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Monthly Review: September 2009


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.

    ***Announcements***
    1. AGI Government Affairs Spring Internship Due Now

    ***Administration News and Updates***
    1. NPS and CEQ Nominees Confirmed
    2. Committee Releases Human Spaceflight Review Summary
    3. Ocean Policy Task Force Releases Interim Report
    4. Further Endorsement for the Law of the Sea

    ***Congressional News and Updates***
    1. Congress Passes CR: New Budget by Halloween
    2. Climate Change Bill Frozen; Expected to Heat-Up in Oct.
    3. Competing Energy Bills Emerge in the House
    4. House Passes Wind Energy and Advanced Vehicle Bills
    5. Bill to Allow Open Source Textbooks and Other Materials
    6. House Passes Student Loan Reform Bill
    7. Lobbying Firm Involved in Forged Clean Coal Letters

    ***Federal Agency News and Updates***
    1. EPA Finalizes First U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reporting System
    2. DOI Launches Climate Change Response Council
    3. DOI Releases New Strategic Plan Framework for Comment
    4. DOI to Eliminate Royalty-in-Kind Program

    ***Other News and Updates***
    1. UN Estimates Cost For Renewables in Developing World
    2. UN Releases Compendium on Climate Change
    3. NEMA Hosts Hazard Mitigation Briefing
    4. Regional Climate Modeling Briefing
    5. USGS Reception Honors Senators
    6. Geoscientists Show Value of R&D Funding on Capitol Hill
    7. AGI Leadership Forum Focuses on Energy and Climate
    8. Key Reports and Publications
    9. Key Federal Register Notices
    10. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

1. AGI Government Affairs Spring Internship Due Now

Interested in Geology and Public Policy? Apply for the spring semester internship by October 15, 2009!

The American Geological Institute seeks outstanding geoscience students (masters or undergraduate) with a strong interest in federal science policy for the spring internships. Representing the geoscience community in Washington D.C., the program actively works with Congress and federal agencies to foster sound public policy in areas affecting the geosciences. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone their writing and web publishing skills. Interns are given a stipend through the generous support of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG).

More information and how to apply is available at:
www.agiweb.org/gap/interns/index.html

2. NPS and CEQ Nominees Confirmed

Two additional members of the Obama Administration were confirmed this month. Gary Guzy is the new Deputy Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), and Jonathan Jarvis is the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS).

Guzy will be working under CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley on coordinating federal environmental efforts among agencies and overseeing the National Environmental Policy Act. Guzy worked as an EPA counsel during the Clinton Administration on making greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles subject to the Clean Air Act.
 
Jarvis is a biologist with 30 years of experience with the NPS. He is the first director with a biology background, which he has used to promote good science and address climate change in his career. Jarvis was previously the Pacific West regional director responsible for overseeing 56 national parks. He recently admonished the Bureau of Land Management proposal for dozens of solar plants in Nevada due to NPS concerns over the water supplies.

His confirmation was initially opposed by Senate Republicans who worried that the Department of the Interior was too vested in interest groups and Jarvis’ stance on snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park is too strict. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has since mollified the issues.

3. Committee Releases Human Spaceflight Review Summary

The Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee commissioned by President Obama earlier this year released the executive summary of their report this month. The committee, headed by the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, Norman Augustine, argues for sustained funding for the space shuttle, International Space Station, and human launch capabilities research.

The space station is set to be decommissioned in 2015, but the task force recommends extending use to 2020. However the space shuttle, the only way to get U.S. astronauts to the space station, will retire at the end of fiscal year 2010 with no ready replacement. The task force recommends funding the shuttle through 2011 to complete already scheduled flights. They acknowledge the shuttle has to be retired, but with the best alternatives at least seven years away they suggest looking into commercial options.

A solid investment in a space program, the task force concludes, will spur progress in exploration to reach the end goal of returning to the moon and reaching Mars. International partnerships are highly encouraged as they can strengthen foreign relations and provided needed resources for the program.

The lack of a clear directive on how to develop a robust and meaningful space program angered Space and Innovation Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). She felt the only conclusion the committee reached was the already obvious disparity between NASA funds and their mission directives.

The spaceflight committee homepage includes updates and access to the report:
http://www.nasa.gov/offices/hsf/home/index.html

4. Ocean Policy Task Force Releases Interim Report

The Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force released an interim report with suggested national policy for stewardship of the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes, as well as a policy coordination framework and an implementation strategy. To improve coordination, they call for a clear and overarching national policy to promote healthy, productive oceans that are protected from unsustainable practices. The task force advises forwarding the scientific understanding of the ocean ecosystems, their relationship to humans and other Earth’s systems, and the changing environmental conditions. Improved scientific understanding and subsequently improved public will lead to informed decisions.

The task force advises that the U.S. ensures a fiscally responsible, comprehensive policy framework that includes cooperation with relevant stakeholders and joining the Law of the Sea Convention. The implementation strategy is broken down into the top nine objectives: ecosystem-based management, coastal and marine spatial planning, improved public understanding, coordinate support from stakeholders, resiliency to climate change and ocean acidification, ecosystem protection and restoration, water quality on land, Arctic stewardship, and observations and infrastructure.

The task force, created by Presidential Memorandum in June, consists of senior-level officials from the federal agencies led by White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley. It was mandated to release this coordination framework and implementation strategy in 90 days, and now has an additional 90 days to develop a recommended framework for effective coastal and marine spatial planning. The Task Force will provide a final report with all of its recommendations later this year.

The report is available from the task force website:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/oceans

5. Further Endorsement for the Law of the Sea

The Executive Office of the President has endorsed U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, along with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco and Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Thad Allen wrote a column in the Seattle Times in support of accession. Their column called ratification a way to “participate in interpreting and applying the convention to the changing realities of the global maritime environment and preserves our ability to protect domestic interests including extending our continental shelf claims.”

The Law of the Sea (LOS) treaty is an international agreement that defines the rights and responsibility of nations in regards to the oceans and the seafloor. This 27 year old treaty has been ratified by most industrialized countries. The U.S. Senate has not ratified the treaty, even though past Administrations and President Obama have asked for ratification. An outspoken congressional supporter, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry (D-MA), hopes that his committee will proceed with ratification and that the full Senate will approve of the treaty in the near future.

6. Congress Passes CR; New Budget by Halloween

Congress added a continuing resolution (CR) to the Legislative Affairs appropriations bill (H.R. 2918) in order to allow the federal government to continue operating with the fiscal year 2009 budget for thirty days. President Obama signed the bill into law on September 30, 2009. Fiscal year 2010 (FY10) started on October 1, 2009 without a new budget for domestic spending for 11 out of 12 appropriation bills. Only the legislative branch has a budget for FY10, however, the other 11 bills are expected to be completed before Halloween.

Congress did work swiftly at the end of the month to complete work on the Agriculture and Energy and Water appropriation bills. Both bills went through conference committees where differences between the House and the Senate were handled and final conference reports were completed by September 30, 2009. The full House approved the Energy and Water appropriation bill on October 1 and the Senate is expected to approve it soon.

Appropriation bills for science, education and Interior are awaiting further consideration. Science appropriations may be hampered by concerns about the budget of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Administration’s Human Spaceflight Task Force issued an interim report that suggested five methods to fund future spaceflight, however, some House members did not find the report very helpful and the appropriations subcommittee may have to discuss some tough choices regarding support for human spaceflight within NASA.

Interior appropriations may be hampered by concerns about the role of the federal government in climate change initiatives. A controversial amendment to limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, introduced by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), was squashed, but other amendments to limit support for the Administration’s climate czar, Carol Browner and other related “policy czars” are on the table. Debates about access to offshore drilling may also enter the discussions as the House and Senate attempt to conference Interior appropriations.

Below are some highlights of geoscience-related funding in the Energy appropriations after conference:

The Department of Energy (DOE) total budget would increase by less than one percent compared to FY09 for a total of $27.1 billion. The Office of Science would increase about 4 percent to $4,757.6 million, with a $3 million increase for Biological and Environmental Research (including climate change research) for a total of $602 million and a $114 million increase for Basic Energy Sciences (including geoscience research) for a total of $1,637 million. Neither the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) nor RE-ENERGYSE would receive any new funds as requested by the Administration.

The Office of Fossil Energy would decrease about 40 percent for a total budget of $672 million, partly because stimulus funds were provided to support clean coal programs and no FY10 funds are provided in addition. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would receive $2.243 billion. Non-Defense Environmental Cleanup would receive $245 billion, while Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissioning would receive $574 million. Nuclear Waste Disposal would only receive $98.4 million to continue work on the licensing application for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The Administration has requested that the repository be terminated and Congress has agreed by providing no additional funds for the program beyond licensing work required by law.

The text of the bills and conference reports are available from Thomas:
Energy and Water appropriations - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:H.R.3183:
Agriculture appropriations - http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:H.R.2997:

7. Climate Change Bill Frozen; Expected to Heat-Up in Oct.

Climate change legislation in the Senate was expected to advance in September, however, the health care reform legislation ended up consuming most of the month so little progress was made on climate change. The House has already passed a climate change bill (H.R. 2454) and everyone is awaiting a Senate climate change bill, particularly given that many senators did not like the House bill. Finally on September 30th, Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released a draft bill on climate change, entitled “Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.” The draft is missing key components, especially the details of how greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced through regulation, signifying that much more work is needed before the Senate draft can be introduced as a working bill. The Senate bill requires more reduction of greenhouse gases than the House bill and thus would be stricter.

Given the delay in releasing this Senate draft and the lack of a finished bill, it is unlikely that any climate change legislation will be completed before the United Nations conference on climate change in Copenhagen in December. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested this a week before the draft’s release and the Administration’s climate czar, Carol Browner, confirmed this assessment two days after the release of the Senate draft when she said a bill was unlikely by December.

The Senate draft has eight major titles and many involve geoscience-related research and development including: I. Greenhouse Gas Reduction Programs, II. Research, III. Transition and Adaptation, VII. Global Warming Pollution Reduction, and VIII. Additional Greenhouse Gas Standards.

The text of the draft and summaries of the titles are available in the Sept. 30 press release on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Majority page: http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Majority.PressReleases&

8. Competing Energy Bills Emerge in the House

Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Nick Rahall (D-WV) have introduced competing energy bills to overhaul onshore and offshore energy leases and revenue systems. Hearings were held in September on Murphy’s American Conservation and Clean Energy Independence Act (H.R. 2227) and Rahall’s Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009, or CLEAR Act, (H.R. 3534). 

The CLEAR Act would create a new Department of the Interior (DOI) agency to govern oil and gas leasing on federal lands, a task currently split between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Minerals Management Service (MMS). It would pressure industry to quickly develop their leases and would add new fees. It also makes changes to offshore development rules, includes a commercial wind and solar leasing program, and boosts funding for ocean conservation and land acquisition

H.R. 2227 is a bipartisan bill with wide support from Republicans and conservative Democrats in the House. It includes the Bush Administration plan for the outer continental shelf, which expands leasing into areas off all coasts. The revenue from offshore production, which Murphy estimates to increase to at least $2 trillion with the expanded area, would be distributed to states and various reserves. The reserves include a renewable energy fund to promote alternative energy development, an environmental restoration reserve, and a clean coal and carbon capture technology fund.

The CLEAR Act, while garnering some support, has many industry groups concerned about the proposed fee increases and environmentalists worried about a disconnect between the proposed leasing office and the land management side. Some moderates prefer the provisions in H.R. 2227, but have not expressly opposed the CLEAR Act.

9. House Passes Wind Energy and Advanced Vehicle Bills

The Wind Energy Research and Development Act (H.R. 3165), which passed the House this month, would provide $1 billion over five years for research into wind energy generation. This includes materials and turbine design, offshore applications, and reliability improvement. The bill’s sponsor, Congressman Paul Tonko, (R-NY), extolled the potential for wind in the U.S. and described this bill as bringing the country closer to realizing that full potential.

With a vote of 312-114, the House passed the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act (H.R. 3246) to provide $3 billion over five years for research and development of advanced vehicle technologies. Most of the prescribed technology is fuel efficiency and energy related. Approved amendments included adding recreational vehicles and farm equipment, public-private partnerships, reporting requirements, and expand the scope of technologies. The rejected amendment, proposed by Representative Paul Broun (R-GA), would have cut the bill by $700 million. Broun argued that existing funding programs are addressing these needs. Despite the bill’s cost, House Science and Technology Committee Chair Bart Gordon (D-TN) said it would aid in stimulating the economy and developing the next generation of vehicles

10. Bill to Allow Open Source Textbooks and Other Materials

On September 24, 2009 Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Open College Textbook Act (S. 1714), a measure to authorize grants for the creation or adaptation of open source college textbooks. The purpose of the bill is to make college textbooks freely available to the public and reduce the costs of textbooks for college students. The grants would be distributed through the Department of Education for the creation of high quality open textbooks for postsecondary education that would be licensed through an open license and freely available in digital content. The National Science Foundation would be involved in helping the Education Department set-up a merit-based, peer-review system for distributing the grants. Education would receive $15 million for the grants in fiscal year 2010.

In addition to this grant program, the bill requires all other educational materials for elementary, secondary and postsecondary courses created using federal grants to be licensed under an open license. This section of the bill takes the legislation far beyond open access for new college textbooks created under the Education grants and would mean that all educational materials must be posted, free of charge on an accessible website. This may have significant impact on any organization or individual who prepares educational materials using federal grants.

In March, a similar bill was introduced in the House by Representative Bill Foster (D-IL). The measure, entitled Learning Opportunities With Creation of Open Source Textbooks (LOW COST) (H.R. 1464), would “require federal agencies to collaborate in the development of freely-available open source educational materials for college-level physics, chemistry, and math and for other purposes.” This measure would require every federal agency that spends more than $10 million on scientific education to use at least 2 percent of such funds for collaboration on the development of open source materials for educational outreach.

This effort would be guided by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE) who would oversee the “veracity, accuracy and educational effectiveness” of open source materials. The materials must be posted on a “Federal Open Source Material website” and must be free of copyright violations. In addition to using 2 percent of educational funds, NSF and DOE would jointly administer a grant program to produce open source materials and $15 million would be authorized for fiscal year 2010.

11. House Passes Student Loan Reform Bill

On September 16, 2009, the House voted 253 to 171 to pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221), which was originally introduced by Congressman George Miller (D-CA). The bill would put the federal government in charge of student loans, eliminating private lenders, and it would simplify the financial aid application process. The savings from removing subsidies for private lenders (about $20 billion over 5 years) and simplification would be partly used to expand the Pell Grant program and partly used to reduce interest rates on student loans. Pell Grants for college education for middle- to low-income students would increase from $4,130 to $5,400 and would be available to more students. The interest rate on need-based student loans would be cut in half over four years.

Most Republicans voted against the bill and raised concerns about how the changes would affect the $90 billion student loan industry. Opponents worry that access to student loans may become more limited as the industry reduces the number of loans they provide.

12. Lobbying Firm Involved in Forged Clean Coal Letters

Bonner and Associates, a Washington lobbying firm, has been determined to be the source of fourteen forged letters to congressional offices in support of clean coal. The firm has been working for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The coalition claims no responsibility and the firm blames the letters on a single Bonner employee. The letters make pleas for coal and clean coal technology to be included in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) and are forged so that they appear to be coming from various constituent groups within given states and districts.

The fourteenth letter (PDF), drafted to look as if it were penned by a Rocky Mount Virginia American Legion Post representative, argues from a veteran’s perspective that “we need to use our readily available resources and focus on using new technologies to make coal more efficient.”

The House bill, H.R. 2454, would set-up a cap and trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey (D-MA), passed the House in May and is awaiting discussion in the Senate. The committee investigating the forgeries is also chaired by Markey. 

13. EPA Finalizes First U.S. Greenhouse Gas Reporting System

Starting in 2010, emitters of large amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) will be required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to record their emissions. This new system will be required for any facility that emits at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year. The rule will apply to about 10,000 facilities, accounting for roughly 85 percent of the nation’s total GHG emissions. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson sees this as “a major step forward in our effort to address the greenhouse gases polluting our skies.”

By collecting this data, it will give some insight into where the GHGs are coming from and help determine what needs to be done in order to lower the emissions through appropriate policies and programs. This data will also empower businesses to compare their own emissions with those of similar facilities in order to collaborate in finding the best and cheapest way to decrease their emissions. Environmentalists and some industries are in favor of the emissions registry. Industries such as the American Chemistry Council, the American Petroleum Institute and the Edison Electric Institute applauded this new version of the rule that will allow facilities and suppliers to cease annual reporting if they limit their GHG emissions consistently over several years.  The facilities must begin recording emissions January 1, 2010 and will submit their records to EPA in 2011.

14. DOI Launches Climate Change Response Council

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar launched the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) first coordinated strategy to address climate change impacts on September 14, 2009. This secretarial order (Secretarial Order No. 3289) addresses the impacts of climate change on water, land, wildlife, fish, and other resources.

The strategy includes a Climate Change Response Council of senior DOI officials, led by Salazar, to coordinate actions and facilitate better communication related to climate change within the DOI bureaus and offices and with other agencies. The council will oversee the Carbon Footprint Project, which is creating an emissions reduction program, and the Carbon Storage Project, which is working on both geological and biological storage techniques. Salazar is also creating eight regional climate change response centers to manage strategies and data for each region and engage the public. To focus on how climate change impacts drought, wildfires, invasive species, and migration patterns across land boundaries, he also created the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
This Secretarial Order builds upon Secretarial Order No. 3285 issued in March to promote the development of renewable energy on public land.

15. DOI Releases New Strategic Plan Framework for Comment

The Department of the Interior (DOI) would like comments on a proposed framework and performance measures for its new strategic plan. The framework outlines updates the 2006 plan to reflect the priorities of new Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the new administration. Salazar hopes DOI can focus on achieving greater energy independence, promoting development of alternative energy sources; protecting treasured landscapes; addressing global climate change; meeting our commitments to Native Americans and Alaska Natives; addressing water issues; creating opportunities for youth outdoors; and insuring the integrity of science in DOI decision making.
 
Federal agencies are required to update their strategic plan every three years and the DOI is soliciting comments on the proposed framework for the fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2015 plan. The deadline for comments is November 10, 2009.

The documents and instructions for submitting comments are at: http://www.doi.gov/strategicplan/

16. DOI to Eliminate Royalty-in-Kind Program

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cancelled the royalty-in-kind program, saying that in his view, the program has been “a blemish” on the department. The program allowed industry to bypass cash royalty payments by providing oil and gas directly to the Department of the Interior (DOI) instead. DOI reported last year that nearly a third of the royalty-in-kind program staff was receiving gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies doing business with the agency. Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) accused the employees of “cozying up with industry officials” rather than getting fair returns for taxpayers. Rahall was pleased with Salazar’s announcement, having recently introduced his own bill (H.R. 3534) to give the federal royalty system a make over, including termination of the royalty-in-kind program.

The American Petroleum Institute is opposed to terminating the royalty-in-kind program because they think the program is cost-effective and reduced paperwork. The DOI’s Minerals Management Service has expressed similar views, saying the program simplifies royalty collections, keeps down administrative costs, and curtails conflicts with energy companies. Regardless, Salazar said a secretarial order to end the royalty-in-kind program will be issued within the next few weeks.

17. UN Estimates Cost For Renewables in Developing World

The 2009 World Economic and Social Survey “Promoting Development, Saving the Planet” issued by the United Nations (UN) in September estimates the cost of converting the world’s developing nations to renewable sources of energy will be between $500 and $600 billion a year for the next ten years. The total investment would represent around one percent of global GDP annually. This is a revised estimate and is much higher than an earlier estimate of about $100 billion.

The report recommends a “Global Sustainable New Deal”, modeled on the one that drove the U.S. out of the Great Depression. This “New Deal”, according to the report, will require large-scale investment that will not easily be supported by developing nations. Funding will likely come largely from public funding, like a global investment program, in conjunction with partnerships, incentives, and innovative financing options. Another important requirement is the transfer of key renewable energy technology from those nations possessing the scientific and technical capital to help less developed nations. These recommendations are founded on the disproportionate degree to which developing nations will be exposed to the potential hazards of climate change.

The report was assembled by the Department of Social and Economic Affairs of the UN Secretariat, and is published annually. The report argues that the combined management of climate change adaptation and planned economic development in developing regions will improve the environment as well as the economic outlook and stability of developing countries.

The responsibility of developed and developing nations to address climate change will be discussed this December at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. This report will provide some basis for discussing the costs of developing a new climate change treaty to follow the Kyoto Protocol.

The survey is available at: http://www.un.org/esa/policy/wess/

18. UN Releases Compendium on Climate Change

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) released a review of about 400 peer-reviewed or institution-based climate change research articles from the past three years. The UNEP’s “Climate Change Science Compendium 2009” is a follow up to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report. It is not a consensus document, but an update on scientific findings and conclusions. The review suggests that climate change impacts can still be avoided with “immediate, cohesive and decisive action to both cut emissions and assist vulnerable countries.”

The review is broken into five topics: Earth systems, ice, oceans, ecosystems, and systems management. Earth systems includes new climate modeling systems, growth in carbon dioxide emissions, and possible increase of 4.3 degrees Centigrade making “tipping points,” like the end of summer sea ice in the Arctic, occur sooner. The ice section covers more on the status of summer sea ice in the Arctic, acceleration of glacier and ice sheet melting, and the hole in the ozone’s cooling affect on Antarctica. The oceans section addresses the more rapid projections for sea level rise and acidification. The ecosystems section covers biodiversity threats and drought problems. The final section recommends large-scale efforts to preserve ecosystems, protection of tropical forests, and finding innovative ways to keep carbon out of the atmosphere.

The UNEP report is available from the compendium website.

19. NEMA Holds Briefing on Mitigation

The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), in conjunction with the Congressional Hazards Caucus and Alliance, held a briefing to discuss the merits of shifting to mitigation focused versus disaster management focused hazard programs. Moderated by Senator Mary Landrieu (R-LA), the meeting focused on a white paper recently issued by NEMA to provide recommendations on effective U.S. mitigation efforts. The white paper was released in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and numerous other organizations to outline the importance of mitigation efforts aimed at building disaster resiliency across the nation. NEMA calls the paper, and the preceding collaborative effort, a successful example of the power of Federal, State, local, and organizational cooperation to call attention to disaster preparedness.

FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and representatives of the insurance and building code industries praised the white paper recommendations and further explained the value of mitigation efforts. Specific topics included the economic pay off of mitigation versus disaster management, a hazard research facility under construction in South Carolina, and a community in Washington State which avoided disaster thanks to its pre-earthquake mitigation efforts. NEMA is the professional association of emergency management directors in the Unites States.

Presentations, the white paper, and supplemental briefing information is here:

20. Regional Climate Models Briefing

The American Chemical Society (ACS) held a hearing on “Regional Climate models: A Critical Adaptation Tool for Communities and Industry.” The speakers included Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton University, Greg Holland of National Center for Atmospheric Research, Cortis Cooper of Chevron Energy Technology Co., and Sarah Cottrell of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson’s office.

The impacts of climate change are already under way and are causing problems worldwide. As these changes occur, it will be important to be able to anticipate them. The Nested Regional Climate Model (NRCM) is used to predict the changes at a local scale that are brought about by climate change. It combines the strengths of the Community Climate System Model (CCSM), and the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. It will be useful for planning for potential hazards like future droughts, heat waves, sea level rise, coastal storms, and species movement and loss. This tool is an important aid for policymakers struggling to adapt policies and those in industry trying to develop technologies to deal with the changing climate. The model is an initiative of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

21. USGS Coaltion Reception Honors Senators

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) were given awards to honor their continued support of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) at the USGS Coalition Reception on September 14, 2009. Staff members for both of the senators were present to accept the award. Congressman Sam Farr (who represents the CA district of USGS Director Designate Marcia McNutt) attended the reception as well as Ann Castle, Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior, who presented remarks on the benefits of the USGS.

AGI helped AGU, SSA, and GSA to organize the USGS Coalition reception. AGI shared a booth with AASG that showed AGI products which represented a partnership with USGS, such as Earth Science Week kits and EARTH Magazine.

22. Geoscientists Show Value of R&D Funding on Capitol Hill

Geoscientists from across the U.S. inundated the hallways of Congress for the Second Annual Geoscience Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD) on September 15-16, 2009. Fifty seven geoscientists representing 23 states and Puerto Rico came to Washington D.C. for the two-day event to make the case for continued federal support of geoscience research and development (R&D) and geoscience education. The event was hosted in part by the American Geological Institute (AGI), American Geophysical Union (AGU), American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), the Geological Society of America (GSA), and the Seismological Society of America (SSA).

From the feedback received so far, the offices found the material beneficial and enjoyed meeting with the geoscientists. In general, congressional offices were supportive and wanted to know more about the role of the geosciences in federal programs and how policymaking affects the geosciences. The visits started, or in some cases strengthened, a relationship between policymakers and geoscientists. Continued communication is key to informing policymakers about key role the geosciences play in addressing the major challenges facing the nation, including: energy, climate change, water, hazards, infrastructure, waste disposal, science education and the future geo-professional workforce.

Learn more about the event and view the full summary here:

23. AGI Leadership Forum Focuses on Energy and Climate

AGI’s Government Affairs Program (GAP) organized the forum around the theme of “The Role of the Geosciences in Dealing with Energy and Climate Change.” The September 14, 2009 forum was attended by about half of AGI’s Member Societies. AGI President Peter Scholle, President-Elect Rick Powers and Executive Director Pat Leahy served as the hosts and moderators. The speakers included Administration advisors, energy and climate change staff from Congress, federal agency leaders in energy and climate change and geoscientists from academic institutions, state government and industry. Recommendations about how the geosciences can help policymakers were collected and will be added to the online version of the transition document as well as being implemented by GAP and our member societies.

24. Key Reports and Publications

***Congressional Research Service (CRS)***
Climate Change: Costs and Benefits of the Cap-and-Trade Provisions of H.R. 2454
Released September 14, 2009. This report examines studies that project the costs and benefits of the cap-and-trade provisions of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) to 2030 or beyond. It points out that long-term cost projections are at best speculative, and should be viewed with attentive skepticism.

Severe Thunderstorms and Tornadoes in the United States
Released September 8, 2009. The report shows that tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and related weather events have caused nearly 57 percent of all insured losses in the U.S in any given year since 1953. The National Science and Technology Council recommends that communities implement hazard mitigation strategies. The report examines the effectiveness of the National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act of 2004 to achieve measureable reductions in the losses of life and property.

Energy and Water Development: FY2010 Appropriations
Released August 26, 2009. This report examines the funding provided for civil works projects through the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, the Department of Energy (DOE), and a number of independent agencies.

Water Infrastructure Funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
Released August 19, 2009. This report identifies funding for water infrastructure programs and projects that meet the legislation’s purpose to preserve and create jobs and promote a U.S. economic recovery though investment in transportation, environmental protection, and other infrastructure that will provide long-term economic benefits.

The Emergency Alert System (EAS) and All-Hazard Warnings
Released August 14, 2009. This report discusses a program being implemented by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Association of Public Television Stations that will disseminate national alert messages over digital broadcast airwaves, using satellite and public TV broadcast towers.

***Government Accountability Office (GAO)***
Energy Policy Act of 2005: Greater Clarity Needed to Address Concerns with Categorical Exclusions for Oil and Gas Development under Section 390 of the Act
Released September 16, 2009. This report reviews the Section 390 authorization for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to use categorical exclusions to streamline the environmental analysis required when approving certain oil and gas activities. It covers the extent to which BLM has used section 390 categorical exclusions and the benefits, the extent to which BLM has complied with the act, and key concerns associated with the categorical exclusions.

Federal Oil And Gas Management: Opportunities Exist to Improve Oversight
Released September 16, 2009. GAO's numerous evaluations of federal oil and gas management have identified five key areas where the Department of Interior could provide greater oversight: (1) policies for oil and gas leasing, (2) oversight of oil and gas production, (3) royalty regime and policies to boost oil and gas development, (4) oil and gas information technology (IT) systems, and (5) royalty-in-kind program.

Mineral Revenues: MMS Could Do More to Improve the Accuracy of Key Data Used to Collect and Verify Oil and Gas Royalties, July 15, 2009
Released September 14, 2009. Companies that produce oil and gas using royalties collected from the Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) self-report data to MMS. GAO has noted systemic problems with these data and this report provides a descriptive update on MMS's efforts to improve accuracy, an assessment of fiscal years 2006 and 2007 oil and gas royalty data, and factors identified by oil and gas companies that affect their ability to accurately report royalties owed to the federal government.

Royalty-In-Kind Program: MMS Does Not Provide Reasonable Assurance It Receives Its Share of Gas, Resulting in Millions in Forgone Revenue, August 14, 2009
Released September 13, 2009. This report evaluates the extent to which Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) can provide reasonable assurance that it is accurately identifying and collecting royalty-in-kind (RIK) gas imbalances in a timely fashion from companies that develop and produce oil and gas from federal lands and waters

Wildland Fire Management: Federal Agencies Have Taken Important Steps Forward, but Additional, Strategic Action is Needed to Capitalize on Those Steps
Released September 9, 2009. Due to the worsening nature of the nation’s wild fire problems, the report reviews progress the agencies have made in managing wildland fires and what is still needed from the federal agencies so there have a more complete, cost-effective strategy to managing the fires.

***National Academies of Science (NAS)***
Understanding Research, Science and Technology Parks: Global Best Practice: Report of a Symposium
Released September 21, 2009. The NAS convened an international conference on global best practices in research parks. This report covers the conference and discusses the roles university- and laboratory-based research parks play in national innovation systems.

Global Issues in Water, Sanitation, and Health: Workshop Summary
Released September 14, 2009. The Institute of Medicine held a two-day public workshop, summarized in this volume. Participants explored global and local connections between water, sanitation, and health.

Uncertainty Management in Remote Sensing of Climate Data: Summary of a Workshop
Released September 14, 2009. This volume summarizes a workshop on how remote sensing experts might address the challenges of uncertainty management in remote sensing of climate data, and emphasized issues that could be studied more intently by individual researchers or teams of researchers, and setting the stage for possible future collaborative activities.

Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California: Summary of a Convocation
Prepublication released September 4, 2009. The convocation summarized in this volume explored ways to more effectively support, sustain, and communicate across California concerning promising research and practices in K-8 science education and how such programs can be nurtured by communities of stakeholders.

Driving and the Built Environment: The Effects of Compact Development on Motorized Travel, Energy Use, and CO2 Emissions -- Special Report 298
Prepublication released September 1, 2009. This report examines the relationship between land development patterns and vehicle miles traveled in the United States to assess whether petroleum use, and by extension greenhouse gas emissions, could be reduced by changes in the design of development patterns.

25. Key Federal Register Notices

http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont09.html

DOI—The Department of the Interior (DOI) is seeking public comment as part of its process to revise and update its current strategic plan framework. Comments must be submitted before November 10, 2009 by mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary Planning and Performance Management, Attention: DOI Strategic Planning Coordinator, 1849 C Street, NW., Mail Stop 5258, Washington, DC 20240; or by email: stratplancomments@ios.doi.gov; or by fax: (202) 208-2619.
[Friday, September 11 (Vol. 74, No. 175)]

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announces the availability of a memorandum entitled “Award of Special Appropriations Act Project Grants Authorized by the Agency's FY 2009 Appropriations Act.” This memorandum provides information and guidelines on how EPA will award and administer grants for the special projects identified in the State and Tribal Assistance Grants (STAG) account fiscal year 2009 appropriations. The STAG account funds water, wastewater and groundwater infrastructure projects. Each grant recipient will receive a copy of this document from EPA. For more information, please contact George Ames at: (202) 564-0661 or at: ames.george@epa.gov.
[Thursday, September 17 (Vol. 74, No. 179)]

CEQ—The Council on Environmental Quality announces the release of an Interim Report by the Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force. To allow for additional public engagement and comment before the President makes any final decision, the task force is issuing a 30-day public comment period. The task force is developing recommendations for a national policy for the oceans, coasts, and the Great Lakes and an improved framework for coordination, as well as implementation strategies. Comments should be submitted by October 17, 2009 to http://www.whitehouse.gov/oceans or in writing to the Council on Environmental Quality, Attn: Michael Weiss, 722 Jackson Place, NW. Washington, DC 20503. For further information, please contact Michael Weiss, Deputy Associate Director for Ocean and Coastal Policy, at (202) 456-6224. 
[Wednesday, September 23 (Vol. 74, No. 183)]

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) is requesting nominations to form an ad hoc panel to provide expert advice to the EPA on a draft assessment of the ecological impacts associated with a surface coal mining technique known as mountaintop mining and valley-fill, where mining overburden is placed in adjacent valleys. This assessment is being prepared by EPA's Office of Research and Development at the request of EPA's Regional Office in Philadelphia, PA (Region 3). Nominations must be submitted by October 16. For more information on submitting a nomination, please contact Mr. Edward Hanlon at the SAB Staff Office, by telephone: (202) 343-9946; or e-mail: hanlon.edward@epa.gov.
[Friday, September 25 (Vol. 74, No. 185)]

26. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

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Monthly Review prepared by Corina Cerovski-Darriau and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program; Joey Fiore, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; and Mollie Pettit, 2009 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Sources: Greenwire, Associated Press, Environment and Energy Daily, New York Times, Washington Post, National Academies Press, American Institute of Physics, Government Accountability Office, Open CRS, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House, Politico, BHEF, and Department of the Interior.

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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 geosciences 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.

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

Posted September 3, 2009.

 

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