Monthly Review: March 2006
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.
PACE Legislation Moving Forward
Several Senate committees have begun addressing the Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE) legislation package. After holding a series of hearings, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the PACE-Energy Act (S.2197) on March 8. The Senate Committees on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions and Commerce, Science, and Transportation have each held a series of hearings on the PACE-Education Act (S.2198), although no further action has been taken on the bill by either committee. The PACE-Finance Act (S.2199) is awaiting action by the Senate Committee on Finance.
The PACE Acts can be viewed online at:
Competitiveness Amendment Included in House College Access &
In a 293 - 134 vote, the full House approved the American Competitiveness Amendment to the College Access and Opportunity Act (H.R.609) on March 29. Introduced by Representative Cathy McMorris (R-WA), the amendment seeks to increase the number of teachers qualified to teach Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the number of qualified math and science professionals serving as adjunct teachers in secondary schools. Rather than create new programs, the amendment adds uses of funds to two provisions in the act: Title II (Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants) and the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program.
The College Access and Opportunity Act was passed by the House on March 30 in a 221-199 vote. The legislation can be viewed online at: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.609:
House Innovation Legislation Introduced, Preliminary Hearings
On March 1, 2006, Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced the Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (H.R.4845). "The Innovation and Competitiveness Act is a consensus piece of legislation to get Congress engaged in the business of promoting innovation in America by creating additional incentives for private individuals and businesses to create and rollout new products and services so that America will remain the world leader in innovation," Goodlatte said in his introduction of the bill. The bill focuses on education, taxation, liability reform, and health care reform. Unlike the President's American Competitive Initiative, the PACE bills, and other competitiveness legislation, H.R.4845 does not include any provisions to increase research funding for federal agencies.
The text of the bill, a summary, and a link to the press release are available at: http://www.house.gov/goodlatte/innovation109.htm
In related news, the House Science Committee has begun holding a series of hearings to aid in the development of legislation related to U.S. competitiveness. According to the Science Committee website, "The Committee plans to introduce the legislation next month and hopes to move the bills to the House floor by May or June."
Kennedy, Santorum Introduce Additional Innovation Legislation in Senate
On March 2, 2006, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced S.2357, the Right Time to Reinvest in America's Competitiveness and Knowledge Act (Right TRACK Act). Of primary interest to scientists in the Right TRACK legislation are increases in research funding of 10 percent per year through fiscal year (FY) 2013 for the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of Defense (DOD), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The legislation also promotes increased use of renewable energy sources by extending the tax credit for solar energy and creating tax credits for other forms of "green electricity," including wind, geothermal, biomass, biogas, and hydropower sources. The act also makes permanent the research and development tax credit.
A number of education provisions fall under Title II of the bill, known as the New National Defense Education Act (New NDEA). In particular, the New NDEA would require all states to perform science assessments in the 4th and 8th grades; double funding for education programs at NSF; provide tuition grants for low- and middle-income students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; and increase loan forgiveness for STEM teachers in high-poverty schools. It would also raise funding for NSF's Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program to $400 million in FY 2007 (funded at $63 million in FY 2006), followed by annual increase of 10 percent through FY 2011.
A press release with a summary of the legislation is available at: http://help.senate.gov/Min_press/2006_02_22_a.pdf
On March 15, 2006, Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced S.2423, the Securing Excellence in Education for our Kids (SEEK) in Math and Science Act of 2006. The SEEK legislation focuses on K-12 and undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. The act authorizes the development of teacher recruitment, training, and retention programs, including a part-time master's degree program for STEM middle- and high-school teachers; a scholarship program for undergraduates in STEM fields who receive concurrent teaching certification and complete a five-year teaching requirement; bonuses for highly-qualified STEM teachers who teach in high-need schools; and loan interest payments for STEM teachers and professionals. An additional provision of the legislation provides grants for schools that pilot a differentiated compensation for K-12 math and science teachers. The compensation system would be "based primarily on measures of improvement in student academic achievement."
A press release on the legislation is available here
Last month President Bush released his fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget request to Congress, and this month Congress has started down a path of its own for the FY 2007 budget. The House and the Senate Appropriations committees have held a series of hearing this month on the President's budget request. At the same time, the House and Senate Budget committees have finalized their non-binding budget resolutions that provide an outline for total federal spending for FY 2007. 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 in the appropriations process and in legislation affecting entitlement programs, taxes and other matters affecting revenue. It sets the total spending levels that will be available for the Appropriations subcommittees to spend.
On March 16th, the Senate passed its budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 83) in a partisan 51-49 vote. The Senate resolution provides a total of $872.5 billion for discretionary spending, with $26.1 billion for the General Science, Space and Technology account, $3.8 billion for the Energy account, and $28.2 billion for the Natural Resources and Environment account. The Senate resolution assumes $3 billion in revenues over the next five years from oil and gas production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The accompanying report to the budget resolution states that "While the budget resolution cannot dictate the contents of legislation reported by any committee, the FY 2007 Budget Resolution can and does instruct the Energy and Natural Resources Committee to meet a reconciliation target totaling $3 billion over the 2007-2011 period." The report also supports the President's request for increased funding for the National Science Foundation, the Office of Science within the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The committee differed with the President's request for cuts in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and resolved that NOAA should be funded at not less than its fiscal year 2006 level.
The House Budget Committee passed its budget resolution (H.Con.Res.376) on March 29th along party lines (22-17) and it now awaits floor debate. The House resolution provides $872.8 billion in discretionary spending, which, similar to the Senate version, does not include $90 billion in emergency supplemental funding. The House version provides a total of $25.8 billion for the General Science, Space, and Technology account, $3.8 billion for the Energy account, and $28.2 billion for the Natural Resources and Environment account. Floor debate on the budget resolution should begin the first week in April and it is likely that many amendments will be introduced to increase mandatory and discretionary spending.
Once the House and Senate have budget resolutions and have provided total spending amounts for the appropriations bills, then the Appropriations subcommittees in both chambers will begin the long work of writing the details of how these amounts will be divided between federal programs. As House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA) said in his opening statement last week, "it's important to note the while our budget sets the overall number, it is the work of the Appropriations Committee to determine how that money is allocated."
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will hold a day-long Climate Conference on April 4 in Room G50 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Topics to be discussed include business perspectives on climate policy decisions (9:40 am - 10:50 am), analysis of domestic design options (11:00 am - 12:10 pm), perspectives on domestic design (2:30 pm - 3:40 pm), and trading and international competitiveness (3:45 pm - 5:00 pm). Panelists to speak at the conference include representatives from industry, government, and non-profit groups.
The conference schedule and list of participants are available at:
On March 9, Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Bob Inglis (R-SC), and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) began collecting signatures for a Dear Colleague letter circulating in the House that requests increased funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Specifically, the letter asks Congress to provide NSF with the full $6.02 billion requested by the administration for fiscal year 2007. As of March 31, 156 representatives had signed the letter. The letter, which closed on April 3rd, will now be sent to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce. The full text of the letter was originally sent out as an AGI Action Alert on March 16 and is available online at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/nsfdearcolleague_alert.html.
A second Dear Colleague letter began circulating in the House on March 6. Written by Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), the letter requests that Congress provide the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science with $4.1 billion in fiscal year 2007, the amount requested by the administration. As of March 31, 103 representatives had signed the letter. A similar letter was circulated in the Senate by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). As of March 31, 51 senators had signed the letter. Both letters closed on March 31.
A record number of geoscientists attended the eleventh annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day on March 28 and 29. Sixty-nine Earth scientists and geo-engineers from AGI member societies conducted more than 200 visits in the House and the Senate. The geoscientists joined over 300 scientists and engineers in a two-day effort to raise support for federal investments in science and engineering. Participants from the American Geophysical Union, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, the Association for Women Geoscientists, the Geological Society of America, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers, and the National Speleological Society spent a day learning about the proposed fiscal year 2007 budget for geoscience research and education, followed by a day sharing their concerns with their representatives and senators. Geoscientists also attended a reception at the Capitol Hill Club to honor Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice, and Commerce and a breakfast that featured Representative Bob Inglis (D-SC) and John Culberson (R-TX).
The annual CVD event is sponsored by the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group, an information network comprising professional scientific and engineering societies, higher education associations, institutions of higher learning, and trade associations. The two-day event is a great opportunity for scientists, engineers, researchers and educators to speak with their representatives on Capitol Hill about the importance of the sciences. For more information, please visit the CVD website at http://www.aas.org/policy/cvd/index.html.
The National Academies' Board on Earth Sciences and Resources has formed a committee to identify key research questions in the solid-Earth sciences. Preliminary questions being considered by the committee include:
1. How did the Earth and planets form?
The committee is seeking input on these questions and suggestions for other questions. Feedback can be submitted online through August 2006 at: http://dels.nas.edu/besr/grq_input.php
NEHRP has created a new web site dedicated to the program. The web site is http://www.nehrp.gov.
NEHRP is requesting public comments on its existing strategic plan for 2001-2005, which is being updated for 2006-2010. Comments may be submitted via the web, email, fax, or regular mail. The process for submitting comments is available on the NEHRP web site at http://nehrp.gov/public_comments.html. All comments must be received by 5 pm EDT on Friday, May 26, 2006.
NEHRP will hold an overview session at the 100th Anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Conference on Monday, April 17, 2006, at 4:00 pm at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, CA. At this session, the NEHRP agencies will provide a brief overview presentation on implementation of changes required by the NEHRP Reauthorization Act of 2004 and the process for updating the NEHRP Strategic Plan. Attendees at this session will be provided an opportunity for community discussion of the plan.
NIST will develop and maintain an email list server for NEHRP to send out information of interest about the program to the earthquake hazards community from time to time. If you would like to be added to the list server, please send an email to email@example.com with the word "subscribe" written in the subject line, or you can complete the "NEHRP Information Registration Form" at http://nehrp.gov/register/NEHRPRegform.asp.
Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, submitted her letter of resignation on March 10th to President Bush. Her resignation is effective at the end of the month. Norton cited the desire to return to the West and to pursue a path in the private sector in her letter of resignation. She also said in the letter that "one aspect of Washington that I will not miss is the divisiveness that too often prevails." Norton's tenure at the Department of the Interior (DOI) has been controversial at times, because of her support for opening more federal lands to energy exploration and revising the Endangered Species Act. President Bush has nominated Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne as a replacement for Norton. As governor for eight years, Kempthorne is a part of the court case to challenge the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule that limits road building and access to national forest land. He also has worked to broker a deal over water rights between the federal government and the Nez Perce Indian Tribe. Senators from both parties have indicated that the confirmation process for Kempthorne, who served as a senator representing Idaho for one term, will be relatively quick.
The U.S. Geological Survey held a congressional briefing on March 17th to highlight the role of streamgages in mitigating flooding hazards. The well attended briefing provided an opportunity for the agency to bring in some of its partners to talk about the type of information that streamgages provide and how that information is used at the federal and local levels. Speakers at the event included Peter Gabrielsen, from the National Weather Service, Steve Fitzgerald, from the Harris County Flood Control District, and David Ford, from the David Ford Consulting Engineers, Inc.. USGS Associate Director for Water Robert M. Hirsch opened the briefing by saying that the streamgage network is critical for saving lives and mitigating flooding hazards across the country. Gabrielsen discussed how the National Weather Service uses streamgage information to provide flood prediction to state and local level governments to help mitigate against flood damage. Fitzgerald and Ford provided more detailed examples of how streamgage data are used by decision makers, citing an example of a parking garage near a river that uses the information to decide when they should close due to possible flood conditions. Information on the briefing and USGS streamgage programs is available at http://www.usgs.gov/solutions/floods_17march06.html
In related news, the USGS released a report on pesticides in the nation's streams and groundwater resources. The report concludes that pesticides are frequently present in surface waters in urban and agricultural areas but that pesticides are much less common in groundwater. The ten-year study was done in association with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in part to provide data to the EPA's exposure risk assessments for regulating the use of pesticides. The study focuses on 51 major basins and aquifer systems and did not focus on testing at drinking-water intakes. A copy of the report is available at http://water.usgs.gov/pubs/circ./circ1291 or additional information on the pesticide assessment is available at http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/
On March 13, 2006, Google, in collaboration with planetary scientists at Arizona State University, introduced a new web site called Google Mars. The web site contains three different types of global maps of Mars: 1. A shaded relief map, generated with data from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, 2. a mosaic of visible images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera on Global Surveyor, and 3. a mosaic of infrared images taken by the Thermal Emission Imaging System on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. You can change the resolution of the maps, move to different areas of the map and locate features such as craters, mountains and spacecrafts. You can find the martian maps at http://www.google.com/mars/. The site may be expanded in the future with more data and more maps.
The Seismological Society of America (SSA) is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The society's Centennial Annual meeting will be held in San Francisco from April 18 - 22 and will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The meeting is joint with the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute's Eighth U.S. National Conference on Earthquake Engineering and the Disaster Resistant California Conference of the California Office of Emergency Services.
AGI, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) have organized a policy session on Wednesday, April 19 and a tutorial session on Friday, April 21. The tutorial will provide information, exercises and discussion about how government works and how to communicate with policymakers. Congressional members, congressional staff and state legislators will participate in our discussion. In addition, scientists and engineers, who have worked for a member of Congress for one full year as Congressional Science Fellows will share their perspectives. The tutorial session is entitled "How to Communicate with Policy-Makers". You may sign-up for this free session on the conference website after you have registered for the conference.
On April 17, a special session on the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) has been added to the schedule of events. This session will bring together representatives from the four agencies responsible for NEHRP to discuss the formation of an advisory committee and the updating of the strategic plan. There may also be a field hearing organized by the Senate Subcommittee on Disaster Prevention and Prediction on April 18 and several members of Congress have been invited to speak at the conference throughout the week.
More information about the joint conference is available at: http://www.1906eqconf.org
In related news, SSA and IRIS are seeking nominations from the seismological community for two distinguished lecturers for 2007. Each lecture will be given multiple times to large public audiences in order to increase public understanding of and excitement for seismology. SSA and IRIS will provide reimbursement for travel expenses as well as a $1000 honorarium for each lecturer.
Nominations must include a vision statement with a specific description of how the proposed presentation will fulfill the general public outreach goals of the lectureship program. Past experience and perspective on successfully communicating seismological ideas to large public audiences are desirable. Self-nominations are encouraged. For full consideration, nominations must be received by March 27, 2006. Please email nominations or questions to Gayle Levy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information, past speakers and their presentations can be found
The World Water Council held the 4th triennial World Water Forum in Mexico City on March 16-22, 2006. The forum brought together over 5,000 representatives from 148 countries to discuss global supplies of potable freshwater. Five thematic topics were addressed in the forum: providing water for growth and development, implementing integrated water resources management techniques, addressing water sanitation issues, managing water resources for food and the environment, and managing water-related risks.
A major issue addressed at the forum was privatization of drinking water, including the use of bottled water in countries lacking adequate supplies of potable water. Last year in Mexico alone, citizens spent over $3.4 billion on bottled water, a product one delegate called "a stealth privatization." The issue brought nearly 10,000 demonstrators to Mexico City to protest against privatization of drinking water services. Official representatives at the forum sided with the protestors and voted to release a statement affirming that governments should be responsible for providing citizens with potable water, not private companies.
A report on the proceedings of the World Water Forum will be available online at http://www.worldwatercouncil.org/index.php?id=32&L=0.#739.
On March 16th, AGI submitted testimony to four House Appropriation subcommittees highlighting the budget of key federal geoscience agencies and programs. The testimony provides AGI with the opportunity to inform the committee on how the presidential budget request affects the Earth sciences. The testimony for the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee stressed the importance of continued funding for the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and voiced support for the increased funding for the department's Office of Science Basic Energy Research. Similarly, the AGI testimony for the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee stressed the importance of federal support for the Mineral Resources Program and the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program as well as other programs at the USGS. AGI also provided testimony to promote increased funding for Earth science programs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, and to support the President's request for the National Science Foundation. The full text of the testimony provided to the four subcommittees is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/gapac/testimony.html
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a fourteen-week geoscience and public policy internship in the fall 2006. 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. 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, 2006. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/internse.html.
Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geosciences 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/frcont05.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
DOI: The Mineral Management Service announced its intent to prepare an environmental impact study (EIS) on the tentatively scheduled 2007-2012 oil and gas leasing proposals in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico, off the States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Comments on the scope of the EIS, significant issues that should be addressed, and alternatives that should be considered can be submitted at https://ocsconnect.mms.gov. [Federal Register: March 7, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 44)].
EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan and schedule for the review of the air quality criteria and national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for lead. This review will take into account newly emerging research on the effects of airborne lead on human health and the environment. The schedule for this review incorporates Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) review and will be completed by September 1, 2008. [Federal Register: March 8, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 45)]
DOI: The Bureau of Land Management and the Minerals Management Service request comments and suggestions to assist in preparing a proposed rule governing carbon dioxide injection for increased production and recovery of oil and natural gas. Comments will be accepted at http://www.regulations.gov until April 7, 2006. [Federal Register: March 8, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 45)]
DOI: The Bureau of Land Management and the Minerals Management Service request comments and suggestions to assist in the preparation of proposed regulations governing Gas Hydrate Production Incentives. Comments will be accepted at http://www.regulations.gov until April 7, 2006. [Federal Register: March 8, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 45)]
DOI: The DOI Minerals Management Service will hold a panel discussion, entitled ``The Energy Policy Act of '05--What Lies Ahead,'' on April 25, 2006, in Houston, Texas. The intent of the panel discussion is to bring together some of the leading experts from the Department of the Interior who are responsible for implementing the provisions of the Act. The panel will discuss major provisions of the Act and will provide the latest implementation status regarding the provisions, including alternate energy related uses on the outer continental shelf (OCS); coastal impact assistance; royalty incentives; royalty credits; and streamlined oil and gas permit processing. For additional information see http://www.mms.gov/awards. [Federal Register: March 17, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 52)].
NSF: The NSF Polar Programs Advisory Committee will hold a meeting on May 18-19, 2006, in Arlington, VA, to advise NSF on the impact of its policies, programs, and activities of the polar research community, to provide advice to the Director of OPP on issues related to long-range planning. [Federal Register: March 20, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 53)].
DOI: The Bureau of Land Management North Slope Science Initiative
NSF: The NSF Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education will hold a meeting on May 12-13, 2006, in Arlington, VA to provide advice, recommendations, and oversight concerning support for environmental research and education. [Federal Register: March 27, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 58)].
DOE: The DOE Office of Fossil Energy Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee will hold a meeting on April 24-25, 2006, in Washington, DC, to discuss major interagency issues, including activities in other nations, FY2007 budgets, reauthorization, interagency coordination and Interagency Roadmap; the Energy Policy Act of 2005 requirements; and recommendations to DOE regarding planning and future activities. [Federal Register: March 27, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 58)].
NSF: The NSF Engineering Advisory Committee will hold a meeting on
May 3-4, 2006, in Arlington, VA, to provide advice, recommendations
and counsel on major goals and policies pertaining to engineering
programs and activities. [Federal Register: March 31, 2006 (Volume
71, 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 Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs, Jenny Fisher 2006 AGI/AAPG Spring Intern, and Margaret Anne Baker, Government Affairs Staff..
Sources: Washington Post, Greenwire, World Water Council, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, National Academies Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, Seismological Society of America, Senate and House Press Releases, House Science Committee, Senate Budget Committee, House Budget Committee, Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Google
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted April 3, 2006.