Monthly Review: June 2006
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.
Almost Finished; Senate Just Beginning
The House has completed 10 of 11 appropriation bills. Among the primary
agencies of interest to the geoscience community, the House bills
would provide the following funding levels: The National Science Foundation
would receive $6.02 billion, $439 million more than last year; the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive
$16.7 billion, $462 million more than last year; the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would receive $3.4 billion,
$512 million less than last year; the United States Geological Survey
(USGS) would receive $986 million, about $15 million more than last
year; and the Department of Energy would receive $24.373 billion,
about $810 million more than last year.
The Senate has just begun to consider their appropriation bills.
The Committee on Appropriations has approved an Energy and Water bill
and an Interior bill, which would provide $24.7 billion for the Department
of Energy and $980 million for the USGS, respectively. The full Senate
has not yet voted on these bills and additional adjustments may be
made in July. Further consideration of these bills and others is tentatively
scheduled for mid-July. Once the House and Senate have completed their
separate bills, they will form conference committees to resolve any
differences, so these funding levels may change.
Given the differences between funding levels being considered by
the two chambers, the likelihood that the budget negotiation process
will extend beyond the November mid-term elections and the importance
of geoscience research and education to critical policy issues of
national interest, there will be additional opportunities for geoscientists
to communicate with policymakers about federal funding for fiscal
year 2007 geoscience programs. Geoscientists and geo-engineers are
encouraged to communicate with policymakers over the next several
months. The Coalition of National Science Funding (CNSF) will organize
congressional visits in September (see item 16 below). In addition,
AGI can help facilitate visits or other communications for members
of the geoscience community over the next several months.
More details about the House action on geoscience-related appropriations
are available at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/issues/alphalist.html#approps
For the complete text and summaries of each bill, please see Thomas:
House Passes Offshore
On June 29, 2006 the House passed the Deep Ocean Energy Resources
Act (DOER, H.R.
4761) by a vote of 232 - 187. This bill would lift the 25 year
moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas off most of the U.S.
coastline. States have the option to maintain the offshore drilling
ban within 100 miles of their coastlines.
Part of the federal revenue generated from offshore drilling royalties
would fund the Energy and Mineral Schools Reinvestment Fund Act (EMSRA).
Funds will be distributed to petroleum, mining, applied geology and
geophysics schools to support education and research and to encourage
the growth of professionals in the energy workforce. Additional funds
would be available for K-12 science education. H.R. 4761 also establishes
the National Geo Fund to fund geologic mapping, geophysical and other
seismic studies, earthquake monitoring programs, and preservation
and use of geologic and geophysical data
House Science Committee
Passes Competitiveness Legislation
On June 7, 2006 the House Science Committee passed three bills to
increase the competitiveness of U.S. research and education. The Early
Career Research Act (H.R.
5356), Research for Competitiveness Act (H.R.
5357), and Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness
Act (H.R. 5358) were introduced to the House on May 11 to increase
the competitiveness of math and science in the U.S. These bills were
included as part of the President's American Competitiveness Initiative
(ACI) outlined in the State of the Union this year. The bills would
provide grants from the Department of Energy and the National Science
Foundation to stimulate innovative and high risk research in the U.S.
Because they are related grant programs, H.R. 5357 was merged into
H.R. 5356 and passed by a voice vote; H.R. 5358 focuses on K-12 teaching
programs and undergraduate science and math education programs and
was passed independently by voice vote. The bills are now ready for
consideration by the full House.
More details about the bills are available at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/innovation.html
The full text and congressional summaries are available at Thomas:
Progress on NOAA Organic
The House Science Committee passed a bill to codify the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into legislation. Commonly
called the NOAA Organic Act, H.R.
5450 defines the agency's mission and management structure in
U.S. law. "It would give this key science agency, which was created
by Executive Order, a firm legal basis for its full range of activities
and responsibilities," remarked Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
(R-NY). Currently, NOAA management structure originates from the original
Executive Order which established the administration.
Three amendments passed during markup of the bill requiring NOAA
to report all foreign contracts, notify Congress of project delays
and rising costs, and report severe weather information to other federal
agencies. An amendment supported by the Democratic members to protect
scientific research and data from censure failed on a party line vote.
Abandoned Hard Rock
Mine Cleanup - 'Good Samaritan' Legislation
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held an oversight
hearing on June 14, 2006 to consider whether potential liability deters
'volunteers' from cleaning up abandoned hard rock mine sites. There
are over 500,000 abandoned hard rock mines in the U.S. - many of them
abandoned long before modern environmental laws were enacted - and
it is estimated that about 20 percent of these mines pose significant
risk to watersheds into which they leach acids and heavy metals.
Support for the proposed 'Good Samaritan' legislation (S.1848,
is split. Senators Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Wayne Allard (R-CO), co-sponsors
of S.1848, argue that the bill would encourage mine cleanup at a level
that could not be funded by the existing Superfund and Brownfield
programs. Volunteers would be exempted from the Clean Water Act -
and other laws that do not allow for partial cleanups - and would
not be held accountable for pollution they did not help create. The
EPA's Administrator, Stephen Johnson, supports passage of the Good
Samaritan bills. He emphasized that because little remediation has
been done in decades at thousands of mines, even incremental or partial
cleanup will have a positive effect on the environment.
In contrast, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was not very enthusiastic
about the Good Samaritan legislation. She believes that the bills
would roll back environmental laws and standards, and may potentially
put communities living near contaminated mines at higher risk. Boxer
pointed out that mechanisms to deal with the cleanup of abandoned
hard rock mines - such as the EPA's Superfund and Brownfield programs
- are already in place. "Why create new legislation and bureaucracy,
when the means to deal with these issues are already in place?"
Others are voicing concern over the ability of volunteers to undertake
complex cleanups. Terry Harwood, the former Executive Director of
the Agriculture Department's Hazardous Materials Policy Council, cautioned
that "the potential for good-intentioned, technically qualified
Good Samaritans to make a discernible impact on this huge problem
is highly questionable." Harwood suggested that the Superfund
program be fully funded, so that the EPA has the ability to properly
do its job. Committee ranking member Jim Jeffords (I-VT) agreed with
Harwood, and suggested that the EPA should also "issue long-overdue
rules to require mining companies to set aside money now for existing
and future cleanups."
Additional information about the Good Samaritan legislation can be
found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/mining_hearings.html
the Brownfields Program
Members of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of the
House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure met on June 8,
2006 to discuss the successes and future challenges of the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) Brownfields Program. Brownfields are former
industrial and commercial sites (such as factories, gas stations or
salvage yards) where property redevelopment may be complicated by
the presence of hazardous substances or other pollutants. In the U.S.
there are estimated to be 450,000 to one million brownfields sites,
which tend to drive down property values and provide little or no
The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act
of 2001 (Public Law 107-118), which authorized the EPA to grant funds
for assessment and cleanup of brownfields and to provide liability
protection, will expire at the end of fiscal year 2006. Although several
concerns were cited, panel members showed general support for the
reauthorization of the brownfields program. Susan Parker Bodine, Assistant
Administrator of the EPA's Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response,
emphasized the program's effectiveness over the past five years. To
date, the program has resulted in the assessment of more than 8,000
properties and has revitalized neighborhoods, created public parks,
and reduced urban sprawl.
However, there are some outstanding issues with the brownfields program.
Terese Manning, the Senior Planner and Brownfields Coordinator for
the South Florida Regional Planning Council, proposed that there be
more flexibility in EPA's grants, including a rolling grant application
process, simplified program requirements, and the availability of
multi-purpose grants that could be used for assessment, cleanup, demolition
and property reuse planning. Manning also emphasized the importance
of increased funding for the program. "EPA only funds approximately
one-third of all applications," she said. "Increased funding,
or even funding at the levels in the current Act will return more
properties to productive use." The brownfields site assessment
and cleanup program is currently authorized at a funding level of
$200 million annually, but appropriations have peaked at only $98
For more information on the EPA Brownfields Program is available
House Soils Caucus
The House Soils Caucus was approved by the House Administration Committee
and is now an official congressional entity. The caucus is chaired
by Congressmen Tom Latham (R-4th IA) and Jim Costa (D-20th CA) and
currently has 17 members. The mission of the House Soils Caucus is
to heighten the awareness of and appreciation for the importance and
role of soils and soil science among policymakers and the public to
promote proper soil management and conservation to ensure the continued
production of high-quality and abundant food, feed and fiber, while
protecting and enhancing the environment and natural resource base
across the nation. The geoscience community is encouraged to invite
other members of Congress to join the Caucus and support soil science
research, education and public outreach. More information about the
House Soils Caucus is available from the Soil Science Society of America.
Supreme Court Rules
on Clean Water; Will Rule on Clean Air Next
On June 19, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of two landowners regarding
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers interpretation of the Clean Water Act. In the joint cases
of Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. U. S. Army Corps
of Engineers, the court reached a 5 to 4 decision requiring the
lower courts to reconsider the definition of "navigable waters"
and whether the federal government has authority over wetlands that
are adjacent to or separated by man-made berms from their tributaries.
The lower courts must now reconsider whether the two landowners can
continue development on their property with or without a permit from
the EPA. The decision, which was very close, did not definitively
resolve the Clean Water Act statute, leaving the government, the public
and the lower courts to continue to grapple with the definition of
"navigable water" and how best to protect wetlands. Chief
Justice John Roberts wrote, "It is unfortunate that no opinion
commands a majority of the Court on precisely how to read Congress'
limits on the reach of the Clean Water Act. Lower courts and regulated
entities will now have to feel their way on a case-by-case basis."
On June 26, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of Massachusetts
v. Environmental Protection Agency. The case involves 12 states,
13 environmental groups, New York City, Baltimore and American Samoa,
who argue that the EPA has the legal authority to regulate carbon
dioxide under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has maintained that carbon
dioxide is not a pollutant and therefore cannot be regulated under
the act. Lower courts have upheld this position and now the Supreme
Court will consider these rulings. A decision is expected next year
and could affect related cases within the court system, most notably
an automakers challenge to California's decision to regulate carbon
dioxide emissions from vehicles. In addition, the Supreme Court's
recent activity in environmental issues may motivate further action
in Congress and the administration. According to a quote in E&E
Daily, Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) offered the following comment
about the Supreme Court's action, "The fact of the matter is
that the court is filling a void caused by the inaction within the
Congress and the administration. It appears the only way to spur greater
U.S. action is through the courts."
Policies for the National
Wildlife Refuge System
On June 20, 2006, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne issued
a three-part policy statement for managing the nation's wildlife refuges.
The "Mission Policy" essentially reiterates language from
the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966 and
implements the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of
1997. It also outlines five goals of the Refuge system, ranging from
conservation to recreational use and education. The "Recreation
Policy" states that, "The over-arching goal of our wildlife-dependent
recreation policy is to enhance wildlife-dependent recreation opportunities
and access to quality visitor experiences on refuges while managing
refuges to conserve fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats."
The "Appropriate Use Policy" states that refuge managers
may use their own discretion in determining whether or not a new or
existing use is appropriate, with the caveat that, "Refuges are
first and foremost national treasures for the conservation of wildlife."
These policies can be read at www.fws.gov.
Foundation Requests Input on Strategic Plan
The National Science Foundation has completed a draft of their strategic
plan for fiscal year 2006-2011 and they are requesting more community
input on the draft. Your comments are requested by July 17, 2006 through
the website at www.nsf.gov/about/performance/input.cfm
or by e-mail to email@example.com
. In particular, NSF requests comments on the following questions
to assist them in finalizing the new plan: (1) What are the strengths
and weaknesses of the draft plan? (2) Does NSF's draft Strategic Plan
effectively communicate NSF's investments and priorities in supporting
the science and engineering community? If not, what is lacking and
specifically how can it be improved?
Report on Climate Change Papers
The National Academy of Sciences issued a report on June 22, 2006
stating that conclusive scientific evidence shows that the climate
of the past several decades is the warmest that the Earth has experienced
in 400 years. Climate data for years before 1600 become increasingly
poor, thus making it impossible to conclude decisively that the Earth
is warmer now than it has been in a millennium.
This report was issued in response to a long-standing conflict that
began with the publication of a 1998 Nature article (392: 779 - 787)
by M.E. Mann et al. The article used a variety of climate proxies
to show an increase in global temperatures over the past 100 to 150
years, a period of time corresponding to global industrialization
and increased emission of anthropogenic CO2. A key graph from the
paper, showing the rise in temperature over time, now referred to
as the "hockey stick" graph because the curve has the shape
of a hockey stick, was used several years later in the 2001 United
Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment
Report. The paper and the assessment gained the attention of prominent
U.S. law-makers, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman
Joseph Barton (R - TX). Congressman Barton drafted letters to the
IPCC, NSF and the authors of the study requesting additional information
about the funding for the research, the methods and conclusions of
the Nature article and about the process by which Dr. Mann's graph
was included in the IPCC report.
In response to Mr. Barton's investigation, House Science Committee
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R - NY) requested the National Academy
of Sciences (NAS) to examine the evidence presented in the Nature
paper and other papers and provide "expert guidance on the current
scientific consensus of the paleoclimate record". The report
found that several lines of evidence show with high confidence that
the past few decades have been warmer than any comparable period in
the past 400 years. Between 900 and 1600 the data is less conclusive,
and beyond that, the report stated, the data is not reliable due to
the scarcity of proxy data. The Academy noted that the collection
of additional climate proxies, especially from the southern hemisphere,
would increase the certainty of climate models.
The NAS report and press release can be found at: http://www.nationalacademies.org/
The Nature article can be accessed at Dr. Mann's website: http://holocene.meteo.psu.edu/Mann/.
Rep. Barton's letters to the IPCC, NSF, Dr. Mann, Dr. Hughes and
Dr. Bradley can be read at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/
House Science Committee coverage of the letters and the NAS report
are available at: http://www.house.gov/science/hot/climate%20dispute/index.htm
of Scientists Issues a Statement on Teaching Evolution
On June 21, 2006, the Inter-academy Panel on International Issues
(IAP) released a statement calling on parents, teachers and politicians
to educate children about scientific methods and information. The
statement, which was signed by 67 major national science academies
(including the US National Academy of Sciences), describes scientific
knowledge as being based on observation and developed through "testable
and refutable" hypotheses. The statement also charges that "within
science courses taught in certain systems of public education, scientific
evidence, data and testable theories about the origins and evolution
of life on Earth are being concealed, denied, or confused with theories
not testable by science." Questions of meaning or purpose, IAP
argues, are beyond the purview of science, and should therefore be
discussed in a social, political or religious context, not in a scientific
one. The press release and full text of the statement, including all
signatories, can be viewed at: http://www.interacademies.net/
on Hurricane Katrina and Insurance Costs
The Congressional Hazards Caucus in association with the Natural
Hazards Center, University of Colorado and the American Sociological
Association held a briefing on lessons learned through social science
studies in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a summary of a new
report from the National Academies on "Facing Hazards and Disasters:
Understanding Human Dimensions" and a new study being initiated
by economists, social scientists and others to understand the motivations
for purchasing or not purchasing natural hazards insurance for residential
More information is available on all three presentations at the following
Natural Hazards Center: http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/
National Academies Study: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11671.html
Insuring and Mitigating Risks of Large-Scale Natural Disasters Study:
Union Issues White Paper on Hurricanes
On June 19, the American Geophysical Union issued a white paper entitled
"Hurricanes and the U.S. Gulf Coast: Science and Sustainable
Rebuilding". The 30-page paper was based on a "Conference
of Experts" convened by AGU on January 11 and 12, 2006. Twenty
scientists with expertise in Gulf Coast issues considered the current
state of research, the application of research to solve problems and
scientific advances needed in the near future to reduce risks and
enhance response, relief and rebuilding. The paper was divided into
7 key areas of concern: hurricanes, storm surge and flooding, subsidence,
climate change, hydrology, infrastructure, and disaster preparedness
An Executive Summary and the full report are available at: http://www.agu.org/report/hurricanes/
of America Will Hold a Drought Forum
The Geological Society of America will hold a conference on drought
entitled "Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments,
Creating a Roadmap for Change in the United States" on September
18-20, 2006 in Longmont, Colorado. The stated goals of the conference
are "to create an integrated, interactive, future-oriented forum
for understanding and improving our management of drought and water
scarcity in the United States and to stimulate national debate through
the publication and wide distribution of a science- and policy-based
discussion document." The abstract deadline was June 26.
More information is available at: http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/06drought/
in September, Please Volunteer
The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) will organize congressional
visits for groups of scientists and engineers to voice a shared message
of greater support for research and education. There will be an orientation
and reception on Tuesday, September 12 and the visits will be scheduled
on Wednesday, September 13. This is an excellent opportunity to speak
with Members of Congress about the value and importance of science
and engineering as well as a chance to meet other scientists, engineers,
policy makers and federal agency officials. Please contact Government
Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Linda Rowan at email@example.com
if you would be interested in participating. The deadline for signing
up for visits is August 18. We need more citizen scientists and citizen
Welcome Our Third
AGI's Government Affairs Program would like to welcome our third
summer intern, Carrie Donnelly. Carrie is a Master's student at the
University of Washington where she conducts research on the uranium-series
chemistry of lava from the ongoing eruption of Mt. St. Helens. During
her stay in Washington, D.C., Carrie will focus on science education
policy, emergency management and other issues.
Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal
regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the
geosciences community. Entries are listed in chronological order and
show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The
Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont06.html.
Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also
available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
DoEd: The Department of Education announces it is accepting applications
for Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Programs. There are
four types of MSEIP projects: institutional, design, special projects,
and cooperative. The deadline for applications is July 24, 2006. Additional
information is available at: http://www.ed.gov/programs/iduesmsi/index.html.
[Federal Register: June 7, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 109)].
NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced
several grants available through the agency to fund a range of research.
Additional information on the grants and deadlines is available at
Register: June 12, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 112)].
NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced
the availability of draft Prospectuses for three of the U.S. Climate
Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Products for
public comment. Comments must be submitted by July 12, 2006. Additional
information is available at http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/default.htm.
[Federal Register: June 12, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 112)].
DOI: The U.S. Geological Survey announced the meeting of the Scientific
Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee, which provides guidance for
the USGS's participation in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction
Program. The meeting will take place on July 6-7, 2006, at the Colorado
School of Mines campus at the Green Center in Golden Colorado. Additional
information is available at http://earthquake.usgs.gov/aboutus/advisory.php.
[Federal Register: June 13, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 113)].
NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced
the availability of the draft Prospectus for "Scenarios of Greenhouse
Gas Emissions and Atmospheric Concentrations and Review of Integrated
Scenario Development and Application", one of the U.S. Climate
Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Products or public
comment. Additional information is available at http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap2-1/default.htm.
Public Comments must be submitted by August 7, 2006. [Federal Register:
June 21, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 119)].
New Updates to
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:
Climate Change Policy (6-30-06)
Hearings on Federal Emergency Response and Science (6-30-06)
Hearings on Global Earth Observations (6-30-06)
Hearings on Nuclear Power Plant Regulations (6-30-06)
Hearings on Energy (6-28-06)
Hearings on Outer Continental Shelf Policy (6-28-06)
FY2007 National Science Foundation Appropriations (6-23-06)
FY2007 Environmental Protection Agency Appropriations (6-22-06)
Hearings on Outer Continental Shelf Policy (6-21-06)
Hurricane Katrina, Response and Recovery (6-21-06)
Ocean Policy (6-21-06)
Hearings on Brownfields (6-21-06)
FY2007 Department of Energy Appropriations (6-21-06)
Hearings on Mining Policy (6-20-06)
Hearings on Global Earth Observations (6-16-06)
Hearings on Brownfields (6-15-06)
Hearings on NASA Programs (6-15-06)
Hearings on Federal Emergency Response and Science (6-13-06)
FY2007 Department of the Interior Appropriations (6-13-06)
Hearings on Wind Hazards (6-12-06)
Hurricane Katrina, Response and Recovery (6-6-06)
Climate Change Policy (6-6-06)
Hearings on Wind Hazards (6-2-06)
Climate Change Policy (6-2-06)
Federal Science Education Policy (6-2-06)
Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs,
Carrie Donnelly, Jessica Rowland and Tim Donahue, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer
Sources: Natural Hazards Center web site, Thomas, United States
Senate web sites, United States House of Representatives web sites,
Washington Post, E&E News, Congressional Quarterly, AGU web site,
GSA web site and the Federal Register.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted July 3, 2006.