Monthly Review: May 2008

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 Considers Emergency Supplemental with Something for Science
2. Congress Confers on Budget Resolution, May Begin Budget Bills in June
3. House Committees Focus on Water
4. House Subcommittee Passes NASA Re-authorization Act
5. No Child Left Inside Act: Emphasizes Field Experience
6. No Child Left Behind Regulations
7. Salazar Offers Legislation on Oil Shale Development
8. Flood Insurance Reform and Map Modernization Act Passed by Senate
9. Fossil Preservation Act Being Considered in House
10. Preview of Climate Change Debate in Senate
11. NOAA Proposes a National Climate Service
12. Kimball Becomes Associate Director for Geology at USGS
13. Weiler Named NASA Associate Administrator
14. Freedom of Speech Used to Promote Creationism
15. National Research Council Seeks Input on Earth Surface Processes
16. Participate in Geosciences Congressional Visits Day
17. AGI Welcomes New Summer Intern
18. Key Reports and Publications
19. Key Federal Register Notices

1. Congress Considers Emergency Supplemental with Something for Science

Congress is working on an emergency supplemental which would primarily fund the costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. About $100 billion is being considered for fiscal year 2008, while another $70 billion is being considered for the first part of fiscal year 2009. The House version of the supplement provides no emergency funds for any domestic programs, but the Senate version includes $900 million for science plus funds for floods and wildfires.

The Senate science spending would be divided, so that the National Institutes of Health would receive $400 million, the Energy Department’s Office of Science would receive $100 million, NASA would receive $200 million and the National Science Foundation (NSF) would receive $200 million. The Office of Science funding would distribute $55 million to Fusion Energy Science and $45 million to High Energy Physics. NSF funding would distribute $150 million to Research and Related Activities, $10 million  to the Academic Research Fleet to help pay for rising fuel costs and $50 million to Education and Human Resources. The NASA funding would go to support depleted research accounts that have been used to pay for manned space operations recently.

The other domestic spending in the Senate version includes support to reduce wildfire risks and would provide $125 million for the Bureau of Land Management and $325 million for the Forest Service for wildfire suppression, rehabilitation and prevention. In addition, flood risks would be addressed with $3.36 billion for flood control and coastal emergencies related to Hurricane Katrina, $49.4 million for the Emergency Conservation Program and $338 million for dredging navigation channels and repairing Army Corps of Engineers projects along the Mississippi River.

It may be unlikely for the domestic spending to survive to enactment because there is no domestic spending in the House version and the President has threatened to veto any supplemental that includes domestic spending.

2. Congress Confers on Budget Resolution, May Begin Budget Bills in June

The House and Senate completed their compromises on a budget resolution, which passed through the conference committee on May 20, 2008 and now only needs final passage by both chambers in June. The resolution (S. Con. Res. 70) sets major allocations for spending for the 12 appropriation subcommittees in the House and the Senate.

The resolution complies with the pay-as-you-go rule in the House and would lead to budget surpluses in 2012 and 2013. A House Budget Committee overview notes that the members are focusing on energy, education, innovation and infrastructure as “building blocks” where critical investments are needed. For energy, the resolution includes $2.8 billion more than the President’s request and the extra funds would focus on weatherization assistance, renewable energy, and energy efficiency. For education and innovation, the resolution would provide significant increases for the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. For infrastructure, the resolution would provide an additional $2.5 billion compared to the President’s request.

Overall Congress has allocated $21 billion in additional spending compared to the President’s request. This is almost the same scenario as last year, when the President refused to allow an additional $22 billion in spending. After some stalemate, Congress cut the extra funding in the final hours before the Christmas recess, leaving most science agencies with much lower funding levels then approved in the earlier appropriation bills. This year’s budget process is shaping up to end in a similar stalemate with President Bush, though Congress may wait for a new administration to make any final decisions on the fiscal year 2009 budget.

The budget resolution does not set spending levels for individual programs, but allocates levels for major functions. Among the major functions of particular interest to the geoscience community, the resolution allocates new budget authority of about $542 billion for Defense (function 050), about $30.6 billion for Science (function 250), about $6.5 billion for Energy (function 270), about $40.5 billion for Natural Resources (function 300), about $22.5 billion for Agriculture (function 350), about $9.6 billion for Commerce (function 370) and about $94 billion for Education (function 500).  Energy would get an added $2.8 billion for “green collar” jobs and renewable energy and efficiency compared to the President’s request. Natural Resources would get an added $7 billion over the President’s request for programs within the Environmental Protection Agency, including Superfund, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Science would get an added $1 billion, which might be used to support NASA’s next generation spacecraft development and basic research.

The subcommittees will decide on program spending and are suppose to produce 12 separate appropriation bills that then need to be reconciled between the chambers. The House is hoping to get their bills completed before the August recess, while the timetable for the Senate bills is more uncertain. The outlook for completing the fiscal year 2009 budget before the start of the year on October 1, 2008 is extremely dim. Most expect a continuing resolution (CR) until a new administration takes office in January 2009. The CR would keep the federal government running at fiscal year 2008 funding levels.

For the science agencies of interest to the geoscience community, a CR would be extremely detrimental for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, NASA and NOAA. This is because the President’s request includes increases for these agencies that would not be realized in a CR. The U.S. Geological Survey would not suffer as significant a setback as other science agencies in a CR because the President’s request includes a decrease for the survey, which would not take affect. Overall a CR would be deleterious to efficient government because there are no increases for inflation, there would be delays and uncertainties in program starts and program terminations and this fiscal uncertainty could cost more to accomplish less.

The full text of the budget resolution is available from Thomas at:

3. House Committees Focus on Water

On May 16, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed legislation that would increase public awareness of raw sewage discharges into rivers and streams. According to the text of the Raw Sewage Overflow Community Right-to-Know Act (H.R. 2452), between 1.8 and 3.5 million Americans become ill each year from swimming in waters contaminated by sewage overflows.  H.R. 2452 would require sewage treatment facilities to monitor and report potentially hazardous levels of sewage discharge to the public within 24 hours.  The White House has expressed support for the legislation despite opposition from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the use of funds from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to finance the monitoring and alert systems.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is typically used to provide low interest loans for water quality protection projects for wastewater treatment and non-point source pollution control.  A similar bill (S. 2080) has been introduced, but not acted upon in the Senate.

The committee also passed two measures to examine the nation’s future water needs.  The first introduced by Congressman John Linder (R-GA), H.R. 135, establishes a presidential commission of experts to study our water resources and develop recommendations to ensure an adequate future supply.  The second measure, H.R. 5770, tasks the National Academy of Sciences to study the potential effects of climate change on the nation’s water supply and quality. While the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed an identical bill (S. 2728) to H.R. 135 on May 21st, legislation similar to H.R. 5770 has not been introduced in the Senate.

Concerns about future water shortages also prompted the passage of two bills within the House Science and Technology subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. The Produced Water Utilization Act of 2007 (H.R. 2339), introduced by Ralph Hall (R-TX), establishes a program within the Department of Energy to improve technologies that would allow the use of water produced during energy exploration and development for agriculture, irrigation, municipal or industrial purposes.  The second bill, H.R. 3957, the Water Use Efficiency and Conservation Research Act, authored by Congressman Jim Matheson (D-UT) creates a research and development program at EPA to promote water use efficiency and conservation. The program would develop technologies and processes that enable the collection, treatment, and reuse of rainwater and grey water.  The program would also examine the behavioral, social, and economic barriers to achieving greater water use efficiency.  Similar legislation has not been introduced in the Senate for either bill.

The full text of H.R. 135 is available from Thomas at:
The full text of H.R. 5770 is available from Thomas at:
The full text of H.R. 2339 is available from Thomas at:
The full text of H.R. 3957 is available from Thomas at:

4. Subcommittee Passes NASA Re-authorization Act

On May 15th, Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced legislation (H.R. 6063) to re-authorize the programs of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for fiscal year 2009. The measure moved rapidly to passage by the subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics on a voice vote only five days later. Now the House Committee on Science and Technology will consider the measure.  The bill authorizes $19.2 billion for NASA in 2009, $1.9 billion above the President’s request for the agency.

According to Udall, “this bill is also intended to provide congressional guidance for the next Administration relative to NASA.” For the Earth sciences the bill authorizes $1.5 billion in spending and directs NASA to proceed with development of the Glory Mission that would examine how aerosols and solar energy affect the Earth's climate. It would also require NASA to present Congress with an option for ensuring continued collection of Landsat thermal infrared land imagery such as that returned by the Landsat 5 and 7 satellites.  The current Landsat Data Continuity Mission does not include a thermal infrared band.  Additionally, the bill would require NASA to develop a plan for the implementation of the Earth science decadal survey recommendations outlined by the National Academy of Sciences report.

Congressman Tom Freeney (R-FL), whose districts includes the Kennedy Space Center stated, “I’m pleased that this bipartisan legislation strongly affirms the strategic vision for America’s human spaceflight program that was crafted in the aftermath of the 2003 Shuttle Columbia accident.”  To achieve this end the bill authorizes $1 billion solely to accelerate the development of the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares I launcher.

Legislation similar to H.R. 6063 has not been introduced in the Senate, but a number of lawmakers have expressed concern over the agency, suggesting a bill outlining congressional priorities for NASA may have a chance at passage.

The full text of H.R. 6063 is available from Thomas at:

5. No Child Left Inside Act: Emphasizes Field Experience

While the re-authorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act appears unlikely this year, lawmakers, the administration and organizations are outlining their priorities for future revisions or additions to the law. One proposal, the No Child Left Inside Act (H.R. 3036 and S. 1981), attempts to address concerns that environmental education and field experiences in general are being cut as teachers are devoting more class time to test-specific instruction. 

The legislation would provide funds to states that create an environmental literacy plan.  The plans would include content standards, content areas or courses where instruction will take place, and professional development for teachers in environmental issues and field-based pedagogical skills.  The bills would also create a grant program for teacher professional development and student programs to engage children in outdoor learning experiences.  The grants would be partnerships between local or state educational agencies and institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, state natural resource agencies and/or businesses. 

The bill would also attempt to increase public environmental literacy. According to the No Child Left Inside Coalition the measure recognizes the sentiment expressed by a National Science Foundation panel that “in the coming decades, the public will more frequently be called upon to understand complex environmental issues, assess risk, evaluate proposed environmental plans and understand how individual decisions affect the environment at local and global scales.”

Regardless of whether this legislation passes, the geoscience community clearly has a natural connection to the concept of “No Child Left Inside” and should increase their efforts related to Earth science education outside the classroom. Many geoscientists are already actively involved in outdoor learning experiences for children and geoscience faculty at institutions of higher education have a long tradition of field work for all students. The erosion of outdoor experiences and training for children, students and the general public because of time, financial resources and liability issues need to be addressed by the geoscience community. The geoscience community can also take a participatory and perhaps even a lead role in other public efforts, such as the legislation and coalition described above, to ensure that no one is left inside and the wonders of geology can be enjoyed by all.

The full text of H.R. 3036 is available from Thomas at:
The full text of S. 1981 is available from Thomas at:

To learn more about the No Child Left Inside Coalition:

6. No Child Left Behind Regulations

A series of public hearings were held in May to solicit input on the Department of Education’s proposed regulations for Title I of the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110).  The purpose of the new regulations is to build upon advancements in state accountability and assessment since adoption of the law in 2002.  According to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the regulations would clarify and strengthen Title I in the areas of assessment, accountability, supplemental educational services, and public school choice.

The proposed regulations can be viewed at

The Department of Education will be accepting public comment on the new regulations until June 23, 2008. Comments can be must be submitted electronically at by searching Docket ID ED-2008-OESE-0003.

7. Salazar Offers Legislation on Oil Shale Development

Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) introduced legislation (S.3019) this month that according to a released statement would provide for an “orderly and thoughtful future to oil shale development.” Salazar also stated “There is no doubt that oil shale offers great possibilities for our energy future. Oil shale deposits in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah amount to somewhere between 500 billion and 1.1 trillion barrels of oil. But we in the West are also highly aware of the challenges that oil shale poses.”

The purposed legislation would direct the Bureau of Land Management to develop a commercial leasing program one year after completion of a programmatic environmental impact statement on the effects of development to the region.  The bill also calls for a report to Congress that outlines current technologies and research and development programs for oil production from oil shale and tar sands, as well as policies needed to mitigate negative impacts on wildlife and other environmental resources. 

A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report would also be authorized by the legislation. The NAS report would analyze the viability of commercial oil shale development including the timeframe for oil production.  The study would also make recommendations to minimize adverse social and environmental impacts.

The full text of the S. 3019 is available from Thomas at:

8. Flood Insurance Reform and Map Modernization Act Passed by Senate

On May 13, the Senate passed H.R. 3121, the legislation allows for the continuation and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) The legislation forgives the over $20 billion owed to the U.S. Treasury by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, initiates reforms to ensure that the program can continue to operate, and adequately identifies areas at risk to flood loss. The provisions of interest to geoscientists include the reestablishment of the Technical Mapping Advisory Council, and coordination of the FEMA Director with the advisory council to establish an ongoing program to review, update, and maintain flood insurance program maps.

The legislation requires the impacts of global climate change on flood, storm, and drought and potential future impact of global climate change-related weather events, such as increased hurricane activity, intensity, storm surge, and sea level rise are taken into consideration. It requires that the most accurate data be used in mapping and maintenance, and that each map include certain elements to ensure consistency and accuracy. The legislation authorizes $400 million annually for mapping and removes the current 50 percent limit on state contributions toward map modernization.

The full text of H.R. 3121 is available from Thomas at:

9. Fossil Preservation Act Being Considered in House

On May 14, 2008, the House Natural Resources Committee adopted H.R. 554, the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, introduced last year by James McGovern (D-MA). The purpose of the bill is to establish a comprehensive policy for the management of paleontological resources on federal lands, spurred by the rise of fossil theft and vandalism in recent years. Existing laws that address some paleontological resources are the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 and the Federal Cave Resources Protection Act of 1988. However, these laws only protect fossils when they are associated with archeological resources or when they are found in caves.

The bill would make it unlawful to remove paleontological resources from federal lands without a permit. The permit’s conditions are that the fossils collected remain the property of the United States and that they be made available for scientific research and public education. Casual collection of a reasonable amount of common invertebrate and plant fossils for non-commercial use would still be allowed.

H.R. 554’s companion bill in the Senate, S. 320, introduced by Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI), has been passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and placed on the legislative calendar for consideration by the full Senate.

The full text of the bill is available from Thomas at:

10. Preview of Climate Change Debate in Senate

When Congress reconvened after its Memorial Day recess, the Senate considered climate change legislation championed by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John Warner (R-VA), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). The floor debate on the comprehensive cap and trade bill began once the Senate voted 74-14 on the motion that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed to proceed to the bill. A total of 60 votes were required.

The floor debate will be different from the one that occurred in 2003 when Senators Lieberman and John McCain (R-AZ) forced a vote on their climate legislation. At that time, legislators were uncertain about the science of climate change. Now, however, doubts regarding the science have faded, and the majority of senators accept the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which indicates human contributions have resulted in an unprecedented rate of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere.

The real debate in the Senate will now focus on the details of the cap and trade system outlined in the 300-plus page bill.  Amendments offered to the legislation address three general areas of concern: the cost of the bill and it’s impact on the economy, international action on climate change, and other suggested pathways to carbon dioxide reductions. Suggested pathways include a tightening the cap in the years ahead to further decrease the concentration of carbon dioxide over time, the inclusion of nuclear power incentives and concurrent nuclear waste disposal solutions, and changes to the distribution of carbon allowances to industry.

No one is sure what floor strategy Boxer and Reid might use to control the number and time for debate on possible amendments.  Some senators would like an unrestricted process where all amendments are considered, while others are hoping an agreement can be reached on a specific set of amendments addressing the main issues of concern.  Reid may use a procedural tactic called “filling the amendment tree” to ensure only specific amendments are considered in order to limit contentious debate and save time. The climate change measure is just one of many significant bills the Senate is considering in June and the senators still have all of the appropriation bills for fiscal year 2009 to consider.

Regardless of the outcome, legislation sponsors seem to be viewing this year’s bill as a test case for action by next year’s Congress.  Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), Chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, plans to introduce his version of cap and trade climate legislation in early June.

For the latest version of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008 visit:

For more information on Congressman Markey’s legislation visit:

11. NOAA Proposes a National Climate Service

Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator would like a more coordinated, organized approach to climate science research rather than the current system which distributes climate research across 13 federal agencies and requires more than twenty separate reports. To accomplish this goal Lautenbacher is revisiting a plan to establish a National Climate Service within NOAA modeled after the National Weather Service.  Lautenbacher stressed that he was not advocating terminating climate research at other agencies and the proposed office would not create or enforce federal regulations. 

NOAA is hoping to have a formal proposal for the National Climate Service ready for the 2010 budget cycle and is working with its independent science advisory board on the plan.  According to agency officials the development of such an office would address the nation’s aging supercomputer infrastructure and allow the regional effects of climate change to be modeled. 

The idea of forming a National Climate Service dates back to the Carter Administration and is included in a bill, S. 2037, introduced last year by Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to revamp the climate change research program.  Administration support for the new office was expressed in response to the measure in January. While NOAA is planning to propose the new office for the 2010 budget the agency anticipates releasing “a more comprehensive statement of strategy later this summer."

The full text of S. 2037 is available from Thomas at:

12. Kimball Becomes Associate Director for Geology at USGS

Dr. Suzette M. Kimball assumed a new role for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) this month ¾ Associate Director for Geology.  Kimball had been serving as the Director of USGS’s Eastern Region since 2004 and will be the first woman to hold the position of Associate Director.  In her new position, she will oversee basic Earth science programs, including the monitoring of earthquake hazards, geologic mapping of land and seafloor resources, the study of volcano and landslide hazards, and research and assessments of mineral and energy resources. 

Kimball, a licensed professional geologist, received her B.A. in English from the College of William and Mary, an M.S. in Geology/Geophysics from Ball State University and a Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences/Coastal and Oceanographic Processes from the University of Virginia. She has held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary and numerous elected positions with professional scientific societies, including the Consortium for Coastal Restoration through Science & Technology, the Council of Examiners of the National Association of State Boards of Geology, and the Interior Department’s Ocean Policy Committee.

13.Weiler Named NASA Associate Administrator

Dr. Ed Weiler was named Associate Administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate after serving as interim chief since March 26. Weiler will be in charge of a variety of research and exploration programs for Earth science, heliophysics, planetary science and astronomy. 

Weiler had been serving as director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center since 2004. Before his selection as associate administrator, Weiler was NASA’s associate administrator for Space Science Enterprise and director of the Astronomical Search for Origins program.  Weiler earned his doctorate in astrophysics from Northwestern University in 1976.

14. Freedom of Speech Used to Promote Creationism

“Academic freedom” bills have been introduced in Florida, Michigan, Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Missouri over the past year.  These bills take an alternative approach in their attempt to interject religious beliefs into the science classroom.  The text of the bills do not mention intelligent design or creationism, but instead argue that teachers should be able to raise doubts about the concept of evolution as a matter of free speech.  The bills describe evolution, human cloning and climate change as controversial and would allow teachers to discuss the “scientific weaknesses” of the theories despite scientific consensus. The language of the bills is similar to legislation drafted by the Discovery Institute, a Seattle based intelligent design organization.

The courts have not yet weighed in on the freedom of speech angle because the bills have not passed in any state. Both chambers of the Florida legislature passed “academic freedom” bills, but the chambers were unable to reach agreement on a final bill. Many experts believe the singling out of evolution from other scientific theories and the attempt to hold it to a higher standard from other science curriculum will be in question.

15. National Research Council Seeks Input on Earth Surface Processes

A National Research Council study committee on "Challenges and Opportunities in Earth Surface Processes" is conducting a study which will assess (1) the state-of-the-art of the multi-disciplinary field of earth surface processes, (2) the challenges and opportunities for making advances in the field, and (3) the technical and intellectual needs to meet those challenges and opportunities.

The study committee is addressing the task by considering research on the dynamic biological, chemical, physical, and human processes, interactions, and feedback mechanisms that affect the shape of Earth's surface across a range of spatial and temporal scales. During its four or five scheduled study meetings, the committee cannot hear from all of the many interested individuals who have important input to this topic, so the committee seeks your help in the form of written contributions on the following set of questions:

  1. What have been the four most significant conceptual and/or technological advances in earth surface processes in the last 15years?

  2. What are two emergent and fundamental questions that earth surface processes research can address?

  3.  What challenges (organizational, administrative, conceptual, philosophical, etc.) exist in conducting the research needed to answer the fundamental questions identified in Question 2?

Comments received by June 15, 2008, will be considered at the committee's next meeting (June 24-26, 2008). However, the committee welcomes input until August 2008. The final report will be released in February 2009. Please note that any written comments submitted to the committee will be included in the study's public access file.

To submit responses to the questions, please go to:

For more information about the study please go to:

16. Participate in Geosciences Congressional Visits Day

Join us for the first Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (Geo-CVD) on September 9-10, 2008. This two-day event brings geoscientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for the geosciences. Participants will spend the first day learning about how Congress works, the current state of the budget process and how to conduct congressional visits. The second day will consist of visits with members of Congress. In addition to the workshops and visits, participants will get to meet other geoscientists, and federal science agency representatives. Help us make the first Geo-CVD a success and convey the value of the geosciences to policymakers.

Geo-CVD will be coordinated by Washington DC staff from the AGI, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Geophysical Union, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, the Geological Society of America, the Seismological Society of America and the Soils Science Society of America.

Please contact AGI’s Government Affairs staff for more information and to volunteer to participate by sending an email to

17. AGI Welcomes New Summer Intern

AGI and AIPG are happy to introduce Laura Bochner, the first of three summer interns in the Government Affairs Program. Laura is a rising junior at Lafayette College in Easton, PA and is studying Geology. Though she entered college as a pre-med biology major, Laura changed her major after taking field courses in Utah and Hawaii. Laura is interested in all issues surrounding the environment and geosciences, but she is especially interested in energy and climate change policy. At school, Laura has begun collaborative research with her Paleoclimatology professor on the intensification of Northern Hemisphere glaciation at the Plio-Pleistocene boundary. She has also been working with her hometown’s municipal Environmental Advisory Committee. Laura enjoys hiking, photography, and a good geology pun. She hails from the Pennsylvania suburbs and is excited about spending the summer in Washington D.C.

18. Key Reports and Publications

*** Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Physical Infrastructure:  Challenges and Investment Options for the Nation's Infrastructure, <>, May 8, 2008. The GAO testimony discusses (1) challenges associated with the nation’s surface transportation, aviation, water, and dam infrastructure, and the principles GAO has identified to help guide efforts to address these challenges and (2) existing and proposed options to fund investments in the nation’s infrastructure.

*** Congressional Research Service (CRS)

Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Education: Status and Issues, <> Posted May 9, 2008.  The report discusses concern over the quality of science and mathematics education and training and on the scientific knowledge of those students entering other disciplines.

Disaster Debris Removal After Hurricane Katrina: Status and Associated Issues, <> Posted May 9, 2008. This report provides the background and information necessary to understand why cleanup activities are still incomplete and additional funding of debris removal activities may be needed for some time to come, as well as factors that make debris removal a costly, complex, and lengthy operation.

Safe Drinking Water Act: Selected Regulatory and Legislative Issues, <> Posted May 9, 2008. This report discussed the key issues on the Safe Drinking Water Act including infrastructure funding needs, related compliance issues, and concerns caused by detections of unregulated contaminants in drinking water, such as perchlorate and pharmaceuticals and personal care product.

Federal Disaster Recovery Programs: Brief Summaries, <> Posted May 9, 2008. This report summarizes principal federal disaster assistance programs for possible use by Members of Congress and their staff in helping address the needs of constituents. The Federal forms of assistance include, grants, loans, loan guarantees, temporary housing, and counseling.

Biofuels Incentives: A Summary of Federal Programs, <> Posted May 9, 2008. This report outlines federal programs that provide direct or indirect incentives for biofuels. 

The Bureau of Reclamation's Aging Infrastructure, <> Posted May 19, 2008. This report describes Reclamation’s approach to managing aging infrastructure as well as that of two other agencies — the Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service — involved with significant portfolios of dams and related infrastructure. 

Proposals to Merge the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management: Issues and Approaches, <> Posted May 19, 2008. The similar missions and neighboring and intermingled lands in separate Cabinet departments have led to frequent proposals, dating back to 1911, to transfer one agency to the other department or to consolidate them into one agency.

Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of S. 2191, <> Posted May 19, 2008. This report examines six studies that project the costs and benefits of of S. 2191, the Climate Security Act, to 2030 or 2050.

Energy: Selected Facts and Numbers, <> Posted May 19, 2008. After an introductory overview of aggregate energy consumption, this report presents detailed analysis of trends and statistics regarding specific energy sources:oil, electricity, natural gas, coal and renewable energy. A section on trends in energy efficiency is also presented.

Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty: Background and Current Developments, <> Posted May 19, 2008. This report provides a overview of the comprehensive nuclear-test-ban treaty.

Ocean Commissions: Ocean Policy Review and Outlook, <> Posted May 19, 2008.  Congress has continued to consider ocean policy and management recommendations of the two commission reports and the President’s response. Approaches range from the general, such as extensive changes in organization and administrative structure of ocean research and governance, to more specific topics, such as ocean and coastal mapping.

*** National Academy of Sciences (NAS)

National Research Council report on the Review of the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration (LACPR) Program, <> The report reviews the Army Corps of Engineer’s (Corps) draft report and provides recommendations on how it can be improved. The Corps is commended for integrating and providing new approaches in this complex ecological and geological environment. However, the draft report does not identify projects of higher priority and greater benefits, and there are significant weaknesses in each of the report's three main sections. Most notably, the National Research Council report finds that the Corps' draft report lacks evidence that the sediment resources necessary to maintain the current coastal configuration, given the current and future rates of subsidence, degradation, and sea level rise, will be available.

19. Key Federal Register Notices

NSF- The National Science Foundation announces a meeting of the Advisory Committee for International Science and Engineering on June 9, 2008. The committee will discuss proposed international policies and practices, a draft strategic plan, the National Science Board report on International Science and Engineering Partnerships, partnerships for international research and education and an update on developing countries initiatives.
[Federal Register: May 7, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 89)]

DOI- The U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC) will meet June 3-4, 2008. The NGAC, which is composed of representatives from governmental, private sector, non-profit, and academic organizations, has been established to advise the Chair of the Federal Geographic Data Committee on management of Federal geospatial programs and the development of the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. The committee will discuss the NGAC mission, imagery for the nation, subcommittee reports and national geospatial strategy design.
[Federal Register: May 16, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 96)]

EPA- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the meeting of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council on June 3, 2008. The Council will consider various issues associated with drinking water and adaptation to climate change, including information about the EPA Office of Water's draft National Water Program Strategy: Response to Climate Change. The Council will receive updates about several on-going projects including the third Contaminant Candidate List, the Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, and the Total Coliform Rule/Distribution.
[Federal Register: May 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 97)]

EPA- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on its review of the air quality criteria and national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for lead (Pb), proposes to make revisions to the primary and secondary NAAQS for Pb to provide requisite protection of public health and welfare, respectively.  EPA will be accepting public comment on the proposed rule until July 21, 2008. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2006-0735 through or by emailing Follow the
[Federal Register: May 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 98)]

EPA- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the availability of a final report titled, “EPA's 2008 Report on the Environment.” EPA's 2008 Report on the Environment compiles the most reliable indicators available to help understand important trends in the environment and human health. The report identifies key limitations of these indicators and gaps where reliable indicators do not yet exist. These gaps and limitations highlight the disparity between the current state of knowledge and the goal of full, reliable, and insightful representation of environmental conditions and trends, and provide direction for future research and monitoring efforts. The document will be available electronically through the NCEA Web site at
[Federal Register: May 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 98)]

DOC- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) announces the availability for public comment a draft report of the SAB Working Group to Examine Advisory Options for Improving Communications among NOAA's Partners. This report was prepared in response to the charge to the working group to examine advisory options including: Expanded use of existing NOAA Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) committees and/or the National Research Council; changing the structure and/or re-chartering the existing NOAA FACA committees, including the SAB, into new FACA committees or some combinations of approaches. Comments on the report must be received by 5 p.m. EDT June 20, 2008.  The draft report of the working group will be available on the NOAA Science Advisory Board Web site at The public is encouraged to submit comments electronically to
[Federal Register: May 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 99)]

DOC- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Science Advisory Board (SAB) is soliciting nominations for the Ecosystem Sciences and Management Working Group (ESMWG) which will focus on research, monitoring, and management components of NOAA's ecosystem portfolio, as well as the underlying observations and data management issues. The ESMWG will assist in establishing plans, assessing progress, and reviewing priorities on a continuing basis. The ESMWG will be composed of 10-12 scientists and leaders in the following disciplines as related to ecosystem sciences and management: social science, oceanography, living marine resources, sampling and remote sensing, and modeling. Nominations must be received July 21, 2008 and can be submitted to
[Federal Register: May 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 99)]

NSF- The National Science Foundation announces a meeting of the Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering on June 16-17, 2008.  The purpose of the meeting is to provide advice and recommendations concerning broadening participation in science and engineering.
[Federal Register: May 23, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 101)]

NIST—The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)  is soliciting grant proposals from colleges, universities, and non-profit science research organizations for the construction of new research science buildings or the expansion of existing research facilities. The scientific fields related to measurements, oceans or the atmosphere, or telecommunications will be given priority. Proposals can be submitted online at: Proposals must be received by 3 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday July 21, 2008. Contact Barbara Lambis at or (301) 975-4447 for more information.
[Federal Register: May 27, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 102)]

EPA—The second draft of the Environmental Protection Agency’s document regarding the health-based national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for sulfur oxides has been released. Go to to view the draft document.  Public comment on the document can be submitted until July 25, 2008. Email comments to
[Federal Register: May 30, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 105)]

NOAA—National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard propose to define the term “marine debris” for the purposes of the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act. The term would be defined as “…any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.” Comments on the definition should be emailed to Comments must be received by July 28, 2008.
[Federal Register: May 27, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 102)]

Monthly Review prepared by Marcy Gallo and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs and Laura Bochner, AIPG/AGI Summer Intern.

Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, ClimateWire, House Committee on Science and Technology,,, National Academy of Sciences, Thomas (Library of Congress), No Child Left Inside Coalition, American Association for the Advancement of Science

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" <>. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at <> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

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

Posted June 3, 2008.