Monthly Review: May 2009


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. President Obama Makes Treaty Requests to Senate
2. Charles Bolden Nominated to Head NASA
3. Wildfire Funds and Satellite Review in War Supplemental
4. Congress Continues Deliberations on FY 2010 Appropriations
5. House Climate Change Legislation Update

6. Senate Energy Bill Proceeds Slowly

7. National Climate Service Program Proposed
8. Weather Mitigation Research Bill Approved
9. Massive Water Infrastructure Bill Passes Committee

10. Bipartisan Group Supports Black Carbon Emissions Bill

11. House and Senate Introduce Ocean Energy Legislation

12. Asbestos Health Care and Clean Up In Montana

13. Recommendations on the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program
14. EIA Releases 2009 Energy Outlook Report
15. Preliminary Scientific Integrity Report Released

16. Arizona Passes Religious Liberties Bill

17. NSF Promotes Science with Cool Public Outreach Tools

18. Geoscientists Participate On Capitol Hill

19. AGI and AIPG Welcome the Summer Interns

20. Key Reports and Publications

21. Key Federal Register Notices

22. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

1. President Obama Makes Treaty Requests to Senate

On May 11, 2009 the Obama Administration notified Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the Foreign Relations Committee, of a list of pending treaties that the Administration would like the Senate to take action on. All but one of these pending treaties has the support of past Presidents but has not been ratified by the Senate.

In April, President Obama asked the Senate for advice and ratification of the Annex VI on Liability Arising from Environmental Emergencies to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (Annex VI). The annex establishes rules and procedures relating to liability arising from failures of Antarctic operators to protect the environment. This is the only treaty on the list that has not previously been presented to the Senate by a President.

Among the many other treaties that President Obama requests action on are two treaties of interest to the geosciences community: The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty of 1996 (CTBT) and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 1994 Agreement on Implementation (UNCLOS).

The American Geophysical Union and the Seismological Society of America have a joint position statement on the CTBT. The statement supports the seismic verification abilities of the international monitoring system and notes the value of the system to improve understanding of Earth processes, help earthquake mitigation efforts and enhance the international exchange and access to data.

In 2007, the Executive Directors of the American Geological Institute and the American Geophysical Union joined with the co-chairs of the Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, James Watkins and Leon Panetta, and a very diverse group of public and private sector representatives in a joint letter to the Senate requesting ratification of the UNCLOS. The UNCLOS would help improve understanding of ocean and seafloor processes while improving access to data, enhancing exploration and enhancing international cooperation.

A press release about President Obama’s request for Senate consideration of the Antarctic Treaty annex is available from the White House press page.

A PDF copy of the letter from the Administration to the Senate of treaty priorities is available from the Ocean Law web page.The joint letter in support of the UNCLOS and other materials in support of the treaty are available from the Ocean Law LOS Coalition page.

2. Charles Bolden Nominated to Head NASA

President Obama nominated Charles Bolden to be the next Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Bolden was an astronaut at NASA in the 1980s and 1990s and flew on four missions, including the mission to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope, the first Spacelab mission devoted to “Mission to Planet Earth” and the first joint U.S.-Russia shuttle mission.

After leaving NASA he returned to the Marines and ended his military career as a major general. He then worked for ATK, which manufactures the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle and the next generation shuttle. He has also served on the board of Gencorp Inc, which owns a company that is building the engines for the next generation shuttle.

Bolden has a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical science from the United States Naval Academy and a master’s of science in systems management from the University of Southern California.

His recent work with aerospace industries with ties to the next generation space shuttle may cause some difficulties in his confirmation. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has not set a date for Bolden’s confirmation hearing as of the end of May, however, Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) have expressed their support for the candidate in press releases.

3. Wildfire Funds and Satellite Review in War Supplemental

The House and Senate appropriators have approved a war supplemental spending bill for fiscal year 2009 (H.R. 2346) that includes $250 million for wildfire suppression and a directive to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to re-assess the costs of a major satellite mission. The funds for wildfire suppression would only be used if the $1.6 billion appropriated for fire suppression in 2009 is depleted. The purpose is to create a back-up fund for fires late in the season that are otherwise not covered. In the past few years the increase in costly wildfires has caused firefighting agencies to take millions from other programs, a disruption policymakers hope to avoid with this supplemental reserve fund. The Senate also included $843 million for the Army Corps of Engineers. This additional money is intended to improve the agency’s response to a variety of natural disasters, including wildfires.

The accompanying House report (111-105) directs the Department of Commerce through the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS) “to evaluate re-structure options of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) and how each option would affect operational weather data and how it is employed by the civil community for severe weather, flood, and fire emergencies, and for research and monitoring climate change.” The NESDIS report is due to Congress within 90 days of enactment and depending on the report results could alter the instruments and specifications of NPOESS, which has been delayed, has cost overruns and has had to eliminate some key instruments for earth observations.

4. Congress Continues Deliberations on FY 2010 Appropriations

The House and Senate appropriation subcommittees continue to work on 12 separate appropriation bills each, after the President released a more detailed budget proposal in mid-April.

The House Appropriation subcommittees have held many hearings already, while the Senate Appropriation subcommittees are just beginning a series of hearings. The most contentious issues of interest to the geosciences community revolve around funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

President Obama has proposed ending the manned space shuttle program at NASA after eight more missions and relying on the Russians for human transport to the space station and low Earth orbit for at least five years. The Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee expressed concerns about inadequate funding for the manned program as well as for the aeronautics program at a hearing on May 21, 2009. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Shelby (R-AL), George Voinovich (R-OH) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) express disappointment with some parts of the budget and are likely to fiddle with the distribution of funding for NASA programs. Appropriators in the House and the Senate also expressed concern about the flat funding for NASA in future years as proposed by the Obama administration. Several legislators called for continued increases for NASA, especially for science and Earth observations.

For DOE, President Obama has proposed ending the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository project, reducing the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons and transferring the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to the Department of Defense (DOD). At a hearing on the DOE budget, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Ranking Member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, expressed concern with the stagnant budget request for NNSA and worried about a “placeholder” budget until the administration reviews U.S. nuclear weapons strategy. Then-Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-IN) thought the nearly flat budget was appropriate to maintain the work force until a new strategy is put forward.

As of June 2, 2009, Congressman Pete Visclosky (D-IN) has given up his chairmanship of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee because his office has been subpoenaed regarding a lobbying scandal. Congressman Ed Pastor (D-AZ) will take over as chairman until the investigation is completed. Visit AGI's fiscal year 2010 appropriations pages for more information on hearings and funding.

5. House Climate Change Legislation Update

On May 21, 2009, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee and has been reported in the House for a possible vote. The committee was able to compromise on many issues to get the bill passed, but many believe additional changes will be needed before the bill has a real chance of garnering enough votes in the full House. The bill calls for emission reductions of 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050 and uses a rather complex cap and trade system to secure such reductions.

Only one Republican, Mary Bono Mack (CA), voted for the measure, signifying the continued partisan schism on climate change and energy legislation. Amendments proposed by Republicans that would end a cap and trade program if there are job losses or energy price increases were defeated during the markup. Republicans still contend that the bill will be a burden to businesses and families alike. 

Many Democrats that voted for the bill acknowledged that more work needs to be done to make the bill more palatable. House members still want to address issues regarding speculation in a carbon cap and trade market, indirect land use changes caused by greater biofuels production, and adding more agricultural offsets. Other House committees are interested in holding their own markup of related legislation including Ways and Means, Agriculture, Science and Technology, and Natural Resources. House members will continue to work out the details of some of the provisions in the bill after returning from the Memorial Day recess.

The Senate is closely following the progress of the bill, which the House hopes it will use as a template for companion legislation. So far the Senate has not begun any work on legislation that has similar climate change measures to the House bill. Instead the Senate is focused on a separate energy bill and parts of the Senate energy bill do overlap with H.R. 2452.

6. Senate Energy Bill Proceeds Slowly

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee continues work on a massive energy bill in bits and pieces. Sections on appliance efficiency; the energy and water nexus; the manufacturing sector's efficiency; work force training; a clean energy bank administration; transmission siting, planning and financing; grid cybersecurity; and a refined petroleum product reserve have been completed. Amendments on a renewable energy standard (RES) and building efficiency will be considered in the first week of June. Still to come is language on oil and gas provisions including possible funds for an inventory of outer continental shelf resources.

Another part of the energy bill is a measure limiting liability for carbon capture and sequestration projects. The Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program Amendments Act of 2009 (S. 1013) would authorize the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program to demonstrate commercial application of integrated systems for long-term geological storage of carbon dioxide (more than one million tons of carbon annually) without liability. Parties must obtain certification that they are complying with state and federal drinking water protection requirements and conduct tests to verify carbon is not escaping. The bill would also allow the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to authorize projects on federal lands.

A large number of amendments and significant additional debate is expected on many parts of the legislation and the committee has already missed their self-imposed deadline of the Memorial Day recess to complete the bill. Even if the bill passes the committee, there is considerable uncertainty about when it might be considered by the full Senate. Majority Leader, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that health care legislation will be considered before energy legislation. The House is not considering an energy bill similar to the Senate’s though there is some overlap of sections with the House climate change and energy bill (H.R. 2454).

Please visit the Senate Energy and Commerce’s Energy Bill 2009 web page for the full text and drafts of the different parts of this legislation.

7. National Climate Service Program Proposed

A National Climate Service, housed within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is proposed to be the primary portal for climate information. The climate service would supply usable climate data to federal agencies, state and local governments, researchers, and private citizens. Under this bill, NOAA would improve the coverage and resolution of its climate data and modeling to provide the best monitoring capabilities. The bill also mandates an advisory board to give input on how to best serve the users. Some argue that creating a separate office within NOAA will just duplicate the work of the National Weather Service, while others predict this will be the most user-friendly way to integrate local, national, and international data to meet the growing demand for climate services.

The “National Climate Service Act of 2009” (H.R. 2407) was proposed by the House Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), and was unanimously approved by the Energy and Environment Subcommittee on May 13, 2009. Now H.R. 2407 awaits full committee approval, and is anticipated to be marked-up the first week of June. The committee is trying to keep pace with the Waxman-Markey climate and energy legislation (H.R. 2454), which also proposes a National Climate Service. The Waxman-Markey bill was approved by the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee before the Memorial Day recess and now awaits a vote by the full House.

8. Weather Mitigation Research Bill Approved

On May 20, 2009, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the Weather Mitigation Research and Development Policy Authorization Act of 2009 (S. 601). The bill, sponsored by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) would establish a weather mitigation research program within the National Science Foundation (NSF), establish a working group composed of representatives from state and academic institutions, and establish a weather mitigation grant program to fund research at state agencies, academic institutions and non-profit organizations.

The bill would authorize $25 million per year over five years for these programs.The bill is based on recommendations of a 2003 National Academies report entitled “Critical Issues in Weather Modification Research”.

9. Massive Water Infrastructure Bill Passes Committee

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Water Infrastructure Financing Act of 2009 (S.1005). The bill would increase the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) to $20 billion and the Drinking Water SRF to $14.7 billion, provides $1.8 billion in grants to address sewage overflows, $60 million for grants to reduce lead in drinking water, $50 million for grants to address agriculture-related water quality, $50 million for watershed restoration projects and $20 million for grants for research and development on technologies to improve water quality or supplies. These amounts would be authorized over a five-year period. Other water projects would be supported in the measure, but are not listed here.

10. Bipartisan Group Supports Black Carbon Emissions Bill

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved the Black Carbon Emissions Act of 2009 (S. 849). The bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study the climate and health-related impacts of black carbon and to identify the most effective control strategies for the pollutant. The bill co-sponsors included Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the leaders of the committee, who often disagree on policies and legislation, but have come together with other committee members from both parties in support of this measure.

11. House and Senate Introduce Ocean Energy Legislation

At the very end of April, the House and Senate introduced legislation that will promote ocean energy research. The aim is to bring ocean energy technology up to par with other clean energy sources like wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. The Marine Renewable Energy Promotion Act of 2009 (H.R. 2148 and S. 923) was introduced in the House by Jay Inslee (D-WA) with companion legislation introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

The legislation would authorize up to $250 million a year for ocean research, something that the Obama Administration is also promoting. The legislation increases research and development work at the Department of Energy to improve the reliability, efficiency, and cost of marine devices. The funding will also go towards new technologies and integration into the national grid. Marine renewable energy is defined as energy generated by ocean thermal energy conversion, or water motion in oceans, estuaries, rivers, lakes, man made channels and tidal areas. The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that the U.S. oceans could generate 6.5 percent of the nation’s electricity if ocean energy is funded at the same levels as other forms of renewable energy.

12. Asbestos Health Care and Clean Up In Montana

Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) want the environmental and health problems associated with the former asbestos mine in Libby, MT addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). On May 13, 2009 Tester asked the two agencies to collaborate to help the citizens affected by asbestos exposure through site clean up and health care provisions. The announcement came one week after the mine executives were acquitted of conspiring to shield the public from the health risks of asbestos.

Libby, Montana is home to the W.R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine, which shut down in 1990.  Over that past 40 years, nearly 200 people have died and more than 375 others have been diagnosed with asbestos-related fatal diseases. This spurred numerous environmental investigations and lawsuits. The EPA added the site to the National Superfund Priorities list in 2002, and was about to declare it a public health emergency when the Bush Administration stopped the declaration according to a report released by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT). Senator Baucus has asked the new EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to reconsider the declaration and other plans related to Libby.

A press release from Senator Baucus about the interference with clean-up and health care provisions for those affected by the asbestos mine is available from the Senator’s web page.

13. Recommendations on the Future of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons Program

The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States released their report on the future of the U.S. nuclear weapons program on May 6, 2009. The twelve member commission and report were mandated by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008. The commission proffered almost 100 recommendations, however, the commission was evenly split on whether the Senate should ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Instead of a recommendation the commissioners offer a list of pros and cons regarding the treaty.

Key recommendations on which the commission agreed include a need for the U.S. to maintain an "effective nuclear deterrent force" and a need for the U.S. to lead efforts to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, reduce the number of nuclear weapons worldwide and improve protection for residual nuclear forces and fissile material.

The commission noted that now is perhaps the most critical time for developing and acting upon a strategy for the U.S. nuclear weapons program because Russia has indicated a willingness to work on strategic nuclear weapons issues and because the world may be nearing a "tipping point" in nuclear proliferation that could lead to "imminent danger of nuclear terrorism".

The commission made several recommendations regarding the Department of Energy (DOE) that could shake-up the department and have generated some debate already. The report calls for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Energy Department's nuclear weapons agency, to have even greater autonomy and less "bureaucratic interference" from DOE staff.

The commission also recommends renaming Los Alamos, Sandia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories as national security laboratories and ensuring greater cooperation between these labs and the departments of Defense, State and Homeland Security. The report calls for greater funding and a broader security and energy mission for the labs. Last but not least the commission is concerned that maintaining the U.S. stockpile without testing may be difficult and suggests the labs have the ability to explore current and new nuclear engineering designs as long as they work within U.S. policy.

The Obama Administration plans to release its own nuclear weapons program review at the end of this year. In advance of this report, the Office of Management and Budget has asked DOE and the Department of Defense (DOD) to consider a transfer of NNSA to Defense.

The congressional commission and the administration's plans are likely to determine the future structure and funding for the largest component of the DOE in the coming years. Look for hearings, legislation and debate in Congress to heat up this summer and fall, with the potential for this issue to rise to an even higher priority if North Korea or other nations appear to destabilize the current nuclear weapons stalemate.

14. EIA Releases 2009 Energy Outlook Report

The Annual Energy Outlook 2009 (AEO2009) report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) was released in March 2009, with supplemental reference material released in April 2009. The AEO2009 analyzes U.S. energy supply and demand and makes projections on energy supply and demand through 2030. The economic forecasts were updated to incorporate the stimulus effects and the recent, rapid fluctuations in U.S. and global economies. Overall, though, the projections focus on what drives the energy markets in the long-term. The key issues covered are: higher but uncertain world oil prices, growing concern about greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and its impacts on energy investment decisions, the increasing use of renewable fuels, the increasing production of unconventional natural gas, the shift in the transportation fleet to more efficient vehicles, and improved efficiency in end-use appliances.

The key projections note that world oil prices could swing from $50 to $200 per barrel of oil through to 2030; there might be no growth in U.S. oil consumption because of increasing oil prices, fuel efficient vehicles and the use of biofuels; and there might be more limited growth in coal-fired power plants and much higher growth in natural gas-fired power plant than previously predicted because of greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Overall energy consumption is projected to increase by 0.5 percent per year through 2030 and fossil fuels will account for more than 75 percent of all consumption with nuclear, biofuels and renewables accounting for about 25 percent. Overall electricity demand is projected to increase by 1 percent annually from 2007 to 2030 and the demand will be met by nearly the same proportion of energy resources for electricty with the most noticeable increase from renewable energy resources (47 percent from coal, 18 percent from nuclear, 14 percent from renewables and 20 percent from natural gas for the 2030 reference case).

15. Preliminary Scientific Integrity Report Released

In March, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) released recommendations to help the Office of Science and Technology Policy create guidelines to comply with President Obama’s scientific integrity memorandum. This preliminary report, which will be finalized early this summer, aims to separate science and policy in regulatory issues. Their key recommendations are to: 1) identify whether a dispute is over scientific results or policy in regulatory documents, 2) use advisory panels of scientific experts solely for conclusions on science and not for policy recommendations, and 3) not give equal weight to all studies in a field. This is the first report from the BPC “Science for Policy Project.”

16. Arizona Passes Religious Liberties Bill

On May 6, 2009 the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill designed to protect students from discrimination based on religious beliefs or expressions, in the teaching of earth science and biology classes at public schools. The bill states, “if an assignment requires a student’s viewpoint to be expressed in coursework, artwork or other written or oral assignments, a public education institution shall not penalize or reward a student on the basis of religious content or a religious viewpoint. In such an assignment, a student’s academic work that expresses a religious viewpoint shall be evaluated based on ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance to the course curriculum or requirements of the coursework or assignment.” The bill passed with the influence of the conservative non-profit organization Center for Arizona Policy. The bill has now moved on to the Arizona Senate for consideration.

17. NSF Promotes Science with Cool Public Outreach Tools

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is making efforts to bring science to a broader audience through the creative use of burgeoning public outreach tools such as social networking sites, internet blogs, podcasts, and web-based utilities.

One example of what NSF has done can be seen at www.science360.gov, a collection of cool science stories and other information formatted like an iTunes music selection page. Besides this web series, NSF is producing a number of short podcasts highlighting new discoveries and short videos describing different science careers. NSF is also helping to facilitate media interviews and media videos of research. In the near future, NSF hopes to start a 24 hour radio channel, which they hope to air on the satellite radio provider Sirius. NSF is also partnering with NASCAR on a “Science of Speed” series, NBC at the Winter Olympics, US News for their science coverage, and Hollywood to provide scientific consulting in movies.

For more information on NSF’s media programming and partnerships, visit their website.

18. Geoscientists Participate On Capitol Hill

Geoscientists have begun to make their presence known in Washington, DC. The 25 geoscientists participated in the larger effort to stress the importance of federally funded research and development, to advocate for continued funding for the sciences, and to thank members of Congress for their support as part of the 14th Annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (SET-CVD). The participants were well received by the staff, and in several cases, asked to follow up with more information and to serve as a future resource. For more information on the 2009 SET-CVD, visit: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/events/cvd09.html

If you are interested in participating in the future, there will be a congressional visits day specifically for geoscientists September 15-16, 2009. Several geoscience societies, including AGI, AAPG, AGU and GSA, are involved in organizing these events and we expect a large number of geoscientists to participate. Please contact Linda Rowan (rowan@agiweb.org), Director of Government Affairs at AGI, or the public policy office of one of the other geoscience societies for more details and to sign-up.

19. AGI and AIPG Welcome the Summer Interns

AGI and AIPG welcome Stephanie Praus and Rachel Potter to AGI Government Affairs for twelve weeks of intense learning about the intersection of geoscience and policy in the nation’s capital. Stephanie graduated in May from the University of Michigan with a B.S.E. in Earth Systems Science and Engineering, concentrating in climate physics. During college, she studied the feasibility of incorporating the agriculture sector into a California carbon cap and trade market, and the mechanisms communities are using to adapt to climate change. She also worked for the Michigan Environmental Council in 2008, tracking state and federal legislation related to environmental issues. She will be starting at the University of Maryland in the fall to pursue a Master’s of Public Policy, concentrating in environmental policy. Stephanie is originally from Buffalo, New York. 

Rachel received her B.A. in Earth Sciences from Boston University and recently completed her M.S. in Geology from the University of Maryland. Her M.S. research in geochemistry focused on the Bushveld Complex of South Africa, and in June she will present her thesis work at the Goldschmidt conference in Switzerland. Rachel is now devoting her time to understanding geoscience policy in Washington, especially at this time of transition and change in DC.

20. Key Reports and Publications

***Government Accountability Office***
Strategic Petroleum Reserve: Issues Regarding the Inclusion of Refined Petroleum Products as Part of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Released May 12, 2009. Currently the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) does not hold refined products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, or jet fuel. This report discusses some of the arguments for and against including refined products in the SPR and lessons learned from the management of the existing SPR crude oil that may be applicable to refined products.

Global Positioning System: Significant Challenges in Sustaining and Upgrading Widely Used Capabilities Released May 7, 2009. The Air Force is currently modernizing the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to undertake a broad review of GPS. This report discusses how GAO assessed progress in acquiring GPS satellites, acquiring the ground control and user equipment necessary to leverage GPS satellite capabilities, and evaluated coordination among federal agencies and other organizations to ensure GPS missions can be accomplished. 

***National Academy of Sciences***
Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts Released May 21, 2009. This book addresses the importance of non-oil-based liquid fuel options as the U.S. strives to become independent of foreign oil and the questions surrounding their economic viability, carbon impact, and technology status. It discusses the potential costs of liquid fuels from biomass by biochemical conversion and from biomass and coal by thermochemical conversion.

Toward a Sustainable and Secure Water Future: A Leadership Role for the U.S. Geological Survey Prepublication released May 19, 2009. This report commends the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Water Resource Discipline for its past leadership in water science, particularly in light of the increasing number of water resource issues facing the nation. It also calls on the USGS to refocus its vision on critical national water priorities and to integrate its programs within this vision to meet the nation’s needs.

Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report - Extended Summary Released May 15, 2009. This volume addresses the questions of space weather risk assessment and management and follows a workshop that brought together representatives from industry, academia, and government to discuss the current state of the space weather services infrastructure in the U.S. as well as topics that need to be better explored to benefit space weather risk management. 

Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions Released May 15, 2009. This book reviews, updates, and replaces the planetary protection conclusions and recommendations contained in the National Research Council’s 1997 report Mars Sample Return: Issues and Recommendations. Issues addressed in the book include potential for living entities to be included in samples returned from Mars, criteria for intentional sample release, and the potential for large-scale effects on Earth’s environment by any returned entity released to the environment. 

The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative: Complex Systems: Task Group Summaries Released May 7, 2009. This report follows a conference held by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative aimed at breaking down the conceptual and institutional barriers to interdisciplinary research.  It summarizes how interdisciplinary groups tasked with solving a problem approached the challenge, including research needed to understand the science behind the challenge, the proposed plan for engineering the application, and the reasoning that went into it and benefits to society from the solution. 

Oceanography in 2025: Proceedings of a Workshop Released May 7, 2009. This report discusses the “Oceanography in 2025” workshop held by the Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council tasked with exploring the future directions in oceanography over the next 16 years, with an emphasis on physical processes.

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Sustainability Partnerships: Summary of a Workshop Released May 6, 2009. This report summarizes a symposium held in June 2008 to address the need for better dialogue on partnerships for sustainability, and will help leaders in all sectors develop new partnerships in sustainability.

22. Key Federal Register Notices

The Federal Register Notices are available online.

USGS--The U.S. Geological Survey is submitting a new information collection request for the National Coal Resources Data System (NCRDS). To submit a proposal for the NCRDS three standard OMB forms and project narrative must be completed and submitted via Grants.gov. This notice provides the public an opportunity to comment on the paperwork burden of these forms. Comments on this proposed action must be received on or before July 13, 2009. Submit written comments directly to the Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Attention: Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior, via e-mail [OIRA_DOCKET@omb.eop.gov] or fax (202) 395-5806; and identify your submission as 1028-NEW. Also submit a copy of your comments to Phadrea Ponds, USGS Information Collection Clearance Officer; (970) 226-9230 (fax); or pponds@usgs.gov (e-mail). Please reference Information Collection 1028-NEW, NCRDS in the subject line.[Thursday, May 14 (Vol. 74, No. 92)]

OSTP--The President's January 21, 2009, memorandum entitled, Transparency and Open Government, directed the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA), to develop a set of recommendations that will inform an Open Government Directive. This directive will be issued by OMB and will instruct executive departments and agencies on specific actions to implement the principles set forth in the President's memorandum. Members of the public are invited to participate in the process of developing recommendations by offering comments, ideas, and proposals about possible initiatives and about how to increase openness and transparency in government through the White House Web site at http://www.whitehouse.gov/open. Comments must be received by June 19, 2009. Comments can also be submitted by email to opengov@ostp.gov, or mail to Office of Science and Technology Policy, Attn: Open Government Recommendations, 725 17th Street, Washington, DC 20502.[Thursday, May 21 (Vol. 74, No. 97)]

EPA--Under the Clean Air Act, as amended by Sections 201, 202, and 210 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency is required to promulgate regulations implementing changes to the Renewable Fuel Standard program. This action proposes regulations designed to ensure that refiners, blenders, and importers of gasoline and diesel would use enough renewable fuel each year so that the four volume requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act would be met with renewable fuels that also meet the required lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions performance standards. Our proposed rule describes the standards that would apply to these parties and the renewable fuels that would qualify for compliance. Comments on this rule must be received by July 27, 2009. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2005-0161, either online at www.regulations.gov: or by email to asdinfo@epa.gov. EPA will hold a public hearing on June 9, 2009 at the Dupont Hotel in Washington, DC at 10 AM. If you would like to testify at the hearing, contact Julia MacAllister by email at macallister.julia@epa.gov. [Tuesday, May 26 (Vol. 74, No. 99)]

23. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

·  Natural Hazards Policy (5-26-09)
·  Hearings on Energy Policy (5-26-09)
·
  Information on Federal Geoscience Agencies (5-26-09)
·  Hearings on Federal Agencies (5-26-09)
·
  Update: President's FY10 Budget Request for Department of Commerce (5-22-09)
·  Hearings on Climate Change (5-22-09)
·
  Climate Change Policy (5-21-09)
·  Update: President's FY10 Budget Request for NSF (5-19-09)
·  Hearings on FY 2010 Appropriations: EPA (5-18-09)
·
  Special Update: President's FY10 Budget Request (5-15-09)
·
  Hearings on Climate Change (5-13-09)

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Monthly Review prepared by Corina Cerovski-Darriau and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program and Stephanie Praus, AIPG/AGI Summer 2009 Intern.

Sources: Greenwire, Associated Press, Environment and Energy Daily, New York Times, Washington Post, National Academies Press, Government Accountability Office, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House.
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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.

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Posted June 2, 2009.