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Monthly Review: July 2005


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

Congressional Hazards Caucus Back on Watch
Energy Bill Arrives on President's Desk
Peak Oil Takes the Stage in Capitol Hill Seminar Series
Climate Change Becomes Focus of House Investigation
Group of 8 Countries Write Agreement on Climate Change
Climate Change Experts Testify in Senate
House Passes Bill Endorsing NASA's Vision for Space Exploration
Status of Appropriations Bills
Department of Interior and EPA Appropriations Complete
White House Sets Federal R&D Guidelines for FY 2007
Bush Favors Intelligent Design and Evolution in Science Classes
AGI Joins Societies Urging an Evaluation of the NIH Public Access Policy
NIH Public Access Working Group Meets
USGS Report on Groundwater
International Agreement Made to Reduce Methyl Bromide
AGI Become Founding Partner of the International Year of Planet Earth
New National Report Card Shows Long-term Gains in K-12 Reading and Math
House Committee Finds $6 billion Unused Education Funds
Two Reports Address Teacher Pay and Quality in U.S. Public Schools
NSF Teaching Award to Geologist
Contribute to the New Earth Science Teachers Website
USAID Creates Natural Resources Library on the Web
Key Federal Register Notices

 

Congressional Hazards Caucus Back on Watch

The Senate Natural Hazards Caucus is being renamed and revitalized as a bicameral Hazards Caucus. The Caucus will be led by four co-chairs in the Senate, Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Ben Nelson (D-NE), and four co-chairs in the House, Reps. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Jo Bonner (R-AL) and a fourth representative to be determined. The Hazards Caucus will be bipartisan and provide a centralized, concerned and cohesive cooperative for members to share lessons learned from the local to national level, gather information and work together to reduce risks. Shared objectives for the caucus include: (1) Focus greater attention in Congress on the natural and man-made hazards facing the nation and improve understanding of the need to mitigate against the impacts of floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, landslides and land subsidence, tornadoes, volcanoes, severe weather, drought, fire, and tsunamis. (2) Help promote better land-use planning and optimize building codes. (3) Strengthen public and private support for science and engineering research by demonstrating how application of advances in science and engineering research can contribute to saving lives and money. (4) Support the implementation of new technologies, such as geographic information systems, to address societal challenges faced by state and local government and the private sector. (5) Identify additional areas of consensus and common interests related to hazards.

The Hazards Caucus and Coalition held a hurricane briefing for House and Senate staffers on July 11, 2005. A summary of the briefing is available on the Hazards Caucus Website.

Please visit the website to learn more about the Caucus, to offer your expertise and help and to determine if your congressional members are part of the Hazards Caucus. If they are not, please encourage them to join.

The American Geological Institute (AGI), along with several member societies, the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America and the Seismological Society of America, are vital members of the Hazards Caucus Coalition. The Coalition consists of more than 50 organizations that represent scientists, engineers, homebuilders, building code writers, emergency planners/responders and insurers. If your organization would like to join the Coalition, please contact Linda Rowan at AGI.

Energy Bill Arrives On President's Desk

On July 29, 2005, the Senate passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005 by a 99-1 vote, thereby overcoming the final hurdle in a four-year push to pass comprehensive energy legislation. A day earlier, the House also approved the massive, 1,725 page legislation by a reasonably bipartisan vote of 275 to 156. After a House-Senate Conference Committee succeeded in agreeing on a final bill earlier in the week, the Senate vote came just in time to meet the August deadline set by President Bush.

After almost two weeks of frenzied negotiation, House and Senate conferees were able to work out major differences by dropping the most contentious parts of the bill. There will be no provisions for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), no liability protection for producers of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and no renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Drilling in ANWR is allowed under the appropriations process, so it was not really a major concession to drop it from the energy bill. Conference Committee Co-Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), pushed hard for compromise on the MTBE liability protection by offering to set-up an MTBE cleanup trust fund of $1 billion in which industry, state and the federal government would each contribute one-third. Likewise, Senator Jeff Bingaman's attempt to amend the RPS language was not successful.

On many provisions, the final bill simply compromises on the different numbers in the House and Senate versions (see AGI's table comparing the differences). For example, 70% of the authorized funding for the $1.8 billion Clean Coal Power Initiative will go to advanced combustion technologies, including coal gasification; the Senate bill had called for 80%, while the House bill had called for 60%.

The National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program Act of 2005 was left as is in the final bill; the section authorizes $30 million over five years of federal money to pay for up to 50% of any data preservation program or facility. The federal part of the program will be administered by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Other major additions, compromises, and deletions include:
-- Requirement that 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol be included in the nation's gasoline supply by 2012, down from 8 billion in the Senate bill and up from 5 billion in the House bill.
-- $2 billion in risk insurance for new nuclear reactors added to package of incentives for advanced nuclear power.
-- $1.5 billion for an ultra-deepwater oil drilling research and development program.
-- Over 10 years, a $14.6 billion energy tax package with $3.1 billion in offsets, up from $8 billion in the House bill and down from $18 billion in the Senate bill.

For more information, review AGI's energy policy web page and table comparing the House and Senate energy bills.

Peak Oil Takes the Stage in Capitol Hill Seminar Series

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) held its third Environmental Science Seminar on "The Future of Oil: Will Supply Meet Demand?" The forum featured four presentations that focused on peak oil predictions and recommendations for future energy use in the United States and worldwide. Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), opened the discussion by expressing concern at the lack of urgency among policy-makers to address the oil supply issue.

Each of the speakers were prominent figures in peak oil prediction and mitigation. Robert Hirsch, Senior Energy Program Advisor at SAIC, identified the nation's transportation infrastructure as the main obstacle in addressing peak oil. In order to avoid a crisis, Hirsch said a plan to transition away from petroleum-dependency should be implemented 20 years before peaking. Jack Zagar, Director of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), and Matthew Simmons, Chairman and CEO of Simmons & Company International, focused more on the importance of reliable data on oil supply capacity, particularly in Saudi Arabia. While growing economies in developing nations like China and India are predicted to have a great impact on U.S. oil supply, Dr. Herman Franssen, President of International Energy Associates (IEA), took the opportunity to remind the audience not to blame these population for desiring the same consumptive lifestyle that Americans enjoy.

The speakers were somewhat reluctant to discuss how current legislation addresses oil supply concerns. On the energy bill, Hirsch simply commented that the bill fails to address peak oil, calling it "business as usual."

A full summary is available on the AGI's Energy Policy site.

Climate Change Becomes Focus of House Investigation

The hot and sticky summer months yielded a heated controversy over the quality of climate change science, peer-review, the dissemination of data and who has jurisdiction to judge these issues. Representative Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, and Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY), chairman of the House Oversight and Investigation subcommittee, sent letters to three climate scientists who co-authored research papers attributing a large rise in northern hemisphere temperatures over the past century to man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

The House letters cited errors in these papers based on a Wall Street Journal report and requested the data, source codes, other studies, records of all financial support and details about all of their responses to anyone who requested their data or questioned their results. The letters also cited a paper by McIntyre and McKitrick in Energy and Environment that reported errors and omissions in Mann et al. Nature, 1998, one of the papers in question. The letters request a detailed explanation of these alleged errors and how these errors might affect the results. In addition, the letters requested information about the role of each author in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report (TAR) and the identities and roles of other scientists who worked on TAR. Similar letters were also sent to Arden Bement, the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the research of Mann, Bradley and Hughes and to Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC. NSF and IPCC were asked to explain how they judged the quality and accuracy of Mann et al. and other studies and what policies they have regarding the dissemination of data.

The letters, which are posted on the Energy and Commerce website, have drawn condemnation from some members of Congress and the scientific community. Representative Sherwood Boehlert, the chairman of the Science committee, in a letter to Barton, called the investigation illegitimate and indicated the purposes of the letters were to "intimidate scientists" and "substitute Congressional political review for scientific peer review". Boehlert concludes that the letters represent an attack on science and the peer-review process, and he states "The precedent your investigation sets is truly chilling." The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science and 20 climate researchers have also written letters to Barton. These letters and media reports about the controversy are available on the House Science Committee website.

Group of 8 Countries Write Agreement on Climate Change

On the final day of the Group of 8 (G8) Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland on July 5-8, 2005, political leaders from Russia, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States released a public statement accepting global warming as a "serious long-term challenge" for the world. Although no targets or timetables were set, the G8 pledged to act "with resolve and urgency" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by building low-carbon, sustainable economies. According to the agreement, the UN Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will be understood as the "appropriate forum for negotiating the future of the multilateral regime on climate change." Many environmental groups were disappointed about the results of this summit. Stephen Tindale of Greenpeace said, "The G8 has committed to nothing new but at least we haven't moved backwards on the environment." British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that the nations would meet again in London in November 2005 to discuss the details of an emissions reductions plan.

View all documents from the Gleneagles G8 Summit at http://www.g8.gov.uk.

Climate Change Experts Testify in Senate

Climate Change issues received new attention this month from the Senate when three separate committees planned hearings that, rather than focusing on the climate change debate itself, began to discuss how to address the issue of global warming. The hearings followed several events this month that placed climate change in the political spotlight, including energy bill debates in the Senate, the G8 Summit in Gleneagles Scotland, and Representative Joe Barton's (R-TX) investigation into climate change science. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee ended up canceling their July 27th hearing on greenhouse gas reductions and the Kyoto Protocol, but during the previous week, two other hearings were held to discuss the current science behind global warming, economic concerns, and the federal climate research budget.

On July 20, 2005, the Senate subcommittee on Global Climate Change and Impacts devoted its first-ever hearing to discussing the $5 billion federal budget request for climate-related science and technology for fiscal year (FY) 2006. Federal agency officials testified about the U.S. involvement in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the G8 Summit, as well as the status of a report on climate change that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should release by the end of 2007.

The following day, on July 21st, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held another hearing on "Climate Change Science and Economics," in which panelists from the scientific community urged the committee members to recognize that global warming is occurring because of man-made emissions and that political leadership is needed now to alleviate the problems. In response, committee members requested that scientists provide certainty in their results on climate change before lawmakers can make sound policies. "It is very important for us to insist that you get it right," said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

For more on these hearings, visit AGI's Climate Change Hearings site.

House Passes Bill Endorsing NASA's Vision for Space Exploration

On July 22, 2005, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed an authorization bill for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) without a solution to the Iran Non-Proliferation Act (INA), an obstacle that threatens America's ability to complete the International Space Station. The bill provides congressional endorsement for NASA to carry out its Vision for Space Exploration while taking measures to ensure the agency maintains its other primary missions of space science, Earth science, and aeronautics. A primary focus of the act is to allow NASA to proceed with retiring the space shuttle by 2010 and to encourage NASA to launch the next Crew Exploration Vehicle as close to 2010 as possible. It also provides for a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope.

When the House Science Committee unanimously approved the bill one week earlier, committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-MI) stated that the full House would not consider the bill until it incorporated language to amend the INA, which prohibits the U.S. from employing Russian services unless the President proves Russia is not providing Iran the means to strengthen their nuclear program. Without the use of Russian space vehicles, astronauts would not be able to obtain transport from the International Space Station in the event of an emergency. In its final language, the bill instructs NASA to solve this problem by September 30, 2005. The Senate will likely consider their version of the bill in early September.

For further coverage on the progress of both House and Senate NASA Authorization bills and how earth science programs will be affected, please visit AGI's NASA Policy website.

Status of Appropriations Bills

Before Congress left Capitol Hill for their August recess, budget conferees succeeded in sending two appropriations bills to the President's desk, including spending for the Legislative Branch, and the budgets for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Forest Service. While the House has completed work on all 10 of its bills, the full Senate still has yet to vote on 7 of their 12 appropriations bills, including spending for the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Education, the Commerce Department, and federal science agencies such as NASA, NSF and NIST.

The House approved $3.43 billion for NOAA (Senate suggested $4.48 billion), $549 million for NIST (Senate suggested $844 million), $16.5 billion for NASA (Senate suggested $16.4 billion) and $5.64 billion for NSF (Senate suggested $5.53 billion). The large differences in the funding for NOAA and NIST between the House and the Senate is partly due to the inclusion of the State Department in the House bill, whereas the Senate was able to offer more funding for NOAA and NIST because they did not have to worry about funding the State Department in the same bill. It is not clear how this major difference in the bills will be reconciled; however, it is likely that all of these science agencies will be competing with each other for funding in the conference committee. The beginning of September is the best time to contact your Senators and ask for support for science funding for these agencies. When the conference committee members are assigned, you can also contact committee members to request support, especially if you are a constituent. When constituents talk, Members listen.

House-approved funding for educational programs within science agencies were higher than the President's proposed budget and are divided as follows: $807 million for education at NSF ($70 million more than the President's request), $169 million for education at NASA ($2 million more than the President's request), and $28.9 million at NOAA for a new education program not requested by the President.

Department of Interior and EPA Appropriations Complete

The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, 2006 (H.R. 2361 and conference report 190-088), includes compromises and increased spending for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) compared to the President's proposed budget. The act was overwhelmingly approved 410-10 in the House and 99-1 in the Senate, with Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) casting the single dissenting vote. Overall, the Interior Department will receive $9.88 billion, including cuts to federal land acquisition programs and modest increases for the USGS, the National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service. There were significant increases for wildfire suppression, wildfire preparedness and hazardous fuel reduction as the Administration and Congress continue to support accelerated efforts to mitigate disastrous fires and ensure a cycle of contained fires to promote biodiversity, healthy forests and supplies for the timber industry. Spending for the Environmental Protection Agency is set at $7.73 billion for FY 2006, which includes a cut of $295 million from current levels, but $160 million more than the president's request.

The bill sets fiscal year (FY) 2006 spending for the USGS at $977.4 million (without rescissions), $41 million more than the $936.3 million for FY2005. In contrast, President Bush had requested only $933.6 million, with significant cuts to mineral and water programs. Within the USGS, the National Mapping programs received $133 million and funding for Landsat was spared most of the cuts proposed by the Senate but still lost $2 million overall compared to the funding proposed in the House bill.

The Geologic Hazards, Resources and Processes programs received $239 million, about $8.7 million more than FY2005 levels, with most of this increase for hazards programs. Congress also kept the Minerals Resources Program funded at FY2005 levels by removing a proposed $28.5 million cut proposed by the Administration. The conference report gave the following explanation for rejecting the cut: "The managers strongly disagree with the Administration's proposed reductions to the minerals assessment program and believe it is irresponsible for the Administration to decrease or eliminate funding for what is clearly an inherently Federal responsibility. The conference agreement restores funding for this vital program to the enacted level."

Water programs at the Survey received $212 million and funding for the Water Resource Research Institutes was maintained at $7.6 million despite the President's proposal to end the program. The Survey was cautioned about competing with private industry and asked to submit a report by the end of the year. The conference report language said, "The managers are concerned by continuing reports that suggest the Survey's water resources program is providing or seeking to provide a variety of commercial services to Federal and non-Federal entities in direct competition with the private sector. The managers have previously encouraged the Survey to use the services of the private sector in the conduct of its activities wherever feasible, cost effective, and consistent with the quality standards and principles pertaining to the effective performance of governmental functions. The managers expect that the Survey should strive to implement such a policy to the best of its ability in the performance of its work."

White House Sets Federal R&D Guidelines for FY 2007

In a July 8, 2005 memo, two White House officials responsible for overseeing the federal science and technology budget released the President's research and development (R&D) priorities for fiscal year (FY) 2007. The memo directs executive branch agencies to give special focus in their budgets to R&D programs that would apply strong interagency coordination to enhance national security, energy independence, scientific literacy, and technological innovation. Within the category of "Energy and Environment," the White House encourages agencies to contribute to the U.S. Integrated Earth Observing System (IEOS), the U.S. Ocean Action Plan, climate change and fresh water supply research, and hydrogen storage technologies.

The full memo is available in PDF format (78 KB) on the Office of Science and Technology Policy website.

Bush Favors Intelligent Design and Evolution in Science Classes

During a question and answer session with the media at the White House on August 1, 2005, President Bush said that he favored teaching intelligent design (ID) alongside evolution in science classes in U.S. public schools. According to Knight Ridder Newspapers, Bush said, "I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought." The National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded that there is no scientific basis for ID and oppose teaching it in a science class. AGI, the American Geophysical Union, the Association for Women Geoscientists, the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology and The Society for Organic Petrology all have position statements supporting the teaching of evolution and opposing the teaching of non-scientific ideas, such as ID, in science classes. Outside of the scientific community, parents, teachers, religious leaders, policy makers and members of the broader public have voiced their opposition to calling ID a scientific theory and allowing it to be taught in science classes.

AGI Joins Societies Urging an Evaluation of the NIH Public Access Policy

The American Geological Institute, along with 50 other non-profits who publish scientific journals, sent a letter to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, asking the Senate to carefully reconsider the Public Access Policy recently adopted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The policy, which took effect on May 2, 2005, requires that NIH-funded research that has been accepted for publication by a peer-reviewed journal be accessible through an NIH digital library. The letter took issue with language attached to the House Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2006, which fully endorses the NIH policy and recommends an "aggressive education and outreach initiative" to maximize participation.

"Given Federal budget constraints," the letter reads, "every effort should be made to avoid establishing a federally administered and funded program that would duplicate private sector publishing activities, particularly one that may undermine the activities of nonprofit peer-reviewed journal."

The purpose of the letter was to call on the Senate Appropriations Committee to include more tempered language in their spending bill report, and to request that NIH provide information on the costs of carrying out its policy and the existing availability of NIH research articles on the internet. "This evaluation by the Committee should be a prerequisite to implementing any further NIH publication policy."

The Senate Appropriations report language, which was released July 14, 2005, was supportive of the policy but less enthusiastic than the House bill, and did not request the NIH to administer an outreach program. To improve upon the policy, the committee did request the NIH provide the policy's operating costs as well as an assessment of the policy's impact on research availability and the peer review system.

Links to the full text of the House and Senate bill reports, as well as the letter sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, can be found on AGI's Public Access site.

NIH Public Access Working Group Meets

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Working Group on Public Access met with stakeholders on July 11, 2005. Since the Public Access policy went into affect on May 2, 2005, NIH has received about 775 manuscripts, some older than 2 years and about 340 of them are unpublished. NIH expected about 5500 article per month or 250 per day based on current publication rates of NIH-funded authors, so compliance with the voluntary public access is about 3 percent. Only 7 articles are actually posted in the archive at PubMed Central as of July 11 and one of the articles is a review article, even though review articles are not suppose to be collected as part of the NIH policy.

The roster of members of the Working Group can be found on the NIH website.

USGS Report on Groundwater

The United States Geological Survey released a report entitled "Estimated Withdrawals from Principal Aquifers in the United States, 2000" on August 1, 2005. Major findings highlighted in their press release include 76.5 billion gallons per day are withdrawn from aquifers for irrigation (about 75% of the total usage), water supplies to homes and businesses and self-supplied industrial uses. California and Nebraska use more groundwater for irrigation than any other states; 8,910 million gallons per day in California and 7,050 million gallons per day in Nebraska. About half of the combined groundwater withdrawals are coming from four principal aquifers: the High Plains aquifer (CO, KS, NE, NM, OK, SD, TX, WY), the Central Valley aquifer (CA), the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer along the lower Mississippi River (AR, LA, MS, MO, TN), and the Basin and Range aquifers predominantly located in the desert Southwest (AZ, CA, ID, NV, NM, OR, UT).

The full report is available online on the USGS Water Department website.

International Agreement Made to Reduce Methyl Bromide

The United States has joined 189 nations in an effort to reduce the use of methyl bromide, a crop pesticide that may damage the stratospheric ozone layer. On July 1, 2005, the nations bound by the Montreal Protocol of 1987 met in Montreal, Canada to discuss terms of the original agreement intended to eliminate the use of ozone-depleting chemicals. Although 20 developed countries have agreed to reduce the use of methyl bromide by 20 percent in the next year, 13 countries including the United States will be exempted from this effort due to "significant market disruption" claimed by industries unable to find alternatives to the pesticide. Developing countries have been asked to phase out methyl bromide by 2015. The U.S. uses roughly 7000 tons of the chemical each year.

For information on this agreement, read this article on ENN.com.

AGI Become Founding Partner of the International Year of Planet Earth

On June 19, 2005, the American Geological Institute became the founding partner for the International Year of Plant Earth (IYPE) initiative in the United States. AGI will join the Geological Society of London, and 18 associate partners, in an effort to designate 2008 as the IYPE. Geoscientists in this country may now join geoscience organizations and individuals around the world in this endeavor to increase public awareness of Earth science, sustainable development, and responsible stewardship. The International Union of Geological Sciences in conjunction with United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will make a formal proposal at the next United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York to designate 2008 as the IYPE.

For more information, the AGI media advisory is available in PDF format (110 KB).

New National Report Card Shows Long-term Gains in K-12 Reading and Math

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) released a new report of long-term trends in reading and math achievement for students ages 9, 13, and 17 from 1971-2004. This "Nation's Report Card" discovered increasing success for blacks, whites, and hispanics as well as a decrease in the scoring gap between white and minority students. Females outscored males on reading assessments in all three age groups, while the male students scored higher on math assessments.

The entire report is available on the NAEP website.

House Committee Finds $6 billion Unused Education Funds

The House Education and the Workforce Committee discovered that states collectively returned more than $66 million of the appropriated education funds to the U.S. Treasury this year. After analyzing Department of Education data earlier this year, the Committee also found over $6 billion in unused funds accumulated between 2000 and 2003. "...It's only appropriate that we look back at how the money Congress has already appropriated has been used -- or not used -- over the past five years," said Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH). The total amount of unused federal education money appears to be increasing rather than decreasing, causing concern that the President's FY2006 proposed 51 percent increase in K-12 funding may not effectively improve schools as intended.

More information is available through the House Education and Workforce Committee website.

Two Reports Address Teacher Pay and Quality in U.S. Public Schools

The National Education Association (NEA) released a report in June entitled "Rankings & Estimates: Rankings of the States 2004 and Estimates of School Statistics 2005," which shows that public school teacher salary levels have grown only 2.9 percent over the past decade, even as enrollment rates have risen, causing teacher shortages. Average teacher salaries in fifteen states declined between 1993 and 2003 including declines of five percent or more in Alaska, Kansas, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and New York.

The National Academy of Education (NAE) also released a report this month that summarizes research on effective teaching and offers policy recommendations for improving teacher training and instructional quality. Called a "landmark report" by the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education, the report concludes that, unless the nation invests in teacher education, we will not achieve real progress in our public education system. The NAE Committee on Teacher Education recommends in the report that the government provide subsidies for teacher recruitment, improve training programs in high need areas, and improve education program funding overall. It also recommends the use of performance-based teacher evaluations, stronger accountability and program monitoring, and increased support for new teachers.

The full NEA report on teacher salaries is available in PDF (105 KB).
The full NAE report is also available in PDF format (96 KB).

NSF Teaching Award to Geologist

The National Science Foundation awarded 7 researchers with the Director's Distinguished Teaching Scholars (DTS) prize for having achieved not only groundbreaking results in research, but for their strong teaching and mentoring skills and major educational contributions. Professor Paul R. Bierman, a geologist at the University of Vermont received one of these awards. Paul is a geomorphologist whose research involves isotope geochemistry, surface process, human-induced landscape change, and rates of erosion. His work to couple science and education includes work in the Governor's Institutes of Vermont, a residential program for high school science students, and NSF's Career program combining research and education.

"The awards are NSF's recognition of accomplishments by scientists and engineers whose roles as educators and mentors are considered as important as their ground-breaking results in research," said NSF Director, Arden L. Bement, Jr. "These scholars are true pioneers, whose research is molded into the fabric of education in ways that will benefit many of tomorrow's young scientists," Bement added. "Beyond that, however, there will be many other students -- not science or engineering majors -- who will likely be influenced by these scholars as they enter the workforce, and because of what they have learned about the value of scientific inquiry, they will contribute to our society in many valuable ways." The seven awards bring to 34 the number of awards NSF has made since the start of the program since 2001. The DTS grants allow scholars to conduct further research and education activities, or start new ones that benefit their individual fields and the students they support.

For more information, visit the NSF website.

Contribute to the New Earth Science Teachers Website

The National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) has redesigned their website, which includes a variety of tools useful for earth science teachers, including quick links to lessons and other information covering a range of earth science topics, from space science to oceanography. If you would like to contribute additional lessons and other educational materials for use by NESTA, please email your suggestions to Carl Wozniak at cwozniak@nmu.edu. View the new website at http://www.nestanet.org.

USAID Creates Natural Resources Library on the Web

The USAID Office of Natural Resources Management Office (NRM) has developed a clearinghouse of online resource libraries that provide immediate public access to studies of biodiversity, forestry, land management and water from around the world. An interactive map of the world links seamlessly to over 450 project summaries and 3,100 USAID reports assessing natural resource use as it relates to armed conflict, tourism, poverty reduction, and the aid of geographic information systems. The website serves USAID mission staff, contractors and other stakeholders to enhance decision-making and project planning, and to communicate the agency's work to the global community. The library is accessible through http://www.nric.net.

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. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online.

EPA: The EPA is taking final and direct action to correct, amend and revise provisions in the Highway Diesel Rule and the Non-road Diesel Rule. Minor corrections will clarify the regulations governing compliance with diesel fuel standards, primarily focusing on the Non-road rule. The corrections will also designate and track provisions to account for companies within the fuel distribution system. Finally, the revisions will affect the generation of fuel credits, allowing refiners better access to early highway diesel fuel credits. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure a nationwide, smooth transition to ultra low-sulfur diesel fuel. [Federal Register: July 15, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 135)]

BLM: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has restored mining claims and sites from $25 to $30 per mining claim or site. The annual maintenance fee has also been restored, from $100 to $125 per mining claim or site. All mining claim holders must pay the new fees for all mining claims or sites recorded on or after June 30, 2005. [Federal Register: July 1, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 126)]

New Updates to the Website

The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly update:

Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs, Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff, Anne Smart, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, Amanda Schneck, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, and John Vermylen, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern.

Sources: Greenwire, Environment and Energy Daily, Environmental News Network , National Assessment of Educational Progress, Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Policy, American Geological Institute press release, Washington Post, American Institute of Physics, House Appropriations Committee, Senate Appropriations Committee, House Science Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PROGRAM MONTHLY REVIEW, SEND AN EMAIL WITH YOUR REQUEST AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO GOVT@AGIWEB.ORG

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

Posted August 2, 2005.

 

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