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Monthly Review: November 2008

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

1. William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship: Apply Now
2. Presidential Transition Continues
3. Obama Promises “New Chapter" in U.S. Leadership on Climate Change
4. Appropriations Update
5. Election Results Mark Changes for the 111th Congress
6. Possible Priority Legislation for the New Congress
7. Geologic Mapping and Fossil Preservation Put on Hold Until 2009
8. Senator Bingaman Outlines Energy Priorities for 111th Congress
9. Federal Rule Making: Last Minute Environmental Actions
10. USGS Assessment of Gas Hydrate Resources in Alaska
11. Minerals Management Service Begins New Offshore Drilling Process
12. Interior Announces Climate Change Evaluation
13. Forest Service Announces Climate Change Plans
14. Presidential Climate Action Project: Plan for the First 100 Days
15. NRC Committee Meets to Discuss Domestic Energy Options
16. The Planetary Society’s Roadmap to Space
17. Great ShakeOut Shakes Up Southern California
18. Public Universities Call for Science and Math Teachers
19. Cost of Higher Education Analyzed in Two New Reports
20. Scientists Discuss Complex Systems and Seed Grants for New Research
21. Research You Can Use: Mineral Kingdom Co-evolved with Life
22. Research You Can Use: Peridotite Sequesters Carbon
23. Earth Science Week a Success, Just Ask Your Governor
24. Key Federal Register Notices

1. William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship: Apply Now

The American Geological Institute (AGI) is pleased to announce the William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship. The successful candidate will spend 12 months (starting September 2009) in Washington, DC, working as a staffer for a Member of Congress or congressional committee. The fellowship is a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the legislative process and contribute to the effective use of geoscience in crafting public policy. Minimum requirements are a master's degree with at least three years of post-degree professional work experience or a Ph.D. at the time of appointment. The fellowship carries an annual stipend of up to $56,000. Support for the fellowship is provided by an endowment, established through the AGI Foundation, in honor of William L. Fisher. All application materials must be transmitted by February 1, 2009.

Similar fellowships are offered by AGI Member Societies (AGU, GSA and SSSA) and related societies such as AAAS, AIP, AMS and ASCE. You may wish to apply for multiple fellowships and should visit society web sites for deadlines and application details.

2. Presidential Transition Continues

After the November 4th elections, President-elect Barack Obama set-up a transition team and began the selection of his cabinet and other key posts. As of December 4th, some key nominations include Timothy Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury, Governor Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for Secretary of State, Governor Bill Richardson for Secretary of Commerce and Peter Orszag for Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Still to come are nominations for Secretaries of Energy, Education and the Interior plus the top science advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Office of the President-elect has also set-up an extensive website with more information about the transition team, the nominations, the President-elect’s agenda, job opportunities in the new administration, blogs, press releases and upcoming events.

The geoscience community is encouraged to visit the website ( to learn more about the team, the agenda and events. The transition team is reaching out to all Americans and is seeking advice for the new administration. Many scientific, engineering and education societies, including the American Geological Institute, have offered comments and are having meetings with transition team members. Now is the time to contact the appropriate transition team members and succinctly offer constructive advice about the role of the geosciences in meeting critical needs of the twenty first century, such as energy resources and climate change. AGI is using the geosciences transition document, “Critical Needs for the Twenty First Century: The Role of the Geosciences” as a starting point for our discussions with the transition team.

3. Obama Promises “New Chapter" in U.S. Leadership on Climate Change

President-elect Obama made a surprise videotaped appearance on November 18, 2008, at the Governors' Global Climate Summit. He commended the governors on their commitment to fight global warming even though “Washington has failed to show the same kind of leadership.” Obama promised that his presidency “will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

Specifically, Obama pledged to institute a federal cap-and-trade system and to set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emission to 1990 levels by 2020, with an additional 80% reduction by 2050. Obama promised to invest $15 billion per year to develop clean energy in the private sector including solar, wind, biofuels, nuclear, and clean coal. In this way, Obama aims to produce 5 million new green jobs.

Part of Obama’s message was directed towards the delegates who will attend the next phase of United Nation negotiations on a new climate treaty in Poznan, Poland, in early December. “Your work is vital to the planet,” he said, promising that once he takes office “the United States will once again engage vigorously in these negotiations and help lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change.”

Several days after Obama’s speech, Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced that she plans to introduce a cap-and-trade bill and legislation providing up to $15 billion per year in grants for alternative energy technology in January. The  EPW Committee will hold a hearing “as soon as possible” at the start of the 111th Congress according to E&E Daily.

To view the video clip of Obama’s speech, visit:

4. Appropriations Update

The 110th Congress is working on fiscal year 2009 appropriation bills in December. The appropriation subcommittees are trying to complete the bills, so they can present them to the 111th Congress on January 6, 2009. The hope is to complete the fiscal year 2009 budget for all the departments, agencies and programs stalled by the continuing resolution as early as possible in the next Congress. The geoscience community as coalitions, societies, institutions, stakeholders or individually are encouraged to send letters to the leaders and staff of the appropriate subcommittees asking for support of vital geoscience-related programs. Given the short time frame, letters should be sent by email.

More information about the proposed funding levels of agencies that support geosciences are available from the AGI Overview of Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations. The various funding levels described for different agencies in the overview are based on House and Senate committee work before the budget process was halted. The committees are likely to start at these levels and make adjustments as needed. No details beyond the President’s request for the U.S. Geological Survey are provided in the overview because the committees did not complete any reports for the Department of the Interior.

5. Election Results Mark Changes for the 111th Congress

The Democrats gained 21 seats in the House of Representatives, with 4 seats still undecided, for a distribution of 255 Democrats and 176 Republicans, while the Senate distribution sits at 56 Democrats, 41 Republicans, 2 Independents and 1 undecided seat. This leaves the Senate Democrats short of a “super majority” of 60 senators needed to overcome filibusters. Democrats will be counting on the two independents, Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Bernard Sanders (I-VT) along with some moderate Republican senators, such as Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, to help get enough votes to pass legislation without prolonged delays.

One senate seat remains undecided as Minnesota continues the laborious process of hand counting the votes in the very closely contested race between the Republican incumbent Senator Norm Coleman and the Democratic challenger Al Franken. Louisiana will elect two representatives in run-off elections on December 6 (delayed because of Hurricane Gustav), while the results of one race each in Ohio and Virginia are being challenged.

Vice President-elect Joseph Biden resigned his Senate seat and will be replaced by his former aide, Edward “Ted” Kaufman. Kaufman indicates he will only serve out the last two years of the term and not seek re-election in 2010, providing a potential opportunity for Biden’s son to seek the Senate seat.

President-elect Barack Obama resigned his Senate seat, however, the Governor of Illinois has been slow to appoint a Democratic replacement and several candidates remain in the running. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) has been nominated for Secretary of State and if confirmed, she will relinquish her Senate seat, leaving the Governor of New York to appoint a Democratic replacement. Other members of Congress have been rumored to be on short lists for Administration positions, so there may be additional changes in Congress. None of these potential changes are likely to affect the distribution of parties in either chamber, however, additional changes may affect the structure of committees and leadership within the committees/subcommittees.

In the House, top leadership among the Democrats remains intact, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) lead the way, while the Democrats will have a new pair to chair their caucus as Congressman John Larson (D-CT) will replace Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL) [tapped to be the new White House Chief of Staff] and Congressman Xavier Becerra (D-CA) won the caucus vote for vice-chair. Republican leadership has changed as only Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) retained his position and will lead a new team including Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA), who will be second in command.

In the Senate, there were no changes in top leadership as Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) will be President Pro Tempore, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will be the Majority Leader, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) will be Majority Whip, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will be the Minority Leader and Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will be the Minority Whip.

Leadership of some committees of most interest to the geosciences will change in the 111th Congress. Below is a summary of some of the likely changes.

*Senate Appropriations
Senator Robert Byrd will step aside as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee so Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) can lead. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) returns as the Ranking Member and Arlen Specter (R-PA) moves up to the second spot of seniority on the Republican side. All of the Democrats on the committee now will return to the committee for the 111th, while Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Larry Craig (R-ID) and Wayne Allard (R-CO) will not return for the Republicans. Committee assignments have not been determined yet, but there are likely to be one or two new Democrats and several new Republicans added to the committee.

*Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation
Inouye is the chair of the Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) Committee in the 110th Congress, a post he may relinquish in the 111th to Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) as Inouye assumes a leading role on the Appropriations Committee. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) is the Ranking Member of CST, but because he did not win re-election, it is possible that Senator John McCain (R-AZ) may become the Ranking Member in the 111th. If McCain chooses not to claim this post, then Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) are the next two in line. All of the Democrats currently on the committee are returning for the 111th, while Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and John Sununu (R-NH) will not return on the Republican side. Committee assignments have not been determined yet, but there are likely to be one or two new Democrats and several new Republicans added to the committee.

*Senate Energy and Natural Resources
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) will continue to chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the 111th and all of the other Democrats currently on the committee will be returning to Congress next year. With the retirement of Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will need a new Ranking Member and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has been announced as the new Ranking Member. Senators Craig and Smith are not returning on the Republican side. Committee assignments have not been determined yet, but there are likely to be one or two new Democrats and several new Republicans added to the committee.

*Senate Environment and Public Works
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will continue to chair the Environment and Public Works Committee and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) will continue to serve as the Ranking Member. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), John Warner (R-VA) and Larry Craig (R-ID) will not be returning to the committee, so there are expectations of the addition of several Democrats and perhaps two Republicans to this key committee for climate change legislation.

*House Committees
Over in the House, there is only one change in committee leadership of particular interest to the geoscience community. After a closely contested vote in the Democratic Caucus, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) beat Congressman John Dingell (D-MI) and Waxman will be the new chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the 111th. See the legislative summary below for more details on how this change in leadership may affect committee work.

Committee assignments have not been decided, however, many of the senior members from both parties on the Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and Science and Technology committees will be returning for the 111th. Notable exceptions of relatively senior members who will not be returning to these key House committees include the following:
**Congressman Tom Udall (D-NM) (Appropriations) won election as a Senator from New Mexico.
**Congressman Mark Udall (D-CO) (Natural Resources and Science and Technology) won election as a Senator for Colorado.
**Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) (Energy and Commerce) lost her senatorial bid.
**Congressmen Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), Steve Pearce (R-NM) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO) will not be returning to Congress and all served on the Natural Resources Committee.

Please note that is just a preview of possible committee changes in the 111th Congress as few details are official and more changes may be on the horizon.

6. Possible Priority Legislation for the New Congress

The 111th Congress will begin its first session on January 6, 2009. Top legislative priorities that may see quick action and are likely to be completed in draft form in December, include bills related to infrastructure, energy resources, water projects, and other economic stimuli. Legislators are looking for planned projects that have been deferred but could quickly be implemented and provide a stimulus to the flagging economy by creating jobs and economic growth. They also want to modify some bills or parts of measures that languished in the past two years, but have generally broad support and could be approved without much difficulty.

A rapid push to fund water resources projects and comprehensive energy research and technology may gain approval as part of any economic stimulus package. Climate change legislation, especially related to cap and trade systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will be introduced early in the first session, but will probably take more time and will likely involve further modification and compromise to draft proposals in discussion right now.

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, led by chairwoman, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Ranking Member, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) will try to agree on climate change legislation. The two have very different perspectives and have clashed in the past, yet there is optimism that they will be able to compromise enough to move legislation on climate change and “green” energy. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) is working closely with Boxer on cap and trade legislation and thus plays a leading role on that measure. Committee member, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), will attend the United Nations conference on climate change in Poznan, Poland in December and has emerged as a key advisor on the issue for the committee and the Senate.

The EPW committee plans to introduce a streamlined cap and trade bill plus a second bill that would establish a grant program to provide as much as $15 billion per year for advanced biofuels and other technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The second bill follows a proposal from President-elect Barack Obama, calling for $150 billion over a decade for alternative energy resources research and development. The committee will also consider legislation for transportation infrastructure, green jobs and to address air pollutants other than greenhouse gases.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is also interested in a streamlined cap and trade measure, funding for energy R&D and support for energy-related workforce and education issues. Senator Bingaman outlined some goals for the new Congress related to energy and climate change in a public speech in November, which is described in a separate summary below. Bingaman, in comments to E&E Daily, also suggested interest in working with Senator Boxer on climate change legislation, expressing hope that multiple committees would be involved in crafting the bill.

Other measures the chairman has called priorities for early consideration include the public lands omnibus (see summary below for more details), funding for the National Park Service’s Centennial Challenge, modifying the Forest Service budget to fund firefighting from a separate budget and hard rock mining reform. Bingaman, again in comments to questions from E&E Daily, deferred decisions related to onshore and offshore drilling issues to the new administration, the new Interior Secretary and to the states, such as Colorado, that are considering the impact of further oil and gas development in their jurisdiction. The committee appears likely to wait for guidance from others on drilling issues rather than lead with any specific proposals.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, to be led by new chair Henry Waxman, will also begin work on climate change and energy resources legislation. Waxman is considered a liberal Democrat and while there are many like-minded Democrats on the committee, there is also a fair share of so called moderate to conservative Democrats and a large number of conservative Republicans. The make-up of the committee means that Waxman will need to make strong efforts to build a bipartisan bill and reach compromises with more conservative members. Before Waxman became the chair of the Oversight Committee years ago, he was known for his ability to craft bipartisan legislation on environmental issues, so there is optimism about bipartisan climate change legislation gaining approval in this committee without too much delay.

Congressman Nick Rahall (D-WV), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, has stated his intention to introduce hard rock mining reform legislation early in the session. This is consistent with suggested actions by Chairman Bingaman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Look for work on mining reform in both chambers of Congress.

Congressman Bart Gordon (D-TN) will continue as chair of the House Science and Technology Committee. He issued a press release after being re-elected as chair and noted that he was most proud of the committee’s work on the America COMPETES Act (doubles funding for physical science research), the NASA reauthorization (authorizes a significant budget increase for NASA for fiscal year 2009) and parts of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (supports investments in alternative energy research) in the 110th Congress.

For the 111th Congress Gordon said "I want this to be the committee of good ideas.  I recognize that neither party has a monopoly on that.  I appreciate the cooperation we had in the last Congress-everyone was willing to roll up their sleeves and work shoulder-to-shoulder towards consensus.  We were able to pass most bills unanimously, because we worked through our differences ahead of time. I hope we can continue that record of collaboration."

Certainly legislators will be looking for the collaboration and accomplishment Gordon is hoping to maintain throughout all of the committees in the new Congress.

7. Geologic Mapping and Fossil Preservation Put on Hold Until 2009

An omnibus package with more than 150 bills related to public lands, water and resources was not considered during the lame duck session in November. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) vowed to bring the measure up as the first or second action of the new 111th Congress. The omnibus could be placed on the Senate calendar for a vote immediately and does not need to go through the committee process again.

The omnibus includes the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Reauthorization, which would fund geologic mapping at the U.S. Geological Survey and the state geological surveys and the Fossil Preservation Act, which would protect fossils on public lands from poachers.

If the Senate is able to pass the omnibus, by collecting at least 60 votes to overcome a potential hold by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) than the House is expected to be able to pass the measure quickly.

8. Senator Bingaman Outlines Energy Priorities for 111th Congress

In a speech given at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on November 17, 2008, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) outlined his priorities for the 111th Congress as Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Bingaman hopes that a combination of President-elect Obama’s leadership and bipartisan congressional engagement will make possible “real progress” on comprehensive energy policy.

Bingaman believes climate change legislation needs to be “more streamlined than what we have been considering to date” and referred to 10 general principles he has developed. He emphasized the need to focus on preliminary legislation that will “reduce both the complexity and the cost of any eventual cap-and-trade bill.” For example, Bingaman advocated for Congress to move immediately to fund energy technology advances, not to wait for revenues from possible cap-and-trade legislation. Other next steps include creating a national renewable electricity standard, investing in the creation of a “smart and robust national transmission grid,” and pursuing carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

Additional priorities mentioned in the speech include promoting increased efficiency standards in buildings and possibly appliances as well. Bingaman called federal investment in innovation and STEM education “totally inadequate.” He referred to the American COMPETES Act as evidence of bipartisan support in this area and requested a renewed effort by the new Congress. In regards to drilling on the continental outer shelf, Bingaman suggested that the best next step is a comprehensive inventory of offshore resources. The call for such an inventory was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 but was not sufficiently funded.

A copy of Bingaman’s speech, including the 10 principles, is available at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Website.

9. Federal Rule Making: Last Minute Environmental Actions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved a rule on December 2, 2008, that affects mountaintop coal mining activity near bodies of water. Streams are currently protected by a 100-foot buffer zone and the rule change will extend that protection to lakes, ponds, wetlands, and all other waters. However, it will also permit other activities that are potentially damaging to the environment. For example, companies will be allowed to receive permits to dump waste within the 100-foot buffer if they show why an alternative is not reasonably possible.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published a final rule regarding emergency withdrawals of public land from energy production and mineral extraction to protect natural resources in the December 5, 2008, Federal Register. The rule retains the power of the Department of the Interior Secretary to make emergency withdrawals but limits congressional authority. This rule is related to Secretary Dirk Kempthorne’s withdrawal of public lands for uranium mining near the Grand Canyon.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a revised guidance clarifying the scope of “navigable waters” that are protected under the Clean Water Act on December 2, 2008. The guidance is for EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and comes in response to the Supreme Court decisions in Rapanos v. United States and Carabell v. United States.

The agencies will assert jurisdiction over “traditional navigable waters”, adjacent wetlands, “relatively permanent” tributaries and wetlands adjacent to these tributaries. The agencies will decide on jurisdiction for non-permanent tributaries, adjacent wetlands and adjacent wetlands that do not abut a relatively permanent tributary. Agencies will not assert jurisdiction over swales, other erosional features or certain types of ditches. Furthermore the agencies will apply a “significant nexus standard” whereby an analysis will assess whether tributaries or wetlands significantly affect the environmental integrity of downstream navigable waters. Significant nexus includes hydrologic and ecologic factors.

10. USGS Assessment of Gas Hydrate Resources in Alaska

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that there are 85 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable gas resources within methane hydrates on the North Slope of Alaska. Methane hydrates are ice-like solids that occur naturally under low-temperature, high pressure conditions. The assessment, released on November 12, 2008, was based on existing assessment methodologies for conventional oil and gas resources and the assumption that gas hydrates can be produced using existing technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is currently working in collaboration with industry to field test production potential of gas hydrates using in the North Slope region. Research so far indicates that conventional oil and gas technologies can be used to extract gas hydrates.

A USGS fact sheet about the assessment is available. A more detailed report describing the assessment will be published by the USGS in the next six months.

11. Minerals Management Service Begins New Offshore Drilling Process

The Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced the beginning of the process to start potentially new offshore drilling at sites at least 50 miles off the coast of Virginia on November 13, 2008. A 45-day public comment period about leasing off of Virginia’s coast will extend until December 29 and that process will be followed by an environmental impact analysis. If the process is allowed to proceed and no potential problems are discovered in the analysis then MMS could start leasing in the area in 2011. MMS estimates that there could be as much as 130 million barrels of oil and 1.14 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the area. Actual drilling and tapping into these resources could take as long as another decade or two, which shows that new offshore drilling, like many other “new” energy resources will take time to develop. Thus policymakers need to consider energy supply and demand in short term and long term strategic planning for the nation and the world.

In addition to the time needed to tap into new offshore resources, the next Congress may choose to re-instate the moratorium on new offshore drilling that lapsed at the end of fiscal year 2008. Some members have called for a new moratorium, however, congressional leadership seems to be open to further consideration of the matter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has expressed interest in letting states decide whether to permit offshore drilling from 50 to 100 miles off of their coasts. Senate Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) declined to suggest any specific action regarding drilling by his committee. Virginia’s governor and state legislature favor offshore drilling off of Virginia and if the next Congress decides to adjust federal policy regarding offshore drilling, the MMS process in Virginia may move forward.

The MMS also announced a five-year plan to allow offshore drilling elsewhere, including off the coasts of California and Florida. Both states have expressed opposition to such drilling and it is unclear how far this plan may go.

12. Interior Announces Climate Change Evaluation

The Department of the Interior (DOI) released a set of three reports on December 3, 2008, which assess the challenges DOI faces as a result of climate change. The reports address separately land and water management issues, legal and policy issues, and the science and information needed to address the consequences of climate change. Each report includes a list of specific and agency-wide options for review by the new Administration.

A consistent theme in all three reports is that there is a need for comprehensive high level policies. Policy regarding greenhouse gas emissions should come from Congress or the Executive Branch, and should not be left to regulation by the DOI under the Endangered Species Act. Other options mentioned include biologic and geologic carbon sequestration projects, renewable energy development, and management changes to the agency's vehicle fleet and facilities. Mining and land claims regulations may need to be reevaluated.

The reports were created by the DOI Climate Change Task Force, which was formed in May 2007 and is chaired by DOI Deputy Secretary Lynn Scarlett. Although the DOI claims that the reports were written primarily by career staff with no editing by senior agency or Executive Branch officials, a nearly year-long delay in release suggests that extensive review was a part of the process. Whereas the reports are not part of any formal rulemaking process, the DOI invites public comment through January 18, 2009

To view the reports and to submit comments, visit

13. Forest Service Announces Climate Change Plans

The U.S. Forest Service, on November 11, 2008, announced a new plan to help forests adapt to warmer and drier conditions due to climate change. The plan also includes purchasing alternative fuel vehicles to reduce the agency’s carbon footprint. Although Forest Service chief Gail Kimbell provided few details about how the agency would carry out its woodland adaptations to changing climate, she did note the need to deal with potentially more intense wildfires and potentially more potent insect attacks that could threaten forest health, wildlife habitat and human development at the woodland-urban interface.

14. Presidential Climate Action Project: Plan for the First 100 Days

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) and the Presidential Climate Action Project (PCAP) hosted a congressional briefing on November 13, 2008, to discuss PCAP’s recommended Action Plan for President-elect Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. The Action Plan contains more than 180 specific actions related to climate change and energy issues with accompanying background information.

Of particular relevance for the geoscience community is the PCAP’s recommendation that the new president “create special institutions to focus on key stewardship issues, including an Earth Systems Sciences Agency and a Department of Oceans.” There is no mention of the roles the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) currently play in filling national stewardship needs. PCAP also recommends the creation of a National Energy and Climate Council that would have the same standing as the National Security Council. The purpose of the new Council would be to coordinate implementation of PCAP’s Action Plan.

Also of interest is PCAP’s recommendation that all agencies be directed to identify all executive actions and legislation that undermine environmental safeguards, greenhouse gas reductions, or energy security. These actions should be rescinded by the President or such legislation should be modified by Congress. PCAP also urges the new president to “oppose licensing of additional nuclear power plants in the United States until the problems of permanent waste storage, proliferation, and safety are resolved.”

Among the panelists at the briefing was former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), now a Scholar in Residence and Wirth Chair Professor at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs. Hart talked about how policy issues are becoming more and more interdisciplinary, especially the tie between energy and climate change. He reported that the PCAP met with Obama over a year ago and that he was the most receptive of all the presidential candidates to the PCAP suggestions. Panelist Bill Parsons, Legislative Director for the office of Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), described the work that has been done on climate change in the 110th Congress as “table setting” for what will be done with Obama’s leadership in the 111th Congress.

A more detailed description of the briefing is available at
For more information about the PCAP, visit

For more information about the EESI, visit

15. NRC Committee Meets to Discuss Domestic Energy Options

The National Research Council’s (NRC) Committee on Earth Resources (CER) held a session open to the public entitled “Extractable Energy Resources: Domestic Options for the Next Two Decades” on November 18, 2008. Guest speakers presented on topics including uranium supply and nuclear power, the regulatory status for carbon sequestration at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the offshore leasing process at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), energy resource-related land use of Bureau of Land Management  (BLM) lands, and an economic assessment of the state of petroleum.

In addition, CER members led a discussion with invited guests and other audience members about what the focus of the CER’s future work should be. Suggestions included doing a life cycle analysis of renewable technologies and carbon capture and sequestration to determine how green they truly are, creating a report on workforce issues, and evaluating regulatory structures to determine how they could be streamlined. Another key recommendation was that the CER should be prepared to give an “elevator pitch” to the Obama team to establish themselves as a resource for the next Administration.

An agenda for the meeting is available at the NRC website.

16. The Planetary Society’s Roadmap to Space

On November 13, 2008, The Planetary Society released a report entitled “Beyond the Moon: A New Roadmap for Human Space Exploration in the 21st Century.” The document outlines recommendations regarding the United States’ space exploration program for consideration by the new Administration and Congress. The ideas presented in the roadmap were developed through a series of expert workshops and town hall meetings, and from input from concerned scientists and policymakers.

The Planetary Society proposes that the ultimate goal of the U.S. space program be redefined as human exploration of Mars. Setting flexible intermediate milestones such as conducting the first human voyages outside the Earth-Moon system, to beyond the gravitational influence of Earth, and to near-Earth asteroids, can be used to engage the public by celebrating these scientific achievements. The goal of new human lunar landings by 2020, as established by President Bush’s 2004 Vision for Space Exploration, should be deferred until such missions are an appropriate next step towards achieving a human landing on Mars.

Stressed in the report is the importance of developing international collaborations to maximize global progress in human space exploration. For example, the U.S. should work with its international partners to ensure that the Space Shuttle can be retired in 2010 while still maintaining access to the International Space Station. This will allow the U.S. to focus its resources on developing the Ares and Orion vehicles, both of which make an important contribution to long-term human exploration goals. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) should be fully funded at the level of the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (about $19 billion in FY 2009) and adjusted for inflation in coming years.

Also highlighted in the report is the importance of the space program to understanding the Earth: “Space science research and the observation of Earth from space are perhaps the most significant and productive elements of the nation’s scientific portfolio.” Applications include monitoring global climate, which is key to understanding global climate change. Space exploration also plays a key role in inspiring young people to study science.

17. Great ShakeOut Shakes Up Southern California

At 10 a.m. local time on November 13, more than 5 million people “dropped, covered and held on” as a hypothetical 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked southern California. Had the quake been real, it would have caused around 2,000 deaths, 50,000 injuries, $200 billion in damage and other losses, and severe, long-lasting disruption. The Great ShakeOut drill was just one part of a larger effort to increase southern Californian communities’ resiliency to earthquake disasters. Experts report that the probability of a magnitude-6.7 or higher quake striking somewhere in California in the next 20 years is 99.7%.

Visit the Great ShakeOut website at
Learn more about USGS’s ShakeOut Scenario at
Read EARTH Magazine’s coverage of the event at

18. Public Universities Call for Science and Math Teachers

About 79 colleges and universities in 32 states have signed onto a science and mathematics teacher imperative. The imperative calls for a large increase in the number and diversity of high quality science and math teachers in middle and high schools and requests the building of partnerships between universities, school systems, state governments and other entities to address the needs for teachers on a sustained basis.

The imperative was launched at the 121st annual meeting of the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC). More details about the imperative are available from the NASULGC web page,

19. Cost of Higher Education Analyzed in Two New Reports

The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) released a discussion paper on “University Tuition, Consumer Choice and College Affordability, Strategies for Addressing a Higher Education Affordability Challenge. The paper provides useful data about the costs, how the passage of the Higher Education Act of 2008 will affect costs and how higher education institutions can help to control costs.

On December 3, 2008, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education released a report on college costs, entitled “Measuring Up 2008”. The report looks at net cost, that is tuition, fees, room and board, minus financial aid relative to family income. The report notes that net costs are increasing and making college unaffordable for many more potential students.

20. Scientists Discuss Complex Systems and Seed Grants for New Research

More than 160 participants gathered in mid-November for the sixth annual National Academies Keck Futures Initiative conference. This year's topic, "Complex Systems," drew scientists, engineers, medical researchers, economists, and philosophers to discuss new interdisciplinary approaches to researching complex systems such as ecosystems, financial markets, communication networks, and biology.  

To encourage further interdisciplinary work, the National Academies announced the availability of $1 million in seed grants – up to $100,000 each – to speed new lines of research identified at the conference.  Recipients of the competitive grants will be announced in April 2009.

At the same conference, the Academies announced their 2008 Communication Awards. Two of the four awards went to geoscience-related communications. Reporters from The Times-Picayune, New Orleans were honored for their newspaper coverage of efforts to save Louisiana’s wetlands and filmmakers were honored for their chronicle of the science and engineering behind the Mars rovers in the documentary, Roving Mars, produced in cooperation with NASA and Lockheed Martin.

Launched in 2003 by the National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation, the Futures Initiative is a 15-year effort to stimulate interdisciplinary inquiry and to enhance communication among researchers, funding agencies, universities, and the general public.  The initiative builds on three pillars of vital and sustained research: interdisciplinary encounters that counterbalance specialization and isolation; exploration of new questions; and bridging languages, cultures, habits of thought, and institutions through communication.

21. Research You Can Use: Mineral Kingdom Co-evolved with Life

Carnegie Institution scientists Robert Hazen and Dominic Papineau published, with colleagues, a paper in the Nov-Dec 2008 American Mineralogist that suggests “biochemical processes may…be responsible, directly or indirectly, for most of Earth’s 4300 known mineral species.” Three types of minerals were highlighted in particular: oxides (formed as a result of Earth’s oxygen-rich atmosphere, a product of photosynthesis by microscopic algae), clays (the production of which is accelerated by microorganisms and plants), and calcite and related minerals (generated in large part by abundant marine life). One implication of this study is that remote observations of the mineralogy of other planets could be used as evidence of the presence or absence of life.

Read the Carnegie Institution’s press release
An abstract of the paper is available from the Mineralogical Society of America website.

22. Research You Can Use: Peridotite Sequesters Carbon

Geoscientists Peter Kelemen and Juerg Matter, both at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, have shown that the Omani peridotite is naturally absorbing 10,000 to 100,000 tons of carbon per year in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This is far more carbon absorption than previously estimated and the geoscientists suggest the process may be accelerated by boring into the rock and injecting carbon dioxide-rich hot water. The results may prove valuable for carbon capture and sequestration related to climate change mitigation and the state-run oil company, Petroleum Development Oman, is interested in pursuing a CCS pilot project.

Kelemen et al. In situ carbonation of peridotite for CO2 storage. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2008; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0805794105

23. Earth Science Week a Success, Just Ask Your Governor

Earth Science Week, with a theme of “No Child Left Inside” ran from October 12-18, 2008 and was a great success in getting kids and geoscientists outside for some fun exploration of the geology around them. The week was also proclaimed and noted by 19 state governors. Visit for a list of states that offered proclamations and consider asking your governor to recognize Earth Science Week in 2009.

24. Key Federal Register Notices

DOE – The Department of Energy announced a meeting of the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) to provide advice and guidance with respect to the basic energy sciences research program. The meeting took place on November 20 and 21, 2008, and minutes are available for public review and copying at the Freedom of Information Public Reading Room; 1E-190, Forrestal Building; 1000 Independence Avenue, SW.; Washington, DC 20585. For more information please contact Karen Talamini in the Office of Basic Energy Sciences at the U.S. Department of Energy, phone (301)903-4563.
[Federal Register: November 4, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 214)]

NRC – The National Regulatory Commission is soliciting public comment on its draft report titled ``Tsunami Hazard Assessment at Nuclear Power Plant Sites in the United States of America,'' (NUREG/CR-6966; ADAMS Accession No. ML082810348).
This draft report describes the tsunami phenomenon with the focus on its relevance for hazard assessment at nuclear power plant sites. Any interested party may submit comments, relevant information, or supporting data for consideration by the NRC staff. Comments must be filed on or before close of business on December 5, 2008 to Chief, Rulemaking, Directives and Editing Branch, Office of Administration, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, or via e-mail at For more information contact Mr. Nilesh Chokshi, Deputy Director of the Division of Site and Environmental Reviews in the Office of the New Reactors at the NRC at 301-415-1634 or
[Federal Register: November 10, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 218)]

EPA – Based on its review of the air quality criteria and national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for lead (Pb), the Environmental Protection Agency is making revisions to the primary and secondary NAAQS for Pb to provide requisite protection of public health and welfare, respectively. Revisions include changing the level of the primary standard to 0.15 [mu]g/m3, revising data handling procedures, and revising emissions inventory reporting requirements. This final rule is effective on January 12, 2009. Publicly available docket
(ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2006-0735) materials are available electronically through For more information contact Dr. Deirdre Murphy, Health and Environmental Impacts Division, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, EOA at 919-541-0729 or
[Federal Register: November 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 219)]

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office announces a public teleconference of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee's (CASAC) Oxides of Nitrogen Primary NAAQS Review Panel (Panel) to review EPA's completed Risk and Exposure Assessment to Support the Review of the NO2 Primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard and to provide advice for EPA to consider as it develops its Advance Notice for Proposed Rulemaking for nitrogen dioxide. The teleconference will be held on December 5, 2008 from 1-3pm EST. To participate contact Dr. Angela Nugent, Designated Federal
Officer (DFO), EPA Science Advisory Board (1400) ahead of time at
(202)343-9981 or
General information concerning the CASAC can be found at
[Federal Register: November 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 219)]

DOE – The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is publishing guidelines for persons and organizations interested in requesting National Priority Project Designation as established in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). For more information contact Patrick Shipp (Office of Information and Business Management Systems (EE-3C), DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) at 202-586-7769 or Jody Barringer at
[Federal Register: November 13, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 220)]

DOI – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is finalizing regulations to set out the policies and procedures for the implementation of a commercial leasing program for the management of federally-owned oil shale and any associated minerals located on Federal lands in accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005. This rule is effective on January 17, 2009. For more information contact Mitchell Leverette, Chief of the Division of Solid Minerals at (202) 452-5088 for issues related to the BLM's commercial oil shale leasing program or Kelly Odom at (202) 452-5028 for regulatory process issues.
[Federal Register: November 18, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 223)]

DOI – The Minerals Management Service announces a final rule, effective December 18, 2008, amending existing deep gas royalty relief regulations to reflect statutory changes enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It provides additional royalty relief for certain ultra-deep wells on Outer Continental Shelf leases in shallow water in the Gulf of Mexico. It extends both the existing and the additional deep gas royalty relief to Outer Continental Shelf leases in deeper water than before. Finally, this final rule applies discretionary royalty relief procedures that have been used by deepwater leases in the Gulf of Mexico to leases offshore of Alaska. For more information contact Marshall Rose, Chief of the Economics Division, at (703) 787-1538.
[Federal Register: November 18, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 223)]

EPA - The charter for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Air Act Advisory Committee (CAAAC) will be renewed for an additional two-year period, as a necessary committee which is in the public interest, in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), 5 U.S.C. App. 2. The purpose of CAAAC is to provide advice and recommendations to the EPA Administrator on issues associated with policy and technical issues associated with implementation of the Clean Air Act. Inquiries may be directed to Pat Childers, CAAAC Designated Federal Officer at the U.S. EPA at
[Federal Register: November 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 224)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office announces two public teleconference meetings of the chartered SAB to: (1) Conduct its quality review of several draft SAB reports, and (2) to receive a briefing from EPA on biofuels. The meeting dates are December 9, 2008, from 1-3 p.m. EST and December 16, 2008, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST. For more information contact Mr. Thomas Miller, Designated Federal Officer (DFO), EPA SAB (1400F) at (202)343-9982 or General information concerning the EPA SAB can be found on the SAB Web site at
[Federal Register: November 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 225)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency is revising the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting requirements and Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards (ELGs) for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (Clean Water Act), in response to the order issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Waterkeeper Alliance et al. v. EPA, 399 F.3d 486 (2d Cir. 2005). These final regulations are effective December 22, 2008. The record is available via EPA Dockets at under docket number OW-2005-0037. The rule and key supporting documents are also available electronically on the Internet at
[Federal Register: November 20, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 225)]

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency has extended the public comment period to December 24, 2008 for proposed regulations for the underground injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) for geologic sequestration under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OW-2008-0390:
on-line at or by mail to Water Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20460.
[Federal Register: November 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 226)]

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency gives notice that EPA Administrator has set a renewable fuel standard of 10.21% for 2009. For more information contact Chris McKenna at 202-343-9037 or
[Federal Register: November 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 226)]

DOI – The Minerals Management Service (MMS) gives notice of a meeting of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Policy Committee at the Washington Dulles Crowne Plaza Hotel in Herndon, Virginia on December 9-10. An agenda is available in the Federal Register posting. For more information contact Ms. Jeryne Bryant at Minerals Management Service at (703)787-1211 or
[Federal Register: November 21, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 226)]

DOE – The Office of Fossil Energy announces a meeting of the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee on December 22, 2008, 2-3:30 p.m. For more information contact Edith Allison, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Oil and Natural Gas, Washington, DC 20585, at 202-586-1023.
[Federal Register: November 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 228)]

DOC – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Notice gives notice of the draft report of an independent review of current social science research conducted by NOAA and examine how the results of the research are being developed and incorporated into the operations of NOAA. The Science Advisory Board (SAB) Social Science Working Group requests public comment by December 26, 2008. For more information contact Dr. Cynthia Decker at 301-734-1156.
[Federal Register: November 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 228)]

DOC – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gives notice of solicitation for members of the NOAA Science Advisory Board's Environmental Information Services Working Group (EISWG). The EISWG will be composed of 15-18 members, who, by reason of knowledge, experience or training, are especially qualified to represent users of NOAA environmental information services, including, but not limited to, the commercial weather industry (both value-added and end-users), academia, and the media. Nominations must be received by January 23, 2009. For more information contact Jennifer Sprague, 301-713-0217.
[Federal Register: November 25, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 228)]

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency announces withdrawal of several provisions of the direct final rule to amend the Renewable Fuel Standard program requirements, published on October 2, 2008, because of adverse comment received. For more information visit or
contact Megan Brachtl, Compliance and Innovative Strategies Division, Office of Transportation and Air Quality (Mail Code: 6406J), Environmental Protection Agency, at(202) 343-2802 or
[Federal Register: November 26, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 229)]

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency seeks comments on a proposal for exemptions to the phaseout of methyl bromide to meet the needs of 2009 critical uses. Comments must be submitted by December 29, 2008. If a hearing is requested it will be held on December 15, 2008, and information will be posted on the Ozone Protection Web site Submit your comments, identified by
Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0009, online at
or to For further information contact Jeremy Arling by telephone at 202-343-9055 or
[Federal Register: November 28, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 230)]

DOI - The Bureau of Land Management calls for nominations for the North Slope Science Initiative, Science Technical Advisory Panel. The purpose of the Science Technical Advisory Panel is to advise the North Slope Science Oversight Group on issues such as identifying and prioritizing inventory, monitoring and research needs, and providing other scientific as requested by the Oversight Group. Nominations must be submitted within 45 of November 28, 2008. For more information contact Dr. John F. Payne, Executive Director, North Slope Science Initiative at 907-271-3431, or
[Federal Register: November 28, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 230)]

DOC – The National Institute of Standards and Technology gives notice of an open meeting of the Advisory Committee on Earthquake Hazards Reduction Meeting on December 17 and 18, 2008, at the John A Martin Conference Room 542, Davis Hall, University of California, Berkeley. The primary purpose of this meeting is to have an overview of the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research (PEER) Center and have roundtable discussions on social sciences and lifelines. The final agenda will be posted on the NEHRP Web site at On December 18, 2008, approximately one-half hour will be reserved near the conclusion of the meeting for public comments. Preregistration by December 10 is required. For more information contact Dr. Jack Hayes, NEHRP Director, at or 301-975-5640.
[Federal Register: November 28, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 230)]

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency gives notice of a public teleconference of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). NACEPT provides advice to the EPA Administrator on a broad range of environmental policy, technology, and management issues. NACEPT represents diverse interests from academia, industry, non-governmental organizations, and local, state, and tribal governments. The purpose of this teleconference is to discuss and approve draft NACEPT recommendations on EPA's Draft Biofuels Strategy and the 2009-2014 EPA Strategic Plan Change Document. A copy of the agenda for the meeting will be posted at
The meeting will be held on December 15, 2008, from 2-4pm EST. For more information contact Sonia Altieri at or 202-564-0243.
[Federal Register: November 28, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 230)]

DOE – The Office of Fossil Energy give notice of an open meeting of the Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee December 19, 2008, 10am-12pm at TMS, Inc., 955 L'Enfant Plaza North, SW., Suite 1500, Washington, DC 20024. The purpose of the Ultra-Deepwater Advisory Committee is to provide advice on development and implementation of programs
related to ultra-deepwater natural gas and other petroleum resources to the Secretary of Energy and provide comments and recommendations and priorities for the Department of Energy Annual Plan per requirements of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Title IX, Subtitle J, Section 999. For more information contact Elena Melchert, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Oil and Natural Gas, Washington, DC 20585 at 202-586-5600.
[Federal Register: December 1, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 231)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing an alternative set of generator requirements applicable to laboratories owned by eligible academic entities, as defined in this final rule (Docket ID No. RCRA-2003-0012; effective December 31, 2008). The rule provides a flexible and protective set of regulations that address the specific nature of hazardous waste generation and accumulation in laboratories at colleges and universities, as well as other eligible academic entities formally affiliated with colleges and universities. This final rule is optional and colleges and universities and other eligible academic entities formally affiliated with a college or university have the choice of managing their hazardous wastes in accordance with the new alternative regulations as set forth in this final regulation or remaining subject to the existing generator regulations. For more information contact Kristin Fitzgerald at 703-308-8286 or
[Federal Register: December 1, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 231)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory Board (SAB) Staff Office announces a public teleconference of the chartered Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) to consider and approve the CASAC Panel's draft report regarding its peer review of EPA's Risk and Exposure Assessment for Review of the Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Oxides of Nitrogen and Oxides of Sulfur: First Draft (August 2008). The CASAC will also discuss the Agency's schedule and process for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) review of criteria pollutants with EPA's Office of Air and Radiation and Office (OAR) and Office of Research and Development (ORD). The teleconference will be held on December 19, 2008, from noon-3pm EST. For more infomation contact Dr. Holly Stallworth at 202-343-9867 or General information concerning the CASAC can be found on the EPA Web site at
[Federal Register: December 1, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 231)]

EPA – The Environmental Protection Agency proposes a rule to add hazardous pharmaceutical wastes to the Universal Waste Rule. This proposed rule would facilitate better management of pharmaceutical wastes by streamlining the generator requirements and encouraging generators of hazardous pharmaceutical wastes to manage them under the provisions of the Universal Waste Rule, which ensures that these hazardous pharmaceutical wastes are properly disposed of and treated as hazardous wastes. In addition, this proposed rule would facilitate the implementation of pharmaceutical take-back programs by removing RCRA barriers in the collection of pharmaceutical wastes from health care and other such regulated facilities, as well as facilitate the collection of pharmaceutical wastes from households, including non-hazardous pharmaceutical wastes. Comments must be received on or before February 2, 2009 but it is best assured of having its full effect if OMB receives it by January 2, 2009. Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-RCRA-2007-0932, online at;
by email to; or by fax to 202-566-9744. For more information contact Lisa Lauer, Office of Solid Waste at the EPA at 703-308-7418 or
[Federal Register: December 2, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 232)]

DOI - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is issuing an interim final rule to amend the BLM's regulations for Mining Claims under the General Mining Laws. The rule responds to a Federal district court decision that required the BLM to evaluate whether the regulations comply with Congress's policy goal for the United States to receive fair market value for the use of the public lands and their resources. The interim final rule makes it clear that, other than processing fees, location fees, and maintenance fees provided for in 43 CFR parts 3800 and 3830, the BLM does not require any other fees for surface use of the public lands for mining purposes. Comments on the interim final rule should be submitted on or before February 2, 2009, to Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of the Interior, Mail Stop 401 LS, 1849 C St., NW., Washington, DC 20240, Attention: 1004-AD69. Contact Scott Haight at 406-538-1930 for information relating to the surface management program or the substance of the notice, or Ted Hudson at 202-452-5042 for information relating to the rulemaking process generally.
[Federal Register: December 4, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 234)]

DOI - The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announces a final rule amending the Bureau of Land Management's emergency withdrawal regulation to remove language that directs the Secretary of the Interior (Secretary) to immediately make an emergency withdrawal upon notification by one of two congressional committees. Constitutional questions have arisen when this regulation and corresponding provisions in Section 204(e) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) have been used by a congressional committee to direct Secretarial action. A district court, however, found it unnecessary to rule on the constitutionality of the committee-directed provision in Section 204(e) of FLPMA because the Secretary had bound himself through regulations regarding special action on emergency withdrawal. This final rule removes from regulations only the provision that has been the subject of past constitutional questions. This rule is effective January 5, 2009. For more information contact Jeff Holdren at 202-452-7779 or Vanessa Engle at 202-452-7776.
[Federal Register: December 5, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 235)]

Monthly Review prepared by Marcy Gallo and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs and by Merilie Reynolds, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Sources: E& E Daily, Greenwire, Washington Post, The National Academies, Reuters,, Thomas (Library of Congress), Congress Daily, AAAS, AIP, NASA, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, No Child Left Inside Coalition, ClimateWire, National Center for Science Education and Science

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

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

Posted December 5, 2008.


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