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Monthly Review: October 2006


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

1. President Bush Signs New Space Policy
2. Interior Department Promises to Look at Flawed Offshore Leases
3. Congressional Update on Ocean Science
4. House Democrats Release Recommendations for Katrina Recovery Effort
5. Congressional Seminar on Climate Change and Hurricanes
6. Supreme Court to Clear the Air in November
7. NASA Approves Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission
8. Last Chance to Comment on Interior Department's Offshore Drilling Plans
9. Geological Society of America Updates Climate Change Position Statement
10. Al Gore to Speak at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting
11. Geoscience Community Celebrates Earth Science Week
12. Brookings Institute Releases Report on How Happiness Affects Math Skills
13. Framing Science Seminar
14. Graduate Student Summer Program Fellowship
15. United States Population Surpasses 300 Million, Just in Time for Thanksgiving
Key Federal Register Notices
New Updates to the Web

1. President Bush Signs New Space Policy

"Freedom of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea power," asserts President Bush's sweeping new space policy. The policy refuses participation in future international treaties involving limits on space development, supports the use of space nuclear power systems consistent with U.S. interests and stresses U.S. space sovereignty.

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy quietly unveiled the new National Space Policy on October 6, 2006. The document was authorized on August 31, four years after a 2002 Bush order to the National Security Council to assess space policy. It is the first revision in ten years, superseding the 1996 Clinton administration policy which paved the road for space weapons. Yet, while the Clinton initiative promoted space advancement, it did so only within international treaty boundaries. The newly revised policy, however, dictates, "The United States will oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space."

Space has become increasingly more important for the nation's economy and homeland security. Satellites have provided improved military navigation and communications, weather forecasting aptitude, cell phone service and GPS systems. Furthermore, advancements in space for China have caused the U.S. to consider national security more carefully. The new space policy gives the U.S. the flexibility needed to freely develop space weapons.

The policy has not been released without criticism. A report entitled Space Assurance or Space Domination: The Case Against Weaponizing Space by Michael Krepon, founding president of the Stimson Center, a Washington think tank on space policy, states, "When you weaponize space, you invite company. When we go first, others will come second. That is an absolute certainty."

To view a copy of the complete White House National Space Policy Document, click here.

2. Interior Department Promises to Look at Flawed Offshore Leases

Stephen Allred, newly confirmed Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management of the Interior Department, has begun what Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne calls a "fresh look" at flawed offshore leases from 1998 and 1999 that lack critical price thresholds which would require companies to pay royalties when the price of oil rises beyond $36 per barrel.

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) has been negotiating with companies to ensure royalty payment on future production, however, will not pursue the collection of about $1.3 billion already lost from the 1998 and 1999 agreements. $10 billion is predicted to be lost on these flawed leases in total, though MMS Director, Johnnie Burton, calls this estimate "speculative." She indicated that BP and Shell are close to reaching agreements which would result in royalty payments on their future production.

An Interior Department appropriations bill (H.R. 5386) has passed the House and would ban companies with 1998 and 1999 leases from future lease agreements unless they agree to negotiate. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Senate version of the bill which includes similar stipulations, but it has not yet been introduced to the full Senate for consideration. The Bush Administration, however, disapproves of any such action because it violates contract sanctity.

3. Congressional Update on Ocean Science

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative put their priorities on paper this June in a report entitled "From Sea to Shining Sea: Priorities for Ocean Policy Reform." The report was issued in response to a request for a list of the ten most urgent congressional actions needed to protect the marine ecosystem from a bipartisan group of ten senators organized by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

The top action items in the 50-page report included the creation of a national ocean policy mission statement, the codification of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) into law, the enactment of legislative actions promoting and funding ocean initiatives, the development of an Ocean Trust Fund in the U.S. Treasury and the incorporation of ocean-related science and education into innovation and competitiveness initiatives.

Since the report has been issued, progress has been made in Congress through the introduction of the NOAA Organic Act (H.R. 5450), which would codify the agency, and the introduction of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act (S. 2012), which would reauthorize funding for more science-based management of U.S. fisheries to ensure their sustainability. Neither bill has been passed by Congress, although both are likely to be re-introduced in the next Congress in 2007.

Unfortunately, federal funding for ocean science appears to be getting murkier, even with several ocean policy reports in the past few years and interest in carrying out the policy recommendations of those reports within Congress. The House and the Senate are about $1 billion apart on fiscal year 2007 funding for NOAA and most of the differences are related to potentially significant decreases for research funding in the House bill. Congress has not yet conferred and passed a budget for NOAA, leaving the agency uncertain about their research resources. In addition, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has to deal with delays and higher costs to operate and refurbish their research vessels. The delays and costs are related to high oil prices, competition with commercial drilling needs and damage to the new Japanese research vessel, Chikyu, during a recent test. According to a news report in Science, NSF may not be able to refurbish the JOIDES Resolution as planned and this will further reduce ocean science research capacity.

4. House Democrats Release Recommendations for Katrina Recovery Effort

Democrats on the House Katrina Task Force, led by Chairman Gene Taylor (D-MS) and Vice-Chairman Charlie Melancon (D-LA), released a report entitled, "Katrina and Beyond: Recommendations for Legislative Action" on October 19, 2006, aimed at improvements on the slow-moving recovery effort in the U.S. Gulf Coast. The report recommends improved insurance policies, Federal Emergency Management Agency reforms, comprehensive hurricane protection programs and rapid coastal restoration.

The report states that the property insurance market should offer "all perils" disaster insurance and abandon its exclusion from federal anti-trust laws. Greater oversight of insurance companies should ensure that an independent party oversees wind and water damage assessment. Also, a policy of reinsurance should be implemented in which costs are predicted before disasters strike.

Furthermore, the report says that "recovery [is] too large for FEMA and it's sluggish bureaucratic procedures." It recommends the transfer of the disaster recovery mission from FEMA jurisdiction to other agencies, suggesting that the Department of Housing and Urban Development should provide oversight on local government plans, the Department of Education should restore schools, and the Department of Health and Human Resources should establish sound public health procedures.

Given NOAA estimates that almost 160 million people - 53 percent of the total U.S. population - live in 673 coastal counties, the task force believes it is imperative to develop strategies to secure these communities.

A previous House report on Katrina by the House Select Bipartisan Committee (composed of only Republican members) to investigate the preparation for and response to Hurricane Katrina entitled "A Failure of Initiative" was released in February 2006.

5. Congressional Seminar on Climate Change and Hurricanes

On October 20th the American Meteorological Society hosted four lectures in the Rayburn House Office Building entitled "Is Global Warming Impacting, or Expected to Impact, Hurricanes?" The seminar featured Dr. James Kossin, atmospheric research scientist for the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, Dr. Tom Wigley, senior scientist and director of the Consortium for the Application of Climate Impact Assessments at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Dr. Greg Holland, director of the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Division for the Earth-Sun Systems Laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Dr. Tom Delworth, leader of the Climate Dynamics and Prediction Group for NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Kossin, illustrated the importance of data consistency in hurricane records to accurately analyze the link between sea surface temperature (SST) rise and hurricanes. Holland identified an upward trend in SST over 100 years marked by a total 0.7ºC rise. Wigley and Delworth presented their work with computer modeling systems which examined possible causes for SST rise. Both meteorologists concluded that anthropogenic forcing contributes to warming. To view presentations from this American Meteorological Society Environmental Science Series seminar, click here.

6. Supreme Court to Clear the Air in November

The Supreme Court began their second term under the auspices of new Chief Justice, John G. Roberts, Jr. on October 2, 2006. On the docket for November are two cases related to the Clean Air Act. In Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (Docket No. 05-1120), Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly, together with a coalition of 12 states, 13 environmental groups, New York City, Baltimore and American Samoa, will argue that the EPA should classify carbon dioxide as a pollutant and have the legal authority to regulate it and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases emitted from motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act.

In Environmental Defense et al. v. Duke Energy Corporation (Docket No. 05-848), environmental groups are seeking a ruling on the Clean Air Act's new source review requirements for upgrades made by Duke Energy. New source review requires power plants and factories to modernize air pollution controls when they install new sources of power that increase emissions. The Supreme Court is expected to make their rulings on both cases by mid-2007 and hopefully clear the air on requirements under the act. It is hoped that the Court can clear up any uncertainties about what compounds EPA can classify as pollutants and what requirements are expected of utilities when they upgrade facilities.

The merit briefs for both cases are available from the American Bar Association's Division for Public Education.

7. NASA Approves Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission

On October 31, 2006, NASA approved the Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission 4, a $900 million shuttle visit to extend the operation of the observatory for at least 10 more years. In spite of new shuttle regulations made after the Columbia accident which would normally exclude a mission that lacks a refuge in the event of problems, Administrator Michael Griffin announced approval for the mission at a meeting with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center scientists in Greenbelt, Maryland. The servicing mission will launch in 2008 for an 11-day flight to replace worn-out parts (gyroscopes and batteries) and to install two new instruments, a Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and a Wide Field Camera 3.

More details about the new instruments and the servicing missions are available at the Space Telescope Science Institute website.

8. Last Chance to Comment on Interior Department's Offshore Drilling Plans

The Minerals Management Service within the Department of the Interior (DOI) is accepting public comments on the 2007-2012 Oil and Gas Leasing Program proposal. The proposal outlines 21 outer-continental shelf lease sales in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic Coast. The proposal may be downloaded and viewed at www.mms.gov. Send comments electronically to www.mms.gov/5-year/2007-2012main.htm no later than November 24, 2006. For further information contact Renee Orr at (703) 787-1215. In addition there will be a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007-2012 on November 14, 2006. See the DOI federal register notice below for more details.

9. Geological Society of America Updates Climate Change Position Statement

This month the Geological Society of America (GSA) posted a revised position statement on climate change. Their statement supports scientific findings that climate change is real, partly due to anthropogenic factors and will result in considerable consequences worldwide. In order to confront the issue, GSA promotes research, science-based policy, international planning, and the development of long-term strategies. To view position statements on this topic and many others prepared by AGI and Member Societies, click here.

10. Al Gore to Speak at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting

Former Vice President Al Gore will speak on "Climate Change: The Role of Science and the Media in Policymaking" at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco. This special Union lecture is open to all Fall Meeting registrants and will take place in the Marriott Hotel from 12:30 to 1:30 pm on December 14, 2006. The talk will focus on effective use of scientific understanding in the policy-making process.

11. Geoscience Community Celebrates Earth Science Week

October 8th marked the first day of the ninth annual international Earth Science Week hosted by the American Geological Institute as a service to the public and the geoscience community. The event began in 1998 in celebration of the Institute's 50th anniversary to give students and citizens new opportunities to discover Earth sciences and to encourage stewardship of the Earth. The theme of this year's Earth Science Week was, "Be a Citizen Scientist," which promoted the idea that anyone can participate in scientific discoveries. AGI and the Geological Society of America kicked off the week with an International EarthCache Event at the foot of the Washington Monument, including hands-on activities "Make your own rain gauge" and "Acid rain's effect on building stone." AGI also sponsored Earth Science Week toolkits with materials for teachers and students, three Earth Science Week contests on photography, visual arts and essays and activities at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore. A record number of Member Societies and State Geological Surveys participated in Earth Science Week this year. In addition, the generous support and participation of the United States Geological Survey, the National Park Service and the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation made the week a great success. A list of sponsors, participants and supporters and much more information on the event is available on the Earth Science Week website.

12. Brookings Institute Releases Report on How Happiness Affects Math Skills

On October 18th, the Brookings Institute released the 2006 Brown Center report entitled "How Well Are American Students Learning?" by Tom Loveless, Director of the Brown Center on Education at the Institute. The report included an intriguing section on what Loveless calls "the happiness factor," how student's pleasure and self-assurance in mathematics relate to performance.

This study found that only 6 percent of Korean students reported that they were confident in math skills compared to a self-assured 33 percent of American students. Furthermore, 14 percent of Korean teachers connect math subjects to every day life, while the majority, 66 percent, of American teachers, demonstrates practical relevance of a subject. Despite what common sense might dictate, Korean math scores soar above American scores.

Loveless writes that while happiness cannot be held accountable for poor academic performance, the progressive notion that satisfaction from work leads to success should be questioned. Perhaps more traditionalist views pushing hard work and perseverance over pleasure may result in higher levels of achievement.

13. Framing Science Seminar

On October 11, 2006 the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Washington Science Policy Alliance held a seminar entitled "Framing Science: Understanding the Battle over Public Opinion in Policy Debates." Dr. Matthew Nisbet, assistant professor at American University's School of Communication, gave a vibrant talk on the technique of framing scientific arguments to appeal to the public.

Nisbet argued that traditional models for relaying scientific information, like science literature or popular science, only reach fully informed members of society that already have an interest in science. In order to engage what Nisbet called the "cognitive miserly," issues need to be framed with a short message that resonates with the values of the audience. "Strategic communication is about activism, reinforcement and mobilization, not persuasion," he said, emphasizing the need to target specific interests instead of trying to change them.

Nisbet used nuclear energy as an example on how to frame science, explaining that it could be portrayed as a means to social progress and economic growth, or conversely, as a "monster in the closet," full of uncertainty and public accountability. An image or catchphrase captures either idea successfully.

"The scientific community is under attack," Nisbet warned. In order to face public scrutiny, Nisbet stressed the need to use framing effectively.

To download Dr. Nisbet's presentation, click here.

14. Graduate Student Summer Fellowship Program

The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), located just outside Vienna, Austria, each year sponsors a fellowship program for graduate students who are studying in geoscience fields relevant to IIASA's work on global change issues. About 50-60 graduate students from around the world spend the summer working closely with IIASA senior researchers, on projects relevant to each student's thesis topic. They end the summer with an international network of colleagues interested in various aspects of global change issues.

The application deadline for the 2007 Young Scientists Summer Program is January 15, 2007. Margaret Goud Collins is the Program Director for the U.S. Committee for IIASA and can be reached at mcollins@nas.edu. For more information about this and other IIASA programs, click here.

15. United States Population Surpasses 300 Million, Just in Time for Thanksgiving

The U.S. Census Bureau projected that the U.S. population surpassed 300 million on the morning of October 17, 2006. The projection includes an estimate of 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants. The current population is about 67 percent Caucasian, 14 percent Hispanic, 12 percent African American and 4 percent Asian. The current annual growth rate is about 1 percent or 2.8 million people per year. The nation reached 100 million in about 1920 and 200 million in 1967.

The U.S. is the third most populous country in the world behind China and India. The population consumes about 25% of the world's energy supply. The U.S. is the fastest growing industrialized nation. (India is growing faster, but is not considered an industrialized nation by the United Nations). Even with this growth rate, the U.S. has a sparser population density than many other industrialized nations - there are about 87 people per square mile in the U.S. compared to about 300 people per square mile in the European Union and almost 900 people per square mile in Japan.

More than 80 percent of the population is concentrated in urban and the rapidly growing suburban sprawl. The New York City (18.7 million), Los Angeles (12.9 million), Chicago (9.4 million), Philadelphia (5.8 million) and Dallas (5.8 million) metropolitan areas are the five densest regions of the country. About 53 percent of the population is concentrated in coastal counties.

Three days after the population topped 300 million, the U.S. Census Bureau also released some statistics on the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving feast. About 258 million turkeys, 630 million pounds of cranberries, 1.6 billion pounds of sweet potatoes and 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin were produced in the U.S. in 2005. Thankfully, not all of this food was consumed on Thanksgiving Day, 2005.

Happy Thanksgiving 2006 to One and All!

For more information about the population and other interesting statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, click here.

Key Federal Register Notices

Below is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geosciences community. Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation. To view the Federal Register online, click here. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at www.regulation.gov.

DOE: The Department of Energy published a final rule that amends the State Energy Program regulations to incorporate certain changes made to the DOE-administered formula grant program by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. For further information contact Eric W. Thomas, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, State Energy Program, (202) 586-2242, eric.thomas@ee.doe.gov, or Chris Calamita, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of the General Counsel, Christopher.Calamita@hq.doe.gov. [Federal Register: October 2, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 190)]

DOD/GSA/NASA: The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense
Acquisition Regulations Council of the Department of Defense General Services Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration are proposing to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) to implement recommendations to revise the regulations related to the administration of the Cost Accounting Standards. Interested parties should submit written comments at www.regulations.gov citing "FAR case 2006-004" on or before December 4, 2006 to be considered in the formulation of a final rule. For more information, contact Jeremy Olson at (202) 501-3221 or the FAR Secretariat at (202) 501-4755. [Federal Register: October 3, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 191)]

BLM: The Bureau of Land Management will hold two public listening sessions to solicit views on implementation of the Pilot Project provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which directs the Secretary of the Interior to establish seven BLM Field Offices as oil and gas streamlining Project Offices. The sessions will take place November 14, 2006 in Denver, Colorado, at the Renaissance Denver Hotel, 3801 Quebec Street, Denver Colorado 80207 from 2 p.m. MST to 4 p.m. MST and from 6 p.m. MST to 8 p.m. MST. For further information contact: Alan Kesterke at (307) 775-6001. [Federal Register: October 6, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 194)]

NSF: The National Science Foundation is announcing the membership of the National Science Foundation's Senior Executive Service Performance Review Board. Comments should be addressed to Director, Division of Human Resource Management, National Science Foundation, Room 315, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230. For further information contact Mr. Joseph F. Burt at (703) 292-8180. [Federal Register: October 10, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 195)]

DOI: The Minerals Management Service is announcing a public hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed 5-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2007-2012 on November 14, 2006 at Radisson Hotel, 700 Monticello Avenue, Norfolk, Virginia at 1 p.m. For further information contact Dr. Norman Froomer at (703) 787-1644. More information on the Draft EIS can be accessed at www.mms.gov/5-year/. [Federal Register: October 17, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 200)]

NASA: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is announcing the renewal of the charter for the NASA Advisory Council. The purpose of the Advisory Council is to provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA Administrator on Agency programs, policies, plans, financial controls and other matters pertinent to the Agency's responsibilities. For further information contact Diane Rausch at (202) 358-4510.
[Federal Register: October 17, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 200)]

NSF: The National Science Board and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Director are soliciting nominations for evaluation and submission to the President. Nominations must be received by December 15, 2006 to Chairman, National Science Board, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Room 1220, Arlington, VA 22230. For further information contact Michael P. Crosby at (703) 292-7000, mcrosby@nsf.gov or Mrs. Susan E. Fannoney (703) 292-8096, sfannone@nsf.gov. [Federal Register: October 23, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 204)]

DOL: The Mine Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor is reopening the comment period to the proposed rule amending the criteria and procedures for proposed assessment of civil penalties. Comments marked "RIN: 1219-AB51" may be received at http://www.regulations.gov until November 9, 2006. For further information contact: Patricia W. Silvey at 202-693-9440, silvey.patricia@dol.gov. [Federal Register: October 26, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 207)]

New Updates to the Website

The following updates and reports were added to the AGI Government Affairs website since the last monthly update:

Climate Change Policy (10-25-06)
Hearings on Global Earth Observations (10-6-06)

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

Sources: Washington Post, New York Times, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, Congressional Quarterly, NASAWatch, U.S. Census Bureau, Department of the Interior, Brookings Institute, American Bar Association, American Meteorological Society, Space Telescope Science Institute and American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves. Prior updates can be found on the AGI web site under "Public Policy" <http://www.agiweb.org>. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at <govt@agiweb.org> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted November 1, 2006.

 

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