Monthly Review: May 2007


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.

1. Congress Passes Budget Resolution
2. House Combines Science Bills to Advance Innovation Agenda with the Senate
3. Advanced Research for Energy Bill Advances in the House
4. Mining Law Reform Introduced on Measure's 135th Birthday
5. Fuel Economy Standards Addressed in Senate
6. Water Bill Approved in Senate
7. Congressional Letter to ExxonMobil about Funding of Contrarian Science
8. Senator Brownback's Belief in Evolution
9. Academic Competitiveness Council Releases Science Education Report
10. Forest Service Gives Notice of Environmental Impact Statement
11. USGS Nominations for Geospatial Group
12. Army Corps Webinar Series on Hurricane Protection in Louisiana
13. Government Report on Climate Change and Insurance
14. Report on Climate Change Surveys: What Americans and Congress Think
15. United Nations Releases Biofuels Report; Urges Caution
16. AAAS Statement Supporting Earth Observation
17. Smithsonian Search Committee Formed as Allegations of Misconduct Continue
18. Encyclopedia of Life
19. Wyoming Can Make Their Own Weather
20. Seven States Sign Pact on Colorado River
21. Glaciologist Will Receive Medal of Science
22. AGI Welcomes Geoscience Policy Summer Interns
23. Key Federal Register Notices
24. New Updates to the Web
25. Federal Register Notices
26. Updates to Webpage

1. Congress Passes Budget Resolution

On May 17, the 110th Congress passed their first budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 99 and S. Con. Res. 21). The budget resolution is non-binding, but sets some general guidelines about the budget process and sets caps on discretionary spending that are divided up between the 12 appropriation subcommittees in both chambers. The $2.9 trillion budget resolution calls for $954 billion for discretionary programs. This is about $21 billion more than President Bush requested in his fiscal year 2008 budget proposal in February 2007. The increase prompted Office of Management and Budget Director Rob Portman to call for a veto of any bills with such increases in discretionary spending.

The budget is divided into major functions and the caps on spending authority for the major functions of most interest to the Earth science community are as follows:
General Science, Space and Technology (function 200 which includes the National Science Foundation, NASA and Office of Science at the Department of Energy) would get $27.6 billion in fiscal 2008. Energy (function 270 which includes civilian and environmental programs in the Department of Energy) would get $3.1 billion. Environmental and Natural Resources (function 300) would get $34.44 billion and includes additional funds above the President's request for land and water conservation, wildlife refuge systems, Environmental Protection Agency programs, and brownfield redevelopment concerns. The increase also supports the President request for more funding for the operation and maintenance of the national park system. Agriculture (function 350) would get about $20.4 billion, which includes some increases for agricultural research above the President's request. Education, Training, Employment and Social Services (function 500, which includes the Department of Education) would get $92.5 billion or about $8 billion more than the President's request. The increases would go to bolster K-12 education and job training programs. The measure also accommodates a reserve fund for any new legislation Congress may pass to make college more affordable to students.

In the House report (110-069), there is a section called "Preserving our Planet" which calls for three goals: "1. Accommodates comprehensive energy legislation promoting renewable energy, moving toward energy independence; 2. Increases conservation funding; 3. Rejects Administration cuts in the Environmental Protection Agency and in environmental programs". This language was not adopted by the conference committee. In the Senate report (110-153), section 201 requires Congress to "pay as you go", that is, provide funding for any new spending requests from either new sources of revenue or by cutting other programs. This language was adopted by the conference committee, however, the resolution is non-binding. The conference committee also included a "Sense of Congress" related to the innovation agenda, calling for increase funding for research and education.

The full text of the resolution is available from Thomas here.

2. House Combines Science Bills to Advance Innovation Agenda with the Senate

On May 21, 2007, the House approved a massive competitiveness bill that combines 5 separate House bills that had already been approved. The 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007 (H.R. 2272) includes the National Science Foundation re-authorization bill (H.R. 1867), the National Institute of Standards and Technology re-authorization bill (H.R. 1868), the 10,000 Teachers bill (H.R. 362), the Sowing the Seeds Through Science and Engineering Research bill (H.R. 363) and the High Performance Computing Act re-authorization (H.R. 1068). The legislation can now proceed to a conference committee with the Senate, which passed a similar massive measure, the America COMPETES Act (S.761) last month.

H.R. 2272 includes many of the policy recommendations of a 2005 National Academies report entitled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm". The report encouraged policymakers to consider these recommendations to keep America competitive in the global marketplace through innovation and technological advances. The legislation includes a doubling of the NSF budget, funding for training of new and current science teachers, support for undergraduate education for science and engineering students to meet future workforce needs, expansion of early career grants for young investigators and better coordination of research and information technology between federal agencies.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas.

3. Advanced Research for Energy Bill Advances in the House

On May 10, 2007 the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment of the House Science and Technology Committee approved bill H.R. 364. The bill would create an Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). The agency will be given the task of reducing the U.S. dependence on foreign oil through new clean renewable energy technologies. The goal is to reduce foreign oil use by 20% in the next 10 years. The bill also promises to have a "flat and nimble" organization, to avoid problems and delays caused by bureaucracy.

Section III of the bill creates the Energy Independence Acceleration Fund that would provide the financial resources necessary for this undertaking. It starts off at $300 million at the beginning of fiscal year 2008 and increases by 25% until 2013 and finally capping off at $915 million. While the committee has placed the bill on the House calendar of business it ultimate fate is yet to be determined by the majority party leadership. The Senate also has a companion bill called America COMPETES which includes a section on creating an ARPA-E. This bill is much broader and encompasses funding for many other things, including NSF and Office of Science at the Department of Energy. As indicated in the previous summary, the House has recently passed an omnibus bill that is similar to the Senate bill except that the House bill does not include ARPA-E. The conference committee will need to decide what to do about the ARPA-E proposal.

Link to the Science and Technology Committee's home page can be found here.

4. Mining Law Reform Introduced on Measure's 135th Birthday

The Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Nick Rahall (D-WV) introduced a broad package of reforms to the 1872 Mining Law on May 11, 2007. The Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act of 2007 (H.R. 2262) would eliminate patents and impose an 8 percent net smelter return royalty on hardrock minerals, identify federal lands that would not be open to mining, establish environmental standards for mining activity, limit permits to 10 years and make any company that violates the environmental standards ineligible for new permits until they reach compliance, establish a mine reclamation fund from royalty revenues, and established public participation guidelines, including inspection and enforcement of requirements plus the ability for citizens to sue if companies violate these rules. The measure would also change the outdated provision of selling federal land for $2.50 or $5.00 per acre. Congress has annually placed a moratorium on such sales for more than a decade.

Rahall has been trying to pass a new mining law since the 1980s and almost sealed the deal in 1994. Rahall is looking for a co-sponsor of similar legislation in the Senate. According to media reports, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has expressed some willingness to work with Rahall on this legislation. In the past, the two have often locked horns on mining reform. Outside of Washington DC, an atypical coalition of groups have bonded together to support the mining bill. The coalition includes Tiffany & Co, taxpayer groups, conservationists and sportsmen. In fact, Tiffany Chairman Michael Kowalski attended the press briefing with Rahall and Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA). Kowalski indicated that Tiffany buys most of its gold and silver from domestic suppliers and customers care about how their jewelry is made. Environmentalists also supported the legislation while the National Mining Association issued a cautious statement saying that it wanted to play a constructive role in developing fair and predictable mining policy.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas here.

5. Fuel Economy Standards Addressed in Senate

On May 8, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted to increase automotive fuel-economy standards and allow federal prosecution of oil price gouging that occurs during emergencies. The bill (S.357) would increase the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020, with a four percent annual increase in the standard in subsequent years. Both cars and light trucks would be subject to these requirements, while larger vehicles such as buses would be exempt.

Maria Cantwell (D-WA) proposed an amendment to allow the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate and prosecute price gouging following national disasters. Concerns were raised about the amendment that will be addressed further in a June floor debate. "This bill is not perfect, but it's a constructive step towards addressing our nation's energy crisis and reducing our dependence on foreign oil," said Ranking Member Ted Stevens (R-AK). He expressed concern that Cantwell's amendment could hurt small, independent gas stations in the wake of emergencies. The bill was also criticized by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who raised concerns about harming auto manufacturers, saying it would be unwise to force companies "to make incremental improvements to meet an arbitrary standard set by the Congress."

The committee did not address environmentalists' concerns that a provision in the compromise could allow the Transportation Department to delay the new CAFE standards if it determines that they are not "cost effective." Under the bill, the department could assess numerous factors in making such a determination, including increased prices for consumers, health and environmental factors and national security issues related to oil imports.

Full text of the Senate bill is available here.

6. Water Bill Approved in Senate

The total cost of the Senate's Water Resources Development Act (WRDA, S.1248) was slashed in half, from $31.5 billion to $14 billion, in an attempt to protect the bill from Senators unhappy with the initial cost estimates. The slimmed-down bill easily passed on May 16, 2007, by a vote of 91 to 4.

The Committee on Environment and Public Works was able to cut out over $15 billion from the bill in part by reducing a provision that would have expedited hurricane related projects on the Gulf Coast by allowing the Army Corps of Engineers to construct projects to protect the region from a category five storm surge. Despite the cut, Louisiana in particular still stands to benefit from the bill, thanks to the authorization of almost $3.6 billion for projects in the state. Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA) fought to keep some level of funding for Louisiana in the bill, considering the immense damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bill also creates a National Levee Safety Program, improves flood protection for dozens of specific communities across the country, and improves dams and infrastructure over the length of the Mississippi River.

Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the newest version is "a bill that meets everyone's needs." The House overwhelmingly passed a $13 billion WRDA bill in April (H.R. 1495); the two bills will now go to a bicameral conference. If passed, the amended WRDA would be the first change to the water resources infrastructure bill in seven years.

Full text on the Senate bill is available here.

Full text of the House bill is available here.

7. Congressional Letter to ExxonMobil about Funding of Contrarian Science

It has recently come to the attention of Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) of the Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee of the House Science and Technology Committee that ExxonMobil has been funding climate skeptic studies in an effort to increase doubt in the public mind about climate change.

In a letter to Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, Miller stated "ExxonMobil's economic success has been tarnished by a history of sowing public doubt about the science of climate change, science you privately know to be true." The letter goes on to say that the 2006 World Giving Report shows that ExxonMobil is still funding climate skeptic organizations contrary to what spokespeople have said about the company's stance on climate change. Miller urged ExxonMobil to give a full disclosure of actual spending on these climate skeptic organizations and have those numbers accounted for on the corporation's 990 tax form for 2006.

A report done by Greenpeace U.S.A's Research Department stated that ExxonMobil has been funding over 41 climate skeptic organizations at a cost of $2.1 million. Miller believed that these organizations have no solid background in climate science and he concluded that efforts to cause doubt could postpone action, action that might cut into the corporation's profits.

However on April 26th, ExxonMobil released a news statement on their website stating that they are working with top research institutions to develop new technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a company statement on their website, ExxonMobil clearly outlined their recent actions in dealing with climate change. They recognize an increase in global temperature due to greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. According to the statement, ExxonMobil has recently provided about $100 million to Stanford University's Global Climate Change and Energy Project. ExxonMobil has updated their facilities in terms of efficiency; the result has been a savings of 11 million metric tons of CO2 in 2005. The statement concluded "For our part, ExxonMobil is taking action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions today and to support the development of advanced energy technologies with the potential to significantly reduce future emissions."

Link to Congressman Miller's Letter to Tillerson can be found here.

Link to ExxonMobil's website can be found here.

Link to Greenpeace U.S.A. Research Department can be found here.

8. Senator Brownback's Belief in Evolution

During the first Republican presidential debate on May 3, 2007, the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they did not believe in evolution. Three of the ten candidates raised their hands, Senator Sam Brownback from Kansas, Representative Tom Tancredo from Colorado and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Senator Sam Brownback has now written an Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed) in the May 31st edition of the New York Times explaining why he raised his hand.

In the Op-Ed, Brownback states "If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it."

The wording of the original question and Brownback's Op-Ed raise many concerns for the scientific community. Perhaps most troubling is the confusion or suggestion of faith or belief related to any scientific finding or concept. Several scientific societies are considering a response to Senator Brownback's Op-Ed piece.

The full text of Senator Brownback's Op-Ed is available from the New York Times here.

9. Academic Competitiveness Council Releases Science Education Report

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-171) established the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC) to assess the number, overlap and effectiveness of federal programs that promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The ACC released its first report on May 9, 2007. The ACC determined that there were 105 STEM education programs that cost about $3.12 billion in fiscal 2006. Of the 105 federal programs, 24 focused on K-12 education at a cost of about $574 million, 70 focused on undergraduate to postgraduate programs at a cost of $2.4 billion and 11 focused on informal education at a cost of nearly $137 million. The council made 6 recommendations, including improved and more evaluation of programs, improved implementation of effective programs, reduction of some overlap between programs and better coordination of the federal K-12 programs with states and local jurisdictions.

The full report is available at the Department of Education web site here.

10. Forest Service Gives Notice of Environmental Impact Statement

On May 11, 2007, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service gave notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) to analyze and disclose potential environmental consequences associated with a National Forest System land management planning rule.

This action responds in part to a court order from March 30, 2007, by the United States District Court of Northern California in Citizens for Better Forestry et al. v. USDA, which prevents the Forest Service from implementing a 2005 Rule (36 CFR part 219) until it complies with the court's opinion that the 2005 Rule violates portions of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act. The 2005 rule sought to affirm and streamline a 2000 rule which covers the development and amendment of land and resource management plans, guides the sustainable management of National Forest System lands, ensures that the public is involved in planning, and ensures that planning complies with all applicable laws, regulations, and policies.
The draft environmental impact statement is expected from the Forest Service in June 2007, and the final environmental impact statement is expected in November 2007. The Forest Service is currently soliciting public comment on the nature and scope of environmental, social, and economic issues related to the rulemaking that should be analyzed in the draft environmental impact statement. Comments concerning the scope of the analysis must be received by June 11, 2007.

11. USGS Nominations for Geospatial Group

On May 14, 2007 the Interior Department issued a statement asking for nominations for membership on the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC). This committee is being formed on the grounds that by developing a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI), all levels of government, business (both private and non-profit) and the academic community will greatly benefit from the shared geospatial data. As stated in a press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Geological Survey, the committee will inform and advocate its views on federal geospatial policy that are representative of the geological community.

As stated on the Presidential Initiatives website, the Geospatial Line of Duty initiative is to optimize government spending by purging or combining unnecessary geospatial investments. NGAC is realization of need for non-federal influence in the NSDI process.

NGAC will consist of 20-25 members, committee members will serve a two year term and they will be selected by the Department of the Interior. The committee members will not be reimbursed for their services, however financial restitution for travel expenses. NGAC will operate under the obligations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act which states that a committee's advice must be objective and available to the public.

Link to the DOI and USGS press release is available here.

Link to the Presidential Initiative website click here.

12. Army Corps Webinar Series on Hurricane Protection in Louisiana

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), will present a series of 13 web seminars (webinars) starting on June 8, 2007 about the performance of the hurricane protection system in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana during Katrina. The webinars will present the most significant technical findings from the research and analysis effort carried out by the USACE Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) and peer-reviewed by ASCE's External Review Panel, as well as relevant findings from other post-Katrina studies. Drawing on IPET's nearly 7,000 published pages, in addition to other technical reports, this 13-part series will provide practicing engineers with knowledge that will help them improve infrastructure and make it more resilient.

13. Government Report on Climate Change and Insurance

On May 3, 2007, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that deals with insurers' response to global climate change. The report found that over the last several years private insurers have been aggressively studying the impact of climate change on projected severe weather events in the future, and incorporating the results into their models. In contrast, the two large federal insurance programs, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) program, were found to not be incorporating climate change into their insurance models. John Stephenson, director of Natural Resources and Environment at the GAO, said that this could put federal insurers at financial risk. "I think that the government is a little bit slower moving," he said, adding "they do not have the profit motivation that the private sector does. If they misestimate their projections in the future they can simply borrow from the Treasury to settle their claims. The private sector cannot do that. They go bankrupt if that happens."

Stephenson noted that various organizations, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have released reports indicating that climate change could affect severe weather events in the future. "It is the taxpayer who funds these federal programs… so they need to be concerned if there are going to be some anomalies created by climate change that affect their financial risk," he added. The report recommended that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Homeland Security analyze the potential long-term fiscal implications of climate change for the FCIC and the NFIP and report their findings to the Congress. Both agencies expressed agreement with the recommendation.

Full text of the report can be found here.

14. Report on Climate Change Surveys: What Americans and Congress Think

On Friday, May, 4, 2007, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a congressional briefing entitled "Climate Change: What Americans Think," that featured a presentation by Dr. Jon A. Krosnick, the Frederic O. Glover Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of communication, political science, and psychology at Stanford University. In addition to the briefing, EESI published a three-page fact sheet entitled "Recent Polling on Public Perceptions of Climate Change: April 2006-2007." The fact sheet summarizes the findings of more than a dozen recent climate change surveys from such organizations as Gallup, the Washington Post, and Yale University.

In the briefing, it was noted that on the issue of climate change, public opinion has been shifting very quickly. One third of Americans now say global warming ranks as the world's single largest environmental problem, up from one sixth just a year ago. The fact sheet also notes that 86% of Americans think that global warming "will be a serious problem if nothing is done to reduce it," and 76% believe that "the effects of global warming are apparent now."

The report also includes surveys of congressional members conducted by the National Journal. In that poll, 95% of Democrats believe that human activity is causing global warming while only 13% of Republicans would agree. The Republican numbers dropped by 10 points compared to a similar poll in 2006, indicating that congressional Republicans are moving in an opposite direction compared to the American public's perception on global warming.

The full text of the fact sheet as well as a video of the briefing are available online here.

15. United Nations Releases Biofuels Report; Urges Caution

The United Nations Energy Consortium released a bioenergy report on May 7, 2007, warning that while biofuels could help rural economies and reduce global warming, these benefits might be outweighed by environmental problems and increases in food prices that will hurt the poor.

The report, compiled by U.N. Energy, a consortium of 20 U.N. agencies and programs, warned that increased production of biofuels could "make substantial demands on the world's land and water resources at a time when demand for both food and forest products is also rising rapidly." It also described the dangers of monocropping, saying it could "lead to significant biodiversity loss, soil erosion and nutrient leaching," and noted that biofuel production favors large-scale production, creating the possibility that small-scale farmers could be forced off their land by industrial agriculture.

With oil prices at record highs, biofuels have become an attractive energy source for poor countries, many of which already have agrarian economies. In addition to land, water and food supply concerns, the report cautioned that biofuels might not be as effective at combating global warming as has been advertised. Changes in the carbon content of soils and carbon stocks in forests and peat lands might offset some or all of the benefits of the greenhouse gas reductions, the report concluded.

Full text of the report can be found here.

16. AAAS Statement Supporting Earth Observation

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Board of Directors released a statement on April 30th on "The Crisis in Earth Observation from Space." The report expressed concern that "the network of satellites upon which the United States and the world have relied for indispensable observations of Earth from space is in jeopardy" due to NASA and NOAA budget cuts and restructuring. It cited these satellites as "essential for weather forecasting, hurricane warning, management of agriculture and forestry, documenting and anticipating the impacts of global climate change, and much more."

The AAAS statement referenced a recent 400 page National Research Council study which also called for the restoration of NOAA and NASA satellites, or else "major gaps in the continuity and quality of the data gathered about the Earth from space" will occur. The report also noted that as of 2005, 60 to 70 percent of space-based Earth observation data was from U.S. satellites and instruments, contributing significantly to U.S. preeminence in atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial Earth science. In order to maintain this scientific advantage, resources must continue to be devoted to Earth observation. The report suggested reinitiating specific key Earth observation capabilities that have been cut from NOAA satellites, accelerating NASA's current launch schedule, and ensuring funding to the 17 highest priority Earth observation missions for the 2010-2020 time period.

Full text of the statement is available here.

17. Smithsonian Search Committee Formed as Allegations of Misconduct Continue

On May 8, the Board of Regents at the Smithsonian announced the members of a search committee that will find a new secretary to direct the institution. The committee chair is Alan G. Spoon, a regent and managing general partner of Polaris Venture Partners. The other members include Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA); L. Hardwick Caldwell, chairman of the institution's National Board; Anne d'Harnoncourt, a regent and director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT); Walter E. Massey, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta; Jeffrey Minear, administrative assistant to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.; and Roger W. Sant, a regent and chairman emeritus of the board.

In related news, Smithsonian Business Ventures (SBV) Chief Executive Officer Gary Beer will not return to the institution when his contract expires in September. Beer's division runs the museum gift shops, restaurants, theaters and other profit-making ventures. Beer oversaw the controversial deal with Showtime, which granted the company nearly exclusive access to Smithsonian collections to the chagrin of others. SBV was launched in August, 2000 and was suppose to be a profit-making venture that would help to pay for some of the sky-rocketing costs of maintenance and repair of the institutions buildings and museums. Allegations of mismanagement of funds, inappropriate and lavish expense accounts, and inappropriate bonuses and promotions of SBV employees, including an alleged girlfriend of Beer's have dogged Beer for years and follow similar allegations at his former job. Internal investigations initiated by Congress have led the Smithsonian's inspector general to conclude that profits decreased from $27.9 million in 1999, just before SBV was launched, to $23.9 million in 2006, while the SBV payroll increased so much that in 2006, paychecks exceeded profits by $2 million.

18. Encyclopedia of Life

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have announced $12.5 million in funding to form the "Encyclopedia of Life," an online compendium of all of Earth's 1.8 million known species. The project represents a large collaboration between various Universities, Foundations, and Museums, including such leading institutions as Harvard University, Oxford University, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Institution. The website will be free and open to the public, and will include interactive descriptions of each species, including videos and links to entire genomes. The encyclopedia is expected to take ten years to complete, and will be available here.

19. Wyoming Can Make Their Own Weather

The U.S. Forest Service announced that Wyoming's plans to seed clouds and increase snowfall does not require federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act. The state will spend about $9 million over 5 years to spray the air over Medicine Bow, Sierra Madre and Wind River ranges with silver iodide, using both aircraft and ground-based generators. Wyoming hopes the experiment will increase annual snowfall rates by 10 to 15 percent. Initially the state proposed placing two ground-based generators on Forest Service land, however, now the generators will be placed on private property making the federal review irrelevant according to a Forest Service spokesperson. The spokesperson noted that Forest Service rules only apply if Forest Service land is occupied.

The Forest Service manual states that it does not permit "…long-term weather modification programs that produce, during any part of successive years, a repeated or prolonged change in the weather directly affecting wilderness areas". Environmentalists point to this section of the manual and to the Wilderness Act, which also prohibits weather modification in wilderness area, to argue that the Forest Service decision is in violation of federal law. Wyoming may not have heard the last word from the government however because federal lawyers have been asked to review agency regulations in relation to weather modification in wilderness areas.

20. Seven States Sign Pact on Colorado River

Seven Western U.S. states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California and Nevada) jointly filed a plan with the Department of the Interior (DOI) that would clarify use of water from the Colorado River during times of drought.

"The adversity of drought has brought the states together and forced us to rethink how we manage this precious resource," said George Caan, executive director of Nevada's Colorado River Commission. Under the proposed plan, upstream states could use more water during a drought, or if a less-than-average snow pack accumulates on the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains. Downstream states would make up for this loss by using alternate sources of water, such as a reservoir in Southern California's Imperial Valley which will be created by the pact.
The proposal is expected to ease tensions between the states over escalating water access issues and will affect 30,000,000 people who use the river for drinking water.

21. Glaciologist Will Receive Medal of Science

On May 29, 2007, President Bush announced the recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Science and one of the eight recipients is Lonnie Thompson, an Earth science professor at The Ohio State University. Thompson is a glaciologist, whose extensive work on ice cores retrieved from glaciers on five continents has provided evidence of climatic fluctuations and volcanic eruptions. His recent publications have shown that the past 50 years were the warmest period in recorded history and that mountain glaciers are melting at their fastest rate in the past 5,000 years. The eight recipients will receive their medals from President Bush at a White House ceremony later this summer.

The National Science Foundation provides the following background information about the National Medal of Science: "The National Medal of Science was established by the 86th Congress in 1959 as a Presidential Award to be given to individuals "deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to knowledge in the physical, biological, mathematical, or engineering sciences." In 1980 Congress expanded this recognition to include the social and behavioral sciences.

A Committee of 12 scientists and engineers is appointed by the President to evaluate the nominees for the Award. Since its establishment, the National Medal of Science has been awarded to 425 distinguished scientists and engineers whose careers spanned decades of research and development. The recipients database from 1962 to the present can be searched here.

A longer biographical sketch of Thompson is available from The Ohio State University press release here.

22. AGI Welcomes Geoscience Policy Summer Interns

The American Geological Institute, in collaboration with the American Institute of Professional Geologists, sponsors 3 summer interns, who spend 12 weeks following the deliberations of Congress and summarizing "geopolicy" for AGI's Member Societies and the Earth science community. For 2007, the three AGI/AIPG geoscience policy interns are Paul Schramm, David McCormick and Sargon de Jesus. Our three summer interns are now hard at work figuring out congressional procedures and how geoscience fits into policymaking. Below is more information about each intern. Welcome to a summer in Washington DC!

Paul has just completed his Masters degree in geoscience at Notre Dame, after getting his Bachelors degree at Kalamazoo College in his home state of Michigan. After the internship, Paul intends to pursue a degree in environmental health, where he can use his thesis work on metal-water interactions to deal with human health issues that intersect with geology. He is also a roller coaster enthusiast and world traveler, who has studied for one semester in Cairo and visited many other far flung locations.

Dave has just completed his sophomore year at Marietta College in Ohio where he is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in geoscience. He is interested in becoming a petroleum geologist when he is finished and he is originally from Fredonia, New York. Dave spent 2 weeks in the Utah desert conducting field work with paleontologists and sedimentologists and then presented his work at a Geological Society of America meeting. He is an avid weightlifter and also a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

Sargon will graduate from Brown University with a Bachelor's degree in geoscience and comparative literature before coming to the summer internship. He plans to head back to Rhode Island to complete his Masters degree before considering a career in geoscience policy. He has conducted field work in Fish Lake Utah and Mt St Helens. Sargon is bilingual (English and French), proficient in Spanish and has acted in seven theater productions at Brown. He is originally from inside the Beltway and a graduate of Washington-Lee High School in Virginia.

23. Key Federal Register Notices

DOI- The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has issued a proposed final program and environmental impact statement (EIS) for 2007 to 2012. This is the third and final proposal for the new Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing program. The new program is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2007. The proposed final program and final EIS documents and information can be obtained online here.
[Federal Register: May 2, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 84)]

DOI - the Bureau of Land Management issued a final rule on Geothermal Resource Leasing. Effective June 1, 2007, the rule revises regulations on the leasing of public land for geothermal power production, including acreage limitations and lease terms. For further information contact Kermit Witherbee at (202) 452-0385 or Ian Senio at (202) 452-5049.
[Federal Register: May 2, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 84)]

DOC - NOAA's Office of Education (OED) issued a notice of funding availability for professional development programs for pre-service and in-service educators that support NOAA's mission in atmospheric and ocean sciences. The intent of this award is to establish and maintain a long-term partnership between NOAA and the recipient
organization. Application information is available by contacting Sarah Schoedinger at sarah.schoedinger@noaa.gov, telephone 704-370-3528, or Alyssa Gundersen at Alyssa.Gundersen@noaa.gov, telephone 202-482-3739. Applications must be received by 5 p.m., EDT June 7, 2007.
[Federal Register: May 8, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 88)]

USDA - The Forest Service proposed to amend 36 CFR 261.2 and 261.10 to allow, if necessary, a criminal citation to be issued for unauthorized mineral operations on National Forest System lands. This proposed rule more clearly establishes when mineral operators can be issued a criminal citation for unauthorized occupancy and use of National Forest System lands and facilities when such authorization is required. Comments on this proposed rule must be received in writing by July 9, 2007. Send written comments to Forest Service, USDA, Attn: Director, Minerals and Geology Management (MGM) Staff, (2810), at Mail Stop 1126, Washington, DC 20250-1126; by electronic mail to 36cfr228a@fs.fed.us; by fax to (703) 605-1575; or online here.
[Federal Register: May 10, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 90)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency seeks comments on proposed amendments to the current Standards of Performance for Petroleum Refineries. The proposed standards for new process units includes emissions limitations and work practice standards. These proposed standards reflect demonstrated improvements in emissions control technologies and work practices that have occurred since promulgation of the current standards. Written comments must be received on or before July 13, 2007, and can be identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0011 and filed online here.
[Federal Register: May 14, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 92)]

DOI - The USGS called for Nominations to the National Geospatial Advisory
Committee, which was newly established under the authority of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The Committee will provide advice and recommendations to the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) through the FGDC Chair (the Secretary of the Interior or designee), related to management of Federal geospatial programs and the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI). The Committee will review and comment upon geospatial policy and management issues and will provide a forum to convey views representative of non-Federal stakeholders in the geospatial community. Requests to participate on this Committee must be postmarked by
June 28, 2007. Send nominations electronically to ngacnominations@fgdc.gov, or by mail to John Mahoney, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, 909 First Avenue, Suite 422, Seattle, WA 98104. For further information contact John Mahoney, USGS (206-220-4621).
[Federal Register: May 14, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 92)]

DOI - The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement extended the comment period for the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) published in the March 14, 2007 Federal Register for 30 days. The public comment period will now close June 13, 2007. The ANPR is related to how the DOI should revise the regulations
implementing Titles IV and V of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA) to regulate the placement of coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) in active and abandoned coal mine sites. Comments can be submitted, identified by docket number 1029-AC54 to rules_comments@osmre.gov, to the OSM Administrative
Record Room: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Administrative Record, Room 252-SIB, 1951 Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20240, or at
http://www.regulations.gov. For further information contact John Craynon, P.E., Chief, Division of Regulatory Support, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, 1951 Constitution Ave., NW., MS-202, Washington, DC 20240; Telephone 202-208-2866; jcraynon@osmre.gov.
[Federal Register: May 14, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 92)]

DOE - The Office of the Chief Financial Officer gave a notice of proposed rulemaking and opportunity for comment on loan guarantees for projects that employ innovative technologies. Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (42 U.S.C. 16511-16514) authorizes the Secretary of Energy to make loan guarantees for projects that "void, reduce, or sequester air pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases; and employ new or significantly improved technologies as compared to commercial technologies in service in the United States at the time the guarantee is issued." The DOE proposes regulations to establish generally applicable policies, procedures and requirements for the Title XVII loan guarantee program. Public comment on this proposed rule will be accepted until July 2, 2007. A public meeting on the proposed rule will be held on Friday, June 15, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Washington, DC. For more information contact the DOE Loan Guarantee Program Office at (202) 586-8336 during the period Friday, June 1, through Tuesday, June 12, 2007, between the hours of 9
a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or e-mail lgprogram@hq.doe.gov.
[Federal Register: May 16, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 94)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final rule to extend the dates by which non-transportation related facilities must prepare, amend, and implement an oil Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan. This action allows the Agency time to propose and promulgate further revisions to the SPCC by extending the compliance date from October 31, 2007 to July 1, 2009. The rule is effective May 16, 2007. The EPA is also considering further amendments to address other areas where regulatory reform may be appropriate. For these additional areas, the EPA expects to issue a proposed rule later this year. Areas where regulatory reform may be appropriate include oil and natural gas exploration and production facilities, farms, and qualified facilities.
[Federal Register: May 16, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 94)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency announced two public teleconferences of the Science Advisory Board (SAB) Committee on "Valuing the Protection of Ecological Systems and Services (C-VPESS)," to discuss components of a draft advisory report calling for expanded and integrated approaches for valuing the protection of ecological systems and services. The teleconferences will be conducted on June 12, 2007 and June 13, 2007. Each teleconference will begin at 12:30 p.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. For further information contact Dr. Angela Nugent, Designated Federal Officer (DFO), at: (202) 343-9981 or nugent.angela@epa.gov.
[Federal Register: May 16, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 94)]

NASA - The NASA Advisory Council Heliophysics Subcommittee of the Science Committee announced meetings on Wednesday, June 13, 2007, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday, June 14, 2007, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday, June 15, 2007, 8:30 a.m. to
Noon. The meeting will be held for the purpose of soliciting from the scientific community information relevant to program planning. The agenda for the meeting includes heliophysics division overview and program status, new heliophysics data policy, low cost access to space programs, a final review and approval of heliophysics science at the moon report, and an assessment of the heliophysics fiscal year 2007 science accomplishments. The meeting will be open to the public up to the capacity of the room.
[Federal Register: May 17, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 95)]

NRC - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the ability of preliminary draft rule language to revise the security requirements and material control and accounting (MC&A) requirements for a geologic repository operations area (GROA). The goal of this rulemaking is to ensure effective security measures are in place for the protection of high-level radioactive waste. New requirements for specific training enhancements, improved access authorization, and enhancements to defensive strategies will be incorporated. The NRC is not soliciting formal public comments at this time; there will be an opportunity for public comment when the notice of proposed rulemaking is published in the Federal Register. The preliminary draft rule language can be found here.
[Federal Register: May 17, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 95)]

NSF - The National Science Foundation has submitted an information collection requirement for the Antarctic Conservation Act Application Permit Form (NSF 1078) to the Office of Management and Budget OMB for review under the paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-13). The form currently requests general information, such as name, affiliation, location, etc., and more specific information as to the type of object to be taken. Comments are requested regarding whether the collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the agency, including whether the information will have practical utility, the accuracy of the agency's estimate of burden, and ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on those who respond. Comments can be sent to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs of OMB, Attention: Desk Officer for National Science Foundation 725 17th Street, NW., Room 10235, Washington, DC 20503, and to Suzanne H. Plimpton, Reports Clearance Officer, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 295, Arlington, Virginia 22230 or e-mail splimpto@nsf.gov.
[Federal Register: May 18, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 96)]

DOE - The Office of Fossil Energy; National Coal Council gave notice of an open meeting to provide the Secretary of Energy with the report which he requested on June 26, 2006. This report is titled "Technology Based Framework for Mitigating Greenhouse Gases from Coal-Based Electricity Plants." The meeting will take place on June 7, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon, at the Fairmont Hotel, 2401 M St., NW., Washington, DC. For further information or to submit a written or oral statement, contact Mr. Robert Kane at (202) 586-4753.
[Federal Register: May 22, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 98)]

NASA - The NASA Advisory Council Science Committee announces a meeting of the Earth Science Subcommittee for the purpose of soliciting from the scientific community information relevant to program planning. The agenda for the meeting includes an earth science division update, planning the implementation of the decadal survey, discussion of technology program management, review of the fiscal year 2007 earth science performance report, and compatibility of the earth science objectives for the lunar architecture and the decadal survey. The meeting will be open to the public up to
the capacity of the room. It will be held on Tuesday, June 12, 2007, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday, June 13, 2007, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. EDT, at NASA Headquarters, room 9H40, 300 E Street, SW., Washington, DC 20546. For further information contact Ms. Marian Norris, Science Mission Directorate, at (202) 358-4452 or mnorris@nasa.gov.
[Federal Register: May 22, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 98)]

DOC - NOAA announces the availability of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product Draft Report 3.1 for public comments. The draft report addresses strengths and limitations for user applications of climate models. After consideration of comments received on the draft report, a revised report along with the comments received will be published on the CCSP web site. Comments must be received by July 6, 2007. Detailed instructions for making comments on the draft report are provided on the SAP 3.1 webpage here. For further information contact Dr. Fabien Laurier, Climate Change
Science Program Office, 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20006, Telephone: (202) 419-3481.
[Federal Register: May 22, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 98)]

24. New Updates to the Website

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

Hearings on Energy Policy (5-30-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (5-30-07)
Hearings on Science Education (5-29-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (5-29-07)
Hearings on Hurricane and Flood Hazards (5-29-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (5-21-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (5-21-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (5-18-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (5-18-07)
Hearings on Science Education (5-16-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (5-16-07)
Hearings on the Endangered Species Act (5-14-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (5-14-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (5-10-07)

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Monthly Review prepared by Paul Schramm and David McCormick, 2007 AGI/AIPG summer interns and Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs.

Sources: New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, White House Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, Government Accountability Office, Casper StarTribune.Net, E&E TV, Congressional Quarterly, San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Water News Online, White House press release, National Science Foundation, The Ohio State University

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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 <govt@agiweb.org> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

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

Posted May 31, 2007.