Monthly Review: June 2007

This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

1. "Faces of Earth" Film Series to Air on July 23
2. House and Senate Complete Work on Interior Appropriations
3. House and Senate Continue Work on Science Appropriations
4. House Working on Energy Appropriations
5. Senate Stalled on Energy Appropriations
6. Senate Passes Energy Efficiency Bill
7. House Announces Energy Independence Initiative
8. House Resources Committee Passes Ocean Exploration Bills
9. New Director at Office of Management and Budget: Nussle Will Replace Portman
10. EPA Delays Decision on California's Stricter Auto Emission Standards
11. National Academies Releases Its Future of Coal Report
12. Army Corps Releases Flood Map of New Orleans
13. Soil Science Society Opposes Mandatory Open Access
14. Geoscientists Highlight the "Thrill to Drill" for Congress
15. Geoscience Societies Focus on Natural Hazards in Congressional Briefings
16. Request for Scientists to Help Clergy with Evolution and Other Science Questions
17. Request for Volcanologist to Narrate a Volcano Documentary
18. Key Federal Register Notices
19. New Updates to the Website

1. "Faces of Earth" Film Series to Air on July 23

The "Faces of Earth" film series, produced by AGI, will air on July 23 on the Discovery Science Channel. The four-part series explores the whole Earth through interviews with geoscientists, jaw-dropping aerial landscapes and some very cool graphics. Please tune in and encourage friends and family to join you. More details are available at

2. House and Senate Complete Work on Interior Appropriations

Interior appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2008 have been approved in the House and will be voted on by full Senate in July. Below is a summary of funding for geoscience-related agencies based on the bills and committee reports, which are available from Thomas.

The House would appropriate $8.08 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), $2.05 billion for the National Park Service (NPS), $154 million for the Minerals Management Service (MMS) and about $1.033 billion for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). In total, the House bill (H.R. 2643) would appropriate $27.6 billion, an increase of 4.5 percent over FY 2007, and an increase of 7.6 percent over President Bush's fiscal 2008 request. Much of the additional spending proposed by the House would be for climate change research, water resource development, sewage and wastewater treatment and brownfields remediation.

The House appropriation for the USGS would be nearly $58 million above the President's request, and $50 million above FY 2007 levels. This would be the first time USGS funding exceeded $1 billion, and would include $223 million for water resource investigations, $250 million for geologic hazards, resources, and processes ($27 million above the budget request and nearly $13 million above FY 2007 levels), $80 million for geographic research and remote sensing ($5 million above the budget request, yet $235,000 below FY 2007 levels), $187 million for biological research, $69 million for science support and $101 million for facilities. The recommendation also includes $2 million for the National Cooperative Geographic Information System Mapping program ($1 million more than the FY 2007 enacted level), $3 million for geographic analysis and monitoring activity to enhance the integrated Multi-Hazards Initiative, and $24 million to fully fund the request for the Landsat Data Continuity Mission. The House would restore cuts requested by the Administration for water and minerals programs. The Mineral Resources Program would receive $51 million ($21 million more than the request and about $2 million below the FY 2007 enacted level). Among the water programs, the House would provide the following increases above the President's request: an increase of $2.7 million for the National Streamflow Information Program, an increase of $1 million for hydrologic research and development; $964,000 for the cooperative water program; and an increase of $6.4 million for the Water Resources Research Act program to bring its funding back to the FY 2006 level. Other changes compared with FY 2007 include increases of $4 million for the earthquake multi-hazards program, increases of $500,000 each for the volcano and global seismographic network programs, and a $1 million increase for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program. There was also a $10 million increase to fund research related to global climate change.

House appropriations for Interior and Energy and Water were delayed in June because both bills were initially considered and approved by their respective subcommittees without any earmarks included. After some debate, the House decided that these bills and all other appropriations should include all earmarks from the beginning to allow for appropriate consideration and debate. Thus the Interior bill and the Energy and Water bill had to go back to their respective subcommittees for amendment and reconsideration of earmarks. The Interior subcommittee was able to add their earmarks and still get the legislation approved by the full House by a vote of 272-155 on June 27. The subcommittee, as required by new House rules provided a list of all of the earmarks and their authors.

The Senate's FY 2008 Interior appropriations bill (S. 1696), was introduced on June 26, 2007. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies has recommended a budget, which will now move to full Committee markup. The bill would establish a budget of $2.46 billion for the NPS, including a $196 million increase for the agency's operations budget. The Fish and Wildlife Service would receive $1.38 billion, the Office of Surface Mining $174 million, and the Forest Service $4.55 billion. In one contentious area, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted 15-14 to remove a provision from the bill that sought to force oil and gas companies to renegotiate offshore leases instituted without price thresholds. At issue are 1998 and 1999 deep water leases that allow royalty waivers regardless of oil and gas prices, which could cost the Treasury an estimated $10 billion in lost royalties, according to the MMS.

The Senate appropriation for the USGS would be $1.01 billion, an increase of $27 million over FY 2007 and $35 million above the President's budget request. This would include $78 million for geographic research, investigations and remote sensing and $243 million for geologic hazards, resources and processes. The USGS funding includes $40 million for satellite operations, $68 million for science support activities, and $101 million for facilities, as proposed in the budget request. The subcommittee also recommended $224 million for water resource investigations, an increase of more than $11 million above the request, including $6 million for the Water Resources Research Institutes, a program that was proposed for elimination, and $2 million to restore the proposed budget reduction to the cooperative water program. The subcommittee also restored $21 million to the Minerals Resources Program, which the Administration wanted to cut.

In keeping with the 110th Congress's interest in reducing the number of earmarks and making all proposed earmarks transparent, the Senate subcommittee listed the senator's name in parentheses in their report for any specific funding requests.

The texts of the House and Senate bills are available from Thomas here and here.

3. House and Senate Continue Work on Science Appropriations

As of June 25, 2007, the House and Senate Subcommittees on Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations have individually agreed upon numbers for the fiscal year (FY) 2008 appropriations for the National Science Foundation (NSF). While many spending specifics have not been released, overall funding levels have been proposed.

The House CJS Subcommittee would give the NSF a total budget in FY 2008 of $6.509 billion, $80 million more than the President's request. All of the accounts within NSF would receive increases. Those accounts with the largest increases included the Education and Human Resources account, with a 17.9% increase and the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, with a 28.2% increase over FY 2007.

The Senate Subcommittee would provide $6.553 billion to NSF for FY 2008, an additional $44 million over the House numbers.

The House and Senate have also completed their respective versions of the NSF re-authorization. The House bill, H.R. 1867, would provide 7% to almost 10% increases for NSF's total budget for fiscal years 2008 through 2010, such that the NSF budget in fiscal 2010 would be $7.493 billion. The Senate bill, S.761, would support even larger increases of about 15% to the NSF budget in fiscal years 2008 through 2011. The proposed annual budget of NSF would grow to $10.234 billion in fiscal 2011. Congress now has to select a conference committee to iron out differences between the bills and then bring the compromised bill back to both chambers for their consideration.

The full text of the re-authorization bills can be found on Thomas here and here.

4. House Working on Energy Appropriations

On June 11, 2007, H.R. 2641, the "Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2008", was introduced in the House. The bill would make appropriations for fiscal year 2008 for the Department of Energy (DOE), the Army Corps of Engineers, and various other agencies.

DOE would receive a budget for fiscal 2008 of $25.2 billion, an increase of 2.8% over the fiscal 2007 budget and $480 million more than the President's request. Except for an increase for the Office of Science, the House bill reflects different priorities than the Administration. In particular, the House Energy Appropriations Subcommittee was concerned about the amount of spending by the Administration for nuclear energy research and the lack of funding for other alternative energy resources. The House would provide $44.2 million for geothermal development "to be competitively awarded to industry, universities and national laboratories for exploration, drilling and conversion technologies" whereas the Administration provided no funding for geothermal in its request. The House would also provide $22 million for hydropower research and development, whereas the President requested no funds for such research. The House also would provide increases for wind, solar and other alternative energy resources research and development, while cutting funding for several nuclear energy research and development initiatives requested by the Administration.

The Office of Science would receive a large increase of about 16% over fiscal 2007, which is the same as the President's request. The proposed increases are consistent with policy makers' efforts to double physical science research funding over 5 to 10 years to help maintain the nation's innovative spirit and technological competitiveness in the global marketplace.

The Office of Fossil Energy would receive increases relative to the President's request for a liquefied natural gas safety study, innovations at existing power plants, carbon sequestration demonstration projects, research on methane hydrates and fuel cells and for carbon sequestration research. The committee provided no funding for oil and gas research and development, but noted that the Energy Policy Act of 2005 calls for $50 million "of mandatory receipts for oil and gas technologies, which will fund oil and gas research and development".

The bill will be considered further by the House after the July 4th recess.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas here.

5. Senate Stalled on Energy Appropriations

Just hours before the July 4th recess, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. The committee would boost funding for the Energy Department to about $25.9 billion, which is $1.1 billion more than the President's request and $600 million more than the House appropriations. Like the House, the Senate committee would provide more funding for renewable energy and efficiency programs while cutting funding for some of the Administration's favored initiatives in nuclear energy and for FutureGen. Congressional priorities for nuclear energy and nuclear waste are different from the Administration, but also different between the two chambers, suggesting some potential contentiousness and bottlenecks when the two chambers conference to iron out their differences. The Senate bill, like the House bill, would also restore funding cuts requested by the Administration for geothermal and oil and gas. Specifically, the Senate provides for $25 million for geothermal research, $10 million for an oil technology program, $15 million for methane hydrates and $5 million for natural gas technology.

One particularly controversial amendment to the bill, however, may stall its approval by the full Senate. Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) offered an amendment with the support of Subcommittee Chair, Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) which would provide $10 million for seismic analysis to assess the amount of oil and gas beneath federal waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where development is largely off-limits. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and other senators are strongly opposed to such analysis because they are concerned it might lead to a lifting of the moratoria on offshore oil and gas development. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chair of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, also opposed the amendment because the seismic analysis should be within the Interior Department's jurisdiction, not the Energy Department's.

6. Senate Passes Energy Efficiency Bill

Late on June 21, 2007, the Senate passed H.R. 6, the "Renewable Fuels, Consumer Protection, and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007." The bill is designed to expand usage of renewable fuels and to increase the fuel efficiency of automobiles for the first time in 18 years. The bill passed by a vote of 65 to 27, and requires that by 2022 the United States produce 36 billion gallons a year of ethanol for motor vehicle use, and boosts corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards by 40 percent, to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. For the first time, sport utility vehicles, vans and pickup trucks would be included in the CAFE standards.

The bill includes wording to improve household appliance and lighting efficiency standards and increase the use of efficient lighting in public buildings - arenas in which the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third Summary report suggested immediate energy-saving benefits could be felt. The measure also gives the federal government authority to investigate oil industry market manipulation and outlaws "unconscionably excessive" price gouging for oil products.

"This bill starts America on a path toward reducing our reliance on oil," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Dissenters lamented that the bill did not include increased production of domestic oil and gas, which they said is necessary to reduce dependence on foreign supplies. Some senators have called for opening more of the Outer Continental Shelf on the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration.

Although the majority of Democrats voted for the bill, four voted against it, notably Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow from Michigan, who sought to protect domestic car companies. Republicans were split on the bill, and forced the removal of a provision that would have established $29 billion in additional taxes on oil companies to pay for new alternative energy subsidies. Republicans also removed wording that would have required utility companies to produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources. Both sides say there is much more to be done in energy legislation.

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced an amendment to the bill titled the "Thor Kiilsgaard Memorial Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 2007,'' which would allocate $64 million for each of fiscal years 2007 through 2016 for geologic mapping purposes. The amendment mentions that "no modern, digital, geologic map exists for approximately 75 percent of the United States." The amendment was not approved and so geologic mapping is not included in this legislation.

The House of Representatives has yet to vote on multiple energy bills that have been approved by at least 10 separate committees. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has announced plans for the House to move forward on these energy bills in July. See the next summary for more information about some of the House energy bills.
The full text of the Senate energy legislation is available here.

7. House Announces Energy Independence Initiative

On June 28, 2007, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced an Energy Independence Initiative in what her press release called the "New Direction Congress". The press release describes 21 energy-related bills passed by 10 House committees plus energy-related measures in several appropriation bills. The purpose of the legislation, which Speaker Pelosi hopes to pass in July, is "to achieve energy independence, strengthen national security, grow our economy and create new jobs, lower energy prices, and begin to address global warming."

Many of the bills deal with improving energy efficiency standards and providing tax incentives for alternative energy. Of particular interest to the Earth science community are the seven energy-related bills passed by the Science and Technology Committee and the energy-reform bill passed by the Natural Resources Committee.

The "Energy Policy Reform and Revitalization Act of 2007" (H.R. 2337) passed by the Natural Resources Committee would repeal many aspects of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and also authorize the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct a nationwide assessment of geologic formations capable of sequestering carbon dioxide. The Senate is considering a related bill (S. 1321) to direct the USGS to survey geologic formations for carbon capture and enhance the carbon capture research and development portfolio of the Energy Department.

The House Science and Technology Committee passed seven energy bills addressing issues such as carbon sequestration, solar energy, biofuels and geothermal energy. Below is a brief summary of each bill.

"The Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Storage Research, Development, and Demonstration Act," (H.R. 1933) authorizes $315 million over the next three fiscal years to be allocated to research of carbon capture and storage. The bill covers lab-based and field-based integration of developing techniques in carbon sequestration. The Senate is considering a related bill (S. 1321).

The "Biofuels Research and Development Enhancement Act" (H.R. 2773) is a comprehensive bill that establishes research efforts for the infrastructure of biofuel development and refining. The bill also directs the Department of Energy to examine the consequences of biofuel use, including environmental impacts and impacts on diesel vehicles running on E85, a fuel that is 85% ethanol.

"The Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act" (H.R. 2774) establishes programs to encourage the use of solar energy technologies including thermal energy storage and training a larger solar energy workforce to help install and maintain photovoltaic equipment. The act authorizes $41 million over the next five years to investigate thermal energy storage.

The committee also passed a bill, H.R. 364, creating a new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE), to be modeled after the Department of Defense's similarly named agency, DARPA. ARPA-E's mission will be to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil by 20% over the next decade. ARPA-E will fund grants to research institutions to encourage these developments. The Senate included the creation of ARPA-E in a larger bill, called "America COMPETES" (S.761) approved by the Senate in April.

"The Global Change Research and Data Management Act" (H.R. 906) reauthorizes a 1990 act that authorizes the U.S. Global Change Research Program to conduct research and monitor Earth climate. The bill directs the program to provide information pertaining to climate change to local, state, and federal officials.

"The Advanced Geothermal Energy Research and Development Act" (H.R. 2304) encourages geothermal and hydrothermal sources for energy production. The act authorizes $90 million each year for five years starting in 2008, $10 million of which must be directed towards the promotion of co-produced geothermal energy from oil and gas fields. Other efforts encouraged in the bill includes the creation of two centers for the development of pertinent geothermal equipment, efforts to make geothermal energy more feasible beyond Western states, and promotion of exploratory programs for hydro- and geothermal energy sites not visibly apparent at the surface. The potential for geothermal power is vast in the United States. Currently over 2,800 MW of power are generated by geothermal resources, however, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates there is between 95,000 to 127,000 MW of geothermal resources available.

"The Marine Renewable Energy Research and Development Act" (H.R. 2313) authorizes $50 million each year for five years starting in 2008 for marine renewable energy. The Act directs the Secretary of Energy to support not only research and development, but also quicker commercial implementation. The bill also establishes at least one National Center for marine research, which would be a permanent research facility aiming at making energy capture and connection to electrical grids viable.

All of these bills are now placed on the agenda for debate on the House floor. Scheduling for the discussion of these bills will be determined by the majority leadership.

More information about Speaker Pelosi's Energy Independence Initiative and summaries of the other bills are available at her web site or here.

8. House Resources Committee Passes Ocean Exploration Bills

On June 19, 2007, the House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans approved two bills to expand ocean exploration efforts by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The first bill, the National Ocean Exploration Program Act, H.R. 1834, would authorize $486 million and $265 million for ocean exploration and undersea research, respectively, over the next ten years. In doing so, it creates the Ocean Exploration Advisory Board, under NOAA, to advise and help coordinate the research efforts.

The Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act, H.R. 2400, mandates a new interagency committee, led by NOAA, to enact a federal mapping plan for the nation's oceans, coastal areas, and Great Lakes regions. An approved amendment to the bill directs NOAA to coordinate pertinent data acquired about coastal and oceanic regions. In addition to organizing geographic data, the national registry would also serve to integrate existing onshore and offshore maps.

The full text of each bill is available from Thomas here and here.

9. New Director at Office of Management and Budget: Nussle Will Replace Portman

On June 19, 2007, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Rob Portman resigned from his post, citing personal reasons for his departure. The former United Trade Representative for the Administration, Portman served as Director of OMB since May 2006. To fill Portman's vacancy, President Bush tapped Jim Nussle, a former Representative from Iowa and three-term House Budget Committee Chairman. Nussle's nomination now heads to the Senate for confirmation.

First elected to the House in 1990, Nussle, 47, is well known for his role among the so-called "Gang of Seven," a group of vocal young Republican congressmen seeking change in the House due to Democratic scandals at the time. Nussle represented the 1st and later the 2nd district of Iowa, until the 2006 election when he ran unsuccessfully for Governor. Most recently, he has been serving as an advisor for former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign in Iowa. As the OMB Director nominee, Nussle brings a reputation of fiscal conservativeness and strong political allegiance to the Administration. This may spell trouble for future budgetary compromises with the Democratic majority of the 110th Congress, which may have different priorities than the Administration. House conservatives are praising the President's choice, expressing their expectation that Nussle will continue Portman's efforts to ensure congressional spending does not exceed the Administration's budget request.

10. EPA Delays Decision on California's Stricter Auto Emission Standards

On June 21, 2007 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator,
Stephen Johnson announced that the decision to grant California a waiver to apply stricter vehicle emissions will be postponed until December of this year. This decision comes as a disappointment to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) who have been leading the request to secure the waiver in a timely manner. The battle over the waiver has been ongoing since December of 2005 when California requested the waiver to implement the Pavley Standard, legislation that was passed by the state in 2002. If granted, the waiver would require car models from 2009 and beyond to have stricter emissions standards. This would reduce carbon emissions in California by 22% by 2012 and 30% by 2016, according to estimates by the state. Boxer stated that EPA's delay is unacceptable and is hampering California's ability to mitigate climate change.

A letter from Johnson to Schwarzenegger stated that EPA needed more time to examine the numerous scientific comments the EPA has received on the issue. California is moving forward with steps to sue the EPA if Johnson does not make a decision on the waiver by October of this year. Johnson stressed the complexity of the waiver and stated that the December, 2007 deadline is "responsible and expeditious". With neither side backing down it is becoming increasingly likely that the waiver decision will end up in the courts and be delayed even longer.

The auto industry is opposed to the California legislation because manufacturing automobiles that meet the stricter standards would be more costly and more difficult. In addition, if California is granted the waiver, then other states can adopt the same stricter standards, making it possible for an even larger proportion of the country to restrict vehicle emissions. Thus there is a lot riding on the EPA decision for the entire country and the global marketplace.

11. National Academies Releases Its Future of Coal Report

On June 20, 2007 the Committee on Coal Research, Technology and Resource Assessments to Inform Energy Policy released a prepublication version of their report. Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) requested the Academies to examine coal research and development (R&D) for the entire fuel cycle with emphasis on "upstream" R&D such as the mining, processing and transport of coal. They also ask the committee to highlight any stumbling blocks to increase coal production and to develop a national coal R&D strategy for the next 25 years.

Coal accounts for about 23% of total U.S. energy use and about 50% of U.S. electricity generation. About 92% (1.1 billion tons) of the coal mined every year is used for electricity generation. The committee estimated that by 2020, the use of coal could grow by 25% above 2004 levels or decline by 15% below 2004 levels. Estimates beyond 2020 become even more unclear; in 2030, projections of coal demand could grow from 70% above or 50% below 2004 levels. Overall, the United States has sufficient coal through 2030 at current consumption rates and will probably have enough coal for 100 years.

The committee recommended a "comprehensive accounting of national coal reserves within the next 10 years." The current reserves estimates are based on studies done before 1974 and more recent small area surveys suggest that only a small fraction of estimated reserves are reachable with current mining techniques. The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) would conduct this study at an annual cost of $10 million over 10 years. Additionally the committee also recommended that the USGS conduct an assessment of the nation's carbon capture resources and that an additional $10 million per year be spent for 5 years to conduct this research.

As the easily mined coal is exhausted, mining will become more challenging and hazardous. The committee recommended that an additional $35 million be spent through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to reduce exposure to hazardous conditions and improve worker training.

The committee also recommended increased spending for improved environmental protection and land reclamation. Acid mine drainage and hill top removal are among some of the most pressing issues that need to be addressed. The committee recommended an additional annual funding of $60 million for R&D research to be carried out by the Office of Surface Mining.

Improvements in mine productivity have been incremental in recent years, perhaps because federal funding for mining technologies has been minimal (0.2 percent of total coal R&D) over the past decade. Therefore the committee called for $30 million annually from federal funding as well as $30 million annually from non-federal funds to support advanced coal processing and optimization of coal resources. The Office of Fossil Energy at the Energy Department would serve as the lead agency for this research.

Taking into account all of the committee's recommendations an additional $144 million would be spent on "upstream" R&D funding bringing the total spending up from $46 million per year to $190 million per year. Coal will be a major source of energy in this country for at least the next few decades, so it is essential to have a thorough assessment of coal resources, improved technologies for efficient, safe and environmentally sensitive extraction and improved methods for environmental protection and reclamation after the mining is done.

A press release about the report is available from the National Academies here.

The prepublication version of the report is available here.

12. Army Corps Releases Flood Map of New Orleans

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) released a study on areas most vulnerable to flooding in New Orleans. So far over $7 billion has been spent on hurricane protection since hurricane Katrina to decrease the risks of major flooding. The study states that the chances of the entire city being flooded with over six feet of water are one in 500 for this year. The risks of flooding will continue to drop as the USACE completes its levee rebuilding project which will be finished in 2011.

Despite the lowered risk the USACE encourages all local citizens to download the flood maps from a public web site and become familiar with the local geography in order to find areas of safety during a flood. The maps are also being used by local leaders to make future urban planning decisions. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also been made aware of the flood maps and is using them to create federal flood insurance rate maps. The USACE has made it clear that this report is only a start in a 100 year hurricane protection plan. As part of this plan, the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) has provided projected flood water levels along the Gulf Coast and is using them to create a risk assessment model over a 100 year time span to aid in future hurricane protection projects.

A link to the USACE's report can be found here.

13. Soil Science Society Opposes Mandatory Open Access

The Soil Science Society of America, one of AGI's Member Societies, has joined a broad coalition of not-for-profit publishers in opposing congressional language that mandates the submission of final manuscripts to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) database. The language has been included in the House and Senate appropriations committees funding requests for NIH. SSSA signed onto a letter to Congress expressing strong concern about mandating the submission of papers to the NIH database. The letter writing effort was spearheaded by the DC Principles Coalition and signed by many biological and medical scientific societies.

The full text of the letter is available from SSSA here.

More information about the DC Principles Coalition is available here.

14. Geoscientists Highlight the "Thrill to Drill" for Congress

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), of which AGI and many of our Member Societies are a part of, sponsored the 13th annual exhibition and reception for Congress of NSF-funded science on June 26, 2007. AGI teamed up with the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America to support two adjacent booths that highlighted scientific drilling. The Drilling, Observation, and Sampling of the Earth's Continental Crust (DOSECC) consortium, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, provided the exhibits and geoscientists for the booths. DOSECC is comprised of fifty-four research organizations throughout the country and serves as a link between Earth sciences, drilling technologies and international collaboration. Not only does DOSECC provide a better understanding of climate change and natural hazards for example, but DOSECC also provides innovation and technology transfer in drilling as well as education and public outreach.

The exhibit focused on the Chesapeake Bay Impact Structure, the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth and studies of climate change from lake sediments. Dennis Nielson, President of DOSECC, David Zur, Public Outreach Manager of DOSECC, Julie Brigham-Grette from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Jeff Plescia from the Applied Physics Lab of Johns Hopkins University and Bob Phinney from Princeton were on hand to describe their work, the value of geoscience and the importance of NSF. Over 430 people attended the exhibition including at least 11 Members of Congress, congressional staff, NSF staff and many more. In addition to the exhibition, the geoscientists also visited the congressional offices of the members who represent them in their states and districts. These visits were very productive as most of the staff seemed very interesting in the geoscience and wanted to know more.

Highlights of the CNSF Exhibition and past exhibitions are available here.

15. Geoscience Societies Focus on Natural Hazards in Congressional Briefings

A series of congressional briefings on natural hazards are providing members of Congress with useful information about the geoscience, geo-engineering and preparations needed to avert catastrophes. On June 29, the Hazards Caucus Alliance, of which AGI and many of our Member Societies are a part of, sponsored a briefing on the "New Madrid Fault Zone: Geology, Engineering and Emergency Management to Reduce Earthquake Risks." In July, the Hazards Caucus Alliance will work with several geoscience-based groups on two more congressional briefings. On July 10, the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), American Geophysical Union (AGU), National Weather Center, and The Weather Coalition in association with the Congressional Hazards Caucus will hold a briefing on " A National Hurricane Research Initiative: Meeting Society's Needs". On July 18, the Geological Society of America in association with the Congressional Hazards Caucus will hold a briefing on " Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments - A Roadmap for Change in the United States".

More details about these and other briefings, including a list of speakers and their power point presentations are available here.

16. Request for Scientists to Help Clergy with Evolution and Other Science Questions

The Clergy Letter Project is looking for scientists who are willing to answer questions about science from clergy and serve as technical support for clergy. The primary goal of the project is to help clergy and their congregations understand that science is not a threat to their faith. If you would like to learn more about the project or become a technical consultant, please visit their web site here for more information.

17. Request for Volcanologist to Narrate a Volcano Documentary

Darlow-Smithson Productions is looking for a charismatic and energetic volcanologist, who can present science to the public, to serve as a narrator for a 12-part series for Discovery Channel. The series will send scientists to 12 different volcanoes and ask them to explore the current mysteries of how these volcanoes work. Filming will start in the late summer or autumn and the volcanologist would have to dedicate 20 weeks of their time to the project. Darlow-Smithson thinks this job would be perfect for a post-doc. If you are interested, please contact Rebecca North at Darlow-Smithson by email to

Thanks to the Association for Women Geoscientists for noting this opportunity in their recent newsletter.

18. Key Federal Register Notices

DOE - The Department of Energy announced the availability of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the FutureGen Project (DOE/EIS-0394D) for public comment. The Project would include the planning, design, construction and operation of the FutureGen facility, a prototype electric power and hydrogen gas generating plant that employs coal gasification technology integrated with combined-cycle electricity generation and the capture and geologic sequestration of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The DOE invites the public to comment on the draft EIS during the public comment period, which ends July 16, 2007. Additional information about the draft EIS may also be requested or messages recorded by calling (304) 285-4262, or toll free at (800) 432-8330 (extension 4262). The draft EIS will be available via the Internet here.
[Federal Register: June 1, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 105)]

EPA - the Environmental Protection Agency announced an external peer review panel meeting to review the draft Final Report for the Alternative Asbestos Control Method (AACM) Demonstration Project. Additional information about this research project, including a description of the AACM and the project schedule, is available here.
[Federal Register: June 6, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 108)]

NSF - The Division of Ocean Sciences in the Directorate for Geosciences gave notice of the availability of a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) for a pair of marine geophysical seismic surveys by the Research Vessel Marcus G Langseth in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean. The draft is available online here. Comments must be submitted on or before July 6, 2007.
[Federal Register: June 6, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 108)]

EPA - The EPA issued a final National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permit for the Western Portion of the Outer Continental Shelf of the Gulf of Mexico (No. GMG290000). The general permit authorizes discharges from new sources, existing sources, and new dischargers in the Offshore Subcategory of the Oil and
Gas Extraction Point Source Category (40 CFR Part 435, Subpart A). The reissued permit will become effective October 1, 2007.
[Federal Register: June 7, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 109)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency is inviting nominations of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment to fill vacancies on the National Advisory Committee (NAC) and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) to the U.S. Representative to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). Vacancies on these two committees are expected to be filled by September; nominations are encouraged to be submitted by July 15, 2007. Submit nominations to: Oscar Carrillo, Designated Federal Officer, Office of Cooperative Environmental Management, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (1601-E), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, telephone (202) 233-0072; fax (202) 233-0060; e-mail
[Federal Register: June 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 111)]

DOT - The Surface Transportation Board will hold a public hearing beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 18, 2007, in the Ground Floor Conference Room of the Richard Bolling Federal Building, 601 East 12th Street, Kansas City, MO 64106. The purpose of the public hearing will be to examine issues related to the efficiency and reliability of rail
transportation of resources critical to the nation's energy supply, including coal, ethanol, and biofuels. For further information, contact Timothy Strafford, (202) 245-0356.
[Federal Register: June 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 111)]

DOI - In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS) will prepare a joint Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) to analyze the leasing of BLM- and USFS-administered lands with moderate to high potential for geothermal resources in eleven western states and Alaska. The BLM and the USFS will accept written comments on the scope of the PEIS postmarked by August 13, 2007, Public scoping meetings will be held in Anchorage, Alaska; Boise, Idaho; Denver, Colorado; Missoula, Montana; Phoenix, Arizona; Portland, Oregon; Reno, Nevada; Sacramento, California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Times and locations of the meetings will be announced at least 15 days prior to the on the project Web site here. Comments may be submitted by e-mail at:, by fax at 1-866-625-0707 or by mail to: Geothermal Programmatic EIS, c/o EMPS Inc., 182 Howard Street, Suite 110, San Francisco, CA 94105. For further information contact Jack G. Peterson, Bureau of Land Management at 208-373-4048,, or Tracy Parker, Forest Service at 703-605-4796, or visit the Programmatic EIS Web site here.
[Federal Register: June 13, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 113)]

DOI - The MMS proposed to extend the proprietary term of certain reprocessed geophysical information submitted to MMS under a permit. The proposed rule would give up to 5 years of additional protection to reprocessed vintage geophysical information that MMS retained and, under the current rule, is subject to release by MMS 25 years after issuing the germane permit. The extension would provide incentives to permittees and third parties to reprocess, market, or in other ways use geophysical information that may not otherwise be reprocessed without the term extension. This rule would apply to Geological and Geophysical (G&G) Explorations of the Outer Continental Shelf For more information contact David Zinzer, Geophysicist, Offshore Minerals Management, Resource Evaluation Division, at (703) 787-1628 or e-mail
[Federal Register: June 18, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 116)]

DOC - NOAA announced the availability of the revised draft NOAA 5-Year Research Plan for public comment. The Research Plan was revised to update it for 2007-2011. The draft Research Plan will be available on the NOAA Research Council Web site here. Comments on this document can be submitted by e-mail to by 5 p.m. EDT on July 18, 2007. Contact Derek Parks for more information at or 301-734-1186 (Fax: 301-713-0158).
[Federal Register: June 18, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 116)]

DOC - In order to evaluate and improve the success of its efforts to understand and conserve coral reefs, NOAA's Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) is undertaking a comprehensive external review of the program. The Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 supports effective management and sound science to preserve, sustain, and restore valuable coral reef ecosystems. Comments may be submitted by e-mail to no later than July 19, 2007. More information is available at the CRCP Web site here.
[Federal Register: June 19, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 117)]

USDA - The Forest Service is inviting comments on the Draft Forest Service Open Space
Conservation Strategy, which will help shape the Agency's strategic role in its national effort to conserve open space. The Forest Service is interested in addressing the effects of the loss of open space on private forests; on the National Forests and Grasslands and surrounding landscape; and on forests in cities, suburbs, and towns. Comments must be received, in writing, on or before July 23, 2007. Written comments should be addressed to Claire Harper or Kathryn Conant, Forest Service, Cooperative Forestry, Mail Stop Code 1123, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20250-1123. Comments may also be sent via e-mail to; or faxed to 202-205-1271. The document is available here.
[Federal Register: June 22, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 120)]

DOI - The North American Wetlands Conservation Council of the Fish and Wildlife Service will meet to select North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grant proposals for recommendation to the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. This meeting is open to the public, and interested persons may present oral or written statements. The meeting will be held on July 17, 2007, 1-3 p.m. at the Best Western Ramkota Inn, 800 South 3rd Street, Bismarck, ND 58504. For more information contact Mike Johnson, Council Coordinator, at (703) 358-1784 or
[Federal Register: June 25, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 121)]

NASA - the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council. The Council Committees address NASA interests in the following areas: Aeronautics, Audit and Finance, Space Exploration, Human Capital, Science, and Space Operations. The meeting will be on Thursday, July 19, 2007, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Building 4200, Room P110 (10th floor), AL 35812-0001. For further information contact Mr. Christopher Blackerby, Designated Federal Official, National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
Washington, DC, 20546, 202/358-4688.
[Federal Register: June 25, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 121)]

DOE - The National Petroleum Council (Office of Fossil Energy) announced a meeting on Wednesday, July 18, 2007, at 9 a.m. at the J.W. Marriott, 1331 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20004. The meeting is open to the public. For further information contact James Slutz, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Oil and Natural Gas, Washington, DC 20585, 202-586-5600.
[Federal Register: June 26, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 122)]

NSF - The NSF Announced new membership of the Performance Review Board for the Office of Inspector General and the National Science Board Office Senior Executive Service positions. Dan E. Arvizu, Chairman of the Audit and Oversight Committee and chair of the National Science Board, Nathaniel Pitts, Director of the Office of Integrative Activities, and Edward L. Blansitt III, Assistant Inspector General for Investigations at the Department of Commerce have all appointed.
[Federal Register: June 26, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 122)]

Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) - The Interagency Committee on Ocean Science and Resource Management Integration (ICOSRMI) and the National Ocean Research Leadership Council (NORLC) unanimously approved that all actions taken by the ICOSRMI related to the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) will be deemed actions of the NORLC. The intent of this action is to maintain the interagency progress made through NOPP, thus building on a decade of experience made possible through the program, while avoiding duplication of effort with the new governance structure of the Ocean Action Plan (OAP). NORLC and the other NOPP committees are now conducting business as their functionally equivalent OAP bodies. This action will align, simplify and strengthen the Federal ocean governance structures. For more information contact Dr. Dan Walker, Office of Science and Technology Policy, 725 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC 20502. Telephone: (202) 456-6137. E-mail:
[Federal Register: June 29, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 125)]

19. New Updates to the Website

The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site since the last monthly update:

Science Education Policy (7-3-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (7-2-07)
Climate Change Policy (6-22-07)
Energy Policy (6-22-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (6-22-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (6-20-07)
Hearings on Global Earth Observations (6-18-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (6-18-07)
Science Education Policy (6-18-07)
Mining Policy (6-18-07)
Hearings on Science Education (6-18-07)
Hearings on Ocean Policy (6-18-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (6-11-07)
Hearings on Energy Policy (6-1-07)

Monthly Review prepared by Paul Schramm, David McCormick, and Sargon de Jesus, 2007 AGI/AIPG summer interns and Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs.

Sources: New York Times, Associated Press, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, White House Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Geological Survey, Government Accountability Office, Casper StarTribune.Net, E&E TV, Congressional Quarterly, San Francisco Chronicle, U.S. Water News Online, White House press release, National Science Foundation, The Ohio State University

This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves. Prior updates can be found on the AGI web site under "Public Policy" <>. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at <> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

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

Posted July 9, 2007.