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Monthly Review: March 2004


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.

Dueling Budget Resolutions
Oversight Hearings - The Other Side of Appropriating
Appropriations Information on the Web
Energy Bill Update
Recognizing and Celebrating USGS 125th Anniversary
Climate Change Sparks House Interest
National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act Introduced in House
Law of the Sea Update
Yucca Mountain FY05 Funding Hearing
Wind Hazard Bill Advances in House
State Geologists Pick and Gavel Awards
Successful Congressional Visits Day
Fall Interns Needed
Key List of Federal Register Notices
New Material on Website

 

Dueling Budget Resolutions

The House and Senate are in the process of finalizing the non-binding budget resolution that provides an outline for total federal spending in FY 2005. The final resolution is not passed on to the White House for enactment; rather it is the congressional response to the president's budget proposal, a financial plan that Congress agrees to follow both in the appropriations process and in legislation affecting entitlement programs, taxes and other matters affecting revenue. The budget resolution not only determines how much the 13 individual appropriations bills can spend but also serves as a vehicle to debate other issues.

The Senate passed its version of the 2005 budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 95) on March 12th allotting $821 billion in discretionary spending. On March 25th, the House accepted its version of the budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 393), providing a total of $820 billion for discretionary spending. The House budget resolution calls for science and research funding at the EPA, Energy Department and NASA to be flat from the FY 2004 budget at $23.39 billion, whereas the Senate approved as slight increase of $23.65 billion. In addition, the House budget includes $28.75 billion in its environment and natural resources function 300 account, the primary source of funding for key programs at the EPA, Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA. Once again, the Senate increased the funding from last year to $33.34 billion. Currently the two bills are in conference committee but will not be resolved by the April 15th deadline. The House of Representatives has a two-week recess starting on April 2nd, and both chambers will not be in session together again until April 20th, when the matter will be resumed.

You can read each budget statement by logging onto http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:s.con.res.00095: and http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:h.con.res.00393:. If you would like to compare the Senate and House budget resolutions, see http://www.senate.gov/~budget/republican/pressarchive/31mar2004House-SenateComp.pdf.

Oversight Hearings - The Other Side of Appropriating

Although it may seem like Congress spends money on arbitrary programs, appropriators do not make random decisions about how funds are spent. Most take their jobs very seriously and devote the months of February, March, and April to oversight hearings. In these hearings various departments and agencies are called before subcommittees to discuss priority projects, requested funding levels, new partnerships, and to give justification for the entire spending package of that agency or department. These hearings are an opportunity for cabinet members as well as administrators to have meaningful discussion with the members of Congress who most directly oversee their programs.

Summaries and major points for agencies that have testified and are most relevant to the geosciences are available on our Web site at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_hearings.html. Make sure to check back, as it is updated often.

Appropriations Information on the Web

After the Bush Administration released the FY 2005 budget request, each of the six appropriations bills web pages was updated on the AGI web site. Each page has the final FY 2004 information as well as the percent change between the 2004 and 2005 budget requests.

Main Appropriations Page
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005.html

Commerce Appropriations Page (NOAA)
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_commerce.html

Energy and Water Appropriations Page (DOE, Office of Science, Basic Energy Science, Yucca Mountain)
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_energy.html

Interior Appropriations Page (USGS, DOE - Fossil Energy, NPS)
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_interior.html

Labor/HHS Appropriations Page (Department of Education)
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_labor.html

Agriculture Appropriations Page (USDA, NRCS)
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_ag.html

VA/HUD Appropriations Page (NSF, NASA, EPA)
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005_vahud.html

Energy Bill Update

The saga of the energy bill continues as Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) tries to rally support for the slimmed-down energy bill, S. 2095. Proponents of the bill are trying to get the support of both industry representatives and lawmakers in hopes of passing the bill before Easter recess on April 10th.

The fate of the bill is unclear even if the Senate takes action since Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) both insist that there will be no energy bill this year without MTBE liability protections. An alternative was suggested by Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee. He said that if the energy bill is not passed this year, next year he would try to pass "single-shot" bills covering issues such as ultra-deep drilling and other oil and gas exploration provisions. Another factor complicating the passage of this bill is that DeLay is facing potential indictment in Texas on charges of alleged campaign finance abuses. E&E Daily reported that he is thinking about the possibility of stepping down from his leadership post until he is either found not guilty or if the charges are reduced or dismissed.

This week, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) took the tax portion of the energy bill and attached it to the corporate tax bill, S. 1637 a must-pass bill that replaces a series of corporate tax breaks -declared illegal by the World Trade Organization - with a new series of tax benefits. E&E Daily reported that this "new two-track strategy is meant to light a fire under the energy tax package." That may be but others are speculating that it could also be a quiet means of letting the energy bill die.

This is a big gamble to take because S. 1637 is bill that isn't guaranteed to pass. While attaching an estimated $13 billion in energy tax breaks could help Republican Senate leaders looking for additional votes for the corporate tax bill, Democrats still oppose S. 1637 because they want to first vote on amendments to increase the minimum wage, address unemployment insurance and repeal the Bush administration's plan to reduce overtime benefits for some workers.

The vote to cut off debate, known as a cloture vote, is set for this afternoon, April 7th. If it passes, Domenici vowed he will concentrate on passing the policy provisions of the energy bill.

For more information on the energy bill, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy.html.

Recognizing and Celebrating USGS 125th Anniversary

In early March, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) introduced a resolution to congratulate the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) on its 125th anniversary. The resolution (H. Res. 556) states: "The House of Representatives… expresses strong support for the United States Geological Survey as it serves the Nation by providing timely, relevant, and objective scientific information which helps to describe and understand the Earth, minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources, and enhance and protect the quality of life of all Americans."

The commemorative resolution has 11 original co-sponsors, including House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young (R-FL). The resolution was introduced with the support of the USGS Coalition. To help support the USGS on its 125th anniversary, please ask your Representative to co-sponsor H. Res. 556. The House of Representatives switchboard number is 202-224-3121, and you can find the e-mail address for your Representative at http://www.house.gov.

To read the resolution, log onto http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.RES.556:.

Climate Change Sparks House Interest

The House showed renewed interest in climate change legislation as a new bill was introduced by Reps. John W. Olver (D-MA) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) on March 30th. The Climate Stewardship Act, H.R. 4067, would set a cap for heat-trapping pollution responsible for global warming, while creating a market-based system encouraging maximum technological innovation and profitable opportunities for companies to cut emissions. According to a press release issued by the bill's sponsors, the new measure saves money and encourages innovation through a flexible trading mechanism, allowing companies achieving or exceeding their caps to bank or sell emission credits. Companies would also be able to acquire credits from other companies in order to comply with the law. The bill has 20 cosponsors in all and they have agreed that their biggest task will be to educate other members about climate change and the need for legislation.

This legislation is very similar to the McCain-Lieberman bill that was defeated in the Senate last fall by a vote of 43-55. Sen. McCain has vowed to continue pushing his climate change bill and said that he is open to changing the bill's language to attract more votes. For more information about that bill, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate.html.

National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act Introduced in House

On March 23rd, House Energy and Minerals Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Cuban (R-WY) and Representative Nick Gibbons (R-NV) introduced the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act, H.R. 4010. A hearing on this bill is expected to be held in September. The bill states that "although significant progress has been made in the production of geologic maps since the establishment of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program in 1992, no modern, digital, geologic map exists for approximately 75 percent of the Nation." This is a great reason to call your Representative and ask that he/she cosponsor this important legislation. The House of Representatives switchboard number is 202-224-3121, and you can find the e-mail address for your Representative at http://www.house.gov.

For the text of the bill, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.R.+4010:.

Law of the Sea Update

Despite unanimous approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, the Law of the Sea Treaty is facing problems in the Environment and Public Works Committee spurred by Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe voiced concerns at the March 23rd hearing that the treaty could cede too much power to the United Nations and undermine the Bush Administration's antiterrorism initiative involving shipboard inspections. Both the Bush Administration and environmental groups are in favor of ratification of the treaty.

Ratification needs to be done quickly, as debates over amendments to the treaty will begin in November of this year. If the U.S. has not ratified the treaty by then, they will be left out of any decisions made, which may affect U.S. shipping and mining interests. In addition, the Pentagon would like to strengthen the Proliferation Security Initiative by codifying navigation rights on the high seas, which would also require ratification. The Armed Services and Intelligence panels will also hold hearings before Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) will consider calling the treaty for a vote. A spokesperson for Frist told E&E Daily that the controversial pieces of legislation are likely to be put off until next year.

Law of the Sea updates can be found on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/lawofthesea.html .

Yucca Mountain FY05 Funding Hearing

The Bush Administration FY 2005 budget request calls for a reclassification of the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund contributions to try to separate $749 million from the rest of the Department of Energy (DOE) budget. At a House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on March 24th, the reclassification scheme was ignored. Neither the House nor Senate FY 2005 budget allocates provisions allowing for the reclassification. Rep. David Hobson (R-OH), chair of that subcommittee, said he will not include the reclassification in his upcoming appropriations plan. Hobson, however, does plan to fully fund the Yucca Mountain program.

The Yucca Mountain program now has a sense of urgency about its funding because the DOE needs to open Yucca Mountain by 2010. The DOE is already facing 66 lawsuits from the nuclear utility industry for not meeting the initial goal of accepting waste by 1998. The director of DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, Margaret Chu, testified that the program will not meet the 2010 requirements without full funding. Chu said that every year of delay past 2010 increases the storage and handling costs of nuclear waste by roughly $1 billion.

AGI is closely monitoring this issue. Updates can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/yucca.html.

Wind Hazard Bill Advances in House

On March 31st the House Science Committee marked-up the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act, H.R. 3980, and, after adding one amendment, sent the bill to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Given the nature of Congress' schedule this spring, it is unlikely that the bill will be decided on by the House before the May recess. In fact, there is some speculation that when the bill gets to the Senate it will be merged with the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), which has not yet had a hearing in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, to form a natural hazards package. For more information on NEHRP visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/nehrp.html. To read the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c108:H.R.3980:.

State Geologists Pick and Gavel Awards

On March 18th, the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) presented its sixth annual Pick and Gavel Award to Senators Pete Domenici (D-NM) and Harry Reid (D-NV). Hill staff and federal agency leaders joined over half of the state geologists for the banquet ceremony at the Cosmos Club in Washington. The award recognizes "individuals who have made significant contributions to advancing or facilitating the role of geoscience in the public policy arena." Both were specifically recognized for their long-standing support of geologic mapping and other geoscience programs in citations delivered by their home state geologists. Past recipients of the award include Representatives Barbara Cubin (R-WY), Nick Rahall II (D-WV), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), and Ralph Regula (R-OH); Senators Larry Craig (R-ID), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Ted Stevens (R-AK); General Richard Lawson (ret.); National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell; and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. More at www.kgs.ukans.edu/AASG/pick.html.

Successful Congressional Visits Day

On March 3rd and 4th, Earth scientists were in Washington to advocate for the federal investment in geoscience research as part of the ninth annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day. This event drew more than 200 scientists and engineers to visit their members of Congress as constituents. The visits are preceded by a day of briefings by White House and congressional staff and a Capitol Hill reception at which Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) received the George E. Brown Jr. Science-Engineering-Technology Leadership Award in recognition of their work on behalf of research and development, especially in regard to their co-founding a new R&D Caucus. Rep. Nick Smith (R-MI) delivered the keynote address at breakfast on March 4th and was recognized by the group for his dedication to science issues in his twelve years on Capitol Hill, especially after assuming his chairmanship of the House Science Research Subcommittee in 1999.

Fall Interns Needed


AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a fourteen-week geoscience and public policy internship in Fall 2004. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone both their writing and Web publishing skills. Stipends for the semester internships are funded by a generous contribution from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Applications must be postmarked by April 15, 2004. For more information, please visit www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/internse.html

List of Key Federal Register Notices

Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community. Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont04.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

Department of Interior, Notice of Revised Implementation Procedures for the National Environmental Policy Act. For more information contact: Terence N. Martin, Team Leader, Natural Resources Management; Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance; terry_martin@ios.doi.gov. Volume 69, Number 45, (8 March 2004): pp 10865-10887.

NASA, Meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, Biological and Physical Research Advisory Committee, Research Partnership Subcommittee (RPS), April 6, 2004, NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street, SW, Washington DC 20546. Volume 69, Number 47, (10 March 2004): pp 11458.

EPA, Request for comment on proposed rule: Approaches to an Integrated Framework for Management and Disposal of Low-Activity Radioactive Waste. Send comments through May 17, 2004 to: Air and Radiation Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, EPA West Room B108, Mailcode: 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460, Attention Docket ID No. OAR-2003-0095. Volume 69, Number 49, (12 March 2004): pp 11826-11828.

NSF, Meeting of the advisory committee for environmental research and education, April 14-15, 2004 at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia. Volume 69, Number 49, (12 March 2004): pp 11897.

OSTP, Public workshop on laboratory biosecurity, April 12, 2004, National Institutes of Health, 9000 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD. Volume 69, Number 56, (23 March 2004): pp 13527-13528.

NSF, Meeting of the Advisory Committee for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, April 22-23, 2004 at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA. Volume 69, Number 59, (26 March 2004): pp 15909-15910.

New Material on Web Site

The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly update:

  • Superfund and Brownfield Legislation (3-16-04)
  • Special Update: The President's FY 2005 Budget Request: NASA, NOAA, EPA, etc. (3-15-04)
  • Special Update: The President's FY 2005 Budget Request: NSF (3-15-04)
  • Special Update: The President's FY 2005 Budget Request: DOE (3-15-04)
  • Special Update: The President's FY 2005 Budget Request: USGS (3-15-04)
  • Mining Policy (3-15-04)
  • Climate Change Policy Overview (3-15-04)
  • Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (3-11-04)

Monthly review prepared by Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs Program and Gayle Levy, 2004 AGI/AAPG Government Affairs Intern

Sources: Environment and Energy Daily, Federal Register, Greenwire, House Science Committee Testimony, Thomas - US Congress on the Internet, U.S. Senate Web site, the Washington Post and Representative Olver's website..

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted April 7, 2004


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