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Monthly Review: November 2010

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. The current monthly review and archived monthly reviews are all available online. Subscribe to receive the Government Affairs Monthly Review by email.

***Administration News and Updates***

  1. President’s Science Council Releases Energy Report
  2. White House Announces Awards for Early-Career Scientists

***Congressional News and Updates***

  1. FY 2011 Appropriations Update and Outlook

***Federal Agency News and Updates***

  1. DOI Issues Revised Outer Continental Shelf Drilling Plan
  2. Patent Office Extends Fast Track for Green Technology Patents
  3. DOE’s New Carbon Sequestration Atlas Suggests High Geologic Potential
  4. EPA Advances Greenhouse Gas Regulation
  5. EPA Issues Memorandum on Ocean Acidification Reporting
  6. NOAA Issues Report Card for the Arctic
  7. U.S. Geological Survey Identifies U.S. Reserves of Rare Earth Elements
  8. USGS Reports 90 Percent of Streams have Flow Alteration and Degradation
  9. NASA Research Shows Lakes Warming Worldwide Due to Climate Change
  10. NASA to Start New Center to Study Solar Intensity and Climate Links

***Other News and Updates***

  1. Report Identifies Severe Water Shortage Risks for U.S. and China
  2. Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission Established
  3. Chinese and American Academies Promote Collaboration on Renewable Energy
  4. UN, World Bank Outline Efficient Paths to Disaster Preparedness
  5. IEA Report Highlights Unconventional Sources, Growing Demand for Petroleum
  6. Dangerous Corrosion in BP’s Alaska Pipelines
  7. MIT Report Calls for Expanded Nuclear Energy Production, Light Water Reactors
  8. 2011: The Year of Science in Afterschool
  9. Governors Association Creates Education Committee
  10. Geoscientists, Consider a Fellowship in the U.S. Congress
  11. Key Reports and Publications
  12. Key Federal Register Notices
  13. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

 1. President’s Science Council Releases Energy Report

On November 29, 2010, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a report on energy policy. The report entitled, Report to the President on Accelerating the Pace of Change in Energy Technologies Through an Integrated Federal Energy Policy, calls for a quadrennial energy review to help better integrate government efforts and $16 billion per year for research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D) from the federal government with $10 billion per year coming from private industry. A press release, executive summary, and webcast of the press conference are available from the PCAST website.

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 2.White House Announces Awards for Early-Career Scientists

In a press release on November 5, the White House announced the 85 winners of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. The awards, initiated by President Clinton, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Awardees in the geosciences include Matthew J. Menne, an atmospheric and climate scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); Charles A. Stock, a marine geophysicist at NOAA; Jeanne L. Hardebeck, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); Nicolas Luco, a seismologist at the USGS; Pamela L. Nagler, a physical geographer at the USGS; Matthew J. Oliver, an oceanographer at the University of Delaware; Rahul Ramachandran, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville; and Steven K. Lower, a mineralogist and biochemist at The Ohio State University.

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 3. FY 2011 Appropriations Update and Outlook

The 111th Congress returned for a lame duck session in November and will likely work through the first few weeks of December to consider key legislation regarding tax cuts, unemployment benefits and appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2011. On December 2, the Senate passed a continuing resolution (CR) by unanimous consent to keep federal agencies running at FY 2010 levels until December 18. The measure was already approved in the House and now goes to President Obama for his signature. The new short-term CR gives Congress more time to consider an omnibus for some or all 12 appropriation bills or a longer term CR. Most Republicans support another CR until February, so that the 112th Congress, where the Republicans will have a majority in the House, can have more authority over FY2011 appropriations.

Given the slim chances for an omnibus in December, many policymakers have started to present their ideas regarding appropriations for FY 2011 and beyond. Months ago, the Obama Administration called for a 5 to 10 percent decrease in projected FY 2012 discretionary spending and recently the President announced a freeze on federal employee salaries.

The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in a report released on December 1, proposed FY 2010 levels for FY 2012 and a 1 percent per year decrease in discretionary spending levels through FY 2015. The commission calls for reducing defense research, fossil fuel research, commercial spaceflight support, Smithsonian funding and National Park Service funding. Their report, Moment of Truth, also calls for a disaster relief fund with strict oversight and the elimination of emergency supplementals that wreak havoc on fiscal budgets. Furthermore the commission calls for 1 percent of savings in the discretionary budget to be redirected to “… increasing college graduation rates, leveraging private capital through an infrastructure bank, and expanding high-value research and development in energy and other critical areas.”  The commission notes that duplicative programs in job training, invasive species management, and STEM education could be eliminated to provide some of these savings and redirections.

Looking forward toward the new Congress, Republicans and some Democrats have called for reductions in discretionary spending levels to FY 2008 levels, a 20 percent across the board decrease. The new House and Senate Republican caucuses voted to curtail earmarks in the 112th Congress.

These suggestions from policymakers may or may not bode well for federal support of science and education, however, in a newsmaker interview with Science Magazine, Norman Augustine, a self-declared Republican and former CEO of Lockheed Martin continues to call for support. Augustine, one of the authors of two National Academy of Sciences reports (Rising Above the Gathering Storm and its update, Rapidly Approaching Category 5) says in the article "What I hear from new members is that ‘we love science, but we are coming to Washington to cut the budget.' Well, to that I say, ‘When you're designing a plane and trying to save weight, you don't throw out the engine.' The biggest threat to innovation is this army of pickaxes that want to sweep away everything, including research."

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 4. DOI Issues Revised Outer Continental Shelf Drilling Plan

On December 1, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced an updated oil and gas leasing plan for the outer continental shelf (OCS). The plan removes the mid and south Atlantic and eastern Gulf of Mexico from development until after 2017. The rest of the Gulf of Mexico, the Cook Inlet, and the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas in the Arctic may be considered for leasing before 2017. The revised plan is in response to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010. See the press release for more information plus links to a fact sheet and maps of OCS areas.

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 5. Patent Office Extends Fast Track for Green Technology Patents

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is extending a trial program to expedite patent applications for green technologies until December 31, 2011. The Green Technology Pilot Program will allow an application to advance out of turn in areas of environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources or greenhouse gas emission reduction.

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 6. DOE’s New Carbon Sequestration Atlas Suggests High Geologic Potential

The Department of Energy released the latest edition of the Carbon Sequestration Atlas (Atlas III) on December 1, 2010. The headline-grabbing press release suggests as much as 5,700 years of carbon storage is available in geologic formations in the U.S. and parts of Canada. The release states the Atlas “…documents 1,800 billion to more than 20,000 billion metric tons of CO2 storage potential in saline formations, oil and gas reservoirs, and unmineable coal areas.” The Atlas also updates the activities of DOE’s seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships. The atlas is available as a PDF document or through an interactive version, NATCARB, which allows users to create their own maps. Both products are sponsored by the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. The Kansas Geological Survey hosts the NATCARB site.

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 7. EPA Advances Greenhouse Gas Regulation

The EPA released its guidelines for implementing new greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for stationary sources in November. Under the Clean Air Act (CAA), EPA is required to start the program in conjunction with its new fuel efficiency standards for cars, but it has faced opposition from two Senate measures (S.J. 26 and S. 3072) that would respectively remove or delay EPA’s authority over GHG emissions. Objections have been raised over EPA’s new rules for boilers, GHG reporting, and air quality revisions as well.

For a more detailed description of EPA regulations and opposition to them, please see AGI’s Climate Change Policy Page.

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 8. EPA Issues Memorandum on Ocean Acidification Reporting

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a November 15 memorandum providing guidance to states about reporting marine pH levels as part of the Clean Water Act. EPA is working to integrate all aspects of ocean acidification that are relevant under U.S. laws and EPA authority. Much more information, background materials, and guidance are available from the memorandum web page.

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 9. NOAA Issues Report Card for the Arctic

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a 2010 update to their Arctic Report Card in November. Of the six different metrics assessed, the atmosphere, sea ice, and Greenland, were found to have “consistent evidence of warming” and the other three, the ocean, land, and biology, were found to have “many indications of warming.” A combination of record high temperatures and reduced summer sea ice and snow cover all point to impacts of warming.

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 10. U.S. Geological Survey Identifies U.S. Reserves of Rare Earth Elements

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has released a new report on the global supply of rare earth elements (REE) and the local resources that have not been tapped for decades. The report is entitled The Principal Rare Earth Elements Deposits of the United States. It identifies REE deposits in 14 states, with the largest occurring at the Mountain Pass mine in California, Bokan Mountain in Alaska, and the Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming. It clarifies the difficulty in processing REEs, which often co-occur in multiple mineral phases, requiring complex chemical separations. Mining companies may bring several of these mines online in the next 5 years, but until those facilities are fully operational, the U.S. will rely almost exclusively on China for REE supplies.

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 11. USGS Reports 90 Percent of Streams have Flow Alteration and Degradation

A new nationwide study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reports that 90 percent of streams that have been studied in the U.S. show degradation due to land use change. Activities such as water diversion and impoundment, construction of impermeable surfaces, groundwater withdrawal, and waste water discharge are associated with altered streams with a variety of ailments: excessive erosion and sedimentation, reduced base flow, and a loss of seasonal flow regimes. The USGS conducted the study as part of its National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program, using 1,000 unimpaired streams as a reference for what natural flows would be in 2,888 impaired water bodies. Due to flow alterations, impaired streams can become uninhabitable for native species. Flow alterations can reduce water quality and recreational opportunities as well.

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 12. NASA Research Shows Lakes Warming Worldwide Due to Climate Change

NASA satellite data show increasing temperatures for 167 lakes over the past 25 years. Average warming occurred at a rate of 0.45 degrees Celsius per decade, with greater increases seen in Northern Europe and the American Southwest. Lake temperatures were measured using infrared satellite data acquired during consecutive summers. The results were published in the journal of Geophysical Research Letters, and compare well with data from surface air measurements and buoys in the Great Lakes.

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 13. NASA to Start New Center to Study Solar Intensity and Climate Links

The University of Colorado at Boulder and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center have announced the creation of a new center to study how year-to-year variations in solar intensity affect climate. The Sun-Climate Research Center will take advantage of resources and expertise at both institutions. The partnership will allow for a scientist exchange program and opportunities for postdoctoral candidates and graduate students to work at either institution.

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 14. Report Identifies Severe Water Shortage Risks for U.S. and China

The U.K.-based analysis firm Maplecroft released a report identifying “high risk” of water shortages for the U.S., Australia, India, and China in the next several decades. According to the study, those countries are currently consuming more than 80% of their renewable water resources. Those countries also show large areas where water consumption greatly exceeds renewable supply, including the U.S. West where aquifers are being depleted and river discharges are over-allocated.

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 15. Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission Established

On October 6, 2010, the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) announced a new Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission (ARHC). The IHO is responsible for establishing international hydrographic standards, ensuring the availability of mapping data, and advocating for the sustainable use of the seas. Established in 1921 and an observing body at the United Nations (UN), the IHO has 15 regional commissions, but this is the first time it has sponsored a body with jurisdiction over the Arctic. The ARHC is composed of representatives from the 5 Arctic states: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the U.S. Both the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have hydrographic responsibilities and participate in IHO activities. As the Arctic has only recently begun to open to shipping and commercial exploration, less than 10 percent of the waters are adequately charted.

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 16. Chinese and American Academies Promote Collaboration on Renewable Energy

The U.S. National Academies, the Chinese Academy of Science (CAS), and the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE) released a joint study, The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States in November. Intermittency of source power, cost, and location issues represent significant barriers to broader deployment, according to the report. The authors recommend mapping of energy resource and development options, development of pumped hydro and compressed air storage, and commitment to stable funding for renewable energy deployment. Further, they advocate for full implementation of the Renewable Energy Partnership plan developed at the U.S.-China Presidential Summit in 2009.

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 17. UN, World Bank Outline Efficient Paths to Disaster Preparedness

Climate change could increase monetary losses from natural disasters by as much as $68 billion, according to a report, Natural Hazards Unnatural Disasters: The Economics of Effective Prevention, released by the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank. The majority of these losses are described as preventable, including a portion of the $185 billion expected from non-climate related disasters. The 250-page report provides case studies of effective disaster planning, arguing that effective disaster preparedness can be achieved at minimal or no additional cost. The report advocates for more information on hazards, such as maps of floodplains and active faults, reduction in deforestation, and increased public transportation.

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 18. IEA Report Highlights Unconventional Sources, Growing Demand for Petroleum

Growing demand for petroleum will drive prices to $135 per barrel by 2035, according to the International Energy Agency. Those numbers are detailed in the World Energy Outlook 2010 released in November. The report suggests that conventional production of oil has essentially peaked at 70 million barrels per day (mb/d) and will plateau for the next several decades. With demand expected to rise to 90 mb/d, the gap will be met by natural gas liquids and unconventional oil sources. Deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency advances may play an important role in decreasing prices as well, if they can sufficiently reduce demand.

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 19. Dangerous Corrosion in BP’s Alaska Pipelines

A British Petroleum (BP) internal maintenance report, leaked by journalism group ProPublica, has revealed that at least 148 different pipelines on Alaska’s North Slope have received a grade of F, meaning that more than 80 percent of the pipe wall is corroded and in danger of rupturing. Some are only a few thousandths of an inch away from this threshold. BP claims to be pursuing maintenance and upgrades aggressively, and increased their maintenance budget four-fold after two pipeline spills in 2006. However, current spending rates mean it would take 20 years to replace the systems in need of upgrade. Meanwhile, BP has reduced their regular maintenance budget for Alaska for next year, although they will maintain higher spending for new projects and major repairs. Some inspections and the replacement of one pipeline will be deferred.

BP employees have also alleged that the fire and gas warning systems fail to work properly, the turbines pumping oil and gas are in need of replacement, and some oil and waste holding tanks are nearing collapse. Concerns about the fire and gas detectors have persisted since 2001, and the systems must be shut down every time engineers conduct maintenance or inspections. This means that some systems are off up to a third of the time. A turbine fire in 2007, caused by a jury-rigged hydraulic oil hose, failed to set off the alarms because they were turned off at the time, and the fire suppression system had to be activated manually. While no one was injured, the incident could have been catastrophic as the turbine was near pipelines that had the potential to explode.

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 20. MIT Report Calls for Expanded Nuclear Energy Production, Light Water Reactors

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a report in September stating that existing uranium reserves can fuel an expanded nuclear reactor fleet for at least 60 years. That would give the Department of Energy time to develop a more comprehensive disposal plan that could include reprocessing and advanced fuel cycle technologies. The report advocates for continued use of light water reactors (LWR’s) and tax credits for “first movers” who build new nuclear plants. Anti-proliferation goals could be accomplished by providing processed fuel and nuclear waste services to nations that forego enrichment.  The report, entitled The Future of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle, was released as a follow up to the 2003 report, The Future of Nuclear Power.

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 21. 2011: The Year of Science in Afterschool

The Afterschool Alliance, the National AfterSchool Association, and the National Summer Learning Association have teamed up to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in afterschool and summer programs, in a press release on November 3. They also released a position paper. Supported by a grant from the Noyce Foundation, they have named 2011 the Year of Science in Afterschool. Nearly 80 percent of future jobs will require STEM literacy, and studies have shown that primary and secondary school STEM curricula are not sufficient for students to learn necessary critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

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 22. Governors Association Creates Education Committee

The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices announced the creation of a Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics (STEM) Education Advisory Committee in a November 11 press release. The purpose of the committee, according to the Center Director, John Thomasian, is “… to provide the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders to governors and states as they work to establish and grow STEM education programs that can contribute to economic competitiveness.” For more information please visit the new STEM Education Committee’s web site.

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 23. Geoscientists, Consider a Fellowship in the U.S. Congress

The American Geological Institute 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, 2011.
For more information visit:

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.

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 24. Key Reports and Publications

**** Government Accountability Office ****
Environmental Protection Agency: EPA Needs to Complete a Strategy for Its Library Network to Meet Users’ Needs
Released September 30, 2010. Following backlash to their 2006 library services reorganization attempts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) halted all reorganization attempts in 2007. They reopened facilities that had been closed for consolidation, developed standard operating procedures, and hired a national library program manager, and they are working to digitize their collections. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the EPA needs to undertake a complete inventory of all library holdings and complete their strategic plan.

Surface Coal Mining: Information on Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit Reviews under Enhanced Coordination Procedures in Appalachia, Focusing on West Virginia|
Released October 19, 2010. The US Army Corps of Engineers issues 404 permits for surface mining or mountain top removal mining, and has accumulated a backlog of permit applications due to litigation decided in the Corps favor in February 2009. Per the guidance of EPA, the Corps has developed a more intensive review process for applications of concern, entitled enhanced coordination procedures (ECP). This GAO report outlines the status of the ECP review process and the extent of communication between the EPA and the Corps and the guidance offered to permit applicants. As of the publication of this report, 79 permit applications remained on the ECP list.  

Federal Oil and Gas Leases: Opportunities Exist to Capture Vented and Flared Natural Gas, Which Would Increase Royalty Payments and Reduce Greenhouse Gases
Released October 29. The GAO was asked to determine the amount of natural gas flared and leaked from federal oil leases, as those leaks represent greenhouse gas emissions and lost revenue for the Department of the Interior (DOE). With data from the EPA and the Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP), GAO reports that vented and flared gas from onshore leases may represent 4 to 5 percent of total gas produced.  They further report that around 40 percent of that lost gas could be economically captured with currently available control technologies. According to GAO analysis, such reductions could increase federal royalty payments by about $23 million annually and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to about 16.5 million metric tons of CO2--the annual emissions equivalent of 3.1 million cars. Venting and flaring reductions are also possible offshore, but data were not available for GAO to develop a complete estimate

Energy-Water Nexus: A Better and Coordinated Understanding of Water Resources Could Help Mitigate the Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development
Released October 29, 2010. Oil shale deposits in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are estimated to contain up to 3 trillion barrels of oil, but extracting this oil may require substantial amounts of water and large impacts to groundwater and surface water.  The GAO was asked to report on these impacts and found that the expected water needs for the entire life cycle of oil shale ranges from about 1 barrel (or 42 gallons) to 12 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced from in-situ heating operations. The total amount of water required for extensive production of these deposits is uncertain, given that estimates of recoverable oil are highly variable.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Preliminary Assessment of Federal Financial Risks and Cost Reimbursement and Notification Policies and Procedures
Released November 12, 2010. Eighteen Federal Agencies participated in the Deepwater Integrated Services Team in response to April’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Two BP subsidiaries and five other companies have been designated as “Responsible Parties” by the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Pollution Funds Center, and BP is receiving and processing all claims, which should ultimately be paid from trust funds set up by the responsible parties. However, the federal government has spent a large sum of money on the initial cleanup efforts, which should eventually be reimbursed by the companies responsible; this report assesses the federal government’s potential liabilities and reimbursement procedures. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends that the $1 billion expenditure cap be eliminated and that the Coast Guard should coordinate reimbursement procedures.

***National Academy of Sciences (NAS)***
U.S.-Iran Engagement in Science, Engineering, and Health (2000-2009): Opportunities, Constraints, and Impacts
Released November 4, 2010. This describes the results of a National Academies initiative to partner with Iranian organizations in science, engineering, and health research in the first decade of the 21st century, which has the potential to improve relations between the two countries.

The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States
Prepublication released November 9, 2010. As the top energy consumer in the world, China and the U.S. are both instrumental in the development of renewable energy technologies. The National Academies, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Engineering have prepared a review of renewable energy development and deployment in the two countries, emphasizing opportunities for collaboration. The authors present suggestions to accelerate the pace of deployment, increase cost-competitiveness, and shape the renewables market.

When Weather Matters: Science and Service to Meet Critical Societal Needs
Released November 10, 2010. Although the past 15 years have seen meteorological advances, the U.S. has failed to keep up with both international achievements and its own potential. This book presents the results of a summer 2009 conference of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, which identified the critical needs in the discipline. The conference also addressed emerging issues and socioeconomic challenges, which will be important to consider moving forward.

Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce Needs in the Future and its Strategy to Meet Those Needs
Released November 12, 2010. The Air Force depends on a wide variety of STEM expertise in order to retain supremacy in air, space, and cyber security, which are becoming increasingly complex. Maintaining a competitive workforce is particularly difficult in the face of current military engagements, budget cuts, and force reductions, and the Air Force is reluctant to rely solely on contractors for these skills. On behalf of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, the National Research Council held five sessions with Air Force leaders assessing current STEM capacity; the findings are presented in this report.

Interim Report on Causes of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Blowout and Ways to Prevent Such Events
Released November 17, 2010. The National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council have released the interim report of the Committee on the Analysis of Causes of the Deepwater Horizon Explosion, Fire, and Oil Spill to Identify Measures to Prevent Similar Accidents in the Future. Only preliminary findings are included in this interim report which examines contributing factors to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill including cementing operations and well design, monitoring, and operations. 

Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Collaboration on Space and Earth Science Missions
Prepublication released November 23, 2010. This report finds that multiagency earth science programs are often unnecessarily costly and complicated. The Committee on Assessment of Impediments to Interagency Cooperation suggests that projects be developed and implemented by multiple agencies only under certain conditions: cooperation results in significant added value or the project is transferring from one agency to another.

***Congressional Research Services (CRS)***
Biomass Feedstocks for Biopower: Background and Selected Issues
Released October 6, 2010. Biomass feedstocks are renewable and can be used to provide power; this report describes the energy potential of biopower and what producing biopower entails, as well as the regulatory atmosphere.

Changes in the Arctic: Background and Issues for Congress
Released October 8, 2010. As Arctic sea ice melts, the area has increasingly become the subject of interest among the Arctic nations, both for the resource potential the new shipping routes. This CRS report summarizes territorial claims by Russia and other nations and potential changes in sea ice coverage and permafrost melting that could complicated development in the region.

Pesticide Use and Water Quality: Are the Laws Complementary or in Conflict?
Released October 13, 2010. This report explores the intersection of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide (FIFRA) Act and the Clean Water Act (CWA). Until 2001, no CWA permit was required for application of FIFRA-approved products, even when those products were known to discharge to navigable streams. In that year EPA started requiring permits in some cases, and in 2006 EPA issued regulations that required CWA permits for some applications of pesticide. That measure was challenged in court but upheld by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Congress has introduced legislation to nullify the 2009 federal court ruling (H.R. 6087/S. 3735 and a third bill, H.R. 6273).

Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS): Overview and Issues
Released October 14, 2010. This report describes the RFS and measures for increasing the mandate for renewable fuel sales. It addresses the difficulty that producers have experienced in meeting RFS standards, and the controversy about the future capacity to meet RFS mandates in a sustainable manner.

Oil Spill Legislation in the 111th Congress
Released October 15, 2010. This report summarizes selected legislation that has been introduced to respond to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, including the Coast Guard Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011(H.R. 3619), which President Obama signed into law on October 4, 2010. The current regulations and policy guidelines for oil spill response are contained in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the Clean Water Act and its amendments, which the report also discusses.

Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation Through the 111th Congress
Released October 28, 2010. This report describes the characterization of biomass within federal legislation as a means of investigating why this energy resource has not been fully adopted by utilities or consumers. The report specifically looks at changing definitions of biomass since 2004, including language in the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Water Infrastructure Projects Designated in EPA Appropriations: Trends and Policy Implications
Released October 28, 2010. This report considers the overall trends of earmarked water infrastructure projects, and the possibility for changing the practice, as has been called for by state officials and Members of Congress. The report concludes that the majority of earmarked projects have received relatively small amounts, and that the practice is unlikely to change. Opponents to the process argue that earmarks circumvent the infrastructure priorities of state level officials and lead to wasteful spending. Since 1989, 13 percent of funds appropriate through EPA for water infrastructure projects have been directed through earmarks.

Winter Fuels Outlook 2010-2011
Released October 29, 2010 The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts rising fuel prices for the coming winter in its Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook (STEWFO), with average heat expenditures increasing 2.5 percent compared to last winter. Average expenditures for natural gas are expected to rise by 3.6 percent, while average expenditures for electricity are expected to fall 1.9 percent compared to last winter. These total expenditures are expected to rise despite predictions of lower consumption stemming from depressed economic activity and a mild winter, in part due to the increasing price of oil, which influences the price of natural gas.

 25. Key Federal Register Notices

The full federal register can be accessed at:

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency is announcing final revisions to the 2009 Final Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting rule, which may be viewed at, ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0109. The amendments will be effective November 29, 2010. Contact Carole Cook, (202) 343-9263, fur further information. [Thursday, October 28, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 208)]

DOE—The Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee will meet on December 9, 2010, in Washington, D.C. [Tuesday, November 2, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 211)]

EPA—The Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards has released a final version of the Policy Assessment for the Review of the Carbon Monoxide National Ambient Air Quality Standards. [Tuesday, November 2, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 211)]

EPA—The EPA is requesting comments on the proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits for Point Source Discharges from the Application of Pesticides to Waters of the United States. Comments are due by January 3, 2011. [Wednesday, November 3, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 212)]

NOAA—NOAA has issued a correction of the funding opportunity number for the NOAA Regional Ocean Partnership Funding Program, which should be NOAA-NOS-CSC-2011-2002721. Applications are due by December 10, 2010. [Wednesday, November 3, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 212)]

NOAA—NOAA is announcing a solicitation for the CRCP International Coral Reef Conservation Cooperative Agreements. Applications will be due February 22, 2011. [Wednesday, November 3, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 212)]

DOI—BOEMRE has released environmental documents for oil, gas, and mineral operations in the Gulf of Mexico OCS. [Thursday, November 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 213)]

DOI—BOEMRE has released a second set of environmental documents for oil, gas, and mineral operations in the Gulf of Mexico OCS. [Thursday, November 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 213)]

EPA—The EPA has granted a partial waiver allowing the introduction of fuel blends between E10 and E15 for certain classes and model years of motor vehicles. [Thursday, November 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 213)]

EPA—EPA has released a draft guidance document evaluating the results of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP) Tier 1, to identify candidate chemicals for Tier 2 testing. Comments are due by January 3, 2011. [Thursday, November 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 213)]

DOI—The Bureau of Reclamation has released a draft report assessing hydropower resources at existing government-owned dams. Comments are due by December 6, 2010. [Thursday, November 4, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 213)]

DOI—BOEMRE is soliciting feedback to gauge interest in offshore wind production off the coast of Maryland. [Tuesday, November 9, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 216)]

Navy—The Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel will hold a regularly scheduled meeting on December 8 and 9 in Washington, DC. [Tuesday, November 9, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 216)]

EPA—As part of the review of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards for lead, the EPA is holding a workshop on December 2 and 3 in Research Triangle Park, NC, to review draft materials on the Integrated Science Assessment for Lead. [Wednesday, November 10, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 217)]

NRC—NRC and DOE held a public meeting on November 15 in Aiken, SC to discuss waste classification in Idaho and South Carolina. Summary of this meeting is available at the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System at and on the DOE web site. [Friday, November 12, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 218)]

DOE—The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling will meet in Washington, DC, on December 2-3. [Monday, November 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 219)]

DOE—The Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Advisory Committee is holding its first public meeting in Washington, DC, on November 30. [Monday, November 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 219)]

NOAA—The Estuary Habitat Restoration Council has released a draft of the Estuary Habitat Restoration Strategy. Comments are due by January 14, 2011. [Monday, November 15, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 219)]

DOI—BOEMRE has released a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) for two exploration activities on the outer continental shelf of Alaska. [Tuesday, November 16, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 220)]

DOI—BOEMRE is preparing an environmental impact statement for oil and gas leases on the outer continental shelf in the Gulf of Mexico. [Tuesday, November 16, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 220)]

EPA—EPA has approved an emissions banking and trading of allowances program for emissions of oxides of nitrogen and sulfur dioxide in Texas. [Tuesday, November 16, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 220)]

EPA—EPA is accepting requests for grants to supplement State and Tribal Response Programs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) or superfund, through January 31, 2011. [Tuesday, November 16, 2010 Volume 75, Number 220]

EPA—EPA has released its guidelines for greenhouse gas permitting requirements for stationary sources. States are required to enact their implementation plans by January 2, 2011. [Wedensday, November 17, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 221)]

EPA—EPA has recertified that DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s (WIPP) meets regulatory requirements to continue receiving defense-related transuranic waste. [Thursday, November 18, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 222)]

EPA—The National Drinking Water Advisory Council will meet in Washington, DC, December 8 and 9 to discuss the Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) report from the EPA. [Friday, November 19, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 223)]

FWS—The Fish and Wildlife Service has extended the comment period on its plan for management of White-Nose Syndrome in bats. [Friday, November 19, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 223)]

USGS—The National Geospatial Advisory Committee will meet in Washington, DC, December 7 and 8 to discuss topics including the National Map and Geospatial Workforce. [Monday, November 22, 2010 Volume 75, Number 224]

DOI—BOEMRE is looking for qualified individuals to serve on its Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), Scientific Committee (SC). [Wednesday, November 24, 2010 Volume 75, Number 226]

DOE—The Environmental Management Site-Specific Advisory Board of Nevada will meet on December 13 to discuss the decontamination of the Nevada test site. [Wednesday, November 24, 2010 Volume 75, Number 226]

FEMA—FEMA will hold two public meetings to discuss possible reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The first meeting will be held in Washington, DC on December 2, and the second will be held in Denver, CO on December 9. [Wednesday, November 24, 2010 Volume 75, Number 226]

BOEMRE—BOEMRE is revising its regulations for noncompetitive renewable energy leases on the outer continental shelf such that a request for information (RFI) will only be published once, rather than the current practice of publishing twice. [Friday, November 26, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 227)]

DOE—The Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee is meeting in Washington, DC on December 15. [Tuesday, November 30, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 229)]

EPA—EPA has published its final rule for reporting of GHG emissions from Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems, requiring aggregate reporting for multiple reciprocate sources. . [Tuesday, November 30, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 229)]

EPA—EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have published final rules on GHG and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. [Tuesday, November 30, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 229)]

DOI—The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is holding public hearings in Washington, Pennsylvania and Arlington, Virginia on February 8 and February 28, respectively, on a proposed rule Lowering Miners' Exposure to Respirable Coal Mine Dust. [Tuesday, November 30, 2010 (Volume 75, Number 229)]

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 32. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

·  Energy Policy (11/22/10)
·  Nuclear Energy/Nuclear Waste Disposal Issues (11/22/10)
·  Air and Atmospheric Quality (11/10/10)
·  Energy Policy (11/10/10)
·  Climate Change Policy (11/10/10)

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Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program and Matthew Ampleman, AGI/AAPG Fall 2010 Intern.

Sources: Associated Press, AAAS, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, New York Times, Washington Post, Science Magazine, National Academies Press, Government Accountability Office, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate, the White House, Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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. More information on these topcs can be found on the Government Affairs Program Current Issues pages. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

Compiled December 3, 2010.


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