Monthly Review: November 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 Budget is Complete, Finally
In a rare Saturday congressional session, Congress gave primary approval to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 Consolidated Appropriations bill, H.R. 4818, on November 20th. Unfortunately, some provisions need to be corrected prior to final passage. Though no spending amounts are expected to change, Congress returned to Washington on December 6th to give final approval to the 3,000 page bill. President Bush is expected to sign the bill on December 8th. This action will complete the FY05 budget process.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the FY05 budget will provide $132.2 billion in federal research and development (R&D) investment. That being said, AAAS reported that: "80 percent of the increase goes to defense R&D programs, primarily for the development of new weapons systems. The nondefense R&D investment rises by $1.2 billion or 2.2 percent to $57.2 billion." This increase is far short of those in the past few years. Funding for the geoscience-related activities has been a mixed bag, with most of these agencies and programs slated for either flat funding or cuts in FY05. Congress also employed some budgetary wizardry in the form of a government-wide .80 percent across-the-board cut to formulate a spending plan that encompassed 9 of the 13 annual spending bills and fit under the congressional budget targets.
A November 30 Government Affairs Special Update contains more details
about the budget and is available online at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/update_fy05budgetcomplete.html.
Additional details and charts showing the path to the final budget
numbers are available on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2005.html.
As reported in a November 30 AGI Government Affairs Special Update,
Congress included comments on the NIH Open Access model that the House
approved in September when it passed the NIH FY05 spending bill. The
comments were buried in the depths of the Consolidated Appropriations
Bill. The text of the comment is available online at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/update_openaccessinomni.html.
On December 1, the American Association for the Advancement of Science
(AAAS) Research!America and the Washington Science Policy Alliance
convened a panel of top-tier experts to evaluate how the 2004 election
results will affect science and technology in the years ahead. The
forum was moderated by Alan I. Leshner CEO of AAAS and executive publisher
of Science. The panel consisted of Former Rep. John Ed Porter (R-IL),
former chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee
and currently a partner in the law firm of Hogan and Hartson and chair-elect
of Research!America; Kathleen Frankovic, director of the CBS News
Survey Unit; and
The overarching sentiment expressed by the panel was that the scientific community looks to be in for some lean times in the coming years. According to former Representative John Ed Porter, NASA was the only science agency to see an increase of funding because of the President's vision for manned space flight and the House Majority Leader Tom Delay's involvement with the Johnson Space Center. Soaring budget deficits have caused lawmakers to clamp down on non-defense discretionary spending, which comprises only 16% of the total budget. Given the fiscal climate, Porter urged the audience to "defend science as you have never defended science before," and that, "we should not wait for the administration to come to us for science and technology investment."
Kathleen Frankovic discussed the state of polling as a social science and public sentiment on science and technology. She delved into the "moral values" issue, a term that has been tossed around in the media from exit polls that showed 1 in 5 voters ranked "moral values" as their most important issue. These voters voted overwhelmingly for President Bush and are widely credited by pundits as the key constituency in the Bush victory. In some ways "moral values" translates into positions against stem-cell research, therapeutic cloning, and evolution in schools (according to Frankovic, 55% of Americans are strict creationists). These issues are among other omens of the 2004 election landscape that portend little public enthusiasm for science and technology research funding.
Bob Palmer agreed with Representative Porter in that overall science budget is "grim." He highlighted how the scientific community was uncharacteristically active in this year's election. He also said that their support for the losing side may have contributed to across the board slamming of science and technology in the FY05 budget. According to Palmer, "science is a medium level priority on the hill," which usually loses out to more prestigious agencies in appropriations bills. For example, NSF and EPA have had little success competing against the powerful Veterans Administration in the VA/HUD bill. Given the fiscal crunch, the Congressional mandate to double to the NSF budget in five years is now considered dead.
In all, the panelists agreed that now more than ever, the scientific community and those who advocate for them must be vigilant in stressing to policy makers the importance of basic science research to our economy and society. A webcast of the forum is available online at http://www.aaas.org/news/press_room/election/.
The November 13 issue of National Journal published a series of articles about upcoming issues in the 109th Congress. Margaret Kriz wrote a piece on energy legislation in which she pointed out that an increased Republican majority in the Senate bodes well for comprehensive energy legislation and modification of the Clean Air Act. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) is likely to push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) with a clause in the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill. Democrats likely will invoke the Byrd rule, challenging the drilling amendment as "extraneous matter." It will then be up to the Senate parliamentarian to decide if the rule applies.
Once the ANWR issue is decided, the Senate is expected to craft comprehensive energy legislation from scratch, although it should include major pieces of existing legislation. Tax incentives for nuclear power plants and exploration for oil and gas offshore in currently off limits areas could be in store. MTBE will also be an issue, with industry lobbyists pushing for a broad liability waiver for MTBE manufacturers.
The Senate should also take up the Clean Air Act again, with the White House pushing for Bush's "Clear Skies Initiative," an emissions trading program for mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. The administration has no plans to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
Some Republican leaders would also like to revisit the Endangered Species Act. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) is considering targeted changes to the law, although aides say it won't be a massive overhaul.
Despite ambitious plans, Kriz says some observers predict that the Senate will continue to block GOP's most ambitious efforts to revamp environment and energy law. "I'm not so sure the landscape has changed that much on the Senate side," said one energy lobbyist. "When you replace moderate Democrats with Republicans, four seats doesn't necessarily equate to four more votes for all of these issues."
The Bush administration Cabinet has been going through some major reshuffling in the wake of President Bush's re-election. The President has nominated Alberto R. Gonzales for Attorney General after John Ashcroft stepped down in November. National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice will succeed Colin Powell as Secretary of State if confirmed by the Senate. Porter Goss was nominated to replace Robert Mueller as head of the FBI. Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge also announced his resignation on November 30.
Carlos M. Gutierrez, CEO of Kellogg Corporation, has been nominated to replace outgoing Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans. If confirmed, Gutierrez will have to deal with redefining NOAA's role in the department as it pushes for more autonomy and funding. Originally intended to be part of the Department of the Interior, NOAA has grown into the largest agency in the Commerce Department, comprising 60% of its budget and one-third of its workforce. With the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy and the Pew Oceans Commission pushing for reform, Congress considered granting NOAA more independence. This debate will continue in January when an Organic Act for NOAA is expected to be reintroduced.
Former Democratic Senator from Louisiana J. Bennett Johnston is on a list of potential candidates to replace outgoing Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. Johnston served in the Senate from 1972 to 1997 and as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee from 1987 to 1994. He was offered the Energy Secretary position in 2000 but he declined. Former Louisiana Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) is also a potential replacement for Abraham.
USDA Secretary Ann M. Veneman also stepped down in November. President Bush selected Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns, a Republican attorney who grew up on an Iowa dairy farm, as secretary of Agriculture to oversee the nation's farm and food program on December 2nd. Secretary of Education Rod Paige resigned, joining the six other outgoing cabinet members. President Bush named Margaret Spellings, a White House insider who currently serves as chief adviser on domestic issues, to take over Paige's post. She was the architect of No Child Left Behind, the President's signature education initiative.
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton has said she would like to stay at her post; however, she has also indicated the West remains a powerful draw for the native Coloradan. There is speculation that she may leave her post to run for Colorado Governor or seek a spot on the federal bench, although she publicly denies any interest in either. Environment and Energy Daily reports Norton as saying: '"There's always a tension in the Department of the Interior that you have to love the West to be secretary of the Interior because that's where all of our land and employees are. You have to live in Washington to do it. There's always a tension there." Asked to elaborate, Norton said only, "I enjoy the job. That's my statement."'
With President Bush's second-term Cabinet shaping up to look vastly different than the first, the Senate will be busy early in 2005 with confirmation hearings. In fact, prior to dismissing for the Thanksgiving holiday, Arden Bement's nomination to serve as the Director of the National Science Foundation was approved by the Senate. All nominations to the National Science Board (NSB) were also approved.
Energy Policy, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs Subcommitee
Chairman Doug Ose (R-CA) hosted a hearing entitled "What is the
Bush Administration's Record in Regulatory Reform?" on November
17th. EPA's handling of mercury regulation emerged as a very contentious
issue. Controversy has been brewing between the cap-and trade approach,
favored by the Bush administration, and a Maximum Achievable Control
Technology (MACT) approach, favored by environmentalists. Some witnesses
attested to the effectiveness of the public comment process on rulemaking
while others defended or berated the EPA's record of regulation. A
full hearing summary is available on AGI's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/mercury.html.
At a November 3 meeting with government and non-government stakeholders, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) outlined and listened to comments, as well as healthy debate, on a national proposal being considered for the fiscal year 2007 budget. Final details of the proposal, "Reducing the Risks of Natural Hazards: A Program for the Future," have not been released.
As outlined by senior USGS leadership, the initiative could be an
opportunity for USGS to leverage and integrate the strengths of its
various programs in biology, geology, geospatial information, and
water programs to help the nation better address natural hazards.
Some external stakeholders participating in the meeting suggested
that USGS not necessarily limit the initiative to "natural"
hazards. Many participants also noted that the geological sciences
would obviously play an important part in any hazards program. Additionally,
it was suggested that a successful program should include elements
of external grant programs and also an increased interaction with
the social science and economics research communities. The USGS continues
to accept comments and suggestions on this emerging initiative. Interested
scientists can submit comments via firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of the Interior released a new report on November 15 announcing that access to resources and incentives to boost energy production in the Gulf of Mexico is working. Over the next decade, deep water oil and natural gas production is expected to increase by 43% and 13% respectively. House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) emphasized in a press release the importance of incorporating this fact into future energy policy. Simply put, he believes access and incentives work to increase domestic supply. These incentives, first offered for producers in the Gulf of Mexico in 1995 under the Deep Water Royalty Relief Act and expanded recently by Interior Secretary Gale Norton, led to the boom in the region's energy production. As a result, the Gulf currently produces and delivers more oil and gas to the U.S. market than any single domestic or foreign source.
The report is available through the Minerals Management Service website at http://www.mms.gov/ooc/press/2004/press1115.htm.
At a November 17 briefing, the National Academies of Science released its latest report providing the President and federal officials with guidance for improving the appointment process for federal science and technology positions. Unlike previous reports that focused on improving the screening and appointment process for Cabinet and senior agency personnel, "Science and Technology in the National Interest: Ensuring the Best Presidential and Federal Advisory Committee Science and Technology Appointments," also includes recommendations that can help ensure the integrity of federal S&T advisory committees. The focus on the later is important as scientists, engineers and health professionals serve on roughly 1,000 federal S&T advisory committees, examining issues such as safety standards for drinking water and biodefense priorities. Some of these scientists are chosen for their policy expertise, but most are selected for their scientific and technical knowledge. The panel's attention to S&T advisory committees was new, and at least in part a result of criticisms that advisory committee membership has increasingly been driven by political rather than scientific credentials. Not surprisingly, the panel recommends that experts who are nominated mainly to provide scientific advice in particular fields should be chosen for their credentials and integrity.
Additionally, the report considers the matters of conflict-of-interest and bias. The panel reportedly heard testimony from a number of sources that suggests that conflict-of-interest reporting procedures have become so burdensome that some top scientists decline to serve on committees. Thus, the panel recommends that conflict-of-interest reporting procedures be reviewed to ensure they are not needlessly burdensome, particularly for individuals that would serve on committees charged with reviewing research proposals or providing direction to federal research programs. For more information, please see the committee's website at www.nationalacademies.org/presidentialappointments.
On November 8, 2004, Selman et al. v. Cobb County School District
et al. went to trial in the Atlanta Division of the US District Court
of the Northern District of Georgia. The plaintiffs are suing over
a textbook disclaimer, adopted in 2002, that reads: "This textbook
contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact,
regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached
with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered."
The plaintiffs complain that the disclaimer restricts the teaching
of evolution by singling out evolution for special treatment for religious
reasons, and argue that the result of the disclaimer will be the teaching
of creationism or similar pseudoscientific alternatives to evolution.
Among those testifying was Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University,
a coauthor of the biology textbook used in Cobb County's high schools,
who noted that the disclaimer might convey the impression that "we
are certain of everything in this book except evolution." Evolution
disclaimers in textbooks have long been part of the antievolutionist
arsenal; Alabama is the only state in which they are presently required,
but they have been required or proposed in states and local districts
across the country. Testimony in Selman v. Cobb County ended on November
10, and closing arguments are expected to conclude the trial on November
12. A ruling from the judge is not expected for at least a month.
In the first hour of National Public Radio's (NPR) show Science Friday for November 19 host Ira Flatow and his guests discussed the recent decision by the Dover (Pennsylvania) Area School District to require the teaching of "intelligent design" in its science classrooms as well as other recent battles over evolution education. Appearing on the show were NCSE's Nicholas J. Matzke and NCSE Supporter Kenneth R. Miller, as well as Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center, law professor and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture David K. DeWolf, and two formermembers of the Dover Area School Board who resigned to protest the "intelligent design" decision. For the archived version of the show, look under the "Archived Audio" section of http://www.sciencefriday.com/pages/2004/Nov/hour1_111904.html.
AGI's report on the surprise move by the Dover Area School Board is available online at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/evolution/PA.html.
A recent article from the Gallup News Service reports on the pollster's latest results concerning public opinion on the evidence for evolution, creationism, and biblical literalism. On the question of whether evolution is well-supported by the evidence, 35% of the respondents said that it is, 35% said that it is not, 29% said that they didn't know enough about it to reply, and 1% expressed no opinion. On the question of the origin and development of human beings, 38% of the respondents agreed with "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process, "13% agreed with "human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process," 45% agreed with "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so," and 4% offered a different or no opinion. On the question of biblical literalism, 34% of respondents regarded the Bible as to be taken literally, 48% regarded it as divinely inspired but not always to be taken literally, 15% regarded it as a collection of fables, etc., and 3% expressed no opinion. All of these results are consistent with earlier Gallup polls, which extend as far back as 1982 (for the origin and development of human beings question).
A recent poll conducted by CBS News also investigated public opinion about evolution and creationism. One question (the exact wording of which was not given in the story) was apparently similar to Gallup's question about the origin and development of human beings. Compared to the Gallup poll, the results showed more support (55%) for "God created humans in present form" and less support (27%) for "humans evolved, God guided the process)," with the same level of support (13%) for "Humans evolved, God did not guide process." The CBS News poll also asked whether creationism should be taught alongside or instead of evolution in the public schools: 65% of the respondents said alongside; 37% said instead of. In a 2000 poll commissioned by People for the American Way, however, only 16% of respondents said that creationism should be taught instead of evolution, and only 13% said that creationism should be taught as a "scientific theory" alongside evolution. Since the PFAW poll offered a finer-grained set of choices for its respondents, comparisons between the CBS News poll and the PFAW poll may not be entirely meaningful.
To read the Gallup News Service article (subscription required),
For the CBS News poll, visit http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/22/opinion/polls/main657083.shtml.
For the PFAW poll (in PDF form), visit: http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/dfiles/file_36.pdf.
The 10th annual Congressional Visit Day is scheduled for May 10-11, 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. CVD is an 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 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in partnership with Coastal America and the National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, invites students nationwide in grades 6-12 to participate in a contest to choose a name for a new NOAA ship. Ship names and supporting projects that capture the spirit of ocean exploration are encouraged. Generally, NOAA ships are named for mission-type, environmental phenomena, myths or traditions, geographical features, or former decommissioned ships crewed by NOAA personnel or predecessors. NOAA's new ocean exploration ship will be unique because it will be the only NOAA ship dedicated exclusively to exploration and research of our oceans. The new vessel will join NOAA's fleet, under the direction of NOAA's Marine and Aviation Operations. For more information about the contest, visit www.education.noaa.gov/shipname.
Johnson Controls and the National Energy Foundation (NEF) have announced the launch of the fourth Igniting Creative Energy Challenge. The Challenge is an educational competition designed to encourage students to learn more about energy and the environment. Students are asked to submit entries that reflect the competition theme, Igniting Creative Energy, and demonstrate an understanding of what an individual, family, or group can do to make a difference in their home, school, or community. Students may express their ideas on energy conservation and the environment in the form of science projects, essays, stories, artwork, photographs, music, video, or website projects. They may also submit recent service projects or results from the National Energy Foundation's own Energy Patrol activities.
"Students play an important role in energy usage which naturally
extends to our business of providing energy solutions," said
Jeff Crenshaw, Director, Public Sector Sales for Johnson Controls.
"As we introduce our fourth Challenge, we are continually impressed
by the excitement and creativity students and teachers exhibit in
showing ways to preserve the environment and conserve energy."
The Challenge is open to all students in grades K-12 in the U.S. and
Canada, excluding Quebec. All entries are due by February 19, 2005,
and winners will be announced on or about March 21, 2005. The Challenge
is sponsored and funded through an educational grant by Johnson Controls,
Inc. with additional support from the United States Energy Association,
and is administered by the National Energy Foundation. Official rules
about the contest and a downloadable entry form can be found at www.ignitingcreativeenergy.org.
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.
DOE: The Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act of 2004, requires the FERC to issue regulations governing the conduct of open seasons for Alaska natural gas transportation projects by February 10, 2005. The Commission proposes the following tentative schedule for issuing the required regulations: November 18, 2004--Commission issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, including draft of proposed regulations; December 6-10, 2004 (exact date to be announced)--One-day public technical conference at a site to be determined in Alaska, to receive public comment on the proposed regulations; December 17, 2004--Written comments due on Notice of Proposed Rulemaking; February 9, 2005--Commission issues final rule. http://www.ferc.gov [(Volume 69, Number 212)]
NOAA: This program represents a NOAA/NWS effort to create a cost-effective
continuum of basic and applied research through collaborative research
between the Hydrology Laboratory of the NWS Office of Hydrologic Development
and academic communities or other private or public agencies which
have expertise in the hydrometeorologic, hydrologic, and hydraulic
routing sciences. The Office of Hydrologic
DOE: FERC will host a technical conference in this proceeding on
December 3, 2004 in Anchorage, Alaska. The Commission has initiated
a rulemaking to establish regulations governing the conduct of open
seasons for capacity on any Alaska natural gas transportation projects..
The Commission will provide further public notice with details of
the rulemaking proceeding, including the specific location of the
technical conference in Anchorage, Alaska, in the near future. Registration
for the December 3rd technical conference is not required, but it
is encouraged to assist with the conference planning
NOAA: Notice of availability is hereby given for a 30-day public comment period on proposed Data Management and Communications (DMAC) standards for the initial implementation of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Written comments on the proposed standards must be received no later than 5 p.m. eastern standard time, on December 10, 2004. Written comments should be sent to: Ocean.US, Attention: Ms. Rosalind E. Cohen, 2300 Clarendon Blvd. Suite 1350, Arlington, VA 22201. Comments may also be sent via e-mail to the following address: Rosalind.E.Cohen@noaa.gov, or by FAX to (703) 588-0872. The Plan is available on-line to interested parties from the Office of Ocean.US Web site at the following URL: http://dmac.ocean.us/dacsc/imp_plan.jsp. [(Volume 69, Number 217)]
OSTP: This notice announces the release of the Appendix 3 to the Draft Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System and extension of the public comment period by the National Science and Technology Council's (NSTC) Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Interagency Working Group on Earth Observations (IWGEO). The Draft Strategic Plan can be accessed electronically at http://iwgeo.ssc.nasa.gov/draftstrategicplan. Appendix 3 to this document, along with the associated Technical Reference Documents are available at http://iwgeo.ssc.nasa.gov. Only electronic (e-mail) comments will be accepted, and should be sent to: IWGEOcomments@noaa.gov. [(Volume 69, Number 217)]
EPA: Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office announces a teleconference of the Second Generation Model Advisory Panel to discuss its plan for providing advice to EPA on this model. A public teleconference of the SAB Second Generation Model Advisory Panel will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time on December 2, 2004. [(Volume 69, Number 222)]
USGS: Open meeting of the CRSSP Implementation Working Group (IWG)
to present and discuss progress and plans for assessing near-term
civil requirements for remote sensing data. December 14, 2004, 9-12
a.m. Visitors Center, USGS Headquarters, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive,
Reston, VA 20192. Inquiries and notice of intent to attend the meeting
may be addressed to: Greg Snyder, CRSSP IWG Chair, USGS National Center
Center MS 517, Reston VA 22091, email@example.com or 703-648-5169.
[(Volume 69, Number 224)]
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: American Institute of Biological Sciences, American Institute of Physics, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, House Committee on Resources, Minerals Management Service, National Center for Science Education, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, New York Times, Triangle Coalition Electronic Bulletin, Washington Post.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted December 8, 2004