Monthly Review: January 2010

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. Email Government Affairs to receive the monthly review by email.

    1. Do You Want to Be a Geoscience Policy Intern?
    2. Follow AGI on Twitter

    ***Administration News and Updates***
    1. President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2011: Geoscience Highlights
    2. President Obama’s First State of the Union
    3. President’s Educate to Innovate Initiative
    4. President’s Science Council Meets
    5. President’s Nuclear Waste Task Force Announced

    ***Congressional News and Updates***
    1. Congressional Calendars for 2010
    2. House Science and Technology Agenda
    3. NEHRP Re-authorization Update
    4. Murkowski Formalizes Disapproval of EPA Ruling

    ***Federal Agency News and Updates***
    1. CIA Will Share Satellite Data with Select Scientists
    2. Chu Defends IPCC Findings and Blue Ribbon Task Force
    3. Interior Launches Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms 
    4. EPA Will Regulate Florida’s Water
    5. FWS Gearing Policies Towards Climate Change Adaption
    6. NSB Releases Science and Engineering Indicators 2010

    ***Other News and Updates***
    1. Haiti Earthquake Update
    2. Updates on Open Access Plans
    3. Geologists in Africa as Part of AAAS On-Call Scientists
    4. IPCC Regrets Himalayan Glacier Error
    5. Joint Report on International Scientific Diplomacy
    6. Nuclear Tipping Point Warnings
    7. 2010 Congressional Visits Day—Mark You Calendars
    8. Welcome to the New AGI Government Affairs Intern
    9. Key Reports and Publications
    10. Key Federal Register Notices
    11. Key AGI Government Affairs Update

1. Do You Want to Be a Geoscience Policy Intern?

The American Geological Institute’s Government Affairs Program seeks outstanding geoscience students (masters or undergraduate) with a strong interest in federal science policy for summer, fall, and spring internships. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone their writing and web publishing skills. Interns receive a stipend through the generous support of the American Institute of Professional Geologists Foundation, the American Geological Institute or the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

The deadline for summer 2010 is March 15th and the deadlines for fall and spring are April 15 and October 15, respectively. For more information, and how to apply, go to:

2. Follow AGI on Twitter

The AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) now has a Twitter feed accessible through Twitter users who follow “agigap” will get monthly review and action alert notices, notices on geoscience policy at the federal level, and find announcements and opportunities for geoscientists in policy and through GAP (i.e. fellowships and internships). Twitter will be used to provide timely announcements about opportunities for geoscientists to participate in GAP or AGI events, to take action on federal policies, to comment on federal policies or to be updated on policies. Twitter will supplement the monthly review, cover other news, and disseminate information more immediately.

In addition, you can follow the AGI general Twitter feed for updates and news from the organization as a whole:

3. President’s Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2011: Geoscience Highlights

President Obama released the Administration’s budget request for fiscal year 2011 (FY11) on February 1, 2010. Of the $3.8 trillion requested for the U.S. government, here are some highlights of what is being requested for geosciences. The American Geological Institute’s Government Affairs Program will be preparing more detailed summaries and tables of requested geoscience funding in the near future through special email updates and our appropriation web pages.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is requested to receive $7.4 billion, an increase of 8 percent (+$550 million) over FY10.  Much of the increase would be for research with some emphasis on energy and sustainability. A smaller 2 percent increase is requested for NSF’s education and training programs. A major new NSF-wide initiative is called Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) which is budgeted at $766 million. The funds will be pulled from across the different directorates and the Geosciences will contribute $231 million for the initiative.

The Geosciences Directorate would receive an increase of 7.4 percent (+$65.6 million) for a total budget of $955.3 million. Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences would receive $281 million (+8.1 percent), Ocean Sciences would receive $378 million (+8.3 percent) and Earth Sciences would receive $199 million (+8.7 percent). EarthScope would receive $26 million (+3.8 percent) and the Ocean Observatories Initiative would receive $27.5 million (+66.7 percent).

The U.S. Geological Survey is requested to receive $1.1 billion, an increase of $21.6 million over FY10. Major increases would include +$3 million for the New Energy Frontier Initiative, +$11 million for the Climate Change Adaptation Initiative, +9 million for the WaterSMART Program, +$3.6 million for work in Chesapeake Bay as part of the Treasured Landscape Initiative,  +$13.4 million for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission, +$4.7 million for hazards, +$13.9 million for the Global Change Program and +$4 million for marine spatial planning through a partnership with the Minerals Management Service.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is requested to receive $19 billion, a increase of 4 percent (+$700 million) over FY10. The Constellation program, to build the Orion spacecraft and Ares rocket, and manned lunar missions would be eliminated. The termination of Constellation leaves the U.S. with a likely multi-year gap in human spaceflight capabilities. The three space shuttles will be retired at the end of this year and the U.S. will depend on Russian spaceflights to support the International Space Station. NASA would like to transition to commercially operated spaceflights.

NASA’s Science Directorate would receive $5 billion, an increase of 8 percent ($540 million). Earth Science would receive $1,420.7 million (+$44 million). NASA would also focus on building Earth-observing satellites. About $170 million would be for replacing the failed Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO). About $150 million would be used to accelerate the development of new satellites for Earth Science priorities.

The Department of Energy is requested to receive $28.4 billion, an increase of 1.4 percent (+$406 million) compared to FY10. The Office of Science would receive $5.1 billion for an increase of $218 million. The Advanced Research Projects in Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $300 million, an additional $40 million would go to existing Energy Frontier Research Centers, an additional $107 million would go to Energy Innovation Hubs and RE-ENERGYSE would get $74 million. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $2.4 billion (+$113 million), Fossil Energy Programs would receive $586 million (-$86 million) and Nuclear Energy would receive $824 million (+$37 million).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is requested to receive $919 million, an increase of 7.3 percent over FY10.  Scientific and Technical Research and Services would receive $585 million (+$54 million).
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is requested to receive a huge increase of $164 million for competitively awarded research programs for a total research budget of $429 million for FY11.

4. President Obama’s State of the Union

On January 27, 2010, President Obama gave his first State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress in Washington DC. He focused on improving the economy and reducing unemployment. At about the mid-point of his speech he turned his attention to encouraging American innovation and noted that in 2009, the government made the largest investment in basic research funding in history. He noted that innovation is particularly important in energy and called for support for nuclear power plants, advanced biofuels and clean coal. He called for “making tough decisions” on opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development and asked for passage of a comprehensive energy and climate bill.

Regarding climate science, President Obama said “I know that there are those who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.  But here's the thing -- even if you doubt the evidence, providing incentives for energy-efficiency and clean energy are the right thing to do for our future -– because the nation that leads the clean energy economy will be the nation that leads the global economy.  And America must be that nation.”

The President also focused on education, calling for reform to raise student achievement and inspire students to excel in math and science. He called for the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with these reforms in mind. Turning to higher education, the President said “To make college more affordable, this bill will finally end the unwarranted taxpayer subsidies that go to banks for student loans. Instead, let's take that money and give families a $10,000 tax credit for four years of college and increase Pell Grants. And let's tell another one million students that when they graduate, they will be required to pay only 10 percent of their income on student loans, and all of their debt will be forgiven after 20 years –- and forgiven after 10 years if they choose a career in public service, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they chose to go to college.”

He concluded his speech by discussing some of the most difficult tasks facing the nation, health care reform, budget deficit reduction, reducing partisanship, fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nuclear weapon threats and civil rights.

5. President’s Educate to Innovate Initiative

President Obama hosted the recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Mentoring at the White House on January 6, 2010. He took the opportunity to highlight and summarize his “Educate to Innovate” initiative. The initiative is a “nationwide effort by citizens, non-for-profits, universities, and companies … to help us move to the top of the pack in math and science education”
The administration will leverage agency resources to help with this initiative. The President announced five new public-private partnerships and two agency initiatives.

Another component of the initiative is National Lab Day, a nationwide initiative to bring hands-on learning into communities across the country. The initiative is a year-long series of training and activities with a culminating week of coordinated events planned for May 2010.

Another component of this initiative is the USA Science and Engineering Festival, a hands-on science celebration on the National Mall in Washington DC on October 23-24, 2010.

The American Geological Institute and other geoscience societies are part of these initiatives. Others are encouraged to participate as the initiatives allow for activities throughout the country and throughout the year.

6. President’s Science Council Meets

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) met on January 7, 2010. The council focused on five topics: research and development at the Energy Department, health policy, environment activities of the Office of Science and Technology (OSTP), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Administration’s science, technology and innovation policy. The webcast is available for viewing online and all past meetings, including public comments are available at the PCAST web page.

The next meeting of PCAST is scheduled for March 12, 2010 and public comments related to this meeting should preferably be submitted two weeks in advance of the meeting.

7. President’s Nuclear Waste Task Force Announced

On January 29, 2010, the Department of Energy announced the 15-member blue ribbon commission that will provide advice and recommendations on nuclear storage, processing and disposal. The commission will be led by Lee Hamilton, a former Member of Congress and chairman of the 9-11 commission, and Brent Scowcroft, a former Air Force general and presidential advisor. Below is a list of the other members including one member of the geoscience community, Allison McFarlane.

  • Mark Ayers, President, Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO
  • Vicky Bailey, Former Commissioner, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Former IN PUC Commissioner; Former Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs
  • Albert Carnesale, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor, UCLA
  • Pete V. Domenici, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center; former U.S. Senator (R-NM)
  • Susan Eisenhower, President, Eisenhower Group
  • Chuck Hagel, Former U.S. Senator (R-NE)
  • Jonathan Lash, President, World Resources Institute
  • Allison Macfarlane, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University
  • Dick Meserve, Former Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Ernie Moniz, Professor of Physics and Cecil & Ida Green Distinguished Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Per Peterson, Professor and Chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California - Berkeley
  • John Rowe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Exelon Corporation
  • Phil Sharp, President, Resources for the Future

8. Congressional Calendars for 2010

The House and Senate have released calendars for the second session of the 111th Congress. The Senate calendar is available from the Senate web page. The House calendar is available from the House of Representatives web page.

9. House Science and Technology Committee Agenda

Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) announced the agenda for the House Science and Technology Committee for the second session of the 111th Congress. Topping their list of priorities is the re-authorization of the America COMPETES Act, a law that called for a doubling of physical science research at the National Science Foundation (NSF), Energy Department’s Office of Science and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Some of the other priorities on the agenda include:

  • Make certain the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) promotes new markets and technologies as well as spurring advances in the commercial space industry.
  • Strengthen science, technology, engineering and math education to produce a skilled workforce for future high-tech jobs.
  • Expand research and development (R&D) of alternative energy as well as nuclear energy and nuclear waste containment.
  • Complete legislation to support R&D to mitigate damage from earthquakes and windstorms.
  • Guide R&D for greater safety, cleanliness and reliability of pipelines.
  • Ensure technologies to monitor and verify greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Maintain support for atmospheric and ocean research within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and establish a NOAA Organic Act.
  • Align R&D at the Environmental Protection Agency with its mission and needs.
  • Consider geoengineering and climate engineering R&D.

10. NEHRP Re-authorization Update

The Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee of the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the re-authorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP). A focus of the hearing was the lower authorization levels recommended for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2009 (H.R. 3820). Chairman Jim Costa (D-CA), Ranking Member Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) expressed support for the program and concern about the reduction in authorization levels. Two witnesses, David Applegate, Senior Advisor for Earthquakes and Geologic Hazards, USGS and Stuart Nishenko, Chair, Government Relations Committee, Seismological Society of America presented testimony explaining the importance and value of NEHRP.

Letters of support from the American Geological Institute, the Seismological Society of America, the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, the Association of American State Geologists, the Oregon State Geological Survey and others were acknowledged and included as part of the official record.

11. Murkowski Formalizes Disapproval of EPA Ruling

On January 21, 2010 Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a disapproval resolution to block the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from being able to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EPA independently ruled last December that GHGs are a danger to human health and therefore EPA could regulate them under the Clean Air Act. Murkowski and many others feel the EPA is wrong in circumventing Congress to make this decision, and that the Clean Air Act is ill suited to properly handle a regulation of this kind. Murkowski hoped to vote on her resolution in February, but a March vote is more likely given scheduling difficulties.

The resolution has 36 Republican co-sponsors and endorsement from 3 Democrats. An additional two Democrats—Senators Byron Dorgan (ND) and Jim Webb (VA)—and two Republicans—Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins—are considering co-sponsorship.

Once a disapproval resolution is placed on the Senate calendar, it is then subject to expedited consideration on the Senate floor, and not subject to filibuster. It only takes 51 votes to pass a disapproval resolution as opposed to the 60 needed in Murkowski’s original plan of introducing an amendment.

Read the full press release from Murkowski here.

12. CIA Will Share Satellite Data with Select Scientists

An old environmental surveillance program has been reopened for the benefit of science. The Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis (Medea) program at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been reopened after unexpectedly being shut down by President George W. Bush in 2001 after nine years of operation. Medea gives 60 of the nation’s top scientists access to classified reconnaissance satellite data and other spy sensors. The scientists, mainly from academia with a few representatives from industry and federal agencies, conduct scientific research under the guidance of the National Academy of Sciences.

CIA Director Leon Paneta strongly supports the program, believing the national security implications of desertification, sea level rise, and population shifts justify this collaboration. However the program has come under scrutiny in Congress, particularly by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) who thinks the CIA should spend more time fighting terrorists, “not spying on sea lions.”

The Medea program has little to no impact on regular intelligence gathering and is more or less free. What is does is release information already collected or utilizes already deployed sensors to gather environmental data while passing over wilderness areas. The images that have been declassified are released at a lower resolution to mask the true abilities of CIA satellites. So far the data scientists have received has allowed them to analyze Arctic sea ice to help with summer melt records. In addition to sea ice data, scientists hope to gather information on clouds, glaciers, deserts, and tropical forests.

13. Chu Defends IPCC Findings and Blue Ribbon Task Force

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the research and development priorities to meet the challenges associated with climate change, Energy Secretary Steven Chu defended the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In response to accusations of fraud and unreliability of climate change evidence brought about by the “Climategate” emails that erupted last year after a U.K. Climatic Research Center was hacked into, Chu indicated that the Department of Energy (DOE) would continue to rely on IPCC findings.

The hearing also focused on nuclear energy development at DOE. Republican senators expressed impatience with Chu’s focus on “exotic technologies” instead of spending money on proven technologies like nuclear. In particular, senators questioned why Chu was taking so much time to appoint people to his blue-ribbon commission tasked with tackling the nuclear waste issue. Chu assured the committee that he was working hard on the commission and that the Obama Administration was dedicated to expanding nuclear energy. Within a week of the hearing, Chu announced the task force members (see 7).

14. Interior Launches Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced reforms to oil and gas leasing sales on public lands. Key changes include interdisciplinary reviews that consider site-specific concerns, greater public involvement in the Master Leasing and Development plans and BLM will take a lead role in determining areas where leasing can occur.

The full press release is available from DOI:

15. EPA Will Regulate Florida’s Water

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed pollution standards for nutrients in Florida waters. This is the first time that EPA has taken over pollution standards for a state. The proposal sets limits for nitrogen and phosphorous in lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals. Standards for coastal waters will be set in January of 2011. Florida estimates charges for water and sewer services may double in some parts of the state. The enforcement stems from an EPA Inspector General report that found that the EPA failed to enforce federal nutrient pollution standards after Florida failed to do so on their own. Some environmental groups are pressing EPA to set nutrient standards in Wisconsin next.

16. FWS Gearing Policies Towards Climate Change Adaption

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s new director, Sam Hamilton, is keeping busy trying to adapt policies to cope with the ramifications of climate change. Historically, adaption questions are addressed at the regional level, but climate change is making FWS realign its policies, priorities, and areas of investment to address this from a higher-level.

The policies being reevaluated may spur major changes for how FWS approaches conservation. Currently the FWS is developing a $25 million program which would develop “landscape conservation cooperatives” that would be used to regionally study and assess ecological responses to climate change that can provide insight as to what direction FWS policy should move in. The goal for the FWS is to use global climate models to influence and develop better regional climate models. Ultimately, Hamilton, who is a 30 year veteran of the FWS, would like to see FWS use more science when deciding how to spend their money.

17. NSB Releases Science and Engineering Indicators 2010

The National Science Board (NSB) released its Science and Engineering Indicators for 2010 on January 15, 2010. Regarding the global expansion of research and development (R&D) expenditures, the report notes that the majority of funding for R&D in most nations comes from industry, with the rest from governments.

The U.S. spends about 2.7 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on R&D annually, while Japan and South Korea have increased their R&D growth to about 3.5 percent of GDP. The European Union spends about 1.8 percent of GDP annually over more than a decade, while China continues to rapidly expand its spending on R&D, doubling its percentage of GDP from 0.5 in 1996 to 1.5 percent in 2007. China has also become a leader in knowledge and technology-intensive exports, once areas of growth solely led by developed countries. Please see the full report for many other details regarding science and engineering in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

18. Haiti Earthquake Update

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Haiti causing significant devastation. The geoscience community, as individuals and organizations, has come together to provide information about the underlying geoscience and ways to help Haiti.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) provides continuing information about the earthquake, aftershocks, tectonics, structure and future risks. The National Science Foundation is sending a team of geoscientists led by Eric Calais from Purdue University to investigate the earthquake and provide future hazard assessments. See the NSF press release for some details. The Earthquake Engineering Research Institute (EERI) has a Haiti Earthquake Clearinghouse web page with information about earthquake engineering issues and updates from a team of engineers who will investigate the damage and provide recommendations to reduce future risk.

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has a web page with information and links to useful resources. AGU will also organize a congressional briefing with several partners about the Haiti earthquake for policymakers in February. The Geological Society of America has made all published papers on the tectonics and seismicity of the Haitian area available for free on their web page.

19. Updates on Open Access Plans

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) held an online forum to receive input on public access policy. Stakeholders could submit information and ideas through a blog or email. The blog allowed for additional comments on submissions. The project started on December 9, 2009 and was suppose to end on January 7, 2010. The American Geological Institute and others requested an extension of the deadline because of the holidays and the comment period was extended to January 21, 2010. Several geoscience societies, including the Mineralogical Society of America, the Association of American Petroleum Geologists, the Association of Limnology and Oceanography and the Society for Sedimentary Geology submitted comments. Now OSTP will assess all of the comments and draft a policy plan.

Last year the House Science and Technology Committee in coordination with OSTP convened a Scholarly Publishing Roundtable of stakeholders to consider ways to increase public access to research papers published in peer-reviewed journals. Their report was released on January 12, 2010.

The report recommends that published, peer-reviewed papers, where the research was supported by federal funds, should be made available through a public database. The report suggests an embargo period of as long as 12 months, but allows for shorter or longer periods. View the roundtable web page for the full report as well as press releases and related materials.

In related news, ArXiv, the “free” e-print server of physics papers, is requesting donations from educational institutions to maintain the database. ArXiv received $883,000 in stimulus funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2009 to enhance ArXiv, but the system needs additional funds for basic operation and maintenance (basic O&M costs about $400,000 annually). Cornell University Library posted a collaborative business model for ArXiv on its web page on January 21, 2010. Cornell manages the database and provides 15 percent of the operating budget. All stakeholders in peer-reviewed scientific publishing are encouraged to review the business model and consider the future of open access for all fields of research.

20. Geologists in Africa as Part of AAAS On-Call Scientists

Geologists have volunteered to investigate the possible human rights abuses in Africa through the AAAS “On-Call” Scientists initiative. Since its launch in October 2008, “On-call” Scientists has been pairing up scientists and engineers interested in volunteering their skills with human rights organizations in need of their scientific expertise. The initiative has 350 scientists and engineers enrolled to offer their services on a pro bono basis.

Kathleen Nicoll, a professor of geology and geography at the University of Utah, has been working with Global Rights group from Washington, DC to document how oil extraction in the Congo has decreased access to food and water. Nicoll’s research shows that villagers now have to travel over one kilometer to reach a water source, many of which are polluted, due to oil extraction nearby.

Mark Logsdon, a geologist at Geochimica Inc. in California, is also working for Global Rights. He will be lending his expertise to observe a gold mining project in Guinea once it is safe to travel to the country. Logsdon will be looking at the management of the cyanide used to extract gold from low-grade ore. The Global Rights group lauded the help from scientists, explaining that industry experts are in a position to conduct tests, to ask pointed questions, to review scientific data and to help the human rights groups assess situations that require scientific or technical knowledge that human rights defenders often do not have.

AAAS encourages scientists and engineers from all disciplines to consider volunteering. They want a diverse group to enroll to meet the wide variety of possible of scientific applications to human rights, including helping organizations integrate the scientific method into their data-collection and analysis to strengthen their results.

21. IPCC Regrets Himalayan Glacier Error

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a statement (PDF copy) expressing their regret for an error in its Fourth Assessment released in 2007. The report stated that the Himalayan glaciers were likely to melt by 2035 in error. The IPCC chairs and co-chairs regret the misrepresentation and explained that the conclusion was based on “poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.” However, the IPCC maintains that the overall conclusion that glaciers will melt at an accelerating rate through the 21st century, reducing seasonal freshwater availability from glacial melt, is still valid and substantiated by robust science.

22. Joint Report on International Scientific Diplomacy

AAAS, working in conjunction with The Royal Society of London, released a report New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy following a meeting held in June 2009. The highlight was the potential for improved international policy and global relationships because of cooperative international scientific research. The three main conclusions of the meeting were that science will influence policy, increased diplomacy can improve international scientific cooperation, which in turn could lead to improved diplomatic relations between countries.

23. Nuclear Tipping Point Warnings

The Brookings Institution has released a new book entitled The Nuclear Tipping Point: Why States Reconsider Their Nuclear Choices that examines the factors that shape nuclear policy in nations around the world. The authors call on U.S. leadership and international cooperation to prevent the world from unleashing an epidemic of nuclear weapon proliferation and use.

A new documentary called Nuclear Tipping Point has also been released. The documentary includes discussions by four former U.S. officials -- Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn – on finding ways to reduce the United State's reliance on nuclear weapons and reduce the chance of a rogue nation using a nuclear weapon for a terrorist act. Michael Douglas narrates the film and there are additional interviews with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Soviet Union President Mikhal Gorbachev.

24. 2010 Congressional Visits Days—Mark Your Calendars

Geoscientists are invited to join organized groups of scientists and engineers for workshops and visits with congressional members and committees in April and September 2010. Decision makers need to hear from geoscientists. Become a citizen geoscientist and join many of your colleagues for a workshop at AGU headquarters followed by a day conducting visits with members of Congress or congressional staff on Capitol Hill to speak on the importance of geoscience research, development, and education.

April 28-29, 2010
Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (SET-CVD), a larger event for all the sciences. More information is available at:
September 21-22, 2010
Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD), an event specifically geared towards geoscientists. For a synopsis of last year’s event, go to the AGI event site.

Several geoscience societies, including AGI, AAPG, AGU and GSA, are involved in organizing these events. Please contact Linda Rowan,, Director of Government Affairs at AGI, or the public policy office of one of the other societies with any questions and to sign-up.

25. Welcome to the New AGI Government Affairs Intern

Maureen Moses is currently in the final stages of completing her Masters degree from Central Washington University on the petrology of basalt lavas from the 1646-1669 eruptive period at Mount Etna in Sicily with Dr. Wendy Bohrson. She received her Bachelor’s degree in 2007 from San Diego State University and completed her senior thesis with Dr. Victor Camp with a minor in Religious Studies. While at SDSU she was a volunteer for Scripps Institute of Oceanography aboard a P.L.U.M.E. research cruise which studied the Hawaiian Mantle Plume using seismic tomography. In summer 2004 she participated in a NSF-REU internship at Carnegie Institution of Washington. She attributes all of these experiences to shaping and refining her scientific interests, and has thoroughly enjoyed the adventures they provided.

Maureen’s policy interests include Natural Hazards and Public Health, Climate Change, STEM education, and the controversy surrounding the teaching of evolution in some regions of the country. Maureen was born and raised in San Diego, and enjoys travel, exotic food and music, and bocce ball.

26. Key Reports and Publications

***Congressional Research Services (CRS)***
Displacing Coal with Generation from Existing Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants
Released January 19, 2010. This report presents a possibility for reducing carbon emissions by having power plants, currently operating by burning coal, switch to burning natural gas. It lists several factors to consider, and suggests the government consider further, more rigorous analysis of this issue.

Haiti Earthquake: Crisis and Response
Released January 15, 2010. The January 12, 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti was the largest ever recorded in the region and has affected the lives of nearly one-third of the Haitian population. This report highlights the extent of destruction and the short-term goals to re-establish safety and public utilities for the affected Haitian communities. Also included is a summary of the U.S. monetary aide, resources and impacts on U.S. homeland security.

The Future of NASA: Space Policy Issues Facing Congress
Released January 14, 2010. The space exploration vision presented by President Bush in 2004 would require a $3 billion per year increase in the NASA program, and this report suggests a coherent budget from NASA before making any significant changes to the program.  It also suggests that if manned space missions are not the best use of federal funds, to consider how to appropriately transition, crews, technology, and NASA objectives to another direction.

Earthquakes: Risk, Detection, Warning, and Research
Released January 14, 2010. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NHERP) was only appropriated 68 percent of the authorized amount for FY2005-2009 and is proposed to be cut by an initial $100 million more through FY 2014. Despite the difficulty in quantifying the utility of NEHRP in general and how these cuts will influence the program’s effectiveness, it is understood that a single catastrophic event could greatly exceed current annual totals for economic loss from earthquakes.

Energy and Water Development: FY2010 Appropriations
Released January 5, 2010. The FY10 budget included funding for several federal and independent agencies to be used for projects pertaining to ecosystem restoration, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, renewable energy development, and DOE environmental management. Further funding was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
Released December 23, 2009. The current icebreaker fleet is 30 years old and in great need of upgrade or replacement. Aside from weighing the expenses of replacing versus modernizing the fleet, is the question of where the expenses should come from. Agencies being considered to fund this project, in part or whole, are the U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Defense, or National Science Foundation.

Status of the Copenhagen Climate Change Negotiations
Released December 9, 2009. The U.S. participated in the Copenhagen climate talks December 15-17, 2009, with approximately 200 other countries. This report highlights the U.S. stance on issues such as GHG emissions reduction, adapting to climate change and how to best aide developing nations monetarily and technologically versus the views of other developed nations.

***Government Accountability Office (GAO)***
Rural Water Infrastructure: Improved Coordination and Funding Processes Could Enhance Federal Efforts to Meet Needs in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region
Released January 18, 2010. Several federal drinking and wastewater programs exist for the U.S.-Mexico border region. However few programs actually assess, prioritize, or coordinate the needs of these regions. The report suggests better communication and needs assessment between the agencies when selecting projects for funding.

***National Academy of Sciences (NAS)***
Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report
Prepublication released January 26, 2010. In 2005, a Congress called for NASA to detect 90 percent of Near Earth Objects (NEOs) greater than 140 meters by 2020. This report says this needs to broaden to 30 to 50 meter NEOs. The book explores four main types of mitigation including civil defense, “slow push” or “pull” methods, kinetic impactors and nuclear explosions. It also asserts that effective response requires international cooperation.

Letter Report Assessing the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program's Science Framework
Prepublication released January 22, 2010. Following a request by the USGS, the National Research Council has submitted a letter suggesting guidance on the National Water Quality Assessment Program. It reviews current policy and makes recommendations about future goals based issues that could affect the U.S. in the next 10-15 years.

27. Key Federal Register Notices

The full federal register notices can be accessed at:

DOC—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) requests proposals for special projects and programs associated with the NOAA strategic plan and mission goals that encourage research, education and outreach, innovative projects, or sponsorships that are not addressed through our competitive discretionary programs. See the full announcement on under Funding Opportunity Number NOAA-NFA-NFAPO-2010-2002272 for information on the application and funding process, mission goals, and contacts. You must first register on in order to submit to the site. Submit applications by 5pm EST on September 30, 2011.
[Tuesday, January 5, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 2)]

DOI—The Secretary of the Interior renewed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Resource Advisory Councils for the states of Alaska, California, Colorado, Montana, Dakotas, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. For more information contact Allison Sandoval at (202) 912-7434.
[Thursday, January 7, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 4)]

NRC—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have finalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to define their cooperative working relationship in preparation of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documents related to the extraction of uranium and thorium on public lands administered by BLM. The MOU, finalized on November 30, 2009, will improve communications, facilitate the sharing of expertise and information, and coordinate the preparation of studies and reports. The MOU is available on the NRC’s Electronic Reading Room ADAMS at under ADAMS Accession Number ML093430195. For more information about the NRC documents contact Carol Gallagher by phone: (301) 492-3668 or email:
[Friday, January 8, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 5)]
DOI—Minerals Management Service (MMS) is collecting information on a survey the agency is planning to assess the vulnerabilities of coastal communities to offshore oil and gas development in the North Slope area of Alaska. Comments are requested on the necessity of such a survey, accuracy of the agency’s estimated burden of collection, usefulness and clarity of the survey, and improvements to collection. Submit comments at under Docket ID MMS-2010-OMM-0001 by March 15, 2010. For more information contact Cheryl Blundon at (703) 787-1607.
[Tuesday, January 12, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 7)]

 DOI—The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announces an open meeting of the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) on February 10-11, 2010 at USGS in Virginia. This meeting is to discuss broad policy-related topics relating to national water initiatives, and the development and dissemination of water information. For more information contact Wendy Norton at: (703) 648-6810 or 
[Thursday, January 14, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 9)]

DOC—In response to the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Pub. L. 111-11), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Ocean Service is publishing the Ocean and Coastal Mapping Contracting Policy. This policy is a strategy for expanding contracting with non-governmental entities to minimize duplication and take advantage of non-governmental capabilities in fulfilling NOAA’s mapping and charting responsibilities. This updated policy broadens the scope beyond “hydrographic services” to include “ocean and coastal mapping” services as defined in the full announcement. For more information on the policy contact Roger Parsons by phone: (301) 713-2776 x205 or email: 
[Thursday, January 14, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 9)]

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board will meet February 10-11, 2010 in Washington, DC. For further information about this meeting, contact Angela Nugent by phone: (202) 343-9981 or email: General information about this public meeting is online at:
[Friday, January 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 10)]

NASA—The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Advisory Committee Science Committee of the NASA Advisory Council will meet February 16-17, 2010 at NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC to solicit scientific and technical information relevant to program planning. For more information contact Marian Norris by phone: (202) 358-4452 or email: 
[Federal Register: January 19, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 11)]

DOI—The U.S. Geological Survey requests comments on the collection of information requirements for the Mine, Development, and Mineral Exploration Supplement. Submit comments on the necessity, utility, quality, and burden of this collection by Feb. 22, 2010 to the Office of Management and Budget by email: or fax: (202) 395-5806; and identify your submission as 1028-0060. Also submit a copy to Phadrea Ponds by fax: (970) 226-9230 or email: with 1028-0060 in the subject line. For more information contact Shonta E. Osborne at (703) 648-7960.
[Friday, January 22, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 14)]

DOI—The Minerals Management Service has prepared a revised version of its “Finding of Adverse Effect” document for the proposed Cape Wind Energy Project off the coast of Nantucket Sound because five additional properties in the “Area of Adverse Effect” are now eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Comments on this revised document are due February 12, 2010 online at under Docket ID MMS-2010-OMM-0002. View the new document online: For more information contact Poojan Tripathi at (703) 787-1738.
[Monday, January 25, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 15)]

NASA—The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Advisory Council will have the first meeting of the newly formed Technology and Innovation Committee on February 11, 2010 at NASA Ames in California. To obtain call in information, contact Rho Christensen at (650) 604-2476. The meeting will review NASA’s Technology and Innovation Study report, the FY11 Presidential Budget Request, and explore the culture of innovation within NASA and ways to expand technology activities to meet the goals, needs, and challenges of NASA and national priorities. For more information contact Rick Howard at (202) 358-0898.
[Tuesday, January 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 16)]

DOI—The U.S. Geological Survey is requesting comments on the nature, utility, estimated burden, and cost of an information collection used to evaluate proposals submitted for host Regional Climate Change Centers through the National Climate Change and Wildlife Centers program. Submit comments by February 26, 2010 to the Desk Office for the Department of Interior at OMB-OIRA by fax: (202) 395-5806 or email: Send a copy to Phadrea Ponds by fax: (970) 226-9230 or email: Reference Information Collection 1028-NEW, NCCWSC in the subject line. For more information contact Nadine Hartke by phone: (703) 648-4607 or email:
[Wednesday, January 27, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 17)]

NASA—The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Advisory Council will have the first meeting of the newly formed Education and Public Outreach Committee on February 17, 2010 at NASA Headquarters in DC. For more information contact Erika Vick at: (202) 358-2209.
[Friday, January 29, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 19)]

28. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

·  Hearings on Natural Hazards (1-27-10)
·  TPG Intern Article on Nuclear Energy (1-12-10)
·  TPG Intern Article on Ocean Acidification (1-12-10)
·  TPG Intern Article on CCS (1-12-10)
·  Factsheet on LiDAR (1-06-10)

Monthly Review prepared by Corina Cerovski-Darriau and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program; and Maureen Moses, 2010 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern.

Sources: Associated Press, AAAS, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, New York Times, Washington Post, National Academies Press, American Institute of Physics, Government Accountability Office, Open CRS, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House, Department of the Interior, Politico.

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 geosciences 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 2, 2010.