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Monthly Review: September 2005


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.

 

Hurricane Katrina Spending

On September 2, 2005 Congress approved a $10.5 billion emergency spending package to cover the immediate costs of the disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina. Public law 109-61 entitled "Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act to Meet Immediate Needs Arising From the Consequences of Hurricane Katrina, 2005" gives FEMA $10 billion for direct relief efforts and the Department of Defense $500 million for its expenses related to disaster response.

On September 8, Congress passed a second emergency spending package for $51.8 billion in additional relief. The actual language in this second bill, public law 109-62, is very brief and gives $1.4 billion for Defense Department operations and maintenance, $200 million for the Army Corps of Engineers operations and maintenance, $200 million for the Army Corps of Engineers flood control operations and $50 billion for the Department of Homeland Security. How the funds should be used is not specified in the Act. The House Appropriations Committee in a press release indicated that they expect the funds to be distributed as follows: $26.13 billion for public assistance ($813.4 million for unemployment assistance, $250 million for damage inspections, $23.2 billion for housing and other short-term aid, $1.6 billion for manufactured housing and $250 million for legal and mental health counseling); $7.65 billion for rebuilding public infrastructure; $4.58 billion for FEMA ($2.6 billion for logistics, $1.9 billion for supplies and $75 million for search and rescue); $3.4 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers operations and repairs; $3.9 billion for Defense Department operations and repairs; $5.5 billion for other agencies and $648.8 million for future disaster prevention.

On September 21, both houses of Congress passed the "Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005" (H.R. 3768), which offers $8.4 billion in tax deductions and waivers. Of the $70.7 billion in total hurricane relief, $16 billion has been spent, and it is unclear how soon Congress will need to pass a third emergency package. The administration estimates total costs will fall somewhere between $100 and $200 billion, including the 3 initiatives described in President Bush's speech to the nation from New Orleans on September 15. Louisiana's Senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), have proposed legislation to provide about $250 billion in federal aid to help their state rebuild over a 10-year period. The bill includes about $180 billion in direct federal spending, with the rest of the spending coming from tax breaks. The bill has been criticized by some Members for being too costly and by others for including measures that are not related to direct relief.

Congressional Oversight of Katrina

The federal government, as well as the state and local governments have been criticized for their slow and disorganized response to Hurricane Katrina. In addition Congress has been criticized for passing two emergency supplemental spending bills with little to no oversight of how these funds are being spent. Congress is now trying to deal with both issues but has been stalled by debates among Members.

Soon after the hurricane, several committees in Congress announced hearings on the government response to Katrina. Many of these hearings were delayed or canceled as the leadership in Congress argued about setting up a separate commission to investigate the Katrina response. Democrats have repeatedly called for an independent, 9/11-style commission to investigate government failures in the wake of Katrina, but thus far Republicans have insisted that congressional committees are the proper forum for this type of investigation. On September 8, 2005 House Republican leadership announced a House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina, to conduct all of the Katrina investigations in the House. Thus far most Democrats have boycotted the committee because there would not be an equal number of Republicans and Democrats on the committee and because the Democrats believe the Republican-dominated Congress cannot investigate possible problems related to a Republican administration. In the Senate, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) declined to form a special panel and forged ahead with her own committee's investigations.

Despite the ongoing debate over how an investigation should be conducted, Congress has held at least nine hearings on recovery strategies, energy supply impacts, and government accountability. In the second week of September, members of Congress heard testimony from public officials and emergency managers who had previously dealt with major disasters, including former California Governor Pete Wilson and the former mayor of New Orleans Marc Morial. These officials detailed their emergency plans and offered some insights into what may have gone wrong following Katrina. Several Democratic committee members raised concerns about holding hearings on emergency response plans in other cities instead of focusing on what had actually occurred in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

The following week, Congress began examining the predictions and forecasts of Hurricane Katrina before it made landfall. The House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina convened its first hearing to understand the specific timeline of predictions published by NOAA's National Hurricane Center and local weather stations. On the other side of Capitol Hill, the Senate Disaster Prediction and Prevention Subcommittee convened their first hearing related to Hurricane Katrina to examine various aspects of hurricane prediction more broadly. Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, testified at both hearings and said that he had held daily briefings with FEMA for several days before Katrina made landfall, and that at one of these briefings the President had been present. Mayfield had also made personal phone calls to the governors of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, as well as the mayor of New Orleans, to warn them that this would be a very dangerous storm.

On September 27, the House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina followed up with a much-publicized hearing to interrogate the former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director Michael Brown. Brown testified that most of the problems in the response to Katrina were due to state and local government ineptitude, particularly in Louisiana. Brown also said that FEMA has not received adequate funding since it was reorganized within the Department of Homeland Security.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have begun conducting oversight on the use of funds allocated for Katrina response and recovery. Thus far hearings have been held for Housing and Urban Development, Defense, Army Corps of Engineers, and Homeland Security expenditures. FEMA is supposed to provide weekly updates on expenditures for Hurricane Katrina, however, Members have complained that these updates are too vague to determine where the money is actually being spent.

Full summaries of the Hurricane Katrina hearings are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/katrina_hearings.html

An updated timeline and more background on Hurricane Katrina is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/katrina.html

Katrina Raises Gas Prices

Hurricane Katrina shut down about 95% of Gulf oil production and 72% of Gulf natural gas production as a result of evacuations, electricity outages and flooding. Several refineries and platforms were also damaged by the storm and will be shut down for a longer period of time. The shut down also affected oil and natural gas pipelines from the Gulf coast to inland distribution centers causing some gas shortages. Gasoline prices skyrocketed in many parts of the country, rising by 50 - 75 cents per gallon within hours. In response to the supply shortages, several congressional committees held hearings to address rising energy prices. Members of Congress offered ideas on how to protect consumers from price hikes, increase domestic supply, and exercise conservation of gasoline and natural gas.

Several energy sector representatives, who were witnesses at these hearings called for a relaxation of oil refinery regulations and a reduction in the number of "boutique" fuel blends required in some areas during the summer months. Witnesses associated with natural gas interests pointed out a need to import more liquefied natural gas from abroad and to modify environmental laws that inhibit domestic gas production. Industry representatives also warned Congress that interfering in energy markets, for instance by establishing gasoline price caps, would create market distortion. One energy consultant, Robin West of the PFC Energy Team, also made it clear that high prices were due to high demand and not any action on the part of OPEC, the Middle-Eastern oil cartel.

Many Members and other witnesses, however, insisted that the rising prices were due to price gouging and not supply-demand issues. Federal agency representatives repeatedly deflected questions about how to identify and crack down on market manipulation. Guy Caruso, Administrator of the Energy Information Administration and John Seesel, Associate General Counsel for Energy at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), refused to call the rising prices "price gouging," and insisted that energy trading on the futures market was the principle cause for the price hikes. Members continued to press witnesses on evidence that oil companies are making huge profits at the expense of consumers. Several senators, including Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) announced legislation designed to prevent gasoline price gouging, and senators successfully attached an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill directing the FTC to investigate and prosecute such activities.

Full summaries of recent hearings on high energy prices are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_hearings.html

More Energy Bills Spawned by Katrina

Several lawmakers have used the aftermath of Katrina as an opportunity to introduce new energy legislation. Two bills introduced in the House that focus on expanding domestic energy production have gained the most momentum in recent weeks.

The "Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005" (H.R. 3893), introduced by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX), would repeal parts of the energy bill in order to provide new refinery construction incentives, and it would relax certain Clean Air Act requirements. The second bill, sponsored by House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) takes bold steps to open up more public land and offshore areas to energy development, including a provision to allow states to opt out of offshore leasing bans and to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The bill also includes minor titles to provide funding for engineering and mining schools and to establish a geologic mapping and data preservation program using royalties from mining and offshore energy revenues.

While the full House is going forward with Barton's bill with a vote due on October 7, Republican leadership decided not to call a House vote on Pombo's bill; instead, the bill may be incorporated into the House budget reconciliation package, which is immune to filibuster in the Senate. Meanwhile, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici is expected to roll out Katrina-related energy legislation of his own later in October that will contain offshore oil and gas options and incentives to encourage energy conservation.

Click here for more details on Pombo's energy bill. A print of Barton's bill is available here.

See AGI's action alert http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energyschools_alert.html for more details about the engineering and mining schools section of Pombo's bill.

Much Ado About Appropriations

Congress passed a continuing resolution on September 30, 2005, which will remain in affect until November 18. The continuing resolution provides temporary funding for federal agencies that have not been appropriated funds for the next fiscal year. Funding levels will be kept at the lowest possible level, either the fiscal year 2005 enacted levels or the House or Senate-approved levels for 2006. This is the ninth year in a row that Congress has failed to pass all of its appropriations bills before the start of the next fiscal year.

As fiscal year 2006 began on October 1, 2005, only two of eleven spending bills have been enacted, covering budgets for the Legislative Branch, the Department of Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The continuing resolution gives the House and Senate less than two months to negotiate gaps between their proposed budgets for all other agencies. If Congress fails to agree on the remaining bills, they may be combined into an omnibus bill. Another option will be to extend the continuing resolution through FY 2006. Complicating this process, lawmakers must contend with emergency relief measures working their way into several appropriations bills.

As of October 1, 2005, the Senate completed work on 8 of its 12 bills, including $48.9 billion for Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and Related Agencies, and $100.7 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Reconciling the House and Senate versions of the CJS bill will be difficult as the Senate provided over $1 billion more than the House for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the final Senate bill contains numerous Katrina-related amendments that need to be reconciled.

Conference negotiations seem particularly unlikely for Energy and Water appropriations, which has been awaiting conference since July, when the Senate passed a bill that had about $1.5 billion more than the House bill. This bill funds the Department of Energy, Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers. An inability to agree on spending parameters could result in flat funding and threaten the Corps' ability to fulfill its obligations in New Orleans. According to E&E Daily, the Corps has said it needs at least $2 billion to deal with Katrina damage; so far, the agency has received $400 million in emergency funds. On the other hand, new pressure to ensure the Corps is given a sufficient budget may cause Congress to reevaluate spending priorities and push the Energy and Water bill through.

For details about the status of key appropriations bills, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/issues/alphalist.html#approps

Ballooning Budget Deficit and Rough Road to Reconciliation

The war in Iraq has cost about $200 billion so far and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are likely to add $200 billion or more to the growing emergency spending. In September, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the federal deficit will grow to $503 billion in 2006 and this estimate does not include any of the costs for any hurricane relief. In April, Congress adopted a budget resolution that called for $70 billion in tax cuts, $35 billion in mandatory spending cuts (most of the cuts coming from reductions to Medicare and Medicaid) and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to supply much of the revenue needed to offset the tax cuts. Reconciliation of the Budget Resolution has been delayed until October 27 and there is significant concern and disagreement among Members about the nation's fiscal status.

Members of Congress must find ways to offset the emergency costs. Some have suggested eliminating the proposed tax cuts and delaying the Medicare Prescription Drug Program by one year. Others have suggested a 1 to 5 % rescission across all agencies. Among the more extreme and unlikely proposals is "Operation Offset" a document published by the Republican Study Committee, which is full of significant cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and many other programs. Among the geoscience-related programs slated for cuts, the Committee suggests eliminating NSF's Math and Science Partnership program, NASA's Moon/Mars initiative, the clean coal technology program, the hydrogen fuel initiative and applied research for renewable energy sources program.

House Science Committee Announces Priorities for October

On Friday September 16, 2005, House Science Committee Chief of Staff David Goldston held an informal press briefing to discuss what the committee will be working on through October. The first issue brought up was a bill (S. 1713) introduced by Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) on September 15th that would amend the 2000 Iran Nonproliferation Act (INA) to allow NASA to use Russian vehicles for access to the International Space Station. Currently the INA prohibits U.S. purchases of Russian space technology and equipment while Russia could be exporting nuclear technology or knowledge to Iran. Goldston said that the House Science and International Relations Committees were currently discussing which committee should introduce a House version of this legislation, which was later passed by the Senate on September 21st. It is unclear how broad the legislation will be. "No one wants the space station to shut down this spring," said Goldston, "the question is how many years we will cover."

Goldston also addressed the impact on NASA of Hurricane Katrina, which caused severe damage and suspended operations at the Michoud Processing Facility, and NASA's Stennis Space Center, which build important components of the Space Shuttle. Goldston said that funding for NASA's Moon/Mars initiative would probably not be affected by the high cost of recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The bill authorizing NASA to pursue these missions passed by wide margins in both the House and the Senate.

The National Science Foundation funding also remains a high priority for the House Science Committee, according to Goldston. In particular the committee is working to protect the foundation's education programs. Tight budget constraints mean that the National Science Foundation will not see any major funding increases in the near future. The Science Committee continues to be concerned about the progress of NPOESS (National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System), which will provide Landsat-type data after the expiration of Landsat 7. Currently the NPOESS program is over its budget and behind schedule, and Goldston says the Science Committee may hold more hearings on the subject in October.

Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) introduced legislation to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards on Wednesday, September 14th. Goldston said that following Hurricane Katrina there is a new opportunity to pass CAFE legislation. "It's a lot harder to vote no on this now," he said. The hurricane is less likely, though, to have an affect on the debate over climate change and greenhouse gas control. Goldston added that over the long-term, current trends indicate that Congress will begin to take this issue more seriously, but the events of the past few weeks have not changed anyone's opinion.

NASA's Moon/Mars Visions

On September 19, 2005, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) administrator Michael Griffin unveiled its Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS), which details the agency's plans for sending humans to the moon and eventually to Mars. The exploration program would utilize Apollo-style capsules propelled by rockets similar to those used by the space shuttle, and would first make a lunar landing in 2018. From there the plan calls for sending at least two missions to the moon a year, with the eventual goal of establishing a semi-permanent lunar outpost. These steps would ultimately prepare NASA to send humans to Mars and hopefully colonize that planet. NASA emphasized that the new spacecraft would be much safer than the space shuttle, which has become a major concern since the Columbia disaster in 2002.

The response to the ESAS included much criticism, most of which was directed at the high cost of the program. Given the United States' commitments in Iraq and the rapidly increasing costs of recovery from Hurricane Katrina, many in Congress are questioning the wisdom of spending $100 billion on space exploration. Griffin defended the cost, saying "The space program is a long-term investment in our future. We must deal with our short-term problems while not sacrificing our long-term investments in our future."

To read about the program, visit NASA's website

RAND Releases Results of Study on Gender and Federal R&D funding

On September 14, 2005 the RAND Corporation released its report "Gender Differences in Major Federal External Grant Programs", which tracked the distribution of federal research and development funding. The study had been commissioned by an amendment inserted by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) into the 2002 National Science Foundation (NSF) reauthorization bill. The results of the three year study show that there is no gender difference in funding levels for grants issued by NSF or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. With National Institute of Health grants, however, women only receive about 83% of the amount that men do, even when the data is controlled for factors such as age, academic degree and grant type. The Departments of Defense and Energy do not track the gender of their grant recipients, so RAND could not include them in its study. Senator Wyden has announced that he will insert an amendment into upcoming appropriations legislation that will require granting agencies to maintain a database that includes gender, race, scholastic background, and discipline for all grant recipients. The RAND report is available at http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/2005/RAND_TR307.sum.pdf.

Evolution Roundup

Dover Case Starts

Last year the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania adopted a requirement that school administrators deliver a statement warning students that evolution is a theory among many and pointing them towards intelligent design for alternative reading. Eleven parents were joined by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Union for the Separation of Church and State in a lawsuit against the school district, arguing that the directive is an attempt to bring religion into science classrooms. The Dover Area School District is being represented pro bono by the Thomas More Law Center, a Christian law firm based in Michigan. The case, Kitzmiller vs. Dover, is being heard without a jury in Harrisburg by U.S. District Judge John Jones III, whom President Bush appointed to the bench in 2002.
The Discovery Institute, in a written statement before the trial, disagreed with the Dover policy to try to distance itself from a case that is likely to be decided as religious interference and unlikely to make Intelligent Design look more like a science than religion. The institute stated, "Misguided policies like the one adopted by the Dover School District are likely to be politically divisive and hinder a fair and open discussion of the merits of intelligent design among scholars and within the scientific community." Furthermore, the institute said, judges should not be telling scientists "what is legitimate scientific inquiry and what is not." The institute's website www.evolutionnews.org provides daily news about the institute's views of misrepresentation of Intelligent Design in the court proceedings.

Opening arguments in the case began on September 26, 2005 and it is possible that the case could end up in the Supreme Court through the appeal process. Transcripts, web casts and daily updates on the trial are available from the National Center for Science Education.

Congressman Rush Holt Decries Intelligent Design

In a September 8, 2005 blog entitled "Intelligent Design: It's Not Even Wrong", Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) responded to President Bush's statement of support for the teaching of Intelligent Design alongside evolution. Holt, who is a physicist, pointed out that Intelligent Design, because it cannot be tested empirically, is not science and therefore should not be taught as such. "We must not allow this American intellectual habit to be replaced with wishful thinking or lazy thinking," wrote Holt. "Intelligent design is lazy thinking." Holt also argued that instead of debating the teaching of this nonscientific concept, Americans should be finding ways to improve our faltering education system. President Bush's comments were made on August 1st, and many scientific societies, including the American Geophysical Union, responded with statements declaring Intelligent Design to be unscientific. Representative Holt's blog is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/evolution/holt0905.html.

Museums Providing Training for Challenges from Creationists

In a story printed on September 20th, the New York Times detailed how museum docents are handling an increasing number of challenges to exhibits on evolution. Dr. Warren Allmon, who is the Director of the Paleontological Research Institution, one of AGI's Member Societies, has held training sessions for docents on ways to deal with visitors who reject scientific theories for religious reasons. "Just telling them they are wrong is not going to be effective," Allmon said. Similar steps are being taken at museums across the country as the debate over evolution becomes more heated. The Times story is available here.

American Astronomical Society Issues Statement Supporting Teaching Evolution

On September 20th the American Astronomical Society (AAS) issued a statement in support of teaching evolution in America's K-12 science classrooms. The statement points out that the theory of evolution is a foundation of modern science, and that Intelligent Design does not meet the criteria of a scientific idea. AAS President Dr. Robert Kirshner said, "Science teachers have their hands full teaching the
things that we actually know about the world we live in. They shouldn't be
burdened with content-free dogma like Intelligent Design." The AAS joins many other scientific and educational organizations, including the National Academies of Sciences, the National Science Teachers Association, AGI and the American Geophysical Union, in supporting evolution in science education. The statement is available at http://www.aas.org/.

Earthquake Briefing

On September 20, 2005, the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance sponsored an earthquake briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building. The briefing was entitled "Earthquakes: Mitigation Through Effective Design and Getting the Public Involved." The first speaker was David Wald, a USGS seismologist, who discussed ShakeMap, which provides near-real-time maps of ground motion and shaking intensity following significant earthquakes and "Did You Feel It?," which produces maps of the shaking felt by people who fill out an online questionnaire after an event. The second speaker was Cliff Roblee, a geotechnical engineer, who discussed how to design and build more earthquake-resistant structures and summarized the work of the Network for Earthquake Engineering (NEES), Inc.. The third speaker was Stuart Nishenko, a seismologist at Pacific Gas and Electric, who discussed the cost-effectiveness of seismic monitoring and how to protect our lifelines (communication lines, oil and gas pipelines, water and sewage systems and others). Seventeen congressional staff members from 6 states (California, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Minnesota and Utah) and the House Science Committee attended the briefing. The presentations and a summary of the briefing is available at http://www.hazardscaucus.org/briefings/earthquake_briefing0905.html

Scientists Visit Congress in September

A subset of the organizations involved in the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) organized congressional visits for scientists on September 14, 2005. Our general objective was to ask for increased support for the National Science Foundation and more specifically to ask Members to support the House-level of NSF funding in the fiscal year 2006 science appropriation process. Sixty-five scientists from 28 organizations conducted 82 visits to congressional members from 23 states (AL, CA, CO, DE, FL, KS, KY, IL, IN, ME, MD, MA, MI, MN, MO, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, TX and VA). AGI had four scientists, Maria Zuber, Chair of the Earth, Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences Department at MIT; Dan Fornari, Director - Deep Ocean Exploration Institute at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Matt Davis, Chair of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of New Hampshire; and Jamie Austin, from the University of Texas at Austin. The American Geophysical Union, the Soil Science Society and the Joint Oceanographic Institutions added at least another 20 visitors, making the geoscientists the largest contingent of any of the scientific disciplines. The Massachusetts visitors met John Kerry during their office visit with his staff member, while the Massachusetts, Virginia, Alabama and other delegations prepared letters of support for NSF based on the visits from the scientists.

Royal Astronomical Society Urges Reconsideration of Leap Seconds

The Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) issued a statement on September 20, 2005 recommending that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) shelve a proposal to abolish leap seconds. Leap seconds are periodic small adjustments to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) which allow timekeeping to remain synchronized with the rotation of Earth and with the position of the sun in the sky. Abolishing leap seconds would simplify some precision timing applications, but it would cause problems for scientists and others who use clock time as a measure of mean solar time. The RAS is concerned because debate over the proposed change has been limited to specialists and has not included many who would be affected by it. The RAS recommends that the ITU shelve the proposal until a wider debate is held. The entire statement can be found at http://www.ras.org.uk/.

AAAS Brokerage System for Scientists Affected by Katrina

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) has developed a "brokerage system" through which scientists in the Gulf Coast region can find needed resources for rebuilding their labs and classrooms. Through this online service, scientists can post needed and available resources, including computers, books, lab space or equipment, and teaching materials. Additionally, AAAS has made articles from Science related to hurricanes freely available as an aid to policymakers, scientists, and the public. These articles include a widely publicized recent study that links global warming with increased hurricane intensity. The brokerage and the free Science articles are available at http://www.aaas.org/katrina/.

National Ground Water Association Recommends Emergency Registry

The National Ground Water Association (NGWA) has suggested that its members who are looking to help with recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina join the National Emergency Resource Registry. The registry is run by the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC) as a way to efficiently coordinate response efforts with communities affected by Hurricane Katrina or other disasters. On the National Emergency Resource Registry website, www.seern.com, persons or companies can register as a new or existing member, select "water/waste water" as a service category, and specify the type of assistance they can offer. "Our industry has a big heart, which is evidenced by the many NGWA members offering their services. We believe those who wish to volunteer should get on the emergency registry to help and not hinder the recovery effort," said NGWA Executive Director Kevin McCray.

Key Federal Register Notices

Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geosciences 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/frcont05.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

DOE/BLM: The Department of Energy and the Bureau of Land Management have posted a notice informing the public of a proposed action on western federal lands. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directs the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior to designate corridors on federal land for oil, gas and hydrogen pipelines and electricity transmission and distribution facilities. The agencies intend to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) for this action and will conduct 11 public scoping meetings and solicit public comments for consideration in establishing the scope and content of the EIS. For information about the scoping meetings and submitting comments visit http://corridoreis.anl.gov. [Federal Register: September 28, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 187)]

EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency is extending the comment period for their proposed Public Health and Environmental Radiation Protection Standards for Yucca Mountain, Nevada which appeared in the Federal Register on August 22, 2003.
The purpose of this notice is to extend the comment period to November 21, 2005, and to announce an additional public hearing in Las Vegas on October 6, 2005. [Federal Register: September 27, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 186)]

MMS: The Minerals Management Service published a final rule to provide immediate temporary relief to the oil and gas industry in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that provides an extension to pay royalties owed on federal oil and gas leases and reports corresponding royalty and production documents. Extending the due date for royalty payments means that late payment interest will not accrue for the period between the original due date and the new due date established by this rule. [Federal Register: September 29, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 188)]

MMS: The Minerals Management Service is delaying until January 1, 2006, the effective date of a rule that will implement fees to offset the costs of providing certain services related to its mineral programs. This delay is necessary because of damage caused in the New Orleans area by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding. The delay will provide relief to the government and the oil and gas industry as they recover from this disaster. [Federal Register: September 26, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 185)]

NSF: The National Science Foundation has posted notice of a meeting that will be held to carry out a review of UNAVCO management and leadership. The meeting will be held October 20-21, 2005 at UNAVCO headquarters in Boulder, CO. For more information contact Russel Kelz (rkelz@nsf.gov). [Federal Register: September 26, 2005 (Volume70, Number 185)]

NSF: The National Science Foundation announces its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with the use of seismic sources in support of NSF-funded research by U.S. academic scientists. NSF requests public participation in the scoping process. A list of meeting dates and locations is available on the Federal Registry. For more information contact Alexander Shor (OCE-EIS@nsf.gov). [Federal Register: September 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 183)]

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, Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff, and Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, Congressional Quarterly, NASAWatch, American Astronomical Society, Royal Astronomical Society, National Center for Science Education, American Physical Society, American Institute of Physics, and American Association for the Advancement of Science

TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PROGRAM MONTHLY REVIEW, SEND AN EMAIL WITH YOUR REQUEST AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO GOVT@AGIWEB.ORG

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

Posted October 4, 2005.

 

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