Printable Version

Monthly Review: August 2004


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

Congress Returns From Recess: Outlook to the Weeks/Months Ahead
Administration Releases R&D Budget Priorities for FY06
Election Update: Kerry and Bush Vocal about Yucca, National Parks, Energy
Yucca Mountain: Looking for Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back Also Likely
Mountaintop Mining Made Easier
Abandoned Mine Money Used Inappropriately
USGS Creates New National Geospatial Programs Office
Mercury Pollution Reaches All-Time High
States Say Mercury Contamination Harming Sportsfishing Industry
MTBE Vapors Threaten Environment
EPA Finalizing Cap-and-Trade Plan
Earth Observation System Will Monitor Climate Change
Kansas School Board Election Produces Anti-evolution Majority
Mississippi Defeats Attempt to Question Teachings of Evolution
EPA Announces Graduate and Undergraduate Fellowship Opportunities
Government Affairs Program Seeks Director
Goodbye Wonderful Summer Interns
AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Intern Applications Welcome
Key Federal Register Updates
New Updates to Website

 

Congress Returns From Recess: Outlook to the Weeks/Months Ahead

When Congress returns to Washington, D.C., from their month-long August recess, they will be returning to mountains of unfinished work and a long, hard road to the end of the 108th Congress. The target adjournment date for the legislative body is Oct. 1, the first day of the new fiscal year. By law, all spending bills for the fiscal year (FY) 2005 are required to be approved by Sept. 30. Due to Labor Day falling later on the calendar this year, Congress has only 18 legislative days left to the approval deadline. The observance the Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, will likely mean even fewer days than that.

Thus far, the president has only signed one appropriations bill into law, the defense spending bill. Congress still has to pass 12 appropriations bills in the next month. The House has approved nine appropriations bills and has three more waiting to be debated on the floor in September. The Senate, on the other hand, only has three bills that are ready for floor action; the other nine bills have yet to be approved in committee.

Given the large volume of work that is yet to be completed and Congress' short timetable, it's nearly a given that Congress will approve a continuing resolution prior to Sept. 30, which will keep the government running at last year's funding levels until the rest of the appropriations bills are approved.

But when they will be approved is the "million-dollar question." Rumors suggest that Congress will likely not approve next year's spending bills until after the election; however, it is certainly in their best interest to pass the bills (or one large omnibus bill) before adjourning in November or December. When Congress returns in January, it will be convening 109th Congress and will have several new committee chairmen who may, or may not, have been involved in the nitty-gritty details of piecing together the FY05 budget.

Other behemoth pieces of legislation still pending in Congress, such as the Energy Bill and Transportation Authorization Bill, will likely receive lots of lip service and little action prior to the election. Smaller pieces of legislation still in the pipeline include the following: the National Earthquake Hazards Reductions Program Reauthorization Act, H.R. 2608; the National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization, H.R. 4010 and S. 2353; the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program, H.R. 3980; and House Resolution 556, which congratulates the U.S. Geological Survey on its 125 years of service to the nation.

Keep up to date as events unfold by checking our website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/index.html.

Administration Releases R&D Budget Priorities for FY06

In an Aug.12 memorandum to federal department and agency heads, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director John Marburger and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Joshua Bolten set out the Bush Administration's R&D budget priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2006. Even though it will be weeks, or perhaps months, before Congress finalizes the budget for the fiscal year starting on Oct. 1, the administration is hard at work on the FY06 budget submission. While the OSTP/OMB document contains few surprises, it helps to illuminate what is traditionally the "black box" process involved in drafting the budget request.

The FY06 R&D budget priorities closely parallel the guidance released last summer. Both the FY05 and FY06 documents identify homeland security as the first priority; the new memorandum explains, "winning the war on terror and securing the homeland continue to be the highest of national priorities." In addition to a list of specific threats for which desired technologies are listed, Marburger and Bolten stated "fundamental R&D should be considered to address and counter new or novel threats."

"Networking and Information Technology R&D" and nanotechnology are the second and third listed priorities in the new memorandum, which switched positions from last year's document. Nanotechnology is described as a "top" administration priority, and both documents cite the importance of the National Nanotechnology Initiative's support of fundamental and applied R&D. This year's memorandum explains that "because research at the nanoscale offers natural bridges to interdisciplinary collaboration, especially at the intersection of the life and physical sciences, the Administration encourages novel approaches to accelerating interdisciplinary and interagency collaborations."

This year's memorandum next lists "biology of complex systems" as a priority area. The document explains that: "Agencies should target investments toward the development of a deeper understanding of complex biological systems through collaborations among physical, computational, behavioral, social, and biological researchers and engineers."

Concluding the priority list is "climate, water, and hydrogen R&D," including calling for calls for agencies to implement the 2003 "Strategic Plan for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program". Also identified as a high-priority concern "is the ability to measure, monitor, and forecast the U.S. and global supplies of fresh water." Regarding hydrogen, the memorandum states: "Finally, agencies should continue research efforts in support of the President's Hydrogen Fuel Initiative; this includes research outside of the subset of activities currently counted as part of the Initiative. Agency efforts should address the critical technology barriers of on-board hydrogen storage density, hydrogen production cost, and fuel cell cost, as well as distributed production and delivery systems. R&D should focus on novel materials for fuel cells and hydrogen storage (including nanostructured materials), durable and inexpensive catalysts, and hydrogen production from renewable energy, nuclear energy, biological and electrochemical processes, and fossil fuels with carbon sequestration."

The Aug.12 OSTP/OMB memorandum can be viewed at http://www.ostp.gov/html/m04-23.pdf.

Election Update: Kerry and Bush Vocal about Yucca, National Parks, Energy

Spending August on the campaign trail, the presidential candidates have recently highlighted several key science issues, with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) being particularly vocal about his opposition to Yucca Mountain. Recent campaign visits to Nevada by both sides have focused on the fate of the repository. Kerry remains steadfast in his disapproval of the project, assuring Nevadans during his visit on Aug. 10 that should he become president, "Yucca Mountain will not be a repository." He plans to accomplish this by rejecting the site's license, initiating a new National Academies of Sciences study to reexamine the suitability of geologic disposal, and creating a "Blue Ribbon Panel" to recommend the best methods for nuclear waste storage and disposal. In the meantime, Kerry says he will work to ensure the safety of the nuclear plants where the waste is currently stored.

President George W. Bush, on the other hand, has proclaimed that he has already made a decision to support Yucca Mountain based on 20 years of sound science, not politics. Now, he says he is handing over the decision to the courts and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and that he will stand by their decision. Bush continues to view the project as necessary to the country's energy security. Without the repository, he says, nuclear power is unable to play its important role as a clean source of energy for the future.

Issues surrounding National Parks have also sparked debate recently. Kerry has promised to restore $600 million annually to the National Park Service, blaming the shortfall on President Bush's inability to promote policies that would boost funding for maintenance of the parks. To generate this additional revenue, Kerry proposes modernizing mineral rights and leases, although he did not say how. He also criticized several of Bush's environmental policies, such as rolling back various Clean Air Act requirements and allowing logging in national forests.

Bush, however, says that he has fulfilled his promise to address the issue of maintenance backlogs in National Parks. Bush promised to secure $4.9 billion over five years through 2006. He has received $2.8 billion and proposed an additional $1.1 billion in FY05 for a total of $3.9 billion, indicating progress toward his goal. Funding levels have risen to record levels, he says, from $2.52 billion in FY01 to $2.67 billion for FY05, the most ever requested. Bush explains that this budget has given more funds per employee, per acre, and per visitor than ever before.

Another dividing topic is energy. Bush is an advocate of a national energy policy, criticizing Kerry and other Democrats for failing to pass his proposed energy bill that would give the nation just that. In his campaign, he has continued to highlight many of the provisions of the energy bill, emphasizing their importance to national security and economic growth.

On some issues this past month, Kerry and Bush have become stark opposites. Bush is against using oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, while Kerry wants to use it wisely to protect supplies without hurting the economy. Bush supports opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil development, but Kerry does not. Bush prefers a voluntary reduction approach of how much greenhouse gas may be released into the atmosphere, and Kerry is a proponent of capping emissions. Both candidates are in favor of developing renewable energy, but Bush proposes using more coal and nuclear energy to help meet future energy demands, while Kerry wants to rely more on natural gas supplies and oil from non-OPEC countries.

The candidates also share some of the same ideas. Bush and Kerry want to improve clean coal technology, but Kerry has proposed spending $10 billion over the next decade on research and development and Bush has proposed $2 billion in the next 10 years. Bush's Hydrogen Research Initiative, which he proposed should be funded at $1.7 billion over the next five years, is strikingly similar to Kerry's "Hydrogen Institute," which would also work to develop a hydrogen economy. Both candidates also support tax incentives for hybrid vehicles and a pipeline to transport natural gas from Alaska's North Slope.

Yucca Mountain: Looking for Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back Also Likely

As previously planned, the Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed this month that they expect to submit a license application by December to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) seeking approval for Yucca Mountain. This announcement came despite a court ruling in July challenging the validity of the 10,000-year safety limit for the release of radiation set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The court decision requires DOE to adjust the application to meet safety standards recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. According to the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects, the state plans to use the courts to block NRC from accepting the application.

Controversy over NRC's testing standards of nuclear waste shipping casks flared up in August. NRC insists that its method of crashing the 150-ton containers at 75 miles per hour into a train and engulfing them in flames is adequate to determine the durability of the casks. Nevada officials are dissatisfied with the method, arguing that it is more of a demonstration than a scientific test. The safety of nuclear waste transportation is an important issue to Nevada, as the Bush Administration still plans to ship radioactive material to Yucca Mountain.

For more information about Yucca Mountain, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/yucca.html.

Mountaintop Mining Made Easier

An article published in the Aug. 17 Washington Post highlighted how Bush administration policy changes have made it easier for coal companies to practice mountaintop mining. The process involves cutting off the top of a mountain and depositing the debris in adjacent valleys, permanently burying streams and disrupting watersheds. In May 2002, the administration changed the word defining mining debris from "waste" to "fill," legally entitling companies to dump the debris into streams. Under the new rule, "fill" is defined as rock, sand, clay, plastics, construction debris, wood chips, and overburden from mining, with garbage the only material specifically forbidden.

The Bush administration claims the revision is an attempt to clarify existing rules and ease regulatory burdens for the coal industry, which they see as a necessary component of national energy security. They maintain that the rule changes are not an effort to weaken environmental accountability, but instead are an effort to acknowledge the reality that these rules are not commonly followed, and to bring regulatory stability and predictability. Opponents claim that the modifications to environmental regulations make it easier for coal companies to dump in streams and harder for those actions to be challenged. Government studies have shown that waste rock and debris has buried more than 700 miles of headwater streams in central Appalachia, where those who oppose mountaintop mining outnumber supporters two to one. The article emphasized how slight changes to environmental policies have been quite common during the Bush administration, often inflicting huge environmental impacts.

The article is available online at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A6462-2004Aug16.html.

Abandoned Mine Money Used Inappropriately

Another article, written for the Charleston Gazette on Aug. 16, summarized an investigation that revealed Abandoned Mine Land (AML) money, intended for the cleanup of abandoned coal mines, has been used to fund low-priority and unrelated projects in Wyoming. The money, which is collected from a coal surface mining tax of $0.35 per ton, is slated to be used to cleanup coal mines abandoned before 1977, with priority given to the most hazardous sites. Established in the 1977 Surface Mining Conservation Reclamation Act, the tax is distributed as a 50-50 split: Half of the ALM money goes back to the original state, and the other half is distributed by the Office of Surface Mining (OSM).

Problems have arisen because Wyoming has significantly fewer abandoned mines predating 1977, yet produces more than half of the coal mined in the United States annually. This gives more ALM funds to Wyoming than to states in the East, where coal production has steadily decreased and a large proportion of abandoned mines remain. Congress included a loophole in the act to enable states who cleanup their high priority sites to use the money for specific public facilities in coal communities.

According to the Charleston Gazette, in 1984, Congress questionably "certified" that Wyoming had cleaned all of its high-priority sites; a subsequent Government Accountability Office report concluded the state should not be certified because it cleaned up only its most severe sites rather than all of its abandoned coal mines. Instead of cleaning up the lower priority sites, the state has since spent more than $90 million of ALM money on roads, sewer systems, hospitals, schools, and a new geology building for the University of Wyoming. Additionally, Wyoming has legally used ALM funds to reclaim noncoal mines that were run by industries that pay no tax to supplement cleanup efforts. OSM, however, has poorly monitored how these funds have been spent. The state also claims that it has discovered more than 1,700 abandoned mines since they received certification, prompting a request of more ALM money from Congress.

The article is available online at http://www.wvgazettemail.com/section/Series/200408163.

USGS Creates New National Geospatial Programs Office

Researchers and other interested scientists that regularly utilize U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) geospatial data and tools will be interested to know that USGS Director Charles Groat has announced a plan to reorganize USGS geospatial data programs. According to Groat, the new agency structure will strengthen geographic research at USGS by consolidating existing geospatial data programs in a new National Geospatial Programs Office. As part of the reorganization, the National Map program will now be located in the Geospatial Information Office. Agency officials contend that the new structure will allow the survey's existing expertise in geography to focus attention on geographic research and will enhance USGS leadership in both geospatial data programs and geographic research.

The reorganization will consolidate USGS geospatial programs under the new National Geospatial Programs Office located within the Geospatial Information Office (GIO). The National Geospatial Programs Office will oversee the portfolio of national geospatial programs for which USGS has responsibility, including the Federal Geographic Data Committee, the Geospatial One Stop project, the Department of the Interior Enterprise Geospatial Information Management activity, and the National Map.

To read the USGS press release about these upcoming changes, visit
http://www.usgs.gov/public/press/public_affairs/press_releases/pr1911m.html.

Mercury Pollution Reaches All-Time High

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials announced on Aug. 24 that mercury contamination in the nation's waters have reached an all-time high. This conclusion was based on the fact that the number of fish advisories issued between 2002 and 2003 has increased by roughly 6 percent in lakes and 35 percent in rivers. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt attributed these statistics to the rise in assessment of the nation's waters through monitoring and fish sampling. He also stated that human-made mercury emissions are decreasing, with power plant emissions dropping 45 percent between 1990 and 1999. Rising levels, he explained, are partly due to pollution from other countries, specifically in Asia, which accounted for 53 percent of global mercury emissions in 1995. Leavitt also acknowledged the wide variety of testing and warning programs administered throughout the states. Washington and Montana, for example, are the first states to issue statewide advisories of mercury contamination, rather than posting warnings for specific sites.

The upward flux of advisory warnings has spurred significant economic consequences. The seafood industry is concerned that mercury warnings will deter consumers from taking advantage of the health benefits offered by consuming fish. Several states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan, have significant stakes in the recreational fishing industry and have been worried that increased mercury pollution will continue to threaten jobs and cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue. In response to the increase in mercury contamination, the Bush administration has focused on two options. The first, an across-the-board cap on mercury emissions favored by environmentalists, would set limits for each pollution source, as dictated by the "maximum achievable control technology" standards. The administration prefers the second choice, which is a cap-and-trade program that would enable industries to trade pollution credits under a national emissions standard.

For more information about mercury, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/mercury.html.

States Say Mercury Contamination Harming Sportsfishing Industry

On August 18, Greenwire reported that a coalition of more than 50 Midwest environmental groups released a series of reports on the impact of mercury contamination in the region on the sportsfishing industry. The coalition said that the total cost to the industry in four states --Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio -- exceeds $1.8 billion annually, threatening thousands of jobs. The greatest cost will be incurred by Minnesota, with a projected $706 million annual loss due to a 25 percent decrease in the sport. The American Sportsfishing Association estimates that 34 million people spend $41.5 billion annually fishing.

The environmental groups that released the reports suggest reducing mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants by 90 percent. Fish accumulate the toxic form of mercury, methylmercury, through a conversion process that takes place in sediments, after deposition of the contaminant from the air into waterways from polluted air. Environmentalists have expressed disagreement with the Bush administration's preferred cap-and-trade approach to limiting mercury emissions, which will be specified next March. Coal industry representatives maintain that the proposals in the environmental groups' reports are unrealistic and that they single out the coal industry, when there may be other sources of mercury contamination. They also note that global mercury emissions not under U.S. control contribute significantly to contamination.

MTBE Vapors Threaten Environment

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials announced last week that vapor from the gasoline additive MTBE also poses a threat to groundwater supplies. Recent efforts have focused on monitoring and preventing liquid leaks in underground tanks, but have largely neglected the threat of vapor leaks, possibly underscoring recent efforts to improve liquid leak detection and prevention.

The warning came during a groundwater contamination conference in Maryland, which has experienced significant MTBE contamination in the last month. Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) has proposed new rules to prevent leaks in roughly 13,000 underground fuel storage tanks across the state, where more than 200 wells have been found containing MTBE. Eight of these wells had MTBE concentrations 1,300 times higher than acceptable levels, causing widespread concern of water contamination throughout the state.

For more information about MTBE and its role in the controversy over passing a national energy policy, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy.html.

EPA Finalizing Cap-and-Trade Plan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will publish new rules on power plant mercury emissions by March 15, 2005. EPA administrator Mike Leavitt said in a presentation (Greenwire subscription req.) in upstate New York that the agency will finalize its plan for a cap-and-trade system to limit annual emissions to 34 tons by 2010 and 15 tons by 2018. He also said that the agency will finalize new rules on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions by the end of the year. Environmentalists have criticized the mercury plan, claiming that it was largely written by industry, and noting a current EPA inspector general investigation of the rule. Mercury rules will have the largest affect on coal-fired power plants, which account for 41 percent of mercury emissions.

Administrator Leavitt's presentation is available online at http://www.eenews.net/Greenwire/Backissues/images/081104gwr2.pdf (Greenwire subscription required)

Earth Observation System Will Monitor Climate Change

In August, Bush administration officials Mike Leavitt of the Environmental Protection Agency and Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher of Department of Commerce met with members of the media to discuss the Global Earth Observation System, a network of satellites and land- and ocean-based sensors that will be developed in coordination with 40 other countries. Leavitt and Lautenbacher pointed out the many benefits of the system, including monitoring climatic changes in polar regions, reducing damage from hazards such as hurricanes and forest fires, and monitoring private-sector environmental problems such as agricultural runoff. The officials said that the greatest challenges to the development of the system and coordination of the data of different agencies will be bureaucratic, not technological. The National Ocean and Atmospheric
Administration currently spends about $800 million a year to manage its satellite data, and the officials could not give an estimate of how much cost the additional equipment and data processing required for the project will incur. A plan for network construction will be released in February 2005.

For more information about the Global Earth Observation System, visit http://www.epa.gov/geoss/.

Kansas School Board Election Produces Anti-evolution Majority

Evolution opponents are set to gain a majority on the Kansas State Board of Education, after a closely watched Republican primary Aug. 3. Republican Kathy Martin defeated moderate incumbent Republican Bruce Wyatt in the 6th District, and Republican Steve Abrams won the primary in the 10th District. According to the National Center for Science Education, this tips the board to at least a 6-4 anti-evolution majority. Martin and several other Republicans are running unopposed in the November election.

Mississippi Defeats Attempt to Question Teachings of Evolution

In a routine check of evolution flare-ups across the country, GAP discovered that on March 9 a bill addressing evolution in textbooks died in the Mississippi House of Representative's Education Committee. It failed to receive a vote before the deadline to report House bills out of committee. House Bill 1288 would have required the State Board of Education to display a disclaimer on the inside front cover of science textbooks that states that evolution is a theory. The bill modeled its language after the disclaimers pasted into Alabama textbooks in 1996, which are no longer required. Republican State Rep. Wells-Smith introduced the bill along with 19 co-sponsors.

The following is the disclaimer language proposed in the bill:
"The word 'theory' has many meanings: systematically organized knowledge, abstract reasoning, a speculative idea or plan, or a systematic statement of principles. Scientific theories are based on both observations of the natural world and assumptions about the natural world. They are always subject to change in view of new and confirmed observations.

This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things. No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered a theory.

Evolution refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced living things. There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life that are not mentioned in your textbook, including: the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record (known as the Cambrian Explosion), no new major groups of other living things appeared in the fossil record, major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record, and all living things possess a complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body. Study hard and keep an open mind."

EPA Announces Graduate and Undergraduate Fellowship Opportunities

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program offers graduate fellowships for master's and doctoral level students in environmentally related fields of study. EPA has announced that the next deadline for receipt of pre-applications is Nov. 23, 2004. Subject to the availability of funding, the agency plans to award approximately 100 new fellowships by July 21, 2005. The fellowship program provides up to $37,000 per year of support. For more information, visit http://es.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2004/2005_star_grad_fellow.html.

Additionally, EPA plans to award 20 fellowships to master's or doctoral students in environmentally related fields through its Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) program. The pre-application deadline for the fellowships is also Nov. 23, 2004. For additional
information visit http://es.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2004/2005_gro_grad_fellow.html.

Finally, EPA's GRO program also plans to award 15 new undergraduate research fellowships for bachelor level students in environmentally related fields of study. Undergraduate fellowships provide students support for their junior and senior years as well as for a summer internship at an EPA facility. The undergraduate fellowships provide up to $17,000 per year in support and up to $7,500 to support the summer intern experience. For additional information, please visit http://es.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/2004/2005_gro_undergrad_fellow.html.

Government Affairs Program Seeks Director

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

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

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

Goodbye Wonderful Summer Interns

Bridget Martin and Ashlee Dere, 2004 American Geological Institute/American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) summer interns concluded their time in Washington on Aug. 20 and Sept. 1, respectively. Bridget will be returning to Vassar College to finish her final semester and continue work on research she performed earlier this summer on vineyard soils. Ashlee will return to California Polytechnic State University to complete her senior year and begin the search for a graduate school. This summer, Bridget became the resident expert on the timely issue of high oil and gas prices as well as mercury contamination. Ashlee spent time working on budget issues, Yucca Mountain, and natural hazards legislation. Both interns also had the opportunity to meet with many people involved in different aspects of science policy and learn about various career options in Washington.

The Government Affairs Program would like to thank AIPG for their generous contribution that makes this program possible as well as Bridget and Ashlee for their hard work and dedication.

AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Intern Applications Welcome

The American Geological Institute (AGI) is seeking outstanding geoscience students and recent graduates with a strong interest in federal science policy for a 12-week geoscience and public policy internship in spring 2005. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone both their writing and Web-publishing skills. AGI gratefully acknowledges support from American Association of Petroleum Geologists for the semester internships. Applications must be postmarked by Oct. 15, 2004.

For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/index.html.

List of Key Federal Register Notices

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

Department of Commerce: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is requesting comments on its Five-Year Research Plan Draft and Twenty-Year Research Vision Draft. The Five-Year Plan can be viewed at ftp://www.oarhq.noaa.gov/review/5, and comments should be submitted to Review.5Year@noaa.gov. The Twenty-Year plan is available at ftp://www.oarhq.noaa.gov/review/20, and comments should be sent to Review.20Year@noaa.gov. For both documents, comments may also be sent to: NOAA Research, c/o Dr. Terry Schaefer, Silver Spring Metro Center Bldg. 3, Room 11863, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910. Comments must be submitted by Sept. 30, 2004. Volume 69, Number 161 (20 August, 2004): pp. 51637-51638.

As of Aug. 25, 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew a direct final rule published on June 2 (69 FR 31008), concerning three additional analytical methods for compliance determinations of uranium in drinking water. As dictated in their previous publication, EPA said they would withdraw the rule should they receive adverse comments before the June 2 deadline. Volume 69, Number 164 (25 August, 2004): pp. 52181-52182.

The U.S. Geological Survey will hold their eighth Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee (SESAC) meeting from 8 a.m. Sept. 13 to 5 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Teton Mountain Lodge, 3385 West Village Drive, Teton Village, Wyoming 83025. The meeting will focus on USGS involvement in the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. Volume 69, Number 160 (19 August, 2004): pp. 51470-51471.

New Material on Web Site

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

  • Energy Policy Overview (8-25-04)
  • Mercury Policy (8-24-04)
  • Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (8-24-04)
  • High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (8-24-04)
  • Climate Change Policy Overview (8-20-04)
  • Mining Policy (8-19-04)

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

Sources: American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Institute of Physicists, Greenwire, National Science Teachers Association, National Council for Science and the Environment, THOMAS legislative database, Charleston Gazette, Washington Post, John Kerry for President, and Bush-Cheney '04, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey.

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

Posted September 3, 2004