Printable Version

Monthly Review: July 2004


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.

Budget Roundup
NEHRP Moves, Sort of
National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Act Advances in House and Senate
House Hearing Focuses on Everglades Restoration
Pipeline Safety Gets Hearing
Capitol Abuzz About Refineries
Energy Technology and Domestic Production Hearing
House Holds Hearing on Natural Gas Price Modeling
Study: Natural Gas Prices to Keep Rising
Coalbed Methane Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Little Threat to Groundwater
Integrated Ocean Observing System Evaluated by House Committee
Oceans Legislation Introduced in House and Senate
NOAA Organic Acts Introduced in the House and Senate
Court Upholds Constitutionality of Yucca but Rejects 10,000-Year Standard
NRC Panel Decision Could Delay Yucca Mountain
Congressional Science and Math Education Caucus Formed
Homeland Security Education Act
Department of Energy Announces New Science Education Initiative
National Academies Addresses Role of Politics in Scientific Appointments
SECURE Earth Initiative to Unite Geoscientists
White House Releases Science Report
Status of Engineering and Science in the Workforce
CCSP Proposes First Research Project
Job Opportunities in Washington, D.C.
Key Federal Register Notices
New Updates to Website

 

Budget Roundup

On July 22, the House Committee on Appropriations approved the FY05 Veterans Affairs/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill. Although it has now been cleared to be debated on the House floor, the accompanying report has not yet been made available to the public. As a result, the figures reported below for the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA in FY05 have been obtained from sources that have seen parts of the report.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
A total of $5.47 billion was recommended by the appropriations committee for NSF, a cut of $90 million from FY04 levels and $278 million short of the President's request. The reasons for these cuts were not explained. Earthscope and the Office of Polar Programs both received increased funding over FY04 enacted levels, and the new Integrated Ocean Drilling Program also received funding. The Math and Science Partnerships program funding was cut compared to FY04 levels, but had an increase over the amount requested by the administration. Additionally, the committee requested that NSF submit a proposed spending plan for individual directorates, being careful to fund a balance of interdisciplinary and core subject research. The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News and the American Mathematical Society provided this information.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
The committee recommended a total of $15.15 billion for NASA, a 1.1% cut from the $15.4 billion enacted in FY04 and $1.1 billion below the president's request. The committee explained the cuts by saying that, although they are supportive of the exploration aspect of NASA's vision and President Bush's proposal, they do not believe it should take priority over NASA's science and aeronautics programs. The elimination of funding for many new initiatives accounts for most of the cuts to the agency. Space Shuttle operations and Mars programs were fully funded by the bill, and the committee asked NASA to take the advice of the National Academy of Sciences and look into ways to extend the life of the Hubble Space Telescope. Funding was cut for the International Space Station due to delays in the shuttle's operations. The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News also publicized this information.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
The amount appropriated for the EPA in FY05 was reduced by 7.3% to $7.8 billion. The Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund were both funded at the president's requested amount, and funding for State and Tribal Assistance Grants was increased from FY04 levels. Hazardous Substances Superfund funding remained the same as in FY04. The committee also decided to restore full funding for EPA's Science to Achieve Results (STAR) graduate fellowship and research grants programs that were targeted for cuts in the administration's FY05 budget request. The Geological Society of America's Government Public Policy Committee and National Council for Science and the Environment's Science Policy director circulated this information about EPA funding.

In other budget news, the House appropriations committee marked up the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill on July 22, but again has not yet made the report public. The Department of Education as a whole received a $2 billion increase in funding for a total of $57.7 billion in FY05. This amount is $400 million more than the president requested. This bill allocates $269 million for Math and Science Partnerships, which is a $120 million increase over FY04 and identical to the president's request. These additional funds will go toward increasing the number of teachers trained in the fields of math and science. The Math and Science Partnership Working Group sent us information concerning this bill.

NEHRP Moves, Sort of

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a markup on July 22. Included on the docket was the National Earthquake Hazards Reductions Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2608). NEHRP was unanimously approved at the beginning of the markup, although the committee reserved the right to make changes later that same morning. The changes proposed for this bill were bundled together as a manager's amendment and included: tacking the National Impact Windstorm Reduction Program, H.R. 3980, onto the bill; extending NEHRP authorization to 2009; changing the $3 million authorization obligation for performance-based standards to 10% of the "actually appropriated" funds; and slightly lowering authorization levels for the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation.

These amendments, however, were not adopted because Sen. Wyden (D-OR) invoked a little-used rule that prohibits committees from meeting after the Senate has been in session for two hours. Wyden used the rule to block an unrelated appointment to the Federal Trade Commission. After a heated exchange, Chairman McCain (R-AZ) had no choice but to adjourn the hearing without completing the morning's business.
H.R. 2608 will go to the Senate floor for a vote in September without the manager's amendment. McCain said that the Windstorm bill would be brought up with the other amendments either as an amendment on the Senate floor in September or introduced as a stand alone bill.

To see a full hearing summary, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/nehrp.html.

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Act Advances in House and Senate

On the morning of July 14, the House version of the Geologic Mapping Act, H.R. 4010, was discharged from the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. It can now be debated on the floor of the House after Congress returns from its traditional August recess.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests held a hearing on July 14 to discuss the companion bill, S. 2353. All witnesses testified in support of the reauthorization under the Geologic Mapping Act. Patrick Leahy, associate director for geology at the U.S. Geological Survey, did point out the proposed funding level is not consistent with the president's budget request. His testimony focused on the successes of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and the benefits of geologic maps to states and local communities. Robert Marvinney, president of the Association of American State Geologists, testified in support of the bill, emphasizing the cooperative STATEMAP program and digitization technology. James Cobb, state geologist of Kentucky and Director of the Kentucky Geological Survey at the University of Kentucky, said that geologic maps have saved Kentucky taxpayers at least $2.16 billion by cutting project costs of map users such as scientists, businesses, and local planning agencies. Kentucky is the only state that has been geologically mapped in detail and the only state with completely digitized maps.

Subcommittee Chairman Larry Craig (R-ID) said that he had been "sold" on the reauthorization of the act before the hearing and became increasingly convinced after listening to the testimony.

For more information on the Geologic Mapping Act, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/geologicmapping.html.

House Hearing Focuses on Everglades Restoration

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment met on July 22 to assess the progress of Everglades restoration and discuss the authorization of two large-scale projects. The $8 billion Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, under the Water Resources Development Act of 2000, provides a framework for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore the South Florida ecosystem. Nine smaller Everglades restoration projects are already in process or completed, although larger projects such as Indian River Lagoon and Southern Golden Gates must be authorized individually. Witnesses at the hearing urged the subcommittee swift authorization of project funds, even though actual appropriations may not be available until FY06.

The Indian River Lagoon project, which costs $1.2 billion, aims to redirect and store water directed into wetlands by a previous U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood control program. The Golden Gates project, which costs $360 million, will restore wetlands and improve salinity conditions. Hearing witnesses testified that the two projects were carefully chosen and will provide a significant boost to restoration efforts and to local communities. John Burns, chairman of the independent scientific review panel that reviewed the Indian River Lagoon project, said that the panel saw nothing from a scientific perspective that should prevent authorization of the project. The panel has made several recommendations for the for the Indian River site, including modeling and evaluation of climate, sea level, hydrologic cycle, ecology, and muck and sediment transport.

To see a full hearing summary, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/everglades_hearings.html.

Pipeline Safety Gets Hearing

On July 20, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality discussed the issue of pipeline safety with Department of Transportation and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) officials, energy industry representatives, and pipeline safety advocacy groups. In 2002, Congress passed the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act (PSIA), H.R.3609, which calls for a risk-based approach to pipeline safety management, called the Integrity Management Program. In this program, pipeline operators identify "high consequence" areas and prioritize these in their safety inspections. PSIA also calls for increased public education and access to information about pipeline safety and strengthens federal and state pipeline safety programs.

The GAO released a preliminary report on the Department of Transportation Office of Pipeline Safety's (OPS) actions toward implementation of the PSIA. The GAO found that the number of severe accidents has not decreased and that OPS should clarify program goals and strategies, to enforce pipeline operator compliance with regulations. Officials from the Department of Transportation (DOT) defended OPS, saying that it is "aggressively responding" to PSIA mandates. Kenneth Mead, Inspector General of the DOT, said that too many interests at varying levels have the ability to block progress on pipeline relocation and repair, causing the failure of OPS compliance with mandates in some cases. Several officials suggested that the roles of the DOT, Department of Energy, and Department of Homeland Security should be specifically outlined. Industry representatives outlined the actions their companies are taking to comply with PSIA and testified in support of streamlined permitting and increased coordination among stakeholders and federal agencies.

For a full summary of the hearing, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_hearings.html.

Capitol Abuzz About Refineries

The House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee met on July 15 to address the state of the oil refining industry in the United States, which has been a popular topic due to elevated gas prices and speculation that those prices will continue to rise. Some committee members expressed their disapproval of the United States Refinery Revitalization Act of 2004 (H.R. 4517), saying it would compromise the health of the environment and provide an inadequate solution to increasing gas prices and dependence on fossil fuels. The bill will promote the refining industry in areas of high unemployment. Eric Schaeffer, director of the Environmental Integrity Project, argued against H.R. 4517 because it would give the Department of Energy too much regulatory authority over the states. He also said that at least 14 petroleum refineries have outstanding notices of regulation violations and current enforcement strategies are inadequate. H.R. 4517 proponents said that it does not make sense to refine oil overseas, which is the inevitable consequence of rising demand and diminishing refinery capacity in the United States.Witnesses from the Energy Information Administration, Government Accountability Office, the Consumer Federation of America and the Environmental Protection Agency cited several causes of elevated gas prices in their hearing testimony.

For a full hearing summary, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_hearings.html.

Energy Technology and Domestic Production Hearing

The House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held an oversight hearing on July 15 to discuss technological advances that will help domestic energy production. Vello Kuuskraa, president of Advanced Resources International, Inc., reported that traditional oil recovery methods only extract one-third of the oil in a field; recent technology has helped to increase this figure. William Whitsitt, president of the Domestic Petroleum Council, said that well-pad size has been significantly reduced from an average of 6 acres to 1.5 acres in some areas as a result of new technology. Bernard Padovani of the Compagnie Generale de Geophysique explained to the committee that advances in deep seismic imaging has greatly reduced the number of wells drilled unnecessarily. Technology will also enable renewable energy sources to contribute to energy production in the United States. Several witnesses detailed the progress wind, geothermal, and gas hydrate research has made toward developing these sources into a major component of the U.S. energy portfolio.

A full hearing summary is available online at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_hearings.html.

House Holds Hearing on Natural Gas Price Modeling

The House Energy Subcommittee met on July 8 to discuss economic models and their accountability when applied to predicting natural gas prices. The discussion was spurred by concern over natural gas prices, which have nearly tripled since 2000 from $2 to $6 per million BTU. Economic models have been increasingly used as tools for policy-making, but the fact that none of the models were able to accurately predict the current spike in natural gas prices raised questions about their effectiveness. The discussion revealed that natural gas prices have been difficult to predict due to the complex nature of models and the variations in the underlying assumptions of the various models, which are often biased and unclear. Weather is the most unpredictable of these assumptions, but factors, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) production and imports, crude oil prices, and production capacity, can all drastically change the output of the models.

Natural gas supplies are facing increasing pressure as power plants are turning to this resource for energy because of rising oil costs. The models were also unable to factor in the developing LNG industry as well as safety issues accompanying this global industry. The models do, however, include calculations for greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. Mary Hutzler of the Department of Energy reported at the hearing that the models have been recently used to asses the economic effects of the Clear Skies Initiative and the McCain-Lieberman climate change proposal.

For a full summary, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_hearings.html.

Study: Natural Gas Prices to Keep Rising

A study released July 9 by the Cambridge Energy Research Associates concluded that natural gas prices will continue to rise in North America unless the oil and gas industry can resolve its shortage. The study predicted natural gas prices would rise to $6.62 per million BTU by 2007. New liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals could help alleviate this problem by 2008 or 2009, but would require streamlining permits for LNG expansion and relaxing some regulations. Many LNG terminals are currently being planned and built, but the report emphasized that it would be necessary for Congress to take quick action to balance natural gas supply and demand.

More information about the Cambridge Energy Research Associates and this study are available at http://www.eco-web.com/cgi-local/sfc?a=/index/index.html&b=/register/04418.html.

Coalbed Methane Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Little Threat to Groundwater

In late June, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report stating that there is little threat of pollution to underground drinking water sources from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids in coalbed methane (CBM) wells. The report was issued partly in response to a court decision that declared the EPA was responsible for CBM issues under the Safe Drinking Water Act. CBM producers inject a mixture of water and other fluids at high pressure into a well to crack the rocks, which increases the flow of oil and gas and makes it possible to extract hydrocarbons that were previously inaccessible. Often diesel fuel is used as a fracturing fluid, which introduces benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes into the ground and potentially into underground drinking water supplies. The largest CBM producers have agreed to voluntarily stop using diesel as a fracturing fluid, but say that most of the fluids they inject either biodegrade or remain stationary.

The report is available online at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/cbmstudy/docs.html.

Integrated Ocean Observing System Evaluated by House Committee

The House Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife, and Oceans held a hearing on July 13 to examine the status of ocean observing systems including the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). This program, which was designed with a similar purpose as the World Weather Watch and the National Weather System, will seek to network ocean research and monitoring to obtain a better understanding of the oceans. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, in their April 2004 report, stated that 95% of the ocean floor is unexplored and improved knowledge of ocean processes is critical to better management of ocean resources. The report also stated that IOOS will cost a total of $1.7 billion over five years with an additional $138 million in startup costs in FY06. Hearing witnesses agreed that the funds for the program will need to come from the Commerce, Justice, and State appropriations bill, and will not likely be easily acquired.

A full hearing summary is available on the Government Affairs website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/ocean_hearings.html.

Oceans Legislation Introduced in House and Senate

On July 22, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation unanimously adopted on a voice vote a block of bills, including the National Ocean Exploration Program Act (S. 2280) and the Marine Debris Research and Reduction Act (S. 2488). Introduced by Senator Stevens (R-AK), S. 2488 seeks to establish an ocean exploration program within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The bill would authorize $45 million annually FY05 through FY10 and $55 million annually FY11 through FY16. Sen. Inouye (D-HI) introduced S. 2488, which would help reduce and prevent marine debris through a program jointly operated by NOAA and the Coast Guard. The bill would authorize $10 million for the Department of Commerce (where NOAA is located) in FY05 and $5 million for the Coast Guard in FY05.

Rep. Greenwood (R-PA) introduced H.R. 4897, a deep-sea coral protection bill that is a companion to S. 1953, which is by Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ). This bill would establish Coral Management Areas to protect deep-sea coral concentrations, prohibit destructive fishing gear use, and increase funding for the research and mapping of coral. Rep. Rahall (D-WV) authored H.R. 4706, which would seek to reform the regional fishery management councils that set fishing quotas. The bill would increase representation of conservation and scientific advisory groups on these councils, and is currently pending before the Resources Committee.

We will be tracking these bills as they make their way through the legislative process. Keep up to date at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/ocean.html.

NOAA Organic Acts Introduced in the House and Senate

Both the House and Senate have recently been working on oceans legislation in response to April's U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report that called for the creation of an organic act for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has been operating under 200 separate Congressional authorities since it was created in 1970. On the House side, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) held a hearing on July 15 to discuss two bills creating organic acts for NOAA, H.R. 4546 and H.R. 4507. Ehlers authored H.R. 4546 and, along with Rep. Gilchrest (R-MD), introduced H.R. 4507 on behalf of the Bush Administration. The proposed bills offer a new structural organization for NOAA: An ecosystem-based management approach would manage activities affecting an ecosystem instead of the ecosystem itself. Although both are organic acts, H.R. 4546 includes specific functions for NOAA, while H.R. 4507 only defines four broad missions for NOAA.

Sen. Hollings (D-SC) introduced S. 2647 and S. 2648 on July 13. S. 2647 specifically addresses structural reforms to NOAA's management, which would include an assistant administrator for ocean management operations and one for climate and atmosphere. It establishes a NOAA office of intergovernmental affairs to promote interagency coordination. The organic act proposed in this bill would also establish a five-member "council on ocean stewardship" within the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal ocean and atmospheric budgets and create a panel of outside experts to advise the president on ocean and climate issues. This idea deviates from the creation of a national ocean council recommended by the ocean commission. This council would consist of Cabinet secretaries that would set national goals for governing the oceans. S. 2647 also proposes moving NOAA out of the Department of Commerce after a two-year transition period, when it would become an independent agency or department. The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy did not include such a move in its recommendation because of the difficulty involved. S. 2647 was scheduled for a vote at the Senate Commerce Committee markup on July 22, but it was pulled from the agenda two days before the markup to allow more time for comment.

The House Oceans Caucus also introduced their comprehensive oceans legislation, H.R. 4900, titled "Oceans-21." It was originally sponsored by Rep. Farr (D-CA), but is now sponsored by the co-chair of the Oceans Caucus, Rep. Greenwood (R-PA). The Oceans-21 bill, similar to Holling's bill S.2647, contains an organic act for NOAA with an ecosystem-based management approach. Oceans-21 would keep NOAA in the Department of Commerce, but would request an executive-branch report that would investigate creating a new department of natural resources.

For more information on Ocean Policy, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/ocean.html.

Court Upholds Constitutionality of Yucca but Rejects 10,000-Year Standard

On July 9, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia released a ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Yucca Mountain site selection process but rejected the 10,000-year compliance period for limiting the release of radiation set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The court found that the EPA did not properly follow the guidance of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). NAS advised the EPA that because radioactivity of the waste will peak in 300,000 years, Yucca Mountain should be designed to contain waste for at least that amount of time. The court ordered the EPA to revise the standards to be consistent with NAS recommendations or obtain approval from Congress that would allow them to implement the current standards.

The court case stemmed from the consolidation of several lawsuits filed by the state of Nevada and several environmental and public interest groups claiming that the Department of Energy (DOE), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and Congress unlawfully chose the site for Yucca Mountain. Opponents of the Yucca Mountain project viewed the decision as a near-fatal blow to the project, claiming the process to change the standards would substantially delay the opening of the site. Proponents touted the ruling as a victory and believed changing the standards posed only a minor hurdle to opening the repository.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing focused on the recent court decision upholding the constitutionality of Yucca Mountain, funding for the project, and other nuclear research and development endeavors. Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow reported that the recent court decision will not prevent DOE from preparing a license application by the end of this year, and he says that he is confident the standards questioned by the court can be worked out without rewriting any laws. Chairman Domenici stressed the need for the committee to find funds for not only the Yucca Mountain project, but also nuclear research and development. Proposed nuclear research and development funding was cut to $96 million in FY05 from FY04, although there was no funding for the projects in FY98.

For more information on Yucca Mountain and nuclear waste, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/yucca.html.

NRC Panel Decision Could Delay Yucca Mountain

A three-judge panel from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) questioned the Department of Energy (DOE) July 27th as to why it has received fewer than half of the 1.2 million documents that DOE is required to submit before the end of the year. Nevada officials filed a legal challenge against DOE two weeks ago when the NRC announced that the Internet database is missing some of the scientific documents pertaining to Yucca Mountain; DOE is legally obligated to make the papers available to the public. DOE said they submitted the documents June 30 to the Licensing Support Network, but members of the panel said they were struggling to understand why DOE waited so long to release the documents, considering they have been aware of this obligation for 15 years. DOE officials said they wanted to avoid wasting time collecting and validating the documents until Congress ratified the Yucca site, which happened in 2002. They also added that many of the missing documents are insignificant e-mails. The panel's decision, which is expected within the next few weeks, could delay DOE's licensing application of the site, which is due in December.

Congressional Science and Math Education Caucus Formed

Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Mark Udall (D-CO) have launched the Congressional Science and Math Education Caucus. The caucus will focus on K-12 education, undergraduate and graduate education, and industry-related science and math education. The caucus has been formed in the context of the declining number of U.S. students choosing to pursue advanced study in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Reps. Ehlers and Udall note the important contribution of these fields to the economy and national security. Urge your representative to contact Ehlers or Udall for more information about the Congressional Science and Math Education Caucus. The following representatives are members of the caucus:

Reps. Baker (R-LA), Baldwin (D-WI), Biggert (R-IL), Boucher (D-VA), Castle (R-DE), Crowley (D-NY), Doggett (D-TX), Ehlers (R-MI), Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Gilchrest (R-MD), Hayworth (R-AZ), Holt (D-NJ), Honda (D-CA), Johnson (Nancy, R-CT), Lee (D-CA), Lewis (D-GA), Lofgren (D-CA), McIntyre (D-NC), McCarthy (Karen, D-MO), McGovern (D-MA), Miller (Brad, D-NC), Schiff (D-CA), Simmons (R-CT), Smith (Adam, D-WA), Smith (Nick, R-MI), Udall (Mark, D-CO), Upton (R-MI), and Waxman (D-CA).

Homeland Security Education Act

Sen. Durbin (D-IL) and Sen. Akaka (D-HI) introduced the Homeland Security Education Act (S.2299) in July. The bill authorizes $75 million to establish a grant program to partner K-12 school districts and private entities, and $15 million in grants to higher-education institutions to develop programs for dual language and science proficiency. It also creates a $100 million program to forgive loan interests of students who earn a degree in math, science, engineering, or in certain languages such as Arabic.

The bill can be found at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=108_cong_bills&docid=f:s2299is.txt.pdf

Department of Energy Announces New Science Education Initiative

The Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced the Department of Energy's STARS (Scientists Teaching and Reaching Students) initiative on July 8. STARS consists of seven programs, such as Science Appreciation Day, a new Office of Science Education at the DOE, an "Ask a Scientist" website at the Argonne National Lab (http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/), and other programs to expose children to research and science professionals. The secretary's speech can be found at http://www.energy.gov/engine/content.do?PUBLIC_ID=16144&BT_CODE=PR_SPEECHES&TT_CODE=PRESSSPEECH/, and for a summary of the initiative, see http://www.energy.gov/engine/content.do?PUBLIC_ID=16145&BT_CODE=PR_PRESSRELEASES&TT_CODE=PRESSRELEASE/.

National Academies Addresses Role of Politics in Scientific Appointments

The Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP), part of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), met on July 21 to address barriers and criteria to appointing presidential and federal advisory committee scientists. Chaired by former Rep. John Porter (R-IL), COSEPUP consisted of 10 members who have previously worked in federal agencies. Testimony at the hearing came from by John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Kathie Olsen OSTP, Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA), as well as 10 special interest groups.

The committee, which has published reports on this issue in 1992 and 2000, sought insight from witnesses on how to ensure the most qualified scientists are appointed to the almost 1,000 federal and 50 presidential advisory committees, at a time when finding scientists to serve on these committees has been increasingly difficult. The witnesses cited several reasons for the difficulty: the application and disclosure process are time consuming and excessive, often taking six months to process; salary cuts and extra costs; career limitations; and conflicts of interest. COSEPUP also inquired about the role politics should play in the appointment process. Many scientists, along with Waxman, object to the consideration of political affiliation during the appointment process, citing several incidents in which scientific data was suppressed or ignored for political reasons. Ehlers said, however, that scientists are not above politics and should be in tune with the political philosophies of the administration to be effective.

The two previous COSEPUP reports and other meeting information are available at: http://www7.nationalacademies.org/presidentialappointments/.

SECURE Earth Initiative to Unite Geoscientists

The National Research Council's (NRC) Board on Earth Sciences and Research and the Board on Radioactive Waste Management met with a coalition of scientists, government agencies, and industry on July 14 to discuss SECURE Earth, Scientific Environmental/Energy Cross-Cutting Underground Research. The purpose of the initiative is to accelerate research and unite the subsurface geosciences community, to help Congress gain a clear picture of important energy and environmental problems. A panel of representatives from 13 different organizations, both federal and private, presented key geoscience problems affecting their programs in an effort to identify common research goals and what benefits a national research program would bring to groups involved in SECURE Earth. The presentations revealed that research needs to include better modeling with increased predictive capabilities at a range of scales and improved understanding and imaging of subsurface fluid flow, especially in highly heterogeneous areas. The NRC plans to use the information from this workshop to define possible studies and progress toward implementation sometime next year.

White House Releases Science Report

On July 20, the National Science and Technology Council released a report entitled "Science for the 21st Century", which addressed the challenges and responsibilities for the federal government in science and research development. The report outlines the importance of science to the current administration and the need to promote, respond, invest, and achieve in all areas of science for the security, economic growth, welfare, and health of the nation. John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), emphasized federal responsibility to fund fundamental research. He also commented that science funding was a priority but must be flexible to allow the government to respond to changing needs and opportunities. Marburger said that the physical sciences, as opposed to the life sciences, have traditionally been harder to fund because they are spread across many agencies. Additionally, the report highlights how science will differ in the 21st century with the convergence between different fields and disciplines that traditionally have been separated. The report mentions projects, such as the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, to illustrate how agencies are working together to provide data that will benefit the nation. It also cites the Math and Science Partnership program as an important component in achieving OSTP's vision for science in the next century.

To view a copy of the report, visit http://www.ostp.gov/nstc/21stcentury/index.html.

Status of Engineering and Science in the Workforce

On July 15, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) sponsored a luncheon briefing on the status of engineering and science in the workforce. Reps. Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), both members of the House Research and Development Caucus, expressed their concerns over the future of science in the United States, explaining that an aging science workforce and a decrease in foreign talent are threatening the country's economy, security, and health. Three panelists presented their views on the issue. Dr. Michael Crosby from the National Science Board presented facts that showed that while there is no immediate crisis, the long-term trends are disturbing. An increasing number of jobs pay well and do not require higher education, making research and doctorate degrees less appealing to young students, who are opting for other careers. This trend, Crosby said, needs federal attention to make the science workforce more appealing. Additionally, he explained that heightened security and delayed visa processing are hurting the flow of foreigners into the science workforce. Conversely, Dr. Michael Teitelbaum, a demographer, said that there was no shortage of scientists and natural variability in technology and funding was the cause of fluctuating demand. If a crisis was pending, he said, the workforce would show signs of adjustment, such as rising wages or shortened time-to-degree. While the topic needs attention to improve the quality of the science workforce, Teitelbaum argued that claims of "shortages" are not valid.

Presentations from the briefing are available at http://www.researchcaucus.org/schedule/04July15/default.asp
And a June 2004 report on "The U.S. Scientific and Technical Workforce: Improving Data for Decisionmaking" is available at http://www.rand.org/publications/CF/CF194/.

CCSP Proposes First Research Project

On July 7, the Bush Administration's Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) issued a draft prospectus of its first of 21 major climate science assessments, titled "Temperature trends in the lower atmosphere -- steps for understanding and reconciling differences." This research, which is expected to be completed within the next two years, will be open for public review and comment through Aug. 12. NOAA will act as the lead agency, while NASA, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation will be supporting agencies. This first assessment will focus on discrepancies between warming rates at Earth's surface and the middle troposphere. Climate computer models have predicted warming in the middle troposphere, but observations have contradicted this by showing the surface has warmed twice as fast as the atmosphere since 1980. Many studies have been done on this topic, including a 2000 National Academy of Sciences study, a 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a more recent study profiled in the July issue of Geotimes (available online at http://www.geotimes.org/july04/NN_atmosmeasrmt.html). As a result, many people are questioning the benefits of the new CCSP study, especially its ability to generate policy-relevant information. Others argue that the research is necessary to incorporate peer-reviewed studies done in the past few years. Flat funding between FY04 and FY05 of $2 billion annually will likely cause problems for the implementation of the 21 synthesis and assessment projects. It is not clear how the CCSP chose these topics, and many people have questioned the program's priorities. According to the most recent CCSP strategic plan, the 21 projects are part of a zero- to two-year or two- to four-year timeframe, with nine defined as state-of-the-science reports, five intended to inform policy decisions, and seven focused on informing operational management decisions.

For a list of the 21 syntheses and assessment projects, visit http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap-summary.htm. To comment on and review the draft prospectus through August 12, visit http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap1-1/sap1-1prospectus-draft.htm.

Job Opportunities in Washington, D.C.

American Geological Institute
The American Geological Institute, a nonprofit federation of 43 geoscience societies, is seeking a director of Government Affairs. This position is responsible for all phases of AGI's Government Affairs Program, working actively with member societies, Congress, and federal agencies to bring accurate science into the decision-making process of public policy; serve as a focused voice for the shared policy interests of the geoscience profession; monitor and analyze legislation and policy developments affecting the geosciences; and develop AGI congressional testimony and policy positions on national geoscience issues.

Candidates should have an advanced degree in the geosciences, with a Ph.D. preferred, as well as a demonstrated experience in science and public policy. Demonstrated outstanding written, verbal, and management skills are required. A strong familiarity with the geoscience community through active society participation is desired.

Candidates should submit a resume, including salary requirements and the names of three references, with cover letter to Government Affairs Director Search, AGI, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502 or jobs@agiweb.org. For more information on the program, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap. Applications will be considered on a continuous basis until the position is filled. EOE.

American Geophysical Union
AGU, an international scientific association with over 41,000 members, that stands as a leader in educating the public in regards to the Earth and Space sciences is seeking a Public Affairs coordinator to help foster careers in the geosciences and keep AGU's community informed of new developments in public policy. The Public Affairs coordinator will plan and assist in the Committee on Education and Human Resources (CEHR) meetings, coordinate career planning workshops and student affairs in an effort to promote and develop interest in the geosciences. The incumbent will also coordinate briefings, attend congressional hearings, markups, and other functions on the Hill in order to bridge AGU members and policy makers, as well as gather information for the Outreach website. We are looking for a candidate with an interest in public policy and the sciences; excellent written, verbal, and interpersonal skills; strong college level education, some course work in science highly desirable; and a demonstrated ability to communicate effective at all levels. Experience working on the Hill is preferred. AGU, located near Dupont Circle, offers a competitive salary and benefits package. All interested candidates should mail, fax or email a cover letter, resume and a one page writing sample to: American Geophysical Union, 04-009, 2000 Florida Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009. Fax: 202-777-7390. E-mail: resumes@agu.org.

U.S. Representative Vernon J. Ehlers
Congressman Ehlers is seeking candidates for a Legislative Assistant to handle Science Committee issues in his personal office. The candidate would be responsible for advising the congressman and developing policy on all scientific issues that are before Congress. In addition, the candidate would be responsible for staying abreast of developments in the different fields of science and briefing the congressman on new issues or discoveries relevant to federal policy, working with the various scientific organizations on policy and scientific issues, and representing the congressman's views to the scientific community.

Qualifications for this position include: A Ph.D. is required; background in science policy; strong writing, communication, and networking skills; ability to keep abreast of research in different fields of science; knowledge of PowerPoint; and experience in the federal legislative process.

Please e-mail resume and CV (as appropriate) to Cameron.wilson@mail.house.gov, with the subject "Ehlers Science Position." No phone calls or faxes please.

List of Key Federal Register Notices

Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community. Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont04.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

EPA: Proposing to grant a petition submitted by the United States Department of Energy, Richland Operations Office (DOE-RL) to exclude (or `delist') from regulation as listed hazardous waste certain mixed waste that are treated at the 200 Area Effluent Treatment Site (200 Area ETF) on the Hanford Facility, Richland, WA. We will accept public comments on this proposed decision until August 30, 2004. Send two copies of your comments to Dave Bartus, EPA Region 10, 1200 6th Avenue, MS WCM-127, Seattle, WA 98101. Electronic comments can be e-mailed to bartus.dave@epa.gov. Volume 69, Number 135 (15 July, 2004): pp. 42395-42412.

DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Federal Energy Management Advisory Committee will meet and seek written input on working group recommendations to meet mandated Federal energy management goals. Oral statements only by early request. Meeting Monday, August 9, 2004, 6:00 p.m. at Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 East Main Street, Room Highland A, Rochester, NY. Volume 69, Number 138 (20 July, 2004): p 43410.

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:

  • Climate Change Science Program (7-29-04)
  • High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (7-28-04)
  • Ocean Policy (7-23-04)
  • National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (7-23-04)
  • Everglades Restoration Hearings (7-23-04)
  • Energy Hearings (7-23-04)
  • Ocean Policy Hearings (7-20-04)
  • National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Act (7-16-04)
  • Energy Policy Overview (7-19-04)
  • Wind Hazards (7-09-04)

Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program, Bridget Martin, AGI/AIPG 2004 Summer Intern and Ashlee Dere, AGI/AIPG 2004 Summer Intern.

Sources: American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Institute of Physicists, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, House of Representatives hearing testimony, House of Representatives Science Committee press releases, NASULGC Washington Update, National Academy of Sciences, National Council for Science and the Environment, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, THOMAS legislative database, United States Senate hearing testimony, and Washington Post.

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

Posted August 11, 2004