Monthly Review: January 2007
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.
Even though the President released his fiscal year 2008 budget request on February 5th, Congress still has to finish work on the budget for fiscal year 2007. The nascent 110th Congress decided in January to consider passing another continuing resolution for the full year rather than try to pass 9 separate appropriation bills leftover from the 109th Congress.
On January 30th, the House passed a new continuing resolution (H.J. 20) that would fund most of the government at the lowest of two possible levels either the fiscal year 2006 or the House-approved levels. The resolution worked out jointly by House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chairman, Robert Byrd (D-WV) added some adjustments that would increase funding for some research and education. The resolution explicitly eliminates earmarks and hopes to put a moratorium on earmarking until a reformed process is put in place.
The adjustments would include a proposed 6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for the National Science Foundation, so the agency would receive an increase of $335 million for a total budget of $5,916.2 million and $4,665.95 million would be allocated for Research and Related Activities, a 7.7 percent increase for that account. The Office of Science in the Department of Energy would receive a 5.6 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2006 funding for a total budget of $3,796.4 million. The Office would see a $200 million increase plus $130 million of previously earmarked funds that can be re-allocated for other purposes. Also within the Department of Energy, the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources program would receive $1.5 billion, an increase of $300 million to accelerate research and development activities for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
No adjustments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA) were included in the joint resolution, so NOAA and NASA would have flat budgets, however, some funds for research and development would be available because earmarks would be eliminated. In addition, the resolution specifies funding levels for NASA's science mission as follows: Science, Aeronautics and Exploration would receive $10 billion, of which $5.2 billion would be for science, $890 million would be for aeronautics research and $3.4 billion would be for exploration systems.
The U. S. Geological Survey would receive $977.6 million, which includes the restoration of the President's requested cut to the Mineral Resources Program (about $22 million) and a small increase over the fiscal year 2006 budget. The Smithsonian Institution would receive $533 million, a decrease compared to a budget of $618 million for fiscal year 2006; however, the funds would not be required to apply to a specific grant for the Council of American Overseas Research Centers or for the reopening of the Patent Office Building.
The resolution also would include increases for Pell Grants for undergraduate education, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in every state, for parks and other lands to cover budget shortfalls and for the Forest Service/Wildland fire management account to meet shortfalls caused by the intense 2006 wildfire season.
The legislation now must be considered by the Senate and then if necessary voted on again by both chambers. If the legislation passes, it would then need to be signed by the President. The current continuing resolution expires on February 15th, so Congress does not have much time left. If Congress is unable to pass this legislation or some amended resolution, the government will shut down the day after Valentine's Day.
More information about the federal research and development budget
for fiscal year 2007 is available at the American
Association for the Advancement of Science
President George W. Bush released the fiscal year 2008 budget request on February 5th. Within the $2.9 trillion budget request, the President stated a strong commitment to observing, protecting and managing Earth resources and developing alternative energy resources.
For Earth resources, the President referred to a quartet of science
agencies, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Aeronautics and
Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF)
and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric (NOAA), to continue integrated
programs to understand Earth processes. Highlights from the White
House budget summaries include:
For energy resources, the President promoted his Advanced Energy
Initiative, which was first introduced in the President's 2006 State
of the Union Address last year. Highlights from the White House budget
The President requests a total budget for fiscal year 2008 for the following programs that fund Earth sciences, with percentage increase or decrease compared to the fiscal year 2007 budget request in parentheses:
Department of Energy, Office of Science: $4.4 billion (+7.2 percent)
National Science Foundation (NSF): $6.43 billion (+6.8 percent)
*The President's fiscal year 2007 budget request for the U.S. Geological Survey included a $22 million reduction in the Mineral Resources Program and the percent change for fiscal year 2008 assumes this reduction will take affect for fiscal year 2007. However as indicated in the previous summary of the continuing fiscal year 2007 budget deliberations, the House has voted to restore funding for the Mineral Resources Program, so the final difference in the U.S. Geological Survey presidential request may amount to as little as less than a one percent increase overall.
More information about the federal research and development budget
for fiscal year 2008 is available at the American
Association for the Advancement of Science
On January 18th, the House passed the Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation Act of 2007, or the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007 (H.R.6), in a 264 to 163 vote. Part of Congress's first 100 hours, this legislation is designed to reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil by investing in clean, renewable, and alternative energy resources.
The bill, which has yet to pass the Senate, would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to repeal tax incentives for domestic oil and natural gas production. It would also require companies to renegotiate 1998 and 1999 leases in the Gulf of Mexico that lack price thresholds triggering royalty payments. According to a Platts Inside Energy article, Democrats have estimated that the value of the bill to federal coffers would be about $14 billion. This money would be directed to a "strategic energy efficiency and renewable energy reserve," which would be made available to "offset the cost of subsequent legislation" geared toward the research and development of clean renewable energy technologies.
Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) said "We will begin to move in a new, clean direction on energy and put an end to the free ride that big oil has had under the Bush Administration and this bill is a beginning. It is the beginning of a change in direction, away from subsidizing an industry that doesn't need extra financial incentives, and towards the technologies that do need a helping hand."
The bill, however, does not have widespread support. Although 36 Republicans voted in favor of H.R.6 in the House, it is expected to encounter significant opposition from the rest of the Republican Party. Representative Cliff Stearns (R-FL) has voiced his opposition to the bill, saying it "will raise energy prices for American consumers, stifle domestic energy production, and increase our dependence on foreign sources of energy."
For millions of student borrowers, the College Student Relief Act
of 2007 (H.R.5) may offer some hope for reducing their debt burden.
Sponsored by Representative George Miller (D-CA), the bill would amend
the Higher Education Act of 1965 and reduce interest rates on certain
student loans. The student-loan bill aims to phase-in cuts in the
annual interest rates charged undergraduate student borrowers under
the Federal Family Education Loan and Direct Loan programs from 6.8
percent to 3.4 percent over five years.
The new Democratic majority of the 110th Congress has made climate change a major issue in their first month of work. Democrats have formed new committees, there have been several hearings on climate change and many new bills on climate change have been introduced.
On January 30th, the House and Senate held high profile hearings on climate change. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the political influence on government climate scientists on January 30th and received frank testimony about censorship, political editing of scientific results in government reports, cherry-picking science to suit political agendas and the intermixing of science and policy. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing entitled "Senators' Perspectives on Global Warming" and 33 senators offered their viewpoints on the science and whether to consider policy action. The testimony and web cast archives of both hearings are available at the committees' web sites.
In addition, a bevy of bills have been introduced to directly or
indirectly try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. For
the most part, the new bills would take small and specific steps to
reduce emissions. Possible steps include imposing an excise tax on
non-alternative fuel vehicles, improving vehicle fuel efficiency standards,
amending the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide or to promote
alternative fuel use, and developing a market-based cap and trade
system for carbon emissions.
In his seventh State of the Union Address, President Bush presented
the nation with an ambitious new energy plan that focuses on increasing
fuel economy and alternative fuel availability, stating that the nation's
dependency on foreign oil "leaves us more vulnerable to hostile
regimes and to terrorists who could
do great harm to our economy."
Coining a new catch phrase, President Bush urged Americans to "reduce
gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next ten
years." Such a reduction would, the Administration claims, allow
the United States to cut total imports by about three-quarters of
the oil now imported from the Middle East.
In January, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report entitled "Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (2007)". The report was requested by NASA, NOAA and the USGS to generate consensus among the Earth and environmental sciences community regarding space-based mission priorities to understand the Earth system over the next decade. Over 100 Earth scientists provided input for the report and they concluded that the U.S. government needs to fund about 17 new Earth observing missions over the next decade.
Unfortunately, as the report notes the annual budget for Earth science within NASA is about $500 million less (in 2006 dollars) than in 2000. NASA has been forced to reduce funding for critical Earth observing missions and the number of instruments on NASA missions will fall by 40 percent by 2010 if additional funding is not provided.
The report recommends increasing funding for Earth observations and spending about $3 billion annually to achieve national priorities with regards to a better understanding of the Earth system. The report provides a prioritized list of recommendations regarding which specific instruments and/or missions to fund and how to distribute the funding over the next decade.
The NRC report is available online as a pdf
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a 73-page report
on "Key Challenges Remain for Developing and Deploying Advanced
Energy Technologies to Meet Future Needs" in December 2006 and
the report was posted online in January. The summary starts with a
very stark historical budget fact "DOE's total budget authority
for energy R&D dropped by over 85 percent (in real terms) from
1978 to 2005, peaking in the late 1970s but falling sharply when oil
prices returned to lower levels in the mid-1980s. "
The U.S. Geological Survey released a report on the value of U.S.
non-fuel mine production in 2005. Production rose by 18 percent from
$54.6 billion in 2005 to $64.4 billion in 2006. Demand for metals
and industrial minerals in the U.S., China and other countries remains
high and is keeping prices high.
Join us for the 12th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on May
1-2, 2007. This two-day annual event brings scientists, engineers,
researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to
raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.
Participants will spend the first day learning about how Congress
works, the current state of the budget process and how to conduct
congressional visits. The second day will consist of visits with members
of Congress. In addition to the workshops and visits, participants
will get to meet other scientists and engineers, meet federal science
agency representatives and attend a reception and breakfasts at which
members of Congress will speak and meet with the audience.
EPA: The EPA is proposing amendments to the General Provisions to
the national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP).
The proposed amendments provide that a major source may become an
area source at any time by limiting its potential to emit hazardous
air pollutants (HAP) to below the major source thresholds of 10 tons
per year (tpy) of any single HAP or 25 tpy of any combination of HAP.Written
comments must be received on or before March 5, 2007. For more information
contact Rick Colyer, Program Design Group (D205-02), Sector Policies
and Programs Division, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards,
U.S. EPA, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, telephone number (919)
541-5262, electronic mail (e-mail) address, email@example.com.
NSF: The Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering
will meet on February 1 and 2, 2007 at the National Science Foundation,
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 1235 S, Arlington, VA 22304. Contact Person:
Dr. Margaret E.M. Tolbert, Senior Advisor and Executive Liaison, CEOSE,
Office of Integrative Activities, National Science Foundation, 4201
Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230. Telephone: (703) 292-8040.
NASA: Notice to NASA employees, former NASA employees, and applicants
for NASA employment regarding rights and protections available under
Federal antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws.
DOE: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy
is soliciting nominations for candidates to serve as members of the
Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee. Nominations must be received by
February 2, 2007. For information regarding this Request for Nominations
please contact Ms. Elena Melchert, Mr. Bill Hochheiser, or Mr. James
Slutz, Designated Federal Official (DFO), Ultra-Deepwater Advisory
Committee, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 586-5600.
EPA: EPA gives notice of a public teleconference of the National
Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT).
NACEPT provides advice to the EPA Administrator on a broad range of
environmental policy, technology, and management issues. The purpose
of this teleconference is to discuss and approve an initial set of
recommendations on EPA's role in the sustainable development of biofuels.
A copy of the agenda for the meeting will be posted at http://www.epa.gov/ocem/nacept/cal-nacept.htm.
NACEPT will hold a public teleconference on Thursday, February 15,
2007 at 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The meeting will be
held in the U.S. EPA Office of Cooperative Environmental Management
at 655 15th Street, NW., Suite 800, Washington, DC 20005.For more
information contact Sonia Altieri, Designated Federal Officer, email@example.com,
(202) 233-0061, U.S. EPA, Office of Cooperative Environmental Management
(1601E), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20460.
USGS: The Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee of the
U.S. Geological Survey will hold its 15th meeting at the U.S. Geological
Survey, John Wesley Powell National Center, Room 1B215, 12201 Sunrise
Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192 on February 12 and 13, 2007.
Contact Dr. David Applegate, (703) 648-6714 or firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
DOE: The Energy Information Administration is soliciting comments
on the proposed new survey, "Natural Gas Processing Plant Survey".
When activated, this new survey will collect information on the status
and operations of natural gas processing plants for use during periods
of supply disruption in areas affected by an emergency, such as a
hurricane. Comments must be filed by April 2, 2007. Send comments
to Barbara Mariner-Volpe, Natural Gas Division, (EI-44), Forrestal
Building, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC 20585-0670. Ms.
Mariner-Volpe may be contacted by telephone at (202) 586-5878, FAX
at (202) 586-4420, or e-mail at Barbara.MarinerVolpe@eia.doe.gov
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs
portion of AGI's web site www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly
Sources: New York Times, AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program,
Associated Press, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library
of Congress, Congressional Quarterly, Department of the Interior,
House Committee on Appropriations, White House Office of Public Affairs,
Platts Inside Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, National Research Council
and Government Accountability Office.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted February 6, 2007.