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Monthly Review: November 2005


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.

 

Budget Unresolved as Winter Sets In

With only a few weeks remaining before winter recess, Congress has yet to pass a budget reconciliation bill and many differences between the House and Senate versions remain controversial. Before Congress left for the Thanksgiving recess, they passed a continuing resolution to continue the current budget until December 17. The House returns from their recess on December 5 while the Senate returns on December 12, leaving a one critical week to resolve any differences. The Senate passed its version of the reconciliation bill, which cuts a total of $35 billion in spending and includes revenues from drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), on November 3 by a vote of 52-47. In the House, the Republican leadership had much more difficulty getting moderate Republicans to vote for sharp cuts to social programs like Medicaid and food stamps even after they removed a provision to allow drilling in ANWR. Eventually a trimmed down package of $50 billion in spending cuts narrowly passed the House by a vote of 217-215. In addition to the steep spending cuts to social programs that benefit the most vulnerable, the Senate passed a $60 billion tax cut bill and the House is expected to do the same when it returns. These proposed tax cuts have made major budgetary cuts to social programs even harder for many moderate lawmakers to swallow.

Drilling in ANWR will remain a hotly contested issue as the conference committee works to hammer out differences between the two bills. Representative Charlie Bass (R-NH) has made it clear that he and other moderates whose votes are essential to the bill's passage will not support a conference report that includes drilling. On the other hand many senators, especially the Alaska delegation and Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM), as well as some members of the House, say they will not vote for the reconciliation bill unless it includes drilling in ANWR. As with ANWR drilling, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo's (R-CA) legislation that would have allowed states to opt out of a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling was excised from the House bill in order to ensure passage. This measure is even less likely to be reinserted during a conference report, because there is no similar language in the Senate bill. Pombo's bill also included funding for mining and petroleum schools and for geologic mapping from royalties generated by new offshore exploration.

Another controversial Resources Committee provision, which would repeal a ban on sales of public lands with mining claims, was included in the House bill. Since 1994 there has been a moratorium on selling public lands for mining and mining companies have had to lease lands from the government, making their operations subject to environmental reviews. The new provision would allow companies to buy public land for as little as $1000 per acre, a large increase over prices in the 1872 mining law, but still relatively cheap considering fair market values. In addition, up to 650 claims in national parks, including California's Death Valley and Joshua Tree National Parks, could possibly be sold to mining companies. Several Democrats have also claimed that the provision would allow companies to buy land cheaply and then resell it as real estate. Proponents of the measure dismiss these fears as unfounded and say selling land for mining would provide a big boost to rural western economies. There is no similar provision in the Senate bill making it likely that the mining provision will be excluded from the final bill.

Meanwhile, nine of the eleven appropriations bills, including the Interior, Energy and Water, and Science, Commerce, Justice and State bills, have been passed by Congress and signed by the president. Within these bills total funding for agencies involved in the physical sciences, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institute of Standards (NIST), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the offices of Fossil Energy and Science within the Department of Energy (DOE), is $31.98 billion, which is approximately the same amount as last year. This stagnant funding means many of these agencies will have difficulty maintaining their core research programs. In addition, until Congress passes a budget reconciliation bill, all federal agencies are working with a fiscal year 2005 budget, the House appropriated level for 2006 or the Senate level, whichever is the lowest. Congress now has about three weeks to pass the remaining two appropriations bills, one for Defense and the other for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. On November 18, the House surprisingly failed to pass the conference report for the Labor/HHS/Education bill because 22 Republicans were unhappy with different spending cuts to health care and education. The Defense bill, for which the Senate has included an amendment banning the torture of detainees, has not yet been debated in a conference committee. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are also trying to decide the best method for passing across the board spending cuts. House leaders prefer rescissions that include everything except for combat operations, while many Senators object to cuts to homeland security, veterans' affairs, and defense spending. It is probable that rescissions of between 2 to 4% will be made to all programs, except for defense, homeland security, and veterans benefits, however, House and Senate leaders are still deciding how much to cut across the board and how to do it.

Hurricane Katrina: Hearings and Legislation Update

Over two months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall the disaster continues to be a major issue in Congress, with hearings being held every week to oversee the response to the disaster. Despite this interest, there has been little legislative activity directed at hurricane recovery beyond the $64 billion in emergency appropriations passed in early September. Several bills have been introduced, in particular the Louisiana Recovery Corporation Act (H.R. 4100) and the Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act (S. 1765), but thus far none of the bills have made it out of committee. President Bush recently asked Congress to approve a package that would cut $2.3 billion from federal programs and reallocate $17 billion from FEMA's Disaster Relief Fund in order to rebuild critical infrastructure in the affected areas, but no decision has been reached on this measure either. Of the $64 billion appropriated for hurricane relief, $19.58 has been obligated: $7.15 billion has been spent on housing assistance, $2 billion has gone to flood insurance claims, and $1.45 billion is being used to rebuild infrastructure. Another $615 million has gone to human services needs and $86.5 million is committed to unemployment assistance. $4.5 billion has been directly appropriated to the Army Corps of Engineers, of which $4.1 billion has come from the Disaster Relief Fund and is being used for FEMA procurement, debris removal, and logistical support. A small portion of the emergency appropriations will be directed towards dredging navigation systems ($182 million) and restoring hurricane and flood protection ($141 million). Based on this break down of the emergency appropriations, about $35.704 billion of the $64 billion has been directed to specific projects.

The hearings that have taken place over the past month that are relevant to the geosciences can be divided into two general categories: oversight into the role of federal, state, and local government in preparing for and responding to Katrina, and examination of plans for rebuilding New Orleans and other affected areas. The most prominent example of the first category was the October 19 appearance of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff before the House Select Katrina Committee. Chertoff defended the placement of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), saying, "With DHS, FEMA has better resources." Chertoff's comments were in response to an earlier hearing with former FEMA director Michael Brown, who said that DHS had "emaciated" FEMA. The Army Corps of Engineers is also experiencing a high level of congressional scrutiny and the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee held the first of several hearings on the failure of the New Orleans levee system on November 3. "These failures … were the result of human error and the delayed response to the collapse of the levee system," Chairwoman Susan Collins (R-ME) said as she opened the hearing, and that statement typified the criticism that many senators had for the Corps. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin also admitted to making mistakes during a recent Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, but senators treated Nagin with more deference than they did other officials involved with emergency response.

During the October 19 hearing Secretary Chertoff announced plans to create a new Directorate of Preparedness within DHS. These plans were part of the department's Second Stage Review, which was released a month before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The new directorate would combine several pre-existing departmental offices, including the Office of Domestic Preparedness and the Infrastructure Protection Division, and would be headed by the Undersecretary for Preparedness. President Bush named Virginia Emergency Manager George Foresman to this new position on October 25. As part of the reorganization within DHS, FEMA will be restructured to focus solely on disaster response and recovery. In addition, the position of FEMA Director will be eliminated and FEMA will instead report directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security. While FEMA will not be officially located within the Directorate of Preparedness, Secretary Chertoff said the directorate would make use of the agency's expertise in emergency preparedness.

In addition to hearings focused on what went wrong before and after Katrina, members of Congress have also focused attention on what can be done right in rebuilding New Orleans and other areas. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been especially active in this area, holding three separate hearings to gather expert views on rebuilding New Orleans and protecting the city and its outlying communities from future hurricanes and floods. At one of these hearings two geoscientists, Denise Reed and Roy Dokka, testified, providing somewhat contradictory testimony about the value of wetlands restoration. Geologists also testified at a related House Resources Committee hearing on the Coastal Barriers Resources Act, which denies federal funding to new development in vulnerable coastal areas. Expressing his view that the act needed to go further, geology professor Robert Young said, "It is time to cut our ties with the most vulnerable of our nation's coastal areas." A similar discussion occurred in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on New Orleans water resources, where several witnesses opined that at-risk communities should be encouraged to relocate.

On November 17, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee passed a bill that authorizes the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a $1 million assessment of infrastructure needs in southeast Louisiana and report back to the committee before January 15. The bill also directs to Corps to work with state authorities to design a Category 5 flood protection system within four months of that assessment. The bill seems to have stemmed from the frustration of several committee members, particularly Senator David Vitter (R- LA), that the Corps' planned forensic study of the levee failures would not be ready until June 1, 2006, which is the beginning of the next hurricane season. Several Corps officials have attempted to persuade Vitter and other Senators that findings from the study would be incorporated into levee reconstruction before the official results were released. Vitter has maintained, however, that lawmakers and the public need access to these results much sooner. The Corps is currently planning to restore the levee system to its designed pre-Katrina protection levels, but officials have said they will upgrade the system to Category 5 protection if authorized to do so.

For more information about Hurricane Katrina legislation please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/katrina.html

For detailed summaries of hearings go to http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/katrina_hearings.html

For details on the proposed hurricane recovery legislation, go to Thomas and enter the numbers of the bills or keywords from the bill titles listed at the beginning of this update: http://thomas.loc.gov

National Academies Report on Louisiana Coastal Restoration

The National Academies has released an interim report on their study entitled "Drawing Louisiana's New Map: Addressing Land Loss in Coastal Louisiana". The report reviews the scientific merit and long-term effectiveness of a restoration plan, the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA), proposed by the Army Corps of Engineers and the state of Louisiana. The LCA would cost about $1.9 billion over 10 years and is meant to slow and possibly reverse the loss rates of coastal lands. The interim report finds the projects within LCA scientifically sound, but not comprehensive enough for long-term effectiveness. The Committee on the Restoration and Protection of Coastal Louisiana recommends more and larger-scale projects to reduce land loss and to deal with hurricane protection and the rebuilding of communities devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For more information about the committee or the report please contact the National Academies' Ocean Studies Board at 202-334-2714 or visit http://dels.nas.edu/osb.

The full text of the interim report is available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/11476.html

Congress Increases Flood Insurance Agency's Borrowing Power

On November 18, 2005, before Congress closed for the Thanksgiving recess, they increased the amount the National Flood Insurance Program can borrow every year from the U.S. Treasury from $3.5 billion to $18.5 billion on a voice vote. The agency was broke because of hurricane claims and unable to provide needed funds to insurers. The agency estimates that claims from hurricanes Katrina and Rita will total about $23 billion.

Encourage Members to Join the Congressional Hazards Caucus

The Congressional Hazards Caucus, a bicameral caucus of congressional members concerned about natural and man-made hazards has sent letters to their colleagues in the House and Senate inviting more members to join the caucus. Currently the caucus membership includes 16 senators and 7 representatives, and is led by four co-chairs from each chamber. The Senate co-chairs are Ted Stevens (R-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) and the House co-chairs are Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Jo Bonner (R-AL) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).

Please write letters (sent by fax or email) or call members of your congressional delegation and encourage them to join the caucus if they are not already members. A list of the current members is available on the Hazards Caucus Alliance web site at www.hazardscaucus.org.

AGI's Government Affairs Program has also sent out an action alert with sample letters to send to members and more details about the caucus. For more information, please see: www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/hazardscaucus_alert.html.

 

State Mineral Revenues and Domestic Energy Battles in the Senate

In early November the Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced that a record $1.7 billion has been distributed to states this year through mineral revenue sharing agreements, marking a $450 million increase over FY 2004. States receive a share of royalties, usually 50%, from mining, oil and gas development on federal lands or waters within their boundaries, generally defined as within three miles of the shoreline. "These revenues are an extremely important source of funds to many states today," said Johnnie Burton, Director of the Minerals Management Service. In addition to distributing money to states, MMS contributed $5.4 billion to the federal treasury and $2.3 billion to special funds such as the reclamation fund that pays for water projects. Wyoming received the largest amount of revenues at $880 million, followed by New Mexico at $444 million and Colorado at $106 million. Most states receive 50% of the royalties from energy and mineral production within their boundaries, however, Alaska is entitled to 90%. Only 27% of royalties from energy development more than three miles offshore goes to adjacent states and this lower percentage for offshore revenue sharing has bothered some lawmakers. In particular, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has said she will oppose any efforts to expand offshore drilling until Louisiana and other coastal states receive a greater share of revenues. Meanwhile, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has introduced legislation that would limit Alaska's share of revenues from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to 50%. On the other side of the aisle, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) has introduced a bill that would allow more refining capacity in the Puget Sound. Cantwell, who is up for re-election in 2006 and Stevens have had previous differences of opinion, including a testy exchange in a Joint Committee hearing on energy prices when Cantwell asked that energy executives be sworn in and Stevens refused.

For a complete list of mineral revenues per state, please see the MMS press release at: http://www.mms.gov/ooc/press/2005/press1103b.htm

For a summary of the hearing on energy prices please see: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis109/energy_hearings.html


Secretary Bodman urges OPEC to Increase Oil Production

On November 14, during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said that members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) should vote to increase production at the organization's next meeting. OPEC members will meet on December 12 in Kuwait to discuss output policy. "We encourage producers - both members of OPEC and non-members - to make maximum product available to the market," Bodman said. The Energy Secretary also urged Gulf Arab nations to release joint statements detailing plans to increase oil output and refining capacity, saying this would decrease price volatility. OPEC President Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah said the following day that the cartel is waiting for colder winter weather before it sets its supply policies for 2006. "Until now, we don't have any plans to cut production," he said, although falling oil prices have concerned some OPEC members. Oil prices have dropped to $54 per barrel, the lowest levels since July. Bodman said the lower prices were due to somewhat dampened demand, but also pointed out that supply was still not keeping up with demand in world markets.

As Montreal Conference Begins the U.S. Rejects Future Emissions Standards

The Montreal meeting of parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCC) began on November 28 and will run through December 9. The meeting is the 11th held by the UNFCC parties and the first by nations that have signed the Kyoto Protocol, which came into force earlier this year. During the conference delegates will discuss how to meet Kyoto emissions standards, and possibly begin negotiations for new standards that would come into effect in 2012. The United States government, however, is maintaining its stance opposing mandatory emissions targets, which it says are costly and ineffective. "We would certainly not agree to the United States being part of legally binding targets and timetable agreement post-2012," said Harlan Watson, the senior climate negotiator for the U.S. State Department. Earlier British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Canadian Environment Minister Stéphan Dion had expressed hopes that the United States would consider future emissions targets. The U.S.'s refusal to engage in negotiations on a post-2012 agreement also makes it less likely that developing nations with increasing emissions, particularly China and India, will be willing to do so. During the conference delegates will also discuss adaptation to climate change, which has become an increasingly important issue as the effects of a warming climate are beginning to be felt in many places across the globe.

For more information on the conference please visit: http://unfccc.int/meetings/cop_11/items/3394.php

Democrats Propose National Innovation Agenda

On November 15, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) gave a speech at the National Press Club announcing the Democratic Party's National Innovation Agenda. The speech outlined several specific policy proposals, including educating 100,000 new scientists and engineers in the next four years; doubling funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF); providing broadband access to all Americans within five years; and achieving energy independence in the next ten years by developing biofuels and other alternative energy sources. "Only innovation and technology can lead America to energy independence," Pelosi said. "We should be spending energy dollars in the Midwest, not the Middle East." Several of the Democrats agenda items, including the creation of a high risk research agency (similar to DARPA) within the Department of Energy, are similar to proposals from a National Academies report on Competitiveness released in October. The Democrat's proposal's are estimated to cost $128 billion over five years, but in the speech Pelosi said "we intend to submit them to the rigors of pay-as-you-go budgeting, so they will not add to the deficit but instead will grow our economy." House Speaker Dennis Hastert quickly attacked the agenda, saying it would lead to "more taxation, litigation and regulation." Hastert also accused Democrats of voting against legislation important to technology innovation and energy independence, including a ban on internet taxes and the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Trade associations representing technology companies praised the agenda however. "We support any effort in Congress--by either political party--to ensure continued investment in innovation for the future," said Robert Holleyman, the CEO of the Business Software Alliance.

To see a detailed summary of the Democrats National Innovation Agenda go to http://www.housedemocrats.gov/news/librarydetail.cfm?library_content_id=557

National Summit on Competitiveness Scheduled for December 6

The National Summit on Competitiveness, a meeting between key leaders in government and industry to discuss the decline of U.S. pre-eminence in science and technology, will be held on December 6, 2005 in Washington, DC. The summit, which was proposed by Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA), was originally scheduled for September but was postponed due to Hurricane Katrina. The goal of the summit is to reach a consensus on specific actions that can be taken to strengthen the United States' ability to lead the world in research, education, and new technology deployment. This summit is the latest in a series of events drawing attention to the issue of competitiveness, including the publication of reports by the National Academies and by the Business Roundtable.

For more information on the summit visit: http://www.usinnovation.org/.
For links to other reports on competitiveness go to: http://www.aau.edu/research/CompetitivenessDOCS110705.pdf

British Report Warns of Declining Numbers of Physics Teachers and Students

A study by two professors at Buckingham University's Center for Education and Employment Research links a rapid decline in the number of British students taking Physics A-levels with a lack of qualified teachers. The number of students taking physics A-levels has fallen by 38% since 1990, even as the total number of A-level entries has increased by 15%. Over the same time period, the number of new physics teachers has dropped from 33% of the total science teachers to only 13%, and 50% of all physics teachers have not studied the subject in university-level course. An increasing number of physics teachers hold degrees in biology. "Physics in schools and colleges is at risk through redefinition and lack of teachers with expertise in the subject. As a nation, we seem to be sleepwalking into losing one of the great branches of knowledge from compulsory education," the report concluded. These findings follow announcements by several British universities that they will eliminate programs in physics, chemistry, and mathematics due to decreasing student interest and cuts in government funding. The President of the Royal Society, Lord May of Oxford, says that the problems highlighted by the study extend beyond physics to other scientific disciplines, and that the government needs to do more to address the problem. "If we fail to address this then we risk losing the ability to train the next generation of scientists, technologists and engineers," he said. A Department of Education spokeswoman said that the government was working hard to reverse this "long-term trend".

To view the study visit http://www.buckingham.ac.uk/news/newsarchive2005/physics.html

No Child Left Behind Still Standing

On November 18, 2005, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings offered 10 states the ability to track student progress over a longer time period as long as the students meet the standards for reading and math in 2014 as required by the No Child Left Behind act. The act requires students to meet annual standards, however, at least 10 states do not think they can meet these requirements in the near future. This change would give states more flexibility and more time to reach certain standards. In a related story, Judge Bernard Friedman threw out a lawsuit initiated by the National Education Association to block the No Child Left Behind act. The lawsuit suggested that the act does not provide sufficient federal funding for the schools to meet the requirements, however, the judge disagreed.

Evolution Round-up

Dover Case Closes and School Board Members Ousted

The Kitzmiller et al. vs. Dover trial in Dover, Pennsylvania concluded on November 2. The case pitted 11 parents against the Dover school board. The parents objected to a statement read by school administrators before the beginning of biology classes, which stated that evolution is controversial and intelligent design is an acceptable alternative theory. The judge will announce his decision in January 2006 and although both sides have threatened to appeal, recent elections may negate further litigation.

On Tuesday, November 8, 8 of 9 Dover school board members, who supported teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution were ousted in local elections. The new members all support the teaching of evolution without controversy and are less likely to appeal the judge's decision, should he agree with the 11 parents who brought the suit against the school district. This may mean the end of the controversy in Dover at least until the next elections. One of the new school board members, Bernadette Reinking, told the New York Times: "I think voters were tired of the trial, they were tired of intelligent design, they were tired of everything that this school board brought about."

Kansas Alters Definition of Science

The Kansas Board of Education voted 6 to 4 on November 8 to accept changes to the science standards that alter the definition of science and emphasizes controversies about the theory of evolution. The modified definition allows supernatural explanations to be included in science teaching. Following the decision board members spoke out about the new standards. "This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughing stock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat. Supporters, however, claim the new standards will promote academic freedom. "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today," said Republican board member John Bacon.

In response to the Board's decision, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius issued a statement indicating her disapproval of the changed standards. "This is just the latest in a series of troubling decisions by the Board of Education. If we're going to continue to bring high-tech jobs to Kansas and move our state forward, we need to strengthen science standards, not weaken them," she said.

The decision marks the third time in six years that Kansas has changed its science standards because of the issue of evolution. Intelligent design advocates continue to find support for their cause in Kansas. A recent statewide poll by the media suggested a slight majority of Kansans favored teaching intelligent design. In addition, opponents of evolution sit on many local school boards, including Kent Swartz, a banker and creationist who serves on the South Barber County school board southwest of Wichita who asks for respect in a statement to CNN, "I want you to respect my side, and I will respect your side".

Teaching Evolution and Creationism in College

A paper published in the November issue of Bioscience suggests that teaching evolution and intelligent design in college-level biology classes may be effective in helping students differentiate science from non-science. In 2003, 103 freshman biology majors at Central Washington University were divided into four sections. Two sections were taught about the arguments for evolution and intelligent design (ID) while two other sections were only taught about the arguments for evolution. At the end of the semester, 66 students completed a questionnaire about their beliefs before and after the course. Six belief choices were given on the questionnaire, ranging from biblical literalism to atheistic evolutionism. The results indicated that 61% of students exposed to evolution and ID changed their beliefs compared to only 21% of students exposed only to evolution. The majority of the 61% shifted toward evolution and away from ID.

According to biologist Steven Verhey, the study's author and teacher of 2 of the sections, the key is recognizing that nearly all American adults have been exposed to information about creationism and evolution. About 70% of Verhey's students said they had learned about creationism and evolution before entering the class. "Basic educational theory says you can't expect people to change their attitudes without acknowledging their prior learning," Verhey stated in a university press release. "Most of these students were initially sympathetic to creationist explanations and moved toward greater acceptance of evolution" he added.

An editorial, accompanying the study by Indiana University biologist Craig Nelson, did not endorse trying to teach evolution and ID at the high school level because teachers are not trained to teach the differences. In fact, one potential flaw in this study is that Steven Verhey taught the two sections that included evolution and ID while another biology professor taught the other two sections. Differences in teaching style may have contributed to the different results among the groups, although the biologists tried to control for this factor. Nelson concludes that effective teaching is the key to eliminating confusion about science and evolution.

The full text of the editorial is available at : http://www.aibs.org/bioscience-editorials/editorial_2005_11.html

California Parks Request Community Support for Stream Gage

California State Parks and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have been co-funding a stream gage in Bull Creek at Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The gage has a 45 year continuous record and is unique for its duration and location within a partially "pristine"/recovering watershed in the midst of heavily logged private timberlands. Data from the gage has been used to describe flow conditions during storms that include sediment emanating from nearby private timberlands onto public lands. The gage is also crucial for planning and monitoring of recovery in the Bull Creek watershed.

The California State Parks is having trouble maintaining enough funding to support the stream gage and is asking the geoscience community for help. Written support from the geoscience community and any ideas for gaining additional funding would be helpful. Please contact Patrick Vaughan, Engineering geologist, California State Parks, North Coast Redwoods District, 707 445-6547, ext. 24 or pvaug@parks.ca.gov.

Two Economists Offer Plan to Eliminate Expensive Journals

Two economists, Ted Bergstrom of University of California Santa Barbara, and Preston McAfee of Caltech, have written "An Open Letter to All University Presidents and Provosts Concerning Increasingly Expensive Journals". The letter suggests that universities should charge an editorial overhead of about $12,000 for the most expensive journals and university libraries should refrain from purchasing bundled packages that are more expensive. The letter also refers readers to a price comparison web site, www.journalprices.com which lists the cost per page and cost per citation of for-profit and non-profit journals, so that universities can easily compare the values of their subscriptions. For example, for atmospheric science journals, the average cost per page among for-profit journals is 95 cents compared to 15 cents for non-profit journals. The average cost per citation of for-profit journals is 88 cents compared to 7 cents for non-profit journals. If you go to the price comparison web site and search all of the "Geology" journals, you will find all of AGI's Member Society journals at the bottom of the list as the most cost effective journals published in the field. Clearly, Member Society journals offer the greatest value for many reasons, including cost.

The full text of the letter is available as a pdf file at: http://www.hss.caltech.edu/~mcafee/Journal/OpenLetter.pdf

Google Digitizing the Library of Congress

On November 22, 2005, the Library of Congress announced a new initiative to create a World Digital Library (WDL). The WDL would consist of a freely accessible online collection of rare books, manuscripts, maps, posters, stamps and other materials held by the Library of Congress and other national libraries from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The Library of Congress has accepted $3 million from Google Inc., as the first contribution of a public-private partnership to support WDL. Google has already digitized 5,000 books from the Library of Congress in a pilot project to refine their abilities to handle fragile materials. Google will only digitize materials that are in the public domain. According to the Allan Adler, vice president for legal and government affairs at the Association of American Publishers, there is unlikely to be any controversy over copyright because the U.S. Copyright Office is housed in the Library of Congress and should serve as a consultant about any copyright issues.

Congressional Visits Day Scheduled for March

The 11th annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) is scheduled for March 28 and 29, 2006. Depending on congressional schedules the CVD may be moved to March 21 and 22. 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 congress. More information about CVD is available at http://www.aas.org/policy/cvd/. The site contains a downloadable packet of briefing materials updated to demonstrate the need for sustained federal investment in scientific research. If you are interested in attending the CVD please contact the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org so we can help coordinate your visit.

AGI Accepting Congressional Science Fellow Applications

The American Geological Institute is accepting applications for the 2006-2007 William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship. The successful candidate will spend 12 months (starting in September 2006) in Washington working as a staff member in the office of a member of Congress or a congressional committee. The postmark deadline for 2006-2007 fellowship applications is February 1, 2006. Prospective applicants should have a broad geoscience background and excellent written and oral communications skills. The fellowship carries an annual stipend of up to $49,000 plus allowances for health insurance, relocation, and travel. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and a curriculum vitae with three letters of reference to:

William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship
American Geological Institute
4220 King Street
Alexandria VA 22302-1502

Several of AGI's Member Societies also sponsor Congressional Science Fellowships. For further information, contact the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America or Soil Science Society of America. AAAS also offers a number of fellowships for Congress and the executive branch. It is acceptable to apply to more than one society. Stipends, application procedures, eligibility, timetables, and deadlines vary.

For more information on the AGI fellowship and links to other fellowships visit: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/csf/index.html

NCSE Conference on Energy for a Sustainable and Secure Futureg

The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) will be holding its 6th annual conference on January 26-27 in Washington, DC. The theme for the meeting is Energy for a Sustainable and Secure Future, and it is expected to draw over 800 attendees, including federal officials, corporate and non-profit leaders, university faculty, and the media. Plenary speakers at the conference include former U.S. Geological Survey Director Chip Groat and BP America President Ross Pillari. NCSE is looking for participants who can sponsor the event, host an exhibition booth, or present at the poster session. For more information on the conference visit: http://www.ncseonline.org/ncseconference/2006conference/

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. The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont05.html. Information on submitting comments and reading announcements are also available online at http://www.regulation.gov.

NSF: The National Science Foundation has posted notice that it has found no significant environmental impact for a low energy marine seismic survey on the Louisville Ridge in the Southwest Pacific Ocean that will be carried out by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. [Federal Register: November 18, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 222)]

DOE: The Department of Energy has reopened the scoping period for an environmental impact statement regarding site selection and expansion of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the Gulf Coast Region. This extension is due to a request by the Governor of Mississippi that DOE include a new site at Bruinsburg Salt Dome in its analysis. The scoping period will now extend until December 19, 2005, and DOE invites all interested parties to submit comments or suggestions. A scoping meeting will be held on December 7, 2005 in Port Gibson, Mississippi. For more information on the scoping process visit http://fossil.energy.gov/news/techlines/2005/tl_spr_noi.html [Federal Register: November 22, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 224)]

New Updates to the Website

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 Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern and Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs.

Sources: Reuters, CNN, Washington Post, BBC, Buckingham University, Congressional Hearing Testimony, Government Technology, United Press International, The Register, Central Washington University, National Academies, American Institute of Biological Sciences web site, E&E Daily, The Associated Press, Grist, and Congress Daily.

TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS PROGRAM MONTHLY REVIEW, SEND AN EMAIL WITH YOUR REQUEST AND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO GOVT@AGIWEB.ORG

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted November 30, 2005.

 

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