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Monthly Review: July 2003


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 Last Year's Energy Bill
Appropriations: House Passes Bill Funding NSF, NASA, EPA
Appropriations: House, Senate Bills Restore USGS, Some DOE Cuts
USGS Coalition Launched, More Organizations Welcome
Appropriations: NOAA Hit Hard in House Bill
Appropriations: Science Education Gets Increases
Evolution Debate Flaring in Several States
House Speaker Appoints Natural Gas Task Force
Geothermal Bill Honors John Rishel
Mining Gets Attention in House
Climate Change Debate Heats Up on Several Fronts
Global Earth Observation Summit Held in Washington
Senate Committee Passes Ocean Observing Bill
AGI Supports Resolution on International Geophysical Year
Welcome to New Government Affairs Staffer Emily Lehr
List of Key Federal Register Notices
New Material on Web Site

 

Senate Passes Last Year's Energy Bill

As reported in an AGI special update, the Senate spent the final week of July debating energy legislation. After much bickering over the 400 proposed amendments and seven major issues, it looked like the Senate might leave town for the August recess without finishing the energy debate. But Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) brokered a deal under which this year's bill, S. 14, was traded for the bill that passed the Senate last year during the previous Congress (S. 517) when Democrats controlled the chamber. This compromise passed 84-14, setting the stage for a conference committee of House and Senate members to iron out the differences between this bill and the bill that the House passed, H.R. 6, on April 11th.

The Bush administration, which made energy policy a priority from the outset, is eager to see the conference committee complete its work this fall. With a number of key issues affecting geoscientists, the energy debate continues to offer an opportunity to provide input at a crucial time. AGI's web site shortly will provide information about how the two Senate bills compare to each other and how last year's Senate bill stacks up to this year's House bill at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy.html. Information can also be found at http://energy.senate.gov.

Appropriations: House Passes Bill Funding NSF, NASA, EPA

The House of Representatives provided good news for the geoscience community when it passed H.R. 2861, which funds the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) among other independent agencies, on July 25th. This bill provides NSF with more than a 5% increase from last year's allocation to total $5.63 billion. Funding for the Geoscience Directorate would total $718 million, nearly 5% more than it received in fiscal year (FY) 2003. Polar research programs would receive $355 million, an 11% boost.

A $44 million increase for Major Research Equipment and Facilities included a $14.7 million funding hike for EarthScope to $43.5 million, slightly below the president's request but 50% over FY 2003. The bill provides $8 million for the George E. Brown Jr. Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation and $12 million for a demonstration of the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The Committee cautions that NEON funding is "provided purely for two prototype sites to determine the scientific requirements and optimum configuration of the network." The House bill also includes $25 million to start the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, which was originally planned for the following year.

Although the overall EPA budget received a small cut, the House approved a $52 million increase for Science and Technology over last year's funding. NASA also received an increase of $200 million over last year's funding, slightly above the president's request. Neither the bill nor its accompanying report specifies funding levels for either earth or space science activities, but the Science, Aeronautics and Exploration account would receive a 4% increase over FY 2003, again slightly above the president's request. The NASA budget is considered quite fluid until formal reviews of the Columbia explosion and associated NASA management issues are completed.

For more specifics on the House bill and report, see http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app04.html#Va. The question now is how the NSF, EPA and NASA will fare in the Senate version, which is not expected until well after Congress returns from the August recess.

Appropriations: House, Senate Bills Restore USGS, Some DOE Cuts

As reported in a July 17th AGI special update, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have restored presidentially requested cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and partially restored deep cuts to the Department of Energy's (DOE) oil and gas research programs. The bill (H.R. 2691) passed the House on July 17th and is awaiting Senate floor action after the August recess. The House bill would provide USGS with $936 million, nearly 2% above FY 2003 and 4.5% above the president's request. The Senate bill provides $929 million, slightly less than the House but still above the previous allocation and the president's request.

The largest cuts to geoscience-related programs in the president's budget request were directed at DOE's Natural Gas Technologies and Oil Technology programs. The House bill includes $37 million for natural gas research, down 22% from FY 2003 but 35% higher than the president's request. For oil research, the House bill provides $32 million, down 23% from FY 2003 (and down 39% from FY 2002) but a whopping 215% higher than the president's request. The accompanying House report takes the administration to task for requesting deep cuts to these programs. The Senate bill would provide $42 million for natural gas programs, down 11% from FY 2003 but up 58% over the request. For oil research, the Senate bill recommends $35 million, down 18% from FY 2003 but up 230% from the request. Funding levels for other specific accounts and for the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Forest Service can be found in AGI's Interior Appropriations Special Update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/fy2004_interiorupdate0703.html.

USGS Coalition Launched, More Organizations Welcome

The newly formed USGS Coalition held its organizational meeting on July 8th in Washington. The coalition formed to demonstrate the breadth of external support for USGS and shared concern for the agency's budgetary stagnation at a time of growing responsibility. The coalition emphasizes the Survey's national mission and seeks to strengthen support for USGS in Congress and the administration. The coalition currently consists of 41 organizations, including scientific and engineering societies, state and local government associations and entities, and university consortia. Additional organizations are welcome -- please contact Dave Applegate (applegate@agiweb.org; 703 379 2480 x228). The coalition web site -- http://www.usgscoalition.org -- includes the coalition mission statement, additional information about the coalition's challenge and participating organizations, and a downloadable fact sheet as well as links to other resources.

 

Appropriations: NOAA Hit Hard in House Bill

The House passed the Commerce, State, Justice and the Judiciary (CJSJ) appropriations bill on July 23rd. This $37.9 billion bill includes funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which would receive just over $3 billion. The president's budget requested a $150 million funding boost for the agency, but the House decided instead to cut NOAA's budget by more than $100 million below current levels. CJSJ Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA) said last week that most of the approximately $500 million cut in Commerce Department funding came from reductions in lower priority spending in NOAA. Within the agency, oceanic and atmospheric research programs would receive $306 million, down $66 million from current levels, and the bill report calls on NOAA to submit a plan to consolidate its research labs. The Sea Grant program would receive a slight increase to $62 million. Climate research would receive $59 million, down $6 million from current and $26 million from the president's request. The Senate will begin to work on their funding priorities for the CJSJ appropriations bill when they return from the August District Work Period in early September. The House bill and report are available at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app04.html.

Appropriations: Science Education Gets Increases

In late June, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees both completed their initial fiscal year (FY) 2004 spending bills for the Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education (DoEd). Both bills contain funding for the DoEd's Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program and the Eisenhower Regional Consortia (ERC), which support K-12 math and science teachers. The House bill would provide $150 million for MSP, and the Senate bill would provide $100 million, the same as the program received in the current year. Both the Senate and House numbers tower above the administration's requested $12.5 million for MSP. The bills funded the ERC, which was entirely cut by the Administration, at its current level of $14.9 million. On July 24th, the House Appropriations Committee completed its FY 2004 VA/HUD/Independent Agencies spending bill (see above), which would provide $140 million for the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program. The funding is $60 million less than the administration's request, but it is an increase of $12.5 million over last year's level. The House and Senate bills and accompanying reports are available at http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app04.html.


Evolution Debate Flaring in Several States

Supporters of intelligent design creationism have been hard at work this summer in states across the country seeking to challenge the teaching of evolution in the nation's public schools. In Texas, the battleground is the biology textbook adoption process, where ID proponents are seeking to have textbooks disqualified for failing to discuss the weaknesses of evolutionary theory and controversy surrounding it. In New Mexico, the state board of education is scheduled to vote on state science standards at the end of August. ID proponents conducted polls of parents and of national lab and university scientists and engineers to show broad support for teaching ID in addition to "Darwinian evolution." In Minnesota, Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke told WCCO-TV that she supports "allowing teachers to talk about a higher power creating life alongside evolution." She is in charge of selecting the members of a committee that is to rewrite the state science standards. Nearby in Michigan, two bills were introduced in the state legislature to promote the teaching of ID alongside evolution; one specifies inserting "intelligent design of a Creator" wherever evolution is mentioned in state standards. In Oklahoma, the state legislature narrowly defeated a measure that would have required an anti-evolution disclaimer be placed in textbooks similar to one used in Alabama. Helping support the ID effort, a number of PBS stations around the country have been airing a documentary, entitled "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," about ID and its proponents. The documentary is co-written by a senior scholar at the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based entity that bankrolls the ID movement. For more on the situation in these states and a critique of the ID documentary, visit http://www.ncseweb.org.

House Speaker Appoints Natural Gas Task Force

Over the summer, Alan Greenspan testified to both the House (June 10th) and Senate (July 10th) that there are no short-term solutions to the current natural gas shortage and that greater diversity of international sources was needed. In response, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) created the Task Force for Affordable Natural Gas, which is composed of 18 Republicans from the Energy and Commerce Committee and Resources Committee. The intended purpose of the Task Force is to report to the Speaker on the causes of the gas supply shortage and possible short-term solutions. On July 21st, the Task Force held it first public meeting. Task Force Co-Chair Billy Tauzin (R-LA) said the Task Force will not dictate solutions, define balances, or make policy. Their only concern is to recommend possible solutions. By mid-September, the Task Force should finalize their recommendations, which are due to the Speaker by September 30. Tauzin said he did not agree with analysts, such as Greenspan, who say there are no short-term solutions to the natural gas shortage. More on the hearings at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_hearings.html.

Geothermal Bill Honors John Rishel

Representative Jim Gibbons (R-NV) recently introduced the John Rishel Geothermal Steam Act Amendment of 2003, H.R. 2772, named in honor of a long-time Resources Committee staffer and geologist who passed away suddenly on May 9th. At a hearing on the bill, Gibbons said that we are facing an energy crisis and "America is not making full use of its geothermal potential because we don't have adequate incentives to attract needed capital investments to geothermal energy projects." He said that H.R. 2772 addresses some of these shortcomings. The bill will make geothermal leasing market-driven through competitive bidding, promote uniform ownership of resources, provide a uniform royalty structure, and address the current backlog of leasing permits. The bill also calls for a "review of moratorium and withdrawals from geothermal leasing on federal lands", and it also directs the US Geological Survey (USGS) to undertake a new assessment of the nation's geothermal resources. The last such assessment was done in the 1970's. A summary of the hearing is at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_hearings.html

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) asked Rishel to come to Washington after a career as a mining geologist in Alaska. He served on both the full Resources Committee and later the Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee. He received recognition from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and the Association of American State Geologists for his tireless efforts on behalf of the geosciences and for seeking to provide a firm scientific foundation for policy decisions.

Mining Gets Attention in House

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources met on July 17th to consider the role of strategic and critical minerals in maintaining national economic security. Witnesses representing the mining industry argued that US mineral resources have not been depleted and could be mined in an environmentally responsible and economically profitable manner if regulations and the permitting process were streamlined and enforced. Their testimonies were unchallenged and the need for a national mineral policy was stressed throughout the hearing. At the end, Subcommittee Chair Barbara Cubin (R-WY) asked each of the witnesses to submit a list of minerals that could become problematic. This list would be shown to the administration in order to raise awareness of the potential security problems and heighten interest in a national mineral policy. More information on the hearing and links to the witnesses' testimonies can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/mining_hearings.html.

Climate Change Debate Heats Up on Several Fronts

On July 29th, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing to consider the history of climate change and the impacts of mercury pollution, two contentious issues related to ongoing legislative battles over how to revise the Clean Air Act to reduce various atmospheric emissions. The climate change witness panel included scientists whose work lies in the middle of a flare-up in the debate. Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, criticized the basis for the mainstream scientific conclusion that late 20th-century temperatures are an anomalous spike. He argued that the proxy records used in hundreds of climate studies have a high degree of uncertainty and that local and regional climatic shifts such as the "Medieval Warm Period" or "Little Ice Age" are more important than average global temperatures. Dr. Michael Mann, a professor of Environmental Sciences and major contributor to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, defended the research under scrutiny as the consensus of thousands of scientists. He dismissed Dr. Soon's findings for conflating temperature with hydrological conditions, for failing to assess hemispheric or global temperatures, and for ignoring recent decades in climate comparisons with historical trends. Mann reaffirmed that the unprecedented warming in the late 20th century is almost certainly a result of the human activities which have produced the highest levels of atmospheric CO2 in 20 million years.

This debate over the science seemed headed for the Senate floor as Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) planned to offer an amendment to the energy bill ( S. 14) that would attempt to stabilize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from industry in the United States at 2000 levels. But the Senate's decision to adopt last year's bill instead (see above) derailed this and other planned amendments. The merits of a limit on carbon dioxide emissions are also being hotly debated in the competition between air pollution bills working their way through committee. In addition to the McCain/Lieberman proposal, there is the multi-pollutant Clean Air Planning Act (S. 843) sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (R-DE) and recently joined by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), which also proposes a cap on CO2, while the president's Clear Skies Initiative (S. 485), introduced by Environment and Public Works Committee Chair Jim Inhofe (R-OK), does not.

The Bush administration is expected to aid vigorous efforts by the Republican leadership to defeat carbon limits in either energy or clean air legislation. Meanwhile, the administration announced two initiatives that address global climate change by encouraging more research. Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham released a strategic plan on July 24th for the president's Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) along with a proposal to speed up the deployment of global observation technologies (see http://www.climatescience.gov/). Both projects demonstrate the administration's approach of seeking a larger knowledge base about climate and the role of natural climate variability versus human-generated greenhouse gases. This emphasis on further research to reduce uncertainty about the human role in climate change has drawn criticism from those who believe enough of a scientific consensus exists to justify carbon emissions controls. A recent report by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change concluded that mandatory carbon caps are essential to checking rising carbon emission rates.

While the wrangling continues in Washington, ten Northeastern states (NY, CT, VT, NH, DE, ME, NJ, PA, MA, and RI) announced their agreement to develop a regional market-based emissions trading system to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. New York Governor George Pataki (R) announced on July 24th that the states hope to agree on a strategy by April, 2005. According to Greenwire, the states still need to agree on a "CO2 cap, the infrastructure to the trade credits, whether to allow non-electric generating systems and non-CO2 emissions into the market and the role of carbon sequestration."

For more information, see AGI web updates on climate change, clean air, and energy policy at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/issues/alphalist.html.

Global Earth Observation Summit Held in Washington

July 31st marked the first day of the Earth Observation Summit, where leaders from more than 30 countries came together to discuss plans for an integrated earth observation system within the next 10 years. Hosted by the US State Department, the summit was attended by the Secretaries of State, Energy, and Commerce. The objective was first proposed by the G-8 Heads of State during their June 2003 meeting in France. An "implementation plan" will be ready by the end of 2004 of how to allow free access to surface, airborne, and space-based data, in addition to the already accessible satellite data. Secretary of State Colin Powell said in his remarks at the opening of the summit that "a strong partnership between science and statecraft is critical to meeting a range of global challenges from sustainable development, to preventing the spread of infectious disease and to protecting the environment." He advocated a greater understanding of earth systems, which "must begin with Earth observations -- with the development of ground-based and satellite-based systems that can document environmental changes in our land, rivers, forests, atmosphere and climate." The integrated data sharing system will hopefully aid in the prediction of natural disasters and disease outbreaks and policy makers' management of land, water, and energy use. After the ministerial-level talks, a working-level implementation planning process will take place. The US co-leaders are NOAA Director Conrad Lautenbacher and USGS Director Chip Groat. More on the summit at http://www.earthobservationsummit.gov/.

Senate Committee Passes Ocean Observing Bill

Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-ME) Ocean Observation and Coastal Systems Act (S. 1400) was passed this month by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Snowe's bill would create a national monitoring and management system for marine data and a research program meant to enhance security at domestic seaports. The proposed system is based on the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System (GoMOOS), a network of 10 buoys that provide real-time oceanographic data to the public. Groups served by such a network include commercial mariners, coastal management planners, search and rescue teams, scientists, educators, and public health officials. The committee authorized $200 million for the program in fiscal year 2004. More information can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/ocean.html.

AGI Supports Resolution on International Geophysical Year

Representatives Mark Udall (D-CO) and Vern Ehlers (R-MI) have introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives (H.Con.Res. 189) calling for a second International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 2007-2008 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first year in 1957. AGI President M. Ray Thomasson sent a letter to Udall and Ehlers endorsing the resolution and offering assistance from the geoscience community. Thomasson wrote: "The first IGY remains a defining moment in the development of modern geoscience and in particular the international collaboration and cooperation that is a defining trait of our science today." The representatives are seeking additional support letters in August and hope to move the resolution through the House Science Committee in September. A history of the first IGY can be found at http://www.nas.edu/history/igy/.

Welcome to New Government Affairs Staffer Emily M. Lehr

Emily M. Lehr has come on board at AGI as the new government affairs program associate. She comes to us with a marine science degree from the University of South Carolina and three years of Capitol Hill experience working for Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), a key member of the House Appropriations Committee. Her work is already evident in the recent special update on the energy bill as well as several of the blurbs in this month's review. Emily can be reached at eml@agiweb.org or 703 379 2480 x212.

List of Key Federal Register Notices

What follows 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 online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont03.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

National Science Foundation (NSF). National Science Board Sunshine Act Meeting Notice. July 28, 2003: 10:30 a.m.-10:50 a.m., Closed Session.
July 28, 2003: 10:50 a.m.-11:30 a.m., Open Session. The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard--Room 130, Arlington, VA 22230. Volume 68, Number 132
(10 July, 2003): p. 41186

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Notice of deletion of the Pepe Field Superfund Site (Site) from the National Priorities List. Volume 68, Number 133 (11 July 2003): p. 41273

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Announcement of the next meeting of the Good Neighbor Environmental Board in Del Rio, Texas, on July 30 and 31, 2003. Open to the public. Volume 68, Number 133 (11 July 2003): p. 41339-41340

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Notice of seventeenth update of the Federal Agency Hazardous Waste Compliance Docket, pursuant to CERCLA section 120(c). Volume 68, Number 133 (11 July 2003): p. 41353-41368

Forest Service, USDA. Advance notice of proposed rulemaking; request for comment on National Forest System Land and Resource Management Planning; Special Areas; Roadless Area Conservation. Volume 68, Number 135 (15 July 2003): p. 41863-41865

Geological Survey (USGS), Department of Interior. Notice of proposed Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) negotiations. Volume 68, Number 13
(16 July 2003): p. 42126

Bureau of Reclamation, Interior. Notice of Availability of Draft Environmental Impact DES 03-40 Statement/Environmental Impact Report (EIS/EIR) and notice of public workshops and public hearings under Environmental Water Account. Volume 68, Number 136 (16 July 2003): p. 42130-42131

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Announcement of Completion of EPA's Review of Existing Drinking Water Standards under National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. Volume 68, Number 138 (18 July 2003): p. 42907-42929]

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Final rule on Guidelines Establishing Test Procedures for the Analysis of Pollutants; Analytical Methods for Biological Pollutants in Ambient Water. Volume 68, Number 139 (21 July, 2003): p. 43271-43283

New Material on Web Site

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:

  • Special Update: Senate Debates Energy Policy Act (7-28-03)
  • Climate Change Policy (7-28-03)
  • Energy Policy Overview (7-27-03)
  • Clean Air Issues: Clear Skies Initiative Legislation (7-24-03)
  • Superfund and Brownfield Legislation (7-24-03)
  • Clean Water Policy Hearing Summaries (7-24-03)
  • Fossils on Public Lands (7-23-03)
  • Asbestos Policy (7-23-03)
  • Oceans Legislation (7-23-03)
  • Mining Law Reform Hearing Summaries (7-23-03)
  • National Research Council Report Summary: Privatization of Water
  • Services in the United States: An Assessment of Issues and
  • Experience (7-23-03)
  • Outer Continental Shelf Policy (7-23-03)
  • National Earthquake Hazards Reductions Program (7-22-03)
  • Wetlands Policy (7-21-03)
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (7-17-03)
  • Special Update: Geoscience Cuts Largely Restored by Interior
  • Spending Bills (7-17-03)
  • Summary of Fiscal Year 2004 Energy and Water Appropriations (7-17-03)
  • National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska (7-17-03)
  • Clean Water Issues (7-17-03)
  • Water Resources Legislation (7-16-03)
  • Summary of Hearings on Clean Air Issues (7-16-03)
  • Energy Policy Hearing Summaries (7-16-03)
  • Summary of Fiscal Year 2004 Labor/HHS Appropriations (7-16-03)
  • Everglades Policy (7-16-03)

Monthly review prepared by AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Interns Brett Beaulieu, Deric Learman, and Emily Scott; and by AGI Government Affairs Program staff Emily Lehr and David Applegate.

Sources: American Institute of Physics, Commerce Department, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, House Appropriations Committee website, House Science Committee, hearing testimony, Library of Congress THOMAS website, National Center for Science Education, Pew Center on Climate Change.

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

Posted August 4, 2003


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