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Monthly Review: January 2005


This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

New Congress, New Committee Assignments
New Cabinet Secretaries for Bush's Second Term
Earthquake and Tsunami Brings Natural Hazards Mitigation to Forefront
IUGS Statement Promotes Applied Knowledge of All Natural Hazards
Senate Moves Forward on 'Clear Skies'
Senators Press White House on Oil and Gas Research Funds
DOE Explores Savings on Natural Gas Through Renewable Energy Programs
Evolution Roundup
Information for Planning Washington, DC Fly-Ins for Congressional Meetings
Congressional Visits Day is May 10-11
Welcome Linda Rowan, AGI's New Director of Government Affairs
Another New Face in the Government Affairs Program
Key Federal Register Notices
New Updates to Website

 

New Congress, New Committee Assignments

The new Congress has convened and has been quite focused on electing leadership, selecting committee chairpersons, establishing procedural rules, and considering assorted proposals to reorganize some committee jurisdictions.

In the House, Representative Dennis J. Hastert (R-IL) retained his position as Speaker of the House, and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) was re-elected Majority Leader. For their part, House Democrats re-elected Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) as Minority Leader and Democratic Whip, respectively. Other key House leadership positions include committee chairpersons, particularly for the House Appropriations Committee, which is now lead by Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Rep. David R. Obey (D-WI) retained his post as the committee's senior Democrat. Chairman Lewis battled fellow long-time appropriators Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) and Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) for the top post. In outlining some of his goals for the spending panel, Chairman Lewis said: "We have a historic opportunity and a unique responsibility to reform the appropriations process and change the culture of the committee. I intend to lead a committee that is dedicated to fiscal restraint and committed to being an integral part of our Republican leadership's effort to rein in spending and balance the federal budget." Chairman Lewis further expressed his commitment to this objective stating: "Shortly after I became chairman of the subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and Housing in 1995, I conducted a top-to-bottom review of the spending plan for that fiscal year, and recommended a package of $10 billion in cuts - half of all rescissions that were approved after Republicans became the majority. We reduced spending in that subcommittee by an additional $9 billion in the following fiscal year."

The chairman has already begun to make some committee staff changes, naming a former VA/HUD subcommittee staff director as the new director of the full committee. Rumors of various proposals to restructure the number and jurisdiction of subcommittees are now circulating through the Capitol. Proposals to reduce the number of subcommittees from 13 to 10, or alternatively to add a fourteenth subcommittee with jurisdiction over homeland security and intelligence matters are reportedly on the table for discussion. Chairman Lewis has also stated his intent to return the House to the practice of passing individual appropriations bills, rather than the recent practice of combining multiple pieces of legislation into huge omnibus spending packages. Not long ago, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), a member of the Science Committee and a vocal advocate for basic research, noted that the fiscal year 2005 omnibus spending bill contributed to the deep cuts made to the NSF budget. The size of the omnibus legislation essentially hid the cuts to NSF until it was too late for members to act to restore the cuts.

Leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees programs in the Department of Energy, EPA, and NIH, remains with Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and ranking minority member John Dingell (D-MI). Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) retained his post as Chairman of the House Science Committee and Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) will again serve as the committee's ranking Democrat. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) retained his post as Chairman of the House Resources Committee. Chairman Pombo has already outlined his priorities for the 109th Congress, stating that "strengthening the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and increasing domestic energy supplies" will be top priorities. Chairman Pombo promised that: "We will get to work right away and build on our great record of accomplishment during the last Congress. I want to change the debate on the challenges that lie ahead of us. The discussions on updating the ESA and producing energy in ANWR have been so mired in inane hyperbole that facts and true analysis have completely escaped the debate." The chairman further stated that he would continue the committee's "bipartisan efforts to strengthen and update the ESA, which has posted a less than 1% success rate for species recovery in the last thirty years." Pombo has appointed Rep. Jim Gibbons, the only geologist in Congress, to head the Energy and Minerals Subcommittee.

Across the Capitol, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN) returns as Majority Leader, while Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) replaces former Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD). As the Republican majority expanded to 55 seats, the body has reorganized giving Republican committee staff control of 60 percent of committee budgets and space allocations. Consequently, some changes in Democratic committee staff are likely. With respect to committee leadership, Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is the new chairman of the Appropriations Committee, while Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) remains the senior Democrat on the spending panel.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), the new chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, formally recently approved a new subcommittee structure by creating a new climate change panel, an oceans subcommittee, and a disaster prevention and prediction body. The disasters panel comes partly in response to the Dec. 26 tsunami tragedy in Southeast Asia that left more than 150,000 people dead. Both Stevens and Inouye come from states hit by tsunamis and have had a longtime interest in tsunami and other disaster warning systems.

All Republican members of the full committee with the exception of Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and former Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) will chair a subcommittee. McCain was said to be interested in heading up the climate change panel but chose to take the reins of an Armed Services subcommittee instead, making him ineligible to chair a Commerce subcommittee under Republican rules, Committee spokeswoman Melanie Alvord told Greenwire. She said members are "in the process" of choosing subcommittee assignments. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) is the full committee's ranking Democrat.

New Cabinet Secretaries for Bush's Second Term

Once re-elected in November 2004, President Bush has faced the task of replacing Cabinet members who have opted not to serve in his Administration for a second term. In January the Senate confirmed Kellogg Co. Chief Executive Officer Carlos Gutierrez to be the next Commerce secretary. Gutierrez had won the unanimous approval of the Senate Commerce Committee on Jan. 6. At that hearing and on the Senate floor, senators praised Gutierrez for rising from the ranks of a poor Cuban immigrant to head a major company, all without ever receiving a college degree. "Our new Commerce secretary is a true American success story," Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) said in a statement. Gutierrez is expected to spend a great deal of time on issues pertaining to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA comprises about 60 percent of the department's budget, but few Commerce secretaries, including Gutierrez, have had a background in the agency's portfolio.

In related news, Stephen Johnson took charge of U.S. EPA on January 26th as former administrator Mike Leavitt was sworn in as Health and Human Services secretary. Johnson, 53, took over in July 2003 as EPA's deputy chief. A Washington D.C. native, Johnson has 24 years experience at EPA, serving during the Bush administration's first two years as assistant administrator in the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. Johnson's primary focus over his EPA career has revolved around pesticide regulations. President Bush has not nominated a new, permanent EPA administrator. Some in Washington suspect that Bush may delay a nomination until the Senate completes work on the administration's planned revision of the Clean Air Act, explaining that a confirmation battle could distract lawmakers.

The day after President Bush began his second term, former Nebraska Governor Mike Johanns (R) was sworn in as Secretary of Agriculture. The Senate unanimously approved Johanns for the post hours after President Bush took the oath of office. Secretary Johanns was one of several cabinet secretary designees that the White House and Senate viewed as uncontroversial. The quick action by the Senate was meant to demonstrate the Senate's willingness to work with the President.

Secretary Johanns received bipartisan support throughout the confirmation process. According to some sources, the nomination and confirmation reflects an agreed upon national priority to expand farm trade over the next four years. In announcing his choice, President Bush highlighted Mr. Johanns' experience in expanding trade with foreign markets as a primary reason for his selection. Many in the Senate have also expressed concern about the recent ban on U.S. beef in foreign countries and were quick to question Johanns on the issue during his confirmation hearing. As the former governor of Nebraska, Johanns has six-years experience dealing with agriculture issues at the state level. He is also quick to point out that he grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa and has therefore been involved with farming issues since he was a child. As governor, Secretary Johanns led state agricultural leaders on trade missions to ten foreign countries, supported efforts to expand bioenergy, and worked on drought relief programs. Another priority will be reauthorization of the Farm Bill. He is expected to have similar priorities as Secretary of Agriculture.

And finally, the full Senate confirmed Samuel Bodman as energy secretary by a unanimous voice vote on January 31st. He was sworn in on February 1st with a private ceremony. "It is a great honor and personal privilege to serve President Bush and the American people as Secretary of Energy," Secretary Bodman said in a press release. "I look forward to working with the fine men and women of the Energy Department to advance this department's critically important missions, including preserving America's pre-eminence in the physical sciences, ensuring the responsible stewardship of our nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, advancing our international nuclear nonproliferation efforts, and ensuring reliable, secure, affordable and environmentally responsible supplies of energy for our growing economy." More information about Bodman's confirmation can be found on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/bodman_doe.html.

Earthquake and Tsunami Brings Natural Hazards Mitigation to Forefront

Following the massive earthquake and tsunami of December 26, 2004, which claimed over 225,000 lives from Indonesia to Somalia, the Bush administration has committed to expanding the nation's tsunami detection and warning capabilities. A new proposal called for $37 million to enhance USGS and NOAA operations and incorporate them into a Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS) involving the cooperation of 50 countries.

NOAA currently controls six buoys in the Pacific, three of which are off-line. Under current capabilities, NOAA was unable to issue a definitive tsunami warning until two hours after the quake struck, when casualties were announced in Sri Lanka. The new plan would add 25 Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami (DART) buoys to the Pacific Ocean, and an additional 12 buoys to accompany new early warning systems in the Atlantic and Caribbean. The USGS would also enhance seismic monitoring and delivery capabilities within their Global Seismic Network.

On January 26th, NOAA and USGS officials were called to present their joint proposal for a U.S. tsunami warning system at a House Science Committee Hearing. Dr. Groat and Gen. Johnson listed the technical operations they will expand in coordination with expanding the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS). Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) pressed the need for a comprehensive approach, while other expert witnesses emphasized the need to support effective local and regional tsunami hazard mitigation plans.

Likewise, on February 2nd, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee heard testimony regarding S.50, the Tsunami Preparedness Act of 2005. This legislation calls for more funds than requested in the Administration's initial proposal of $37.5 million over the next two years, authorizing $35 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for every year between FY 2006 and 2012.

The bill authorizes NOAA to coordinate regional detection and warning systems for the basins bordering the US, and to integrate these with global efforts with the help of seismic information provided by the USGS. NOAA would also to work with the USGS, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and NSF to expand upon NOAA's Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program, which would conduct "community-based" programs, including inundation mapping, training, long-term mitigation and public outreach programs, in the country's most at-risk states.

Information about lawmakers' response to the tsunami can be found on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/tsunami.html.

Summaries of both the House and Senate hearings can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/tsunami_hearings.html.

IUGS Statement Promotes Applied Knowledge of All Natural Hazards

The International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS) issued a resolution mid-January in response to heightened public awareness of natural hazards following the December 26th Earthquake and Tsunami. The resolution emphasized increased support for geoscience education and effective distribution of sound geologic information as it called for the establishment or improvement of regionally-based disaster management systems for "all natural hazards."

The resolution was meant to directly address the high cost of low public awareness of geologic principles, citing the tendency of the international community to "concentrate on reaction to natural hazards, rather than on preparation and their mitigation."

They recommended that "comprehensive education in the Geological Sciences, including knowledge of local geological hazards and their risk, become an integral part of education systems at all levels and in all countries"

The resolution can be accessed online by logging onto http://www.iugs.org/iugs/news/iugs_hazards_statement.htm.

Senate Moves Forward on 'Clear Skies'

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee and a cosponsor of Bush's plan known as the Clear Skies initiative, S. 131, introduced the bill on January 24th. It has only minor technical changes from last year's version.

Greenwire reported that Inhofe, Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), Senate EPW Clear Air Subcommittee Chairman, and the administration are working with limited time to pass this legislation into law. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is poised to issue a final regulation by mid-March known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule that sets Clear Skies-like limits on SO2 and NOx emissions for power plants. EPA also is facing a legal deadline of March 15 to complete a separate rule for mercury pollution from the electric-utility industry.

To learn more about the Clear Skies bill and how it would amend the Clean Air Act, go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/cleanair.html. To read the Subcommittee and full Committee hearing summaries log onto http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/cleanair_hearings.html.

Senators Press White House on Oil and Gas Research Funds

Six members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are urging the White House not to cut funds for Energy Department oil and gas research programs aimed at boosting domestic production. The move comes as the Bush administration is preparing to submit its fiscal year 2006 budget request.
The White House sought to cut funding for the R&D programs by $37 million in its FY '05 request but Congress restored the funding. Now, Senate Energy Committee ranking member Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is asking the White House Office of Management & Budget to increase funding for these programs because smaller, independent producers cannot afford the research on their own.

The January 11th letter to OMB seeking increased funding for the programs was also signed by Sens. Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Ken Salazar (D-CO). It cites the national security implications of reliance on imported oil and the effects of recent high oil and natural gas prices. The administration also sought to slash $3.5 million from the Bureau of Land Management's oil and gas leasing program and raise new revenues through leasing and permitting fee increases, but Congress restored $2 million of that funding and blocked the fee increases, according to the letter and Bingaman's committee office.

Addressing the DOE and BLM programs, the letter states, "We hope that the president's budget for FY '06 will reflect the importance of these activities to enhance domestic oil and gas production and that it will contain a substantial increase in these areas."

DOE Explores Savings on Natural Gas Through Renewable Energy Programs

In a report released in early January, the Department of Energy found that improving energy efficiency and increasing the use of renewable energy could significantly lower the cost of natural gas. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reviewed 19 previous national energy models, specifically tracking how the displacement of gas-fired electricity by more efficient and renewable power drives down gas prices. The studies generally showed that a 1% reduction in natural gas demand leads to a long-term price reduction of 0.8-2%.

Based on these economic models, the analysts developed a "simple, transparent analysis tool" with which they evaluated the impact of several existing state and national renewable portfolio standards (RPS) and energy efficiency programs, including those established in California and New England. The projected national savings in reduced natural gas prices in these scenarios range from roughly $1-23 billion, while savings on the regional level are more modest.

The tool developed in the study as well as the results are directed at policy-makers who are concerned about the domestic and macroeconomic impacts of rising gas demand, a concern that is likely to be central to the energy policy debate this year on Capitol Hill.

The DOE Report can be found online at http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/56756.pdf. For more information on natural gas policy, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/naturalgas.html.

Evolution Roundup

In January, members of state legislatures returned to their capitols and began introducing legislation that reflects their policy priorities. Not surprisingly given the increased public profile of evolution education, legislators in many states have introduced measures that would require disclaimers be placed in textbooks, require that intelligent design/creationism be taught along side evolution, or requiring that science teachers 'teach the controversy.' Before providing an update on some of the anti-evolution legislation, it is interesting to note that a Montana State Senator from Helena introduced a resolution that, if passed, would communicate to local school districts that there is a separation of church and state clause in the Constitution and that school districts should teach students only sound science. Not to be outdone, a newly elected member of the Montana House, State Representative Roger Koopman (R-Bozeman), announced his intent to introduce legislation (LC 1199) that would allow schools to teach intelligent design/creationism.

Back in Georgia, where a federal judge recently ruled that Cobb County's textbook disclaimers are unconstitutional, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives introduced House Bill 179. This legislation would require that "Whenever any theory of the origin of human beings or other living things is included in a course of study," evidence against evolution would also be included. When the Speaker of the Republican-controlled state House was asked about the measure, he simply noted that any member of the caucus can introduce any legislation they like. Georgia Citizens for Science Education and other organizations that support a strong K-12 science curriculum are not taking the measure lightly. Staying in the south, legislation introduced in the Mississippi State Senate (SB 2286) would require that classic creationism be taught in schools where evolution is taught. The South Carolina Senate will again be able to consider legislation (S 114) designed to provide anti-evolutionists with control over how textbooks dealing with evolution are approved and adopted by school districts. A similar measure was introduced in the last session.

Policy threats to a sound science education are not limited to southern states. As has been previously reported, Grantsburg, Wisconsin spent most of 2004 flirting with ways to introduce intelligent design/creationism into the science curriculum. Following a prolonged process in which local parents, educators, and university faculty and members of the clergy from across the state expressed strong opposition to the district's plans, in December 2004 the board adopted a resolution stating: "Students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information. Students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design." While the policy is an improvement over earlier iterations, science education advocates remain concerned that evolution is the only area of science listed in the statement. Local evolution education supporters have pledged to remain vigilant.

The challenges in Dover, Pennsylvania are far from over. Following the school board's decision to approve the teaching of intelligent design/creationism, local parents in conjunction with national organizations filed a lawsuit against the school district. Meanwhile, the school district prepared a four-paragraph long disclaimer statement that high school biology teachers were to read to their classes prior to beginning a unit on evolution. In short, citing their obligation under the state's Code of Professional Conduct and their professional and "solemn responsibility to teach the truth" the district's biology teachers sent a letter to their administrators refusing to read the disclaimer statement. The statement was, however, read before each class by a school administrator.

The latest information on challenges to evolution is available on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/evolution/index.html.

In related evolution news, Michael D. Lemonick, Noah Isackson, and Jeffrey Ressner wrote "Stealth attack on evolution" in the January 31, 2005, issue of Time magazine. Asking "Who is behind the movement to give equal time to Darwin's critics, and what do they really want?" the article warns of a new wave of assaults on evolution education, coming "not from Bible-wielding Fundamentalists but from well-funded think tanks promoting a theory they call intelligent design." Noting the dubious constitutionality of teaching "intelligent design" in the public school science classroom, the Time reporters explain that its promoters now recommend that "schools should continue teaching evolution but also resent what [the Discovery Institute's John] West calls 'some of the scientific criticism of major parts of the theory.'" NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott was quoted, however, as explaining that "[t]eaching evidence against evolution is a back-door way of teaching creationism," and the article later suggests that "[a] look at where the Discovery Institute gets much of its money and at the religious beliefs of many scientists who support I.D. makes it reasonable to suspect that Scott's assertion is correct: intelligent design is just a smoke screen for those who think evolution is somehow ungodly."

To read "Stealth attack on evolution" in Time, visit: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1019856,00.html

To read Glenn Branch's 2004 article in Seed, which discusses the "teach the controversy" slogan in detail, visit: http://www.seedmagazine.com/?p=article&id=100000043&cp=0

Similarly, a January 23, 2005 editorial appeared in The New York Times entitled "The crafty attacks on evolution". It notes that creationists have "become more wily" since banning the teaching of evolution and teaching creationism have both been ruled unconstitutional. The editorial identifies two strategies recently tried out by creationists: attempts to discredit evolution, as in the disclaimers in biology texbooks in Cobb County, Georgia, and promotion of so-called intelligent design, as in the school board policy passed in Dover, Pennsylvania. Both "still constitute an improper effort by religious advocates to impose their own slant on the teaching of evolution." The Cobb County school board wins some praise for its good intentions in trying both to please local anti-evolutionists and to support teaching evolution. Nonetheless, "[t]he sad fact is, the school board, in its zeal to be accommodating, swallowed the language of the anti-evolution crowd." Speaking of the board's decision to appeal, the editorial comments, "Supporters of sound science education can only hope that the courts, and school districts, find a way to repel this latest assault on the most well-grounded theory in modern biology." Considering the situation in Dover, the editorial points out that advocates of "intelligent design" have no body of scientific research and, indeed, no real research plan, so "[i]t should not be taught or even described as a scientific alternative."

A briefer January 24, 2005 editorial in the Washington Post, "God and Darwin," also recognizes a new level of sophistication in anti-evolution activity, referring to "intelligent design" and its "slick Web sites, pseudo-academic conferences and savvy public relations." Beneath the meretricious packaging of "intelligent design" creationism, however, the editorial finds little substance, commenting that its proponents "do no experiments and do not publish in recognized scientific journals." By being "very careful in their choice of language, eschewing mentions of God or the Bible," they have enjoyed a degree of success, but "to teach intelligent design as science in public schools is a clear violation ... of the separation of church and state" as well as of "principles of common sense." The editorial ends by warning that continued anti-evolutionism is endangering American world leadership in science.

To read "The crafty attacks on evolution" in The New York Times (registration required), visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/23/opinion/23sun1.html

To read "God and Darwin" in the Washington Post (registration required), visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A31521-2005Jan23.html

Information for Planning Washington, DC Fly-Ins for Congressional Meetings

The following dates are useful in planning appointments with representatives or senators. While in session, Members of Congress are generally in Washington on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. As expected, the schedule of most Members is very busy during these days. Much of the time it is easier to schedule a meeting with Members when they are in their district or state offices. These appointments may be longer in duration, and not subject to interruption by committee hearings, floor votes, or other time conflicts.

Planning information for meeting with a Member of Congress can be found on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/resources/communicate.html.

Inauguration Day: January 20
President's Day recess: February 21 - 25
Spring recess: March 21 - April 1
Senate-only recess: May 2 - 6
Memorial Day recess: May 30 - June 3
July 4 recess: July 4 - July 8
Summer recess: August 1 - September 5
Target adjournment date (rarely met): September 30
Start of FY 2006: October 1

Congressional Visits Day is May 10-11

The 10th annual Congressional Visit Day is scheduled for May 10-11, 2005. The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. CVD is an important opportunity to make science issues and science funding a priority for the 109th congress. More information about CVD is available at www.aas.org/cvd/. The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific research.

Welcome Linda Rowan, AGI's New Director of Government Affairs

The Government Affairs Program is pleased to announce a new Director of Government Affairs. Starting on February 1, Linda Rowan will take over the program and is looking forward to working as an effective liaison between geologists and the government. Linda comes to AGI from Science-AAAS, where she was a senior editor at Science magazine. Linda received her Bachelor of Science degrees in geology and computer science/mathematics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She received her Masters and Ph. D. in geology from the California Institute of Technology, where she focused on magma dynamics beneath Kilauea volcano illuminated with tomography and the equation of state of liquid basalt determined from shock wave experiments. She spent 3 years at NASA-Johnson Space Center studying meteorites on a National Research Council fellowship before coming to Washington DC to work at Science magazine. Linda looks forward to working with the AGI member societies on issues critical to the broad community. Please feel free to contact her at rowan at (insert @) agiweb.org or 703-379-2480 x228 with questions, comments or concerns.

Another New Face in the Government Affairs Program

Katie Ackerly, this year's AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Intern, joined the Government Affairs Program on January 11th. She graduated last spring with a Bachelor of Arts in Geosciences from Williams College, and has recently moved to Washington, D.C. from her home in San Francisco, where she worked as a GIS mapping volunteer at the USGS in Menlo Park. Over the next few months she will be busy tracking legislation on the FY06 budget, Clear Skies, national energy policy, and natural hazard mitigation efforts, among others.

Key Federal Register Notices

Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont05.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

NSF-NASA: The National Science Foundation is hosting a NSF-NASA Astronomy and Astrophysics Advisory Committee meeting, open to the public. The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice and recommendations to NSF and NASA on issues within the field of astronomy and astrophysics that are of mutual interest to both agencies. Representatives from NSF, NASA and other agencies will give presentations of current programming and discuss current and potential areas of cooperation between the agencies. The meeting will take place on February 15-16, 2005, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the National Science Foundation, Room 1235, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22230. Contact Dr. G. Wayne Van Citters at 703-292-4908. [Federal Register: January 7, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 5)]

NWTRB: U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board will meet on February 9, 2005 from 8:30 to 5:30 in Las Vegas, Nevada to discuss technical and scientific issues related to the U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to develop a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Another meeting the following day from 10 to 4:30 in Caliente, NV, will be held discuss DOE plans for transporting spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste to the proposed repository. Final meeting agendas will be available approximately one week before the meeting dates. They can be obtained from the Board's Web site at http://www.nwtrb.gov or by telephone request. The meetings will be open to the public, and opportunities for public comment will be provided at each session's end. Wednesday's meeting will be held at the Alexis Park Hotel; 375 Harmon Avenue; Thursday's meeting will be held at the Caliente Youth Center; Highway 93, North 4. For more information, contact Karyn Severson, NWTRB External Affairs: 703-235-4473 [Federal Register: January 12, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 8)]

MMS: The Minerals Management Service intends to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) for proposed Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas Lease Sale in the Western Gulf of Mexico (GOM), scheduled for August 2005. Interested parties are requested to send comments regarding any new information or issues that should be addressed in the EA 1. Comments may be submitted within 30 days of this Notice's publication using MMS's new Public Connect on-line commenting system at http://ocsconnect.mms.gov. or sent to the MMS e-mail address: environment@mms.gov. Contact Mr. Dennis Chew, Minerals Management at (504) 736-2793 for more information. [Federal Register: January 19, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 12)]

BLM: In a letter published in the Federal Register, The Bureau of Land Management rejected the Governor of New Mexico's appeal regarding plans to authorize new oil and natural gas leasing and development in Sierra and Otero Counties, New Mexico. [Federal Register: January 25, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 15)]

New Material on Web Site

The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly update:

  • Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee's Conference on Energy Issues (1-27-05)
  • Hearings on Clean Air Issues (1-27-05)
  • Clean Air Issues: Clear Skies Initiative/Multi-pollutant Legislation (1-27-05)
  • Everglades (1-27-05)
  • Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (1-25-05)

Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program, Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs and Katie Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Semester Intern.

Sources: American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Institute of Physics, Environment and Energy Daily, hearing testimony, Greenwire, House Committee on Resources, House Committee on Science, HouseDemocrats.gov, National Center for Science Education, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The New York Times, Time Magazine, THOMAS legislative database, Triangle Coalition Electronic Bulletin, U.S. House of Representatives Republican Conference, Washington Post.

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted February 8, 2005.

 

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