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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
(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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
[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
For more information, contact Sunita Satyapal at email@example.com
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 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI
Government Affairs Program.
Posted September 22, 2006.