Monthly Review: December 2008


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

1. President-elect Obama’s Cabinet
2. President-elect Obama’s Science and Environment Team

3. Update on the New Senate – Who Gets to Sit at the Table?
4. Update on the New House – Committees Taking Shape
5. Economic Stimulus Package – First Work of the New Congress
6. House Science and Technology Committee Outlines 2009 Agenda
7. President Bush Designates Largest Marine Reserve
8. Top Ten State Policy Issues for 2009
9. Latest International Test Scores for Children in Science and Math
10. Geoscientists Without Borders: Two Projects in 2009
11. William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship: Apply Now
12. Key Federal Register Notices
13. New Updates to the Web

 

1. President-elect Obama’s Cabinet

President-elect Barak Obama completed all but one of his cabinet nominations in late December and hopes to move forward as rapidly as possible to assemble a new Administration, so the Executive branch can smoothly proceed with the business of governing after Obama’s inauguration on January 20. Nominations include Timothy Geithner for Secretary of the Treasury, Governor Janet Napolitano for Secretary of Homeland Security, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for Secretary of State, Governor Bill Richardson for Secretary of Commerce, Dr. Steven Chu for Secretary of Energy, Senator Ken Salazar for Secretary of the Interior, former Governor Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture, former Senator Tom Daschle for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Shaun Donovan for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former Congressman Ray LaHood for Secretary of Transportation, Chicago Public School Superintendent Arne Duncan for Secretary of Education, Congresswoman Hilda Solis for Secretary of Labor, General Eric Shinseki for Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Eric Holder for Attorney General, Congressman Rahm Emanuel for White House Chief of Staff, Peter Orszag for Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Lisa Jackson for the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk for the U.S. Trade Representative.

No nomination for the Office of National Drug Control Policy has been announced as of January 5, 2009.

Obama asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain as Secretary of Defense and Gates has agreed to do so. He will be the only Bush Administration cabinet member that is retained by the new administration. All of the other candidates must be confirmed by the Senate.

On January 5, Governor Richardson withdrew his name from consideration for the Commerce Secretary post over concern about a grand jury investigation of alleged political donations in exchange for state business. Obama’s transition team announced it would seek to nominate a new candidate for Secretary of Commerce as soon as possible.

The Senate is likely to consider some of the nominations during the week of January 13th. Only the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has officially announced a schedule, with an Energy Secretary nomination hearing for Dr. Chu on January 13 and an Interior Secretary nomination hearing for Senator Salazar on January 15.

The Energy and Interior nominations, which are probably of most interest to the geoscience community, are being filled with well respected professionals who have worked on the nexus between energy and climate change in the latter part of their careers. Both are expected to be confirmed without undue delay.

Energy Secretary Designate, Dr. Steven Chu is the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He was born in St. Louis in 1948 and completed undergraduate degrees in physics ant mathematics at the University of Rochester and his doctorate in Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He worked at Bell Laboratories and later joined the Stanford University faculty. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997 for his work on the laser cooling and trapping of atoms at Bell and Stanford.

Since becoming the director of Lawrence Berkeley in 2004, Chu has focused on developing a research portfolio on alternative energy, particularly cellulosic-based biofuels. Chu has spoken publicly about the threats of global warming and the need to rapidly develop alternative energy resources. He favors nuclear energy as an important component of a diversified energy portfolio and comes to the issue of nuclear waste with a significant background in physics and his management of one of the largest clean-ups of Cold War nuclear weapons production at Lawrence Berkeley. He has expressed concerns about the feasibility of carbon capture and sequestration, yet fully recognizes that the U.S., China and Russia have the largest coal reserves and are among the largest energy consumers, so the use of coal will continue as will the search for cleaner consumption.

Interior Secretary Designate, Senator Ken Salazar has represented the state of Colorado in the Senate for 4 years. He is a fifth generation Coloradan, who grew up on a ranch, farmed for 30 years, operated several small businesses, practiced water and environmental law, served as the Attorney General for Colorado and as a member of the Governor’s cabinet. In the U.S. Senate, he has focused on alternative energy resources and notes in his senatorial website biography that he has helped “lead every bipartisan effort on energy since 2005”. He has criticized the Bush Administration efforts to expand oil shale development without appropriate environmental assessments and he has supported President Bush’s decision to lift the offshore oil moratorium. Given his history in the Senate, Salazar is likely to try to balance resource needs and environmental concerns without getting bogged down in partisanship and with deference to individual State concerns about these different issues.

2. President-elect Obama’s Science and Environment Team

President-Elect Barack Obama has been moving relatively swiftly to appoint his science and environment team, with a clear focus on energy and climate change. The rapid nominations, the elevation of the top science advisor to an Assistant to the President and the creation of an Assistant and Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change also shows the new administration’s commitment to science and the environment.

With Peter Orszag, an expert on climate change policy, designated to head-up the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), there should be a cohesive focus on energy and climate change, even if the participants do not necessarily agree on the pathways to solutions.

In announcing the science and environment team, President-elect Obama said his administration will value science, will pursue new alternative and renewable energies and will seek bold action when the science and pursuits demand it. He also noted that the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior will play a vital role in meeting our energy and environmental challenges.
 
President-Elect Barack Obama nominated John Holdren to be Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and one of three co-chairs of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

Holdren is a physicist with bachelor and masters degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a doctorate degree from Stanford University. He served as a Professor of Energy and Resources at the University of California, Berkeley for over two decades (now emeritus). Since 1996, he has been at Harvard as the Director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and as a faculty member in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and Environmental Science and Policy. He also directs the Woods Hole Research Center. His website biography describes his research interests as “… focused on causes and consequences of global environmental change, analysis of energy technologies and policies, ways to reduce the dangers from nuclear weapons and materials, and the interaction of content and process in science and technology policy.”

Holdren spoke at the American Geological Institute’s 2007 Leadership Forum on “Communicating Geosciences to Policymakers” and his presentation entitled “Energy Policy in Theory and Practice” outlines the energy and environmental issues of our times, lists several key recommendations of recent reports that Holdren has worked on and comments on the energy legislation considered in the 109th and 110th Congresses. The presentation is available at http://www.agiweb.org/events/LF2007/index.html

The other nominated co-chairs of PCAST include life scientists, Harold Varmus and Eric Lander, showing a rather strong emphasis on life sciences and particularly genomics.  Perhaps this suggests the committee may focus on energy from biology (synthetic or natural), an emphasis that dovetails well with Energy Secretary-designate Dr. Chu’s recent efforts to expand synthetic biofuels research at Lawrence Berkeley.

Regardless of the exact focus of PCAST, President-elect Obama promises to "remake PCAST into a vigorous external advisory council that will shape my thinking." This presents an opportunity for the science and technology community to help play a role in shaping the science and technology policy direction of the next administration.

The geoscience community, through the American Geological Institute, has prepared a transition document that describes the role of the geosciences and geoscientists in helping to guide science and technology federal policy to meet the challenges of the twenty first century. The document is entitled “Critical Needs of the Twenty First Century: The Role of the Geosciences" The geoscience community should actively engage with PCAST on these critical needs and offer to serve as a resource for the committee.

Strengthening PCAST is also the focus of the outgoing PCAST co-chair, E. Floyd Kvamme. Kvamme released a transition letter on November 20, 2008 that offers advice to the next PCAST. Among the recommendations are to have the committees and subcommittees of PCAST meet more regularly, focus less on technology development, add more active researchers to the committees, and meet more regularly with the Administration (including the President).

On the environmental side of the President’s team, Obama has nominated Nancy Sutley to be Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Carol Browner to be Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change and Heather Zichal to be Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

Sutley currently serves as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment for the City of Los Angeles, and is also Mayor Villaraigosa's appointment to the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. She has previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, as Energy Advisor to Governor Davis and as the Deputy Secretary for Policy and Intergovernmental Relations within the California Environmental Protection Agency.

Browner is Principal of The Albright Group LLC, where she provides strategic counsel in the critical areas of environmental protection, climate change, and energy conservation and security. Prior to her current position, she served as Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a Cabinet-level position she held for eight years.

Last but not least, President-elect Obama made his first “science agency” appointment, by nominating Jane Lubchenco for administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Lubchenco is a well-regarded professor of marine biology and zoology at Oregon State University. She is an environmental scientist and marine ecologist with a bachelors degree in biology from Colorado College and a masters degree from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, both in marine ecology. She has been recognized for her research and service to society through numerous awards, leadership positions and advisory group assignments.

3. Update on the New Senate – Who Gets to Sit at the Table?

The 111th Congress began its first session on January 6, 2009. Typically in a transition year, the members are sworn in, committee assignments are completed and then the business of governing is delayed until the new President takes the oath of office a few weeks later. This year is not typical though as the Senate is still dealing with unresolved appointments in two states and the need for new appointments for two senators who will resign if their cabinet appointments are confirmed by their senatorial colleagues.

In Minnesota, Democrat Al Franken was declared the winner by 225 votes in a recount, but Republican Norm Coleman has challenged the results. Court proceedings to resolve the challenge could take months. Until the issues are resolved, Senate Republicans have vowed to withhold a provisional seat from Franken. Franken was not granted a seat on January 6 because although the election board certified the results, he has not received an official certificate from the state.

In Illinois, Governor Blagojevich chose Democrat Roland Burris to fill the vacated Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama. Earlier, Senate leadership had vowed not to accept any appointment made by Governor Blagojevich because the Governor has been accused of trying to sell the seat.

Burris came to Washington DC to take the oath of office on January 6, but was rejected by the secretary of the Senate because Burris’s paperwork is not in order. The Illinois Secretary of State did not sign the Governor’s appointment letter. Burris is seeking the Illinois Secretary’s signature through a court order. In addition, Burris has threatened to sue to take his seat in the Senate. For now, the Illinois seat remains vacant. In late-breaking news on the same day, Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee that may decide Burris’s fate, stated that Burris should be allowed to assume the Senate seat. She said the appointment was lawful and the Senate has no right to challenge it. Her statements open the way for a possible and unexpectedly rapid compromise, where Burris is appointed as soon as the Illinois Secretary signs the letter.

In Colorado, Governor Bill Ritter has appointed Denver schools superintendent Michael Bennet to fill the Senate seat that will be vacated if Senator Ken Salazar is confirmed as the new Interior Secretary by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee at a hearing on January 15.

In New York, some media sources have claimed that Governor David Patterson will appoint Caroline Kennedy to fill the Senate seat that will be vacated if Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is confirmed as the new Secretary of State. A confirmation hearing has not been scheduled yet, however, other media sources have hinted that Republicans may ask former President Bill Clinton to testify at her hearing about any conflicts of interest related to his international work. Normally confirmation hearings only involve one witness, the nominee, so having Bill Clinton testify would be unusual, but this is beginning as an atypical year.

The possible delays in these four appointments leave uncertainty in the Senate that could stall legislation and other work. For now, committee appointments have not even been allotted because the distribution of the parties is uncertain. Assuming the seats in Colorado and New York are resolved in a few weeks, the Senate will probably work with only 98 or 99 senators (55 or 56 Democrats, 2 Independents and 41 Republicans) for a few months. The depleted numbers will make it more difficult to achieve the 60 vote super majority needed to avoid filibuster and move legislation and other work forward.

4. Update on the New House – Committees Taking Shape

The House of Representatives has fewer membership problems than the Senate. One vacant seat exists in the 5th district of Illinois as Rahm Emanuel resigned on January 2 to become White House Chief of Staff. Illinois will complete a special election on April 7. As of January 6, the House begins its session with 256 Democrats, 178 Republicans and 1 vacant. Democratic Congresswoman Hilda Solis (32nd, CA) is expected to resign if she is confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor and then California will proceed with a special election in that district.

The House is focused on setting up committees, passing some rule changes, working on an economic stimulus package and finishing the fiscal year 2009 budget before the continuing resolution expires on March 6.

House Democrats added members to key committees. Eight relatively junior members were added to the Energy and Commerce Committee including: Donna Christensen of the Virgin Islands; Kathy Castor of Florida; John Sarbanes of Maryland; Zack Space, Betty Sutton and Chris Murphy of Ohio; Jerry McNerney of California; and Bruce Braley of Iowa. All except Christensen were elected to Congress in 2006.

Two new Democrats were added on the Appropriations Committee - Lincoln Davis of Tennessee and John Salazar of Colorado.

5. Economic Stimulus Package – First Work of the New Congress

The 111th Congress plans to begin work immediately on an economic stimulus package after members are sworn in on January 6. Normally in a transition year, the new Congress waits to begin their work until after the new President is inaugurated, but this is an atypical year and the economic meltdown of the past few months has put pressure on Congress and the incoming Administration to act rapidly. Early hopes were to get a stimulus package to the new President on the day of the inauguration.

President-elect Obama has proposed a stimulus package in the range of $657 billion to $775 billion, which would include tax cuts for workers, tax breaks for business losses and small business write-offs for expenses to help create jobs and stimulate economic growth. The proposal also includes efforts to double renewable energy production, make public buildings more energy efficient, rebuild infrastructure, computerize health-care systems and modernize classrooms, laboratories and libraries. Obama spoke to congressional leadership about the package on January 6 and received an optimistic response from both parties.

Even with optimism as the new year begins, the package is very large and the economic problems are very complex, so debate is likely on the details. Some Democrats are calling for as much as $1 trillion for the stimulus, while fiscal conservatives on both sides are calling for much less.  Senate Republicans have also suggested that more time is needed to consider the size and shape of the package. In particular, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested that the stimulus should provide loans rather than grants to the states. These issues plus the state of the Senate right now are likely to delay any passage of a stimulus package until after the inauguration and may be into February. Congress plans to recess for the Presidents Day Holiday over the week of February 16, so look for legislators to work to make that their new stimulus package deadline.

6. House Science and Technology Committee Outlines 2009 Agenda

Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) released an agenda overview for the House Science and Technology Committee. The committee plans to “work on issues including energy technology development, climate and weather monitoring, math and science education programs, nanotechnology, the space program, aviation research, and technical standards for industries from energy to health care to telecommunications.”

The committee plans to work with the incoming Administration to secure full funding for the America COMPETES Act and to implement the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). They will also provide oversight to ensure that authorized energy technology programs (such as geothermal and carbon capture and storage) are implemented and review programs at the Energy Department’s Office of Science to ensure they are integrated with applied research and technology transfer. The committee will address new energy challenges, such as nuclear reactors and pipelines for new fuels and carbon dioxide.

With regards to the environment, the committee will address needed technologies for climate change monitoring, affect more coordination of Federal research on water quality and quantity and conduct a “wholesale review” of weather and ocean research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including work on ocean acidification. In the area of risk reduction, the committee plans to “Review and refocus Federal disaster mitigation research programs related to fire, wind and earthquakes” and to make sure that Department of Homeland Security aligns research priorities with security needs.

Turning toward space, the committee plans to work with the new Administration on a multi-year authorization for NASA and review the “capabilities of emerging space-faring nations and explore an expansion of international space collaboration”

7. President Bush Designates Largest Marine Reserve

On January 6, President Bush designated three areas — the Mariana Trench and the waters and corals surrounding three uninhabited islands in the Northern Mariana Islands, Rose Atoll in American Samoa, and seven islands strung along the equator in the central Pacific Ocean – as national marine monuments. Together the monuments total some 195,274 square miles (505,757 square kilometers) and represent the largest marine reserve.

The monuments contain stunning geological and biological wonders. All will be protected by the 1906 Antiquities Act, which eliminates commercial fishing, waste dumping and other extractive commercial efforts within the monuments. One exception will allow commercial fishing in the waters above the Mariana Trench. Recreational fishing, tourism, research, military operations and freedom of navigation will remain viable activities (most require a federal permit) under the act. The seven islands in the Pacific Remote Islands National Monument include the Johnston Atoll, the site of nuclear test blasts.

8. Top Ten State Policy Issues for 2009

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) surveyed their members about the top issues for state governments. The top ten in order of priority are: state budgets, transportation, higher education affordability, health care, alternative energy, sentencing and corrections, financial services for homeowners, help for low-income families and serving the unemployed. All 50 states will hold legislative sessions in 2009 to address these issues and many are looking for the proposed federal-level economic stimulus package to help them deal with these issues.

For more information, visit www.ncsl.org

9. Latest International Test Scores for Children in Science and Math

On December 21, 2008, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The study assesses the math and science skills of 4th and 8th grade students. Average fourth and eighth grade U.S. math scores ranked in the top third of participating nations, while average fourth and eighth grade U.S. science scores ranked in the top quarter of participating nations.

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an international organization of national research institutions and governmental research agencies develops and helps administer the tests. In 2007, 36 countries participated at grade four and 48 participated at grade eight.

10. Geoscientists Without Borders: Two Projects in 2009

On November 17, 2008, the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) Foundation announced the first two projects in India and Thailand that will be part of their new program, Geoscientists Without Borders. The program applies geophysical technology to the needs of people from all areas of the globe through targeted projects designed to tangibly impact the community around them. Universities and industries are connected to communities to carry-out the projects and the work will involve students, teachers, researchers, and professionals.

The project in India will address the severe water crisis in rural areas. Clemson University and the Foundation for Ecological Security (an India non-profit organization) will use electromagnetic induction to map soil moisture and shallow aquifers in the Salri watershed in the State of Madhya Pradesh, India. The goal of this project is to increase the water supply through water capture, storage, and usage management.

The project in Thailand will address earthquake hazards, water quality and the preservation of cultural heritage through archaeological mapping. Boise State University in partnership with Chiang Mai University will use seismic, ground penetrating radar, electrical, gravity, and magnetic methods to address these issues in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 

The foundation is grateful to its founding partner, Schlumberger, for a $1 million grant to initiate the program. The foundation plans to support two projects per year.

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

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

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

Key Federal Register Notices

 

DOE - The Department of Energy gives notice of a Request for to work together in addressing important challenges in the geothermal program; under authorities such as 42 U.S.C. Section 7381(b) of the Department of Energy Education Enhancement Act, and the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Section 931(a)(2)(C). The Federal government and industry must address the growing inadequacy of workforce competencies due to the small size of the existing geothermal industry and the competition for human resources, as the geothermal industry competes with the oil and gas industry for qualified personnel. The limited capability for meeting a critical need in qualified personnel is compounded by the current lack of formal university degree programs. This RFI seeks input regarding future GTP funding, potential initiatives within the industry and in the classroom, and with DOE administrative efforts. Written comments must be received by January 30, 2009, and should be sent to RFI-09GO39004@go.doe.gov in Microsoft Word format.
[Federal Register: December 9, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 237)]

EPA - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), gives notice of a meeting of the Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) National Center for Environmental Research Subcommittee (NCER). Proposed agenda items for the meeting include, but are not limited to, a discussion of the ORD Research Program, the NCER reorganization and vision, and the charge to the subcommittee. The meeting (a teleconference call) will be held on January 12, 2009 from 1-3pm EST. For more information contact Susan Peterson, at 202-564-1077 or peterson.susan@epa.gov. Requests for the draft agenda or for making an oral presentation at the conference calls will be accepted up to one business day before the meeting.

DOC - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gives notice of plans to add a second public comment period for the U.S. Climate Change Science Program Unified Synthesis Product. The peer review and first public comment period that ended on August 14, 2008, and resulted in substantial revisions to the document, and a second draft will be released in January 2009 for a 45-day public comment period. Another Federal Register Notice will be published announcing the start of the public comment period and will provide detailed instructions for accessing the revised document and submitting comments.
[Federal Register: December 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 240)]

DOI – The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Reclamation and Enforcement announce a final rule effective January 12, 2009, which amends regulations concerning stream buffer zones, stream-channel diversions, siltation structures, impoundments, excess spoil, and coal mine waste. Among other things, this rule requires that surface coal mining operations be designed to minimize the creation of excess spoil and the adverse environmental impacts of fills constructed to dispose of excess spoil and coal mine waste. We have revised the stream buffer zone rule to more closely reflect the underlying provisions of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), to adopt related permit application requirements, to require that disturbance of perennial and intermittent streams and their buffer zones generally be avoided unless it is not reasonably possible to do so, to identify exceptions to the requirement to maintain an undisturbed buffer zone for perennial and intermittent streams, and to clarify the relationship between SMCRA and the Clean Water Act. For more information visit OSM's home page at http://www.osmre.gov  or contact Dennis G. Rice at 202-208-2829.
[Federal Register: December 12, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 240)]

EPA -  This action finalizes changes to EPA's emission inventory reporting requirements. This action consolidates, reduces, and simplifies the current requirements; adds limited new requirements; provides additional flexibility to states in the ways they collect and report emissions data; and accelerates the reporting of emissions data to EPA by state and local agencies. This final rule is effective on December 17, 2008. For general questions, please contact Dennis Beauregard, U.S. EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and
Standards, Air Quality Assessment Division, Mail Code C339-02, Research
Triangle Park, North Carolina 27711; (919) 541-5512;
beauregard.dennis@epa.gov.
[Federal Register: December 17, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 243)]

EPA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invites nominations from a diverse range of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment to the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT). It is anticipated that vacancies will be filled by late spring 2009

For more information, contact Sonia Altieri, Designated Federal Officer, U.S. EPA; (202) 564-0243; altieri.sonia@epa.gov.
[Federal Register: December 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 245)]

EPA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of its ``First External Review Draft Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter'' (EPA/600/R-08/139 and EPA/600/R-08/139A). The document was prepared by the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) within EPA(s Office of Research and Development as part of the review of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter. EPA is releasing this draft document to seek review by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) and the public (meeting date and location to be specified in a separate Federal Register notice). The draft document does not represent, and should not be construed to represent, any final EPA policy, viewpoint, or determination. EPA will consider any public comments submitted in response to this notice when revising the document.

The public comment period begins on or about December 19, 2008. Comments must be received on or before March 13, 2009.
[Federal Register: December 19, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 245)]

EPA - EPA is proposing to adjust the allowance system for control of U.S. consumption and production of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) by apportioning baselines and allocating production and consumption allowances for several HCFCs for  which the Agency previously allocated allowances and other HCFCs that were not allocated allowances previously, for the control periods 2010-2014.

Comments must be received on or before February 23, 2009, unless a public hearing is requested. If a public hearing is requested, comments must then be received on or before March 9, 2009. For more information contact Cindy Axinn Newberg, EPA, Stratospheric Protection Division, Office of Atmospheric Programs, Office of Air and Radiation (6205J), 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20460, (202) 343-9729, newberg.cindy@epa.gov.
[Federal Register: December 23, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 247)]

DOE - The Department of Energy (DOE) today publishes a proposed rule to establish the procedures and standards for reverse auctions of  production incentives for cellulosic biofuels pursuant to section 942 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005). Public comment on this proposed rule will be accepted until January 22, 2009.
[Federal Register: December 23, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 247)]

NSF - The National Science Foundation (NSF) is proposing to issue regulations to implement the Program Fraud Civil Remedies Act of 1986 (PFCRA). PFCRA authorizes certain Federal agencies, including NSF, to impose, through administrative adjudication, civil penalties and assessments against any person who makes, submits, or presents, or causes to be made, submitted, or presented, a false, fictitious, or fraudulent claim or written statement to the agency. The proposed regulations establish the procedures that NSF will follow in implementing PFCRA, and specify the hearing and appeal rights of persons subject to penalties and assessments under PFCRA.

Comments must be submitted by January 29, 2009. Send written comments to the Office of the General Counsel, National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230. You also may send comments by facsimile transmission to (703)
292-9041, or send them electronically through the Federal Government's one-stop rulemaking Web site at http://www.regulations.gov.

For more information contact Eric S. Gold, Assistant General Counsel, Office of the General Counsel, National Science Foundation, (703) 292-8060 and egold@nsf.gov.
[Federal Register: December 30, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 250)]

EPA - On December 18, 2008, the Administrator issued an interpretive memorandum entitled ``EPA's Interpretation of Regulations That Determine Pollutants Covered by Federal Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) Permit Program.'' This memorandum clarifies the scope of the EPA regulation that determines the pollutants subject to the Federal PSD program under the Clean Air Act (Act).
The memorandum is available online at
 http://www.epa.gov/nsr/documents/
psd_interpretive_memo_12.18.08.pdf
[Federal Register: December 31, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 251)]

EPA - This notice announces applicability determinations, alternative monitoring decisions, and regulatory interpretations that EPA has made under the New Source Performance Standards (NSPS); the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP); and the Stratospheric Ozone Protection Program.
[Federal Register: December 31, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 251)]

13. New Updates to the Web

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Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Government Affairs Program Staff and Merilie Reynolds AGI/AAPG 2008 Fall Intern.

Sources: Change.gov, New York Times, Greenwire, Washington Post, E&E Daily, and Science Magazine.

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

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

Posted January 7, 2008.