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Monthly Review: August 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.

Moving Forward on Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

Efforts to create a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada have received renewed attention from Congress since an ambitious new director was appointed to the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management in the Department of Energy (DOE). Director Edward 'Ward' Sproat III has constructed a timeline for the project predicting receipt of nuclear waste beginning March 31, 2017. He has also submitted legislation to the House and the Senate containing measures deemed necessary for the successful and timely completion of the project. The Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act (H.R. 5360 and S. 2589) would provide the funding and authority that DOE needs to complete the repository at Yucca Mountain. However, the legislation is not without controversy: the Act calls for the Yucca Mountain project to be declared "in the public interest", thereby forcing the state of Nevada to yield water rights to DOE. Opponents of the project say that allowing the federal government to supersede Nevada's ability to control its own water resources sets a dangerous precedent that should be of concern to every state in the union. The legislation does not address the highly contentious issue of interim storage. The nation's 40,000 metric tons of nuclear waste is currently being stored at nuclear facilities across the country, causing concern over rising costs and inconsistent security. Congress is divided over whether centralized interim storage should be pursued to mitigate these concerns, or whether resources should instead be focused entirely on completing Yucca Mountain on schedule.

Bush Administration Holds Public Hearings on Cooperative Conservation

Representatives of the Bush administration held the first eight of at least two dozen listening sessions on cooperative conservation and environmental partnerships throughout the month of August. The sessions are designed to give states, tribes, local communities and land or resource owners the opportunity to provide ideas and feedback on incentives, partnership programs and regulations to improve wildlife habitat and endangered species protections. The Secretaries of Interior, Commerce and Agriculture as well as the Administrator of the EPA and the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality will host additional meetings throughout the country in the coming months. The sessions are being held in response to an executive order directing their agencies to "implement laws relating to the environment and natural resources in a manner that promotes cooperative conservation, with an emphasis on appropriate inclusion of local participation in federal decision making." September sessions have been scheduled and can be viewed at www.cooperativeconservation.gov.

Myers Nomination on Hold, But Likely to Move Forward in September

A compromise appears to have been reached that will allow Congress to vote on the nomination of Mark Myers for Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. The nomination, which is expected to be approved, had been held up before the August recess by Senator Ron Wyden (D - OR), who had sworn to block any of the President's nominations until a fully-funded extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was passed. On August 7, 2006 the administration sent a letter to Senators Wyden, Gordon Smith (R - OR) and Larry Craig (R - ID), committing to "work with the senators to enact a one year extension of the program." The Act provides relief to rural areas where a sharp decline in timber revenues has resulted in insufficient funding for schools, roads, law enforcement and other public services.

USDA Announces Amended Rule for the Lands Protection Program

The new rule, announced on July 28 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey, will appear in the Federal Register after a 60 day public comment period. The Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP) is a voluntary conservation program that protects productive farm and ranch lands from non-agricultural development. Landowners may apply to state, tribal, or local governments which may purchase a conservation easement from the landowner. The owner then retains the right to use the property for agriculture, but may not convert the land to non-agricultural uses. The USDA, under authorization from the Farm Bill of 2002, can provide up to 50% of the fair market value of the property to assist with the purchase. For more information on the FRPP, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/frpp.

U.S. Department of Energy Will Fund Two New Bioenergy Research Centers

The Department of Energy's Office of Science is accepting applications from universities, national laboratories, nonprofit agencies and private firms to develop up to two new Bioenergy Research Centers as part of the Office's Genomics: GTL Program. The centers will direct research towards developing the science of biofuels in order to create cost-effective alternatives to gasoline. Each Center will receive $125 million over five years and will have access to DOE scientific instruments and facilities as needed. Potential applicants should submit a letter of intent by December 5, 2006. Full applications should be received by February 1, 2007. For more information, visit DOE's Office of Science at www.science.doe.gov.

National Governors Association's Chair Unveils Innovation Initiative

The 2006-2007 Chair of the National Governors Association, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, launched an initiative entitled, Innovation America, at the closing of the NGA's August annual meeting. The initiative will enhance the nation's capacity for innovation by improving math and science education at all levels around the country. Under the new initiative, states will share examples of successful policies and strategies, raise public awareness of the connection between U.S. competitiveness and innovation, and create new science and math academies that will boost student achievement and train them for the technology workforce. The text of the initiative can be viewed at www.nga.org.


September is National Preparedness Month

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is sponsoring National Preparedness Month 2006 to encourage all Americans to prepare their homes, schools and businesses for an emergency. Throughout September, DHS will work with local, state and federal government agencies and the private sector to increase public awareness about each individual's role in preparing for a disaster of any kind. Watch for events and activities in your area. For more information, go to: www.ready.gov/america/npm/dhs.htm.

Pluto, Not Just a Planet Anymore

On August 24th, about 428 of 10,000 members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) passed a resolution to redefine planets and to relegate Pluto to a new status as a dwarf planet. Proposals and discussions, which took place over a 2 year period leading up to the IAU vote, were discussed and further modified at the meeting before the final vote. Resolution 5A defines planets, dwarf planets and other objects in the Solar System in the following manner:

The IAU therefore resolves that "planets" and other bodies in our Solar System, except satellites, be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A "planet"1 is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.
(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape2 , (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.
(3) All other objects3 except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar-System Bodies".

Over 300 scientists have signed a petition against the IAU resolution. The petition simply states: "We, as planetary scientists and astronomers, do not agree with the IAU's definition of a planet, nor will we use it. A better definition is needed." It is unclear at this time whether the controversy over the definition of a planet will continue for a long period of time. Certainly the IAU cannot reconsider any changes to their resolution until their next annual meeting in 2009.

For more information about the IAU resolution, please visit www.iau2006.org/mirror/www.iau.org/iau0603/index.html
For more information about the petition, please visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/planetprotest

L'Oreal Announces 2007 Fellowships for Women in Science Program

The L'Oréal U.S. Fellowship Program will award $40,000 each to five young female scientists engaged in basic research in science, technology, engineering or mathematics to support their postdoctoral research. For more information or to download application materials, visit www.lorealusa.com.

AGI William L. Fisher Congressional Science Fellowship

The American Geological Institute is accepting applications for the 2007-2008 William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship. The successful candidate will spend 12 months (starting in September 2007) in Washington DC working as a staff member in the office of a member of Congress or a congressional committee. The postmark deadline for 2007-2008 fellowship applications is February 1, 2007. Prospective applicants should have a broad geoscience background and excellent written and oral communications skills. The fellowship carries an annual stipend of up to $55,000 plus allowances for health insurance, relocation, and travel. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and a curriculum vitae with three letters of reference to:

William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship
American Geological Institute
4220 King Street
Alexandria VA 22302-1502

Several of AGI's Member Societies also sponsor Congressional Science Fellowships. For further information, contact the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America or Soil Science Society of America. AAAS also offers a number of fellowships for Congress and the executive branch. It is acceptable to apply to more than one society. Stipends, application procedures, eligibility, timetables, and deadlines vary.
For more information on the AGI fellowship and links to other fellowships visit: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/csf/index.html

AGI/AAPG Spring Policy Internship

The application deadline for the AGI Geoscience and Public Policy Internship is approaching, on October 15, 2006. Each fall and spring semester, AGI and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) sponsor one outstanding geoscience student who has a strong interest in public policy to work as an intern in AGI's Government Affairs Program. The intern will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies as he or she helps monitor and analyze geoscience-related legislation in Congress, attend congressional hearings and respond to information requests from AGI's member societies. For details about the fall internship or the spring or summer internships and how to apply, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/interns.

Earth Science Week Planning: Toolkits and Contests

Earth Science Week, from October 8 to 14, is coming soon and now is a perfect time to begin planning activities. Consider planning a field trip, class room visit, museum tour or other event to engage children and the public in earth science. The theme "Be a Citizen Scientist" was selected to engage students and the public in conducting real "citizen science" research and help spread science literacy. The 2006 Toolkit is now available and includes a school-year calendar running from August 2006 through July 2007 that features classroom activities, important geoscience information, and dates of relevant current events and Earth science milestones for each month. The Toolkit also features an overview of citizen-science and geoscience resources available from USGS, a NASA brochure detailing geoscience education programs and products, a National Parks DVD, a 24-page NOAA booklet on climate, a Scholastic/AGI poster for elementary-level Earth science teachers, and more.

In addition, there are photography, visual arts and essay contests that children can enter. The photography contest, open to all ages, focuses on "Using and Studying Earth's Resources." Participants are encouraged to think creatively and submit pictures of geoscientists studying or working with the Earth's natural resources or people using these resources. The 2006 visual arts contest is titled "Earth Science in Your Home Town." Students in grades K-5 are encouraged to draw, paint, or create a poster on any aspect of Earth science that affects their local community. Artwork entries should be no larger than 24-by-36 inches. Also this year, students in grades 5-9 are eligible to enter the essay contest: "Be a Citizen Scientist!" Essays must be no longer than 500 words and should highlight the ways every person can contribute to a better understanding of our planet. The photography, visual arts, and essay contests offer opportunities for both students and the general public to participate in the celebration, learn about the Earth sciences, and compete for prizes. The first-place prize for each contest is $300.

AGI/AAPG Fall Intern Arrives

Rachel Bleshman, our new fall intern, sponsored by AGI and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation, has arrived for the furious finish of the 109th Congress, which will likely continue their work through the dark and cold days of December this year. Rachel graduated in May 2006 from Wesleyan University of Connecticut where she received a B.A. in Earth and Environmental Science. After four years of field trips and an exciting geological cross-country trip this summer, she is ready to experience how public policy and geoscience connect to affect our country

Key Federal Register Notices

DOE: The National Energy Technology Lab in the Department of Energy issued a notice of opportunity for comment on the scope and content of the proposed environmental impact statement of the proposed FutureGen Project. If constructed, FutureGen would be a coal-fired electric power and hydrogen gas production plant integrating geological sequestration of captured carbon dioxide emissions. Comments should be sent to FutureGen.EIS@netl.doe.gov and must be received by September 13, 2006. For more information, contact Mark McKoy at 1-800-432-8330 (ext. 4426).
[Federal Register: August 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 150)]

EPA: The Clean Air Act Advisory Committee will hold an open meeting from 8:30am - 4:30pm on September 14, 2006 at the Marriott Crystal City at Reagan National Airport. Nominations are requested for the Clean Air Excellences Awards Program; entries must be postmarked by September 13, 2006. To view the meeting agenda, go to http://www.epa.gov/oar/caaac/. For further information, contact Mr. Pat Childers at 202-564-1082.
[Federal Register: August 4, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 150)]

DOE: The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has issued a final rule for the Renewable Energy Production Incentives (REPI) Program. The rule incorporates minor statutory changes, including expansion of applicable renewable energy technologies. For further information, contact Daniel Beckley at 202-586-7691.
[Federal Register: August 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 156)]

DOE: The Office of the Chief Financial Officer has issued a notice of availability of the Department of Energy's Draft Strategic Plan and a request for comment. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 requires all federal agencies to update their strategic plan every three years. The final plan will be issued on September 30, 2006 and will be available online at that time. The draft plan can be viewed at http://www.energy.gov. Send comments by September 7 to StrategicPlan@hq.doe.gov. For further information, contact David Abercrombie (202) 586-8664.
[Federal Register: August 21, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 161)]

NASA: The Earth Science Subcommittee of the NASA Advisor Council's Science Committee will hold a public meeting on September 27 and 28 from 8:30am to 5:30pm. The meeting will be a forum for the scientific community to provide scientific and technical information relevant to program planning. The meeting will be held at the Inn and Conference Center at the University of Maryland and is open to the public up to the seating capacity of the conference room. For more information, contact Marian Norris at mnorris@nasa.gov.
[Federal Register: August 22, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 162)]

DOI: The Office of the Secretary issued a request for comment on the Revised Department Strategic Plan for FY 2007 - 2012. Text of the plan may be viewed at http://www.doi.gov. Comments should be submitted by October 23, 2006 to GPRAplancomments@ios.doi.gov. For more information contact LeRon Bielak at (202) 208-1818.
[Federal Register: August 23, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 163)]

DOE: The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is soliciting technical input for a go/no-go decision on carbon nanotubes for on-board hydrogen storage. Position papers and other technical documents related to these systems should be submitted by September 15, 2006 to determine the future of applied R&D in this area. For submission of documents via e-mail, please respond to both of the following addresses: brinda.thomas@ee.doe.gov and laura.verduzco@ee.doe.gov. For more information, contact Sunita Satyapal at sunita.satyapal@ee.doe.gov or visit http://www.eere.energy.gov/hydrogenandfuelcells.
[Federal Register: August 24, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 164)]

DOI: The Minerals Management Service has issued a request for comment on the 2007 - 2012 Oil and Gas Leasing Program proposal. The proposal outlines a total of 21 outer-continental shelf lease sales in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic Coast. The proposal may be downloaded and viewed at http://www.mms.gov. Send comments electronically at http://www.mms.gov/5-year/2007-2012main.htm no later than November 24, 2006. For further information contact Renee Orr at (703) 787-1215.
[Federal Register: August 25, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 165)]

OSTP: The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology will hold an open meeting on September 12 in the Continental ballroom of the George Washington University Marvin Center Building. The Council is scheduled to discuss its recommendations regarding energy technology. A presentation on ethical issues relating to emerging technologies is tentatively scheduled and there will be time for public comment. For more information, see the PCAST website at http://www.ostp.gov/PCAST/pcast.html or contact Celia Merzbacher at (202) 456-7116.
[Federal Register: August 29, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 167)]

New Updates to the Website

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

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

Sources: E&E News 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 September 22, 2006.

 

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