Monthly Review: November 2003
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.
Energy Bill's Fate Remains Undecided
Omnibus Spending Bill Unveiled, Awaits Final Passage
DOE's FY 2004 Spending Bill Complete
FY 2004 Interior Spending Bill Signed By President Bush
Increased Funding for Science Education
Court Ruling May Effect Mining on Public Lands
EPA Unveils Science Inventory Database
EPA Accepting Comments on HazWaste Certification
Mercury Hearing Held in House
Timely Solar Storm May Save NOAA Center
Administration Settles Climate Change Lawsuit
Texas School Board Approves Textbooks
DOE Basic Science Research Not Visible
Memo Distributed on Lobbying Guidelines for AGI &
List of Key Federal Register Notices
New Material on Web Site
Energy Bill's Fate
As reported in an AGI Special Update, more than two months of closed-door
negotiations between the House and Senate produced legislation that
quickly passed the House on November 18th and seemed headed for a
quick trip to the president's desk. In the Senate, Midwestern Democrats
were poised to vote with the Republican majority thanks to large ethanol
subsidies in the bill that benefited farmers. But the momentum vanished
almost overnight, when an unlikely coalition of Republican senators
from New England and the rest of the Senate's Democrats refused to
end debate on the bill and take a final vote. Some of these legislators
like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had concerns about the budgetary implications
of passing a $31 billion bill. The New Englanders objected to a provision
that would shield manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE, which
has been linked to groundwater contamination, from liability.
The fractious nature of this debate was indicative of the bill itself,
which included many singular provisions to garner support of a region
or, in several cases, one lawmaker. But even with these "sweeteners"
the bill could not get through the Senate. With freezing temperatures
absent throughout much of the country and no spike in fuel prices,
there is no public outcry to pass energy legislation. Instead, the
bill will stay exactly where it is - teetering on the edge between
passage and ultimate defeat until sometime early next year when Congress
resumes and the Senate again begins to talk about the merits of the
bill. Additional information about geoscience provisions in the energy
bill can be found in the Special Update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/energy_update1103.html.
Omnibus Spending Bill
Unveiled, Awaits Final Passage
Also on the list of unfinished business is the remainder of the federal
budget for fiscal year (FY) 2004, which began on October 1st. Congressional
leaders had hoped to wrap up work on the government's financial plan
before Thanksgiving. But prolonged fights over non-budgetary issues
such as overtime pay guidelines, outsourcing of federal work and new
Federal Communications Commission rules for TV station ownership forced
House leaders to schedule a final vote for December 8th. The Senate
plans to act the next day; however, a Washington Post editorial penned
on December 1st cautioned that this process may "lumber"
Seven appropriations bills are still outstanding: Agriculture, Commerce-State-Justice,
District of Columbia, Labor/Health and Human Services, VA/HUD and
Independent Agencies, Foreign Operations and Transportation-Treasury.
They have been combined into an 'omnibus' bill for consideration by
the House and Senate. Lawmakers have also passed a Continuing Resolution
(CR) in order to keep the government running at FY 2003 levels through
January 31, 2004 and allow plenty of time to craft a strategy to pass
The major details of the omnibus package have been released by the
House and Senate Appropriations Committees. All the numbers reported
are subject to at least a 0.59% across-the-board cut, which could
increase in final negotiations. The National Science Foundation (NSF)
would receive $5.6 billion, a $300 million increase over last year.
That translates to a $220 million increase for Research and Related
Activities, a $27 million increase for the Geosciences Directorate
and a $25 million increase for the Office of Polar Programs. The Major
Research Equipment and Facilities Account is slated to receive almost
$156 million, a $7 million increase over FY03. Earthscope is slated
to be funded at $43.5 million, which is slightly less than the $45
million request but in line with House recommendations. Due to the
Senate's policy of "no new starts" this year, neither the
National Ecological Observation Network nor the Integrated Ocean Drilling
Program's ship was funded.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would
receive $3.7 billion. Within that figure, $400 million has been set
aside for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. NASA funding is equal
to the President's request of $15.5 billion, $80 million above last
year. And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been allocated
$8.4 billion, $375 more than the President requested but $74 million
below last year's funding level.
More information will become available in the next few days about
specific accounts funded within these Agency budgets. The Government
Affairs Program will sift through the Conference Report and send out
a Special Update with the specific information important to the earth
science community. The Appropriations section of the GAP website will
also be updated with this information. It can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004.html.
DOE's FY 2004 Spending
The Energy and Water Conference Committee completed its work reconciling
the differing House and Senate appropriations bills in early November.
On November 17th the House passed the conference report by a vote
of 387-36. On the same day, the Senate passed the bill by unanimous
consent, sending it to President Bush for his signature. Generally,
the final allocation meets the Administration's budget request for
the Department of Energy (DOE), with adjustments for some programs.
Total funding for DOE is $22 billion, an increase of almost $1.2 billion
over fiscal year 2003 and $147 million below the budget request.
Within the energy supply account, renewable energy resource R&D
will receive $344 million, which is $76 million less than last year
and $100 million below the budget request. Much of the reduction is
the result of the transfer of activities to the new Electricity Transmission
and Distribution program. Geothermal technology development will receive
$1 million more than the requested $25 million, but that is still
a decrease of $4 million from last year. The conferees direct DOE
to continue funding university research and Geopowering the West at
the FY 2003 funding level. Hydropower will be funded at $5 million,
the same as last year's allocation.
DOE's Environmental Management (EM) program includes defense and
non-defense environmental cleanup as well as activities related to
uranium facilities. In total, the budget request was $7 billion for
these programs. The final bill will provide a total of $6.63 billion
for defense environmental cleanup, which is $174 million less than
the budget request. The non-defense programs get a boost over last
year and are slated to receive nearly $503 million in FY04. This reflects
a trend in EM programs toward tackling sites that can be cleaned up
and put on a path to long-term stewardship first, then wrestling with
sites that require long-term clean-up or isolation solutions.
DOE's Office of Science is funded at $3.45 billion for FY04, an increase
of $140 million over the budget request and $156 million above FY
2003. Funding for basic energy sciences is $1.0 billion, slightly
above the request. The chemical sciences, geosciences and energy biosciences
account received $4 million more than last year, bringing the account
up to the President's request of $221 million.
One of the major sticking points during conference negotiations was
the major differences between the House and Senate bills regarding
high-level nuclear waste disposal. The conferees provided a total
of $580 million for nuclear waste disposal, $11 million below the
budget request and $123 million more than fiscal year 2003. Despite
the contentious funding debate (see AGI's October 2003 Monthly Review),
no explanatory language about this funding level were included in
the conference report.
Also funded through the Energy and Water Appropriations bill is the
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation at the
Department of the Interior. Funding for the Army Corps would come
to $4.57 billion. The Bureau of Reclamation would receive $948 million,
an increase of $70 million over the President's request and $13 million
above FY 2003 funding. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_energy.html.
FY 2004 Interior Spending
Bill Signed By President Bush
President Bush signed the FY 2004 Interior and Related Appropriations
bill into law (Public Law 108-108) on November 10th. The House approved
the final conference report on the bill by a close 216-205 vote on
October 30th. The Senate also approved the measure in an 87-2 vote
on November 3rd. Information on how specific accounts fared in this
process can be found in AGI's October 2003 Monthly Review or on AGI's
web site at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_interior.html.
for Science Education
Federal investment in education was a priority again this budget
year, and the Math and Science Partnerships programs fared well. Within
the Department of Education, this program was funded at $150 million,
a 50% increase over last year. It received $140 million within the
National Science Foundation (NSF), a $12 million boost over FY 2003
On the heels of the second round of grants being awarded for NSF's
Math and Science Partnership program, the House Science Subcommittee
on Research held an oversight hearing on October 30th where schoolteachers
and university representatives praised the new federal education program
as a unique "opportunity to bring together partners across the
community," to improve math and science education. To learn more
about these Partnership programs, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/science_edu.html.
Court Ruling May Effect
Mining on Public Lands
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued
a decision on November 18th stating that the Interior Department may
not issue permits to hard-rock mines if they degrade or damage public
lands, even if the mines are deemed to be essential. The Court found
that Interior 's top lawyer in 2001 "misconstrued the clear mandate"
of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA); however,
the Court also noted that the plaintiffs failed to prove that the
current regulations fail to prevent significant degradation of public
lands, leaving ample room for the Department or the National Mining
Association to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. The decision
was posted on-line at http://www.nma.org/pdf/legal/3809judgment_111903.pdf.
More on mining policy at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/mining.html.
EPA Unveils Science
For years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has used an
agency-wide Science Inventory to catalog current and past science
products and activities. On November 18th, the Agency unveiled a searchable,
Web-based format for the database that the public can use. The EPA
plans to update the inventory as new information becomes available,
making it a dynamic tool for planning, managing and enabling collaboration
on environmentally related science that supports EPA's overall mission.
The Science Inventory is on the Internet at http://www.epa.gov/si.
Users can conduct keyword searches or can search within nine cross-cutting
science topics: aging initiative, contaminated sediments, ecological
assessment tools, genomics, tribal science, children's health, cumulative
risk, environmental justice and non-indigenous species.
EPA also announced a new Human Health Research Strategy in early
November. This plan will further the Agency's mission to protect public
health by identifying and prioritizing the scientific research that
will be conducted over the next 5 to 10 years in the fields of biology,
ecology and other environmental sciences. The Strategy is available
EPA Accepting Comments
on HazWaste Certification
Until December 15, 2003 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
will be accepting comments about professional certifications as related
to hazardous waste facilities, specifically who may certify such facilities.
At issue is whether only professional engineers can make these certifications
or if Certified Hazardous Materials Managers or Professional Geologists
are capable of doing so. If you would like to read the comment solicitation
in its entirety, log onto http://www.gpo.gov.
The request for comments was published in the October 29, 2003 Federal
Register, page 61662.
Mercury Hearing Held
On November 5th, the House Science Subcommittee on Environment Technology
and Standards held a hearing about the state of science and technology
surrounding the mercury debate. The panel heard from academic, government,
industry and environmental experts about the ongoing regulatory and
legislative efforts to control mercury emissions from the utility
industry. The testimony led members to conclude that there is "compelling
evidence" of the health effects of mercury contamination. More
information about the hearing is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/cleanair_hearings.html#november5.
AGI's coverage of mercury policy can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/mercury.html.
Timely Solar Storm
May Save NOAA Center
Our local star obtained the attention of policymakers on Capitol
Hill with a huge magnetic solar storm that arrived at Earth in late
October and lasted into November. This event served to underscore
the importance and vital work being performed by the Space Environment
Center (SEC), an agency that has been under attack this year as lawmakers
look to trim spending anywhere possible. A Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
report called for the activities performed by the SEC to be transferred
to other government agencies. In a hearing, the Science Committee
learned about SEC, the services it provides and its collaborations
with other Federal agencies. Following the hearing, Subcommittee Chairman
Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) said, "It is clear from today's hearing
that (1) the services that NOAA's SEC provides are unique and vital
to our nation and its citizens every day, much more so than people
realize; and (2) it is neither in the mandate nor the mission of the
Air Force or NASA to take on these crucial responsibilities. Such
a transfer would require significant cost expenditures above the $8
million sought by the Administration for the SEC. It would also undoubtedly
cause a temporary to intermediate loss of space-weather forecasting
services at a time when many critical U.S. industries and the public
increasingly rely on these forecasts every day." Ehlers continued,
"I believe this is a case of if it isn't broke then we shouldn't
try to fix it." He further vowed to share these views with members
of the Appropriations Subcommittee. To learn more about this agency,
services it provides or the hearing, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/space_weather.html.
Climate Change Lawsuit
The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free-market advocacy
group, announced details of an agreement with the White House on November
6th, wherein CEI will drop its lawsuit against the Bush Administration.
At issue was a Clinton-era federal report on climate change that included
information not produced by federal agencies. Instead, it was written
by a third party not bound by the federal Data Quality Act. CEI's
chief complaint was that the computer models used in the study were
unreliable and revised past climate history to incorrectly portray
the 20th century as unusual. Under the deal, a disclaimer was added
to the report. CEI issued a press release about the agreement that
is on-line at http://www.cei.org/gencon/003,03740.cfm.
More on climate change policy issues at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate.html.
Texas School Board
On November 7th, the Texas Board of Education voted 11-4 in favor
of biology textbooks being considered for adoption. Anti-evolution
groups had sought to have the Board reject these textbooks on the
basis of what they claimed were factual errors. The Board's action
clears the way for local school districts to adopt these textbooks
and receive reimbursement from the state. In October, AGI partnered
with the American Institute of Physics, the American Institute of
Biological Sciences and the American Astronomical Society to author
a statement urging the Board to resist pressure to undermine the treatment
of evolution in biology textbooks now under consideration for adoption.
Each organization reached out to society members and scientists in
Texas and urged them to sign on to the document. On November 1st,
the statement was sent to the Texas Board of Education with signatures
from over 550 Texas scientists and educators. To view the full statement
and list of signatories, see http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/AIP-petition.pdf.
DOE Basic Science
Research Not Visible
The Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking public comments on a report
titled, "Critical Choices: Science, Energy, and Security."
Issued by a 14-member panel that DOE Secretary Abraham created last
December, the report blasts the Department for being "badly managed,
excessively fragmented, and politically unresponsive." It recommends
DOE install an undersecretary for science, make greater use of peer
review in selecting research projects and make a more concerted effort
to repair facilities at the national laboratories. For a copy of the
report, see http://www.seab.energy.gov/publications/FSPFinalDraft.pdf.
on Lobbying Guidelines for AGI & Member Societies
Earlier this week, the AGI Government Affairs Program distributed
a memo to the leadership of AGI's Member Societies with basic lobbying
guidelines, including limitations placed on lobbying by the Internal
Revenue Service, congressional registration requirements, and limits
on gifts to Congress and the executive branch. The legal framework
has not changed much in the intervening years since the original memo,
and the basic conclusion remains the same: all of AGI's member societies
can engage in and support more lobbying than they do now. The AGI
memo is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/gapac/lobbymemo1203.html.
On November 30th, the Washington Post recently ran an excellent article
on the subject of non-profit lobbying, entitled "The lobbying
law is more charitable than they think." The article will be
available for free on the Post's web site (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20633-2003Nov29.html)
for the next 11 days.
List of Key Federal
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/frcont03.html.
Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also
available online at http://www.regulation.gov.
Department of Energy (DOE), National Energy Technology Laboratory
Notice of Availability of Oil Exploration and Production Program Solicitation.
Volume 68, Number 214 (5 November 2003): pp. 62567-62569
Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable
Energy Notice of Open Meeting. Wednesday, December 3, 2003; 9 a.m.
to 12 p.m. Loews L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L'Enfant Plaza, SW., Washington
DC 20024. Volume 68, Number 220 (14 November 2003): pp. 64615
NASA Advisory Council, Biological and Physical Research Advisory
Committee Meeting. Monday, December 8, 2003, from 10 a.m. until 5
p.m. Holiday Inn Washington Capitol, 550 C Street SW.,Washington,
DC 20024. Volume 68, Number 221 (17 November 2003): pp. 64917-64918
Department of Energy (DOE), Environemtnal Management Site-Specific
Advisory Board, Rocky Flats. Thursday, December 4, 2003; 6 p.m. to
9 p.m. College Hill Library, Room L107, Front Range Community College,
3705 West 112th Avenue, Westminster, CO. Volume 68, Number 222 (18
November 2003): pp. 65050
Office of Science and Technology Policy, Meeting of the President's
Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. December 2, 2003, Washington,
DC. Monticello Ballroom (lower level) of the Wyndham Washington Hotel,
1400 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005. Volume 68, Number 222 (18
November 2003): pp. 65070
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Advisory Council
for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT) Superfund Subcommittee
Meeting. December 9, 2003 from 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and December
10, 2003 from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Hilton Crystal City at National
Airport, 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington, VA 22202. Volume
68, Number 223 (19 November
2003): pp. 65277-65278
Department of Energy (DOE), Energy Information Administration Solicitation
of Comments on the Policy for Statistical Information Based on Petroleum
Supply Reporting System Survey Data. Comments must be filed by December
22, 2003 at Petroleum Division, EI-42, Forrestal Building, U.S. Department
of Energy, 1000 Independence Ave., SW., Washington, DC 20585. Volume
68, Number 224 (20 November 2003): pp. 65452-65454
Department of Energy (DOE), Enhanced (Engineered) Geothermal Systems
(EGS) Research and Development (R&D) notice of issuance of funding.
Volume 68, Number 226 (24 November 2003): pp. 65895
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
- Energy Policy Overview (11-21-03)
- Special Update: Final Energy Bill Passes House, Close to Senate
- Mining Policy (11-20-03)
- Asbestos Policy (11-20-03)
- FY2004 Energy and Water (DOE) Appropriations (11-19-03)
- FY2004 VA/HUD (NSF, NASA, EPA) Appropriations (11-19-03)
- Clean Air Issues: Clear Skies Initiative/Multi-pollutant Legislation
- Climate Change Policy Overview (11-13-03)
- High-Level Nuclear Waste Legislation (11-12-03)
- Mercury Policy (11-12-03)
- FY2004 Interior (USGS, DOE Fossil Energy) Appropriations (11-11-03)
- Summary of Hearings on Clean Air Issues (11-11-03)
- State Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution (11-10-03)
- Climate Change Hearing Summaries (11-7-03)
- Federal Science Education Policy (11-5-03)
- High Plains Aquifer Legislation (11-5-03)
- Geotimes Political Scene: Our Public Lands (by AGI 2002-2003 Congressional
Science Fellow Larry Kennedy; 11/03)
Monthly review prepared by Emily M. Lehr and David Applegate, AGI
Government Affairs Program
Sources: Competitive Enterprise Institute, Department of Energy
website, E & E Daily, Environmental Protection Agency website,
Greenwire, House Science Committee website, National Mining Association,
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration website, NOAA
Space Environment Center, Science, THOMAS: Library of Congress, Washington
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted December 4, 2003