Search Penny Hill Press

Loading...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Banning Crush Videos: The Animal Crush Video Act of 2010


Kathleen Ann Ruane
Legislative Attorney

In 2000, Congress enacted 18 U.S.C. § 48 to criminalize the creation and sale of some depictions of animal cruelty. On April 20, 2010, the Supreme Court found the provision to be unconstitutional under the First Amendment. Following the decision, Congress introduced legislation to craft a more narrow version of § 48, which would ban only obscene crush videos. On December 9, 2010, the Animal Crush Video Prevention Act of 2010, which enacts a new and more narrow version of § 48, became P.L. 111-294. This report will give a brief background of the earlier version of § 48, provide an analysis of the Supreme Court case, discuss the legislative response, and analyze the legal questions left open by the new law.


Date of Report: December 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: R41457
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) Mandate for Cellulosic Biofuels: Questions and Answers

Kelsi Bracmort
Analyst in Agricultural Conservation and Natural Resources Policy

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was expanded under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA; P.L. 110-140) in an effort to reduce dependence on foreign oil, promote biofuel use, and stabilize transportation fuel prices, among other goals. Over a 15-year period, the RFS seeks to establish a market for biofuels in the transportation sector by requiring that increasing amounts of biofuels—36 billion gallons by 2022—be blended into transportation fuel. The mandate is to be accomplished with an assortment of advanced biofuels, including cellulosic biofuels—fuels produced from cellulosic materials including grasses, trees, and agricultural and municipal wastes. However, analysis suggested the United States did not have sufficient cellulosic biofuel production capacity to meet the 2010 RFS mandate instituted by Congress in EISA, and this continues for the 2011 mandate.

The cellulosic biofuel allotment in the mandate, as established by Congress in EISA, was 100 million gallons due in 2010, increasing to 16 billion gallons by 2022. However, in March 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set a new, lower RFS cellulosic biofuel mandate of 6.5 million gallons for 2010. EISA set the 2011 cellulosic biofuel mandate at 250 million gallons, but again EPA lowered the mandate only requiring 6.6 million gallons, more than 97% less than scheduled by EISA. The cellulosic biofuel community may fare better at achieving the lower mandate set by EPA if certain obstacles are overcome. No commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plants are currently operating. Roadblocks include unknown levels of feedstock supply, expensive conversion technology that has not yet been applied commercially, and insufficient financial support from private investors and the federal government.

Some financial support from the Departments of Energy and Agriculture is available to expedite cellulosic biofuel production. For example, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), created under the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (2008 farm bill; P.L. 110-246), is to support establishment and production of crops for conversion to bioenergy in selected areas, and 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. Also, the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program, created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct05, P.L. 109-58), distributes loan guarantees to eligible commercial-scale renewable energy systems, including cellulosic biofuel plants, although criticisms have been raised that the program has been slow to get started.

Many questions regarding cellulosic biofuels and the RFS may arise as the 112
th Congress engages in energy legislation debates. Can and will the 2010, 2011, and future RFS mandates for cellulosic biofuels be met? What impact will the continued lowering of the cellulosic ethanol mandate have on investment in celluosic ethanol production? What are the next steps the 112th Congress could take to influence cellulosic biofuel production? Bills introduced in the 111th Congress might have influenced cellulosic biofuel production by providing additional financial, infrastructure, and environmental support (H.R. 2454, S. 1462, H.R. 2283, and S. 943). This report, in a question and answer format, discusses some of the concerns facing the cellulosic biofuel community, including feedstock supply estimates, an expected time frame for the first commercial cellulosic biofuel projects, and potential legislative options to address cellulosic biofuel production uncertainty for the RFS.


Date of Report: December 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R41106
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Garcia v. Vilsack: A Policy and Legal Analysis of a USDA Discrimination Case

Jody Feder
Legislative Attorney

Tadlock Cowan
Analyst in Natural Resources and Rural Development


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long been accused of unlawfully discriminating
against minority and female farmers in the management of its various programs, particularly in its
Farm Service Agency loan programs. While USDA has taken concrete steps to address these
allegations of discrimination, the results of these efforts have been criticized by some.
Meanwhile, some minority and female farmers who have alleged discrimination by USDA have
filed various lawsuits under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and the Administrative
Procedure Act (APA). Pigford v. Glickman, filed on behalf of African-American farmers, is
probably the most widely known, although Native American and female farmers also filed suit in
Keepseagle v. Vilsack and Love v. Vilsack, respectively.


In addition, a group of Hispanic farmers filed a similar lawsuit against USDA in October 2000.
The case, Garcia v. Vilsack, involves allegations that USDA unlawfully discriminated against all
similarly situated Hispanic farmers with respect to credit transactions and disaster benefits in
violation of the ECOA, which prohibits, among other things, race, color, and national origin
discrimination against credit applicants. The suit further claims that USDA violated the ECOA
and the APA by systematically failing to investigate complaints of discrimination, as required by
USDA regulations. Because the Garcia case has been tied up in litigation for 10 years, there has
been no decision on the merits of certain claims, nor has any compensation been paid to any of
the plaintiffs. During the lengthy course of litigation, however, there have been numerous rulings
on procedural and substantive issues that are discussed in detail in this report.


There are several possible options for Congress to consider if it wishes to respond to the Garcia
dispute. On the one hand, Congress could choose not to intervene in the Garcia case, leaving the
ECOA as the standing legislative remedy. On the other hand, Congress could create a specific
fund to aid farmers who are deemed to have been victims of USDA. Such a response would be
similar to other compensation programs established by Congress to assist victims of certain
specific circumstances (e.g., negligence, terrorism, and “acts of God”). Congress might also
choose to adopt the model used in the Pigford settlements, which defined eligible claimants and
established a system of notice, claims submission, consideration, and review. Although Congress
was not involved in the creation of the compensation system established under the original
Pigford consent decree, Congress did make $100 million available in the 2008 farm bill (P.L. 110-
246) and an additional $1.15 billion available in the Claims Resolution Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-
291) to settle claims of Pigford class participants who did not receive a decision on the merits of
their claims against USDA (this litigation is commonly referred to as Pigford II). Congress could
also choose to have the Garcia case considered by the U.S. Court of Federal Claims as a nonbinding
congressional reference case.
.


Date of Report: December 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R40988
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Federal Land Ownership: Current Acquisition and Disposal Authorities

Carol Hardy Vincent
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Ross W. Gorte
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy


The federal government owns about 650 million acres, heavily concentrated in 12 western states. Four agencies—the National Park Service (NPS), Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS)in the Department of Agriculture—administer about 95% of those lands.

The extent to which these four federal agencies have authority to acquire and dispose of land varies considerably. The BLM has relatively broad authority for both acquisitions and disposals under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976. The agency has other authorities for disposing of land, including two laws that allow the agency to retain the proceeds for subsequent land acquisition, among other purposes. By contrast, the NPS has no general authority to acquire land to create new park units nor to dispose of park lands. The USFS has authority to acquire lands only within the boundaries of a national forest. The agency has various authorities to dispose of land, but they are relatively constrained and infrequently used. The FWS has various authorities to acquire lands, but no general authority to dispose of its lands. The agency frequently uses acquisition authority under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1929, because of the availability of funding through the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund.

Congress also enacts legislation authorizing and governing the acquisition or disposal of particular lands. In some cases this is to provide authority where no standing authority exists, while in other cases it is to direct or facilitate land transactions.

The nature of the acquisition and disposal authorities of the four federal agencies also varies. In general, the acquisition authorities are designed to allow the four agencies to bring into federal ownership lands that many believe would benefit from federal management. Disposal authorities generally are designed to allow agencies to convey land that is no longer needed for a federal purpose or that might be chiefly valuable for another purpose. Some of the authorities specify particular circumstances where they can be used, such as the conveyance of USFS land for educational purposes.

Congress often faces questions on the adequacy of existing acquisition and disposal authorities; the nature, extent, and location of their use; and the extent of federal land ownership overall. The current acquisition and disposal authorities form the backdrop for consideration of measures to establish, modify, or eliminate authorities, or to provide for the acquisition or disposal of particular lands. Congress also addresses acquisition and disposal policy in the context of debates on the role and goals of the federal government in owning and managing land generally, and has considered broader measures to dispose of lands or to promote acquisition.

Other issues for Congress pertain to the sources and adequacy of funds for land acquisition. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is the primary source of funding for land acquisition, but the FWS has the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, an account with mandatory spending authorites supported by revenue from three sources, and the BLM has authorities allowing the proceeds from land sales to be used for acquisition and other purposes. Congress has considered legislation to increase LWCF funding and make it permanent, as well as to decrease federal land holdings and direct funding from land acquisition to facility maintenance.



Date of Report: December 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RL34273
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the111th Congress: Conflicting Values and Difficult Choices


Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

M. Lynne Corn
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Pervaze A. Sheikh
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney/Acting Section Research Manager

Kristina Alexander
Legislative Attorney


The Endangered Species Act (ESA; P.L. 93-205, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531-1543) has been one of the more contentious environmental laws. This may stem from its strict substantive provisions, which can affect the use of both federal and nonfederal lands and resources. Under ESA, species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) can be listed as endangered or threatened according to assessments of their risk of extinction. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid its recovery and protect its habitat. ESA may also be controversial because dwindling species are usually harbingers of broader ecosystem decline. The most common cause of species listing is habitat loss. ESA is considered a primary driver of large-scale ecosystem restoration issues.

The 111
th Congress has considered whether to revoke ESA regulations promulgated in the waning days of the Bush Administration that would alter when federal agency consultation is required. In addition, legislation related to global climate change includes provisions that would allocate funds to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species program and/or to related funds to assist species adaptation to climate change. Other major issues concerning ESA in recent years have included the role of science in decision-making, critical habitat (CH) designation, protection by and incentives for property owners, and appropriate protection of listed species, among others.

The authorization for spending under ESA expired on October 1, 1992. The prohibitions and requirements of ESA remain in force, even in the absence of an authorization, and funds have been appropriated to implement the administrative provisions of ESA in each subsequent fiscal year. Proposals to reauthorize and extensively amend ESA were last considered in the 109
th Congress, but none was enacted. No legislative proposals were introduced in the 110th Congress to reauthorize the ESA.

In the first session of the 111
th Congress, P.L. 111-8 contained language authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to withdraw or reissue (1) revisions to the ESA Section 7 consultation regulations promulgated by the Bush Administration and (2) a December 2008 special rule that outlined protections afforded polar bears. In addition, P.L. 111-11 included provisions (1) authorizing the implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement, providing for the reintroduction of Chinook salmon, and (2) amending P.L. 106-392 to extend the authorizations for the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basin endangered fish recovery programs through FY2023. P.L. 111-88 appropriated about $281 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endangered species and related programs for FY2010.

This report discusses oversight issues and legislation introduced in the 111
th Congress to address ESA implementation and management of endangered and threatened species.


Date of Report: December 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: R40185
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at
http://www.twitter.com/alertsPHP or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail
Penny Hill Press  or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.