Monthly Review: September 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.

Congress Adjourns with Budget Undone

The 109th Congress adjourned on September 29th with lots of work left to complete when they return after the mid-term elections for at least one lame duck session from November 13-17. The biggest task to complete is the fiscal year 2007 budget for much of the federal government. Congress is likely to try to combine many separate bills into one large appropriation bill called an omnibus and if this happens, then policymakers are also likely to try to balance budget priorities for such an omnibus by applying a small rescission (probably about 1%) across all programs. It is also possible that Congress will not be able complete their budget work in November and may return for an additional lame duck session in January.

Congress passed only two of 12 fiscal year 2007 appropriation bills - one for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one for the Department of Defense. The DHS appropriations bill contains a continuing resolution for the other appropriation bills that have not been completed. The resolution extends to November 17 and maintains the funding of all government agencies, except DHS and DOD, at the lower value of three possible levels: the fiscal year 2006 budget, the House-approved funding or the Senate committee approved funding. The House completed work on all 11 of their appropriation bills, however, the 12 Senate bills have not been considered by the full chamber and thus remain with their respective committees.

Lawmakers have also been working on a variety of non-appropriation bills related to research, education, natural resources and natural hazards. Summaries of the most recent actions on some of these bills are provided in other sections of this monthly review. Additional information about these bills and other congressional activities are available on AGI's Government Affairs web site at: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/index.html

A table of the appropriation bills and their current status is available on Thomas at:
http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/app07.html

A summary of appropriations for fiscal year 2007 that are of particular interest to the geoscience community are available on AGI's Government Affairs web site at
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/issues/alphalist.html#approps

Senate Introduces National Competitiveness Investment Act

Concern about Americans decreasing ability to compete in math, science, and engineering and its effect on U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace has prompted the introduction of the bipartisan National Competitiveness Investment Act (NCIA) (S.3936) on September 26, 2006. Senate leaders Bill Frist (R-TN) and Harry Reid (D-NV), as well as the chairs and ranking members of several key committees have joined together in a bipartisan fashion to create this new legislation. The new bill, combines the American Innovation and Competitiveness bill (S. 2802), a Commerce Committee initiative and the Protecting America's Competitive Edge (PACE) Energy Bill (S. 2197), an Energy Committee initiative with education incentives to promote science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and critical foreign language education, from the Housing, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

If passed, the NCIA would authorize doubling of National Science Foundation (NSF) basic research over the next five years as well as increased funding for basic research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Energy's Office of Science and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The bill would also provide early career research grants to young investigators. The NCIA would create a DARPA-modeled energy program, ARPA-E, in order to fund exploratory, high-risk energy projects. The NCIA would also create a new teacher's institute aimed at new math and science teaching techniques, bolster recruitment and training of new math and science teachers, sponsor K-12 level math and science teacher scholarships, and encourage more students to take advanced placement (AP) and international baccalaureate (IB) courses.

On the House side, the Early Career Research Act (H.R.5356) and the Science and Mathematics Education for Competitiveness Act (H.R. 5358) have similar components as the NCIA and would be the likely pieces of legislation that would be combined with the NCIA if the Senate and House can move their bills forward during the lame duck session.

House and Senate Miles Apart on Offshore Drilling Legislation

The House and Senate were unable to settle their differences on offshore drilling legislation before the recess and it remains unclear whether they can resolve these issues when they return in November. The Senate bill, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 (S.3711) and the House bill, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act (DOER, H.R. 4761) set very different limitations on new offshore drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico. The extent of the drilling and the sharing of the royalty revenues remain the most contentious issues to resolve.

Within the House bill, part of the federal revenue generated from offshore drilling royalties would fund the Energy and Mineral Schools Reinvestment Fund Act (EMSRA). Funds would be distributed to petroleum, mining, applied geology and geophysics schools to support education and research and to encourage the growth of professionals in the energy workforce. Additional funds would be available for K-12 science education. The House bill would also establish the National Geo Fund to fund geologic mapping, geophysical and other seismic studies, earthquake monitoring programs, and preservation and use of geologic and geophysical data.

BP Pipeline Shutdown Prompts New Legislation

Both chambers of Congress moved forward this month toward a pipeline safety overhaul stimulated by significant corrosion problems in BP's Prudhoe Bay pipelines along the North Slope of Alaska. BP was forced to halt production after a spill of over 200,000 gallons of oil in March 2006 followed by a smaller leak in August. The shutdown of Prudhoe Bay prompted a stream of congressional hearings and new legislation in September.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) introduced the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2006 (H.R. 5782) in July, which would regulate low-stress pipelines in "unusually sensitive areas." H.R. 5782 was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce where it remained with little activity until the BP pipeline problems emerged. After several hearings on the BP pipeline problems in the House, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-TX) and Ranking Member John D. Dingell (D-MI) introduced bipartisan amendments to H.R. 5782 which would enhance operator inspection and cleaning rules on most rural low-stress pipelines with a few exceptions, regulating more pipelines than the original bill.

In the Senate, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduced the Pipeline Inspection, Protection, Enforcement, and Safety Act of 2006 (S. 3961) on September 27th which regulates the same low-stress pipelines as the Barton-Dingell amendment. Both plans call for the authorization of grants for pipeline damage prevention programs, public summaries of enforcement actions against pipeline operators and minimum standards for integrity management programs for gas distribution in areas close to residences.

Barton expressed confidence that legislation would be passed by the end of the year.

For summaries of recent pipeline hearings, please see
http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_hearings.html

House Approves Alternative Energy Bill

On September 29th, hours before Congress adjourned, the House approved the Alternative Energy Research and Development Act (H.R. 5656) which brings together a series of smaller bills considered by the Science Committee. The bill authorizes $402 million for alternative energy research, particularly biofuels, hydrogen, plug-in hybrid vehicles and green building technology. The bill also requests a National Academy of Sciences study of the Advanced Research Projects for Energy (ARPA-E) initiative. The initiative was suggested in the National Academy report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" and has been proposed in several competitiveness bills introduced in 2006. There is no comparable bill being considered in the Senate and this bill is not likely to advance in the lame duck session.

House Introduces Bill to Create an Independent Mineral Resource Agency

On September 14th, the House introduced legislation to create an independent mineral commodity resource administration within the Department of the Interior. The legislation, entitled "The Resource Origin and Commodity Knowledge (ROCK) Act" (H.R. 6080), sponsored by Thelma Drake (R-VA) would establish an administrator (appointed by the President) who would report directly to the Secretary of the Interior. The bill would require the transfer of not less than 200 full time equivalent positions from the U.S. Geological Survey and not less than 100 full time equivalent positions from the rest of the Department to this new agency.

The new agency would provide mineral commodity data that is currently produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. In addition, the new administrator would be required to prepare an analysis of "the foreign and domestic mineral commodities that will be required by the United States to sustain the energy supply, demand, and prices projected by the [Energy Information Administration's] Annual Energy Outlook analysis." The bill was referred to the House Committee on Resources and the subcommittee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on the bill on September 20th. David Kanagy, the Executive Director of the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, one of AGI's Member Societies, testified at the hearing about the need for unbiased, timely and accurate mineral commodity data. There is no comparable legislation currently being considered by the Senate and the House bill is unlikely to advance through the 109th Congress during their brief lame-duck session.

Open Access Legislation Garners More External Support

An open access bill introduced in the Senate in May 2006 is still awaiting congressional action. The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (S. 2695) would require each federal agency with extramural research expenditures of over $100 million to develop a specified federal research public access policy that is consistent with and advances the purposes of the agency. The bill is sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and is still waiting for consideration within the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which is chaired by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME). There is no comparable legislation that is currently being considered in the House and given the limited amount of time left for the 109th Congress to complete their work, it is very unlikely this bill will be approved by the Senate, let alone Congress.

There has been some strong support for open access legislation from external groups, such as health and patients rights advocates, a spectrum of organizations that favor open access and universities. This strong external support has kept policymakers from both chambers looking for ways to include open access in legislation. Although the House did not introduce a separate bill on open access like the Senate, there is language in the House fiscal year 2007 appropriations bill for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that would require the NIH Public Access Policy to be mandatory, instead of voluntary and there is language in a House bill for the reauthorization of NIH that would require greater oversight of the public access policy to determine if it is effective. The House has not approved either bill and there is no such language in the related Senate bills. At this time, it seems likely that the House language will be dropped when the two chambers conference on these bills in order to complete the approval process in a timely fashion. Given the strong external support for open access, the 110th Congress is likely to pursue this issue again.

House Approves NOAA Organic Act

On September 20, the House Committee on Science approved the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Organic Act (HR 5450) introduced by House Science Environment, Technology, and Standards Subcommittee Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). According to a Committee press release, this bill would clarify and codify the functions and responsibilities of NOAA for the first time in the agency's history. It would also increase congressional oversight of the agency.

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative, made up of members of earlier ocean advisory committees, said that more than 20 measures have been proposed since 1971 in order to codify the agency, yet none have ever been carried out to completion. As a result, NOAA still operates under an Executive Order from 1970.

Although HR 5450 has advanced further in the House than previous bills, no comparable legislation has been passed in the Senate. Moreover, the legislation lacks a provision on oceans and fisheries, areas under the jurisdiction of the House Resources Committee. Prospects of completing NOAA's codification this year seem slim given the limited time for lame duck congressional sessions and the gaps in the current legislation.

Senate Introduces Hurricane Research Bill

Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and David Vitter (R-LA) announced the introduction of a new bill entitled "The National Hurricane Research Initiative" at a September 25th press conference in the Capitol. The new bill would provide funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to improve understanding of hurricane movement and intensity and how hurricanes interact with the coast and the built environment when they strike land. The bill is partially based on recommendations from a draft report of the National Science Board entitled "Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative". See summary below for more information about the draft report and an opportunity for public comment on the report.

There is no comparable legislation currently being considered in the House, so this bill is unlikely to advance in the 109th Congress. It may be re-introduced, however, when the 110th Congress begins a new session in January, 2007.

House and Senate Nearly Finished with Water Resources Bill

The two chambers ran out of time to reconcile their differences on two bills meant to re-authorize the Water Resources Act. The Senate version, S.728 costs $15 billion, while the House version, H.R. 2864 costs $12 billion. Besides the differences in costs, the primary sticking point is probably the Senate provision on Army Corps of Engineers reform, stricter mitigation requirements and corps independent review. Congressional experts also hinted that lawmakers are uneasy about passing a pork-laden bill before the mid-term elections. It is very likely that Congress will reconcile their differences during the lame-duck session and send a bill to President Bush to sign in November.

Senate and House Approve Drought Legislation

During the last week in September, the Senate and the House approved bills establishing a National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The system would create an early-warning system for droughts and improved drought mitigation and response tactics. According to a Senate press release, President Bush has also expressed his support for a NIDIS system.

NOAA reported that droughts cost $6 to $8 billion in estimated losses to the U.S. economy each year. The bill's co-sponsor Senator Ben Nelson (D-NB) said the program would take pressure off Congress to pass emergency aid when crops fail during dry years. "We could mitigate losses and ultimately limit the need for large drought relief packages," he said.

The Senate bill (S. 2751), also co-sponsored by Pete V. Domenici (R-NM), would authorize $59 million through fiscal year 2012 for the program. The House bill (H.R. 5136), co-sponsored by Ralph Hall (R-TX) and Mark Udall (D-CO) would authorize $81 million through 2012. Although the bills differ, some lawmakers think it will be easy to settle these differences and get the bill approved by Congress during the lame-duck session in November.

Geological Society of America Holds Drought Briefing for Congress

The Geological Society of America (GSA) in cooperation with the Congressional Hazards Caucus sponsored a briefing on drought on September 27. The briefing, entitled "Drought: Strategies to Ensure Adequate Water Resources for Future Generations" featured three speakers, Dr. Stephen Wells, President of the Desert Research Institute and current President of GSA, Dr. Donald Wilhite, Director of the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Ms. Hope Mizzell, the State Climatologist of South Carolina.

Wells and Wilhite focused their talks on the preliminary science and policy roadmap from a GSA meeting on drought, held September 18-20. Mizzell discussed the impacts of drought on South Carolina and emphasized that drought is not just an issue for states west of the Mississippi. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) spoke at the briefing about the importance of additional data and research on drought to help mitigate the impacts of future drought events. He also summarized the status of recent drought legislation in Congress (see the NIDIS summary above). A summary of the briefing and the presentations of the speakers are available on the Congressional Hazards Caucus Alliance web page at www.hazardscaucus.org/events.html

NASA Resignations

Mary Cleave the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate has announced that she will resign this spring, according to a news report in Science Magazine. Cleave a former astronaut with more than 262 hours in space, was a research phycologist and environmental engineer before becoming an astronaut and she worked on several earth-observing missions for NASA laboratories after her tenure in space. She was named the associate administrator for science by Michael Griffin, shortly after he became the NASA administrator. Cleave has had the difficult task of dealing with cuts to space, planetary and earth science programs and trying to explain the rationale for these cuts to the research community.

In late August, three prominent scientists on the NASA Advisory Committee (NAC) resigned after conflicts with Michael Griffin about research priorities. The NAC, was re-organized last year and is now directed by geologist Harrison Schmitt (former Apollo astronaut and Senator). The NAC has been having trouble offering advice to Griffin on the appropriate balance of science and space exploration and this difficulty has sparked the resignations. Charles Kennel, director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California resigned as the chair of the NAC, while former NASA space science chief Wesley Huntress, who is now the director of the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and Provost Eugene Levy of Rice University were asked to step aside by Griffin.

Mark Myers Becomes the 14th Director of the USGS

Mark Myers became the 14th Director of the United States Geological Survey on September 26, 2006 after he was unanimously approved by the Senate on September 14th.

Mark Myers previously served as the Director of Alaska's Division of Oil and Gas, a position that he held for five years. He is also a past president and board member of the Alaska Geological Society; a certified professional geologist with the American Institute of Professional Geologists; a certified petroleum geologist with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists; and a licensed geologist with the State of Alaska. He received his doctorate in geology from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in 1994, specializing in sedimentology, clastic depositional environments, surface and subsurface sequence analysis and sandstone petrography. Myers earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Scientists and Engineers Visit Congress in September

The Coalition for National Science Funding, which AGI is a member of, sponsored congressional visits by engineers and scientists on September 13th. About 80 visitors, from 27 societies visited more than 100 staffers for congressional members from 25 different states. At least 10 geoscientists from the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America were among the participants. In some cases, visitors were able to meet directly with their Members of Congress. During an evening reception the night before, Congressmen Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Bart Gordon (D-TN) gave speeches and met with scientists and engineers. The participants were also given information about congressional activities and how to conduct a congressional visit during an afternoon orientation the day before. Overall it was a good opportunity to be a citizen scientist, highlight the importance of science and engineering, learn more about Congress, talk to policymakers and network with other scientists and engineers with shared policy concerns.

Congressional Visits Day: May 1 and 2, 2007

Congressional Visits Day (CVD) has been scheduled for May 1 and 2, 2007 by the Science, Engineering and Technology Working Group (SET). The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America are members of SET and encourage geoscientists to sign-up with their respective societies to participate. AGI is also a member of SET and can help geoscientists affiliated with AGI's other Member Societies participate in these visits. Please contact Linda Rowan, AGI Government Affairs for more information [rowan@agiweb.org].

SET CVD is an annual two-day event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington, DC to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. Uniquely multi-sector and multi-disciplinary, the SET CVD is coordinated by coalitions of companies, professional societies and educational institutions and it is open to all who believe that science and technology are the cornerstone of our Nation's future. The two-day event consists of a series of briefings and meetings highlighted with visits to your Congressional delegates.

The objective of SET CVD is to raise awareness of the long-term importance of science, engineering and technology to the Nation through face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress, congressional staff, key Administration officials and other decision-makers.

Details about previous CVD events are available at:
http://www.aas.org/policy/cvd/index.html

EPA Issues New Rules on Soot

The Clean Air Act Extension of 1970 requires the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review its air standards every five years to account for updated scientific information. In early September 2006, the EPA had not adjusted its standards since their creation in 1997. A court order mandated the agency to do so by September 27. On September 21, EPA administrator, Stephen L. Johnson, announced new regulations on soot (particles less than 2.5 micrometers). The new EPA guidelines for soot ignored recommendations from EPA staff and science advisors by reducing only one of two standards.

The new rules require daily standards that influence acute exposure to be reduced from 65 micrograms per cubic meter to 35. Although the EPA's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council pushed for the annual soot standard to be reduced to 12 to 14 micrograms per cubic meter from 15, the longer-term standard that influences chronic exposure remains at its 1997 value.

New EPA soot regulations drew criticism from both sides of the spectrum. Industry representatives said that the standards will drastically hurt the economy and lead to a loss in jobs. "We think EPA has jumped the gun by adopting a more stringent standard before the existing standards have been given a chance to work," said Dan Riedinger, a Con Edison spokesperson.

Clean Air Watch, an environmental lobbying group, was among many health and environmental organizations dismayed by what they see as an action that does not go far enough. Frank O'Donnell, the head of the group said, "This E.P.A. decision will allow particle soot to continue killing many thousands of Americans that would be spared if the air were cleaned up."

The EPA estimated that the cut in daily emissions would result in the prevention of "2,500 premature deaths in people with heart or lung disease; 2,600 chronic bronchitis cases; 5,000 nonfatal heart attacks," among other improvements.

"Wherever the science gave us a clear picture, we took clear action," Mr. Johnson said. "The bottom line is these air standards are more protective today than they were yesterday," said Johnson.

For more information on the EPA rules, please visit
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/naaqs/standards/pm/s_pm_index.html

CBO Report Calls for Cap on Greenhouse Gases

A 19-page Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, released on September 18th, noted that a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions would require new regulations mandating caps on industry emissions coupled with greater funds for research and development in climate change technology. Government regulations may take the form of a tax on emissions or a market-based system, like a cap-and-trade program. The CBO stated that a plan requiring both components would be far more effective than enactment of just one part of the plan.

Congress has repeatedly rejected suggestions to cap greenhouse gas emissions. The Bush Administration and critics of suggested regulations proclaim that such measures will hurt the U.S. economy. Alternatively, they hope for "voluntary industry-government partnerships" and increased efforts in climate change technology research and development.

The report came right before three congressional hearings on climate change policies proposed by the Bush Administration. The Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) aims to bolster efforts toward technology research and development. A number of the program's critics, including Chairman of the House Science Committee Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), stated specifically that the problem with the program is "technology deployment." It creates a large supply of climate change technology, but does not address demand. Caps on greenhouse gas emissions provide one solution to this issue.

Senators James Jeffords (I-VT) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) are pleased with the CBO's report and hope that it will provide more momentum for proposed climate change legislation. Jeffords sponsored S. 3698, a far-reaching bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to their 1990 level by 2010. Bingaman has been working on more moderate climate change legislation, but he doubts that any legislation will be passed this year.

The CBO report can be viewed at:
http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/75xx/doc7567/09-18-CarbonEmissions.pdf

DOE Completes Climate Change Technology Program Strategic Plan

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the Climate Change Technology Program (CCTP) Strategic Plan, which details how about $3 billion will be spent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. U.S Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman said "This Strategic Plan is unprecedented in its scope and scale and breaks new ground with its visionary 100-year planning horizon, global perspective, multi-lateral research collaborations, and public private partnerships." In the plan, technological advances related to "hydrogen, biorefining, clean coal, carbon sequestration, and nuclear fission and fusion" were noted as having the highest potential to reduce emissions.

To view the CCTP Strategic Plan, please visit the CCTP website at:
http://www.climatetechnology.gov

Army Corps of Engineers Lacks Plan for Katrina Levees

The Army Corps of Engineers has no strategic plan as of yet for the $7 billion appropriated for levee system repairs in the aftermath of Katrina, said a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released on September 6. The GAO cautioned that if no plan develops soon, New Orleans will see a repeat of the piecemeal approach that resulted in disastrous systemic failures last year.

Thus far, the Corps has spent $1 billion on Louisiana's southeastern levee system, more than the $738 million required for the cost of the original system over 40 years. More resources will be required for adding pumps, canal gates and improving levees and pump stations. No long-term strategy is required until December 2007, though early estimates predict the cost for significant upgrades to protect from higher intensity hurricanes (category 4 or higher) will range from $10 to 20 billion.

The GAO reported that while an external review organization established by the Corps suggested that hurricane protection systems should be "deliberately designed and built as integrated systems," the Corps lacks any sort of comprehensive plan for resourceful use of federal funds over time and continues on its path of previous mistakes ignoring interrelationships and integration between various elements of the project.

To view the GAO report, click here.
http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-06-934

Report on Critical Need for Hurricane Research: Public Comments Requested

The National Science Board (NSB) of the National Science Foundation has completed a draft report entitled "Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative". NSB held a joint press conference with Senators Mel Martinez (R-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and David Vitter (R-LA) to discuss the preliminary findings of the report and the introduction of related legislation by the senators. The report concludes that $300 million in additional federal spending is needed to better understand the destructive nature of hurricanes and calls for the rapid development of a national research initiative.

The public is invited to provide e-mail comments on this draft to NSBHSE@nsf.gov until Sunday, October 29, 2006.

The full text of the draft report is available on the NSB web site at http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/

National Academies Report Calls for Changes in K-8 Science Education

On September 21, the National Academies released a report entitled "Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in K-8". The report urges significant changes in the approach to teaching science to young students in kindergarten through 8th grade. The report notes "Today's standards are still too broad, resulting in superficial coverage of science that fails to link concepts or develop them over successive grades". The report noted that memorizing facts was not effective and students are much more sophisticated learners who should be challenged through a wide variety of learning experiences. These experiences would include "conducting investigations; sharing ideas with peers; talking and writing in specialized ways; and using mechanical, mathematical, and computer-based models." The full text of the report is available at www.nap.edu

Report on Gender Bias in Academia

The National Academies released a report entitled "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering" on the detriments of gender bias in academia. The report called for immediate action by professors, administrators and government in order to eliminate barriers in hiring and promotion that deprive the U.S. of an intrinsic and essential body of talent.

The NAS study examined research on brain function and hormonal modulations and found no biological differences between males and females which would inhibit accomplishments in math and science. Biological factors could not account for the low percentages of women scientists and engineers with tenured faculty positions, the lower rate of promotion of women and the lower pay of women compared to men in equivalent academic positions. Instead decades of cognitive research, controlled experimental studies and analyses of decision-making processes indicate that gender bias is real and prevalent in academia and therefore, can and does account for the more limited participation of women in academic institutions.

The findings of the National Academies study resulted in recommendations to universities to provide evidence of a "fair, broad, and aggressive search" before approving appointments. Also, the report recommends the creation of a self-monitoring body to take control of the interview process and keep extensive data and statistics on hiring. Finally, leaders should implement hiring, tenure, and promotion policies that do not sacrifice quality to meet rigid timelines and are flexible in allowing faculty to pass through various life stages. Federal agencies must provide the technical and administrative support for institutions to achieve these goals.

The full NAS report on gender bias is available at:
http://newton.nap.edu/catalog/11741.html

Vatican Astronomer Replaced Because of Evolution Dispute

According to a news report in Science Magazine, the Vatican is replacing George Coyne, the Vatican astronomer since 1978 and a vocal and eloquent critic of intelligent design, with astronomer and Jesuit priest Jose Gabriel Funes from Argentina. Coyne was involved in a public dispute about evolution with Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, who is a close adviser to Pope Benedict XVI. Schonborn became part of the U.S. debate on evolution after the publication of his Op-Ed article "Finding Design in Nature" in the New York Times in 2005, which advocated for intelligent design. Coyne will remain on the staff of the Vatican Observatory Research Group at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Physics Papers Free Online with One Small Catch

The American Physical Society (APS) will make full-text articles of their physics journals available for free online after someone pays a one-time fee for the article. There are no restrictions on who pays the one-time fee, which ranges from $975 for an article in Physical Review to $1300 for an article in Physical Review Letters. An author, a department, a laboratory or even a government agency can pay the fee. APS hopes this option will lead to fuller access to their journals.

Consortium to Hold Technical Forums on Oil and Natural Gas

According to the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America (RPSEA) will hold technical forums to facilitate communication on regional issues, create networking opportunities, and discuss pressing issues facing the oil and natural gas industry. The format will generally include a one day forum with multiple speakers, panel discussions, as well as question and answer sessions. RPSEA was founded as a research and development program under Section 999 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 with the goal of encouraging development of advanced technologies. RPSEA members include private sector companies, trade associations, both state and national, in addition to academic institutions. More information about RPSEA is available at their web site: www.rpsea.org

Forums scheduled to date:
University of Houston
Topic: Seismic Exploration and Production
Date: October 10th

Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Schlumberger
Topic: Autonomous Intervention for Deepwater Oil and Gas Operations
Date: October 31st

Colorado School of Mines
Topic Tight Gas/Coalbed methane
Date November 14th

University of Southern California and others
Topic: West Coast Topic TBD
Date: November 29th

University of Oklahoma
Topic: Gas Shales (comparison to the Barnett)
Date: First week in December

New Mexico Tech
Topic: Produced Water/Special needs of the Small Producer
Date: Second week in December

This summary was provided courtesy of IPAA.

Weather and Climate Community Will Meet to Develop Priorities

The American Meteorological Society's Board on Enterprise Communication (BEC) and the Weather Coalition will co-host a Town Hall at the January 2007 AMS Annual Meeting entitled "Developing Community Priorities: Moving Our Weather And Climate Community Forward." The purpose of the Town Hall is to identify and discuss the major issues facing the entire weather and climate community and to discuss how to improve the community's effectiveness. The discussion will cover a range of priorities including R&D, observation systems, operations, and end user requirements. A panel of experts from industry, academia, and scientific and professional associations, will be asked to respond to a draft statement about the community's top priorities. After opening comments, the panelists will take questions and respond to comments from the audience.

The draft statement on top community priorities is now available for review on the AMS (www.ametsoc.org) and the Weather Coalition (www.weathercoalition.org) websites. All stakeholders are able to post comments on the AMS CWCE Message Board (http://amsforums.ametsoc.org/tool/mb/amscwceforum?forum=32319), which will feed directly into the Town Hall meeting in January.

This summary was provided courtesy of the Weather Coalition and AMS.

Scientists and Engineers for America Advocates for Scientific Integrity

On September 27th, a group of scientists and engineers announced a new organization called "Scientists and Engineers for America" that will be "dedicated to electing public officials who respect evidence and understand the importance of using scientific and engineering advice in making public policy". The group will be a 527 organization under the U.S. tax laws, which means it can be involved in elections and that contributions to the group are not tax deductible. 527 groups advocate for specific issues, but not specific candidates and therefore are not regulated by the Federal Elections Commission. The organization indicates that it will be non-partisan and their primary goal is to protect the integrity of science. The board includes Nobel laureates Peter Agre and Alfred Gilman and former Clinton science advisors John Gibbons and Neal Lane. The group has posted a "Bill of Rights for Scientists and Engineers" on their web site and currently has about 2500 members.

More information about the new organization is available at their web site:
http://sefora.org/

Earth Science Week: October 8-14

Earth Science Week runs from October 8 to 14. 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 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.

State Department Science Fellowships: AIP and NAS

I. The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is now seeking applicants for the
2007-2008 State Department Fellowships. Fellows can make a unique and substantial contribution to the foreign policy process by providing scientific and technological expertise to addresses complex issues ranging from energy policy to homeland security.

Qualified members of any of the 10 AIP Member Societies, including AGU,
are eligible to apply. Please see www.aip.org/gov/sdf.html for details or contact Audrey Leath (aleath@aip.org) for more information. Applications are due by November 1, 2006.

II. The National Academies is accepting applications for Jefferson Science Fellows at the U.S. Department of State. Fellows will work for one year in a State Department office and routinely provide cutting edge expertise on relevant science and technology issues. Applicants must be tenured academic scientists and engineers from U.S. institutions. The application deadline is December 1, 2006. For more information visit http://www7.nationalacademies.org/jefferson/

2007-2008 William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience 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, the Geological Society of America or the 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 Government Affairs Internships

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.

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 www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont05.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at www.regulation.gov.

NOAA: The National Oceanic Service (NOS) and Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM) are soliciting coastal and estuarine land conservation acquisition projects from eligible coastal states. Eligible coastal states may submit up to three project proposals (funding not to exceed $3 million per project) which must be received by the NOS/OCRM no later that 11.59 p.m. EST, October 27, 2006. Full funding opportunity announcement and application materials available at www.grants.gov, www.coastalmanagement.noaa.gov/land/celcp_fundingop.html. For further information contact Elaine Vaudeuil at (301) 713-3166 x103.
[Federal Register: September 1, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 170)]

Department of Labor: The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) proposed a new regulation for greater mine operator compliance and improved safety and health for miners that is available at http://www.regulations.gov. Comments must be received before October 23, 2006. MSHA will four public hearings on the rule in October. For further information contact Patricia W. Silvey at (202) 693-9440 or silvey.patricia@dol.gov.
[Federal Register: September 8, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 174)]

NSF: The Grants Policy Committee of the US Chief Financial Officer Council will hold an open stakeholder meeting and webcast on Wednesday, October 25, 2006, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Room B-180 of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 451 7th Street SW., Washington, DC 20410. To reserve your seat, contact Charisse Carey-Nunes National at (703) 292-5056 or ccarney@nsf.gov. Further information is available at www.grants.gov/aboutgrants/streamlining_initiatives.jsp.
[Federal Register: September 13, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 177)]

DOE: The State Energy Advisory Board (STEAB) will hold an open meeting on October 18, 2006 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Oct. 19, 2006 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Oct. 20, 2006 from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) located at the Courtyard by Marriott, The Hotels at Cedar Bluff, 216 Langley Place, Knoxville, TN 37922. For further information contact Gary Burch at (303) 275-4801.
[Federal Register: September 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 178)]

NASA: The NASA Advisory Council will hold an open meeting on Thursday, October 12, 2006, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Building 1, Rooms E100 D and E, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, MD 20771-0001. For further information contact Christopher Blackerby at (202) 358-4688.
[Federal Register: September 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 178)]

DOI: USGS will hold an open meeting of the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI) on October 4, 2006 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the U.S. Geological Survey, Dallas L. Peck Auditorium, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia. For further information contact Toni J. Johnson at (703) 648-6810 or tjohnson@usgs.gov.
[Federal Register: September 15, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 179)]

NOAA: Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Product Development Committee (CPDC) announced the Synthesis and Assessment of Product 5.3 - "Decision Support Experiments and Evaluations using Seasonal to Interannual Forecasts and Observational Data." For more information contact Dr. Nancy Beller-Simms at (301) 427-2351 or Nancy.Beller-Simms@noaa.gov.
[Federal Register: September 18, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 180)]

NOAA: The U.S. Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) Synthesis and Assessment Products draft report on the First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR): The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle is available for public comment. The draft report can be found at www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap2-2/default.htm. Comments must be received by November 3, 2006. For further information contact Fabien Laurier at (202) 223-6262 x3481.
[Federal Register: September 19, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 181)]

DOE: The Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee of the Office of Fossil Energy will hold an open meeting Wednesday, November 8, 2006, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday, November 9, 2006, 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Marriott West Loop-by the Galleria, 1750 West Loop South, Houston, TX 77027. For further information contact Edith Allison at (202)586-1023.
[Federal Register: September 20, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 182)]

EPA: The Control of Air Pollution from New Motor Vehicles was issued to yield the correct number of credits for refineries and importers that produce Geographic Phase-in Area (GPA) gasoline and eliminate the generation of windfall credits by refineries or importers that have gasoline sulfur baselines below 150 ppm sulfur. For further information contact Mary Manners at (734) 214-4053, manners.mary@epa.gov or look online at www.regulations.gov.
[Federal Register: September 20, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 182)]

NSF: The National Science Foundation will hold open proposal review meetings throughout the year to provide advice and recommendations concerning proposals submitted to the NSF for financial support. Most meetings will be held at NSF, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22230. For an advance listing of meetings visit the NSF Website www.nsf.gov.
[Federal Register: September 21, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 183)]

NSF: The Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education will hold an open meeting on October 18, 2006, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. and October 19, 2006, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. at Stafford II, Room 555, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22230. For further information contact Alan Tessier at (703) 292-7198.
[Federal Register: September 22, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 184)]

NSF: The Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering will hold an open meeting on October 17, 2006, 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and October 18, 2006, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 375, Arlington, VA 22230. For further information contact Dr. Margaret E.M. Tolbert at (703) 292-8040 or mtolbert@nsf.gov.
[Federal Register: September 22, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 184)]

DOI: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will accept comments on a proposed rule to establish a commercial leasing program for oil shale until October 25, 2006. The Commercial Oil Shale Leasing Program is available at www.regulations.gov. Comments should be mailed to the Bureau of Land Management, Administrative Record, Room 401LS, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240, hand-delivered to the Bureau of Land Management, Administrative Record, Room 401, 1620 L Street, NW., Washington, DC 20036 or e-mailed to washington@blm.gov with the subject titled "Attn: 1004-AD90."
[Federal Register: September 26, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 186)]

New Updates to the Website

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

Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs and Rachel Bleshman, 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Sources: SPARC Open Access Newsletter, Science, National Academies, Weather Coalition, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Thomas, New York Times, Congressional Quarterly, Energy and Environment Daily, House Resources Committee, The Informer, NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs, American Institute of Physics and the Federal Register.

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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 October 4, 2006.