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Monthly Review: November 2009

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.

    ***Administration News and Updates***
    1. Nominations: Directors Named for NIST and Surface Mining
    2. Obama Will Attend Copenhagen

    ***Congressional News and Updates***
    1. Appropriations Update
    2. Climate Change Legislation on Hold Until Spring
    3. Medical Isotopes Bill Passes House
    4. More Nuclear Bills Amid Concerns About Reactor Designs
    5. Oceans Policy Task Force Provides Update to Congress

    ***Federal Agency News and Updates***
    1. Army Corps Liable for Worst Flooding During Katrina
    2. EPA Sends GHG Endangerment Findings to White House
    3. EPA Study Shows Freshwater Fish Contamination
    4. EPA Proposes New Standards for Sulfur Dioxide
    5. DOE Awards $151 Million in First Round of ARPA-E Projects
    6. NASA Launches Ares I-X Test Rocket
    7. NASA Signs Agreement with India for Ocean Satellite Data
    8. Mineralogists: Help NIOSH With Asbestos Research

    ***Other News and Updates***
    1. Science Stimulus Money Tracking Site Launched
    2. Study Says Investing in Nature Could Save Trillions
    3. International Report on Energy Outlook
    4. Public Universities Facing Budget Woes
    5. California Geology Board Eliminated
    6. Study Shows Dam Contributed to Wenchuan Earthquake
    7. Geologist Averts Rockslide Catastrophe

    ***Announcements and Opportunities***
    1. AIP Announces Public Policy Internship
    2. Science and Technology Fellows Sought for California Legislature
    3. Congressional Fellowships for Geoscientists in Washington DC
    4. Geoscience and Policy Internship in Washington DC
    5. Congressional Visits Day Dates Set for 2010
    6. Key Reports and Publications
    7. Key Federal Register Notices
    8. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

1. Nominations: Directors Named for NIST and Surface Mining

Patrick Gallagher was named Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) within the Department of Commerce in November. NIST’s mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology. In addition, NIST is the lead agency for the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program. Gallagher has served as deputy director of the agency since 2008. He has a PhD in physics from the University of Pittsburgh.

Joseph Pizarchik was named Director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) in the Department of the Interior after months of delay due to an anonymous hold and opposition from environmentalists. Pizarchik was previously the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mining and Reclamation where opponents say he supported environmentally harmful coal waste disposal practices such as dumping coal-ash in abandoned mines. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defended Pizarchik, suggesting that Pizarchik would be essential to balancing between domestic coal production and environmental sustainability. Pizarchik explained his actions by saying he used high-quality data to ensure the waste sites would not contaminate groundwater resources. The OSM has oversight of coal and hardrock mining and is currently reviewing the effectiveness of a Bush Administration rule aimed at protecting waterways from mountaintop mining removal practices.

2. Obama Will Attend Copenhagen

The White House announced that President Obama will participate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen from December 7-18, 2009. The President believes a meaningful agreement might be possible at the conference based on the Administration’s work on climate change so far and the progress made with the leaders of China and India. President Obama has stated that he is prepared to suggest a target reduction of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 followed by a 30 percent reduction by 2025 and a 42 percent reduction by 2030 that complies with the House climate change bill and a partial draft of a Senate bill. The Administration is working with Congress to pass climate legislation, however, the Senate has recently decided to delay further work on a bill until the spring of 2010.

Many Cabinet secretaries and top officials of the Administration will be attending the conference as well. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, and the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner all plan to go. The delegates will give keynote addresses at events that highlight the actions taken by the Obama Administration thus far to address climate change, create a new energy future, and transition into a clean energy economy.

Read the full White House press release.

3. Appropriations Update

On November 5, 2009, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science approved a $64.8 billion spending bill for fiscal year 2010 (FY10). The measure would provide $4.77 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a 9 percent increase that is larger than the House-approved total budget of $4.6 billion and more than the President’s request. Much of the increase would be directed toward satellites and related ocean observing capabilities. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) said, “The agency risks making decisions on insufficient data that could have unnecessarily drastic impact …We want to increase the NOAA budget to $8 billion and double it by 2013.”

The Senate subcommittee would provide $6.9 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which is the same as the House-approved budget, but far below the authorized level of $8.132 billion for NSF in the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69).

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would receive $18.7 billion, the same as the President’s request and about $500 million more than the House. NASA’s overall budget will not grow in FY10 and how much support legislators will consider for next generation human spaceflight in the future remains uncertain.

The House and the Senate must now conference on these funding levels to work out their differences. Conference work was delayed in November over debates on dealing with prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. As December begins, time is running out for conference action. A continuing resolution expires on December 18 and Congress must either pass the remaining appropriations bills or invoke a third continuing resolution.

The Senate Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations report is available from Thomas.

4. Climate Change Legislation on Hold Until Spring

The Senate has been unable to approve of a climate change bill within a very crowded legislative schedule, and the Senate now plans to schedule floor debate on a climate change bill after it completes work on health care and financial regulatory reform. The schedule roughly coincides with the revised United Nations plan to hold negotiations on a new treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in the spring of 2010. The international community thinks, and the Obama Administration agrees, that binding international agreements are unlikely if the U.S. Congress does not approve of climate change legislation in advance.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) are now working on legislation that could garner greater bi-partisan support and secure at least 60 votes in the Senate. Expect Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Energy Ranking Member Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Budget Committee Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH)  to play a major role in crafting climate change legislation. Watch for fence-sitters from key states (for example, both senators from AR, IN, OH, ME, MI, MT, ND and WV) with regional concerns about the effects of climate change legislation to drive any late-breaking compromises in order to bring small but significant blocks of “yes” votes on the Senate floor.

5. Medical Isotopes Bill Passes House

After a vote of 400-17, “The American Medical Isotopes Production Act of 2009” (H.R. 3276) passed the House on November 5, 2009. The measure as reported in the October Monthly Review, would “promote the production of domestic sources for medical isotopes” according to sponsor Ed Markey (D-MA).

Used in medical imaging, a current shortage of Molybdenum-99 has caused some delays in patient services. Legislators are concerned about a future shortage because the U.S. currently has no production capacity. Mo-99 is commonly produced from highly enriched uranium and that uranium can also be used in nuclear weapons, so the U.S. has previously restricted Mo-99 production and distribution. The House bill authorizes up to $163 million over 5 years for the Department of Energy (DOE) to promote Mo-99 production activities without highly-enriched uranium, bans the export of highly enriched uranium for Mo-99 production except for special circumstances, and requires DOE to retain responsibility for the final disposition of radioactive waste created by any use of highly enriched uranium for medical isotope imaging.

The Senate plans to hold a hearing to consider the bill on December 3, 2009.

6. More Nuclear Bills Amid Concerns About Reactor Designs

Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mark Udall (D-CO) introduced a bill to stimulate the development of new, cost-effective nuclear reactors on November 20, 2009. The bill, The Nuclear Power 2021 Act (S.2812) would authorize the Department of Energy (DOE) to work in a public-private partnership to develop a standard design for two small (< 300 megawatts) modular reactors, obtain a design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission by 2018 and obtain an operating license by 2021. The bill would amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which provides loan guarantees and other incentives for the development of large nuclear reactors (> 1000 megawatts).

The bill comes on the heels of media reports about problems with the designs of new large nuclear reactors and related concerns from Members of Congress about giving out loan guarantees from the DOE for potentially troubled projects. In addition the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is at odds with DOE over risk assessments for the loans.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) halted review of the Toshiba-Westinghouse Electric Co.’s AP1000 nuclear reactor over design flaws in the shielding building in mid-October. In early November, regulators in the United Kingdom, France and Finland questioned some of the designs for Areva’s EPR nuclear reactor. These problems have prompted Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) to request DOE to require any new nuclear energy project to complete its regulatory review before the designer is granted any loan guarantees.

The DOE will be offering four finalists loan guarantees to build new nuclear energy plants, with a total loan guarantee authority of $18.5 billion. The loan guarantee program was authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and would cover up to 80 percent of the cost of construction. Although DOE has stated that they will give out the loan guarantees soon, there has been no final action. The AP1000 and EPR reactor designs are purportedly being considered among the potential finalists and thus the news of the possible design flaws has prompted legislators to ask about the designs, the regulatory process and the loan guarantees.

In a letter submitted to Energy Secretary Steven Chu on November 6, 2009, Markey provides further details about the loan guarantee program and six questions about how DOE intends to move forward given the recent news about design flaws. A copy of the letter is available as a PDF from Markey’s website. The default risk fee that a company would have to pay up front ranges from 1 percent to 10 percent of the total estimated cost—a large and uncertain difference for all to consider.

7. Oceans Policy Task Force Provides Update to Congress

The President’s Interagency Ocean Policy Task Force (IOPTF) updated the Senate Commerce Committee on its progress in developing recommendations for a national ocean policy at a hearing in November. Much of the discussion centered on the recommendations of the interim report released in September.

The IOPTF recommends an ocean council to coordinate federal policy initiatives. The report suggests a council chaired jointly by the Council for Environmental Quality and the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Numerous concerns were raised about the presumably insufficient role of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on the council.

Featuring testimony from high level administrators across various agencies with ocean jurisdiction, the major topics of the hearing included marine spatial planning, ecosystem based resource management, ratification of the Law of the Sea, and leadership of a prescribed ocean council.

Marine spatial planning has been described as “zoning for oceans”, and plays a large role in the recommendations of the task force. Zones are to be set out according to ecosystem based management, which would allow for ocean resource use to have minimal impact on sea life.

8. Army Corps Liable for Worst Flooding During Katrina

A U.S. district court judge ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) was liable for some of the worst flooding after Hurricane Katrina, marking the first ruling to hold the USACE liable for damage from a natural disaster. The judge found the USACE did not properly maintain a shipping channel, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO), which in 1988 had been deemed a threat to human life. The MRGO is called a “hurricane highway” that focused floodwater into eastern New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish.

The ruling gives six individuals and one business a total of $720,000 in compensation and more claims are likely. As it is, 490,000 claims, amounting to about $500 billion in damages, have been filed against the government already. The actual government liability will remain in limbo for some time though as the USACE appeals the ruling and the whole process remains tied up in the courts.

There appears to be no real winners in this situation. Members of Congress do hope this ruling will lead to better planning, design and maintenance of projects by the USACE.

Read the NY Times story about the ruling online.

9. EPA Sends GHG Endangerment Findings to White House

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent its greenhouse gas (GHG) endangerment findings to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for review in early November. The proposed findings state that greenhouse gases are pollutants that threaten public health and therefore should be regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act. The EPA has already proposed follow-up GHG regulations, however, any regulations depend on approval of the endangerment finding first.

The OMB has 90 days to review the findings, however many expect a ruling ahead of the United Nations Copenhagen climate change treaty conference which starts on December 7, 2009.

10. EPA Study Shows Freshwater Fish Contamination

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a study detailing the prevalence of toxic chemicals in freshwater using fish tissue samples from across the continental U.S. The National Lake Fish Tissue Study shows widespread distribution of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBTs) chemicals in fish.

Mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in all of the lakes sampled, while dioxins and furans were found in 81 percent of these lakes. Of the five chemicals responsible for 97 percent of fish advisories at the end of 2008, each was found to be above human health screening values (SVs) in at least some lakes. PCB and mercury concentrations above SVs were found to be in especially high proportion, at 16.8 and 48.8 percent of lakes, respectively.

Sampling was conducted over the course of four years on predator (such as largemouth bass and brook trout) and bottom dweller (such as blue catfish and common carp) composites at 500 lakes and reservoirs in the lower 48 states. Samples were tested for 268 PBTs. The study was carried out through a series of partnerships forged by the EPA with 47 states, three tribes, and two other federal agencies. The National Lake Fish Tissue Study is the first of its kind in the U.S. to utilize a random, statistical design, and thus be representative of contaminate distribution across the nation.

More information on the study is available from the EPA website.

11. EPA Proposes New Standards for Sulfur Dioxide

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a new national one-hour sulfur dioxide emission standard between 50 and 100 parts per billion. EPA first set standards in 1971 as part of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards and has not changed the sulfur dioxide standard since then.

The agency will announce a public comment period of 60 days in the Federal Register and will hold a public hearing on Jan. 5, 2010 in Atlanta. EPA must issue final standards by June 2, 2010.

More information about the proposal is available from the EPA website.

12. DOE Awards $151 Million in First Round of ARPA-E Projects

The Advance Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a total of $151 million to 37 projects in its first round of proposals. The awards go to researchers in 17 states, and a variety of sectors. Most awards went to small businesses and academic institutions (43 percent and 35 percent respectively), and 19 percent went to large corporations. These projects focus on high risk, high reward breakthroughs to fundamentally change the energy sector in all fields from biofuels to carbon capture. Proposals include advanced battery science for large-scale energy storage to allow “round-the-clock” electricity from wind or solar power sources, and synthetic enzymes to trump the current amine and ammonia based carbon capture process at power plants with a cheaper, easier method.

In response to the original call for ARPA-E proposals in April, about 3,600 concept papers were submitted. Of those, ARPA-E requested full applications for 300 proposals and ultimately selected 37 for funding. This first round is only a portion of the $400 million President Obama announced for ARPA-E as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or “stimulus” funds. A second round of proposal solicitations will begin soon, but no timelines have been announced yet.

For more information and a full list of the awards, please visit the ARPA-E website.

13. NASA Launches Ares I-X Test Rocket

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) successfully tested the Ares rocket, the agency’s next generation launch vehicle for human spaceflight in late October.  TIME Magazine’s List of 50 Best Inventions of 2009 called NASA’s Ares rocket the best invention of the year. House Committee on Science and Technology Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee Chairwoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) expressed excitement over the test launch. Now Congress must conclude its deliberations on appropriations for NASA’s human spaceflight program and many other science programs and agencies by December 18, 2009, when the continuing resolution expires.

The complexity, size and power of NASA’s Constellation mission (Ares rocket and the Orion crew module) are perhaps best captured by the agency’s own press release regarding the launch. Below is the complete text for interested readers.

“NASA's Ares I-X test rocket lifted off Oct. 28, 2009, at 11:30 a.m. EDT from Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a two-minute powered flight. The flight test lasted about six minutes from its launch from the newly modified Launch Complex 39B until splashdown of the rocket's booster stage nearly 150 miles downrange.

The 327-foot-tall Ares I-X test vehicle produced 2.6 million pounds of thrust to accelerate the rocket to nearly 3 g's and Mach 4.76, just shy of hypersonic speed. It capped its easterly flight at a suborbital altitude of 150,000 feet after the separation of its first stage, a four-segment solid rocket booster.

Parachutes deployed for recovery of the booster and the solid rocket motor, which were recovered at sea and will be towed back to Florida by the booster recovery ship, Freedom Star, for later inspection. The simulated upper stage and Orion crew module, and the launch abort system will not be recovered.

The flight test is expected to provide NASA with an enormous amount of data that will be used to improve the design and safety of the next generation of American spaceflight vehicles, which could again take humans beyond low Earth orbit.”

More information on the Constellation Mission is available from NASA.

14. NASA Signs Agreement with India for Ocean Satellite Data

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to use data from the Indian satellite Oceansat-2. Oceansat-2 measures ocean surface wind speeds, atmospheric humidity and temperature to improve understanding of the oceans and ocean-atmosphere interactions. The data is essential for dealing with climate change, weather forecasting, ocean health and Earth system dynamics.

ISRO is part of India’s National Natural Resources Management System, and Oceansat-2 is but one of a large constellation of Earth-observing satellites operated by India for civilian use.

More information about the Indian Space Research Organisation is available here.

15. Mineralogists: Help Needed for Asbestos Research

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) drafted a research roadmap, Asbestos Fibers and Other Elongated Mineral Particles: State of the Science and Roadmap for Research, in January 2009. The roadmap provides an overview of the state of the science and a plan for future research in areas including toxicology, mineralogy, epidemiology, and exposure assessment.

A National Academies committee has now reviewed the roadmap and provided a report. The committee notes “significant inconsistencies and deficiencies in mineralogical terminology and nomenclature.” The committee recommends more rigorous terminology, a more systematic and integrated approach to mineralogical research in support of human health and greater involvement in planning and implementation from the mineralogical community.

More information is available from NIOSH.

16. Science Stimulus Money Tracking Site Launched is a new website launched this month to track the stimulus-funded research activities and their impacts for the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy (Office of Science and ARPA-E) and the National Institutes of Health. Of the $787 billion in stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1), $21 billion went towards scientific research and development, new scientific equipment, and science-related construction within these agencies. This new site separates the stimulus-sponsored research by each state, tracks how much money each state received, and the number of grants awarded. is a joint effort of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and The Science Coalition (TSC), which together represent over 200 of the country’s leading academic research institutions.

17. Study Says Investing in Nature Could Save Trillions

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study sponsored in part by the United Nations, attempts to highlight the global economic benefits of biodiversity and the costs of ecosystem degradation. It stresses the value of nature to society and how often this value is overlooked in the international marketplace. The goal of the study is to increase the public awareness of nature’s value and encourage the introduction of effective policy.

The study shows that an annual investment of $45 billion to protect environmentally sensitive areas could save up to $5 trillion a year over several decades. The study sites one example in which Vietnam spent $1 million last year replanting mangroves which will result in a savings of $7 million on dike maintenance.

18. International Report on Energy Outlook

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook report gives projections concerning the world’s energy needs and the changing climate. The report estimates that from 2010 to 2030 about $26 trillion will be needed for energy development globally and an additional $10.5 trillion will be needed for energy technologies and efficiency in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to about 450 parts per million (ppm) and avoid catastrophic climate change. More than half of the emissions reductions by 2030 will be from improved energy efficiency with the rest from renewables and biofuels, nuclear power, hybrid and electric vehicles and carbon capture and sequestration. Efficiency will lead to global savings of about $8.6 trillion in transport, buildings and industry costs.

Within the IEA scenario, demand for fossil fuels is projected to peak in 2020, however, fossil fuels will still contribute about 70 percent of global energy in 2030. The financial crisis reduced oil demand in 2009, but also led to a $90 billion cut in investments in oil and gas exploration and development. This may lead to fewer supplies to meet growing demand and thus higher prices in the future. Natural gas is predicted to play a significant role in transitioning to a low-carbon energy economy. The huge boost in North American unconventional gas discoveries and production (primarily oil shale) makes natural gas a “transition fuel” to a clean energy economy in this world outlook.

19. Public Universities Facing Budget Woes

The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU) notes that 85 percent of public universities experienced budget cuts in fiscal year 2009 and 53 percent of Chief Academic Officers are pessimistic about their short-term fiscal future. Many institutions are conducting or initiating strategic reviews of their missions and activities. APLU surveyed the fiscal landscape and strategies at the nation’s 188 public research universities in a report entitled Coping Strategies of Public Universities During the Economic Recession of 2009 (PDF).

20. California Geology Board Eliminated

The California Board of Geologists and Geophysicists (BGG) has been eliminated as of October 23, 2009. BGG is responsible for regulating the practices of geology and geophysics within the state. Its responsibilities have been transferred to the Board of Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors (BPELS). California legislators under pressure to reach a budget compromise in assembly bill AB 4X 20 included a section that eliminates BGG, even though the board was self-funded. For now, there will be no geologists or geophysicists on BPELS, there will be no name change to reflect its new mission, and BPELS will not have the manpower to perform its new functions.

The three California sections of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists (AEG; editor’s note—AEG is one of AGI’s member societies) formed a political action committee, the California Association of Professional Geologists (CAPG), to oppose the elimination of BGG. CAPG believes that an independent and dedicated board of professional geologists and geophysicists are essential to licensing, certification and enforcement in order to ensure public safety and welfare. CAPG filed an injunction to stop the termination of BGG and is awaiting a court ruling.

CAPG is asking for help and support from the geoscience community and other interested stakeholders. Even if the injunction fails, guidance and action are needed to ensure robust regulation of professional practices in geology and geophysics in California. For more information please visit:

BPELS will hold an informational meeting about the changes and the practices of geology and geophysics on December 10, 2009. For more information please visit:

21. Study Shows Dam Contributed to Wenchuan Earthquake

A recent scientific study suggests that a Chinese dam built less than a mile from a well-known major fault may have triggered the 7.9 magnitude Wenchuan earthquake in May 2008, killing more than 69,000 people and leaving almost 18,000 missing. The authors of the study “Did the Zipingpu Reservoir Trigger the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake?” created a two-dimensional model to evaluate how the Zipingpu Reservoir, holding 320 million tons of water, changed the stresses on several nearby faults. The authors of the study state that there is a lack of data from before the dam was built in 2005 to make a definite link between the dam and the earthquake, but estimates that the increased stress created by the reservoir was enough to hasten the occurrence of the earthquake by tens to hundreds of years. Chinese officials insist that the reservoir had nothing to do with the Wenchuan earthquake.

Read the full research article from AGU (requires a subscription).

22. Geologist Averts Rockslide Catastrophe

A small, early morning rockfall in the Ocoee Gorge in Polk County, Tennessee had repair crews out working to clear the roads at the beginning of November. Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) geologist Vanessa Bateman drove to the site from Nashville to investigate. She heard noises coming from the hillside and immediately ordered an evacuation of people and heavy equipment away from the site. Within a half hour of her warnings, a large rockslide occurred right where the crew had been working and was videotaped by a local news crew.

The rare videotape of the rockslide shows the power and damage they can cause. The slide essentially split Polk County in half, making the distance by road from one side of the slide to the other over 120 miles. The slide is expected to take months to clean up. This recent event has highlighted the importance of the TDOT Rockfall Mitigation Program that identifies sites of potential slides, assigns a hazard rating, and works to prevent them from occurring. Although the slide resulted in major transportation difficulties and a hefty clean-up, the residents of Polk County can be grateful to Bateman for preventing this inconvenience from being a tragedy.

23. AIP Announces Public Policy Internship

The American Institute of Physics (AIP), with the John and Jane Mather Foundation for Science and the Arts, has announced the creation of the AIP Mather Public Policy Internship. Dr. John Mather hopes the internship, sponsored by his 2006 Nobel Prize in physics, will get undergraduate students interested in policy before they specialize in the technical work in graduate school. Interns will contribute scientific expertise to congressional offices or other policy agencies.

Applicants must have an exceptional scholastic physics background, be active in the Society of Physics Students (SPS), have experience or demonstrated interest in public policy, potential for future success, and the ability to clearly communicate.

For more information, visit the press release on the AIP site:

24. Science and Technology Fellows Sought for California

The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) is accepting applications for the 2010-2011 California Science and Technology Policy Fellowships based in Sacramento. The S&T Policy Fellowship, a unique one-year professional development opportunity, provides the selected fellows with hands-on experience working with the California Legislature to incorporate science and technology into public policy. Eligible applicants will be PhD-level (or equivalent) scientists and engineers who have a sincere interest in California current events, the state legislative process, and a strong desire to learn how policy decisions are made.

Deadline for submission of applications is February 12, 2010 at 5:00 p.m. PST.  More information is available here.

25. Congressional Fellowships for Geoscientists in Washington DC

The American Geological Institute (AGI) is accepting applications for the 2010-2011 William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship. The successful candidate will spend 12 months (starting September 2010) in Washington working as a staff member in the office of a member of Congress or on a congressional committee. The fellowship represents a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the federal legislative process and make practical contributions to the effective and timely use of geoscientific knowledge on issues relating to the environment, resources, natural hazards, and federal science policy. Applications are due February 1, 2010.

For more information visit the AGI web site.

The American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Institute of Physics, and the American Meteorological Society also sponsor congressional fellowships that potential AGI applicants may be eligible for as well. Requirements and deadlines vary, so applicants interested in applying to multiple societies are encouraged to check the details.

26. Geoscience and Public Policy Internship in Washington DC

The American Geological Institute’s Government Affairs Program seeks outstanding geoscience students (masters or undergraduate) with a strong interest in federal science policy for summer, fall, and spring internships. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone their writing and Web publishing skills. Interns receive a stipend through the generous support of the American Institute of Professional Geologists Foundation, the American Geological Institute or the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

Deadlines, more information, and how to apply is available here.

27. Congressional Visits Day Dates Set for 2010

Geoscientists are invited to join organized groups of scientists and engineers for workshops and visits with congressional members and committees in April and September 2010. The purpose of these visit days is to explain the value of science and engineering and to discuss investments in research and education for the benefit of society. Geosciences have a significant role to play in federal policy and advice from citizen geoscientists is important.

The Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (SET-CVD) is a larger event for all the sciences and will take place on April 28-29, 2010. More information about the Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day is available at:

The Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD) is specifically geared towards geoscientists and will take place September 21-22, 2010. For a synopsis of last year’s event, go to:

Several geoscience societies, including AGI, AAPG, AGU and GSA, are involved in organizing these events and we expect a large number of geoscientists to participate. Please contact Linda Rowan,, Director of Government Affairs at AGI, or the public policy office of one of the other societies for more details and to sign-up.

28. Key Reports and Publications

***Congressional Research Service (CRS)***
Climate Change: Comparison of the Cap-and-Trade Provisions in H.R. 2454 and S. 1733
Released November 5, 2009. This report provides a comparison of the cap and trade provisions of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) and the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733). Both bills aim to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% below 2005 levels by 2050.

Unconventional Gas Shales: Development, Technology, and Policy Issues
Released October 30, 2009. This report discusses how technological advances have dramatically increased gas production from unconventional shales, environmental concerns with hydraulic fracturing treatments used to stimulate shale gas production, as well as land ownership and mineral resource owners’ rights to surface access.

U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary
Released October 28, 2009. This report discusses the terminology and reporting related to U.S. and global energy supplies of natural gas, and coal. The report clarifies technical terms to avoid misunderstanding or misuse of the terms in fuel comparisons and estimates.

Coast Guard Polar Icebreaker Modernization: Background, Issues, and Options for Congress
Released October 27, 2009. Two of the Coast Guard’s three polar icebreaker ships have exceeded their service lives. This report discusses how many polar icebreakers, and with what capabilities, the Coast Guard thinks are needed to replace the expired icebreakers.

***Government Accountability Office (GAO)***
Energy-Water Nexus: Many Uncertainties Remain about National and Regional Effects of Increased Biofuel Production on Water Resources
Released November 30, 2009. Water plays a crucial role in all stages of biofuel production. As demand for water from various sectors increases and places additional stress on already constrained supplies, the effects of expanded biofuel production may need to be considered. This report examines the known effects of biofuels production on water, the technological innovations that could alleviate the stress, and the research still needed.

Coal Combustion Residue: Status of EPA's Efforts to Regulate Disposal
Released November 2, 2009. In light of the December 2008 spill releasing coal combustion residue (CCR)--or “fly ash” in this case--into the Emory River in Tennessee, Congress asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify: (1) the number of surface impoundments for storing CCR in the U.S.; (2) problems with the storage of coal ash; and (3) the type of federal oversight that exists for CCR. This report details the GAO’s findings.

***National Academies of Science (NAS)***
Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth's Surface
Prepublication released November 20, 2009. The book identifies nine challenges in the study of earth surface interactions and proposes four high-priority research initiatives. It poses questions about how our planet's past can tell us about its future; how landscapes record climate and tectonics; and how Earth surface science can contribute to developing a sustainable living surface for future generations.

Research at the Intersection of the Physical and Life Sciences
Prepublication released November 19, 2009. The book discusses how some of the mysteries of the biological world have been solved using tools and techniques developed in the physical sciences. It also presents major challenges that must be addressed and recommends several ways to accelerate progress in the field.

Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age
Released November 17, 2009. The book examines the challenges to maintaining standards and access to research in the digital age. The report recommends that all researchers receive appropriate training in the management of research data, and make all underlying research data, methods, and other information publicly accessible in a timely manner. The book also sees the stewardship of research data as a critical long-term task for the research enterprise and its stakeholders.

Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood:Paths Toward Excellence and Equity
Released November 13, 2009. This book lays out the critical areas of focus for young children's early mathematics education, and explores the extent to which these areas are currently being incorporated in early childhood settings. The book identifies the changes needed to improve the quality of mathematics experiences for young children.

Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California: Summary of a Convocation
Released November 5, 2009. A convocation held in April 2009 sought to confront the K-8 science education crisis in California. The convocation, summarized in this volume, brought together stakeholders to tackle the state’s poor support system for science instruction and overly detailed standards and poor assessments that have trivialized science education. The stakeholders explored ways to more effectively support, sustain, and communicate promising research and practices in K-8 science education.

Spectrum Management for Science in the 21st Century
Prepublication released November 3, 2009. Signals from natural radio emissions, which are used by scientists to observe the cosmos, are extremely weak. These weak signals are masked by radio transmissions from active services, such as cell phones, aircraft radars, and wireless internet. This book addresses the tension between the active services’ demand for greater spectrum use and the scientific users’ need for quiet spectrum.

An Assessment of NASA's National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service
Prepublication released November 2, 2009. This book presents the analyses and findings from the National Research Council (NRC)’s assessment of NASA's National Aviation Operations Monitoring Service (NAOMS) project, which was a survey given to pilots in 2001-2004.

A Transportation Research Program for Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change and Conserving Energy Special Report 299
Prepublication released November 2, 2009. This book identifies research needs to develop policies and strategies relating to the transportation sector. It focuses on research programs that could provide guidance for policies affecting the use of surface transportation infrastructure, and aims to help officials begin adapting the infrastructure to climate changes.

Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments
Prepublication released October 30, 2009. This book provides case studies, illustrative examples, probing questions, and makes valuable research accessible to those working in informal science settings such as museum professionals, youth leaders, educators, broadcast journalists, and others.

29. Key Federal Register Notices

The full federal register notices can be accessed online.

BLM—The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is soliciting nominations for parcels to be leased for Research, Development, and Demonstration of oil shale recovery technology. Parcels in the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are eligible. Nominations should be made by January 4, 2009, and addressed to the State Director of the BLM for the state being nominated. For more information, you may contact Charlie Beecham in Colorado: (303) 239-3773; Roger Bankert in Utah: (801) 539-4037; or Robert Janssen of Wyoming: (307) 775-6206.
[Tuesday, November 3, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 211)]

NASA—The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced that it will re-authorize the charter of the NASA Advisory Council, after finding the Council necessary and in the public interest. A number of amendments to the charter will also be instituted as part of an overall restructuring of the Council. The purpose of the Advisory Council is to advise NASA on agency programs, policies, plans, financial controls, and other agency related matters. For more information, please contact Ms. P. Diane Rausch, Advisory Committee Management Officer, at: (202) 258-4510. 
[Tuesday, November 3, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 211)]

MMS—The Mineral Management Service (MMS) is soliciting comments on collection of information requirements for oil and gas production measurements and royalty calculations on the Outer Continental Shelf. The requirements include information on volumes produced, rates of production, security of sales locations, and other figures to maintain the accuracy of royalties paid. The information can be reviewed and comments can be submitted online at, identified by docket ID MMS-2009-OMM-0015. Comments should be submitted by January 4, 2010. For further information, contact Cheryl Blundon at: (703) 787-1607.
[Tuesday, November 3, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 211)]

EPA—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is inviting nominations for appointment to the Farm, Ranch, and Rural Communities Federal Advisory Committee (FRRCC). The FRRCC was established in 2008 to provide independent advice to the EPA Administrator on a range of environmental and policy issues relevant to farming communities. Committee terms are two years, and require 10-15 hours a month in addition to two meetings per year in Washington, DC. Serving on the committee is voluntary, but travel costs will be reimbursed by the EPA. Submit applications to Alicia Kaiser by email ( before December 31, 2009. For more information contact Alicia by email or by phone: (202) 564-7273.
[Friday, November 6 (Volume 74, Number 214)]

EPA—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking nominations for the Good Neighbor Environmental Board, an advisory body responsible for consulting with Congress and the President on environmental matters in states along the Mexican border. Responsibilities include 10-15 hours of work per month, and three meetings annually. Serving on the committee is voluntary, but travel costs will be reimbursed by the EPA. Submit applications soon, as positions are expected to be filled by the spring. Send applications to Dolores Wesson, Designated Federal Officer, by mail: Office of Cooperative Environmental Management, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1601-M), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460. For more information call (202) 564-1351, or email
[Friday, November 6 (Volume 74, Number 214)]

DOI—The Department of Interior (DOI) is soliciting comments on the information collection protocol for state geological surveys and academic institutions requesting funds to assist in the monitoring of active volcanoes and to conduct volcano-related research. The Volcano Hazards Program (VHP) provides funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for improvement of the volcano monitoring systems and other monitoring-related activities that contribute to mitigation of volcano hazards. Comments on the necessity, quality, and utility of the information collected are due by January 15, 2010. Send comments to Phadrea Ponds by email: or fax: (970) 226-9230.
[Monday, November 16, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 219)]

DOI—The Department of Interior (DOI) wants comments on the information collection requirements for proposals for the National Institute for Water Resources – U.S. Geological Survey (NIWR-USGS) National Competitive Grant Program. The proposals support research on regional or interstate water problems which relate to specific program priorities identified jointly by the USGS and the state water resources research institutes. Comments on the necessity, quality, and utility of the information collected are due by December 16, 2009. Identify submission as 1028-NEW (NIWR) and send by email: or fax:  (202) 395-5806. Also submit a copy to Phadrea Ponds by email:, or fax: (970) 226-9230.
[Monday, November 16, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 219)]

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is accepting grant requests through the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) grant program to supplement State and Tribal Response Programs. These response programs address the assessment, cleanup, and redevelopment of brownfield sites and other sites with actual or perceived contamination. Requests will be accepted through January 31, 2010. For further information call EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization at: (202) 566-2777.
[Tuesday, November 17, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 220)]

DOE—The Department of Energy (DOE) is requesting comments on how to implement U.S. activities under the newly formed U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC). After reviewing responses, DOE intends to issue a funding opportunity announcement in January 2010 for management of parts of CERC. For more information email, call 202-586-5800, or visit the DOE website
[Tuesday, November 17, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 220)]

DOI— The Department of Interior (DOI) is collecting information on institutions that are willing to host Regional Climate Response Centers and determine if their science and partnership capabilities are sufficient to serve as a host organization. The comment period will close January 19, 2010. Identify comments by 1028-NEW, NCCSC and send to Phadrea Ponds by email: or fax: (970) 226-9230.
[Thursday, November 19, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 222)]

DOE—The Department of Energy (DOE) is soliciting comments concerning its request for a three-year extension to its natural gas import and export activity data collection with no changes to the previously approved collection. The comment period will close January 29, 2010. Send comments to Yvonne Caudillo by email:, or fax: (202-586-6050).
[Monday, November 30, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 228)]

30. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

·  Hearings on Energy Policy (11-30-09)
·  Hearings on Water and Oceans Policy (11-30-09)
·  Hearings on Earth Observations (11-30-09)
·  Climate Change Policy (11-25-09)
·  Energy Policy (11-25-09)
·  Natural Hazard Policy (11-24-09)
·  Hearings on Federal Agencies (11-24-09)
·  Water and Ocean Policy (11-24-09)
·  Hearings on Climate Change (11-20-09)

Monthly Review prepared by Corina Cerovski-Darriau and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program; Joey Fiore, 2009 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern; and Mollie Pettit, 2009 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Sources: Associated Press, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, New York Times, Washington Post, National Academies Press, American Institute of Physics, Government Accountability Office, Open CRS, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House, Department of the Interior, Politico, Seymour Herald, and WDEF News 12.

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 geosciences 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.


Posted December 4, 2009.


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