Monthly Review: January 2006
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.
State of the Union Highlights Energy and Science Issues
President Bush focused primarily on international relations in his
January 31st State of the Union address, but near the end of his talk,
Bush outlined the Advanced Energy Initiative and the American Competitiveness
Initiative. The energy initiative sets the goal of replacing "more
than 75% of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." This
initiative would provide $2 billion over ten years for research in
clean coal technologies and would provide a 22% increase in clean-energy
research at the Department of Energy. According to a White House press
release, the President has included $281 million for the development
of clean coal technology, $148 million for solar energy technologies,
and $44 million for wind energy technologies in his budget request
that will be sent to Congress on February 6th for fiscal year 2007.
President Bush also announced the American Competitiveness Initiative
that aims to "encourage innovation throughout our economy, and
to give our nation's children a firm grounding in math and science."
This initiative is similar to bills that have been introduced in the
House and Senate (see related story in this month's review) in response
to the National Academies' report released last year on the nation's
competitiveness and innovation. The President's initiative would double
over ten years the total federal funding for physical science programs
in the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office
of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The President's budget request will include $5.9 billion for programs
related to this initiative.
The text of the President's State of the Union Address and supporting
documents related to the Clean Energy Initiative and American Competitiveness
Initiative are available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/2006/index.html
Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations Wrap Up
President Bush brought an end to the fiscal year (FY) 2006 appropriations
process when he signed the last two appropriations bills into law
on December 30, 2005. Congress inserted a 1 percent across-the-board
cut to discretionary spending, which includes nearly all federal science
funding, in the last bill they passed for Defense appropriations.
Below is a brief summary of the final figures for key geoscience-related
The U.S. Geological Survey gained a small increase compared to FY2005
funding for an overall budget of $966.2 million. This amount includes
the 1% across-the-board cut but does not include supplemental funding
that the agency got last year related to Hurricane Katrina and the
Indian Ocean Tsunami. Within the USGS, the Geological Programs received
$235.1 million, a 2 % increase primarily for hazards programs compared
to FY2005. Also receiving funding increases were the Earthquake Hazards
program, an 8% increase to total $50.8, and the Global Seismographic
Network, a 21% increase to $3.9 million. The Mineral Resource Assessments
program received a 7% cut from last year's funding to total $49.9
million. Funding for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program
remained the same as FY2005 at $25.2 million. Rounding out the USGS
allocations: Mapping programs received $129.9 million (a 9% increase),
Water Resource programs received $212.9 million (a 1% increase), and
Biological Resources programs received $175.5 million (a 2% increase).
Funding for the Department of Energy (DOE) rose slightly from FY2005
to a total of $24 billion. Renewable Energy activities received $358.4
million, a 6% decrease from last year's level. The Office of Science
will receive $3.6 billion, a negligible decrease from last year's
allocation. Within this amount, the Basic Energy Sciences will receive
$1.1 billion, an increase of 2.6% from the previous year, that includes
$219 million for the Chemical Sciences, Geosciences and Energy Biosciences
account and $140 million for the Climate Change Research account.
Funding for the Yucca Mountain project, which is funded through a
defense and a civilian account, totaled $445.5 million that translates
into a 22% decrease for the project from last year's allocation. Fossil
Energy (FE) activities at DOE will receive a decrease of 7.5% from
last year, for a total of $592 million. The majority of this decrease
was absorbed by the Natural Gas Technologies and the Petroleum-Oil
Technology account, which received $32.7 million (-27%) and $31.7
(-7%), respectively. Also within DOE, the Carbon Sequestration account
received $66.3, a 46% increase from last year; the Clean Coal Power
Initiative received $68.7 million, a 2% increase from last year; and
the Coal Research and Development account received $215.8 million,
a 5% increase from last year.
The National Science Foundation is reporting a FY2006 total of $5.58
billion, which is a 2% increase from last year's funding level. Funding
for the Research and Related Activities account, which includes the
discipline-based directorates, increased 2% to total $4.33 billion.
The Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account
is up nearly 16% from FY2005 levels. Earthscope will receive almost
$50 million of the MREFC account's $190.9 million.
President Bush will release the FY 2007 budget on February 6, 2006.
AGI's Government Affairs Program will release a series of Special
Updates in the week following the budget release highlighting the
geoscience-related programs in the federal government. Other highlights
of geoscience funding in FY2006 can be found at AGI's Government Affairs
Program website <http://www.agiweb.org/gap>.
New Innovation Legislation Released
On January 25, 2006, Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM), Jeff Bingaman
(D-NM), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Kay Bailey
Hutchison (R-TX) held a press conference to introduce a package of
three bills (S.2197, S.2198, and S.2199), collectively titled Protecting
America's Competitive Edge (PACE). The bills, which are separated
into energy, education, and finance components, implement some of
the 20 recommendations detailed in the National Academies' report
"Rising Above the Gathering Storm." Senator Domenici called
the legislation a response to a "basic problem that America faces.
We are very worried that we are having a terrific brain drain of Americans
in the areas of physics, mathematics, science, and the like,"
he said. The five senators emphasized the positive impact the legislation
would have on the American economy as a whole, as well as the benefits
it would bring to their individual states.
Specific components of the bills include creating new scholarships
for undergraduate education, graduate research, and teacher training
in math, science, and technology; doubling the basic research budgets
of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration (NASA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and
the Department of Defense (DOD); establishing an Advanced Research
Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E), modeled after the successful Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); reforming visa and immigration
policy; and doubling and making permanent the research and development
(R&D) tax credit. Senator Alexander stressed the importance of
considering the legislation as a whole. "We need to do it all,"
he said. "Our goal is not to get to 50 yards."
PACE represents a growing congressional focus on US competitiveness
and innovation. In early December, Representative Bart Gordon (D-TN)
introduced three similar bills (H.R.4434, H.R.4435, H.R.4596) to the
House. Just over a week later, Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and
John Ensign (R-NV) introduced the National Innovation Act (S.2109),
based on recommendations in an innovation report conducted by the
Council on Competitiveness. Senate staff members have noted that the
National Innovation Act and the PACE legislation are complementary.
The President has also turned executive attention to US competitiveness.
In his annual State of the Union address he unveiled another innovation
proposal, the American Competitiveness Initiative (see other article).
A summary of the innovation legislation by AGI's Government Affairs
program is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/innovation.html
The full text of each bill can be viewed on Thomas by inserting the
bill number in the search tool at http://thomas.loc.gov/
Senate Continues Hearings on Response to Katrina
On January 24, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs
Committee continued its investigation of the response to Hurricane
Katrina with a hearing on the state of emergency preparedness in Louisiana
before and after the 2004 Hurricane Pam emergency preparation exercise.
The federally-funded storm simulation was designed to coordinate local,
state, and federal responses to a catastrophic hurricane. Pam was
designed as a slow-moving, Category 3 hurricane that hit New Orleans
directly and caused extensive mock damage throughout 13 Louisiana
parishes. Pam's fictional aftermath included 10 to 20 feet of flooding
in New Orleans, overtopped levees, evacuation of over a million people,
and 60,000 deaths. The exercise also predicted overcrowded hospitals
and shelters, food and water shortages and flooded highways.
The witnesses, representing local, state, and federal levels of government
and the contractor responsible for the Hurricane Pam simulation, all
confirmed that emergency plans were in place before the Pam exercise.
The ultimate goal of the exercise was to create a "bridging document"
between these various plans; however, the final plans were incomplete
at the time of Hurricane Katrina. State and local officials complained
of a series of delays and a lack of funding for post-exercise planning.
Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ranking Member Joseph Lieberman
(D-CT) questioned the pre-landfall evacuation plans and the role to
be played by the federal government. The federal and state officials
explained that the responsibility for emergency evacuation lies first
with local and state governments, and that FEMA steps in only if federal
aid is requested. In spite of this, Jesse St. Amant of the Plaquemines
Parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness stressed
that Pam had demonstrated that a hurricane of Katrina's magnitude
was "beyond the state and local capability," and that "FEMA
should have been prepared to support them."
House Science Committee to Investigate Accusations by NASA Climate Scientist
Stories published in the New York Times and the Washington
Post on January 29, say that climatologist James Hansen, director
of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, stated that NASA officials
had ordered public affairs staff to review his lectures, papers, and
website postings before they are made available to the public. In
response, House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
sent a letter to Dr. Michael Griffin, NASA Administrator on January
30. In his letter, Boehlert criticized NASA officials, stating "NASA
is clearly doing something wrong, given the sense of intimidation
felt by Dr. Hansen and others who work with him." He also noted
that House Science Committee staffers are setting up meetings to investigate
the issue. On February 3, Michael Griffin acknowledged problems with
the public affairs office in an email to NASA employees. The Washington
Post reported that the email stated "It is not the job of public
affairs officers to alter, filter or adjust engineering or scientific
material produced by NASA's technical staff."
Boehlert's full letter is available at http://www.house.gov/science/press/109/109-184.htm.
-- Philosophy of Design Course Dropped in California
The El Tejon School District in southern California agreed to stop
teaching an elective course, entitled "Philosophy of Design"
at Frazier Mountain High School after 11 parents filed a lawsuit claiming
that the course violates the separation of church and state clause
of the constitution. The syllabus for the class said "This class
will discuss Intelligent Design as an alternative response to evolution.
Topics that will be covered are the age of the earth, a world wide
flood, dinosaurs, pre-human fossils, dating methods, DNA, radioisotopes,
and geological evidence. Physical and chemical evidence will be presented
suggesting the earth is thousands of years old, not billions."
The full syllabus and more details about this case and other political
challenges to the teaching of evolution are summarized at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/evolution/index.html
Managing Risk in Earthquake Country
The Seismological Society of America (SSA) is celebrating its 100th
anniversary this year. The society's Centennial Annual meeting will
be held in San Francisco from April 18 - 22 and will commemorate the
100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The meeting
is joint with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute's Eighth
U.S. National Conference on Earthquake Engineering and the Disaster
Resistant California Conference of the California Office of Emergency
AGI, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Incorporated
Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) have organized a policy
session on Wednesday, April 19 and a tutorial session on Friday, April
21. The tutorial will provide information, exercises and discussion
about how government works and how to communicate with policymakers.
Congressional members, congressional staff and state legislators will
participate in our discussion. In addition, scientists and engineers,
who have worked for a member of Congress for one full year as Congressional
Science Fellows will share their perspectives. The tutorial session
is entitled "How to Communicate with Policy-Makers". You
may sign-up for this free session on the conference website after
you have registered for the conference.
More information about the joint conference is available at: http://www.1906eqconf.org
The Benefits of Seismic Monitoring
In January 2006, the National Academies released a report entitled
"Improved Seismic Monitoring, Improved Decision Making, Assessing
the Value of Reduced Uncertainty". The study was commissioned
by the U.S. Geological Survey and the objective was to provide advice
about the economic benefits of seismic monitoring with emphasis on
the benefits of implementing the Advanced National Seismic System
(ANSS). The report concludes that investments in monitoring of tens
of millions could potentially save hundreds of millions in future
The full report is available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11327.html
Bureau of Land Management Opens More Land for Drilling
On January 11, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced plans
to open 390,000 acres in the northeast National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska
(NPRA) for oil development. The USGS estimates that drilling in this
area could result in up to 2 billion barrels of oil over the next
Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), Chairman of the Senate Committee on
Energy and Natural Resources, expressed his approval of the Administration's
decision. "With oil hovering at $60 a barrel and some analysts
expecting it to climb higher, America must develop more of its own
oil," he said. "Those who clamor for energy independence
certainly recognize that increased production has to be part of that
equation." House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA)
was more reserved in his approval, noting that production in only
2,000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) would yield
10.4 billion barrels of oil. "Opening this area of the NPRA is
a step in the right direction when it comes to increasing American
supplies of energy," Pombo said, "but opening the tiny portion
of ANWR would take U.S. energy policy forward by leaps and bounds."
Statements from Domenici and Pombo are available at http://energy.senate.gov/
MMS Releases Hurricane Impact Details and Request Research Areas
On January 19, 2006, the Minerals Management Service released its
analysis of the effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on offshore
platforms and pipelines in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the MMS
press release, "3,050 of the Gulf's 4,000 platforms and 22,000
of the 33,000 miles of Gulf pipelines were in the direct path"
of these two hurricanes. Hurricane Katrina destroyed 46 platforms
and damaged 20 others, and Hurricane Rita destroyed 69 platforms and
damaged 32 others. There was "no loss of life or significant
oils spills from wells on the outer continental shelf (OCS) attributed
to either storm." In response to this damage on OCS offshore
facilities, MMS has requested research proposals in six subject areas:
"(1) Assess and evaluate pipeline movement or damage; (2) Assess
and evaluate platform damage; (3) Provide hurricane hindcast data;
(4) Evaluate and assess the performance of jack-up rigs; (4) Assess
methods to eliminate hydrates in pipelines and risers during startups
after hurricanes; and (6) Assess the response of waves and currents
throughout the water column in the northern Gulf of Mexico slope and
shelf." Details on the impact assessment of offshore facilities
are available at http://www.mms.gov/ooc/press/2006/press0119.htm
USGS Releases Latest Minerals Productions
On January 24, the U.S. Geological Survey released its "Mineral
Commodity Summaries 2006," an annual report on non-fuel mineral
production. According to the press release, the "value of U.S.
non-fuel production rose last year to $51.6 billion", which is
an increase of 13% from the previous year. The value of domestically
processed mineral materials is estimated to be $478 billion. The continued
growth of mine production and processing is primarily due to the high
demand for these goods from the growing economies in China and India.
The annual report is available online and provides detailed information
about events, trends, and issues in the domestic and international
minerals industries for 2005. It also provides a summary of industrial
trends for about 90 individual commodities.
The Mineral Commodity Summaries 2006 is available at, http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/mcs/
Encourage Members to Join the Congressional Hazards Caucus
The Congressional Hazards Caucus, a bicameral caucus of congressional
members concerned about natural and man-made hazards has sent letters
to their colleagues in the House and Senate inviting more members
to join the caucus. Currently the caucus membership includes 16 senators
and 11 representatives, and is led by four co-chairs from each chamber.
The Senate co-chairs are Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA),
Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Ben Nelson (D-NE), and the House co-chairs are
Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Jo Bonner (R-AL) and
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
Please write letters (sent by fax or email) or call members of your
congressional delegation and encourage them to join the caucus if
they are not already members. A list of the current members is available
on the Hazards Caucus Alliance web site at www.hazardscaucus.org.
AGI's Government Affairs Program has also sent out an action alert
with sample letters to send to members and more details about the
caucus. For more information, please see: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/hazardscaucus_alert.html.
Congressional Visits Day Scheduled for March 28-29
The 11th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) is scheduled for March
28 and 29, 2006. 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 congress. More information about CVD is available
The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated
to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific
research. If you are interested in attending the CVD please contact
the AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can help
coordinate your visit.
AGI Welcomes Our New Spring Intern
Jenny Fisher, the new AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Intern, joined AGI's
Government Affairs Program on January 18th. Jenny earned her B.S.
in planetary science from Caltech last June and will be returning
to school next fall to begin graduate studies in atmospheric chemistry
at Harvard. She has recently returned to the US after spending the
past six months teaching in London. While at AGI, she will be following
legislation related to American innovation and competitiveness, the
FY07 budget, and the response to Hurricane Katrina, among other topics.
Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal
regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the
geosciences community. Entries 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.
EPA: The EPA's National Environmental Education Advisory Council
will have a public meeting on February 16-17, in Washington, DC. [Federal
Register: January 18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 11)].
DOE: The Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory
announced a funding opportunity (DE-PS26-06NT15430) related to enhanced
oil and natural gas production through carbon dioxide injection. There
is a workshop related to this announcement that is tentatively scheduled
for February 22-23, 2006. Additional information on the workshop is
available at http://www.pttc.org. Additional information on the funding
announcement is available at http://grants.gov. [Federal Register:
January 30, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 19)].
New Updates to
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:
- Innovation and US Competitiveness (1-31-06)
- Hearings on Climate Change Issues (1-25-06)
- Hearings on Hurricane Katrina (1-24-06)
- NAS Report: Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing
America for a Brighter Economic Future
- Action Alert: Come to Capitol Hill for Congressional Visits Day
on March 28-29, 2006 (1-10-06)
- Action Alert: William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship
Deadline Approaching (1-09-06)
Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs,
Jenny Fisher 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and Margaret Anne Baker,
Government Affairs Staff..
Sources: Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government
Affairs website, PACE press conference and legislation, American Institute
of Physics, E&E Daily, House Committee on Science website, New
York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, House Resources Committee
website, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources website,
American Association for the Advancement of Science, Library of Congress,
Minerals Management Service, U.S. Geological Survey and the Federal
TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PROGRAM MONTHLY REVIEW, SEND
AN EMAIL WITH YOUR REQUEST AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO GOVT@AGIWEB.ORG
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted February 6, 2006.