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Monthly Review: October 2004


This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

FY05 Funding Incomplete; Congress to Convene Lame-duck Session
Renewable Energy, Brownfields, Biodiesel Approved
Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Passes House, Senate
President Bush Signs Earthquake and Wind Hazards Bill
Climate Change: Senate Bill Would Invest in Computing
Russian Parliament Ratifies Kyoto Protocol
Natural Gas Hearings
Math and Science Partnerships Program Expands In Its Third Year
Grand Canyon Bookstore Moves Book to "Inspirational" Section
Evolution/Creationist Battles Ensue
Maryland
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
Wisconsin
Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program
May 4 - 5 are Congressional Visit Days
AGI Seeks Director of Government Affairs
Key Federal Register Updates
New Updates to Website

 

FY05 Funding Incomplete; Congress to Convene Lame-duck Session

Congress passed its first continuing resolution (CR) before leaving Capitol Hill to head home for the upcoming elections. The CR will keep the federal government operating at the fiscal year (FY) 2004 levels through November 20th, after which Congress will return to continue to debate the funding levels for various agencies for FY05, which began on October 1st. Federal agencies with budgets that have been approved by Congress, such as the Department of Defense, will not be affected by the CR. Members are expected back in Washington on November 16th for a lame duck session to finish the appropriations bills. Some congressional observers believe Congress will pass another CR that will extend through Thanksgiving while others think this fight will drag into the New Year. Another school of thought suggests that the House and Senate are simply too divided and too far apart on these spending measures to resolve their differences. This divide is unlikely to change after the election, thus some believe Congress will leave their work on the FY05 budget incomplete and instead fund the government for an entire year at FY04 levels - a move that would stymie new research and initiatives at our nation's science agencies as well as introduce additional confusion into next year's budget process.

Renewable Energy, Brownfields, Biodiesel Approved

Late on October 7th, Congress passed H.R. 4520, the corporate tax bill that contains several tax breaks for the energy industry. Although the bill's primary purpose is to eliminate the now 12% tariff on American goods in Europe from a WTO injunction against American trade policies, it carries along hundreds of coattail-tax breaks and subsidies for a myriad of industries. Twenty-six oil companies would receive over $60 billion under the tax break. The bill did not include incentives to improve energy efficiency; however, it did include incentives for biodiesel technologies. Also included in the bills were provisions related to refiners who blend gasoline with ethanol and the Highway Trust Fund. Congress did include a tax break for not-for-profit corporations that clean up Brownfields. More information on the corporate tax bill is available at, http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy.html.

Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Passes House, Senate

After years of hearings and congressional debate, Congress included authorizing language for the Alaska natural gas pipeline to the FY05 Military Construction Appropriations bill that was passed shortly before Congress adjourned for the upcoming election. According to Environment and Energy Daily, the language includes: "a ban on a northern route for the line that would bypass Alaska markets, provisions that allow Alaska to control in-state use of the gas to promote its use for heating or enhancement of a gas industry in Alaska, and a streamlined permitting and expedited court review process to speed construction and limit judicial or regulatory delays...The bill also includes $20 million for a worker job training program in Alaska, including $3 million for construction of a Fairbanks training facility." This language, which effectively provides all the necessary prerequisites for the $20 billion project to get underway, was welcomed by the Alaska congressional delegation and may help Senator Lisa Murkowski who is currently in the midst of a tough reelection campaign.

For more information on the Alaska natural gas pipeline, go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy.html. To learn more about how energy issues are playing into the election, see http://www.geotimes.org/current/feature_energy.html.

In related news, on October 27th, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced a rulemaking schedule establishing an "open season" for energy companies to bid on capacity for the planned Alaska natural gas pipeline. Companies including BP, Exxon Mobil, and ConocoPhillips are expected to bid for a share of the pipeline that could transport and estimated 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day by 2014. The "open season" may run from a month to several months. The agency will also be responsible for a single environmental review to be completed within 18 months after receiving completed applications from the projects developers. The FERC said it will issue a notice of proposed rulemaking and a draft of the proposed regulations by November 18, 2004. A one day technical conference will be held in Alaska during the week of December 6 to solicit public comments on the proposed regulations. Written comments must be received by December 17th. For more information, visit the FERC website at http://www.ferc.gov.

President Bush Signs Earthquake and Wind Hazards Bill

On October 8th, the House of Representatives approved the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) Reauthorization Act of 2004. The President signed the bill into law on Monday, October 25th. H.R. 2608 reauthorizes the NEHRP program for five years, moving it from the jurisdiction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The bill authorizes $900 million to be spent over the next five years on implementing earthquake hazard reduction measures as well as funding earthquake research activities, such as the Advanced National Seismic System. A pleased Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) said: "Over the past two weeks, significant earthquake events in California and Washington have garnered our attention and concern. Thanks to NEHRP-supported monitoring equipment managed by the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation, scientists have been able to collect an unprecedented harvest of data from both of these geologic events." The bill also included authorization for a new National Windstorm Impact Reduction Program for three years. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers: "If funded, the new wind hazards program would promote research and other activities at FEMA, NIST, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NSF. The program is modeled after NEHRP and is aimed at studying the impact of wind on structures and on developing cost-effective ways to mitigate those impacts. The legislation authorizes $72.5 million over three years for this program." Rapid population growth and development in high wind risk coastal areas and an estimated $4.5 billion in windstorm damage each year between 1995 and 2002 have provided great impetus for the passage of this bill.

For more information on this new law, go to: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/NEHRP.html.

Climate Change: Senate Bill Would Invest in Computing

On October 10th, in a rare Sunday session, the Senate passed H.R.4516, Department of Energy (DOE) High-End Computing Revitalization Act. This bill will invest $165 million over two years in an advanced computer research and development program within the DOE. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), said that it would help the United States develop computers that rival the Earth System Simulator supercomputer in Japan that is used for climate modeling and other environmental applications. According to an auxiliary House Committee report, the US fell behind in supercomputing because of a complete reliance on private investment rather than direct government development. This bill, which is expected to pass in the House during the lame-duck session in November, attempts to reinstate the US as the supercomputing leader.

For more information on climate change, go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate.html.

Russian Parliament Ratifies Kyoto Protocol

On October 21st, Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted overwhelmingly to ratify the Kyoto Protocol by a vote of 334-73. Five days later, the Federation Council, Russia's upper house of parliament, passed the Kyoto Protocol by a vote of 139 -1. Russian president Vladamir Putin is expected to sign the treaty very soon. European Union leaders have promised Putin help in Russia's bid to enter the WTO in exchange for signing the agreement.

After Russia enters into the treaty, there will be enough countries, accounting for at least 55% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 1990, to put the emissions targets into effect. Ninety days after Russia signs the treaty, it will join 122 countries pledged to reduce their emissions by 5.2 percent of 1990 levels during the five-year period 2008-2012. Until now, Russia and the United States were the two remaining countries yet to sign the treaty that could put it into effect. For more information on climate change, go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate.html.

Natural Gas Hearings

On October 7th, the Senate Joint Economic Committee, chaired by Senator Bennett (R-UT), held a hearing on the long term economics of natural gas. Senators Reed (D-RI) and Bingaman (D-NM) were also in attendance. In his opening statement, Bennett noted that the domestic industry is being negatively affected by the high cost of natural gas. Reed also voiced concern over gas prices; however, he said, "I myself believe very strongly that the best strategy we have for dealing with these conditions in the natural gas market is to put a much greater emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation."

Dr. Yergin, Chairman of the Cambridge Energy Research Associates, attributes the volatile gas prices to a simple rise in demand without a concurrent rise in domestic production, resulting in an increased dependence on foreign liquid natural gas (LNG) imports. Paul Sankey, the senior energy analyst for the Deutsche Bank, emphasized that the potential role of LNG in America's energy future. He said that, "Abundant global gas is the overpoweringly logical solution to the increasing shortage of energy in the US." Mr. Magruder, a representative from the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, focused his testimony on increased drilling for natural gas. He said that more than 25% of the nation's natural gas comes from the Inter-mountain West, an area where half of the land is owned by the federal government. Magruder criticized the federal land leasing process, which he thinks is abused by environmentalists who make legal appeals. William Prindle, speaking on behalf of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), emphasized the importance and near term feasibility of energy efficiency standards. According to a study by the ACEEE, if the US could reduce gas demand by 4% over the next five years, the wholesale natural gas prices would be reduced by 20%, "a savings which would put over $100 billion back into the US economy at a cost of $30 billion in new investment, of which $7 billion would be public funds." Because of the limits of the supply side of the gas equation, Prindle suggested that in the short term, the federal government should move towards increased funding for efficiency deployment programs, expanded public benefits funds for efficiency, tax incentives for high-efficiency technologies, and a national efficiency and conservation campaign. For a full wrap up of this hearing, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/naturalgas_hearings.html.

In related news, Senator Stevens (R-AK) held a Senate Competition, Foreign Commerce, and Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing on the domestic supply and cost of natural gas. In his opening remarks, Senator Stevens expressed his support for the proposed Alaskan natural gas pipeline. Senator Lautenberg (D-NJ) expressed his concern that natural gas prices on the east coast, specifically in his home state of New Jersey, were the highest in the country. He remains interested in improving distribution infrastructure while taking extra caution to minimize environmental risks.

Mr. Caruso, a senior administrator at the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration, discussed the findings of the Energy Information Administration's new report discussing the spike in natural gas prices since 2000. Since then, American companies have increasingly turned to natural gas to satisfy their energy needs, thereby moving from a natural gas surplus to a deficit. Because of this change, the prices of propane, natural gas, and heating oil gone up 22%, 15.3%, and 28.4% respectively. Mr. Wilkinson, who represents the gas industry, testified that since natural gas demand has been increasing more rapidly than supply, resulting in a tight energy market and volatile gas prices, the federal government and private industry should take aggressive action to increase supply. Gary Huss, the president of Hudapack Metal Treating, spoke on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers. He emphasized that since the manufacturing industry is reliant upon the supply of natural gas to meet its energy needs, the recent spike in gas prices have had a significant negative effect. Finally, Ms. Hauter weighed in on the importance of regulating industry and improving the efficiency of our economy to lower the demand side of the equation. She said that deregulation the energy markets in the 1990s has led to massive market manipulation by corporations such as Enron. For a full committee hearing summary, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/naturalgas_hearings.html.

Math and Science Partnerships Program Expands In Its Third Year

In October, the National Science Foundation announced that after its third year of existence, the Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program is growing to include 48 comprehensive, Targeted and Teacher institute projects across the country. This program aims to improve the quality of math and science instruction by providing teachers with the necessary knowledge and pedagogical resources. Seven more universities will receive five year grants totaling $31 million to create Institute Partnerships: Teacher Institutes for the 21st Century. These institutes will connect experienced K-12 teachers of mathematics and sciences with the university faculty in order to deepen teachers' knowledge of content and instructional skills. These awards have been awarded to: the University of Nebraska, Oregon State University, Tufts University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University (Houston), Virginia Commonwealth University, and Florida Atlantic University.

The NSF also announced five large Targeted Partnerships, "with grants amounting to a combined $60 million over five years, aimed at improving math and science performance in nationwide classrooms." This program is projected to affect 224,000 students at 13 institutions of higher education and 21 local school districts. Awardees include Arizona State University, City College of New York, University of Massachusetts in Boston, and the University of Colorado in Denver which will each receive $12.5 million.

The NSF press release on MSPs can be found online at http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/newsroom/pr.cfm?ni=15100000000127.

Grand Canyon Bookstore Moves Book to "Inspirational" Section

According to an October 15th article in the Washington Post, the controversial book Grand Canyon: A Different View, Tom Vail's biblical explanation for the formation of the Grand Canyon, has been moved from the natural science section to the inspirational section in the Grand Canyon National Park bookstore. This move complies with a letter signed by the presidents of AGI and six of its member societies (American Geophysical Union, Association of American State Geologists, Geological Society of America, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Paleontological Society, Society for Vertebrate Paleontology) sent to the National Park Service last December, which states: "The Grand Canyon: A Different View is not about science and we strongly urge that, if it remains available in Grand Canyon bookstores, it be clearly separated from books and materials that do discuss our scientific understanding of Grand Canyon geology. As you know, the Grand Canyon provides a remarkable and unique opportunity to educate the public about Earth science. In fairness to the millions of park visitors, we must clearly distinguish religious tenets from scientific knowledge."

Evolution/Creationist Battles Ensue

Maryland
In October, the Charles County Board of Education in Maryland ignited a firestorm of criticism when they published a proposal to: 1) censor reading lists for "immorality" or "foul language," 2) to invite an outside organization to hand out Bibles in schools and 3) to teach the theory of creationism in science classes. At a public forum, more than 200 people passionately expressed their views, and according to the Washington Post, their resounding sentiment was that the Board should not focus on religious and moral lessons in the public schools. No action has been taken on the proposals. The seven board members have split into small groups to decide which items should come back before the full board for more discussion. They said the meeting was a chance for the public to weigh in on the issues before anything is decided.

Oklahoma
The University of Central Oklahoma College of Math & Science is sponsoring a lecture entitled "After The Scopes Trial: Creationism versus Evolution Today." This is the last lecture in a six-week film and discussion series exploring scientific themes of the 21st Century and the ethics and issues surrounding them. The lecture takes place on November 11th at the University of Central Oklahoma's Crittenden Auditorium in Howell Hall. Professor Emeritus Dr. Victor H. Hutchison of the University of Oklahoma will preside over the event. Also, The PBS Film on "The Monkey Trial" will be shown with an update of creationist movements today and audience discussion. For additional information contact Beverly Endicott at University of central Oklahoma at (405)-974-3496 or email BEndicott@ucok.edu.

Pennsylvania
In a surprise move, a Pennsylvania school board recently voted to include "intelligent design" in the district's science curriculum. At its meeting on October 18th, the Dover Area School Board revised the science curriculum to include the following: "Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin's Theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life will not be taught." The district is now apparently the first school district in the country to require the teaching of "intelligent design" -- a move that prompted two school board members to resign and that is likely, locals fear, to result in a lawsuit.

Casey Brown, a ten-year veteran of the school board who resigned over the vote, commented, "There seems to be a determination among some board members to have our district serve as an example; to flout the legal rulings of the Supreme Court, to flout the law of the land. They don't seem to care. I think they need to ask the taxpayers if they want to be guinea pigs," adding that the board has already spent almost one thousand dollars in legal expenses. The National Center for Science Education's (NCSE) Executive Director Eugenie C. Scott told the York Daily Record, "Intelligent design is just a sham to get creationism into the curriculum," explaining that "even if [its advocates] haven't convinced the scientific community, they have been able to convince the politicians ... And that's too bad for the students in Dover." Concerned readers who are in, or who have family or friends in, the Dover, Pennsylvania, area are urged to get in touch with Nick Matzke (matzke@ncseweb.org) at NCSE.

For a story on the vote in the York Daily Record, visit: http://ydr.com/story/main/45864/. For further coverage on NCSE's web site, visit: http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/news/2004/PA/39_a_dubious_first_for_intellige_10_21_2004.asp

Wisconsin
In October 2004, the Grantsburg School board in Wisconsin adopted a new science policy that requires teachers to include "Intelligent Design" in their curriculum. Intelligent Design will be taught under the guise of improving students' critical thinking skills through balanced instruction as, according to board chairman Dave Ahlquist, the policy is "opening the door that was closed before and was too narrow." However, the Deans of the University of Wisconsin expressed their stern disagreement with the policy in a letter sent to the school board which lambastes the teaching of religious non-scientific principles in science classes. Wisconsin residents who wish to become involved in this issue should contact the National Center for Science Education at www.ncseweb.org.

For more information on the recent surge of anti-evolution attacks go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/evolution/index.html.

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program offers current public or private elementary and secondary mathematics, technology, and science classroom teachers with demonstrated excellence in teaching an opportunity to serve in the national public policy arena. Fellows provide practical insight in establishing and operating education programs. Fellowships increase understanding, communication, and cooperation between legislative and executive branches and the science, mathematics, and technology education community. Selected teachers spend a school year in a Congressional Office, the Department of Energy (DOE), or a federal agency such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Albert Einstein Fellows bring to Congress and appropriate branches of the federal government the extensive knowledge and experience of classroom teachers. They provide practical insights and "real world" perspectives to policy makers and program managers developing or managing educational programs. Fellows receive a stipend of $5000 per month plus travel and moving expenses. The application process is now open. Candidates will be selected in the spring.

More information is available on the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education's website at http://www.triangle-coalition.org/ein.htm.

May 4 - 5 are Congressional Visit Days

The 10th annual Congressional Visit Day is scheduled for May 4 - 5, 2005. The CVD is a two-day annual event that brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. With a new congress and possibly a new administration, the CVD is a important opportunity to make science issues and science funding a priority for the 109th congress. More information about CVD is available at www.aas.org/cvd/. The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific research.

AGI Seeks Director of Government Affairs

The American Geological Institute (AGI), a nonprofit federation of 43 geoscience societies, is seeking a director of Government Affairs. This position is responsible for all phases of AGI's Government Affairs Program, working actively with member societies, Congress, and federal agencies to bring accurate science into the decision-making process of public policy; serve as a focused voice for the shared policy interests of the geoscience profession; monitor and analyze legislation and policy developments affecting the geosciences; and develop AGI congressional testimony and policy positions on national geoscience issues.

Candidates should have an advanced degree in the geosciences, with a Ph.D. preferred, as well as experience in science and public policy. Demonstrated outstanding written, verbal, and management skills are also required. A strong familiarity with the geoscience community through active society participation is desired.

Candidates should submit a resume, including salary requirements and the names of three references, with cover letter to: Government Affairs Director Search, AGI, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502 or jobs@agiweb.org. For more information on the program, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap. Applications will be considered on a continuous basis until the position is filled. EOE.

List of Key Federal Register Notices

Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community. Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont04.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

NPS: The National Park Service announces the availability of a Draft Environmental impact Statement for the Colorado River Management Plan, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. The National Park Service will accept comments from the public on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for 90 days after publication of this notice. Public meeting dates will be posted on the Internet at http://www.nps.gov/grca/crmp.
For more information contact: Mary Killeen, Project Assistant, Grand Canyon National Park, (928)-638-7885.
[Federal Register: October 1, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 190)]

NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is revising the Strategic Plans of five Line Offices. NOAA recently updated its Strategic Plan for the period 2005-2010 to reflect updated stakeholder priorities, recent external events, and changes to NOAA's operations. Public comments on this document must be received at the appropriate mailing or e-mail address on or before 5 p.m., local time, November 30, 2004. Submit comments to strategic.planning@noaa.gov. The draft NOAA Line Office Strategic Plans and the New NOAA Strategic Plan have been posted at http://www.spo.noaa.gov/. For further information contact: Mr. Joshua Lott, phone: 301-713-1622, Extension 210, fax: (301)-713-0585.
[Federal Register: October 25, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 205)]

NSF: The National Science Foundation announces the EarthScope Science and Education Advisory Committee meetings. The meetings are on Tuesday, November 16, 2004 from 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Wednesday, November 17, 2004 from 1 p.m.-5p.m. at the National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230, Stafford I Building, Room 770. A meeting will also be held at the Earthscope office on Wednesday, November 17, 2004, from 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. The Earthscope office is at 1200 New York Avenue NW., Washington, DC. For more information, contact Dr. Kaye Shedlock, Program Director, EarthScope Program, Division of Earth Sciences, Room 785, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA, (703) 292-4693.
[Federal Register: October 25, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 205)]

NOAA: The NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB) will meet on Tuesday, November 2, 2004, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Wednesday, November 3, 2004, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m at the National Geographic Society Headquarters, 1145 17th Street, NW., Washington, DC. For information on the agenda visit the SAB Web site http://www.sab.noaa.gov.
[Federal Register: October 26, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 206)]

New Material on Web Site

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

  • Political Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (10-29-04)
  • Natural Gas Policy (10-29-04)
  • Climate Change Policy Overview (10-27-04)
  • Special Update: Public Access to Federally Funded Scientific Research
  • Energy Policy Overview (10-20-04)
  • Natural Gas Policy (10-20-04)
  • National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (10-20-04)
  • Wind Hazards (10-20-04)
  • Ocean Policy (10-19-04)
  • Superfund and Brownfield Legislation (10-18-04)
  • Climate Change Policy Overview (10-17-04)
  • Natural Gas Hearings (10-13-04)

Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program and Dave Millar, AGI/AAPG 2004 Fall Semester Intern.

Sources: AAAS; National Science Foundation; Thomas Legislative Database; Greenwire; Energy and Environment Daily; The Washington Post; Triangle Coalition; National Science Teachers Association; Federal Register.

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

Posted November 1, 2004

 

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