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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 "
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.
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.
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.
A longer biographical sketch of Thompson is available from The Ohio
State University press release here.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 email@example.com;
by fax to (703) 605-1575; or online here.
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.
DOI - The USGS called for Nominations to the National Geospatial
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
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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:
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
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted May 31, 2007.