Monthly Review: March 2005
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.
Budget Resolutions Drafted, Debated
Budget Appropriations Hearings
Representative Frank Wolf Stands Up for Science Education
Clear Skies Tied Up; EPA Acts to Regulate Coal-Fired
New EPA Mercury Rule in a Ton of Trouble
Coal Policy Fires Up the Senate
Senate Hears Debate on Federal Renewable Energy Standards
House Takes a Look at Growing Energy Demand in China
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Becomes a Budget Item
Does the United States Have Enough Water? Report Released
Global Earth Observations
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
National Academy of Sciences Alert
Deep Sea Volcanoes Sunk
Professorial Dictators Warned
USGS Reports on Listening Session
Bush Announces New NASA Administrator
AASG Pick and Gavel Awards
Congressional Visit Day
EarthScope Student Volunteers
AGI Seeking Fall Interns
Key Federal Register Notices
New Updates to Website
The budget resolutions that the House of Representatives and the
Senate will finalize in the coming weeks are, at best, imperfect predictors
of this fall's appropriations bills. As proposed broad-brush taxing
and spending blueprints for the next fiscal year, the budget resolutions
are the first indicators of congressional reaction to the Administration's
Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 budget request, and they provide an early sense
of the direction of future spending.
The House and Senate budget resolutions consist primarily of figures
on different categories of spending. One of these budget categories,
or functions, is for General Science, Space, and Technology. Most
physical science research spending is found in this $24.6+ billion
category. The House and Senate budget resolutions would increase spending
in this function by 1.3%. This is an increase of $310-$320 million
for all budgets in this category. NASA is seeking an increase of $386
million in FY06. The House Budget Committee states that within this
function "the Budget Committee assumes full funding of the President's
request for NASA."
Leading up to the writing of the budget resolutions were the "Views
and Estimates" provided by authorizing committees. The House
Committee on Science filed such a document earlier this month. The
absence of the usual companion document was of note; House Democrats
on the Science Committee did not write their own report. Ranking Democratic
Member Bart Gordon (D-TN) explained, "Although this committee
is historically bipartisan, this year was unusual in that Democrats
found the statements of the Chair to be so on point that we wanted
to join him to send a stronger message to the Administration, Budget
Committee and Appropriators that the science and technology budget
the President submitted is not the best we can do even under the current
fiscal circumstances. We have to do better." This bipartisan
spirit is a testimony to House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood
Boehlert (R-NY) and Gordon's leadership of this committee, and the
work of the committee's staff on both sides of the aisle.
The 26-page publication states: "The Committee believes the proposed
funding for basic research is insufficient. Funding short-term development
at the expense of longer-term basic and applied research is not advisable,
and neglects those portions of R&D where government support is
most crucial. The Committee also believes that the budget must fully
consider appropriate balances between defense and non-defense R&D
spending and between biomedical and non-biomedical spending. At $71
and $29 billion, respectively, the R&D budgets of DOD and the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) account for more than 75 percent
of the total R&D budget." Later in the document the committee
characterized the FY06 request for the DOE Office of Science as "inadequate"
doing little to bring physical sciences funding into parity with life
The committee "strongly supports" the budget request for
NIST core laboratory programs and facilities. Regarding the National
Science Foundation, the committee called the overall budget request
"inadequate," saying it was "especially disturbed"
by the proposed cuts in NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate.
There was a range of opinion regarding the Administration's request
for NASA, the document stating: "The Committee is divided over
the NASA budget request as of now even though there is broad support
for the basic thrust of the Space Exploration Vision outlined by the
President on January 14, 2004. Key questions include the relative
priority of NASA funding as compared to that of other science agencies;
the adequacy of funding for science and aeronautics within NASA; and
the future of the NASA workforce."
Department of the Interior (DOI): Interior Secretary Gale Norton
testified before Senate and House Appropriators on March 1st and 2nd.
Norton outlined DOI's budget priorities, including increases for energy
programs, oil and gas permitting, cooperative conservation programs,
seismic monitoring, and Nation Park recreation. Members of Congress
consistently objected to proposed reductions in the Land and Water
Conservation Fund (LWCF) and funds for payments in lieu of taxes (PILT).
They also discussed the proposed 53% cut to the U.S. Geological Survey's
Minerals Resource Program, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife
Refuge, restoration of Abandoned Mine Land, and several regional issues.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): NOAA's proposed
budget for Fiscal Year 2006 was considered by the House on March 2,
with testimony from Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and again
on March 9th, with testimony from NOAA Administrator Admiral Conrad
Lautenbacher. Members were most concerned with the NOAA's plans to
increase tsunami preparedness, and the elimination of long-standing
National Science Foundation (NSF): "Without NSF supporting basic
research, our edge in science will slip away and an innovation gap
will grow." This statement by Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC),
Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Research, sums up how House
authorizers and appropriators responded to the proposed real-dollar
cuts for NSF. In hearings on March 9th and 11th, House members expressed
their concerns about the President's proposed budgetary cuts for science
education programs within NSF, at times openly objecting with the
opinions of agency officials who testified. Hot topics included the
cost to NSF of transferring the maintenance of icebreaking vessels
from the Coast Guard, and a proposed 12.4% cut to NSF's Education
and Human Resources directorate
Department of Energy (DOE) Programs: Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman
described DOE's overall budget priorities to the Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee on March 3rd, and again to House appropriators
on March 9th. On March 10th, 15th and 16th, other DOE officials testified
before House appropriators on nuclear waste management and clean-up,
the office of science, and nuclear energy, fossil energy, and energy
Agency officials repeatedly defended the elimination of the oil and
gas research program, explaining private sector companies are already
stepping up research efforts due to high fossil fuel prices. Secretary
Bodman and Raymond Orbach, Office of Science Director, also came under
fire on several occasions for the 3.8% proposed reduction for the
science program. Nuclear waste clean-up projects in a number of states
were also hot topics in several of these hearings. But during the
March 16th hearing, the spotlight was on delays in the permitting
process for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. Despite several
challenges facing the site, Rep. David Hobson (R-OH), Chairman of
the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, declared that
finding a safe repository for spent fuel is "the single most
important issue on the subcommittee's agenda."
More detailed summaries of each appropriation hearing are available
Wolf Stands up for Science Education
Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), the new Chairman of the House appropriations
subcommittee that oversees several U.S. federal science agencies,
recently announced plans to introduce a bill aimed at attracting more
university students to the physical sciences, math and engineering.
Borrowing from an idea developed by former House speaker Newt Gingrich,
Wolf's bill would forgive interest on college loans for students who
major in science, or a related field, and pursue at least 3 years
of post-graduate work in the field. "Regardless of what anybody
says, we're falling behind," Wolf said of U.S. science and engineering
Recent jurisdictional shuffling and downsizing of the appropriations
subcommittees in both Houses of Congress has placed the budgets for
the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) and the National Administration of Space and Aeronautics (NASA)
within the same science subcommittees in both houses. In addition
to drafting his own legislation, Wolf has said he hopes to use this
consolidation to "do something very dramatic" in his subcommittee,
including plans to bring NOAA, NSF, and NASA together with the Department
of Education in a coordinated effort to shift more resources into
science and math education.
Clear Skies Tied
Up; EPA Acts to Regulate Coal-Fired Utilities
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee defeated the controversial
Clear Skies Bill (S. 131) in a 9-9 vote during the bill's mark-up
on March 9, 2005. After three weeks of negotiations, which failed
to resolve the deadlock, Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK) decided
to hold the mark-up in order to move forward with other priorities.
Inhofe has not announced plans to reconsider the legislation, but
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Pete Domenici
(R-NM) said Clear Skies will likely appear as an amendment to the
energy bill during floor debates this summer, according to Greenwire.
Chairman of the House Energy and Resources Committee Joe Barton (R-TX)
has not announced any specific plans regarding similar legislation,
but the committee does plan to hold a hearing on the Clear Skies initiative
on April 21st.
On March 10, 2005, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting
Administrator Stephen Johnson signed the Clean Air Interstate Rule
(CAIR), which is expected to reduce sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen
oxide (NOx) emissions from coal-fired power plants by roughly 70%
by 2015. Utilities operating in 28 Eastern States and the District
of Columbia are to engage in a cap-and-trade system in order to meet
these industry-wide limits.
For more, go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/cleanair.html.
New EPA Mercury Rule
In a Ton of Trouble
On March 15, 2005, the EPA mandated a cap-and-trade program to control
mercury emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants in two phases
in their Clean Air Mercury Rule. The first phase of caps would reduce
emissions from 48 to 38 tons per year by 2010, reached as a collateral
benefit of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), a similar program
for SO2 and NOx issued five days earlier. The second phase of limits
would reduce national emissions to 15 tons per year by 2018, a 70%
reduction. EPA also reversed the Clinton Administration finding of
December 2000 that it was appropriate to regulate coal- and oil-fired
power plants for mercury emissions under section 112 of the Clean
Air Act, the section that regulates hazardous air pollutants. The
section 112 finding would have led to maximum achievable control technology
(MACT) requirements for power plants.
The EPA rule has been plagued by two recent accountability studies
by the EPA Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office,
which report biased rulemaking procedures and incomplete cost-benefit
and health risk analyses. Environment & Energy Daily reported
that on March 18th, 11 moderate House republicans expressed their
disappointment with the rule in a letter to EPA's Acting Administrator
Stephen Johnson. "We believe that current technologies can achieve
far greater reductions in mercury than those mandated in this final
rule," they said. A coalition of 31 Senators, led by Barbara
Boxer (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), John
Kerry (D-MA), and James Jeffords (I-VT), are also devising a plan
to block the rule, either through an appropriations rider, the Congressional
Review Act, or Johnson's confirmation process, according to Greenwire.
Johnson's first confirmation hearing is scheduled for April 6th.
After the EPA ruling, the Washington Post and Greenwire reported
that the EPA omitted findings from another study, a peer-reviewed
health benefit analysis from Harvard University. The study estimated
that more aggressive nation-wide mercury caps of 26 tons and 15 tons
could save an additional $48 and $86 million, respectively, in costs
related to cardiovascular health problems. The EPA analysis was based
on neurological health problems and did not consider the potential
cardiovascular health benefits in their cost-benefit analysis because
of the uncertainties of the role of mercury in heart problems. In
addition, the EPA analysis only considered the consumption of freshwater
fish, while the Harvard study also estimated the health benefits from
reducing mercury in salt water fish, a source that is more commonly
consumed by humans. EPA did not consider salt water fish because it
is more difficult to determine how much of the U.S. power plant mercury
emissions may be the source for bioaccumulation of methyl mercury
in salt water fish. Senators who oppose the rule used the Harvard
study to further buttress their argument that the EPA failed to consider
all relevant information. EPA officials maintain that, although they
were aware of the report, it was submitted late, and thus could not
be included in the rule making because of quality control laws.
Lawmakers and environmental groups who support stricter regulations
have pledged to take legal action to block the mercury rule from taking
effect. Greenwire reports that the Natural Resources Defense Council,
National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League, Natural Resources
Council of Maine, and a coalition of state officials are poised to
file law suits on the grounds that the rule violates the earlier EPA
finding, which classified mercury as a "hazardous air pollutant."
Electric Utility Week quoted Connecticut's Attorney General Richard
Blumenthal, who said, "We are consulting with other states to
consider possible legal action to overturn this unconscionable and
ill-conceived rule. While perhaps tolerable for other contaminants,
a cap-and-trade system cannot be acceptable for mercury pollution,
because the health hazards at hot spots are so huge." Lawsuits
can be brought on the Clean Air Mercury Rule after it is published
in the Federal Register. Also according to Electric Utility Week,
one source in Congress even suggested that the administration may
have put out such an "arbitrary and capricious" rule in
hopes that a lawsuit would delay compliance deadlines for several
On March 28, EPA published the first part of its mercury rule, removing
mercury from the list of toxic pollutants covered by stricter MACT
emission caps required under the Clean Air Act and that same day,
9 states, including New Jersey, New Hampshire, California, Connecticut,
Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York and Vermont, sued. Other
states and environmental groups plan to file their own lawsuits when
other parts of the mercury rule are published in the Federal Register.
Meanwhile, several states are considering their own mercury regulations
that may be stricter than the EPA's Clean Air Mercury Rule, particularly
to handle mercury hot spots that pose the greatest health risks. The
New Hampshire Senate voted on March 24th to restrict mercury emissions
by over 50% by 2009 and 80% by 2013 at the Bow and Portsmouth power
plants, two of the states worst mercury "hot spots." The
bill now waits for a House vote. An editorial in the Philadelphia
Inquirer on March 21st stated "Pennsylvania should follow New
Jersey's lead and pass its own mercury regulation, requiring more
stringent cleanup than the federal standard announced last week."
An editorial in the Eugene Register-Guard on March 21st also noted
that "EPA officials blithely insist hot spots won't be a problem,
though they have no strategy to prevent them. They note that states
have the right to opt out of the rule and establish their own mercury
limits - scant solace to areas being polluted by mercury toxins from
power plants in neighboring states."
The electric utility industry was pleased to see mercury removed
from the EPA list of toxic pollutants and indicated that the original
December 2000 finding had not been appropriate. The industry still
faces many uncertainties because of possible lawsuits against the
ruling, potential efforts in Congress to alter the ruling and the
likelihood of stiffer and variable state regulations regarding mercury.
Compliance with the Clean Air Mercury Rule is estimated to cost $160
million per year in 2010, $100 million a year in 2015 and $750 million
a year in 2020. An additional complication is that technology to monitor
mercury emissions from power plants has not been fully developed,
according to the Electric Power Research Institute and the techniques
suggested in EPA's mercury rule, which work well for monitoring nitrogen
oxides and sulfur dioxide, are not accurate or reliable enough to
measure mercury emissions.
More on mercury policy is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/mercury.html
Coal Policy Fires
Up the Senate
On March 10, 2005, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee
convened representatives from 25 groups to consider the best proposals
for U.S. coal production to be included in this year's energy bill.
Department of Energy officials said they expect the U.S. will face
a 25% increase in coal consumption by 2025, adding an additional 87
GW of added domestic coal capacity as well as increased imports.
Lawmakers and panelists alike recognized that further investments
in coal must address challenges posed by climate change and other
environmental impacts of coal use. "It's pretty obvious that
we've got to do something about the technology and the cleanup,"
said Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM). But Domenici warned
environmentalists that they would not get very far on climate change
by advocating wide-spread zero-emissions plants. "We need something
in the middle," he said. Among proposals that received the most
attention, John Holdren, co-chair of the National Commission on Energy
Policy (NDEP), recommended that the government establish a market
signal for carbon dioxide control, as in a phased cap-and-trade program,
and commit $7 billion in total investments over the next decade to
help commercialize coal gasification (IGCC) technologies and carbon
sequestration. Domenici is expected to introduce a draft of the Senate
energy bill later this spring.
A full summary is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_conference.html
Senate Hears Debate
on Federal Renewable Energy Standards
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered arguments
for and against the use of a federal renewable portfolio standard
(RPS) as a means of promoting energy diversity on March 8, 2005. Senator
Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the Committee's ranking member, proposes that
10% of the national power supply should be derived from renewable
sources by 2020. Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), who will
introduce the Senate version of the energy bill this spring, opposes
a federal renewable energy standard but said he wished to recognize
the wide support Bingaman's proposal received in the Senate last year.
Opponents of a federal RPS are concerned that a "one-size-fits-all"
renewable energy mandate would burden some states with unfair costs
and penalties, due to the unequal distribution of renewable resources.
But proponents maintain that if well-crafted, a federal RPS could
significantly relieve demand on fossil fuels, help lower natural gas
prices, and achieve better energy diversity and efficiency goals than
relying on uncertain federal tax credits.
A full summary is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_hearings.html
House Takes a Look
at Growing Energy Demand in China
International energy experts warned the House Energy and Mineral
Resources Subcommittee on March 16th that Chinese energy demand is
rising sharply and is one of the factors contributing to recently
high crude oil prices. Since 2000, energy use in China has unexpectedly
skyrocketed, outpacing the country's economic growth. As a result,
Chinese state-run oil companies are making a major push to lock down
new supplies around the globe, which could pose future problems for
U.S. imports. "The United States must take a serious look at
its energy and mineral supply strategy for the long-term," said
Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), Chairman of the subcommittee.
Subcommittee members called for further development of natural gas
supplies in the United States as the best response to rising oil prices
and increased demand from Asia. Rep. John Peterson (R-PA) said natural
gas development is where the U.S. policymakers should be focusing
their efforts, since it is the one fuel that could easily bridge to
the hydrogen economy.
A full summary is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_hearings.html
Wildlife Refuge Becomes a Budget Item
On March 16, 2005 the Senate voted 51-49 against an amendment proposed
by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would have removed a provision
to include the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) revenues in
the $2.56 trillion fiscal year 2006 Senate budget resolution. With
that close vote, the issue of drilling in ANWR becomes part of the
budgetary process and cannot be held up by a filibuster. The House
passed a similar provision in their budget resolution earlier this
month. If the two resolutions are reconciled in the conference committee
and signed by the President, the bill would instruct the House Resources
Committee and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to write
necessary legislation to realize $2.5 billion in revenues from ANWR
lease sales over the next five years. While the vote was a decisive
victory for those who support drilling in the refuge and a heavy blow
to environmentalists, Congress must still overcome some hurdles before
the provision would take effect. Most notably, Congress has failed
in recent years to achieve a joint budget resolution, and disagreements
over several other funding issues within next year's tight budget,
such as cuts to Medicaid, promise to challenge the process once again.
Does the United
States Have Enough Water? Report Released
The Subcommittee on Water Availability and Quality, reporting to
the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, National Science
and Technology Council, has released its first report,
Science and Technology to Support Fresh Water Availability in the
Regarding this report, John H. Marburger III, Director of the Office
of Science and Technology Policy, has said: "The health of the
American people and the economic growth of the Nation depend on continuing
availability of clean fresh water. The recent drought in the western
U.S. and the increasing number of conflicts over the allocation of
limited water supplies amplify the need for a better understanding
of water availability. This report provides a clear statement of need
for coordinated science and technology efforts to understand the supply,
human demand, and environmental requirements for fresh water in the
The report addresses the key question, "Does the United States
have enough water?" The brief answer is "We do not know".
According to the U.S. General Accounting Office (2003), National water
availability and use has not been comprehensively assessed in 25 years.
The report takes a brief but careful look at what is known about our
nation's fresh water supply, what we don't know about it, and the
ramifications of our current state of knowledge. It also describes
high-priority science and technology efforts needed to provide adequate
information for decision makers and water managers.
At the request of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, as
a follow-up to this report, the Subcommittee is now developing a strategic
plan for Federal science and technology research and development to
support freshwater availability and quality. As this plan takes shape
there will be an opportunity for public review and input. If you would
like your name added to the review list, please email email@example.com
with the subject, "add to swaq review list".
For further information or to request a printed copy of the report,
please contact Glenn Patterson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or call 703-648-6876.
The Global Earth
Observations System of Systems
At the third Earth Observation Summit in Brussels on February 16,
2005, 60 nations agreed to expand and integrate their own Earth observing
capabilities into a single, global data-sharing network and all-hazards
warning system. This Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS)
was also endorsed by 40 international organizations at the summit.
On March 9, 2005, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held an
oversight hearing on plans to implement the U.S. component of GEOSS.
The hearing focused on major challenges facing the international effort
and the benefits of GEOSS to U.S. public health, energy use, and environmental
protection. "This is the first time we've had political interest
in such an issue," said NOAA Administrator Admiral Conrad C.
Lautenbacher, who is a key player in the team that drafted the 10-year
plan. Admiral Lautenbacher reported that international support has
grown substantially since the Tsunami disaster last December and the
technological goals of GEOSS will be easily attainable with sustained
funding. However, certain geo-political obstacles remain unresolved,
including national security concerns surrounding data access, and
reconciling conflicting business models for the cost of information.
In order for GEOSS to work, the United States must also prove to
itself and the world that it can maintain the long-term political
and financial commitment necessary to standardize and network its
own data, let alone participate in the international effort. In the
hearing, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) called on agency officials to define
clearer goals and specific budget directives for Congress. So far,
the EPA is the only agency with a line-item in their budget to support
its role in GEOSS. A charter being developed by an Interagency Working
Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO), which involves 16 federal agencies,
is expected to help expedite the institutionalization of GEOSS.
For more information, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/earthobservation.html
and the EPA website.
A Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was called for by United Nations
in 2000. Initiated in 2001 to inform global policy initiatives, the
assessment was released on March 30, 2005. The 2500 page assessment
is considered to be the most comprehensive survey of ecosystem vitality
and involved 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over four years. The
assessment defines ecosystems in terms of their services to humanity,
for example timber for building, clean air for breathing, fish for
food and fibers for clothing.
The assessment considers the state of these services since World
War II. It finds that during the past 60 years, more land has been
converted to agriculture than in the 18th and 19th centuries combined,
and more than half of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers have been used
since 1985. Water withdrawals from rivers and lakes for irrigation,
household, and industrial use doubled in the past 40 years. Four ecosystem
services have been enhanced, including increased crop, livestock and
aquaculture production and increased carbon sequestration, primarily
through new forests planted in the northern hemisphere. Two services,
fisheries and fresh water, have been depleted. Overall about 60% of
the world's ecosystem services have been degraded and the growing
needs of a growing population for these services has caused substantial
and predominantly irreversible loss in diversity, with about 10-30%
of mammalian, avian and amphibian species threatened by extinction.
Species extinction is now 100-1,000 times above the normal background
Future scenario models suggest that by changing consumption patterns,
better education, new technologies, higher prices for exploiting ecosystems
and global cooperation, humanity can reverse or limit further damage
while moving toward a more sustainable system of services. The assessment
was funded by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations
Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the World Bank
The complete assessment, summaries and additional coverage are available
National Academy of Science Alert
On March 4, 2005 Dr. Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy
of Sciences, sent a letter
to NAS members regarding the mounting threats to science education
in public schools. In short, the letter alerts NAS members to the
organization's growing effort to combat threats to the teaching of
evolution in public schools. The letter further requests that Academy
members be ready to lend their assistance to efforts to defend science
education in their state. Dr. Alberts further states in the letter,
in no uncertain terms, that a 7 February 2005 Op-Ed in the New York
Times that was authored by intelligent design advocate, Dr. Michael
Behe, misrepresents Dr. Alberts' statements on evolution. In a response
to the Behe Op-Ed,
Dr. Alberts states "while my words are reflected correctly in
Behe's column, he completely misrepresents the intent of my statement."
Deep Sea Volcanoes Sunk
The IMAX movies, "Cosmic Voyage," about the universe; "Galapagos,"
about the islands where Darwin's observations led him to develop the
theory of evolution and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea," about
creatures that thrive near the vents on the ocean floor have been
rejected by some theaters in museums and elsewhere because they mention
evolution. The New York Times reported that the Fort Worth Museum
of Science and History showed "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea"
to a sample audience and decided not to book the movie because some
viewers objected to the mention of evolution.
The Associated Press reported that cities in Texas, Georgia, North
Carolina and South Carolina were refusing to show "Volcanoes
of the Deep Sea" because it makes a connection between human
DNA and microbes living on the sea floor. Lisa Buzzelli, director
of the IMAX theater in Charleston declined to show the film because
she said "If it's not going to sell, we're not going to take
it. Many people here believe in creationism, not evolution."
Professorial Dictators Warned
In the Florida House of Representatives, the Committee on Choice
and Innovation voted along party lines (8 Republicans approved while
2 Democrats strenuously disapproved) to advance the Student and Faculty
Academic Freedom in Postsecondary Education bill (HB-837) out of their
committee (see http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/).
The bill grants a list of rights to students and faculty and these
rights would have to be prominently posted in all postsecondary institutes
of learning. Two of the rights granted to students include:
(1) The right to be graded solely on the basis of their reasoned
answers and appropriate knowledge of the subjects they study and that
they will not be discriminated against on the basis of their political
or religious beliefs.
(2) The right to expect that their academic freedom and the quality
of their education will not be infringed upon by instructors who persistently
introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that
has no relation to the subject of study and serves no legitimate pedagogical
The bill, which must be approved by two more committees before it
goes to the full House for a vote, ensures that university students
cannot be punished for stating beliefs that disagree with their professors.
It may allow students to sue a professor and the university if students
think that they are being singled out for ridicule because of their
beliefs. While supporting the passage of the bill, Representative
Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) said that a university education should be
more than "one biased view by the professor, who as a dictator
controls the classroom," as part of "a misuse of their platform
to indoctrinate the next generation with their own views." Later,
Rep. Baxley cited the following example of a case where a student
might sue, "Some professors say, 'Evolution is a fact. I don't
want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and
if you don't like it there's the door.'"
Rep. Dan Gelber, (D-Miami Beach), countered that many lawsuits could
be filed by students with a wide-ranging variety of beliefs, such
as students who do not believe that the Holocaust occurred or that
men landed on the Moon. "This is a horrible step," he said.
"Universities will have to hire lawyers so our curricula can
be decided by judges in court rooms. Professors might have to pay
court costs - even if they win - from their own pockets. This is not
an innocent piece of legislation."
USGS Reports on
Earlier this month the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released its
the annual customer listening session. The purpose of the listening
session (held on November 4, 2004) was to build on the information
USGS has gained from its customers over the past four years about
their core capabilities. Additionally, the USGS sought to begin a
dialogue about the unique roles and responsibilities of the USGS to
reduce the risks of natural hazards.
Since the listening session, the USGS has established design and
outreach teams to shape the science objectives, partnership opportunities,
and to develop strategies for communicating the natural hazards effort.
These teams are seeking input from technical experts, partners and
stakeholders throughout this process. The USGS is still seeking comments
or thoughts about the hazards initiative. Those can be sent via email
Bush Announces New
On March 11, 2005, President Bush announced the nomination of Michael
Griffin as NASA's 11th Administrator. The nomination comes nearly
three months after former Administrator Sean O'Keefe announced his
resignation and less than three weeks after O'Keefe's official departure
from the agency. Griffin currently serves as Head of the Space Department
at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).
He has also spent time at Orbital Sciences Corporation, NASA's Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, and the Computer Sciences Program. Griffin
was chief of NASA's exploration office from 1991 to 1993 and is expected
to be an advocate of President Bush's Vision for Space Exploration
Griffin holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University
of Maryland and five Master's degrees in Aerospace Science, Electrical
Engineering, Applied Physics, Civil Engineering, and Business Administration.
He began his academic career with an undergraduate degree in Physics
from Johns Hopkins University.
Congress has reacted positively to Griffin's nomination. The House
of Representatives Science Committee Chair Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)
said, "We are extremely pleased that the President has nominated
Mike Griffin to be NASA Administrator. He has broad expertise, knows
NASA inside and out, and is an imaginative and creative thinker and
leader. He is also known for his candor and directness. We look very
forward to working with Dr. Griffin at this critical time for NASA."
Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space
in the House Science Committee commented that "Dr. Griffin has
an impressive background in space-related fields, and I am encouraged
by his nomination to be the next NASA Administrator. I look forward
to working with him on the full range of issues facing NASA."
Griffin now awaits confirmation by the U.S. Senate, which has yet
to set a date for his confirmation hearings.
AASG Pick and Gavel
On March 22nd, the Association of American State Geologists (AASG)
presented its seventh annual Pick and Gavel Award to Marcus Milling,
Executive Director of the American Geological Institute (AGI), "in
recognition of his tireless efforts to unite the geoscience community
on issues of information, education, and public policy." Hill
Staff and federal agency leaders joined 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." 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), Pete
Domenici (R-NM), Harry Reid (D-NV) and Ted Stevens (R-AK); General
Richard Lawson (ret.); National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell;
and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. More information about
the award is available at www.kgs.ukans.edu/AASG/pick.html.
The 10th annual Congressional Visit Day is scheduled for May 10-11,
2005. The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers,
researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to
raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology.
CVD is an important opportunity to make science issues and science
funding a priority for the 109th congress. More information about
CVD is available at www.aas.org/cvd.
The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated
to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific
EarthScope and Stanford University seek student volunteers to assist
a science team in rock sampling and operations at the SAFOD drill
site on the San Andreas Fault in central California. UNAVCO also offers
student field assistant positions this summer at EarthScope's Plate
Boundary Observatory (PBO) in the western U.S. and Alaska. Field Assistants
will work with regional staff in GPS and strain meter activities.
Download the summer
opportunities flyer, which includes contact and application information.
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 2005. 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, 2005. For more information, please
Key Federal Register
Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency
meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community
are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved,
the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online
Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also
available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
DOE: The Department of Energy released the representative average
unit costs of five residential energy sources to become effective
April 11, 2005: Electricity: $.09/kWh; Natural Gas: $1.092/therm;
Heating Oil: $1.76/gallon; Propane: $1.55/gallon; Kerosene: $2.20/gallon.
[Federal Register: March 11, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 47)]
DOE/DOI: The Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior
plan to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) concerning
the transition of Rocky Flats from a defense nuclear facility into
the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge. The MOU describes how the
Departments will cooperate in transferring administrative jurisdiction
for certain lands within the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology
Site (Rocky Flats) from DOE to DOI. Full text of the Minerals Management
Services press release is available at: http://www.mms.gov/ooc/press/2005/press0310.htm
[Federal Register: March 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 54)]
DOE: The Department of Energy announced an "interim final rule
and opportunity for public comment" on revisions made to the
Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. The changes come after
President Bush directed the Secretary of Energy to improve the program
in February, 2002, and they are intended to "enhance the measurement
accuracy, reliability and verifiability of information." Under
new rules, larger emitters that want to register reductions must provide
"entity-wide emissions data." DOE will also begin to provide
simple procedures for small emitters like agricultural businesses
to submit reports, and multinational participants will be able to
register reductions achieved internationally. [Federal Register: March
24, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 56)]
EPA: Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Education
invites proposals to be submitted for the Environmental Education
Training Program, which provides educators with training and long-term
support to enable them to effectively teach environmental issues.
The program grants one award of $1.7 million, as a one year cooperative
agreement, to a U.S. institution of higher education, a non-profit,
or consortium of such institutions, with up to four years of subsequent
funding. Visit http://www.epa.gov/enviroed/educate.html for more information
or to download an application; or contact Kathleen MacKinnon, U.S.
EPA Office of Environmental Education, at 202-564-0454 or email@example.com.
Applications must be postmarked no later than April 30, 2005. [Federal
Register: March 18, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 52)]
EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency posted a final rule overturning
a December 2000 Regulatory finding that classified mercury as a Hazardous
Air Pollutant. Based on this revision, the EPA removed coal- and oil-fired
power plants from Section 112 (c) of the Clean Air Act, which lists
utilities for which regulation of hazardous air pollutants is "appropriate
and necessary." A summary of the final rule is available at http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/2422/01jan20051800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/2005/pdf/05-6037.pdf
[Federal Register: March 29, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 59)]
NSF: The EarthScope Science and Education Advisory Committee Meeting
will be held Thursday March 31 and Friday, April 1 at the Hyatt Hotel
in Santa Ana Pueblo, NM. The purpose of meeting is to carry out EarthScope
proposal and management review, and to provide advice, recommendations,
and oversight concerning EarthScope construction, operation, science
and education support. Minutes may be obtained from Dr. Kaye Shedlock,
EarthScope Program Officer; telephone: (703) 292-8559. [Federal Register:
March 4, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 42)]
OST: The National Science and Technology Council's Interagency Working
Group on Earth Observations will hold a two-day Public Engagement
Workshop on Monday, May 9, 8:30-5:30 and Tuesday, May 10, 8:30-4:30.
The workshop will focus on the nine societal benefit areas and the
six near term opportunities identified in the Strategic Plan for the
U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System. This plan was developed
to address the effective use of Earth observation systems to enable
a healthy public, economy and planet. All sessions of the workshop
will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade
Center, Washington, DC. For further information contact Carla Sullivan,
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Federal Register: March 30, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 60)]
USGS: The U.S. Geological Survey's Scientific Earthquake Studies
Advisory Committee (SESAC) will hold its tenth open meeting at the
Menlo Park, CA campus April 13-14. The Committee will review the overall
direction of the U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program
in the current and next fiscal years with particular focus on the
Program's activities in earthquake physics and earthquake effects
research. For further information, contact Dr. David Applegate, Reston,
Virginia 20192, (703) 648-6714. [Federal Register: April 1, 2005 (Volume
70, Number 62)]
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:
Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs
Program, Linda Rowan, AGI Director of Government Affairs and Katie
Ackerly, AGI/AAPG 2005 Spring Semester Intern.
Sources: American Institute of Physics, NASA, U.S. Geological
Survey, National Academy of Sciences, United States House of Representatives,
United States Senate, Washington Post, New York Times, Electric Utility
Week, Associated Press, Environment & Energy Daily, Millennium
Assessment Website, Alligator Online and Florida House of Representatives
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted April 5, 2005.