Monthly Review: September 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.
FY05 Appropriations to Be Continued
So that lawmakers can continue to debate the funding levels for various agencies past the date when the 2005 fiscal year (FY) began on October 1st, last week Congress was forced to pass its first continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government operating at fiscal year 2004 levels, plus some supplemental spending, through November 20th. The CR allows federal agencies with budgets not yet approved by Congress to begin the new fiscal year at current levels. It also allows the Congress to suspend debate on appropriations, and all other pending business, in early October to concentrate on the election and resume these debates in a post-election lame duck session in November.
This month saw legislative action on several appropriations bills. The House passed the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill, which contains funding for the Math and Science Partnership Program within the Department of Education. The House also passed the VA/HUD appropriations bill to fund the National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA in FY05. The Senate, however, only managed to pass several bills out of committee. The VA/HUD appropriations bill, Agriculture appropriations bill, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill, Commerce, State, Justice and the Judiciary appropriations bill and Department of the Interior appropriations bill have all been readied for the Senate floor but the full Senate has yet to take action on them.
Congress is expected to adjourn on or about October 8th in order to let members campaign back home prior to the election. Once they reconvene post-November 2nd, there is a lot of work ahead for both chambers. Only the FY05 Defense spending bill has been signed into law by the president. The bill that will fund Washington, DC next year is ready for the president to sign, but the rest of the spending bills are still making their way through the process - a process that must be wrapped up by November 20th.
A special update was circulated and posted on AGI's website about funding for geoscience programs. Log on to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/update_fy05geoscience_oct.html for more information.
On September 21st, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, presided over a full committee hearing on the Oceans Commission Report. Opening comments were offered by Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), who emphasized the urgent need to craft a national oceans policy in order to mitigate the negative humans impact on the health of the our oceans. Farr argued that the institutions currently set up to manage ocean policy are too fragmented, spanning over ten federal departments involved in implementing over 130 ocean-related statutes. He pointed to legislation introduced in the house, HR 4900, also known as OCEANS-21, that "offers comprehensive legislation that would establish several governance elements of the national ocean policy framework proposed by the Commission." Despite his leadership efforts in the House and those of the Ocean Caucus, Farr emphasized that Senate leadership offers the best hope for the implementation of a national oceans policy.
Frank Murkowsk (R), the Governor of Alaska and Chair of the National Governor's Association Natural Resources Committee, strongly argued for a state and local approach to oceans management. Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator and Admiral Watkins (Ret.), the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, also testified. A full wrap-up can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/ocean_hearings.html.
On September 29th, the House Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards marked up H.R. 4546, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Acts. The committee approved Chairman Ehlers' (R-MI) amendment to strike all parts of the bill aside from the "Organic Act" due to the time constraints of the impending adjournment. NOAA was formed by executive order by former President Nixon in 1977 and has since been defined through a hodgepodge of congressional mandates. Twenty seven years later, the passage of the Organic Act of 2004 would represent the first formal declaration of the mission and purpose of NOAA. It would require NOAA to reorganize around four themes: the National Weather Service, Research and Education, Operations and Services, and Resources Management within two years of the date of enactment of the bill.
On September 30, the House Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation,
Wildlife, and Oceans held a hearing on H.R. 4368, a bill to transfer
NOAA to the Department of the Interior. This bill is part of a larger
discussion on whether NOAA should become an independent agency, stay
in the Department of Commerce, move to the Department of Interior,
or become part of a potential new Department of Resource Management.
Timothy Keeny, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere
at NOAA, testified that NOAA is an integral part of the Department
of Commerce, constituting 60 percent of its budget and 35 percent
of its employees. He argued that the cost of moving NOAA to the DOI
would be costly and that the Bush Administration could not support
the types of changes made in HR 4368 until it had time to review the
final report of the Ocean Commission. Federal law allows the administration
90 days from the release of the Oceans Commission Report to respond
to its 212 recommendations. The report was released on September 20th.
More information about oceans legislation is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/ocean.html.
Also on the topic of oceans, on September 16th the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History announced that it will embark on its largest renovation ever with the creation of the Ocean Hall. This $60 million Ocean's Science Initiative will merge public exhibition with cutting edge research facilities in a 28,000 square foot hall. Scheduled to open in 2008 on the first floor near the Rotunda, visitors will be able to see a 50-foot-long detailed model of a northern right whale, a living coral reef, a captured giant squid, an immersion theater that will give visitors the feel of diving into the deep, and more. "Oceans are going to be the most important topic for the public in the next decade. They will be the rainforest issue," says Robert Sullivan, the museum's associate director for public programs. "The hall will be a provocative starting point for those discussions. We are going to do what has been impossible for a natural history museum. We are going to do what is current"
For more information on Ocean's Hall and the Ocean Science Initiative, see http://www.mnh.si.edu/ocean/.
On September 15th, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held its sixth hearing on the impacts of global climate change. Senators McCain (R-AZ), Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Snowe (R-ME) listened to three leading climate scientists and an advocate for the Inuit tribes of the artic regions testify on their research and experience with global warming. In his opening comments, Senator McCain underscored his resolve to act on this issue noting: "We need to take action that extends well beyond eloquent speeches, and includes meaningful actions such real reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases. It has been said that we are the first generation to influence global climate change and the last generation to escape the consequences."
A full hearing wrap-up is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate_hearings.html.
On September 14th, British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that
global warming will head next year's agenda for the Group of Eight
(G8) summit. He is seeking to re-engage the United States on the issue
as well as promote sustainable development strategies for modernizing
countries such as China and India.
Blair's speech also specifically criticized the Bush Administration's reluctance to acknowledge the threat of global warming and refusal to join multilateral agreements aimed at reducing greenhouse gasses. "I want to secure an agreement as to the basic science on climate change and the threat it poses," Blair said. "Such an agreement would be new and provide the foundation for further action."
Such an agreement may be contingent upon the results of a meeting
in the U.K. prior to the G8. England is hosting an international summit
of climate scientists and policy makers who will try and determine
capacity of the atmosphere to absorb greenhouse gas and possible methods
of global warming mitigation.
On September 22nd, James A. Leach, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific Economic Policy, held a hearing on Asia's environmental challenges in the 21st century. Ms. Ruth Greenspan Bell of Resources for the Future; Elizabeth C. Economy, Ph.D., Director of Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Mingma Sherpa, Director of Asia Programs for the World Wildlife Fund; and Mr. Christopher Flavin, President of the Worldwatch Institute all testified about the current environmental crisis in Asia.
Ms. Greenspan Bell spoke of dismal air quality in portions of Asia, inadequate water supply and poor sanitation. Deforestation has progressed unchecked, causing an unprecedented loss in wildlife habitat. She stated that although most Asian countries have environmental laws, they are rarely enforced. She also commented the growing environmental movements within Asian countries and also the work of NGOs such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, and Sierra Club.
Mr. Flavin testified that China's extraordinary growth in the last decade has made it, the second largest consumer of oil and water, and the second largest producer of major pollutants such as sulfur and carbon dioxide. He pointed out that although China principally relies on coal to meet their energy needs, it is quickly moving toward a fossil fuel based economy. He echoed Greenspan Bell's comments that existing environmental laws are rarely enforced. But, Flavin did suggest that China is taking some steps in the right direction. He said that the government has mandated efficiency standards on a variety of devices, including home appliances and automobiles. They are also a world leader in the renewable energy technologies of small hydropower and solar water heating. Flavin noted that China has tremendous potential to steer their rapid growth in a sustainable manner. Dr. Economy amplified Mr. Flavin's assessment of the Chinese environmental crisis in her testimony. She also emphasized the importance of a strong U.S. involvement in Chinese development.
Mr. Sherpa testified about the environmental crisis in his homeland of Nepal in the Himalayas. As the Director of Asia Programs of the World Wildlife Fund, Mr. Sherpa oversees a large scale environmental effort in the Himalayas. He called for increased technical and financial support from multilateral institutions such as USAID, the World Bank, and the International Finance Corporation.
For the full testimony, go to http://wwwc.house.gov/international_relations/aphear108.htm#Hearings/Meetings%20of%20108th%20Congress.
The Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail Designation Act of 2004 was introduced on September 23rd. The bill, introduced in the House and Senate as HR.4944 and S.2841, respectively would establish a trail along public highways and roads highlighting the major geologic features of Pleistocene (12,000 - 17,000 years ago) Ice Age cataclysmic floods throughout parts of Montana, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The public will be able to view, learn and experience the dramatic landscapes caused by rapid and recurring drainage of the glacial lake that existed near current day Missoula, Montana through the collaborative efforts of public and private entities. If the bill is signed into law, maps of the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail would be available through the National Park Service.
The House version of the bill can be found online http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:HR04944:@@@L&summ2=m&. You can access the Senate version at http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d108:SN02841:@@@L&summ2=m&.
On September 15th, President Bush announced his nomination of Arden L. Bement, Jr. for the Director of the National Science Foundation. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions moved quickly to approve Bement for the job. Bement has already been serving as acting director since February after former director Rita Colwell stepped down. He will retain the title of acting director until the full Senate confirms his nomination, which may happen before Congress adjourns for the year. Hratch Semerjain will now step up to replace Bement as chairman of the National Institute for Science and Technology. Bement comes to the NSF after years of working in private industry, academia, and government, including senior positions in the Department of Defense.
To learn more about Bement, log on to http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/forum/bement/bement_bio.htm.
The Bush Administration made eight appointments to the 24 member National Science Board in September. The Board, which meets publicly six times a year, is the primary steering committee for the NSF, providing vision on policies, budgets, and programs. All nominees must be confirmed by the Senate before they can join the Board.
The nominations are: Dan Arvizu replacing Maxine L. Savitz; Steven C. Beering (Reappointment); Gerald Wayne Clough replacing Anita K. Jones; Kelvin Kay Droegemeier replacing Robert C. Richardson; Louis J. Lanzerotti replacing George M. Langford; Alan I. Leshner replacing Luis Sequeira; Jon C. Strauss replacing Joseph A. Miller, Jr.; and Kathryn D. Sullivan replacing Pamela A. Ferguson. All nominees would serve six year terms, from confirmation until May 10, 2010.
Additional information about the National Science Board can be found
online at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/.
The September issues of Science and Nature published articles comparing President Bush and Senator John Kerry's stances on a myriad of current science policy issues. Each candidate was asked a series of questions and given the chance to expound their philosophies on science issues in the national debate on issues ranging from stem cell research, to climate change and energy policy, and visa policy for foreign students.
The Science article is available online at http://www.sciencemag.org/sciext/candidates2004/.
The Nature article can be found by logging on to http://www.nature.com/news/specials/uselection/index.html.
On September 30th, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) hosted a public forum on science and technology policy with representatives from the Bush and Kerry campaigns. Former House Science Committee Chairman Bob Walker represented the Bush-Cheney campaign and physicist Henry Kelly, former assistant director for technology of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, spoke for Kerry-Edwards.
After opening statements, each representative fielded questions from the audience. The topics included stem cell research, visas for foreign students, peer review, political accountability for scientists, alternative fuel investment, space exploration, endangered species, the obesity epidemic, and cap and trade schemes. To listen to the debate in real audio or mp3, see the AAAS website at, http://www.aaas.org/election/.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is requesting public comment on its draft 10-year Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System. The plan is the culmination of the efforts of 18 federal agencies under the auspices of the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) to integrate and upgrade earth observation systems in order to better understand global geological, biological, atmospheric, and ecological processes. The plan underscores nine principle benefits from such a system including improved climate change modeling, monitoring and managing of natural disasters, ecosystem health and diversity, ocean and fresh water resources, and disease control. The U.S. is also expected to participate in an international Global Earth Observation summit in February 2005, a global collaboration of 49 countries, the European Commission, and 29 international organizations.
The draft Strategic Plan is available at http://iwgeo.ssc.nasa.gov/draftstrategicplan. Comments on the draft are due by November 8th, and should be sent to IWGEOcomments@noaa.gov. For more information on the Earth Observation System, see the U.S. Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations website at http://IWGEO.ssc.nasa.gov/ and the Global Earth Observation System website at http://earthobservations.org/.
The National Science Foundation and the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) have reached a collaborative agreement to build the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON). The NEON Project Office, now open at the AIBS headquarters in Washington DC, is soliciting help in the visioning phase of the project.
According to an NSF press release, "NEON, envisioned as field and lab instrumentation deployed across the United States and integrated via cutting-edge cyber infrastructure into a continent-wide research platform, will be the first national ecological observation system designed to answer scientific questions at regional and continental scales to enable ecological forecasting."
Richard O'Grady, executive director of AIBS, announced in mid-September, "The NEON visioning process we will undertake, as detailed in our proposal, is community-based and is structured around working committees and subcommittees. While the leadership of these committees has been partly established, the committee membership will be drawn from the broader community. We encourage you to nominate yourself or other skilled and thoughtful members of our community. Three major meetings are planned for the first half of 2005 (January 3-7, March 14-18 and June 6-10). It is essential that committee members attend all three meetings; substitutions and the back-tracking that results cannot be entertained. The NEON project will cover expenses and provide an honorarium for service."
Those who cannot commit to serve on committees but are interested
are encouraged to review and comment on the documents generated during
the design process. Graduate students are also encouraged to get involved.
More information can be found on the NEON website at http://www.neonic.org.
Nominations for committees will be reviewed beginning October 8th.
Called "Living on a Restless Earth," this event gives students
and citizens new opportunities to discover Earth sciences and encourages
stewardship of the Earth. It highlights the important contributions
that Earth and environmental sciences make to society and engages
the public in current scientific exploration. AGI invites you to attend
an event, visit a classroom or go on a field trip! For more information
on how you can participate, please visit http://www.earthsciweek.org.
Address any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A coalition of over 80 organizations including the Office of Homeland Security and the American Red Cross promoted National Preparedness Month in September. Hundreds of activities such as preparedness booths at fairs, press conferences, and town hall meetings, took place across the country to emphasize the need to be prepared for terrorist attacks and natural disasters. Are You Ready? A Guide to Citizen Preparedness, published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is a guide for understanding disaster survival techniques, disaster-specific information, and how to prepare for and respond to both natural and man-made disasters. The Office of Homeland Security's readiness website gives specific information concerning different types of attacks and disasters. The site gives a list of suggests materials such as first aid survival supplies for preparing a general emergency kit.
To learn more, log onto http://www.ready.gov.
Policy Assistant/Analyst, Environment and Energy Study Institute
National Ground Water Program Leader, USFS
Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens and should have: the ability to develop and lead an emerging ground-water resource management program at the national level; the ability to provide technical and procedural advice and guidance about ground-water resources, hydrogeology, and ground-water utilization, development, and remediation to program specialists at all agency levels; and an understanding of how ground-water systems function on the broader context of the dynamic nature of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and the ability to provide expertise in this area.
If you have specific technical questions regarding this job contact Michael J. Burnside, Assistant Director, MGM at 703-605-4788 or Deanna J. Stouder, Assistant Director, WFW at 202-205-1790. Please express your interest no later than October 22nd by submitting a one page resume to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
AGI Seeks Director of Government Affairs
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 email@example.com. 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.
Dave Millar, originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, recently
graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz. He double
majored in Earth Sciences and Politics, and in 2003, he studied abroad
for a full year at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Now living
in Washington DC and working in AGI's Government Affairs Program,
Dave is learning first hand the realities of the appropriations process
as well as tracking legislation on climate change, oceans policy,
global earth observation, and energy. His internship will extend through
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.
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.
EPA: Extension of comment period for the Standards and Practices
for All Appropriate Inquiries Proposed Rule. On August 26, 2004, EPA
published for public comment a proposed rule that would set federal
standards and practices for conducting all appropriate inquiries,
as required under Sections 101(35)(B)(ii) and (iii) of the Comprehensive
Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
The original comment period was to expire on October 25, 2004. Today's
action extends the comment period to November 30, 2004. Submit your
comments, identified by Docket ID No. SFUND-2004-0001, to Federal
eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the on-line
instructions for submitting comments. If you have questions, contact
DOE: Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board Panel Meeting: October
13-14, 2004--Salt Lake City, UT: The U.S. Nuclear Waste Technical
Review Board's Panel on the Waste Management System Will Meet To Discuss
Issues Related to the U.S. Department of Energy's Planning for the
Possible Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel and High-Level Radioactive
Waste to a Proposed Repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The purpose
of the meeting is to discuss the DOE's transportation planning and
the experience of regional groups involved in transporting spent nuclear
fuel and high-level radioactive waste (Wednesday) and to review the
experiences of Private Fuel Storage, LLC, in planning for transportation
of spent nuclear fuel to its proposed facility in Utah (Thursday).
On Thursday, the panel also will review issues of risk perception
in the transportation planning process. For more information, contact
the NWTRB: Karyn Severson, External Affairs; 2300 Clarendon Boulevard,
Suite 1300; Arlington, VA 22201-3367; (tel.) 703-235-4473; (fax) 703-235-4495.
NOAA: Call for Proposals for FY 2005 Coastal Services Center Integrated
Ocean Observing Systems--Amendment
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 Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program and Dave Millar, AGI/AAPG 2004 Fall Semester Intern.
Sources: AAAS; U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security; National Science Foundation; Nature; Science; Thomas Legislative Database; NOAA; EPA; ASFE; NGWA; ASCE; Greenwire; Energy and Environment Daily; The Washington Post..
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted October 13, 2004