Monthly Review: June 2005
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.
Senate Passes Energy Bill With Climate Change Language
After an exhausting two-week mark-up, the full Senate overwhelmingly passed bipartisan energy legislation by a vote of 85-12 on June 28, 2005. The final legislation included several new attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and foreign oil dependency that were not passed in the House energy bill. However, according to coverage in the media, White House and Senate officials have acknowledged that the legislation will not bring consumers any short-term relief from high gas prices.
Compared to the House energy bill passed in April, the Senate bill includes a higher, 8 billion gallon mandate on annual ethanol production; a first-ever national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that would mandate 10% renewable energy production by 2020, and an inventory of offshore continental shelf (OCS) energy resources. The $10.65 billion tax package attached to the Senate bill also provides greater incentives for efficient and renewable energy technologies than its counterpart in the House.
Climate change dominated the debate for much of the mark-up's second week. Although two amendments to establish mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions failed to attract the necessary support, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by Chuck Hagel (R-NE) to provide financial incentives for the development of new emission-reducing technology. Also approved was a "sense of the Senate" resolution, which will put on the congressional record for the first time that the Senate acknowledges greenhouse gas emissions are contributing to global warming. Earlier this year, the House voted down a similar "sense of Congress" resolution regarding climate change.
After Congress returns from 4th of July recess, the two houses will have their work cut out for them as they convene a conference committee to begin the process of reconciling the two bills. President Bush has said he wants an energy bill on his desk by August.
For more about the Senate climate debates, visit AGI's Climate Change Policy site.
For a full AGI summary of the energy bill, visit AGI's Energy
The House has completed and passed all 10 of its appropriations bills as of June 28, 2005, coming in just in time to meet the July 4th deadline set by Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Although the Senate Appropriations Committee completed and passed all 12 of its appropriations bills as of June 30th, the full Senate has only passed the Interior and Environment and the Energy and Water Appropriations bills. Of the bills relevant to the AGI community, the full Senate must still consider and pass funding for the Department of Commerce (NOAA and NIST), NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Department of Education.
So far, the House and Senate have each added several major changes to the President's federal science budget, although many of these changes are different between the two houses. On June 30th, the Senate passed a spending bill for the Department of Energy and the Army Corps of Engineers that exceeded the President's request and the House recommendation by $1.5 billion. Within the Department of Energy (DOE), the Senate gave substantial increases, over current funding levels to DOE's Office of Science, Environmental Management Program, and Nuclear Non-Proliferation programs.
For the Department of the Interior and the EPA, the House and Senate recommended the same overall budget total, but the Senate restored funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The House and Senate restored funding for the USGS Mineral Resources Program and Water Research Institutes. Overall, the Senate bill funds the USGS at $963 million, $10 million below the House recommendation and $29 million over the President's budget request.
During the House mark-up of the Science, State, Justice and Commerce spending bill, NOAA suffered a severe $546 million (8.5%) cut from fiscal year 2005 funding levels, $202 million below the President's request. This cut includes a 40% reduction in funding for the National Ocean Service. The House Appropriations Committee left little explanation for the deep cuts in its report. However, some amendments to shift funds away from NOAA were the result of funding priorities in the departments of Justice and State. NASA and the NSF both received small increases over the President's request.
The Senate Appropriations Committee recommended a budget for NOAA that is $1 billion greater than that proposed by the House. Accompanying this increase, the Senate committee expressed strong criticism of the Administration's and the House's science priorities in the bill report, which states: "The Committee fails to understand why science dedicated to understanding this planet and its oceans and atmosphere is less important than science dedicated to the understanding of other planets." Indeed, the committee also denied some of the Administration's proposed increases for NASA's exploration program, recommending a $160 cut to Exploration Capabilities, with $100 million of those funds transferred to Science and Aeronautics programs. As for the NSF, the Senate committee recommended $112 million less than the House bill overall.
These and other discrepancies between the House and Senate bills will likely complicate a reconciliation process that has already been made difficult by the presence of the State Department budget in the House version. Thus it could be an unpredictable July for appropriations followed by a heated September, when meeting the deadline for completing the budget process could be delayed or overshadowed by President Bush's first Supreme Court judicial nomination (Some political analysts have suggested that a nomination for a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor may not be announced until September).
Full summaries of appropriations for each agency can be accessed from AGI's Government Affairs website.
The Coalition for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education has been hard at work in recent months gathering increased support for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which the Bush Administration proposed to fund below fiscal year 2004 levels for the second year in a row. On May 24, 2005, the coalition sent a letter to National Science Board (NSB) Chairman Warren Washington, urging the Board "to use its considerable influence and prestige by writing a letter to Congress and the President in support of the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate," which received some of the deepest cuts in the President's budget proposal. The letter suggests that the Board establish "a blue-ribbon panel of business, research and STEM education experts" to inform members of Congress and other government officials about the nation's needs and priorities regarding science education. The coalition further advocates that funding for NSF education programs should be restored without jeopardizing any of the other NSF research programs. As a member of the STEM Education Coalition, the American Geological Institute signed the coalition's letter, a copy of which was also sent to NSF Director Arden Bement.
The coalition's letter helped add momentum to NSB's plans to request additional support for science education in the fiscal year 2006 appropriations now moving through Congress. The coalition's and NSB's efforts paid off in June, when Senate appropriators attached instructions to form a commission along with their budget recommendations for NSF. The budget included slight increases for science and engineering education (relative to both the President's request and the House bill, but still below FY2004 levels). In the report that accompanies the spending bill for Science, State, Justice and Commerce, the Senate committee instructs the NSF "to provide an interim report by September 30, 2005, on the establishment of the commission, and to report the commission's findings and recommendations to the Committee at the conclusion of the commission's work."
More information about funding for research and education at NSF
is available from the Government Affairs Program NSF
The American Geophysical Union issued a position statement entitled ""NASA: Earth and Space Sciences at Risk." on June 7, 2005. The statement raises concerns about funding for Earth science missions when NASA is beginning to focus on human exploration to the Moon and mars based on President Bush's "Vision for Space Exploration". The statement cautions that Earth and space science may be declining in priority at NASA and are being "threatened by new financial demands placed on NASA by the return to human space flight using the space shuttle, finishing the space station, and launching the Moon-Mars initiatives." AGU calls for "the U.S. Administration, Congress, and NASA to continue their commitment to innovative Earth and space science programs."
In a press conference at AGU Headquarters, the chairman of the statement panel, Eric Barron, a researcher at Pennsylvania State University, indicated that fiscal year 2006 budget documents show that NASA proposes to spend slightly more than $30 billion over fiscal years 2006 to 2010 for the Science Missions directorate, a reduction of more than $1 billion compared to previous projections for the same time period.
In recent weeks, the House and the Senate have begun work on a reauthorization act for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Passed by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on June 23, 2005, the NASA Reauthorization Act of 2005 establishes a congressional mandate for NASA to carry out the President's Vision for Space Exploration while maintaining an appropriate and sustainable balance of funding for human space flight, aeronautics, and science programs for fiscal years 2006 through 2010. One major priority of both bills is to close the expected four-year gap in human space flight capability after the space shuttle is retired in 2010. The Senate version also requires that the U.S. maintain its leadership in the completion and servicing of the International Space Station (ISS), and designates the U.S. segment of the ISS a national laboratory.
In order to maintain healthy Earth science and aeronautics programs, both bills also encourage cooperation with entrepreneurs and other agencies as they direct NASA to develop a national aeronautics policy as well as a plan for Earth science mission priorities. The latter would be based on the findings of the interim report on Earth Observations and Applications From Space by the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council, which concluded that federal Earth science programs may be threatened by recent changes in executive policy and federal budget support, particularly at NASA.
Read more about the NASA Reauthorization Act at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/nasa.html.
Charles "Chip" Groat resigned as director of the U.S. Geological Survey, effective as of June 17, 2005. Secretary of the Interior, Gale Norton, wrote in a press release "I cannot overstate your positive impact on the USGS and its contributions to science excellence and leadership under your stewardship," she said. "You have worked successfully to ensure that the USGS's scientific capabilities are effectively applied to supporting important decisions regarding resource and environmental management and policy. You have substantially increased the USGS's interactions with organizations that use science in decisionmaking, and especially those within the Department of the Interior, to ensure the relevance of the USGS's work to their needs."
Chip Groat was the 13th Director of the USGS and started his 7 year tenure in 1998. Before his appointment as USGS Director, Dr. Groat served (1998-95) as Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Projects at the University of Texas at El Paso, Director of the Center for Environmental Resource management, Director of the Environmental Science and Engineering Ph.D. Program and a Professor of Geological Sciences. He served as Executive Director (1992-95) at the Center for Coastal, Energy, and Environmental Resources at Louisiana State University and Executive Director (1990-92) for the American Geological Institute. He served (1983-88) as Assistant to the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, where he administered the Coastal Zone Management Program and the Coastal Protection Program. He held positions (1978-90) at Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, which included serving as professor for the Department of Geology and Geophysics, and as Director and State Geologist for the Louisiana Geological Survey. Before that he served as Associate Director and Acting Director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin and he started his career as an associate professor of geology at the university. Chip will return to the University of Texas at Austin to become the first director of their new Energy and Environmental Policy Institute.
Dr. P. Patrick Leahy was named the acting director of the USGS on
June 13, 2005. Leahy has spent his entire professional career at the
USGS and was the associate director for Geology, responsible for federal
Earth-science programs, including worldwide earthquake hazards monitoring
and research, geologic mapping of land and seafloor resources, volcano
and landslide hazards, and assessments of energy and mineral resources.
He was also responsible for all USGS international activities.
On June 7, 2005, the Bush administration in coordination with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the proposed National Offshore Aquaculture Act of 2005. The proposed bill would grant the Secretary of Commerce new authority to issue permits for offshore aquaculture in federal ocean waters while providing environmental and other safeguards to protect wild stocks, marine ecosystems, and other users. The Act, which does not supersede existing authorities, specifically provides for coordination and consultation with other federal agencies, Fishery Management Councils, and coastal states. The proposed bill is based on the September 2004 final report of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, "An Ocean Blueprint for the 21st Century."
Commerical aquaculture is currently limited to near-shore waters and permitted by coastal states. There are 3 experimental aquaculture facilities in deeper offshore waters near New Hampshire, Maine and Hawaii. The proposed act would allow areas in the United States Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends up to 200 miles offshore, to be leased for 10 year periods. The plan is to increase domestic fish farms five-fold by 2025 and decrease the nation's dependence on fish imports (currently about 70% of the seafood supply is imported and 40% of that is from fish farms).
The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Ted Stevens
(R-AK), is expected to introduce the aquaculture legislation as a
courtesy to the administration. He told Energy and Environment Daily
(E&E Daily) that he may include options for states to opt out
of the program. E&E Daily also noted some opposition to the proposed
bill from Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA) and Lois Capps (D-CA), who
believe that NOAA needs to conduct more research and an environmental
impact study before it pushes development of aquaculture any further.
Outside experts were cautious in their responses to Marion Burros, a New York Times reporter in a June 6 news story: "Fisheries are a collapsing industry, and even though aquaculture comes with a lot of baggage, it is absolutely the future of seafood production," said Daniel Benetti, chairman of marine affairs and policy at the University of Miami.
"I believe aquaculture is incredibly important," said Jane Lubchenco, an Oregon State zoology professor "Now is the time to make sure it grows in a way that is good for human health and the environment. I would like to see the right kinds of checks and balances before we launch into this massive offshore experiment and it is too late."
The American Ground Water Trust's program "Ground Water Institute for Teachers", educates teachers about ground water and hydrology in 2-day training sessions. For the past 5 years the program has taught 790 teachers at 31 ground water Institutes in 17 states. Now the American Ground Water Trust is teaming up with the U.S. Geological Survey to develop consistent teaching tools and to set-up an Institute in every state.
All Institute participants will receive a package of USGS educational materials and publications that highlight the latest science and research technologies used to address water-resource issues and management practices. Local USGS scientists will participate in each program by leading field trips, presenting their research, assisting in planning, and providing materials.
The first of the 2005 Institutes was held on June 9-10 at the USGS Florida Integrated Science Center (FISC) in St. Petersburg, Florida. Additional Institutes will be scheduled in: Miami and Gainesville, Florida; Fresno, CA; Branchville, NJ; Denver, CO; Lowell, MA; Allentown, PA; San Antonio, TX; and Claremont, CA.
A Freedom to Read Amendment to the Commerce, Justice, State (CJS) Appropriations Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives was approved on June 15, 2005 by a vote of 238-187. The amendment cuts Justice Department funds for bookstore and library searches allowed under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The amendment would prohibit officers from using federal money to gain access to library circulation records, library patron lists, book-sales records, or book-customer lists. The amendment has broad support from librarians and book sellers, including the American Library Association and American Booksellers Association. The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Bernard Sanders (I-VT), who previously tried to pass a bill with very similar language, H.R. 1157, in 2003. The House appropriations bill must be reconciled with the Senate appropriations bill, which does not contain the same amendment, during conference committee meetings. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill, including an appropriations bill that weakens the USA Patriot Act. The USA Patriot Act also has several amendments and components that must be re-authorized by the end of this year.
A study published in Nature on June 8, 2005, presents a survey of more than 3,000 scientists that reveals a significant number of scientists are behaving in ways that could compromise the integrity of research. According to the article, about a third of participants in the survey admitted that they had taken part in actions such as ignoring others' use of incorrect data, omitting presentations of data contradicting one's own work, and actively working around minor requirements of human-subject research. The data suggests that many scientists perceive inequities in science in terms of obtaining grants, publishing papers, and earning promotions, and the researchers found a correlation between scientists who perceived injustice in the system and those who admitted to misbehaving.
Canada has renewed its commitment to providing access to high-quality maps, satellite images and related data and technologies. The Government has allocated funding of CA$60 million in fiscal year 2005 for a second, five-year phase of GeoConnections, a national partnership initiative led by the Natural Resources of Canada (NRCan) to make Canada's geospatial databases, applications and services readily accessible on-line.
GeoConnections has developed the policies, standards, technologies and partnerships needed to build the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI). CGDI is a national database of aerial photos, satellite images, and maps intended for political and economic decision-making. Now that the CGDI is developed the program will focus on public health, public safety, environment and sustainable development and Aboriginal issues.
According to a GeoConnections press release, the Bush administration has identified a need for accurate joint geospatial data to address concerns of border security and terrorism. The United States Geological Survey's (USGS) Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) is currently working with the GeoConnections Framework Data Node to build "separate, but compatible" National Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI) that contribute to the Global Spatial Data Infrastructure (GSDI). This program is funded at about $4 million annually. In the United States, two other federally-led programs, Geospatial One-Stop and the USGS National Map, share the common goal of building the NSDI.
More information is available on the Federal
Geographic Data Committee website.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) unveiled
a new website
regarding the teaching of evolution in science classrooms. The site
provides materials, tools and links to help the website visitor to
understand the issues and respond to questions and concerns about
the subject of evolution. AAAS has also developed a question and answer
(Q&A) brief about "Evolution
and Intelligent Design".
On June 7, 2005 academies of science from leading nations issued a first-ever joint statement urging their countries' leaders to take prompt action and commit to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Issued by the science academies of Britain, France, Russia, Germany, United States, Japan, Italy, and Canada, the statement was released ahead of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, at which climate change will be a major agenda item because the current G8 President, British Prime Minister Tony Blair believes the issue is very important and should be on their agenda.
Also signing onto the statement were the academies of Brazil, China, and India, which are not members of the G8. "It is clear that world leaders, including the G8, can no longer use uncertainty about aspects of climate change as an excuse for not taking urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions," said Robert May, president of the Royal Society. "The scientific evidence forcefully points to a need for a truly international effort. Make no mistake, we have to act now. And the longer we procrastinate, the more difficult the task of tackling climate change becomes."
May said that the current U.S. policy on climate change was misguided. "The Bush administration has consistently refused to accept the advice of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Getting the U.S. onboard is critical because of the sheer amount of greenhouse gas emissions they are responsible for." In the joint statement, the academies urge the G8 nations to find cost-effective steps that can be taken immediately toward substantial and long-term reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. The academies also urge the G8 nations to find cost-effective steps that can be taken immediately toward substantial and long-term reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.
The statement called on G8 leaders and others to: (1) Acknowledge that the threat of climate change is clear and increasing. (2) Launch an international study to help set emission targets to avoid unacceptable impacts. (3) Identify cost-effective steps that can be taken now to contribute to substantial and long-term reduction in net global greenhouse gas emissions. (4) Work with developing nations to build their scientific and technological capacity. (5) Take a lead in developing and deploying clean energy technologies. (6) Mobilize the science and technology community to enhance research and development.
Full text of the statement is available online in pdf form at http://nationalacademies.org/onpi/06072005.pdf.
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) will hold a workshop on Climate Science in Support of Decision making on November 14-16, 2005, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. The workshop will explore uses of observations, modeling, studies of climate and related environmental processes, and derived tools to inform decision making.
The CCSP invites presentations by users of climate science as well as members of the research community on topics related to the following major themes of the workshop, water, ecosystems, coastal issues and energy. Current information about the workshop is available on the CCSP website.
Those interested in giving a presentation should submit an abstract
using the web-based submission process. The deadline for submitting
abstracts is July 30, 2005.
On June 23, 2005, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the results of an investigation into the collapse of New York City's World Trade Center (WTC) towers on September 11, 2001. NIST released 30 recommendations for public comment, contained in 43 draft reports that call for changes to building and fire safety codes, standards and practices. The investigation was conducted through the Federal Emergency Management Agency with funding appropriated by Congress in 2002.
At a press conference in New York City, NIST Acting Director Dr. Hratch Semerjian remarked, "We expect that the focus on what the nation needs to do to improve safety for buildings, occupants and first responders will grow sharper as a result of the work we have done. NIST will not be satisfied until then, and until improvements are made." WTC Lead Investigator Shyam Sunder asked local and state agencies to adopt the recommendations. "The recommendations also should lead to safer and more effective building evacuations and emergency responses. However, improvements will only be realized if they are acted upon by the appropriate organizations," said Sunder.
USGS scientists conducted a separate study in 2002 using spectroscopic analysis of the fires, soot and dust generated by the collapse of the towers to determine the amount of asbestos in the environment.
NIST will hold a conference on September 13-15, 2005, at its headquarters in Gaithersburg, Maryland to discuss the recommendations from the report. Details on this conference and registration information are available at http://wtc.nist.gov/.
The full report is available online at http://wtc.nist.gov/.
The Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction of the President's National Science and Technology Council has released their report "Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction". The report provides a 10 year plan to reduce the damage from disasters through science and technology. Their 6 challenges are: (1) Provide hazard and disaster information where and when it is needed. (2) Understand the natural processes that produce hazards. (3) Develop hazard mitigation strategies and technologies. (4) Recognize and reduce vulnerability of interdependent critical infrastructure. (5) Assess disaster resilience using standard methods and (6) Promote risk-wise behavior.
The full report is available at: http://sdr.gov/
The Geological Society of America (GSA) and the Geological Association of Canada (GAC) will co-host a meeting titled "Earth System Processes 2" on August 8-11 at the Westin Hotel in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. "ESP2" will be a sequel to the Earth System Processes meeting held in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2001.
NASA's Astrobiology Institute and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, and the European Geosciences Union will support plenary sessions, field trips, and special events. Sessions will focus on dynamic Earth systems and human influences on the oceans, atmosphere, biota, and geology over time.
For more information, please go to the GSA website.
John Vermylen arrived at AGI one month ago, on June 6th. He is the third and final AGI/AIPG Intern, and promises to make important contributions to the Government Affairs Program this summer. In May, John earned his Bachelor's in geology from Princeton University, and this coming fall, he will head right back to school to pursue a PhD in Geophysics from Stanford University. John has a strong interest in carbon sequestration research, and he will continue to follow developments in national energy policy as well as natural hazards and mining legislation for the Government Affairs Program through August.
Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community. Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available on the U.S. Government Printing Office webpage. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
BLM: The Bureau of Land Management has started to solicit nominations to lease land for the demonstration of oil shale recovery technologies in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. The announcement initiates the agency's Oil Shale Research, Development and Demonstration (R, D & D) Program, which intends to encourage private sector development of Green River Formation oil shales. Nominations for leases can be made June 9, 2005 through September 7, 2005, and sent to the appropriate BLM state director. [Federal Register: June 9, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 110)]
EPA: In 2007, a new testing program will be initiated for engine manufacturers. The program requires exhaust emissions to be measured from diesel engines using a portable emissions measurement system. For the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency will be receiving emissions data acquired from regularly used engines. Also, the EPA will be able to evaluate the data and ensure that the emissions comply with requirements. The ruling is a result of an agreement between the EPA and the Engine Manufacturers Association to improve air quality by ensuring that more stringent emission can be realized under current driving conditions. This rule will become effective on August 15. [Federal Register: June 14, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 113)]
FERC: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decided to amend current
regulations to require public utility companies to add large wind
generation operations to interconnection procedures. The wind operations
will be subject to technical requirements as well as open access transmission
tariffs (OATTs) standard procedures. The final rule will become effective
on August 15. [Federal Register: June 16, 2005 (Volume 70, Number
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly update:
Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs, Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff, Anne Smart, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Amanda Schneck, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, and John Vermylen, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.
Sources: The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Nature, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Groundwater Trust, National Institute for Standards and Technology, Federal Geographic Data Committee website, American Institute of Physics, American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, U.S. Geological Survey, Congressional Quarterly, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, The National Academies, Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction, Hearing Testimony, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, The Federal Register.
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Posted July 6, 2005.