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Monthly Review: October 2007


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. Congressional Visits on March 4 and 5, 2008
2. Appropriations Moving Slowly to Conference
3. President Vetoes Water Resources Legislation
4. Mining Law Reform Clears House Committee

5. Climate Change Bill Sneaks Through Senate Subcommittee
6. Congress Sails Ahead on Ocean Bills
7. Chambers Pass Coral Reef Conservation
8. InterAcademy Council Releases Energy Report
9. Office of Science: Facilities Report Released
10. U.S. Geological Survey Publishes Sustainability Policy Forum
11. California Utilities Commission to Fund Climate Change Research
12. Key Federal Register Notices
13. New Updates to the Web

1. Congressional Visits on March 4 and 5, 2008

Join us for the 13th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on March 4-5, 2008. This two-day annual event brings scientists, engineers, researchers, educators, and technology executives to Washington to raise visibility and support for science, engineering, and technology. Participants will spend the first day learning about how Congress works, the current state of the budget process and how to conduct congressional visits. The second day will consist of visits with members of Congress. In addition to the workshops and visits, participants will get to meet other scientists and engineers, meet federal science agency representatives and attend a reception and breakfast at which members of Congress will speak and meet with the audience.

Please consider participating in these visits and plan early to come to Washington DC. Many scientific societies are involved in CVD, including several of AGI's Member Societies. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America are very active participating societies in CVD and can help coordinate your visits. In addition, these societies and AGI will coordinate a geoscience workshop on March 4 for the geoscientists and geo-engineers who participate.

Individuals interested in participating should contact the Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org

More details about Congressional Visits Day (CVD) and examples of past visits are available at the Working Group web site.

2. Appropriations Moving Slowly to Conference

After passing a continuing resolution through November 16, 2007, Congress has only been able to conference on two of the twelve appropriations bills. Military Construction and Labor-Health and Human Services (LHHS) made it through their conference committees and full votes in both chambers are expected during the week of November 5th. Congress may try to combine the two bills into a "mini-bus" with the hope that President Bush will not wish to veto both.

The Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS), where most of the basic research funding resides, and the Transportation-HUD spending bills are expected to go through their conference committees the week of November 5th. President Bush has threatened to veto both because they exceed his total requested funding levels. Before Congress considers the veto threat however, they must reconcile a difference of $1 billion between the House and Senate CJS bills. In addition, Congress may need to contend with a possible point of order barring the combining of spending bills, which would further delay efforts to resolve budget differences.

In a sobering speech at the National Press Club in Washington DC on November 5, the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman David Obey (D-WI) indicated that the budget is not likely to be completed until about December 22. He held out hope that the budget would be completed by the end of 2007, but he blamed the Bush Administration for its unwillingness to hold serious discussions about budget compromises for the delay. E&E Daily quoted Obey as saying "We can either sit by like potted plants and do nothing but meekly comply, or we can try to make it as difficult as possible for the president to be irresponsible and artificially confrontational". Obey did not specify what types of compromises he would be willing to discuss with the administration, but he concluded by saying "I can't compromise with myself, so I'm still hoping we will get a call from the White House, saying 'Let's talk'".

3. President Vetoes Water Resources Legislation

President Bush vetoed the $23 billion Water Resources Development Act on Friday November 2, 2007. In a written statement following the veto, the President explained his reasons: "The bill's excessive authorization for over 900 projects and programs exacerbates the massive backlog of ongoing corps construction projects, which will require an additional $38 billion in future appropriations to complete. This authorization bill makes promises to local communities that the Congress does not have a track record of keeping."

Congress has vowed to override the veto within one week and based on previous voting differentials on the legislation, they should have the two-thirds votes that they need.

4. Mining Law Reform Clears House

Representative Nick Rahall's (D-WV) Hardrock Mining Reform Act (H.R. 2262) passed the House by a vote of 244-166 on November 1, 2007. The bill would impose an 8 percent royalty on the net smelter return of minerals on new claims and a 4 percent royalty on existing claims. The royalty system would collect an estimated $30 million to $70 million for cleanup of abandoned mines on federal lands. An amendment added to the measure would require 50 percent of the royalties for the Hardrock Reclamation Fund to go to the states in proportion to their royalty generation levels. Other amendments clarified "valid existing rights" and allow river watersheds to receive funding from the Abandoned Locatable Minerals Mine Reclamation Fund.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it faces a very uncertain future. Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) indicate their support for the House efforts but would work to put forward their own, but different measure. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced a bill that would end the "percentage depletion allowance" that allows hardrock mining operations to take tax deductions beyond the value of investments they have made. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the House bill will not make it in the Senate though he might support a measure that followed Nevada's "net profits" royalty scheme.

President Bush issued a veto threat on the House bill suggesting that it is redundant with laws such as the Clean Water Act and potentially unconstitutional because it does not consider existing property rights before enactment. He raised additional concerns about the royalties threatening domestic mining operations.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas.

5. Climate Change Bill Sneaks Through Senate Subcommittee

On November 1, 2007, the Private Sector and Consumer Solutions to Global Warming and Wildlife Protection subcommittee of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee approved of the America's Climate Security Act (S.2191) penned by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA). Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) teamed up with the authors to support the bill while Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), John Barasso (R-WY) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) opposed the bill, albeit for very different reasons.

The measure requires mandatory limits on six greenhouse gases that come from 66% of the U.S. economy, including utilities, petroleum refineries, manufacturing and natural gas consumers. The measure allows businesses to offset about 15 percent of their reductions through other credits in the U.S. and abroad, a provision that is similar to the Kyoto Protocol. So a business could reduce emissions in another country to qualify under the proposed bill. The measure also hands out free credits for past emission reductions (to January 1, 1994) and some businesses are looking to increase their credits to earlier times. The measure also includes a "scientific lookback" clause, which would ask the National Academies to review the policy and require the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten the rules if necessary based on scientific data. Finally the measure calls on the President to begin reviewing emission reduction efforts in China, India and other major trading partners starting in 2019. If these countries do not meet reduction expectations, they will be asked to pay carbon credits to trade their energy-intensive goods in the U.S.

Among the amendments that helped gain passage, Senator Baucus secured as much as $1.1 billion annually for the Forest Service in the Interior Department for fighting wildfires between 2012 and 2050. In 2006 the Forest Service spent $1.5 billion in firefighting efforts and climate change is considered a contributing factor. Senator Sanders got a requirement that auction revenues could only go to automakers that meet a new 35 mile per gallon fuel economy standard, while Senator Barrasso got a refined definition of what types of coal would qualify for climate regulation and help for states coping with new climate rules.

Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Arlen Specter (R-PA) are considered key votes needed to gain passage of the bill through the full Environment and Public Works Committee. Committee Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) hopes to get the bill through the full committee in the next few weeks.

On November 5, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), a presidential candidate, announced her own comprehensive plan to address energy and climate change in a campaign speech in Iowa. The plan would be much more aggressive than the Lieberman-Warner bill, requiring greater reductions in emissions; greater efficiency for utilities and vehicles; increase production and use of biofuels; increase production and use of other renewable energy resources such as wind, water and geothermal; a $50 billion strategic energy fund, funded in part by oil companies; doubling of investments in basic energy research including an advanced energy research projects agency (similar to DARPA) and the termination of the Yucca Mountain waste repository site. Some more details of her plan are available on her campaign web site.

Clinton's new plan and its differences from the Lieberman-Warner bill add significant intrigue and debate to an already divided Environment and Public Works Committee. Clinton's vote may be essential for the bill's passage by the committee, but Clinton has not commented on how she might vote.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would like to see a similar measure move through the House of Representatives, however, Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) and others are likely to delay any possible progress that might keep pace with the Senate measure. The Bush Administration has not released any public statements directly related to the measure, however, a few Republican lawmakers have suggested the President has told them he will not veto a bill that can win industry support and not harm the economy.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas.

6. Chambers Pass Coral Reef Conservation

On October 30, 2007, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a Coral Reef Conservation Act (S.1580) following similar action by the House a week earlier. The measure re-authorizes a federal statute that protects coral reefs, would codify a coral reef conservation task force and expand the coral reef conservation program among other things. According to E&E Daily, 30 ocean advocacy groups and 180 coral reef scientists sent letters to Congress asking them to support this legislation. The legislation now awaits a conference committee, possible final votes in both chambers and the President's signature before it can become law.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas.

7. Congress Sails Ahead on Ocean Bills

The House Science and Technology Committee approved of the "National Ocean Exploration Program Act" (H.R. 1834) on October 24, 2007. The measure would authorize $486 million for ocean exploration and $265 million for undersea research between 2008 and 2017 at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Both programs have existed for years but have never operated with formal authorization. The Senate has a similar bill pending in a committee entitled "Ocean and Coastal Exploration and NOAA Act (OCEAN Act)" (S.39), which is a combination of H.R. 1834 and H.R. 2400, the Ocean and Coastal Mapping Integration Act. H.R. 2400 passed the House in July and is waiting for action in the Senate.

It is unclear at this time whether these ocean research bills can make progress toward enactment by the end of 2007, given the backlog of appropriation bills and continued interest in passing energy and climate change legislation first.

The full text of the legislation is available from Thomas.

8. InterAcademy Council Releases Energy Report

The InterAcademy Council Board is composed of presidents of fifteen academies of science and equivalent organizations-representing Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States, plus the African Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS) and others. On October 22, 2007, the InterAcademy released a report entitled "Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future"
The report, commissioned by the governments of Brazil and China, identifies and details the scientific consensus framewok for directing global energy development, by laying out the science, technology and policy roadmap for developing energy resources to drive economic growth in both developed and developing countries while also securing climate protection and global development goals.

Below is a brief summary of the report taken from the council's web site:
The report was produced by a study panel of 15 world-renowned energy experts, co-chaired by Nobel Laureate Steven Chu, Director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in the United States, and José Goldemberg, former Secretary of State for the Environment for the State of São Paulo, Brazil.

"Lighting the way" establishes the best practices for a global transition to a clean, affordable and sustainable energy supply in both developing and developed countries. The report addresses incentives that can accelerate the development of innovative solutions, provides recommendations for financial investments in research and development and explores other transition pathways that can transform the landscape of energy supply and demand around the globe.

In addressing mitigation of the environmental impacts of energy generation and use, "Lighting the way" informs global action on climate change, such as implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, agenda setting for the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, and ongoing multinational talks on future global action to reduce greenhouse emissions.
"Lighting the way" also confronts the unequal access to energy experienced by the one-third of the world's population without access to basic energy services, and makes recommendations for addressing this disparity as well as for promoting national and global energy security.

The full report is available online.

9. Office of Science: Facilities Report Released

Dr. Raymond Orbach, Energy Department, Under Secretary for Science, announced the release of a new report Four Years Later: An Interim Report on 'Facilities for the Future of Science: A Twenty-Year Outlook.' This report details progress made in deploying the scientific facilities and instruments in accordance with the DOE twenty-year scientific facilities plan released in November 2003. The full report can be found on the DOE Office of Science homepage at: www.science.doe.gov

10. U.S. Geological Survey Publishes Sustainability Policy Forum

The U.S. Geological Survey published a policy forum in the October 12, 2007 issue of Science Magazine proposing six integrated, multi-scale strategic directions to help the U.S. address environmental issues. The six directions include understanding ecosystems, energy and mineral resource surveys, climate change research, a natural hazards risk and resilience assessment, understanding the role of environment and wildlife in human health and a water census.

The full text of the policy forum is available from Science Magazine for a one-time fee or with a paid subscription at www.sciencemag.org

11. California Utilities Commission to Fund Climate Change Research

The California public utilities commission is considering a one dollar a month hike in electricity rates to fund a ten year, $600 million climate research initiative. The initiative would support research to help the state meets its greenhouse gas reduction targets. In particular, it would support research centers for energy efficiency, solid-state lighting, carbon sequestration, and green buildings, and a policy center to integrate California's climate regulations with those of other states and countries. The funds would not support any new infrastructure, but rather help existing programs throughout the state. The state will hold hearings on the initiative in early 2008.

12. Key Federal Register Notices

DOC- The NOAA Advisory Committee on Commercial Remote Sensing (ACCRES) is seeking highly qualified individuals knowledgeable about the commercial space-based remote sensing industry and uses of space-based remote sensing data to serve on the committee. The committee is composed of leaders in the commercial space-based remote sensing industry, space-based remote sensing data users, government (Federal, state, local), and academia. For additional information, contact David Hasenauer, NOAA/NESDIS International and Interagency Affairs, at (301) 713-2024 x207 or
Hasenauer@noaa.gov. Nominations must be sent on or before November 8, 2007.
[Federal Register: October 9, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 194)]

NRC- The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is chartering a new advisory committee to serve as an independent external review panel to identify vulnerabilities in the U.S. NCS's material licensing program. The assessment will examine implementation, operation, and outcome of the management, operation, and technical security controls to mitigate security vulnerabilities. The panel will complete and submit a report with recommendations to the Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs by January 31, 2008. For additional information please contact Aaron McCraw at (301) 415-1277 or ATM@NRC.gov.
[Federal Register: October 10, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 195)]

NRC- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is soliciting comments related to the implementation of the Reactor Oversight Process (ROP). This solicitation will provide insights into the self-assessment process and a summary of the feedback will be included in the annual ROP self-assessment report to the Commission. The comment period ends on December 7, 2007. An electronic version of the survey questions may be obtained from http://www.nrc.gov/NRR/OVERSIGHT/ASSESS/rop2007survey.pdf.
[Federal Register: October 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 196)]

NSF- the National Science Foundation announces a Mathematical and Physical
Sciences Advisory Committee open meeting to provide advice and recommendations concerning NSF science and education activities within the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The meeting will be held November 7-9, 2007, at NSF. For further information contact Dr. Morris L. Aizenman at (703) 292-8807.
[Federal Register: October 11, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 196)]

DOC- NOAA is seeking applicants for the positions of Citizen-at large member and alternate, Tourism/Chamber of Commerce/Recreation member and alternate, and
Conservation/Environmental member and alternate on the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council. Applications are due by November 16, 2007. For further information and application kits contact Andrew Palmer at andrew.palmer@noaa.gov.
[Federal Register: October 12, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 197)]

NSF- The National Science Foundation announces the Advisory Committee for Polar Programs open meeting on November 8-9, 2007, at NSF. The purpose of the meeting is to advise NSF on the impact of its policies, programs, and activities on the polar research community, to provide advice to the Director of OPP on issues related to long-range planning. Agenda includes staff presentations and discussion on opportunities and challenges for polar research, education and infrastructure, reports and recommendations from the Arctic and Antarctic Committees of Visitors, and overall dimensions of NSF's IPY activity and how it relates to IPY activity worldwide. For more information or meeting minutes contact Sue LaFratta at (703) 292-8030.
[Federal Register: October 16, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 199)]

DOC- NOAA announces the availability of a revised version of the NCCOS Human Dimensions Strategic Plan (FY2009-FY2014). The mission of NCCOS is to provide coastal managers and other decision makers with scientific information and tools needed to balance society's environmental, social, and economic goals in mitigating and adapting to ecosystem stressors such as climate change, extreme natural events, pollution, invasive species, and resource use. The document is available electronically at http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/human/ strategy/NCCOSHDPlan.pdf. Hard copies may be obtained by sending a request to nccos.hd@noaa.gov.
[Federal Register: October 17, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 200)]

13. New Updates to the Website

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

Hearings on Climate Change (11-6-07)
Hearings on Nuclear Energy Policy (11-6-07)
Hearings on Global Earth Observations (11-6-07)
Hearings on Innovation and U.S. Competitiveness (10-22-07)
Hearings on Nuclear Energy Policy (10-22-07)
Hearings on Mining (10-16-07)
Hearings on Energy (10-15-07)
Hearings on Climate Change (10-9-07)
Hearings on Public Lands (10-5-07)

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Monthly Review prepared by Elizabeth Landau 2007 AGI/AAPG fall intern and Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs.

Sources: Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, White House Office of Public Affairs and U.S. Geological Survey.

**********************************************************************
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 6, 2007.

 

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