Monthly Review: May 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.
Status of Appropriations:
Advancing in the House and Stagnant in the Senate
The House was busy in May with fiscal year 2007 appropriations. They
passed 4 of 11 appropriation bills, including the Interior and Environment,
and Related Agencies bill on May 18th, the Military Quality of Life/Veterans
Affairs bill on May 19th, the Agriculture bill on May 23rd, and the
Energy and Water bill on May 24th. The Senate, after passing their
version of a budget resolution with relative ease in mid-March, has
not initiated any congressional activity on their 12 appropriation
bills as of the end of May.
a. U.S. Geological Survey
The House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations
Act (H.R. 5386) recommended a fiscal year 2007 budget for the U.S.
Geological Survey of $991.5 million, a $20.8 million increase over
the fiscal year 2006 enacted levels and a $46.7 million increase over
the President's request. Funding for the Mineral Resources Program
and the Water Resources Program would be fully restored relative to
suggested cuts in the President's request. The Geographic Research,
Investigations and Remote Sensing would received a $2 million increase
over the President's request for the AmericaView cooperative geographic
program, while the Geologic Hazards, Resources and Processes would
received a $1.5 million increase over the President's request for
Florida shelf research and hurricane science research in the USGS
Florida's office. Within the Enterprise Information activity, the
committee recommended an additional $2 million to expand and integrate
the geospatial one-stop program. The committee also recommended an
additional $5 million above the budget request to make up for past
fixed costs. The House must now wait for the Senate to complete their
own appropriations bill and then the bills must be reconciled to determine
the final budget for the U.S. Geological Survey.
b. Department of Energy
For the Department of Energy fiscal year 2007 appropriations (H.R.
5427), the House recommended a total budget of $24.373 billion, about
$327 million more than the fiscal year 2006 enacted level and $299
million more than the President's request. The bill would fully fund
the President's American Competitive Initiative request for a 14 percent
increase for the Office of Science and the President's Advanced Energy
Initiative for increased funding for clean energy technologies, including
hydrogen, solar, wind and clean coal.
Within the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Programs, the bill
would terminate the Geothermal Technology activity ($23 million in
fiscal year 2006) without comment and also would terminate funding
for the state energy activities (about $49.5 million in fiscal year
2006) because the committee believes this money is going to state
employees for salaries, meetings and travel rather than applied research
and technology transfer. The bill would increase the budgets of the
Vehicle Technologies, Building Technologies and Industrial Technologies
activities above the President's request. These activities promote
partnerships and technology transfer between research and industry
to increase energy efficiency.
Within the Office of Fossil Energy, the bill would terminate the
Natural Gas Technologies activity ($20 million in fiscal year 2006)
and would provide only $2.7 million for the Petroleum Oil Technologies
activity ($33 million in fiscal year 2006). The committee noted that
the Energy Policy Act of 2005 authorizes $50 million in mandatory
spending for oil and gas research and therefore these other activities
do not need funding. The $2.7 million in the Petroleum Oil Technologies
activity would be divided between $1.5 million for the Stripper Well
Consortium and $1.2 million for the states Risk Based Data Management
System, two activities the committee did not believe were covered
by the funding provided in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Clean
Coal Power Initiative would receive an increase of $36.4 million over
the President's request and the Fuels and Power Systems activity also
would receive an increase of $25 million over the President's request.
The Office of Science would receive a $30 million increase over the
President's request, which already included a 14% increase for Science
related to the American Competitiveness Initiative. The total budget
would increase by $535 million over the fiscal year 2006 enacted level.
The bill would provide $150 million for the Global Nuclear Energy
Partnership (GNEP), a new initiative on recycling spent nuclear fuel,
which was highlighted in the President's request, but received a lukewarm
reception in the House because the details of the initiative are not
well defined. Thus the spending request is $96 million below the President's
request, but at the level authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005
for the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative.
The committee was also unhappy about the Yucca Mountain repository
taking a back seat to GNEP and concluded: "Therefore, the Committee
supports a more modest effort on GNEP, continued emphasis on Yucca
Mountain and renewed emphasis on the provision of centralized interim
storage." With that, the bill requests $544.5 million for Yucca
Mountain, about $37.9 million more than the fiscal year 2006 enacted
level and an increase of $30 million above the President's request
specifically for interim waste storage.
The House must now wait for the Senate to complete their own appropriations
bill and then the bills must be reconciled to determine the final
budget for the Department of Energy.
Details of all of the appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007 are
available at: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app07.html
Gas Drilling Rejected in Interior Appropriations
The House Appropriations Committee voted on May 10, 2006, to remove
a long-standing ban on offshore natural gas drilling. The committee
voted 37-24 to include the amendment, which was introduced by Representative
John Peterson (R-PA), in the 2007 Interior, Environment, and Related
Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 5386). Originally enacted in 1982,
the ban on coastal drilling covers the east and west coasts of the
U.S. as well as the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico. It has been
renewed by Congress every year during the appropriations process.
Peterson's amendment would lift restrictions on offshore natural gas
drilling but maintain limitations on offshore oil drilling. The language
in the legislation is similar to language Peterson introduced last
year to a bill in the House Resources Committee.
On May 18th, the full House rejected Peterson's amendment to H.R.
5386 and reinstated the natural gas offshore drilling ban. Florida
and California representatives cited a threat to tourism when opposing
the measure, saying that wells could be placed within three miles
of the coast. "It's a grievous assault on Florida and other [coastal]
states," said Representative Adam Putnam (R-FL). This argument
overshadowed the call for more energy supplies to reduce high energy
prices. Putnam sponsored an amendment (H.AMDT.856) on the House floor
to reinstate the ban, which passed 217-203.
House Resolves to
Consider a Different Budget Than the Senate
The House passed a budget resolution on May 18, 2006, after an unexpected
impasse in April. A House budget resolution (H.Con.Res.376) was passed
on a vote of 218 to 210 and members later voted to consider the resolution
"deemed" by Congress, that is, approved by both chambers,
even though, the House resolution is very different from the Senate
resolution. The two chambers are unlikely to confer about their differences
and will probably not try to pass a joint resolution any time soon.
The House resolution, which is non-binding, calls for a cut of $10.3
billion in discretionary spending in fiscal year 2007 and about $167
billion in reductions in discretionary spending over the next 5 years.
The House resolution would equal the total discretionary spending
of $873 billion requested by the President, however, it would transfer
$7 billion from other areas of the budget to meet other essential
discretionary spending needs. This compromise on the discretionary
spending cap probably helped to ensure enough votes for passage. The
unusual difficulties in passing a House budget resolution typifies
the tight fiscal times and the trade-offs being debated about cutting
discretionary spending, cutting taxes, reducing the deficit, reducing
entitlements and paying for the war on terrorism and natural disaster
relief through emergency supplementals.
The Senate resolution (S. Con. Res. 83) added about $16 billion more
in discretionary spending than the President's request. In particular
the Senate resolution includes $26.1 billion for the General Science,
Space, and Technology account, a $1.3 billion (5.2%) increase over
fiscal year 2006 levels and enough funding to fully support the President's
American Competitiveness Initiative, which includes an 8% increase
for the National Science Foundation). By contrast the House resolution
only provides $25.9 billion for the General Science, Space, and Technology
account, which may not cover the President's requested increases for
science. The House report (H.Rept.109-52) on the science funding states,
"the committee assumes robust funding for the American Competitiveness
Initiative". The House is likely to consider the Commerce, State,
Justice and Science appropriations among the last of its 11 bills
and this may mean that fewer avenues of compromise may be available
to meet the requested increases for science
Update on Response
to Public Access Legislation
As reported in AGI's April 2006 Monthly Review, 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 budgets of more than
$100 million to develop and implement a public access policy. The
policy would require a researcher who receives funding from an agency
for any part of the published research to submit an electronic copy
of the accepted manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal. The accepted
manuscript should be submitted within 6 months of publication. In
response to the introduction of this legislation, which is now being
considered by the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs,
many associations, organizations and scientific societies have submitted
letters to Congress and/or issued press releases in opposition or
support of the bill.
The Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association
of American Publishers opposes the legislation and issued a press
release on May 9, explaining their reasons. According to Dr. Brian
D. Crawford, chairman of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing
Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP-PSP), and
a Senior Vice President of the American Chemical Society: "The
Cornyn-Lieberman bill would create unnecessary costs for taxpayers,
place an unwarranted burden on research investigators, and expropriate
the value-added investments made by scientific publishers-many of
them not-for-profit associations who depend on publishing income to
support pursuit of their scholarly missions, including education and
outreach for the next generation of U.S. scientists. If enacted, S.2695
could well have the unintended consequence of compromising or destroying
the independent system of peer review that ensures the integrity of
the very research the U.S. Government is trying to support and disseminate."
A coalition of libraries, including the American Association of Law
Libraries, the American Library Association, the Association of Research
Libraries, the Association of College and Research Libraries, the
Medical Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association
issued a press release on May 2 in support of the legislation. The
press release states that "Enhanced public access to publicly
funded research spurs innovation and competition by accelerating research,
sharing knowledge, improving treatment of diseases, and supports the
The full text of the AAP-PSP press release is available at: http://www.pspcentral.org/
The coalition press release and additional information about the
public access legislation is available on the Association of Research
Libraries web site at: http://www.arl.org/info/frn/other/access/
Science Education and Research Bills Introduced
Three bills introduced on May 11, 2006, in the House provide specific
funding for science, math and engineering education related to the
President's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI). The Early Career
Research Act (H.R. 5356) awards research grants to scientists early
in their careers; the Research for Competitiveness Act (H.R. 5357)
awards grants to foster research partnerships with industry, and the
Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act (H.R. 5358)
contains policy changes along with grants to improve science and mathematics
More information about these bills and other legislation introduced
in Congress related to the National Academies report, "Rising
Above the Gathering Storm" and/or the President's American Competitiveness
Initiative are available from AGI's Government Affairs web page on
Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/innovation.html
Results from NAEP 2005
In 2005, more than 300,000 fourth-, eighth- and twelfth-grade students
from both public and private schools were assessed in science by the
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - also known as
"the Nation's Report Card." The science assessment contains
multiple-choice and short-answer questions on topics related to the
Earth, physical and life sciences. Results, released on May 23, 2006,
show that science achievement in the United States has improved for
elementary school students over the past decade but has remained unchanged
for middle school students and declined among high school students.
Comparisons of the 1996, 2000 and 2005 student performance level results
are listed below.
Percent Scoring At or Above Basic Level: 1996 - 63%; 2000 - 63%; 2005
Percent Scoring At or Above Proficient Level: 1996 - 28%; 2000 - 27%;
2005 - 29%
Percent Scoring At or Above Basic Level: 1996 - 60%; 2000 - 59%; 2005
Percent Scoring At or Above Proficient Level: 1996 - 29%; 2000 - 30%;
2005 - 29%
Percent Scoring At or Above Basic Level: 1996 - 57%; 2000 - 52%; 2005
Percent Scoring At or Above Proficient Level: 1996 - 21%; 2000 - 18%;
2005 - 18%
NAEP results are also presented in terms of gender, race/ethnicity,
national school lunch recipients, parents' educational level, students
with disabilities and English language learners. Male students continue
to outperform female students in science at all three grade levels,
while minority students are making some progress in science at grades
4 and 8 based on increasing scores since 2000. Average scores of fourth-
and eighth-graders eligible for free/reduced-price school lunches
also remain below the average scores for students who are not eligible,
emphasizing the negative role that poverty plays in student learning.
"Policymakers and industry representatives are concerned about
national competitiveness in an increasingly technical world,"
said Darvin M. Winick, chair of the National Assessment Governing
Board, the bipartisan group that sets policy for NAEP. "The lackluster
achievement of our older students in science appears to confirm those
concerns. As better-prepared fourth-graders continue in their schooling,
we all hope that they will raise American achievement results when
they reach middle and high school."
To that end, Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) introduced a new
bill that will hold states accountable for student performance in
science on May 22, 2006. The Science Accountability Act (H.R.5442)
would require states to annually assess student proficiency in science
from grades 3 to 8, beginning in the 2009-2010 school year. Under
the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, states are required to test student
proficiency in science only once during grades 3 to 5, 6 to 9, and
10 to 12. The new Science Accountability Act would put requirements
for state science assessments on par with NCLB requirements for annual
reading and math assessments. In a joint letter of support for the
Science Accountability Act, Dr. Gerald Wheeler, executive director
of the National Science Teachers Association, and Dr. E. Ann Nalley,
president of the American Chemical Society wrote that: "science
assessments are necessary tools for managing and evaluating efforts
so that all students receive the science education necessary to successfully
prepare them for the future. Including science in the accountability
measures will put science on an equal footing with other curriculum
areas, highlight areas for improvement in many of our nation's schools,
and help to ensure that all learners can succeed academically in science."
To read a summary of the Nation's Report CardTM on science achievement,
To browse sample questions from the NAEP science test, see http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/itmrls/.
For more information on the Science Accountability Act, see http://www.house.gov/apps/list/press/mi03_ehlers/052306ScienceAccountability.html.
House Votes to Allow
ANWR Oil and Gas Leases
The House of Representatives passed a bill to authorize oil and natural
gas leasing in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The bill's
sponsor, Representative Richard Pombo (R-CA) argued that this measure
will increase domestic supplies. "We need a policy that increases
domestic production of energy. Right now we do not have that policy,"
he said. The vote was 225-201, with twenty seven democrats breaking
party lines to support the measure. Many democrats, who opposed the
bill, argued that the legislation was about politics, not energy policy.
"This is all about the elections. They want to say they are doing
something meaningful," said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The House
has approved two similar bills in the past two years. Each time, the
effort failed in the Senate. Currently, a slight majority in the Senate
support the measure but there are not enough votes to overturn a likely
filibuster. Several representatives who support the bill hope that
high gasoline prices will pressure more senators to support drilling
in ANWR. "We have a different climate today than when ANWR was
last brought up in the Senate," said Rep. David Dreier (R-CA.)
in reference to higher gasoline prices.
Bipartisan Group Introduces
New Clean Air Legislation
On May 3, 2006, a bipartisan group of senators led by Clean Air Subcommittee
Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the Clean Air Planning
Act of 2006 (S.2724), which aims to make significant reductions in
mercury, nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon dioxide
(CO2) emissions from power plants. S.2724 is a "new and improved"
version of clean air legislation introduced by Carper in the 108th
Congress. "This is the only bill that has attracted support from
the utility industry, environmental groups, and a bipartisan group
of lawmakers," Carper said.
Emissions controls in the legislation are stricter than those in
the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) new Clean Air Interstate
Rule (CAIR) or those proposed by the President's "Clean Skies"
Initiative (S.131). "When it comes to clean air, we can do better
than current law and we can do better than the President's plan,"
Carper said. Specifically, the legislation would require every power
plant to capture 90% of the mercury in the coal burned in the plant
by 2015; reduce SO2 emissions by roughly 82% by 2015; and reduce NOx
by nearly 68% by 2015. To reduce NOx emissions, the bill would set
up two cap-and-trade programs, one in the eastern U.S. and one in
the western U.S. to ensure that NOx pollution is reduced in the area
where it causes the most health and environmental problems.
The legislation would also institute a cap-and-trade program for
CO2 emissions from power plants in an attempt to slow human-induced
climate change. Emissions would be capped at 2006 levels in 2010,
and would decrease to 2001 levels by 2015. Power plants could satisfy
emissions requirements by reducing CO2 output or by buying CO2 credits
from other industries. EPA analyses estimate that under this program,
the cost to reduce carbon emissions would be only $1 per ton. "This
is a bill that will make significant strides toward improving our
air quality and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions at a reasonable
cost that industry can afford," said cosponsor Senator Dianne
For more information on the legislation, see the press releases from
Senator Carper: http://carper.senate.gov/test/release.cfm?type=press&id=255083;.
To read the text of the Clean Air Planning Act of 2006, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgibin/bdquery/z?d109:s.2724:
For more information about the President's Clear Skies Initiative
and the EPA's Clean Air Interstate Rule, see AGI's Government Affairs
web page: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/cleanair.html
to Elevate FEMA
A bipartisan group of representatives have introduced legislation
on May 17th to restore the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
to an independent, cabinet-level agency. The RESPOND Act: Restoring
Emergency Services to Protect Our Nation from Disasters Act (H.R.
5316) was introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Chairman Don Young (R-AK), Ranking Member James Oberstar (D-MN), Government
Reform Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA), Economic Development, Public Buildings
and Emergency Management Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA)
and Ranking Member Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). The bill would also
allow FEMA to lead and coordinate the federal efforts to prepare for,
respond to, recover from, and mitigate against the effects of all
major disasters and other emergencies; create professional qualifications
for the director and deputy director; and establish an office of Inspector
A press release about the bill is available at: http://www.house.gov/transportation/
and the full text of the legislation can be viewed at:
Legislation Moving Through House and Senate
The Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee of the House
Science Committee passed the National Integrated Drought Information
System Act of 2006 (H.R.5136) on May 4, 2006. The bill, which was
introduced in early April by Representatives Ralph Hall (R-TX) and
Mark Udall (D-CO), would authorize $94 million over five years to
establish a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)
with the goal of improving drought monitoring, prediction, mitigation,
and response. The main component of the NIDIS legislation is the creation
of a drought early warning system that integrates scientific information
about precipitation conditions and provides assessments of the timing
and severity of droughts. Additionally, the legislation involves improving
communication about drought predictions with federal, state, local,
and tribal governments and the public to improve decision making.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be
responsible for creating and coordinating NIDIS.
A Senate version of the legislation, S.2751, was introduced on May
5, 2006, by Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE). "The research done upfront
in monitoring drought trends will help our capabilities to mitigate
and respond to its devastating effects in a much more effective manner,"
Nelson said in a press release accompanying the legislation. "Planning
for drought and implementing a risk management type strategy will
save taxpayers billions in reduced disaster assistance in the future."
More information on H.R.5136 is available from the House Science
Information on S.2751 can be found at Senator Nelson's website: http://bennelson.senate.gov/news/details.cfm?id=255212&&.
as Secretary of the Interior
Dirk Kempthorne was confirmed by the Senate on Friday, May 26th as
the 49th Secretary of the Interior, replacing Gale A. Norton. Kempthorne
has a long history of public service, having previously held office
as the mayor of Boise, Idaho (1985-1993), as a U.S. Senator (1993-1996),
and as governor of Idaho (1998-2006). His confirmation was initially
held up by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Bill Nelson (D-FL). Landrieu
wanted assurances from Kempthorne that royalties from offshore oil
and gas leases would help fund Louisiana coastal projects. Kempthorne
discussed this and other issues with Landrieu and she removed her
hold, assured of his ability to fairly manage the offshore royalties.
"He has shown a great deal of ability in mediating very difficult
issues," she said. "He showed that skill as a member of
the Senate, and I am sure he will do so as secretary of [the] Interior."
Nelson is concerned that Kempthorne will advocate for expanded drilling
off of the Florida coastline, adversely affecting the tourism industry.
In particular, Nelson is very concerned about the Minerals Management
Service draft five-year plan that would propose leasing about 2 million
acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico's 181 area. Senators are still
working on various compromises that would open up more acreage within
181, but still be 100 miles from the Florida coast or provide a temporary
125-mile buffer zone to new drilling until 2020. Nelson attempted
to maintain the hold on Kempthorne's nomination, however, a cloture
motion overrode his hold by a vote of 85-8. Also voting against cloture
were: Sens. Joe Biden (D-DE), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Mark
Dayton (D-MN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Herb Kohl (D-WI),
and Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Shortly after the cloture motion passed,
Kempthorne was confirmed by a voice vote.
Acting Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett stated in a memorandum
to Interior employees: "It is hard to imagine a person more qualified
to lead our department. Gov. Kempthorne has served as a mayor, a United
States Senator and a western governor. He knows our many complex and
diverse issues intimately and has proven throughout his career that
he is a consummate consensus builder, able to bring together people
and organizations from across the political spectrum to find solutions
to complex challenges."
Supreme Court to
Hear New Source Review Case
On May 15, 2006, the Supreme Court agreed to review a case between
Duke Energy and the Environmental Defense, et al. related to the Clean
Air Act's New Source Review. The Supreme Court's willingness to hear
this case was somewhat unexpected because the court has rarely considered
environmental cases in the past quarter of a century. New Source Review
requires power plants and factories to enhance pollution controls
when they upgrade their facilities in such a way that they produce
more emissions. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
filed a claim against Duke Energy for making 29 modifications to 8
power plants in North Carolina and South Carolina that increased emissions.
According to Environment News Service, the modifications at Unit 4
of the Buck Plant in Rowan County, North Carolina cost about $17.7
million or 7 times the cost of the original plant.
Environmental Defense, Sierra Club and North Carolina Environment
joined the EPA suit and charged Duke Energy with emitting more pollutants
from substantially modified power plants without including any pollution
controls as required by the New Source Review. Attorneys for Duke
Energy convinced the federal district court for the middle district
of North Carolina that the New Source Review should be based on the
hourly rate of emissions rather than the annual rate of emissions.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit unanimously affirmed
the lower court's ruling on June 15, 2005; however, on June 24, the
U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC reached a contrary result
in reviewing other industry challenges to New Source Review rules.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago also found Cinergy
in violation of the Clean Air Act using the annual rate of emissions
and Cinergy's appeal was expected to be heard in early June of 2006.
The Supreme Court will consider two issues in the Duke Energy case:
1. Did the Fourth Circuit impermissibly allowed Duke Energy to collaterally
attack the legality of national rules that may be reviewed solely
in the U.S. Court of Appeal in Washington, DC? 2. Does the Clean Air
Act require EPA to interpret the term "modification" in
the New Source Review program to encompass changes that result in
an actual overall increase in air pollution?
The Supreme Court's decision could affect a myriad of other court
cases against power plants accused of violating the Clean Air Act.
The American Electric Power Co. has already asked the 7th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Chicago to put a hold on their decision about
whether they violated the New Source Review until the Supreme Court
reaches a decision. The Supreme Court, however, is unlikely to rule
on their case for at least a year.
Additional information on the New Source Review and the Bush Administration's
proposed modifications can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/issues/alphalist.html#cleanair
GAO Report on Voluntary
Pollution Control Programs
The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a
report on May 25, 2006, which suggests that there has not been satisfactory
progress made in the implementation of voluntary programs to reduce
industrial greenhouse gas emissions. In order to reduce emissions
linked to climate change, two voluntary programs were created by the
Bush Administration in 2002 and 2003 to encourage participants to
set emissions reduction goals. The two programs are the Climate Leaders
Program, managed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and
the Climate VISION (Voluntary Innovative Sector Initiatives: Opportunities
Now) Program, managed by the Department of Energy (DOE).
The GAO report, which was requested by Senators John McCain (R-AZ)
and John F. Kerry (D-MA), found that the EPA and DOE should do more
to encourage progress under the voluntary programs. The report indicates
that many companies in the voluntary reduction programs have not yet
established specific emissions targets. As of November 2005, only
38 of the 74 firms in the EPA program had established reduction goals,
and 11 of 15 of the participating trade groups in the DOE program
had set reduction targets. The report stated that "EPA and DOE
each expect participants in their voluntary emissions reduction programs
to complete a number of actions; however, participants' progress toward
completing those actions, as well as the agencies' efforts to track
accomplishments, has varied."
EPA officials are in the process of developing a system for tracking
the progress of participating companies, and have stated that they
are willing to remove companies from the Climate Leaders Program if
they fail to meet their goals. The GAO has recommended that the DOE
also develop a system for tracking groups' progress in completing
program steps, and that the EPA and DOE develop written policies regarding
participants that are not progressing toward their goals as quickly
as expected. Both agencies are currently attempting to estimate the
effect of their programs on reducing U.S. emissions.
To read the GAO report, see http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d0697.pdf.
Mexico to Offer
According to a May 12th Washington Post article, Mexico has started
a new program to stem the cost of earthquake damage. The government
of Mexico is selling bonds as an insurance policy against the cost
of damaging earthquakes. The $160 million in bonds issued as of May
12th offer a high rate of return for investors, around 3 to 5 percent
above the London Interbank Offered Rate. If a damaging earthquake
occurs within 3 years, the invested money will be used by the government
to pay for repairs. If no damaging earthquake occurs within 3 years,
then the investors can cash the bonds and receive the high yield profits.
While catastrophe bonds, or "cat-bonds," have been in use
since the early 1990s, this is the first time they have been issued
by a sovereign country. This financial strategy has received praise
because it means that Mexico will not need to wait for voluntary donations
from foreign countries to begin rebuilding efforts after an earthquake.
NOAA 2006 Hurricane
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting
a very active 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, which will officially
begin on June 1. The outlook, produced by scientists at NOAA's Climate
Prediction Center, National Hurricane Center, and Hurricane Research
Division, indicates an 80% chance of an above-normal hurricane season.
Up to 16 named storms are predicted, with the prospect of 4 to 6 of
them developing into major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.
On average, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms,
with only 2 major hurricanes. The hurricane season in 2005 produced
28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these were major hurricanes,
of which a record four hit the United States. "Although NOAA
is not forecasting a repeat of last year's season, the potential for
hurricanes striking the U.S. is high," stated retired Vice Admiral
Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and
Atmosphere and NOAA's Administrator.
NOAA's prediction of above-average hurricane activity in 2006 is
based on warmer ocean water temperatures combined with lower wind
shear, weaker easterly trade winds, and a more conducive wind-pattern
in the mid-levels of the atmosphere. These conditions are associated
with a climate pattern known as the multi-decadal signal, which has
created a period of above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons since
Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center cautions
that "whether we face an active hurricane season, like this year,
or a below-normal season, the crucial message for every person is
the same: prepare, prepare, prepare. One hurricane hitting where you
live is enough to make it a bad season."
For more information on NOAA's 2006 hurricane predictions, see http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml.
AGI Welcomes Our
New Summer Interns
AGI's Government Affairs Program welcomes two of the three summer
interns that are supported by the American Institute of Professional
Geologists Foundation and AGI. Tim Donahue is a senior at Winona State
University in Minnesota, majoring in geoscience, public administration,
and political science. He expects to graduate this December. He will
focus on energy policy and other hot topics during the steamy Washington
DC summer. Jessica Rowland earned her B.S. in geosciences and anthropology
from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and is currently finishing
a Master's degree in isotope geochemistry from the University of Arizona.
Her research involves reconstructing broad-scale climatic and environmental
variation in western Israel through the use of stable oxygen and carbon
isotopes in fossil tooth enamel from archaeological sites. While at
AGI, Jessica will be following legislation related to climate change,
environmental policy and other issues. The third intern, Carrie Donnelly,
will be joining GAP in the middle of June.
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.
DOE: The Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board for
the Hanford Site, Washington, will have an open meeting on June 1-2,
2006 to make recommendations to DOE in the areas of environmental
restoration, waste management, and related activities. [Federal Register:
May 2, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 84)].
NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate
Program publishes this notice to announce the availability of funding
for proposals that address the NOAA Climate Program's overall goal
to better understand climate variability and change to enhance society's
ability to plan and respond. Additional information is available at
Applications should be submitted to http://www.grants.gov
and use the following funding opportunity OAR-CPO-2007-2000636. [Federal
Register: May 2, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 84)].
EPA: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory
Board Staff Office is soliciting nominations for consideration of
membership on EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, the Advisory
Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis, the chartered Science Advisory
Board, and SAB Standing Committees. Additional information can be
found at http://www.epa.gov/sab.
[Federal Register: May 3, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 85)].
DOI: The Minerals Management Service is announcing its intent to
prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement for the National
Offshore Alternate Energy-Related Use (AERU) Program. Additional information
is available at http://ocsenergy.anl.gov.
[Federal Register: May 5, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 87)].
DOI: The Bureau of Land Management announces a public meeting on
June 26-28, 2006, in Fairbanks, Alaska, of the North Slope Science
Initiative, Science Technical Group to discuss priorities for management
decisions across the North Slope of Alaska. [Federal Register: May
18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 96)]
DOI: The U.S. Geological Survey announces a public meeting of the
National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program Advisory Committee on
June 12-13, 2006, in Washington, DC. [Federal Register: May 23, 2006
(Volume 71, Number 99)]
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 (5-31-06)
- Hearings on Federal Science Education Policy (5-31-06)
- Climate Change Policy (5-26-06)
- Natural Gas Policy (5-26-06)
- Outer Continental Shelf Policy (5-26-06)
- Innovation and US Competitiveness (5-26-06)
- Hearings on Energy (5-25-06)
- Nuclear Energy Policy (5-25-06)
- Climate Change Policy (5-11-06)
- Outer Continental Shelf Policy (5-11-06)
- Natural Gas Policy (5-11-06)
- Hearings on Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (5-11-06)
- Clean Air Issues: Clear Skies Initiative/Multi-Pollutant Regulation
- Hearings on Earthquake Hazards (5-10-06)
- National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (5-10-06)
- Public Access to Federally-Funded Scientific Research (5-9-06)
- Drought Hazards (5-8-06)
- Hurricane Katrina, Response and Recovery (5-5-06)
- Clean Water Issues (5-4-06)
- Hearings and Briefings on Climate Change (5-4-06)
- Hearings on Drought Hazards (5-3-06)
- Hearings on Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (4-28-06)
Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs,
Jessica Rowland and Tim Donahue, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.
Sources: Association of Research Libraries web site, Professional/Scholarly
Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers web
site, Thomas, United States Senate web sites, United States House
of Representatives web sites, Washington Post and E&E News, Congressional
Quarterly, E & E News, Federal Register.
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 June 1, 2006.