Monthly Review: January 2009

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.

1. Geoscientists: Join Us for Congressional Visits in April and September
2. Update on Members of the Senate
3. Update on Congressional Committees
4. Update on Key Geoscience-related Cabinet and Executive Branch Positions
5. President Bush Issues Directive on Arctic Policy
6. Senate May Consider Ratification of the Law of the Sea
7. Outlook for Climate Change Legislation
8. Update on Economic Stimulus Package: Some Investments in Geoscience
9. Status of Appropriations
10. Lands Omnibus Legislation Passes in the Senate
11. Bill to Preserve Coastal Plain of Alaska Introduced
12. New House Caucus on Energy and the Environment
13. EPA Withdraws Renewable Fuels Standards
14. GAO Finds NASA Oversight Too Weak To Avoid Waste
15. Climate Change Science Program Issues Last Five of Twenty One Reports
16. Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition has Updated Website
17. AGI Seeks Geoscience Students for Summer Internships
18. Key Federal Register Notices

1. Geoscientists: Join Us for Congressional Visits in April and September

Geoscientists are welcome to join organized groups of scientists and engineers for workshops and visits with congressional members and committees in April and September. The purpose of the visits is to explain the value of science and engineering and to request needed investments in research and education.

The Science-Engineering-Technology Working Group is organizing workshops, events and visits for April 28-29, 2009. Several geoscience societies, including AGI, AAPG, AGU and GSA, are involved in these events and we expect a large number of geoscientists to participate. Please contact Linda Rowan,, Director of Government Affairs at AGI or the public policy office of one of the other geoscience societies for more details and to sign-up.

More information here about the Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day.

The Geosciences Working Group is organizing workshops, events and visits for September 15-16, 2009. Several geoscience societies, including AGI, AAPG, AGU and GSA, are involved in organizing these events and we expect a large number of geoscientists to participate. Please contact Linda Rowan,, Director of Government Affairs at AGI or the public policy office of one of the other geoscience societies for more details and to sign-up. Geosciences have a significant role to play in federal policy and advice from citizen geoscientists is very important.

2. Update on Members of the Senate

After an unusually chaotic start in the U.S. Senate, the Senate has almost reached its full membership. After much debate, Roland Burris was sworn in as the new junior Senator from Illinois, filling the seat vacated by President Obama. He is expected to vote with the Democrats on most issues, however, his positions on many policies are unknown because he has been out of public office for awhile.

Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from a more conservative and rural region of New York, was chosen by New York Governor Paterson to replace Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the new Secretary of State. Gillibrand at 42 years of age becomes the youngest Senator in the chamber, after spending two years as a Representative in the House. She is considered a moderate Democrat and is very close to a centrist position based on analyses of her two-year voting record in the House. Of particular interest to geoscientists, she will serve on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. Both committees will have a role to play in climate change legislation, other environmental legislation, water issues, soil issues and other matters.

Denver Public School Superintendent, Michael Bennet, was chosen by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter to replace Senator Ken Salazar, the new Secretary of the Interior. Like Burris and Gillibrand, Bennet was considered a long shot for the seat and the 44-year old Democrat, who has never campaigned or held public office, was a bit of a surprise. Ritter, in announcing his choice stated “Our challenges are so serious that it will take a new generation of leaders, a new way of thinking and a bold new approach to problem-solving to steer us through this.” Although Bennet has no record in public office, he is expected to vote with the Democrats and given his background will likely be an advocate for education. He has stated that the No Child Left Behind Act should be mended rather than ended.

The court battles continue in the saga of the next senator from Minnesota after a 225 vote victory by Al Franken. Al Franken was declared the winner by the Minnesota state canvassing board, but he has not been certified by the state. Norm Coleman has a lawsuit challenging the results while Franken has petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court to certify him as the winner. Both have spent time at the U.S. Senate and confer regularly with their senatorial party caucuses. On February 3, a Minnesota court ruled that almost 5,000 rejected absentee ballots could be reviewed as requested by Coleman. It could take a very long time to consider each ballot and Franken still has almost 1,000 different rejected ballots that he may seek reconsideration for.

In an interesting twist, President Obama has nominated Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) for Secretary of Commerce. If Gregg is confirmed, then the Democratic Governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, will choose a replacement. After much behind the scenes discussions between Gregg and Lynch, it appears that Lynch will likely choose Republican Bonnie Newman to replace Gregg. Newman is a former Gregg chief of staff and former Reagan White House staffer. She is expected to finish Gregg’s term and not run for re-election in 2010, thus opening the seat to a non-incumbent race. The promise to appoint a Republican would keep the Democrats one seat shy of the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster however the promise to only serve for two years would open the seat to competitive new candidates from both parties. Time will tell if this plan will work for all.

3. Update on Congressional Committees

The House Appropriations Committee has several changes to Republican leadership of subcommittees that handle geoscience issues. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will be the new Ranking Member of the Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, where he is considered to be a swing vote who leans in a pro-environmental direction. Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) will be the new Ranking Member of the Interior and Environment Subcommittee. His past voting record according to the League of Conservation Voters leans against environmental groups. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) will be the new Ranking Member of the Commerce and Science Subcommittee. Wolf has supported science in the past and there is optimism that he will try to support science within the subcommittee.

The Senate Appropriations Committee does not have any major changes to subcommittee leadership among the Democrats while the Republicans are still deciding on leadership roles. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) is a relatively high ranking member of the committee and given that he has now been nominated for Commerce Secretary, the Republicans may wait until he is confirmed to decide on subcommittee leadership.

Several new members have been added to the Appropriations Committee from both parties. The new Democrats on the committee are Mark Pryor (AR) and Jon Tester (MT). The new Republicans on the committee are Susan Collins (ME), George Voinovich (OH) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). All of the new members have been generally supportive of science in the past, but they must each deal with the direct responsibility of setting budget priorities among many important programs.

The Senate has also determined the membership of other key geoscience-related committees. On the Senate Energy and Natural Resources, Democrats Jon Tester (MT) and Daniel Akaka (HI) will leave the committee while Evan Bayh (IN), Deborah Stabenow (MI), Mark Udall (CO) and Jeanne Shaheen (NH) join the committee as new members.

On the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Tom Carper (D-DE) leaves, while Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Begich (D-AK)  and Mike Johanns (R-NE) arrive as brand new senators and members of the committee. The new chair is Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia.

On the Environment and Public Works, the new Democrats are Tom Udall (NM), Jeff Merkley (OR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (NY). All three are likely to be aligned with Democratic efforts to develop a climate change bill in the committee.

Over in the House, there are not many changes in the leadership of key geoscience-related committees. The Democratic Caucus has completed their committee membership selections, however the Republicans have announced committee leaders but not all of their committee members yet.  Committee web sites and member web sites will be updated as membership is settled or updated.

The House Natural Resources Committee does have some changes of particular note. First two subcommittees will be combined into one covering Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife and Delegate Madeleine Bordallo (Guam) will be the chair. Second, the Ranking Member of the full committee has changed from Don Young of Alaska to Doc Hastings of Washington. Hastings served on the Natural Resources committee many years ago and is returning to the committee after giving up his leadership of the House Ethics Committee. In his press release about the change, the Congressman notes: “Of importance to Central Washington and the Pacific Northwest, the Committee oversees the Bonneville Power Administration, Bureau of Reclamation irrigation projects (Columbia Basin Project and Yakima Project), endangered species recovery, federal hydropower projects, Payment-In-Lieu-Of-Taxes (PILT) payments and firefighting on federal lands.”

For a list of Senate committee assignments please go here.
For a list of House committee assignments as a PDF file go here.

4. Update on Key Geoscience-related Cabinet and Executive Branch Positions

Dr. Steven Chu was confirmed as Secretary of Energy. During his confirmation hearing he was asked several pointed questions on regional energy needs and different energy resources. On biofuels, he suggested that the technology was available to produce fuels from biomass waste rather than agricultural crops. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) was particularly interested in biofuels saying “I just want to make sure it’s something that I grow” meaning she wants to make sure the state of Arkansas has some options for producing alternative energy in the state. Her sentiment was expressed by all of the senators at the hearing, who asked questions related to their state’s energy interests. Energy resources involve issues that tends not to be determined along party lines but rather along impacts to the district, state or geographic region.

On oil and gas, Chu suggested that he supported offshore drilling, though he followed that comment by saying that the U.S. only produces about 5 percent of the world’s oil and gas. On coal, Chu assured coal-state senators that the nation needs coal to meet its electricity needs, but we cannot continue to use the same old coal plants to produce it. He did not seem to favor any of the current plans for future coal plant designs, but he was very optimistic that we could develop the technologies needed to capture and sequester carbon dioxide from power plants.

There were many questions about nuclear energy and nuclear waste, given the primary role of the Energy Department on these issues and the problems associated with both. Chu indicated the government has a legal and moral obligation to clean-up nuclear waste and he would try to accelerate those efforts. On the development of new nuclear power plants, Chu indicated he would allow current license applications to move forward, but did not make any other commitments about the future of nuclear power.

Chu did state that he wants the Department of Energy to be a leader on renewable energy, so expect to see a growing emphasis on solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, batteries and other renewable resources.

Senator Ken Salazar was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior on Inauguration day, January 20, 2009 and wasted little time getting to work at his department. He spoke to Interior employees and stated change in the department would be noticeable in what the department does with historic preservation, in parks and conservation and in helping to build a clean energy economy. Salazar has declared the Bush Administration draft five year plan on offshore drilling to be a non-starter and he plans to work closely with Congress on a new plan. The Secretary plans to review at least ten last minute rules and regulations put into place in the final days of the Bush Administration.

Salazar plans to review, reform and provide more oversight of the Minerals Management Service. Regarding the recent news of falsification of science in relation to water management at the Grand Canyon, Salazar stated “Science should not be shoved under the table in order to deal with special interests that are knocking at the door”. Salazar’s actions and comments suggest a renewed emphasis on science at the department, which should be good news for the U.S. Geological Survey and other groups that provide research and analysis.

On January 26, President Obama nominated David Hayes to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. As deputy, he will also be the Chief Operating Officer in charge of 67,000 employees and a budget of $16 billion. He served as Deputy Secretary from 1999 to 2001 and was noted for bringing modern water management to the West. He has worked on natural resource law and climate change policy as a partner in Latham and Watkins and as a consulting professor at Stanford University’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Lisa Jackson was confirmed as Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At her confirmation hearing, she pledged “scientific integrity and the rule of law” at EPA. EPA has been in the news a lot lately because of decisions and rule makings, where the agency has been accused of ignoring the science in favor of special interests. Jackson will need to get to work right away because President Obama ordered an immediate review of the auto emissions waiver that California was denied a few months ago. The waiver would allow California to move forward with stricter auto emission standards and at least twelve other states would follow with similar restrictions.

Jane Lubchenco, the President’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and John Holdren, the President’s nominee to head the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy have not been scheduled for confirmation hearings yet. Many other political appointments requiring Senate confirmation at the Deputy and Assistant Deputy positions in many departments are yet to be determined and agency level appointments will probably wait until some of these higher level positions are filled.

The Department of the Interior seems to be moving forward swiftly, so a Director of the U.S. Geological Survey may be nominated sooner than expected and the delays in selecting a Secretary of Commerce should not necessarily delay the confirmation of Lubchenco at NOAA.

5. President Bush Issues Directive on Arctic Policy

In his final days in office, President Bush issued a 10-page directive on Arctic policy. The directive calls for federal agencies to define areas that the U.S. could claim as U.S. territory, determine the energy resource potential of the Arctic, and look into the need for greater environmental protection, maritime transportation and regional infrastructure. The directive also supports increased funding for research of the impact of climate change on the region. The U.S. Geological Survey, the National Science Foundation, NOAA and NASA would be just some of the agencies that would need funding and cooperation to meet the objectives of the directive.

It would also be prudent for the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea if the U.S. wishes to make claims to parts of the Arctic seabed and review the claims of other nations. President Bush has supported the ratification of the treaty, but conservative Republicans have blocked the ratification in the Senate so far. The treaty allows for cooperation on resources of the seas, both the waters and the seabed and has a process for judging the claims of nations for seabed  extensions of their continental shelf. If a nation can show that the seabed is part of their continental shelf then they are entitled to the resources. The nations that determine these claims include the nations who have signed the treaty.

6. Senate May Consider Ratification of the Law of the Sea

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair has announced that he will push for ratification of the Law of the Sea. His office released a statement that said “The Arctic should be recognized as a strategic priority for our nation. In order to guarantee secure borders, ensure access to natural resources, mediate shipping and transportation routes, and protect our marine resources, we must become full partners with the other Arctic nations and ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea."

Geoscientists at federal agencies and elsewhere have studied the Arctic for a long time and would be even more critical for improving our understanding of the natural resources, environmental health, Earth system processes and other details of the Arctic if the treaty is ratified. Even without ratification the resources and the changes in the Arctic are substantial and will require more study, exploration, observation and analysis to meet national and global needs.

7. Outlook for Climate Change Legislation

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has pledged to have a vote on climate legislation on the House floor this year and Henry Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce has pledged a markup on a climate bill in his committee before Memorial Day.

Over in the Senate, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee has pledged to have a climate bill out of her committee before the United Nations Summit on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December. Senator Boxer in a press conference on February 3, 2009 indicated that she has not tried to coordinate any legislation with Waxman or the House Committee, but they might try to get together later this year.

In the press conference, Senator Boxer announced six broad principles of the bill. The principles include: 1. Reduce emissions to levels guided by science; 2. Set short and long term emissions targets that are certain and enforceable; 3. Ensure that state and local entities continue pioneering efforts on global warming; 4. Establish a transparent and accountable market-based system; 5. Use revenues from the carbon market for consumers, research and technology, assistance to states and local entities, assistance to workers and businesses, ecosystem health and preservation and work with the international community; and 6. Ensure a level playing field within the global community.

Waxman has not held a specific press conference on his plans for climate legislation, but in response to media questions he has called for quick action. Waxman says that uncertainty about emissions reductions is hurting industries by delaying plans and investments for the future. On January 15, 2009, Waxman held a hearing on the growing consensus of business for action on climate change. There were 14 witnesses from industry and environmental groups who are part of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership. Among the executives were the chairmen of ConocoPhillips, General Electric, DuPont and electric utilities Exelon, NRG Energy Inc. and Duke Energy. Environmental groups included Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Conservancy and World Resources Institute.

In general, the witnesses endorsed a cap-and-trade system, but wanted a longer time frame, asking for 80 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2050 bringing emissions back to 1990 levels. Waxman has previously supported a more aggressive and ambitious target of 80 percent reductions by 2030. President Obama has supported 80 percent reductions by 2050 and this seems to be a likely starting point for the House bill. President Obama has also called for auctioning all of the emission allowances and not giving industry any free allowances.

These and many other details must be worked out by the Senate and House committees and then brought forward to both chambers for floor debates and votes. Such a process will take some time, but expectations are high for climate bills by the end of the year.

For more information about the U.S. Climate Action Partnership and their advice to policymakers please visit:

8. Update on Economic Stimulus Package: Some Investments in Geoscience

The House passed an economic stimulus package called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1). The measure would provide tax cuts, modernize infrastructure, modernize health care, accelerate energy conservation and efficiency, and invest in renewable energy. The House Committee on Appropriations in a press release listed the first four of eight targeted efforts of the bill as: 1. Clean, Efficient, American Energy; 2. Transforming our Economy with Science and Technology; 3. Modernizing Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways; and 4. Education for the Twenty First Century.

Among the geoscience-related agencies, the House measure would provide a one time increase, called a supplemental appropriation of $3 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), $2 billion for the Energy Department’s Office of Science,  $400 million for geothermal research, $2.4 billion for “Cleaning Fossil Energy” within the Office of Fossil Energy, $600 million for NASA, $1 billion for NOAA, $300 million for National Institutes of Standards and Technology, $200 million for Agricultural Research Service and $200 million for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

On the education front, the bill provides grants for modernization of public elementary and secondary schools and higher education facilities, increases the number and maximum amount of Pell grants to pay for higher education, allows for more student loans and institutes a higher education student tax credit, so students can deduct part of the cost of higher education from their taxes.

The House also provided nearly $10 billion for clean water resources, nearly $6 billion for water resources infrastructure, and more than $2 billion for environmental clean-up of superfund sites, brownfields, leaking underground storage tanks, nuclear waste, closed military bases and NOAA habitat restoration.

President Obama has been asking for such a stimulus package and has been actively working with Congress to gain passage before the President’s Day recess. The major goals according to a plan released by the White House are to double renewable energy capacity over three years, undertake the largest weatherization program in history, computerize health records within five years, launch the most ambitious school modernization program and enact the largest investment increase in infrastructure since the creation of the national highway system in 1950.

No House Republicans voted for the stimulus package and the Senate, which is preparing their own version of the bill, is planning to make changes to address concerns of the House and Senate Republicans. Details of the Senate bill are still being worked out but some early indications suggest there will be greater investment in clean energy than the House bill.

The Senate measure provides a supplemental appropriation of $1.4 billion for NSF, $1.5 billion for NASA, $1.26 billion for NOAA, $135 million for USGS, $675 million for NIST and a whopping $4.6 billion for the Energy Department’s Office of Fossil Energy (primarily for carbon capture and sequestration), and $430 million for the Office of Science. The Senate would provide supplemental appropriations, incentives and tax breaks of $15.2 billion for environmental clean-up/clean water, tens of billions for water projects and $125 billion for education and training.

The Senate hopes to complete the measure this week, leaving one week for the House and Senate to conference to compromise on differences and pass a final bill before the President’s Day recess.

In an unprecedented move, the Administration is planning to list all of the details of the measure, once Congress has passed a bill and it is signed into law on a public website for everyone to review at In addition an oversight board will continually review how the money is being spent.

The House Committee on Appropriations summary of the stimulus bill is available as a PDF here.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations summary and text of the stimulus bill is available on the committee website.

A White House summary of the goals of the stimulus plan are available as a PDF here.

9. Status of Appropriations

The 111th Congress has much unfinished business to complete from the 110th Congress. Perhaps the biggest item is the fiscal year 2009 (FY09) budget for most domestic spending. The continuing resolution passed by the 110th Congress expires on March 6 and the 111th Congress must either pass a budget or pass another continuing resolution by that date.

Most expect Congress to work on the FY09 as soon as the economic stimulus package is done. Unfortunately the stimulus package has met with some delays and thus the FY09 budget work will be delayed. On February 3, the House canceled a scheduled floor vote on the FY09 budget for the next day.

Rapid and intense work on FY09 should begin in late February after the President’s Day Recess and end in early March. The budget proposals in the subcommittee reports can be used as guidance on funding levels, but last minute changes are likely as Congress conferences and compromises on the numbers. The remaining nine appropriation bills will be combined into one omnibus, so the bill can be moved relatively quickly. Budget items with the most support from the American public will likely survive without any last minute reductions, while items with less support may be cut.

It is imperative that the science and engineering community speak up about the need for investments in research and development and education with their members of Congress.

10. Lands Omnibus Legislation Passes in the Senate

A public lands omnibus bill (S. 22) passed the Senate by a vote of 73-21 on January 15, 2009, fulfilling a promise of Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) to consider the measure promptly. The omnibus brings together 160 bills, including reauthorization of geologic mapping and fossil preservation on public lands.

There are many additional geoscience-related activities authorized in the omnibus including national wilderness preservation, national rivers, the national landscape conservation system, national conservation areas, watershed management, watershed restoration and enhancement, forest landscape restoration, water projects, ocean exploration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration undersea research, ocean and coastal mapping integration, the integrated coastal and ocean observation system, federal ocean acidification research and monitoring, coastal and estuarine land conservation and funding for Smithsonian Institution research facilities.

The omnibus now goes to the House for consideration. The bill is expected to gain passage as soon as the House has time to consider the measure in a schedule packed with stimulus measures and other items.

Geoscientists are encouraged to contact their representative and ask for support for the measure as soon as possible given that a vote may be scheduled within a few days.

11. Bill to Preserve Coastal Plain of Alaska Introduced

Congressman Edward Markey (D-MA) introduced the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act on January 6, 2009. The bill (H.R. 39) would preserve more than 1.5 million acres of the Arctic plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as wilderness. The bill is an attempt to end the long debate about energy exploration in ANWR and close off the area to future energy exploration.

Markey in introducing the measure stated “The Arctic Refuge is the crown jewel of the Wildlife Refuge System. Protecting the refuge will send a strong statement of our nation’s intent to preserve America’s pristine wilderness areas, break our dangerous addiction to oil and kick-start a green revolution that will create jobs, grow the economy and promote energy independence.”

Many Democrats and President Obama do not support drilling in ANWR, so some form of this measure may gain passage in Congress and would likely be signed into law by the President.

12. New House Caucus on Energy and the Environment

A group of House Democrats have banded together to form a new caucus, called the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition. Chairmen Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Steve Israel (D-NY) expect the caucus to promote renewable energy, domestic manufacturing, “green” jobs, and policies to curb global warming and protect the environment. The group will push for these concerns with the Administration, within Congress and with the public.

13. EPA Withdraws Renewable Fuels Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency withdrew its proposal to the White House Office of Management and Budget on the expansion of the renewable fuels standard (RFS) to reach 36 billion gallons by 2022. The expansion was written into the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but the agency has been struggling with implementation. The law requires newer biofuels to have much lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels. One issue is that greenhouse gas emissions from indirect land use changes from increased biofuels production may be higher than expected and would hamper the purpose of the RFS to lower emissions.

14. GAO Finds NASA Oversight Too Weak To Avoid Waste

The Government Accountability Office released a report on the abilities of the Inspector General for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Inspector General is supposed to reduce waste and save the agency money. NASA’s Inspector General Robert Cobb was rated very poorly by the report and ranked 27th of 30 agency Inspector General offices. Cobb returned about 36 cents per every dollar in the NASA budget and the GAO indicated that Cobb failed to carry out his duties.

The report had been requested by Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN), Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee and Congressman Brad Miller (D-NC) Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Both congressmen want Cobb to be removed and have claimed gross mismanagement and incompetence by the NASA Inspector General.

Poor oversight of the NASA budget is not what the agency needs right now. Many programs are unfunded or under funded and an inefficient return on limited investments will only hurt the entire agency.

15. Climate Change Science Program Issues Last Five of Twenty One Reports

The interagency Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), a coalition of 13 federal agencies, posted the last five of twenty one reports in January 2009. The CCSP was formed during the Bush Administration to integrate the U.S. Global Change Research Program with President Bush’s newer initiative, the Climate Change Research Initiative. The goal was to re-establish priorities for climate change research while still carrying out the requirements of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. A court ruled that the CCSP has not carried out the requirements of the act and others have criticized the program for a lack of effectiveness in meeting the goals of the program and of the law.

Congress and the new Obama Administration are likely to seek changes to CCSP or a re-organization of climate research to meet the requirements of the Global Change Research Act or enact new legislation to develop a more effective strategy to meeting national goals.

All of the climate change science reports and more information about CCSP is available here.

16. Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition has Updated Website

The Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition has significantly revised their website to provide easier access to maps, information, tools for mapping, other products and general information. The coalition consists of the state geological surveys of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York and Michigan and the U.S. Geological Survey. Check out the cool maps and other products at

17. AGI Seeks Geoscience Students for Summer Internships

AGI's Government Affairs Program offers summer and semester internship opportunities for geoscience students (undergraduates or Masters students) with an interest in public policy and in how Washington impacts the geoscience community. Interns gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. Applications for the summer internships are due by March 15 and applications for the fall internship are due by April 15.

Please see the website for more details.

18. Key Federal Register Notices

NSF—The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces a public comment period on its renewal request for the information collection Survey of Research and Development Expenditures at Universities and Colleges. The survey is the academic research and development expenditure component of the NSF statistical program that seeks to provide a “central clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, and analysis of data on the availability of, and the current and projected need for, scientific and technical resources in the United States, and to provide a source of information for policy formulation by other agencies of the Federal government,” as mandated in the National Science Foundation Act of 1950. The proposed project will continue the annual survey cycle for up to three years. Written comments on the necessity, accuracy of the estimated burden of collection, and ways to enhance the disbursement of information and minimize the burden to respondent must be submitted to Suzanne Plimpton ( at NSF by March 10, 2009.
[Friday, January 9 (Vol. 74, No. 6)]

DOC—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announces a public comment period for the second draft of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Unified Synthesis Product report. The report is released solely for the purpose of review and does not represent any Agency policy. The draft is available on the CCSP website at Comments must be prepared in accordance with the instructions posted on the website and submitted to
[Tuesday, January 13 (Vol. 74, No. 8)]

DOC—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration solicits nominations for potential Sea Grant Advisory Board members. The Sea Grant Advisory Board and advisory committee provide advice on the implementation of the National Sea Grant College Program. The solicitation is open ended and resumes may be sent at any time to: Dr. Jim D. Murray; Designated Federal Official, Sea Grant Advisory Board; Deputy Director, National Sea Grant College Program; 1315 East-West Highway, Room 11841; Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.
[Wednesday, January 14 (Vol. 74, No. 9)]

DOI—The Mineral Management Service (MMS) requests comments on the 5-year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2010-2015 proposed draft. This draft is for a new oil and gas program to succeed the current program, and forms the basis for conducting the studies and analyses the Secretary will consider in making future decisions on what areas of the OCS to include in the program. Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the MMS also will prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the new 5-year program. Submit comments by mail to the MMS or online at no later than March 23, 2009. For more information contact Renee Orr, 5-Year Program Manager, at (703) 787-1215.
[Wednesday, January 21 (Vol. 74, No 12)]

DOI—The Minerals Management Service (MMS) announces its intent to prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to evaluate potential environmental effects of multiple Geological and Geophysical Explorations (G&G) on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). This notice initiates the scoping process for the PEIS. Through the scoping process, Federal, state, and local government agencies and other interested parties have the opportunity to aid MMS in determining the significant issues and alternatives for analysis in the PEIS, and ultimately for future decisions regarding G&G operations under MMS regulatory authority. Send comments to In particular, MMS would like to know the interest level and geographic location for seismic exploration activity (2D and 3D), magnetotelluric and controlled source electromagnetic surveys, coring, deep and/or shallow stratigraphic test wells, geochemical surveys, aeromagnetic, and aerogravity surveys. Comments must be received by March 23, 2009. For further information visit the website at:
[Wednesday, January 21 (Vol. 74, No. 12)]

DOI—The U.S. Geological Survey gives notice of a public meeting of the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) in Reston, VA February 10-11, 2009. The ACWI provides a forum for water information users and professionals to advise the Federal Government on activities and plans that may improve the effectiveness of meeting the Nation's water information needs. This meeting is to discuss broad policy-related topics relating to national water initiatives, and the development and dissemination of water information, through reports from ACWI subgroups. For more information on the ACWI, its members, subgroups, meetings and activities, please visit:
[Monday, January 26 (Vol. 74, No. 15)]

DOE—The Office of Fossil Energy announces the availability of the 2009 Annual Plan for Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Research and Development Program on their website at For further information contact Elena Melchert at (202) 586-5600 or
[Tuesday, January 27 (Vol. 74, No. 16)]

NSF—The Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE) announces an open meeting to study NSF programs and policies, and provide advice and recommendations concerning broadening participation in science and engineering. The meeting will take place February 19-20, 2009 at the National Science Foundation in Arlington, VA. For more information, contact Dr. Margaret E.M. Tolbert at (703) 292-4216 or
[Friday, January 30 (Vol. 74, No. 19)]

Monthly Review prepared by Corina Cerovski-Darriau and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program.

Sources: Greenwire, Associated Press, Environment and Energy Daily, New York Times, and the Washington Post.

This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.  Prior updates can be found on the AGI web site under "Public Policy" For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.


Posted February 4, 2008.