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AGI Fiscal Year 2005 Testimony to Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee

Written Testimony Submitted by
Emily M. Lehr, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
to the United States Senate
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations
April 27, 2004

To the Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to provide the American Geological Institute's perspective on fiscal year (FY) 2005 appropriations for geoscience programs within the subcommittee's jurisdiction. The president's budget requests significant cuts in the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). If enacted, these reductions would hamper the Survey's ability to carry out its important missions to ensure adequate natural resources, monitor environmental conditions and reduce the nation's vulnerability to natural hazards. Specifically, we ask the subcommittee to restore funds to the USGS Mineral Resources, National Cooperative Geologic Mapping, and Toxic Substances Hydrology programs. In addition, the president's request would decimate the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy oil and natural gas research programs, and we ask for restoration of those to their FY 2002 levels.

Geoscience activities are also found in a number of other agencies within the subcommittee's jurisdiction. We ask the subcommittee to provide adequate funds for geoscience activities in the Minerals Management Service (MMS) Environmental Studies Program, the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division and the U.S. Forest Service Minerals and Geology Management Program, and to fully fund scientific research programs at the Smithsonian Institution. MMS does important work in energy resource assessment and collection of geoscience data. Geoscience programs within the land management agencies provide a scientific basis for land-use decisions, a role that they share with the USGS. The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History plays a dual role in communicating the excitement of the geosciences and enhancing knowledge through research and preservation of geoscience collections.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 42 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. The institute serves as a voice for shared interests in our profession, plays a major role in strengthening geoscience education, and strives to increase public awareness of the vital role that the geosciences play in society's use of resources and interaction with the environment.

U.S. Geological Survey

For the fourth year in a row, the USGS faces substantial cuts in the administration's request. AGI thanks the subcommittee for its record of restoring cuts and recognizing the Survey's broad value to the nation. This year, we urge the subcommittee to not only put back funds cut in the president's request but also to provide enough additional support to stop the ongoing erosion of the Survey's ability to carry out its programs due to the rising costs of doing business. Uncontrollable expenses, such as cost-of-living increases for salaries, should not cut into the funds available to fulfill the agency's mission.

Virtually every American citizen and every federal, state, and local agency benefits either directly or indirectly from USGS products and services. As was made clear by the National Research Council report Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS's value to the nation goes well beyond the Department of the Interior's stewardship mission for public lands. USGS information and expertise address a wide range of important problems facing this nation: earthquakes and floods, global environmental change, water availability, waste disposal, and availability of energy and mineral resources. Some of the most important activities of the Survey serve the entire nation and often are most applicable to those non-federal lands where the nation's citizens reside. At the same time, AGI recognizes that the Survey does have a responsibility to provide scientific support for its sister land management agencies at Interior, an important mission that needs to be well executed if land management decisions are to be made with the best available scientific information. It is imperative that both these missions be recognized and valued within the Department and the White House. AGI asks the subcommittee to continue its efforts to help the administration better understand the Survey's value to the nation as a whole

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. AGI urges the subcommittee to reject the administration's requested cuts to the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and to fund this important program at the FY 2004 appropriated level. This important partnership between the USGS, state geological surveys, and universities provides the nation with fundamental data for addressing natural hazard mitigation, environmental remediation, land-use planning, and resource development.

Mineral Resources Program. This highly regarded research program is the nation's premier credible source for regional, national and global mineral resource and mineral environmental assessments, statistics and research critical for sound economic, mineral-supply, land-use and environmental analysis, planning and decision making. AGI urges the subcommittee to reject the administration's requested cuts to this program and to fund it at the FY 2004 appropriated level. If additional funds are available to grow this program, we ask the subcommittee to consider funding the Mineral Education and Research initiative that would establish an external grant program to support university-based applied mineral deposits research and training in mineral resource issues. Such a program has been recommended by the National Research Council as a means of improving cooperation between the minerals industry, universities and government, and of arresting the decline in geoscience faculty research expertise in minerals geology.

Advanced National Seismic System. A key role for the USGS is providing the research, monitoring, and assessment that are critically needed to better prepare for and respond to natural hazards. When a massive quake struck Alaska in December 2002, a major economic and environmental disaster was averted because the Trans Alaska Pipeline System did not rupture where it crossed the fault. The pipeline's resilience, despite the 14 feet of ground movement, was due to stringent design specifications based on USGS geologic studies three decades ago. To ensure future successes in hazard identification and mitigation, the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Authorization Act of 1999 called for a significant federal investment in expansion and modernization of existing seismic networks and for development of ANSS -- a nationwide network of shaking measurement systems centered on urban areas. ANSS can provide real-time earthquake information to emergency responders as well as building and ground shaking data for engineers and scientists seeking to understand earthquake processes. If additional funds are available, this program should grow toward its authorized levels of $35 million in FY05.

Hydrology Programs. The FY 2005 budget requests a significant cut in the Toxic Substances Hydrology program. The Toxics program supports targeted, long-term research on water resource contamination in both surface and groundwater environments. Such problem-specific research in this area is highly appropriate for USGS. The president's request also calls for the termination of the Water Resources Research Institutes. AGI strongly encourages the subcommittee to oppose these reductions and to fully support these programs. AGI urges the subcommittee to reject the administration's requested cuts in funding for the National Water Quality Assessment and National Streamflow Information programs, both of which make important contributions to the nation.

Homeland Security. Another troubling aspect of the president's request that is not apparent from the budget documents is the lack of funding for the USGS activities in support of homeland security and the war on terrorism overseas. All four disciplines within the Survey have made and continue to make significant contributions to these efforts, but the FY 2005 request does not provide any direct funding. Instead, those costs must be absorbed in addition to the proposed cuts. AGI encourages the subcommittee to recognize the Survey's important role in homeland security and ensure adequate support for its newfound responsibilities.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development

AGI is very concerned by the significant reductions in the President's budget request to the Oil Technology R&D and Natural Gas R&D programs. The proposed 57 percent cut to oil research and 40 percent to natural gas research would decimate these programs - programs which were cut in the President's request last year and only partially restored by the subcommittee. The research dollars spent by these programs go largely to universities, state geological surveys and research consortia to address critical issues like enhanced recovery from known fields and unconventional sources that are the future of natural gas supply. This money does not go into corporate coffers, but it helps American businesses stay in business by giving them a technological edge over their foreign competitors. AGI strongly encourages the subcommittee to restore these funds and bring these programs back to at least FY 2003 levels.

Research funded by DOE leads to new technologies that improve the efficiency and productivity of the domestic energy industry. Continued research on fossil energy is critical to America's future and should be a key component of any national energy strategy. The societal benefits of fossil energy R&D extend to such areas as economic and national security, job creation, capital investment, and reduction of the trade deficit. The nation will remain dependent on petroleum as its principal transportation fuel for the foreseeable future and natural gas is growing in importance. It is critical that domestic production not be allowed to prematurely decline at a time when tremendous advances are being made in improving the technology with which these resources are extracted. The recent spike in both oil and natural gas prices is a reminder of the need to retain a vibrant domestic industry in the face of uncertain sources overseas. Technological advances are key to maintaining our resource base and ensuring this country's future energy security.

The federal investment in energy R&D is particularly important when it comes to longer-range research with broad benefits. In today's competitive markets, the private sector focuses dwindling research dollars on shorter-term results in highly applied areas such as technical services. In this context, DOE's support of fossil energy research is very significant both in magnitude and impact compared to that done in the private sector. Without it, we risk losing our technological edge with this global commodity.

Smithsonian Institution

This venerable institution was established for "the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Those dual charges require that the Smithsonian not only welcome visitors to its museums but also produce new knowledge through scientific research. Last year, a specially appointed science commission released a report outlining the role of research within the Smithsonian. The report noted that funding erosion has placed the institution's world-class research facilities and researchers in poor financial standing. The National Research Council has released a report with similar findings. The message appears to have had a significant impact on the president's FY 2005 request, which calls for a 27 percent increase in funding, $1.5 million of which will go toward fulfilling the findings of these reports. AGI thanks the subcommittee for embracing the findings of these reports and starting to build up Smithsonian research.

National Park Service

The national parks are very important to the geoscience community as unique national treasures that showcase the geologic splendor of our country and offer unparalleled opportunities for both geoscientific research and education of our fellow citizens. The National Park Service's Geologic Resources Division was established in 1995 to provide park managers with geologic expertise. Working in conjunction with USGS and other partners, the division helps ensure that geoscientists are becoming part of an integrated approach to science-based resource management in parks. AGI asks the subcommittee to fully support the president's requested increase for the Natural Resources Challenge. AGI would like to see additional support for the Volunteers in the Park program and its associated partnerships as well as additional geological staff positions to adequately address the geologic resources in the national parks.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony to the subcommittee. If you would like any additional information for the record, please contact me at 703-379-2480, ext. 212 voice, 703-379-7563 fax, eml@agiweb.org, or 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502.

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

Posted: May 12, 2005

 


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