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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
For more information on climate change, go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate.html.
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.
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."
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 press release on MSPs can be found online at http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/newsroom/pr.cfm?ni=15100000000127.
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."
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 (firstname.lastname@example.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
For more information on the recent surge of anti-evolution attacks go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/evolution/index.html.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com. For more information on the program, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap. Applications will be considered on a continuous basis until the position is filled. EOE.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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:
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.
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.
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org/gap since the last monthly update:
Monthly review prepared by Emily Lehr Wallace, AGI Government Affairs Program and Dave Millar, AGI/AAPG 2004 Fall Semester Intern.
Sources: AAAS; 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