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May 25 -- The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will propose draft guidance called Guidance for Assessing Changes in Environmental and Ecosystem Services in Benefit-Cost Analysis. This notice requests public nominations of experts to participate in an independent scientific peer review of this forthcoming proposed Guidance. Nominations must be received on or before June 15, 2023.

Two OMB circulars provide guidance to Federal agencies on benefit-cost analyses. Circular A–4: Regulatory Analysis discusses analyses of regulations' impacts, as required under section 6(a)(3) of Executive Order (E.O.) 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review), the Regulatory Right-to-Know Act, and a variety of related authorities. Circular A–94: Guidelines and Discount Rates for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Federal Programs discusses analyses of Federal programs or policies, decisions whether to lease or purchase, and asset valuation and sale. In April 2023, OMB proposed draft updates to both circulars. These draft updates both note the importance of analyses accounting for effects on environmental and ecosystem services, as feasible and appropriate, and reference forthcoming OMB guidance on ecosystem services for more discussion on how to conduct such analyses. E.O. 14072 section 4(b) also calls for guidance related to the valuation of ecosystem and environmental services and natural assets in Federal regulatory decision-making.
 
[Draft Circular A-4, pp. 51-52: The phrase “ecosystem services” refers to the welfare contributions from biotic and abiotic elements of nature that are enjoyed, consumed, or used in a manner that affects human well-being; the phrase “environmental services” refers to the abiotic portion of ecosystem services. Natural assets, or natural capital, are physical biotic or abiotic natural resources capable of providing—or contributing to—future welfare, potentially through environmental or ecosystem services. Natural capital is distinguished from ecosystem services in that natural capital is a stock (measure of quantity) whereas ecosystem services are a flow (measure of change in quantity over time). The two are connected, and the choice of which to value often depends on available analytic tools.]  
 
OMB is currently drafting this guidance, entitled Guidance for Assessing Changes in Environmental and Ecosystem Services in Benefit-Cost Analysis. OMB will solicit public comments on the proposed guidance. In addition, the proposed guidance will be peer reviewed. The independent, external scientific peer review will be managed by an OMB contractor. This notice requests public nominations of experts to participate in the independent scientific peer review of the forthcoming guidance on valuing ecosystem services in benefit-cost analyses consistent with Circulars A–4 and A–94.

OMB is seeking nominations of individuals with demonstrated and nationally recognized expertise in ecosystem services and natural assets. OMB seeks diverse perspectives, including relevant natural science (e.g., ecology, biology, marine sciences, or hydrology), systems science (e.g., ecosystem ecology or biogeochemistry), applied science (e.g., civil or environmental engineering), and environmental and resource economics disciplines. Nominations of individuals with expertise in multiple disciplines and perspectives are encouraged. A balanced review panel should include experts who together possess the necessary domains of knowledge and a breadth of economic and scientific perspectives to provide rigorous peer review. All nominations will be evaluated for real or perceived conflicts of interest and independence.

To form the list of candidate external reviewers, nominations submitted in response to this notice will be considered along with candidates identified using traditional techniques (e.g., a literature search) to identify additional qualified candidates in the disciplines listed above. After consideration of public nominations, a final multi-disciplinary panel of four to six peer reviewers will be selected from the pool. Selection criteria to be used for panel membership include: (a) distinguished and nationally recognized technical expertise, as well as experience; (b) availability and willingness to serve; and (c) real or perceived conflicts of interest and independence.
 
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-11130

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