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Monthly Review: July 2006


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

Visit Your Representative in August

During the month of August, the House of Representatives will be in recess and many legislators will be holding Town Hall or similar meetings to discuss concerns and issues with their constituents. The Science, Engineering and Technology Work Group (SETWG), which includes AGI and many of our Member Societies, has contacted all of the Members of the House of Representatives to request information on their Town Hall meeting schedule, which can be accessed at http://www.agiweb.org/cvd/townhall/listfront.html?list=HOUSE .

These meetings may change or more may be scheduled at any time, so please review the list or contact your Representative's offices to reconfirm these arrangements. We would like you to attend a meeting and publicly ask questions or offer support for science and technology legislation -- especially for the President's American Competitiveness Initiative. The initiative and several related bills introduced within the past year would authorize increases in science and engineering for research and education. These bills must receive congressional action before the end of the 109th Congress in 2006. Now is the time to communicate your questions, concerns and support for science and engineering to your Representative and to let the member know about the priorities of their constituents. More information about the American Competitiveness Initiative and related legislation is available on the AGI Government Affairs web page at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/innovation.html

The August recess provides an excellent opportunity to get to know your Representative and to draw his or her attention to the importance of supporting federal investments in science and engineering. In addition to the competitiveness legislation, appropriations for the fiscal year 2007 federal budget for science and technology have not been completed, so you will have an opportunity to offer input on these federal investments.

Town Hall meetings are usually open to the public and do not require an RSVP. If your Representative is not holding an open forum event, perhaps you could attend one of their other events in the district or set up a meeting with the Representative or members of his or her staff. Representatives are very interested in hearing from constituents. It is often easier to meet with constituents within the district, and the August recess is a good time to arrange a visit.

Please contact Government Affairs at govt@agiweb.org or Linda Rowan at rowan@agiweb.org if you would like more information about the legislation, appropriations or setting up a visit.

Congressional Visits in Washington DC, Please Volunteer

The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF), which includes AGI and many of our Member Societies, will organize congressional visits for groups of scientists and engineers to voice a shared message of greater support for research and education. There will be an orientation and reception on Tuesday, September 12 and the visits will be scheduled on Wednesday, September 13. This is an excellent opportunity to speak with Members of Congress about the value and importance of science and engineering as well as a chance to meet other scientists, engineers, policy makers and federal agency officials. Please contact Government Affairs at govt@agiweb.org or Linda Rowan at rowan@agiweb.org if you would be interested in participating. The deadline for signing up for visits is August 18. We need more citizen scientists and citizen engineers!

Mark Myers Says Unbiased Science a Priority if Confirmed as USGS Director

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved Mark Myers to be the new Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. Now the full Senate must vote on his nomination before he can be confirmed. As of August 3rd, a date for the vote has not be set on the congressional calendar and because the Senate will leave for a four week recess after Friday August 4th, a vote on Myers may be delayed until September.

Mark Myers, nominated to be Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), spoke to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee on July 20 to discuss his priorities for the USGS. "I look forward to the responsibility of managing one of the premier scientific organizations of the world," he said. Myers described his role as ensuring the USGS provides unbiased and accurate scientific data for the federal government. "One of the key challenges is to ensure the science is focused, and ready when and where we need it…it's incredibly important that the science is unbiased, that it is peer reviewed and objective, and has no agenda other than giving the information the government needs," he explained.

In addition to unbiased scientific data, Myers told the committee that geologic mapping would also be a high priority. "One of the core missions of the USGS is basic mapping," he said. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) inquired to Myers about mapping and how he plans to continue this practice at USGS. Myers's response was that he would foster state and local level partnerships to meet government and private sector needs.

Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) attended the meeting to endorse Myers's nomination. "Mark is very respected…he has developed a reputation for gathering a consensus for his opinions," said Stevens. Murkowski added to Stevens' comments saying, "When you look at his qualifications and his resume you say this is a man who has given his life to science… His work in the earth sciences has spanned 28 years, twelve of which he has served the public." Myers received nothing but praise from senators during the hearing.

Myers's previous position was the Director of Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas, which he held for five years. He is also a past president and board member of the Alaska Geological Society; a certified professional geologist with the American Institute of Professional Geologists; a certified petroleum geologist with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; and a licensed geologist with the State of Alaska. He received his doctorate in geology from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 1994, specializing in sedimentology, clastic depositional environments, surface and subsurface sequence analysis and sandstone petrography. Myers earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Senate Passes Offshore Drilling Bill, Must Now Reconcile with House Bill

On August 2, the Senate voted 75 to 21 to pass the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (S.3711 ) that would open 8.3 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to new oil and gas drilling. The bill now needs to be reconciled with the much broader House bill, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act (DOER, H.R. 4761). The House bill would lift the 25-year moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas off most of the U.S. coastline. States have the option to maintain the offshore drilling ban within 100 miles of their coastlines.
Within the House bill, part of the federal revenue generated from offshore drilling royalties would fund the Energy and Mineral Schools Reinvestment Fund Act (EMSRA). Funds will be distributed to petroleum, mining, applied geology and geophysics schools to support education and research and to encourage the growth of professionals in the energy workforce. Additional funds would be available for K-12 science education. H.R. 4761 also establishes the National Geo Fund to fund geologic mapping, geophysical and other seismic studies, earthquake monitoring programs, and preservation and use of geologic and geophysical data.

The full text of the 2 bills is available from Thomas at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
For the Senate bill, S.3711, please see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:s.03711:
For the House bill, H.R. 4761, please see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.04761:

U.S. - India Nuclear Pact Debated in Congress

A pact agreed to by President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Singh to provide India with civilian nuclear technology and materials in exchange for greater oversight of some of India's civilian nuclear facilities has passed several hurdles in Congress, but has a long way to go before the U.S. can sign the pact. Committees on international relations in the Senate and the House approved the agreement late last month. The legislation, H.R. 5682 and S. 2429, essentially grants the President authority to waive certain requirements of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which prevents the U.S. from engaging in nuclear trade with countries that do not allow full international inspections of their civilian and military nuclear facilities. Under the pact, India would allow inspections of its civilian facilities, but not at its weapons plants. In addition, India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and nuclear security experts fear that the pact will encourage other nations to develop nuclear capabilities without signing the non-proliferation treaty because, like India, they could establish separate bilateral treaties.

Supporters of the agreement, including some sectors of the energy industry, point out that India's expanding economy and growing population, combined with a democratic government and market-based economy, will allow U.S. industry to benefit from the pact. A representative from General Electric estimated that each new nuclear plant would contribute $1 billion to the U.S. trade balance, a boon to the U.S. economy.

Critics of the plan believe that it will allow India to increase its weapons production, precipitating an arms race between India, Pakistan and China. These concerns have been exacerbated by the revelations in late July that Pakistan is building a large new nuclear facility capable, by some estimates, of increasing its weapons-building capacity twenty-fold. In spite of this and only days after the administration admitted to knowing about Pakistan's new facility when they agreed to the pact with India, the House voted 359 to 68 in favor of the agreement. The Senate has not yet voted on their bill.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also held a hearing on other aspects of U.S. - India energy cooperation, providing more background and justification for the nuclear pact. The Bush administration may also seek to build similar cooperative energy enterprises with other nations in the future.

Please see our summaries of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, the House Committee on International Relations hearing, and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the U.S. - India nuclear energy agreement for more information.

"Hockey Stick" Global Warming Hearings Take Place in House

A series of climate change hearings were convened in the House during the month of July. The hearings come about a year after the Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Edward Whitfield (R-KY) launched an investigation into the validity of the 1998 and 1999 "hockey stick" temperature reconstruction and the scientific credibility of the papers' authors, Drs. Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes.

On July 19, the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on the statistical methodology of the "hockey stick" temperature reconstructions. Subcommittee republicans denied that the hearing was an attempt to discredit the work of the three paleoclimatologists, and explained that research with such major policy and economic implications should be subject to intense scrutiny. Independent reviews of the principle component analysis methodology were completed by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and an ad hoc committee of statisticians led by Dr. Edward Wegman, and both found flaws in Mann et al.'s statistical treatment of the temperature reconstruction data. The NAS report stated that despite statistical flaws in the two papers, the conclusion that the 20th century has shown unprecedented global warming is nevertheless largely correct. The ad hoc panel countered that the papers' conclusions cannot be supported, and questioned the peer review process and the social networking within the relatively small paleoclimatology community. The hearing also included some republican-led debate about whether man-made pollution is the major cause of global climate change or if the present warming is just part of a natural cycle.

In the House Committee on Government Reform hearing on July 20, there was little debate regarding anthropogenic influences on global warming, and more of a focus on what is being done and what can be done in the near future to stem emissions of greenhouse gasses. Among the nine witnesses that testified before the committee, Jim Connaughton, the Chairman of the President's Council on Environmental Quality, presented information on the administration's "growth-oriented" climate change policy, and a top Wal-Mart Executive, Andrew Ruben, gave testimony concerning the company's commitment to sustainability and its initiatives to increase efficiency.

A second hearing by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee was convened on July 27, with Dr. Michael Mann present to defend his research. Mann explained that he had recognized the errors in his early statistical techniques and had subsequently refined his methods in later published studies. He also underscored the existence of numerous independent paleoclimate proxy records that corroborate his findings. Although all witnesses on the panel acknowledged that the Earth is warming and that humans are a part of the problem, there was some lingering disagreement on whether the warming is proceeding at an unprecedented rate.

For written testimony from the three climate change hearings, please see the following links, which are in chronological order:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/07192006hearing1987/hearing.htm
http://reform.house.gov/GovReform/Hearings/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=46863
http://energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/07272006hearing2001/hearing.htm


House Science Committee Seeks Science Advice

Representatives Sherman Boehlert (R- NY) and Rush Holt (D- NJ) are leading a movement in Congress to improve the manner in which members receive information about the scientific and technical aspects of current issues. Boehlert's Committee on Science heard testimony from experts in the science community to discuss the need for an in-house, non-partisan board of scientists able to prepare expert assessments at the request of Congress. Until 1995, this function was performed by the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), whose funding was cut by a Republican Congress suspicious of its political neutrality and annoyed by its lack of timeliness. Boehlert has argued that since OTA was cut the services they provided have not been adequately replaced. Now members face--and must vote on--issues with complicated technical components almost every day, so that the need for an in-house team of experts is greater now than it might have seemed in the 1990's.

House Science Committee Approves New Energy Bill

On June 17 the House Science Committee unanimously passed the Energy Research, Development, Demonstration, and Commercial Application Act of 2006 (H.R. 5656), a bill appropriating funds to several energy initiatives. "Having reliable affordable, clean sources of domestic fuel is a must… [We] need to develop and use [domestic] sources more wisely," said Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) in his opening statements. The energy research programs that would be funded by H.R. 5656 are broad in nature and include carbon sequestration, nuclear fuel reprocessing, solar and wind technology, and hydrogen fuel cells. The bill would also put emission requirements on the clean coal project called FutureGen, tightly limiting the amount of sulfur, nitrous oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide emissions.

The bill funds nearly $2 billion in energy programs. This includes $1.25 billion in plug-in hybrid research and an additional $250 million to fund state projects for plug-in hybrid research. Biofuel programs are appropriated $485 million over three years. Solar technology research receives $648 million and an additional $800 million in grant programs. Wind power is allotted $204 million. There is also an energy efficient building program funded at $50 million.

One controversial measure was the future of the proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). H.R. 5656 requests the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to clarify their recommendations for ARPA-E's mission and role in the federal government in fostering new energy technology. Gordon offered an amendment which would have approved ARPA-E as proposed and appropriated $3.4 billion to the program. However, the amendment failed by a voice vote on party lines after Boehlert urged the committee to wait until after the NAS could clarify ARPA-E's mission.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Approves Levee Safety Bill

The full House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee met on June 28 to markup the National Levee Safety Program Act (H.R. 4650), a bill to inventory the nation's levees. This bill would require the Army Corps of Engineers to create a list of all levees, citing condition, vulnerability, age, structure, and other characteristics related to safety and operation. Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) cited the need for federal review of levees. "The levees I saw near New Orleans were only as wide as my thumb to my little finger…In Sacramento, there is seepage under the levee walls, [which may] soon lead to another catastrophic event," he said. This program would be the first federal initiative to gauge the quality of levees. H.R. 4650 also creates incentives for states to create a similar program, and for a national board to create standards of rating and cataloging levees. "As the experience in Louisiana from Katrina shows us, there has never been a complete adequate review of the nation's levees," said Rep. John Duncan (R-TN).

An amendment sponsored by Duncan allows private sector review of levee standards and assessments, and increased appropriations from $10 million to $15 million per year from 2007 to 2012. The amendment passed, followed by the passing of the bill as amended by voice vote. H.R. 4650 is ready to be voted on by the full House.

NASA Blueprint No Longer Protects Our Home Planet

On July 22, the New York Times reported that NASA's mission statement was changed in February 2006. The mission statement was changed from "To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers…as only NASA can.." to "to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research." NASA's original mission statement in 1958 was "the expansion of human knowledge of the earth and of phenomena in the atmosphere and space." The changing mission statements seem to suggest that NASA is moving further away from understanding our home planet and its environs to focusing on space exploration and aeronautics research. According to NASA spokesman David E. Steitz, NASA Administrator Michael Griffin made the change to reflect the agency's priorities as mandated by President Bush.

House Hearings Focus on NASA's Aeronautics Program

The recent release of two studies on NASA's aeronautics program has prompted discussion about the program's goals and priorities. Recommendations offered to the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics include restoring funding levels to their 1990s levels, which were twice what was requested for fiscal year 2007. Some subcommittee members suggested that NASA fund fewer basic research projects in aeronautics and spend more resources on advancing basic research and prototype development to facilitate their adoption by industry. Witness testimony also emphasized the importance of improving the process by which foreign-born scientists can work in the U.S. aeronautics industry.

GAO Releases Report on U.S. Tsunami Preparedness

In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster, many questions were raised about U.S. tsunami preparedness in highly populated coastal regions. In response to these concerns, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report entitled "U.S. Tsunami Preparedness: Federal and State Partners Collaborate to Reduce Potential Impacts, But Challenges Remain." The report, released on June 5, 2006, concludes that while the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has the technology to detect the formation of a tsunami and issue warnings fairly quickly, the states lack comprehensive information regarding potential human, structural, and economic impacts that could result from a tidal wave. This is due in part to limited progress on the creation of inundation maps that show the extent of coastal flooding, and a lack of standardized computer software for estimating the likely damages from tsunamis. The report underscored the need to raise public awareness, through school and community programs, of how to respond to tsunami warnings, and it advised local governments to improve evacuation routes and to build emergency communications infrastructure that would be protected from potential tsunami damage. The report additionally suggested that NOAA create a long-range strategic plan and define specific performance measures so that the success of the National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program can be assessed.

Read the full GAO report at http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06519.pdf.
More information on NOAA's National Tsunami Hazard Mitigation Program can be found at http://nthmp-history.pmel.noaa.gov/index.html.

USGS Launches New Natural Hazards Web Site

To help educate the public about the threat of natural hazards, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has launched a new Web site with seven easy-to-understand fact sheets on earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanoes and wildfires. The hazards Web site highlights resources and information available from the USGS and provides links to the individual hazards Web pages for more detailed information. The Web site and fact sheets can be accessed at
http://www.usgs.gov/hazards/.

NEHRP Seeks Nominations for Advisory Committee

The 2004 reauthorization of the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) directed that an independent advisory committee be formed to assess: 1. trends and developments in the science and engineering of earthquake hazards reduction; 2. NEHRP effectiveness in carrying out mandated activities; 3. need to revise NEHRP; and, 4. NEHRP management, coordination, implementation and activities.

On June 27, 2006, the official charter for the new Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction (ACEHR) was established by the US Department of Commerce, parent agency for NIST. The NEHRP will soon begin a thirty-day formal solicitation period for nominations. No Federal agency employees may serve on this committee. The official announcement for the nomination period will be published in the Federal Register, and a copy of that announcement will be placed on the NEHRP web site (http://nehrp.gov/) under "Key News and Updates".

The official charter is available as a pdf file at http://nehrp.gov/info/PDF/ACEHR_Charter_Signed.pdf

Geological Society of America Will Hold a Drought Forum in September

The Geological Society of America will hold a conference on drought entitled "Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments, Creating a Roadmap for Change in the United States" on September 18-20, 2006 in Longmont, Colorado. The stated goals of the conference are "to create an integrated, interactive, future-oriented forum for understanding and improving our management of drought and water scarcity in the United States and to stimulate national debate through the publication and wide distribution of a science- and policy-based discussion document." The abstract deadline was June 26.

More information is available at: http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/06drought/

Societies Respond to Open Access Legislation in the Senate

On July 19, the Soil Science Society of America and its sister societies, the American Society of Agronomy and the Crops Science Society of America sent a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) asking them to postpone consideration of the S. 2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, of which they are co-sponsors. The bill would require federally-funded researchers to submit their peer-reviewed papers to a public access database. The letter argued that the bill threatens the health of the scientific enterprise and may limit access to federally funded research instead of opening access. The Senate has not considered the bill as they prepare to leave Washington DC for a three week recess starting after August 4.

The full text of the letter is available at www.asa-cssa-sssa.org/sites.php?a=253&b=3&c=20&d=T&e=341

More details about the open access legislation is available from Thomas at http://thomas.loc.gov/. Enter the bill number or title in the search engine.

Scientific Publishers Sue Subscription Distributor

The American Chemical Society, American Institute of Physics, Blackwell Publishing, Inc., Elsevier, Inc., Taylor & Francis, Springer Science and Business Media LLC, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. and Wiley-Liss, Inc. filed suit against against Commax Worldwide, a California-based subscription agency on July 19th. Commax Worldwide acts as intermediary for customers in Asia and elsewhere by handling their subscriptions. The publishers allege that Commax engages in subscription fraud by purchasing cheaper individual user subscriptions under false pretenses and transferring the subscriptions to libraries and institutions, but charging their customers the higher institutional subscription prices. The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

Kansas Primary Removes Some Evolution Opponents

On August 2, voters in Kansas removed two incumbent opponents of evolution and supported two other incumbent opponents for seats on the State Board of Education in closely contested primaries. The list of candidates winning their primaries means that proponents of teaching evolution in public schools will have a slim 6 to 4 majority on the next board. Creationists held a majority on the board in 1998 and outlawed the teaching of evolution in Kansas. They lost their majority in 2000 and the teaching of evolution was restored in public schools. Creationists gained a majority again in 2004 and altered the definition of science in the state standards to include supernatural phenomena, which is the most serious challenge to the teaching of science and may adversely affect the teaching of other scientific concepts besides evolution. The general election will occur in November and the new board will then discuss the state standards once again.

University of Kansas Sponsors Lecture Series On Evolution

The University of Kansas is sponsoring a three-month series of lectures about evolution and intelligent design, and organizers hope it will spark a broad public discussion. The "Knowledge: Faith & Reason" series is scheduled to start September 7 with a lecture by Kenneth Miller, a Brown University biology professor who says evolution can be reconciled with religious faith. The series is sponsored by the Hall Center for Humanities and the Difficult Dialogues at The Commons.
For more information please see: http://www.hallcenter.ku.edu/cgi-bin/cal.shtml?c=48

The Clinton Climate Initiative, an International Effort

Former President Bill Clinton, through the Clinton Foundation, is leading an effort by 22 large cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance energy conservation. The Clinton Climate Initiative creates an international consortium that can bargain for cheaper energy-efficient products, share information about energy conservation strategies, share information about greenhouse gas emission reduction and provide help with tracking emissions

The 22 cities include Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Caracas, Chicago, Delhi, Dhaka, Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Melbourne, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Rome, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Toronto, and Warsaw. More cities are expected to join in the next few months.

More information about the initiative is available at:
http://www.clintonfoundation.org/index.htm

Nature Commentary on Gender Challenges Bias in Scientific Community

In the July 13th issue of Nature, neurobiologist Ben Barres disputes the suggestions of former Harvard President Larry Summers and others that women are not advancing in science because of innate inability. Barres points to several studies which indicate that there is no scientific evidence to support these suggestions. Instead Barres believes that gender-based bias is a significant barrier to advancement for female scientists. His commentary includes anecdotes and personal experiences from his unique perspective as a transgendered person. Barres started his academic career as a female student and researcher, however, after he changed his sex, he found that people treated him with more respect. Barres challenges the scientific community to deal with gender-bias and the barriers it imposes.

The full text of the commentary is available at Nature with a subscription or payment per article: http://www.nature.com/nature/index.html

Key Federal Register Notices

Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geosciences community. Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont06.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

DOE: The Department of Energy announced the availability of the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Proposed Infrastructure Improvements for the Yucca Mountain
Project, Nevada. The draft and electronic comment forms are available at http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov. Comments must be submitted by August 7, 2006. [Federal Register: July 6, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 129)].

DOE: The Office of Science announces an open meeting of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee on August 3-4, 2006 in Bethesda, MD. More information is available at http://www.er.doe.gov/bes/besac/Meetings.html. [Federal Register: July 10, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 131)].

NSF: The National Science Board is announcing a public Federal Advisory Committee meeting of the Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics on August 3-4, 2006 in Arlington, VA. For more information contact Dr. Elizabeth Strickland. Phone: 703-292-4527; E-mail:
estrickl@nsf.gov. [Federal Register: July 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 135)].

CEQ: The Council on Environmental Quality has developed a guide to appropriately align the Environment Management Systems (EMS) of federal agencies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The guide can be viewed at http://www.nepa.gov in the "Current Developments" section. Written comments should be submitted on or before September 1, 2006 to NEPA Modernization (EMS-NEPA). For further information contact Horst Greczmiel at (202) 395-5750. [Federal Register: July 17, 2006 (Vol. 71, No. 136)].

EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing its rules governing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) under the Clean Air Act. The final rules took effect July 17, 2006 and can be found at http://www.regulations.gov. For further information, contact Thomas Cody at (919) 541-3037. [Federal Register: July 17, 2006 (Vol. 71, No. 136)].

NASA: A meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel will be held on Friday, August 18, 2006 from 1p.m. to 3 p.m. For further information, please contact Mr. John D. Marinaro at (202) 358-0914. [Federal Register: July 17, 2006 (Vol. 71, No. 136)].

DOE: The office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will hold an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee on August 10, 2006 at 8:30 a.m. For further information, contact Neil Rossmeissl at (202) 586-8668. [Federal Register: July 18, 2006 (Vol. 71, No. 137)].

EPA: The Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards released a staff draft document this month that evaluates the policy implications of scientific information contained in the Air Quality Criteria for Ozone document, including related scientific assessments of ozone risks. The documents can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/ ozone/s-- o3--cr--sp.html for the Staff Paper and http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards /ozone/s--o3-- cr--td.html for the technical support documents and staff memos. Comments are due September 18, 2006 to a-and-r-Docket@epa.gov. [Federal Register: July 18, 2006 (Vol. 71, No. 137)].

DOE: Department of Energy has announced that the comment period has opened for an Environmental Impact Statement required to construct the FutureGen project. FutureGen will explore the feasibility of generating hydrogen and electricity at a coal-fueled power plant, and to research geologic sequestration of CO2. Comments can be sent to FutureGen.EIS@netl.doe.gov by September 13. [Federal Register: July 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 145)].

NOAA: The comment period is open for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's draft Prospectus for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Product 3.2 Send comments to Vanessa Richardson, Climate Change Science Program Office, 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Suite 250, Washington, DC 20006 by August 28. [Federal Register: July 28, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 145)].

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:

* Hearings on Nuclear Energy (7-28-06)
* Hearings on Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (7-28-06)
* Hearings on NASA Programs (7-25-06)
* Hearings on Nuclear Waste Management (7-25-06)
* Hearings on Clean Air Issues (7-24-06)
* Hearings on Clean Water Issues (7-21-06)
* Hearings on Global Earth Observations (7-21-06)
* Hearings on Clean Air Issues (7-18-06)
* Innovation and US Competitiveness (7-17-06)
* Tsunami Policy (7-10-06)
* Flood Hazard Policy (7-7-06)
* Hearings on Natural Gas Issues (7-7-06)
* Ocean Policy (7-6-06)
* Energy Policy (7-6-06)
* FY2007 NASA Appropriations (7-5-06)
* FY2007 Department of Commerce Appropriations (7-5-06)
* FY2007 National Science Foundation Appropriations (7-5-06)
* Hearings on Nuclear Energy (7-5-06)
* Hearings on Wetlands and Coastal Resources (7-5-06)

Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs, Carrie Donnelly, Jessica Rowland and Tim Donahue, 2006 AGI/AIPG Summer Interns.

Sources: Thomas, United States Senate web sites, United States House of Representatives web sites, Washington Post, E&E News, CNN News, Congressional Quarterly, PRNewswire, Nature, and the Federal Register.

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

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

Posted August 7, 2006.

 

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