Follow agigap on Twitter

Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: September 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

Subscribe to receive the Monthly Review directly.

Federal Agencies

  • EPA’s Improved Environmental Impact Statement Map

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a mapping tool that organizes Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) prepared by federal agencies, as well as EPA’s comments concerning the EIS’s. The National Environmental Policy Act requires federal agencies proposing projects or making decisions on major federal actions to develop an EIS. Within the database, one can search by year, by state, or by EIS’s with open comment records since 2004. EPA comment letters issued within the last 60 days are also available on the map.

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency

  • Federal investments in R&D, CRS report

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a report outlining the President’s proposed federal investments in research and development for fiscal year (FY) 2014. Under the President’s FY 2014 request, $142.773 billion is allotted for federal research and development, a $1.861 billion (1.3%) increase from the FY 2012 actual spending levels. Of that $142.773 billion, the report finds that funding for R&D was highly concentrated amongst 7 federal agencies that account for more than 70% of all federal R&D funding: most notably the Department of Defense (47.8%) and the Department of Health and Human Services (22.4%).

The report notes that the President has requested $760.5 million for R&D at the US Geological Survey for FY 2014, an increase of $87.7 million over FY 2012 actual spending. The President’s request also included increases in funding for R&D at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Congress is considering lower levels of funding than the President’s request but has not yet passed any budget bills for FY 2014.

Sources: The Congressional Research Service, the Federation of American Scientists, the White House

  • NOAA’s Five Year Research & Development Plan

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a five year plan that details their objectives for research and development. The plan’s main objectives focus on climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. NOAA plans to improve climate adaptation and mitigation by developing higher resolution models, improving communication and application of climate information tools and services, testing and strengthening climate vulnerability tests and increasing public awareness and understanding of climate change. To address weather, NOAA is committed to improve forecasts, warnings and decision support for high-impact weather events. For environmental data and satellites, they are examining the best observations system to meet their mission as well as best methods to utilize and manage environmental data. The plan does not focus on specific details on how to implement objectives, but serves as a guide for R&D activities that NOAA funds and conducts.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • USGS, NASA call for ideas to preserve earth observation data

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is seeking information on system concepts and innovative approaches for its Sustainable Land Imaging Architecture study which is examining how best to extend the Landsat data record. The Landsat program is the longest running continuous space-based record of earth observations, which is jointly managed by NASA and USGS. On September 18, NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) held a public forum, the Sustainable Land Imaging Architecture Study Industry Partner Day, to solicit ideas, information, and discussion. The forum was in response to a request from President Obama to create a sustainable effort to collect global observation data in a constricted fiscal environment. Alternative ideas to the at times costly Landsat program include dedicated spacecraft, formation flying, hosted instruments, and integration of multiple datasets, for at least the next two decades of information gathering.

The closing date for the Request for Information is October 18, 2013. NASA and USGS will continue to encourage community engagement through workshops and discussions at professional meetings in the coming months.

For more information, please click here.

Sources: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey

  • NOAA Releases Dataset from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a dataset from the Deepwater Horizon Spill that includes more than two million chemical analyses of sediment, tissue, water and oil, as well as toxicity results. NOAA stated the dataset “wraps up a three year process that began with the gathering of water samples and measurements by ships in the Gulf of Mexico during and after the oil release in 2010.” The dataset is the result of collaboration between federal agencies, state environmental management agencies, BP, and its contractors. The collection will remain available through NOAA’s archive systems for at least 75 years. A companion dataset is also available that details the ocean temperature and salinity data, currents, preliminary chemical results and other properties collected.

Sources: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • Neil Kornze expected to be nominated as Director of BLM

News sources indicate that the White House will nominate Neil Kornze to be the next Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Korze is currently Principal Deputy Director at BLM. In 2011, Kornze joined the BLM in as a Senior Advisor to the Director. Prior to the BLM, Kornze worked as a Senior Advisor to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. The appointment awaits nomination and approval.

Sources: Environment & Energy Publishing

  • Environmental lawyer may get top DOI post

Multiple sources reveal the White House is expected to nominate Janice Schneider as the Department of Interior’s assistant secretary for land and minerals management. Schneider is currently a partner at the law firm Latham & Watkins LLP in Washington, D.C. and was a senior aide to former Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes. Schneider’s experience and specialization is in the Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and tribal and cultural resource issues. The appointment awaits nomination and approval.

Sources: Environment & Energy Publishing












Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; andSophia Ford, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.



Compiled October 1, 2013