Monthly Review: April 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.
New USGS Director
Nominated by the President
President Bush has nominated Mark D. Myers, former State Geologist
and head of Alaska's Geological Survey, to be the new director for
the U. S. Geological Survey. Acting Director Patrick Leahy will continue
to serve as the head of the USGS until Myers is confirmed by the Senate.
According to Acting Secretary Lynn Scarlett "Mark is known not
only for his accomplishments as a geologist and state survey manager
but also for the consensus building approach he has emphasized throughout
his career. He brings more than 22 years of wide ranging experience
in geological science and strong leadership skills to the U.S. Geological
Myers is a past president and board member of the Alaska Geological
Society; a certified professional geologist with the American Institute
of Professional Geologists; a certified petroleum geologist with the
American Association of Petroleum Geologists; and a licensed geologist
with the State of Alaska.
He received his doctorate in geology from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks
in 1994, specializing in sedimentology, clastic depositional environments,
surface and subsurface sequence analysis and sandstone petrography.
Myers earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology from the University
Senators Cornyn and
Lieberman Introduce Open Access Legislation
Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) introduced
S. 2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, on May 2,
2006. The legislation would require all federal agencies with research
budget of more than $100 million to develop and implement a public
access policy that would, according to Cornyn's press release on the
bill, "ensure that articles generated through research funded
by that agency are made available online within six months of publication."
These public access regulations would require each researcher who
is funded totally or partially by the agency to submit an electronic
copy of the finalized manuscript that has been accepted for publication
in a peer-reviewed journal. The agency will be responsible for preserving
the manuscript in a stable, digital repository and must ensure free,
online access to taxpayer-funded research no later than six months
after it is published in a peer-reviewed publication. "Classified
research and research that results in works that generate revenue
or royalties for the author (such as books), or patentable discoveries
to the extent necessary to protect copyright or a patent" would
be exempted from the public-access policy.
Many non-profit science journals published by scientific and professional
societies are concerned about how these public-access policies will
affect subscriptions. A frequently asked questions document released
by Sen. Cornyn's office states:
"This bill offers a thoughtful, tempered approach to meet a
crucial policy goal of expanding access to the published results of
taxpayer-funded research. The Federal Research Public Access Act explicitly
acknowledges the publishers' contribution by providing for a public
access embargo of up to six months. The six month embargo will preserve
the important role of journals and publishers in the peer review process.
This provision balances important interests and ensures that research
is widely available while it still is useful.
"The proposed language applies only to federally funded research.
This will provide access to a national research treasure. However,
U.S. taxpayer funded research represents only a portion of all articles
published around the world by scientific societies, commercial publishers,
and others. Journals also publish non-federally funded research, valued
review articles, editorials, news and views, letters, and opinion
columns - literature that is not contained in federal public-access
repositories. Journal readers will continue to seek access through
their personal or library subscription to the full journal content."
S. 2695 was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Government
Affairs, but there are no immediate plans to hold a hearing on the
legislation at this point. A copy of Cornyn's press release and additional
information on the bill is available at http://cornyn.senate.gov/index.asp?f=record&lid=1&rid=237171.
New Yucca Legislation
On April 6, 2006, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair
Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Chair James Inhofe (R-OK) announced joint sponsorship of the Nuclear
Fuel Management and Disposal Act (S.2589), a bill drafted by the Department
of Energy (DOE) to revitalize the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository
program. Provisions in the bill would "facilitate the licensing,
construction, and operation of a repository at Yucca Mountain,"
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman wrote in a letter to Vice President
Dick Cheney accompanying the bill.
One of the primary provisions in the legislation would remove the
70,000 metric ton limit on the amount of nuclear waste that can be
stored in the repository. According to a 2002 Environmental Impact
Statement, the site has the capacity to store 120,000 metric tons
of waste. Without lifting the 70,000 ton cap, the repository will
likely be oversubscribed as soon as it opens.
Further provisions in the bill would: remove 147,000 acres of land
around the repository from public use to comply with Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) licensing requirements; authorize construction of
a rail line connecting Yucca Mountain with the national rail network;
give DOE the authority to regulate the transportation of radioactive
materials; reform the funding system to give DOE easier access to
the Nuclear Waste Trust Fund; eliminate "essentially duplicative
regulation" by exempting nuclear waste stored in NRC-certified
containers from federal, state, and local regulation; authorize the
Environmental Protection Agency to administer air quality permits;
and ensure adequate water supplies for the nuclear waste activities.
DOE officials are optimistic that Congress will eventually pass the
legislation. "We believe it is very important to get Yucca Mountain
open so we can start moving waste from the communities all around
the country where it exists," said Deputy Energy Secretary Clay
Sell. "We're going to work with our congressional allies and
supporters to get it passed as quickly as possible."
Despite sponsoring the DOE bill, Domenici is planning to introduce
his own legislation on the repository, which he called three-fourths
complete in early April. He is currently in the midst of conversations
with Energy and Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Jeff Bingaman
(D-NM) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), an opponent of
the Yucca Mountain Project.
To view the text of the legislation, a summary and a sectional analysis
of the bill, and the letter from Energy Secretary Bodman to Vice President
Cheney, see http://www.energy.gov/media/Cheney-Yucca-package.PDF
Senate Budget Resolution
Increases Science Funding, House Resolution Falls Short
The fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget resolutions recently considered
by the House and the Senate contain significantly different potential
spending levels for science. The budget resolutions, which serve as
non-binding blueprints for the appropriations bills, are indicators
of congressional reaction to the administration's budget request.
The Senate passed a budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 83) in mid-March
that matches the President's request for increased science funding
as part of the American Competitiveness Initiative. The resolution
includes $26.1 billion for the General Science, Space, and Technology
account, a $1.3 billion (5.2%) increase over FY 06 levels. It specifically
states that science spending levels within the resolution "assume
full funding of the President's request for the Department of Energy
Office of Science, the National Science Foundation [and] NASA."
Budgetary action has been less promising in the House, however. On
March 29th, the House Budget Committee passed a budget resolution
along party lines. The resolution provides only $25.8 billion for
the General Science, Space, and Technology account, $300 million less
than the amount outlined for science programs in the President's request
and the Senate budget resolution. The budget resolution went to the
full House for a vote, however, after a week of debate on the floor,
the House was unable to pass a budget resolution before the two-week
Easter recess. Although House leadership plans to continue work on
the resolution, no further action has been taken.
Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee Holds Climate Conference
On April 4, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
held a day-long conference to gather feedback on the possible creation
of a federal cap-and-trade carbon emissions policy. "Designing
and implementing a mandatory system will be very difficult economically
and politically," said Committee Chair Pete Domenici (R-NM) in
his opening remarks. Nonetheless, he called the all-day conference
a "starting point."
Four panels of experts from energy industries, environmental organizations,
and government agencies shared their views on a number of issues,
including the specifics of how a cap-and-trade policy should be designed,
who should be regulated, whether regulation should be mandatory, whether
emissions regulation should be "upstream" (targeting energy
producers and suppliers) or "downstream" (targeting emitters),
and whether the U.S. system should be designed to allow trading with
other countries. Most panelists advocated a mandatory system that
would apply throughout the economy rather than burden any one sector.
A few industry representatives voiced opposition to a mandatory program,
encouraging senators to focus instead on technology development, including
clean coal plants and nuclear power generation. Other panelists agreed
that technology development should be a key component of any emissions
reduction policy, however without a mandatory policy many companies
would choose not to take action.
Committee members expressed significant interest in the Chicago Climate
Exchange (CCX), a voluntary but legally-binding carbon trading program.
CCX is evaluated by independent auditors, who recently determined
greenhouse gas emissions by CCX members are decreasing faster than
expected. Michael Morris, President of American Electric Power, emphasized
that CCX is attractive because it is voluntary yet maintains integrity
by being legally binding and told senators that a CCX-like exchange
"would work" on the national scale. "Voluntary action
will lead this country in the right direction," he said. Domenici
indicated that he will meet with CCX officials to learn more about
the details of the exchange.
To read the Climate Change white paper that served as the basis of
the conference, see http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=IssueItems.View&IssueItem_ID=33.
To read the participants' responses to the questions in the white
paper, see http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Conferences.Detail&Event_id=4&Month=4&Year=2006.
Considers Levee Safety Act
The House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment received
feedback from civil engineers and flood management experts on the
National Levee Safety Program Act (H.R.4650) in an April 6, 2006 hearing.
Introduced in December by subcommittee chair John Duncan (R-TN) and
ranking member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), H.R.4650 authorizes an
inventory, inspections, and assessments of all levees nationwide and
provides incentives for states to develop individual levee safety
While Army Corps of Engineers Major General Don Riley offered unqualified
support for H.R. 4650, witnesses representing civil engineering, floodplain
management, and stormwater management organizations voiced general
support accompanied by a number of suggestions for improving the bill.
Recommendations included seeking the input of local, regional, and
state officials in the development of a federal levee inventory; linking
the inventory with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
map modernization program; creating a flood management technical advisory
committee composed of representatives from federal engineering and
scientific agencies, flood managers, and emergency response officials;
and expanding the scope of the legislation to include state, local,
and private levees in the federal levee inventory and to require periodic
levee inspections rather than a one-time inspection. Witnesses also
told lawmakers that the $10 million per year authorized for levee
protection would be insufficient to carry out all of the act's provisions.
American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) representative Dr. Peter
Nicholson recommended adding $20 million per year for the first three
years to fund the inventory development, bringing the total authorization
to $120 million over six years. He noted that the President has included
$20 million for the levee inventory in his fiscal year (FY) 2007 budget
For Chairman Duncan's opening remarks, witness testimony, an extensive
background section on the nation's levees, and information about H.R.
4650, see http://www.house.gov/transportation/water/04-06-06/04-06-06memo.html.
For more information on recent legislation related to flood hazards,
see AGI's new Flood Hazards page at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/flood_hazards.html.
House Resources Committee
Holds Alternative Energy Hearing
On April 6, 2006, the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and
Mineral Resources heard testimony on developments in renewable and
alternative energy resources on federal lands. Officials from the
Navy, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Forest Service, and the
Department of the Interior (DOI) presented lawmakers with details
of their agencies' efforts to increase alternative energy use and
development. Efforts at DOI are being concentrated in wind energy,
concentrated solar power, geothermal power, biomass management, gas
hydrates, oil shale and tar sands. At the Forest Service, the two
focal points for renewable energy are hydropower and energy from biomass.
Wayne Arny, a deputy assistant secretary at the Navy, detailed Navy
investments in wind, ocean, solar, and geothermal power, emphasizing
the Navy's unique geothermal plant. Capable of producing 270 megawatt
capacity of electricity, the plant is the only geothermal plant on
Department of Defense (DOD) lands. Lawmakers were surprised to learn
that although the plant is located on federal lands, it is owned by
an independent private contractor, who gives the Navy a share of the
revenue generated from the electricity sales. Arny explained that
when the plant was built in the 1980s, the Navy could not legally
own the electricity generated. The Navy's share of the revenue generated
from the electricity sales is used for energy development, education,
For the full text of witness testimony, see http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/archives/109/emr/040606.htm.
Hazards Caucus Hosts
On April 5th, the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance hosted a
Capitol Hill briefing on "Tornadoes: How They Form and How Well
We Can Forecast Them." Representative Dennis Moore (D-KS) provided
opening remarks on the importance of understanding tornadoes and protecting
people from the hazards of tornadoes. The first speaker was Joshua
Wurman, an atmospheric scientist and Director of the Center for Severe
Weather Research, who talked about observing tornadoes up close to
understand how and why they form. He described the use of mobile Doppler
radar systems to provide more warning. Mark Tew, a meteorologist at
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Public Weather
Warning Program, discussed improvements in forecasts and targeted
tornado warnings. The last speaker was Greg Forbes, a meteorologist
from The Weather Channel, who talked about how The Weather Channel
uses information collected from government sources and their own models
to warn to public about tornadoes in their area. He also discussed
how the public gets information about severe weather and how they
react to such warnings. Copies of the presentations of each of the
speakers are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/workgroup/briefings/tornado_briefing0406.html
White House Requests
Comments on Federal Geospatial Data
The Federal government is requesting information from geospatial
stakeholders on ways that the government can reduce costs and improve
services to citizens. A Practitioners Day was held on April 18th.
Comments are requested on lessons learned from groups that have overcome
challenges related to a large geographically dispersed workforce,
decentralization, multi-platform environments, legacy systems, and
limited resources. These comments will be used to develop the Geospatial
Line of Business that "will result in a more coordinated approach
to producing, maintaining, and using geospatial data, and will ensure
sustainable participation from federal partners to establish a collaborative
model for geospatial-related activities and investments." Individuals
and groups interested in submitting comments should respond to the
Request for Information (RFI) questionnaire that is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/egov/c-6-8-glob.html.
Comments should be submitted by email by 5:00 EDT on May 5th to firstname.lastname@example.org.
1906 San Francisco
Earthquake Conference and Commemoration
The Centennial Meeting of the Seismological Society of America, the
8th National Conference on Earthquake Engineering by the Earthquake
Engineering Research Institute, Disaster Resistant California and
the Association of Bay Area Governments' General Assembly (ABAG) met
in a joint conference in San Francisco on the anniversary of the 1906
San Francisco earthquake. The theme of the joint conference was mitigating
disaster in earthquake country. Over 3,000 geoscientists, engineers
and emergency managers attended plenary, technical and policy sessions
as well as field trips and tutorials. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom addressed
the conference in plenary sessions while the Senate Subcommittee on
Disaster Prevention and Prediction held a field hearing in connection
with the conference. The subcommittee chairman, Jim DeMint (R-SC)
and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) focused on seismic risks in the San Francisco
area and how to reduce risks in northern California and elsewhere.
An interim report entitled "When the Big One Strikes Again -
Estimated Losses due to a Repeat of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake"
by Charles A. Kircher, Hope A. Seligson, Jawhar Bouabid and Guy C.
Morrow was summarized and released at the conference. A PDF version
of the report is available on the conference web site. Also available
on the conference web site is a video that discusses what the next
great quake will mean to northern California and what we should do
to prepare now for impending earthquakes.
Conference schedule, report and videos are available at the conference
web site: http://www.1906eqconf.org/
Institute Releases Survey Results on NASA Science Priorities
The Planetary Science Institute, with support from the Lunar and
Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, the SETI Institute
and the Space Science Institute, has released the results of a survey
of planetary scientists to prioritize research programs at the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Participants were asked
to rank the funding priorities for program types assuming flat funding
for solar system exploration. The program types included the Research
and Analysis Programs (e.g. Planetary Geology and Geophysics and Astrobiology
programs), the small, competitively-selected missions (e.g. Discovery
opportunities and Mars Scout opportunities), medium, competitively-selected
missions (e.g. New Frontier mission opportunities), and large, flagship
mission. Participants were also asked about weighing short-, medium-,
and long-term research opportunities against each other. Nearly 73%
of respondents agreed to the statement "A Flagship mission should
be allowed if [Research and Analysis] is not affected, and it requires
skipping only one or two Discovery opportunities and/or a New Frontier
opportunity." The planetary science community will be using the
survey results to encourage Congress to reinstate the suggested cuts
in the President's NASA budget for Research and Analysis programs.
Additional information on the survey results is available at http://www.psi.edu/~sykes/prioritysurvey/results.html
Leadership Forum May 2006
The American Geological Institute in collaboration with the American
Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Geophysical Union
and the Geological Society of America held its annual Leadership Forum
in Washington DC on May 1, 2006. The theme of the forum was "Communicating
Geosciences to the Public". About 40 attendees representing 20
Member Societies discussed perceptions of geoscientists and geo-engineers,
successful examples of communicating geosciences to the public and
ideas to improve communications in the future. There were 8 speakers
at the forum, including Harrison Schmitt (geologist and former Apollo
astronaut and senator), Richard Kerr (Earth science reporter for Science
Magazine), Judy Scotchmoor (former teacher and director of the Understanding
Evolution web site), Yumei Wang (geotechnical engineer focused on
natural hazards in Oregon), Brian Miller (Director of US Government
and International Affairs in BP America's DC office), Sarah Andrews
(geologist and author of a fictional mystery series about a geologist),
Brian Tucker (Director of GeoHazards International) and Art Green
(recently retired as chief geoscientist of ExxonMobil). A summary
of the forum and the presentations of the speakers will be posted
on the AGI Events web page in the near future.
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.
DOEd: The Secretary of the Department of Education announced an upcoming
open meeting of "A National Dialogue: The Secretary of Education's
Commission on the Future of Higher Education." The Commission
will meet May 18-19, 2006 in Washington, DC. Additional information
on the agenda and submitting comments is available at http://www.ed.gov/about/bdscomm/list/hiedfuture/index.html.
[Federal Register: April 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 64)].
DOI: The Minerals Management Service announces the availability of
the proposed Notice of Sale for proposed Sale 200 in the Western Gulf
of Mexico Outer Continental Shelf. Bid opening is currently scheduled
for August 16, 2006. [Federal Register: April 4, 2006 (Volume 71,
DOI: The Minerals Management Service announced the release of an
environmental assessment for proposed Outer Continental Shelf oil
and gas Lease Sale 200 in the Western Gulf of Mexico. Public comments
may be submitted using MMS's Public Connect on-line commenting system
[Federal Register: April 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 64)].
White House: The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy
announced the release of the planning document for the U.S. Ocean
Research Priorities Plan and request for public comment. Additional
information is available at http://ocean.ceq.gov/.
[Federal Register: April 10, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 68)].
DOC: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced
the availability of the draft Prospectus for one of the U.S. Climate
Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Products for public
comment. Additional information is available at http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap3-3/default.htm.
[Federal Register: April 12, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 70)].
New Updates to
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:
- Hearings on Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (4-28-06)
- Wetlands and Coastal Resources Policy (4-28-06)
- High-level Nuclear Waste Legislation (4-27-06)
- Great Lakes and Other Watersheds (4-27-06)
- Hearings on Great Lakes and Other Watersheds (4-27-06)
- Flood Hazards (4-24-06)
- Action Alert: House Budget Resolution $300 Million Short of President's
Request for NSF, NASA, DOE Office of Science (4-18-06)
- Hearings on Flood Hazards (4-14-06)
- Hearings on Energy (4-14-06)
- FY2007 Department of Energy Appropriations (4-14-06)
- FY2007 Appropriations Hearing Summaries (4-14-06)
- Hearings on Global Earth Observations (4-14-06)
- Climate Change Policy (4-11-06)
- Action Alert: USGS Mineral Resources Program Threatened with
42% Cut (4-4-06)
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: 1906 Earthquake Conference, AIP FYI, Congressional Hazards
Caucus website, Environment & Energy Daily, Federal Register,
hearing testimony, Planetary Science Institute website, Senator John
Cornyn's website, and White House Office of Management and Budget.
This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs
Program (GAP) Advisory Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies,
and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort
to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community
that it serves. Prior updates can be found on the AGI web site under
"Public Policy" <http://www.agiweb.org>.
For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit
the web site or contact us at <email@example.com>
or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted May 4, 2006.