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Monthly Review: February 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 The current monthly review and archived monthly reviews are all available online. Subscribe to receive the Government Affairs Monthly Review by email.

    ***Announcements***
  1. Government Affairs Program Monthly Review Has a New Look
  2. Calling All Geoscientists: Come to Washington DC in April and September
  3. Geoscience Public Policy Summer Internship—Deadline March 15!
  4. SSSA Policy Fellowship and Internship Opportunities


  5. ***Administration News and Updates***
  6. Request for Comments on Grand Challenges of the 21st Century
  7. Obama Announces an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage
  8. New NEPA Guidelines Draft Includes Greenhouse Gases
  9. Obama Wants to Raise Math Standards in No Child Left Behind
  10. U.S. Signs Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement with United Arab Emirates


  11. ***Congressional News and Updates***
  12. Congress Raises Debt Limit and Requires PAYGO
  13. Deadlines for Submitting Testimony to Appropriators on the FY2011 Budget
  14. Strong Science and Education Supporters Announce Retirement
  15. Moran Likely To Chair Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee
  16. House Passes Hazards Legislation
  17. House Committee Seeking Input on Education Legislation
  18. Engineering Education Bills Introduced in Congress
  19. Congressman Calls for Investigation of Messaging to Meteorologists
  20. House Committee Seeks Information on Fluids Used in Hydraulic Fracturing


  21. ***Federal Agency News and Updates***
  22. Federal Agencies Announce Open Government Portals for Increased Transparency
  23. EPA Endangerment Finding Update
  24. NOAA Launches Climate Service Web Portal
  25. NOAA Announces Plans to Revive DSCOVR Satellite
  26. USGS Report Details U-Mining Resources and Consequences Near the Grand Canyon


  27. ***Other News and Updates***
  28. Chilean Earthquake and Tsunami Resources
  29. AGI Hosts K-12 Earth System Science Summit
  30. Utah Adopts Statement on Climate Science
  31. IPCC Requests Nominations for Next Assessment Report
  32. Recent Anti-Evolution/Global Warming Legislation Introduced in Kentucky
  33. Key Reports and Publications
  34. Key Federal Register Notices
  35. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

 1. Government Affairs Program Monthly Review Has a New Look

The AGI Government Affairs Monthly Review email has been upgraded to a more easily accessible HTML format. The new email format allows readers to easily navigate through the review and access the external links directly from their email. The online and printer-friendly versions will still be accessible on the GAP web site.

We welcome your comments on the new format. Please complete this brief online survey to give us your feedback: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DD5PTZT

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 2. Calling All Geoscientists: Come to Washington DC in April and September

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 all geoscientists - professors, researchers, industry professionals, professional society representatives, and students. 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: www.setcvd.org.

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, rowan@agiweb.org, Director of Government Affairs at AGI, or the public policy office of one of the other societies with any questions and to sign-up. Download and distribute a flyer for this event from the AGI web site.

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 3. Geoscience Public Policy Summer Internship—Deadline March 15!

Interested in coming to Washington, DC for a paid internship covering geoscience policy at the federal level? 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.

Deadlines for summer and fall are coming up soon. Apply for the summer positions by March 15, and the fall position by April 15. For more information, and how to apply, go to: www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/index.html

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 4. SSSA Policy Fellowship and Internship Opportunities

SSSA Policy Fellowship
Do you have an interest in science policy or know someone who does? The Soil Science Society of America, together with the American Society of Agronomy and Crop Science Society of America, is seeking a Ph.D. to serve as our 2011 Congressional Science Fellow. This individual will work for one year in a congressional office or government agency in Washington, DC. The position carries a generous stipend plus relocation expenses and a flexible start date (September to January). Nominations are due April 21. More information is available on the SSSA web site.

SSSA Policy Internship
The Soil Science Society of America is seeking an undergraduate or graduate student with an interest in the science policy arena. The intern will work with our Science Policy Office in Washington, DC. The internship carries a monthly stipend plus living expenses, and flexible start and end dates. The internship can last from three to 12 months. See the award detail for complete eligibility and qualification information. Nominations are due April 21. More information is available on the SSSA web site.

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 5. Request for Comments on President’s Grand Challenges of the 21st Century

President Obama announced eight Grand Challenges of the 21st Century as part of his Strategy for American Innovation released in September 2009. Now the White House is soliciting public comments on those “grand challenges”, suggestions of others that need to be addressed, and ideas of partners and models to achieve these goals. Responses are due on April 15, 2010 to challenge@ostp.gov. More information on the “grand challenges” and the areas for comment is available in the White House request for information.

Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation encompassed three main themes: 1) Invest in the building block of American innovation to ensure the human, physical, and technological capital needed to perform; 2) Promote competitive markets that spur productive entrepreneurship; 3) Catalyze breakthroughs for national priorities in sectors like health, IT and advanced vehicles.

Within this strategy, the grand challenges aim to address key national priorities and generate economic benefit, interdisciplinary collaboration, and inspire students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The focus is on hard, unsolved scientific or engineering challenges that will have significant economic or societal impact and address an important national priority. Examples include: solar cells as cheap as paint, green buildings that produce all of the energy they consume, educational software equal to the best video games and as effective as a personal tutor, and others in the health and supercomputing fields.

Already more than 25 universities have signed up for the Grand Challenge Scholars Program, which will allow undergraduates to tackle these problems by integrating research, an interdisciplinary curriculum, entrepreneurship, international activities, and service learning.

In addition, the White House will work with Expert Labs, a non-profit independent lab affiliated with AAAS. They will collaborate with the technology community to develop better ways to harness American scientific and technological expertise, and encourage those interested in those fields to help inform public policy.

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 6. Obama Announces an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage

On February 3, 2010 President Obama called for an Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) to define a coordinated federal strategy to fast-track the development of clean coal technologies. The 14-member task force will be comprised of a senior officials designated to represent their respective cabinet level offices or executive office of the president. It will be co-chaired by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency representatives.

The task force will be named within 180 days of this announcement and then begin developing a comprehensive plan to develop cost-effective CCS within 10 years, with 5-10 commercial demonstration projects online by 2016.  The task force will look at coordinating existing administrative authorities and programs, including building international collaboration on CCS. Obama named comprehensive energy and climate legislation as the largest incentive for CCS, and this task force will prepare for the low carbon energy transition and spur investments into CCS in the near future.

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 7. New NEPA Guidelines Draft Includes Greenhouse Gases

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) proposed new guidelines for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), including guidance on when and how federal agencies must consider greenhouse gases. In addition, CEQ proposed three other areas for modernization: clarifying the appropriate use of “Findings of No Significant Impact” or FONSI, clarifying use of categorical exclusions, and enhancing the public tools for reporting NEPA activities. The guidelines are open for public comment for 45-90 days after their release on February 18, 2010. Read the draft guidance and submit your comments on the CEQ site.

The new draft comes as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations of NEPA. Enacted in 1970, NEPA recognizes that many federal activities affect the environment and mandates that federal agencies consider the environmental impacts of their proposed actions.  NEPA emphasizes public involvement in governmental decisions relating to the environment by increasing transparency and ease of implementation.

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 8. Obama Wants to Raise Math Standards in No Child Left Behind

President Obama would like to see reforms to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), commonly known as No Child Left Behind. The NY Times and the Washington Post are reporting the reform will propose higher math standards. Obama’s goal is to have state benchmarks for math and reading set at a level necessary to ensure future students are “college- and career-ready.” This is in contrast to the previous ESEA, signed in 2002, where states set standards without federal guidance. Some say that led to states setting lower goals in order to have a greater number of schools meet the benchmarks.

As part of this effort, the House Committee on Education and Labor announced an open and transparent bipartisan rewrite of ESEA is getting underway. As part of that process, the committee is soliciting input and suggestions. The deadline for submitting comments to the committee is March 26, 2010.

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 9. U.S. Signs Civil Nuclear Energy Agreement with United Arab Emirates

Energy Secretary Steven Chu signed an agreement between the United States and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to cooperate on training and education in nuclear safeguards and management systems. UAE intends to build 10 nuclear power plants in 20 years and plans to make Masdar the first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city in the world. Secretary Chu signed the agreement in the UAE as part of his multi-day trip to the Middle East. There was also a U.S. nuclear energy trade delegation traveling in the Middle East at the same time, but perhaps a bit too late, as the UAE chose a consortium of Asian countries to build its reactors about a month earlier.

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 10. Congress Raises Debt Limit and Requires PAYGO

On February 4, 2010, Congress passed Joint Resolution 45 to increase the statutory limit on the public debt from $12.394 trillion to $14.294 trillion, require pay as you go rules for new spending, and investigate duplicative or wasteful spending in government programs. President Obama signed the measure into law and it is now Public Law 111-139.

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 11. Deadlines for Submitting Testimony to Appropriators on the FY2011 Budget

Interested in submitting testimony to the House and Senate Appropriators on the President’s request for the fiscal year (FY) 2011 budget? If so, the subcommittees and their deadlines are listed below. More information on how to submit testimony is listed on the subcommittee web sites (look in the right side navigation bar on the House pages and at the bottom of the Senate pages).

House Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee—April 14, 2010
House Energy and Water Subcommittee—March 19, 2010
House Interior and Environment Subcommittee—March 26, 2010
House Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee—April 16, 2010

Senate Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee—April 2, 2010
Senate Energy and Water Subcommittee—April 1, 2010
Senate Interior and Environment Subcommittee—May 14, 2010
Senate Labor, HHS, Education Subcommittee—April 12, 2010

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 12. Strong Science and Education Supporters Announce Retirement

Seventeen-year veteran of the House of Representatives, Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) announced he would retire from Congress at the end of this year. He has been a strong supporter of science and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in Congress.

Ehlers serves on three House Committees: Science and Technology (S&T), Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) and Education and Labor. He has been on S&T and T&I since his arrival in Congress, helping to ensure fair funding and investments in Michigan transportation systems, leading the development of the Great Lakes Legacy Act and improving science and education in Michigan and the rest of the country. He previously served on the Administration Committee where he led the efforts to bring the internet to Congress and to create the Library of Congress’ Thomas web site. Thomas is a great online resource for all current and past legislation.

Ehlers is one of three representatives with a background in physics and holds a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. During statements on his retirement he admonished more scientists for not considering a career in Congress. At a recent Committee on Science and Technology hearing Ehlers recounted being asked by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in 1998 to oversee writing the nation’s first major statement on science policy since 1945. Colleagues at the hearing thanked Ehlers for his service to the country and lauded his career.

The House Science and Technology Committee will also lose Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), who announced he would retire after serving in Congress for 26 years. The recent wave of retirement announcements also includes the Energy and Environment Subcommittee chairman, Representative Brian Baird (D-WA), and Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee members, Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

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 13. Moran Likely To Chair Interior and Environment Approps Committee 

After the sudden death of Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) on February 8, the House committees are in the process of reshuffling their leadership. The current Interior and Environment Subcommittee chair, Norm Dicks (D-WA), is expected to succeed Murtha as Defense Subcommittee chair. This leaves his seat vacant, with Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) likely to move up to chair. The Interior and Environment Subcommittee is in charge of appropriating funds for the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Forest Service, Smithsonian, and Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

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 14. House Passes Hazards Legislation

By a vote of 335 to 50, the House passed the Natural Hazards Risk Reduction Act of 2009 (H.R. 3820) on March 2. The measure re-authorizes the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) with two significant changes. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) would become responsible for organizing post-earthquake investigations, a task currently performed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). A new Interagency Coordinating Committee on Natural Hazards Risk Reduction, chaired by the Director of NIST would oversee the NEHRP, the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program (NWIRP) and other federal research for natural hazard mitigation. The NEHRP coordinating committee would be eliminated and the external advisory committees for NEHRP and NWIRP would report to the new Interagency Committee. The Interagency Committee would include NIST, USGS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The measure will now be referred to the Senate for consideration.

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 15. House Committee Seeking Input on Education Legislation

The leaders of the House Education and Labor Committee announced plans to re-authorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, commonly known as No Child Left Behind. The committee is seeking input from groups and stakeholders about the legislation. If you have suggestions you can provide input to the committee by March 26, 2010 by sending an email with your comments to eseacomments@mail.house.gov. Please be sure to provide your full contact information and to explain if your input represents the opinions of an individual or an organization.

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 16. Engineering Education Bills Introduced in Congress

The House and the Senate have introduced bills to strengthen engineering education at the K-12 levels. The Engineering Education for Innovation Act would authorize the Education Secretary to provide grants for integrating engineering education into curricula. Geoscience-related engineering activities could be integrated into these grants if the bills gain approval from Congress and the President signs the legislation into law. The measures would also provide funds for engineering education research and evaluation.

The House bill, H.R. 4709, was introduced on February 25 by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY) and referred to the House Education and Labor Committee. The Senate bill, S.3043, was introduced on February 25 by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

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 17. Congressman Calls for Investigation of Messaging to Meteorologists

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has written letters to the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking about federal funding going towards what he calls a “one-sided message to meteorologists on global warming.” The letters specifically ask about federal funds for Earth Gauge, an initiative of the American Meteorological Society and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). On their webpage Earth Gauge states their purpose is to “facilitate the evolution of broadcast meteorologists – highly trusted public figures – into ‘station scientists’ who can expertly cover and relate basic environmental information to their viewers.”

NEEF President Diane Wood, responding to the letters in an E&E Daily story, stated "Earth Gauge employs a science-based approach relying on observed data. The data is derived from government agencies -- including NOAA, EPA and NSF -- as well as peer-reviewed literature, including scientific publications such as Science, Nature and the Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union."

Sensenbrenner is the ranking member of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. More information about his letters and his concerns are available from the committee web site.

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 18. House Committee Seeks Information on Fluids Used in Hydraulic Fracturing

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA), have sent additional letters to eight oil and gas companies requesting more information about the chemicals they use in their hydraulic fracturing fluids. Hydraulic fracturing took center stage at a hearing last summer, as it has the potential to unlock large natural gas reserves in U.S. shale beds. There are concerns that increased use of chemical-based fluids during hydraulic fracturing may contaminate local water sources and harm the environment.

The chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing are not regulated, however there is a voluntary agreement between Halliburton, BJ Services and Schlumberger Technology Corporation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricting use of diesel-based fluids. After the first letter writing campaign by Waxman, Halliburton and BJ Services responded that 807,000 and 2,500 gallons respectively of diesel-based fluids were used in their fracturing ventures—potentially violating the EPA agreement. In the most recent letters, Halliburton and BJ services received requests for more chemical information, as did Schlumberger Technology Corporation and many smaller companies. Copies of the letters are available here.

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 19. Agencies Announce Open Government Portals for Increased Transparency

In December 2009 the Open Government Directive was issued to federal agencies requiring immediate action to achieve overall transparency, incorporate citizen participation, and increase collaboration between the federal government and private institutions.

To achieve transparency a series of milestones were set for the agencies to achieve public access to “high-value datasets.” A high-level senior official is accountable for each agency’s progress to meet Open Government standards, create a deliverable website, implement a mechanism for public feedback, and establish a plan for Open Government completion.

Most agencies launched their websites in early February and initiated open public comment periods. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opted for interactive portal-style website, containing widgets, access to multimedia galleries and interactive tools. The Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF) and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) have a traditional web site layout where links to data and information can be retrieved from the main page with relative ease. The agencies are soliciting public comment through their Open Government pages until March 19, 2010.

Agency progress and an assessment of all the federal agency portals are on the White House Open Government Dashboard. Valuable datasets are cached on www.data.gov. Datasets range greatly from agency to agency, but can include budgets, reports, and processed and raw data. NSF released lists of Graduate Research Fellowship recipients, and data on grant funding rates. NASA has made a large selection of earth science and global climate data available and accessible through their Open Portal.

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 20. EPA Endangerment Finding Update

After the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that greenhouse gases (GHGs) fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Air Act in December 2009, Congress and industry groups have been fighting to overturn the ruling. As of the filing deadline in mid-February, 16 lawsuits have been submitted to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by industry groups. In Congress, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) continues to oppose EPA’s decision with the backing of 40 Democratic and Republican senators.

Murkowski is suggesting a Congressional Review Act, which only requires 51 votes to pass the Senate and would essentially veto the EPA ruling. She feels a permanent halt to the EPA ruling is better than alternatives presented by her colleagues to halt the regulation for only 2 to 5 years. Murkowski and many others feel the EPA is wrong to circumvent Congress to make this decision, and that the Clean Air Act is ill-suited to properly handle a regulation of this kind. Regulating GHGs under the Clean Air Act may have adverse effects on the economy and jobs.  Murkowski hopes for a floor vote in mid-March.

Eight Senate Democrats sent EPA a letter asking for details on how it plans to implement the greenhouse gas rules, how the rules will affect the coal, natural gas, oil and petroleum refining industries, and the agency’s proposed timeline, cautioning that the rising costs could hurt their states and further diminish support. EPA responded that it will take action by April to ensure that no large stationary sources would be required to account for greenhouse gases in their Clean Air Act permits this year. In the first half of 2011, large facilities that must already apply for Clean Air Act permits will need to address GHG emissions in their permit applications and other large sources will be included in the latter half of 2011.

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 21. NOAA Launches Climate Portal Prototype

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched a new web site prototype in an effort to provide the public with a single location to access climate information. The web site was developed because of increasing demand for climate information for use in a wide variety of sectors. NOAA hopes the new climate portal will provide a hub where climate science can be easily delivered to the public and be incorporated into business and community plans. This prototype will need congressional approval before it is finalized.

The portal will be accessible by the general public, has links to “hot topic” articles, and images. It also provides users with access to data and climate maps for the past 30 years, and regional climate and hazards predictions. Included with the data are educational materials for non-experts, giving examples about how climate data is successfully used to create climate policy, and provides the user with access to fact sheets and downloadable presentations which summarize how to interpret the data. There is an interactive “Global Climate Dashboard,” where the user can adjust interactive charts showing climate variability for the past 100 years.

Visit http://www.climate.gov/ to access the portal prototype.

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 22. NOAA Announces Plans to Revive DSCOVR Satellite

During the fiscal year 2011 budget announcement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced plans to launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite in conjunction with NASA. DSCOVR will be positioned about a million miles away from Earth and monitor space weather, like solar wind, that can be disruptive to communications on Earth.

DSCOVR was first proposed in 1998 by Vice President Al Gore, but the mission was terminated before its launch by the Bush Administration. The satellite is mostly ready to go though, and is being held in storage at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. In 2009-2010, Congress allocated $14 million to NASA to refurbish the satellite and NOAA is requesting $9.5 million more for fiscal year 2011 to add additional instruments. The NOAA budget suggests the Air Force could launch the satellite as soon as 2013. The total bill comes to $65 million once the satellite is launched, as detailed by the AAAS Science Magazine blog.

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 23. USGS Report Details U-Mining Resources and Consequences Near the Grand Canyon

On February 18, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a report on uranium resources and uranium mining impacts on about one million acres of federal land adjacent to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The report, Hydrological, Geological, and Biological Site Characterization of Breccia Pipe Uranium Deposits in Northern Arizona, found the proposed site contains about 12 percent of the total undiscovered uranium estimated to be in northern Arizona. Soil samples were taken and found uranium and arsenic to be above natural levels in areas disturbed by mining. Water samples did not show increased uranium concentrations for areas with active mines or reclaimed mines. Of the water sample sites, 95 percent had dissolved uranium below the maximum levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The sites with higher concentrations were more directly exposed to mineralized ore bodies either naturally or through mining. 

In July 2009, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the two-year study of these one million acres to decide whether or not to withdraw these lands from new mining claims for an additional 20 years.  The lands, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, are within portions of the Grand Canyon watershed and contain significant environmental and cultural resources as well as substantial uranium deposits. Read more in the full USGS press release.

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 24. Chilean Earthquake and Tsunami Resources

A magnitude 8.8 earthquake offshore of Maule, Chile on February 27, 2010 caused significant damage and generated a tsunami that caused devastation primarily along the Chilean coast and nearby islands.

The U.S. government supports national and global earthquake and tsunami alerts, modeling, risk assessments and research. The U.S. Geological Survey has primary responsibility for earthquakes and provides general information about the Chilean event through its Earthquake Hazards Program web site. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has primary responsibility for tsunamis. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center provides warnings, including a Chilean tsunami warning. The NOAA Center for Tsunami Research provides more information about the Chilean tsunami modeling and data.

The National Science Foundation supports basic research on earthquakes and tsunamis including Rapid Response Research (RAPID) to better understand natural hazards and help to reduce risks. Much of this work is conducted through the Geosciences Directorate, Office of International Science and Engineering (for hazards outside the U.S.) and Engineering Directorate. Currently there is an opportunity for rapid research on the magnitude 7.0 earthquake just offshore of Haiti.

The USAID, an independent government agency that receives overall guidance from the State Department, handles foreign assistance for people recovering from disasters. USAID coordinates international work, including work on natural hazards such as the Chilean earthquake and the Haitian earthquake.

Non-profit organizations such as the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute and the American Geophysical Union provide information about earthquakes, particularly research and assessments of risks.

The media has provided coverage of the recent earthquakes and tsunamis. One particularly interesting article is a NY Times “Room for Debate Blog” on the question “Are We Prepared for an 8.8 Quake?”, where geoscientists, engineers and others discuss earthquake risks in the U.S

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 25. AGI Hosts K-12 Earth System Science Summit

The AGI Education Department, with support from the National Science Foundation, convened the first K-12 Earth System Science (ESS) Summit. About 50 participants, representing teachers, professional societies, school districts and other groups concerned with Earth science education and outreach, attended the four-day summit in Houston, TX.  The goal was to discuss 5 key issues—perception of Earth science education, Earth science standards and advanced placement (AP) testing, teacher preparation and education, challenges to Earth science education, and an International Earth Science Olympiad.

Working groups established at the summit will continue to address these issues and work on a series of action items from the event. Several the big ideas and strategies for beginning to tackle the issues came out of the meeting, below are the highlights:

  • The geoscience community needs to speak with a common voice and find a champion that can lead a public relations campaign for Earth systems science (ESS)
  • Everyone should have a basic understanding of the Earth science literacy principles
  • Teacher professional development for ESS nationwide is key, and should focus on research-based strategies that combine content, pedagogy and assessment. 
  • There needs to be a state-level network to deal with the perception and crises that arise related to ESS education, like anti-evolution campaigns.
  • As part of the perception shift, institutions of higher learning need to accept ESS high school courses as laboratory science courses.
  • ESS need to be included in national and state standards.
  • The geoscience community needs to work with guidance counselors and parents to promote ESS in schools and as a career option.
  • ESS can help be legitimized in schools with an AP Earth Science Exam
  • The International Earth Science Olympiad should be treated as a public relations opportunity to engage students at all levels in solving local geoscience problems.

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 26. Utah Legislators Adopts Statement on Climate Science

The Utah House of Representatives approved of a nonbinding statement expressing doubts about climate change science. The resolution was passed after phrases such as “climate change conspiracy” and analogies to a “gravy train” were removed. Scientists, including many geoscientists, from Brigham Young University (BYU) wrote letters and communicated their objections to the resolution, errors in the resolution, and misstatements about science at recent hearings in the Utah legislature.

Below is the text of the first paragraph of an open letter to the Utah Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee, governor, U.S. senators and congressmen from geoscientists at BYU.

“As Earth scientists in Utah, we are writing to express concern about the manner in which members of the Utah State Legislature have recently dealt with scientific testimony concerning climate change. We encourage our legislators to consider separating the science from the policy issues. Questions about the timing, extent, and causes of climate change are inherently scientific. Substantial scientific evidence supports the following conclusions: first, that climate is changing; second, climate is significantly influenced by human activity; and third, that these changes pose risks to humanity and many other forms of life. Decisions about what to do in response to concerns about climate change, however, must draw not only on scientific input, but also economic, moral, and political considerations. It is unrealistic to expect all of these factors to unambiguously push in the same direction. Therefore, we feel it is irresponsible for some of our legislators to attempt to manipulate the scientific evidence in order to support a political agenda.”

The Salt Lake Tribune wrote a series of news articles on this story. The BYU letter and discussion of the scientists’ response are available in a February 4 story and the passage of the resolution is reviewed in a February 9 story.

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 27. IPCC Requests Nominations for Next Assessment Report

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has begun work on the preparation of its next assessment report (AR5) and is currently looking for experts who can act as authors and review editors for the contributions of the three Working Groups to the AR5. Please visit the Fifth Assessment Report Nomination page for more details and instructions.

There are seven cross-cutting themes for the fifth report including:

  • Consistent Evaluation of Uncertainties and Risks
  • Costing and Economic Analysis
  • Regional Aspects
  • Water and the Earth System
  • Changes, Impacts and Responses
  • Carbon Cycle including Ocean Acidification
  • Ice Sheets
  • Sea-Level Rise
  • Mitigation, Adaptation and Sustainable Development

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 28. Anti-Evolution/Global Warming Legislation Introduced in Kentucky

Kentucky House Representative Tim Moore (R-District 26) introduced House Bill (H.B.) 397, known as the “Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act.” The bill gives Kentucky teachers the right to incorporate instructional materials aimed at objectively encouraging student analysis, critique and review of scientific theories. Two of the theories H.B. 397 targets are: evolution and origins of human life, and global warming. All supplementary materials would require approval from local school boards. Analysis by the National Center for Science Education notes language used in H.B. 397 bears strong similarity to language used in the anti-evolution Louisiana Science Education Act that became state law in 2008 (Louisiana Revised Statues 17:285.1). Kentucky already has a statute that allows teachers to teach about human origins by reading from the Book of Genesis.

Similar anti-evolution legislation was proposed in Mississippi and Missouri in January 2010.  However, in Mississippi, the bill has already died in committee and the Missouri bill has identical language to a bill that failed in committee last year.

Under consideration in South Dakota, House Concurrent Resolution 1009 calls for non-science principles to be included for the teaching of global warming in a science class. The language is similar to what is used for teaching non-science principles, like creationism, in other states. This resolution encourages public schools to instruct that “there are a variety of climatological, meteorological, astrological [sic], thermological, cosmological, and ecological dynamics that can effect [sic] world weather phenomena and that the significance and interrelativity [sic] of these factors is largely speculative.” This resolution does not have the strength of a law, but clearly represents a misunderstanding of science. State actions like these examples could weaken the teaching of science in public schools.

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 29. Key Reports and Publications

***Congressional Research Reports (CRS)***
Implementing Lessons Learned from the E.U.’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS)
Released January 26, 2010. While cap-and-trade emissions reduction policies are being debated in congress, this report analyzes the successes and challenges faced by the European Union’s (E.U.) ETS program; mandated in 2005 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Under ETS, emissions data improved, implementation mechanisms were developed and refined, and corporate behavior for pricing allowances was influenced. Comparing the U.S. policy to E.U.-ETS policy highlights several areas which may help implement a cap-and-trade policy.

The Government’s Role in Addressing Clean Drinking Water Issues
Released January 13, 2010. This report explores the cost and complexity of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) legislation, and issues with regulation of SDWA geological research that could compromise the safety of underground water reserves. Developing technologies for carbon capture sequestration (CCS) and hydraulic fracturing have prompted the EPA to begin establishing protective measures regulating these geologic procedures. Both CCS and hydraulic fracturing have the potential to contaminate and damage underground water reserves. Complexities arise from the detection of unregulated contaminants and updating existing laws. SDWA authorization ended in 2003, however subsequent funds are still allocated by Congress. Most recently $2 billion was allocated from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, $829 million from the 2009 Omnibus Allocations bill and $1.387 billion from the Department of the Interior.

Allocation of Recovery Funds to Water Infrastructure
Released January 11, 2010. Funds from the 2009 enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) have been allocated for use by five federal agencies: Environmental Protection Agency, United States Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of State’s International Boundary Water Commission. ARRA totals $13.5 billion and the report identifies the monies allocated to each agency. The legislation directs the additional appropriations to a number of existing federal programs that either directly invest in water infrastructure projects or provide assistance to states and localities for such activities. The funding is available until September 30, 2010.

***Government Accountability Office (GAO)***
Future NASA Projects Require More Discipline
Released February 1, 2010. An assessment of 19 independent NASA programs determined programmatic challenges that contributed to cost and schedule growth. A survey of ten projects in the implementation phase revealed an average development cost growth of almost $121.1 million, or 18.7 percent, and a total increase in development cost of over $1.2 billion. GAO has designated NASA's acquisition management as a high risk area since 1990. This report did not make any recommendations, although previous reports have.

Challenges Facing NASA Space Missions and Management Practices
Released February 3, 2010. While NASA is currently facing a dynamic year, this report highlights key issues, which if implemented, could improve agency function. There were four main topics addressed: retirement of the space shuttle program, completion and utilization of the international space station, difficulty developing large-scale projects, and poor financial and information systems management.

The report cites failure to complete the final scheduled shuttle missions, prior to the retirement of the shuttle program, could greatly impact completion of the International Space Station. Issues surrounding large scale project development, such as the next generation of human space vehicles, are that they cost more and take longer to develop than planned. A podcast related to this report is also available.

Oversight of State Surface Coal Mine Reclamation by OSM, EPA and Corps
Released January 14, 2010. The GAO gathered information from state and federal agencies about their financial assurances practices for mine reclamation, long-term monitoring, and use of federal laws to address environmental impacts at former mine sites. Voluntary monitoring of sites by mine managers, states governments, and federal agencies have revealed that (1) reforestation efforts at some reclaimed surface coal mine sites needed improvement; (2) surface coal mine sites have contaminated streams and harmed aquatic organisms; (3) valley fills may affect water flow; and (4) mine operators have not always returned mine sites to their approximate original contour when required to do so under Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

University Endowments Show Steady Growth for Past 20 Years
Released February 23, 2010. The GAO analyzed university endowments over the past twenty years for ten not-for-profit private, public and minority-serving universities. The sum of endowments held by universities in 2008 was $400 billion versus $100 billion in 1989. In inflation-adjusted dollars endowments have increased by 6.2 percent per year since 1989. Among institutions, private schools tended to have larger endowments than public schools, while schools with high minority enrollment tended to have smaller endowments than other schools. Most endowment growth was from investment earnings.

***National Academy of the Sciences (NAS)***
National Research Council contributes to DOE Site Cleanup Research
Released February 8, 2010. To aide in the development of a technology roadmap by the DOE Office of Environmental Management, the National Research Council contributed study information identifying science and technology gaps, and priorities in clean up programs. The report is divided into two parts. The first part synthesizes the study data with preexisting reports and the other summarizes a workshop meant to bring together key external groups to discuss science and technology needs.

Integrating 21st Century Skills May Better Prepare Students
Released February 1, 2010. A workshop was conducted to discuss the applicability of infusing 21st century skills into K-12 curricula to better prepare future generations for success. The proposed skill sets would help develop adaptability, complex communication skills and solving non-routine problems. The sciences are ideal for such integration because the scientific process includes talk and argument, modeling and representation, and learning from investigations. The workshop addressed key questions about the overlap between 21st century skills and scientific content and knowledge; explores promising models or approaches for teaching these abilities; and reviews the evidence about the transferability of these skills to real workplace applications.

Review of Methane Hydrates as an Alternative Fossil Fuel Source
Released January 29, 2010. This report reviews the progress of research projects hosted by the DOE Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program evaluating the potential for commercial production in a safe and environmentally responsible way. 20-25 percent of U.S. energy consumption comes from natural gas, which releases 25-50 percent less carbon than traditional fossil fuels. The DOE Methane Hydrate Research and Development Program, established in 2000, was reauthorized by congress in 2005.

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 30. Key Federal Register Notices

The full federal register can be accessed at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont10.html.

WH—The Presidential Office released a memorandum on January 29 announced the Nuclear Blue Ribbon Commission to combat climate change, enhance energy security, and increase economic prosperity. The commission will look at policies for managing civilian and defense nuclear waste, including all alternatives for the storage, processing, and disposal. The Commission should consider scientific, environmental, budgetary, economic, financial, and management issues. Where appropriate, the Commission may also identify potential statutory changes.
[Wednesday, February 3, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 22)]

OSTP—The Office of Science and Technology Policy is releasing a Request For Information (RFI) following President Obama’s release of the “Strategy for American Innovation” which hopes to foster innovation by harnessing science and technology to address the “grand challenges” of the 21st century. The classic grand challenge is President Kennedy’s “moon shot.” This RFI is seeking public input on the grand challenges defined by the President and others that should be considered, information about possible collaborators and a contribution mechanism should be electronically submitted by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 15, 2010 to challenge@ostp.gov.
[Wednesday, February 3, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 22)]

NSF—The National Science Foundation announced a Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering meeting on March 8-9, 2010. The purpose of meeting is to study NSF programs and policies, and provide advice and recommendations concerning broadening participation in science and engineering. For further information contact Dr. Margaret E.M. Tolbert at (703) 292-4216, or mtolbert@nsf.gov.
[Friday, February 5, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 24)]

DOI—Minerals Management Service released two Environmental Assessment (EA) and Findings of No Significant Impacts (FONSIs) reports for proposed activity on the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf. These reports are prepared by MMS for oil and gas exploration at five proposed drill sites for The Shell Offshore Inc. For further information contact the Minerals Management Service at AKWebmaster@mms.gov.
[Friday, February 19, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 33)]

DOI—Bureau of Land Management filed a 20-year extension of a Public Land Order (PLO) that withdrew approximately 320 acres of the National Forest system in the Juneau Falls Recreation Area. The PLO forbids surface entry and mining, but does not prohibit mineral leasing laws. All comments are due by May 24, 2010, and should be addressed to Alaska State Director, BLM Alaska State Office, 222 West 7th Avenue, No. 13, Anchorage, Alaska 99513-7504. For more information call Robert Lloyd at (907) 271-4682.
[Tuesday, February 23, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 35)]

NIST—National Institutes of Standards and Technology released announcement on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute (API), released a list of projects being developed for national and international standards. API develops and publishes voluntary standards for equipment, materials, operations, and processes for the petroleum and natural gas industry. These standards are used by both private industry and by governmental agencies. For further information contact David Soffrin at soffrind@api.org.
[Tuesday, February 23, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 35)]

NIST—National Institutes of Standards and Technology will be hosting a meeting for the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR) on March 15 and 16, 2010. The committee is composed of 15 members who were selected for their knowledge of issues affecting the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. The meeting will be held in the Administration Building at NIST in Gaithersburg, Maryland. For more information contact Dr. Jack Hayes at jack.hayes@nist.gov or (301) 975-5640.
[Tuesday, February 23, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 35)]

NOAA—National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has opened up a public comment period to receive feedback on an intent to file an Environmental Impact Statement on the effects of oil and gas drilling in the U.S. Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic Ocean. Oil and gas drilling refers to drilling and any related activities including seismic surveys and exploratory drilling. Comments must be received by April 9, 2010. Contact Michael Payne at (301) 713-2289.
[Wednesday: February 24, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 36)]

NASA—The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has announced a meeting for its Earth Science Subcommittee, which reports to the NASA Advisory Council. The goals of the meeting include discussing the Earth Science Division Budget Update, the Science Mission Directorate Science Plan Update, and Climate Initiative Plan. The meeting will be held on March 16 and 17, 2010 at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C. and is open to the public. Please contact Marian Norris at (202) 358-4452, or mnorris@nasa.gov.
[Friday, February 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 38)]

NSF—The National Science Foundation announced the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education will be meeting on March 18 and 19, 2010 to provide advice, recommendations, and oversight concerning support for environmental research and education. The meeting will be held at NSF headquarters in Arlington Virginia. For more information please contact Melissa Lane at 703-292-8500.
[Friday, February 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 38)]

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 31. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

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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, Salt Lake Tribune, National Academies Press, American Institute of Physics, National Center for Science Education, Government Accountability Office, Open CRS, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House, Department of the Interior, Politico.

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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. More information on these topcs can be found on the Government Affairs Program Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at govt@agiweb.org or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

TO SUBSCRIBE OR UNSUBSCRIBE TO THE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PROGRAM MONTHLY REVIEW, PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL WITH YOUR REQUEST AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO GOVT@AGIWEB.ORG

Compiled March 3, 2010.

 

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