, the Committee stripped all but a few provisions from the original bill introduced by Congressman John Sarbanes so that it no longer amends NCLB. Instead, it reauthorizes the long expired (but still funded by Congress) National Environmental Education Act of 1990 for one year, with the 1995 appropriation level of $14 million.
The two significant provisions left in the new version from the original NCLI bill by the Committee are:
1. the National EE Capacity Building Grants program, which will be administered by the Department of Education and which the new bill allows Congress to fund outside the $14 million cap for the rest of the bill’s programs. States as well as NGOS and schools may apply for these grants; however, to receive these funds, a state must have an approved environmental literacy plan in place or use the funds to create one.
2. Some of the original uses of teacher training funds have been incorporated into the purposes of the NEEA’s Environmental Education and Training Program.
The bill will go shortly to a vote in the full House of Representatives. While chances of subsequent Senate action and passage on this bill are slim, it is nonetheless important to rally support for this bill to build momentum for next year.
Please click here now to let your representatives know how important it is to support the new NCLI bill when it comes to a vote soon.
National Environmental Education Act:
In light of the above, the House Education and Labor Committee has indicated that no further action will be taken on the NEEA in 2008, but they say they intend to take up a more thorough updating of the NEEA in 2009.
The 21st Century Green High-Performing Public Schools Facilities Act:
The House passed this bill (H.R. 3021) on June 4, 2008 by a bipartisan vote of 250 to 164. HR 3021 directs the Secretary of Education to make grants and low-interest loans totaling up to $6.4 billion in funding for FY2009 to local educational agencies for the construction, modernization, or repair of public kindergarten, elementary, and secondary educational facilities, to help ensure that school facilities and learning environments are safe, healthy, energy-efficient, environmentally friendly, and technologically advanced. To further encourage energy efficiency and the use of renewable resources in schools, the bill requires that the majority of funds for school improvement projects meet widely recognized green building standards and would encourage states to help schools track their energy use and carbon footprints, among other things. It allows school districts to waive the green building standards where circumstances make them impracticable, but ensures that at least 90 percent of funds will be used for green projects by 2013. The Senate has yet to act on this bill.
It now appears that like Congress is likely to punt on many FY09 appropriations by issuing a six month "Continuing Resolution". This means that most if not all agencies and programs will receive the same funding as they did in FY08, for at least the first half of FY09.
NOAA: CEL and partners requested $12 million for "Education Initiatives" including the Environmental Literacy Grants program and $12 million total for the BWET programs, for a total of $24 million. The good news is that the House Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Subcommittee approved a total of $23 million for these programs and the Senate Subcommittee approved $29 million for these programs as well as one new program for aquaria. While these increases over FY08 probably will not affect the first half of FY09, there remains a good chance that the increases will be enacted for the second half of FY09, or for FY10
EPA: As of yet, neither the House or the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittees have issued their spending bills. While The President’s FY2009 budget released in February as usual zeroed out EPA’s $9 million Environmental Education Program, the likelihood of a Continuing Resolution means that the EPA program funding will continue at FY08 levels.
NASA: NASA’s new $8.5 million global climate change education program, while not funded by the Senate CJS Subcommittee for FY09, may still continue into FY09 under the Continuing Resolution.
Department of Energy: Due to the likelihood of a Continuing Resolution, the new “Energy Sustainability and Efficiency Grants and Loans for Institutions” program created by Section 471 of the Energy Independence and Security Act enacted earlier this year is unlikely to be funded for FY09. This new law authorizes up to $500 million in loans and up to $250 million in grants annually for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects to higher education institutions, public schools and local governments.
For more information on the above and to receive future updates, please visit www.FundEE.org and register now!
Jim Elder, Director Campaign for Environmental Literacy