Monthly Review: July 2007
This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.
The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) is organizing congressional visits for scientists and engineers on September 18 and 19. AGI and several other Member Societies are part of CNSF. Participants are asked to carry forward a core message urging Congress to support steady increases for the National Science Foundation. In addition, participants can share their own brief messages about programs that they see as valuable examples of the federal science and technology enterprise emphasizing, for example, the value of the geosciences to the economy and national security. The coalition hopes to bring together a diverse array of scientists and engineers representing many disciplines for a brief overview of priorities, on the afternoon of September 18, followed by congressional visits in multidisciplinary groups on September 19.
We urge you to sign up and participate in this effort. It will not take too much time, hundreds of scientists participate in visits every year and it is vital that the geoscience community communicates about the value of geoscience with policymakers. AGI's Government Affairs Program and the public policy offices of several Member Societies can provide you with more information about the visits and will be helping to organize this event. Please contact Linda Rowan, AGI's Director of Government Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or to ask questions. The deadline for signing up is August 23.
For more details see AGI's Government Affairs action
After much work on innovation and competitiveness initiatives by Congress, the Administration and many scientific societies such as AGI, Congress passed a large and sweeping piece of legislation that would boost funding for physical science research and science and engineering education. The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act or America COMPETES Act (H.R. 2272) would double the budget of the National Science Foundation and the Energy Department's Office of Science over the next 7 years. The large measure also contains increases for physical science research in other agencies and programs as well as providing a host of science and engineering education enhancements.
Speaker Pelosi compared the funding provided in the America COMPETES Act to the Apollo space program and enthusiastically recalled the words of President Kennedy from his now famous Moon speech. Speaker Pelosi also praised the hard work and leadership of Science and Technology Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN), Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Congressman George Miller (D-CA).
Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN) gave a very enthusiastic speech in support of the measure and in particular in support of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E would receive $300 million in fiscal 2008 for high risk, transformational energy research. Appropriations as necessary would be provided in 2009 and 2010 and Congress would have the option to terminate ARPA-E after 4 years. The funding for ARPA-E would come from a separate Treasury account, its director would report directly to the Energy secretary and the Senate would have to confirm the director, who would be appointed by the President.
The legislation also includes new policies to prevent the suppression or distortion of federal research. Under the measure, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of Management and Budget and the heads of federal civilian science agencies would have to issue "an overarching set of principles to ensure the communication and open exchange of data and results ... and to prevent the intentional or unintentional suppression or distortion" of federal research.
AGI and many other organizations sent letters of support for this measure in the first few days of August before the recess and the support of all of these organizations was noted in a House Science and Technology Committee press release. Many geoscientists and engineers from AGI's Member Societies have spent many years communicating their support to policymakers for such a sweeping piece of legislation and their hard work has paid off.
text of the bill is available from Thomas
On July 26, 2007, the House approved the Departments of Commerce and Justice, and Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations for FY 2008 (H.R. 3093) by vote of 281 to 142. The measure includes more than $28 billion in research and science education funding, about $1 billion more than the President's request. The Senate passed their version of science appropriations in June, so the next step is to conference on the two bills and bring the compromise legislation back to both chambers for final approval after the August recess. President Bush has threatened to veto the bill because of the additional spending and Congress is unlikely to have enough votes to override the veto. The veto threat extends to some other appropriation bills and it is looking likely that Congress might have to rush an omnibus package to the President after both branches have compromised on fiscal priorities.
For now, the House appropriations bill provides robust and essential increases for research and science education. Below are some highlights of funding increases for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would receive $3.95 billion, an increase of about $141 million over the President's request and about $57 million more than the fiscal 2007 enacted budget. There would be increases for research on climate change and a request for the National Academies to study global climate change. Oceans and Atmospheric Research would received about $410 million for operations, research and facilities, an increase of about $52 million above the President's request and $46 million more than fiscal 2007. The National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) would receive about $158 million for operations, research and facilities, including funding for environmental data archiving, access and assessment activities.
The National Science Foundation would receive $6.509 billion, which is $80 million more than the President's request and $592 million more than fiscal 2007. This level of funding if passed and continued in future fiscal years would allow the NSF budget to double over a 10 year period. The Research and Related Activities account would receive the lion's share of the increase, with a proposed budget of $5.140 billion, an increase of $8 million over the request and $474 million over fiscal 2007. In the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction account, $42 million is proposed for the Alaska Region Research Vessel and $31 million is proposed for the Ocean Observatories Initiative. The Education and Human Resources account would receive a modest increase of $26 million compared to fiscal 2007 for a total budget of $822.6 million. The Noyce Scholarship program and the Math and Science Partnerships program would receive large increases relative to the President's request.
The House also approved a new program on climate change education. The House Report (110-240) stated "The Committee has provided $10,000,000 for a new activity in the Education and Human Resources Directorate: education and training in the use of Earth observations and information derived from those observations, which includes assistance to educators in inspiring and training students in this area. As called for in the National Academies' `Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond', the training of future scientists who are needed to interpret observations, and who will turn the measurements into knowledge and information is critical. The Foundation should work with the National Academies in the development of a plan for the distribution of these funds."
text of the bill and the House report are available from the appropriations
page of Thomas.
The House of Representatives worked overtime to pass an energy bill and other key legislation before taking their August recess. During a rare Saturday session on August 4th, the House passed the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 3221) by a vote of 241 to 172. The measure is a combination of a many bills and would aim to increase energy efficiency and conservation, increase basic research on renewable energy resources, such as geothermal, solar, wind and wave, increase research on carbon capture and sequestration, promote ethanol use and require 15% of private utility energy generation to come from alternative resources. The "consensus" legislation also contains language that would repeal many aspects of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT05), particularly aspects that would favor fossil fuel research and development.
Most of the Republicans strongly opposed the legislation because it does not promote nuclear energy, coal-to-liquid plants, new offshore drilling or fossil fuel research and development, while the bill repeals parts of EPACT05. Squabbles also erupted over typical turf and regional battle lines. In particular, the House bill does not address vehicle fuel efficiency standards because of opposition from the auto industry and Congressman John Dingell (D-MI), who represents a district dominated by the auto industry. Vehicle fuel efficiency enhancements are part of the Senate energy bill and the tough issue will re-surface when the two chambers conference to work out the differences between their measures after the August recess.
The full text of the bill is available from Thomas
The House passed the Water Resources Development Act (H.R. 1495) by a vote of 381 to 40 on August 1st and now the measure awaits a final vote in the Senate before it can be sent to the President.
The massive legislation would fund over 900 Army Corps of Engineers flood and environmental restoration projects and would cost $21 billion. This is much larger than the original House bill ($15 billion) or the original Senate bill ($14 billion) and the President has threatened to veto the legislation because of its cost. The Ranking Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congressman John Mica (R-FL) promised to have enough votes to override the veto. Although the Senate has not set a time table for considering this bill, in an unusual meeting of the minds, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) both pledged to get enough votes in the Senate to override a possible veto too.
The full text of the bill is available from Thomas
Congressmen John Dingell (D-MI) and Jim Oberstar (D-MN) have introduced a measure that would erase the term "navigable" and replace that term with "waters of the United States." in the Clean Water Act. The bill (H.R. 2421) would increase the number of waterways protected by the Clean Water Act by removing the requirement that only navigable waterways are protected. The measure is in response to two recent Supreme Court decisions that focused on what Congress intended by the phrase "navigable waters of the United States". The Supreme Court cases in question are Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the joint cases of Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The legislation also includes a clause that would retain existing Clean Water Act exemptions, including those for agriculture, mining and silviculture.
The measure was introduced in May and is currently sitting in the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. A hearing on the legislation took place in July and the measure currently has 169 co-sponsors.
The full text of the bill is available from Thomas.
Multiple cap and trade bills have been introduced in Congress, but none of these bills seem to have the votes for passage. Now, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) are working behind the scenes to come up with compromise legislation that can win approval in both chambers. Although the pair wanted to get their new bill out before the August recess, they have not done so, but hope to introduce something in September.
International impetus is growing for Congress to become more proactive on cap and trade. The United Nations will host a global warming summit on September 24th and President Bush will host his own 15 nation global warming summit this fall. In addition, in July, the Business Roundtable called for international and domestic action on global warming.
Congress held many hearings on different aspects of cap and trade
in July and Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ted Stevens (R-AK) and
Arlen Specter (R-PA) have all changed course and become co-sponsors
of Senator Jeff Bingaman's (D-NM) cap and trade bill. Many of the
more popular cap and trade bills, including Bingaman's, contain what
has been called a "safety valve" or "off ramp"
which would allow industry and government to opt out of cap and trade
programs if certain economic restrictions are met. Such opt-out options
are probably necessary for any legislation to gain approval in both
On July 10, NSF announced that Mark Abbott will be the new assistant
director for Geosciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF).
He will begin his new post on October 1, 2007 and will oversee the
Geosciences Directorate, which has a budget of $744.85 million in
fiscal year 2007. Abbott is currently dean of the College of Oceanic
and Atmospheric Sciences and professor of biological oceanography
at Oregon State University.
On July 18th, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) released a draft
report entitled "Facing the Hard Truths About Energy, A Comprehensive
View to 2030 of Global Oil and Natural Gas". The draft report
was released at an NPC meeting in Washington DC. The work is being
led by Lee Raymond, the former Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil,
and involves 350 experts plus more than a thousand others who have
been invited to provide comments and advice. Major issues highlighted
in the executive summary include:
The NPC called for the following actions to mitigate the highlighted
The 40-page report contains many useful statistics on global oil and natural gas as well as energy usage, particularly in the United States. Although many of these statistics come from different sources, having them all in one document is helpful.
The full draft report is available from the NPC web site
The National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions (NASSMC), a network of 42 state-level business/education partnerships, has announced the establishment of the STEM Accelerator Initiative (SAI). This program has been created to fill a critical void in the STEM education landscape, by providing second-stage support to STEM education programs that are proven to impact the education/workforce pipeline from grades PreK-16 and beyond.
More details are at www.nassmc.org/sai.html.
Russian Arctic explorer Artur Chilingarov planted a Russian flag on the Lomonosov Ridge about 14, 000 feet beneath the sea, near the North Pole claiming a vast region of seafloor for Russia. Although the flag planting has been considered a media stunt, Russia is very serious about its claim to this resource-rich region of the Arctic. Russia ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1997. The treaty limits the five nations on the Arctic Ocean (Russia, Norway, Canada, Denmark and the United States) to 200 miles of territorial waters, but allows any country to file a claim for more territory if they can show that their continental shelves extend into the Arctic.
Russia filed a claim in 2001, arguing that the Lomonosov ridge is an extension of Siberia's continental shelf. The commission requested more data to prove this claim and Russia's Institute of Ocean Geology has recently gathered more data to support this claim. This new data sparked Chilingarov to plant the Russian flag, however, the Institute suggests that it will take until 2010 at the earliest to collect enough data to verify the claim.
There is a lot at stake in the Arctic besides territorial claims. Arctic ice has decreased by 20 percent over the past 20 years and the melting ice opens up a shorter route between Europe, Asia and the Western Hemisphere for ships. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that the Arctic seabed and subsoil hold as much as 25% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas. In addition, there may be economically viable deposits of tin, manganese, gold, nickel, lead and platinum. No wonder the flag-planting stunt has caused great concern. Canada, in response to the flag-planting, announced that it is building eight armed ice-breaking ships, while the United States, Norway and Denmark are working on their own claims in the Arctic.
One potential problem for the United States is that the Senate has not ratified the Law of the Sea treaty and this weakens the country's ability to deal with the Russian claims and any other claims. Ratification would give the United States a seat at the table in resolving disputes, such as the Russian claim and provide clarity with regards to American territorial waters. Indeed, President Bush, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Coast Guard have called for ratification of the treaty for these and other reasons.
AGI and the American Geophysical Union recently signed onto a letter
asking the Senate to ratify the Law of the Sea treaty because it would
also make it easier for geoscientists to conduct research and exploration
in the sea and on the seafloor. The treaty creates rules for the world's
oceans and their resources, spelling out, for example, the procedures
for the interdiction of vessels on the high seas, for offshore drilling
and fishing, maritime pollution, and the right to navigate the straits
and other waters of coastal nations. 155 countries have already ratified
the treaty and the United States remains perhaps the most exceptional
hold-out among the remaining nations.
Arizona State University and NASA's Johnson Space Center have teamed
up to make available high-resolution scans of original Apollo flight
films. They are available to browse or download at: http://apollo.sese.asu.edu.
FEMA - The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has changed
Base (1% annual-chance) Flood Elevations for a host of communities
around the country. Modified BFEs are available at the office of the
Chief Executive Officer of each community. For more information contact
William R. Blanton, Jr. at (202) 646-3151.
EPA - The EPA is taking direct final action to amend the national
emission standards for primary copper smelting area sources and secondary
copper smelting area sources published on January 23, 2007. This direct
final rule is effective on October 1, 2007 without further notice,
unless EPA receives adverse comment by August 2, 2007.
NSF - The National Science Foundation has renewed a selection of
advisory committees for another two years. For the full list of committees,
see the Federal Register Entry, available here: http://tinyurl.com/yolkv5
For more information, please contact Susanne Bolton, NSF, at (703)
DOC- NOAA issued a notice of public meeting and comment regarding
the US Coral Reef Task Force, to be held in Pago Pago, American Samoa.
This meeting, the 18th bi-annual meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task
Force, provides a forum for coordinated planning and action among
federal agencies, state and territorial governments, and nongovernmental
partners. Please register in advance by visiting http://www.coralreef.gov
For more information, contact Beth Dieveney at 301-713-3155 x129 or
EPA - The EPA issued a Notice of Data Availability. The EPA received
concerning the impacts of the proposed monitoring provisions for open-ended
lines and valves of petroleum refineries and organic chemical manufacturing
plants. This NODA addresses new data collected and analyses conducted
in response to comments that EPA received. They seek comment only
on the impacts of the proposed monitoring provisions for open-ended
lines and valves at synthetic organic chemical manufacturing sources
and petroleum refineries - no other aspect of the proposed rule. Submit
comments by August 8, 2007 at http://www.regulations.gov or to email@example.com.
Identify by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2006-0699.
USDA - Notice was given of the intention of the Natural Resources
Conservation Service (NRCS) to issue a series of new or revised conservation
practice standards in its National Handbook of Conservation Practices.
These practices may be used in conservation systems that treat highly
erodible land or on land determined to be a wetland. Comments will
be received for a 30-day period as of July 10, 2007. Submit comments
in writing to: National Agricultural Engineer, Natural Resources Conservation
Service, P.O. Box 2890, Washington, DC 20013-2890, or, by e-mail to
DOC - The purpose of this notice is to announce a decision by the
Federal Geodetic Control Subcommittee (FGCS) under NOAA to recommend
adoption of a standard method for mathematical transformations between
the vertical geodetic datums: The National Geodetic Vertical Datum
of 1929 (NGVD 29) and the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD
88). In order to maintain consistency of results and to minimize misuse
associated with the mathematical transformation method, FGCS recommends
software identified as VERTCON (Vertical Conversion) as a Federal
standard. Written comments should be sent to the attention of David
Doyle, Chief Geodetic Surveyor, Office of the National Geodetic Survey,
National Ocean Service (N/NGS2), 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring,
Maryland 20910, fax 301-713-4324, or via e-mail Dave.Doyle@noaa.gov.
USDA - The Forest Service is seeking comments from all interested
individuals and organizations on the draft tables for the 2007 RPA
Forest Resources of the United States. These tables will be the basis
for analysis of status and trends in the nation's forests and includes
data for 1953, 1977, 1987, 1997, and 2007. The draft review tables
are available in pdf format at: http://fia.fs.fed.us . Comments concerning
this notice should be addressed to Dr. Richard Guldin, Director, Quantitative
Sciences Staff--Forest Service, Mail Stop 1119, Washington, DC 20090-6090.
Comments also may be submitted via fax to 703-605-5131 or by email
to: firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments must be received by September
DOI - The Minerals Management Service is inviting comments on a collection
of information that we will submit to the Office of Management and
Budget (OMB) for review and approval. The request concerns the paperwork
requirements in form MMS-144, Rig Movement Notification Report. For
a full abstract of the subject mater, associated with the Outer Continental
Shelf (OCS) Lands Act, see the Federal Registry Entry at: http://tinyurl.com/29uv5p
DOE - The Office of Science at the Department of Energy issued a
notice of a meeting of the Climate Change Science Program Product
Development Advisory Committee. Attendees will continue discussions
on drafting the Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and
Assessment Product related to climate modeling. The meeting will be
held on Wednesday, August 8, 2007, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the American
Geophysical Union, 2000 Florida Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20009.
For more information contact Dr. Anjuli Bamzai at 301-903-0294; or
DOC - NOAA issued a notice to announce the availability for public
comments of the draft Report for one of the U.S. Climate Change Science
Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Products (SAP). This draft
Report of SAP 4.6 addresses the following CCSP Topic: ``Analyses of
the Effects of Global Change on Human Health, Welfare, and Human Systems.''
A revised Report along with the comments received will be published
on the CCSP web site. Comments must be received by September 4, 2007.
The web address to access the draft report and make comments is: http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap4-6/default.phpDetailed
DOE- the DOE is preparing an environmental impact statement for disposing
of Greater-Than-Class-C low-level radioactive waste (GTCC LLW). The
DOE will evaluate different disposal options such as geologic repositories,
intermediate depth boreholes, and enhanced near surface facilities.
The DOE invites public comment until September 21, 2007. Comments
may be submitted to James L. Joyce, Document Manager, Office of Regulatory
Compliance (EM-10), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue,
SW., Washington, DC 20585-0119.
EPA- The Mobile Sources Technical Review Subcommittee (MSTRS) of
the Federal Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday, September 19,
2007 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to discuss activities being conducted by
EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality. The meeting will be
held at the Doubletree Hotel Crystal City-National Airport, 300 Army
Navy Drive, Arlington, VA 22202-2891. Phone: 703-416-4100. For Technical
Information: John Guy, Designated Federal Officer, Transportation
and Regional Programs Division, Mailcode 6405J, U.S. EPA, 1200 Pennsylvania
Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460; Ph: 202-343- 9276; e-mail: email@example.com.
Background on the work of the Subcommittee is available at: http://www.epa.gov/air/caaac/mobile_sources.html
DOE- The EIA is soliciting comments on the proposed revision and
three-year extension to the Coal Program package. Send comments to
William Watson. To ensure receipt of the comments by the due date,
submission by Fax (202-287-1944) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
EPA- The EPA is posting the applicability determinations, alternative
monitoring decisions, and regulatory interpretations that EPA has
made under the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS); the National
Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP); and the
Stratospheric Ozone Protection Program. For further information visit
EPA- On July 31, 2007, the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards
(OAQPS) of EPA will make available for public review and
EPA- The EPA has given notice that a meeting of the Gulf of Mexico
Program (GMP) Management Committee (MC). The meeting will be held
on Wednesday, August 22, 2007, from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday,
August 23, 2007, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. For more information
contact Gloria D. Car, Designated Federal Officer, Gulf of Mexico
Program Office, Mail Code EPA/GMPO, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
at (228) 688-2421.
DOC- The Science Advisory Board (SAB) will hold an open meeting to
advise The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
on strategies to help ensure science programs are of the highest quality
and provide optimal support to resource management. The meeting will
be held Wednesday August 22, 2007, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and
Thursday August 23, 2007, from 10 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. These times and
the agenda topics described below are subject to change. Please refer
to the web page http://www.sab.noaa.gov/Meetings/meetings.html. For
more information contact Dr. Cynthia Decker, Executive Director, Science
Advisory Board, NOAA, Rm. 11230, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring,
Maryland 20910. (Phone: 301-734-1156, Fax: 301-713-1459, E-mail: Cynthia.Decker@noaa.gov);
or visit the NOAA SAB Web
DHS- The Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) Agency has given notice
that the changes in the fee schedules will allow FEMA to reduce further
the expenses to the National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) by recovering
more fully the costs associated with processing conditional and final
map change requests; retrieving, reproducing, and distributing technical
and administrative support data related to FIS analyses and mapping;
and producing, retrieving, and distributing particular NFIP map and
insurance products. The revised fee schedules are effective for all
requests dated October 1, 2007, or later. For more information contact
William Blanton Jr., CFM, Section
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs
portion of AGI's web site www.agiweb.org/gap
since the last monthly update:
Hearings on Asbestos
Sources: National Petroleum Council, Associated Press, Washington
Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, House Committee
on Appropriations, House Committee on Science and Technology, U.S.
Geological Survey, National Science Foundation and NASA.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted August 5, 2007.