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AGI Fiscal Year 2007 Testimony to Senate Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations

Written Testimony Submitted by
Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
to the United States Senate
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations
April 28, 2006

 

Thank you for this opportunity to provide the American Geological Institute's perspective on fiscal year (FY) 2007 appropriations for geoscience programs within the Subcommittee's jurisdiction. We ask the Subcommittee to support the well-informed, yet fiscally responsible increases in the Administration's budget proposal for the Minerals Management Services (MMS), the Bureau of Land Management's Energy and Mineral Management program and the Smithsonian Institution. AGI also supports new funding for fixed costs and a few high priority programs within the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The high priority programs include a new Integrated Multi-Hazards Demonstration Project, the National Streamflow Information Program, the Energy Resources Program and some new funding for the Landsat Continuity Mission.

Regrettably, the Administration also proposes significant cuts to the USGS mineral resources and water programs. If the President's request were enacted, the USGS would receive a total budget of only $945 million, a 2% decrease compared to last year's funding, while the Mineral Resources Program would receive a $22 million cut, leaving the program with only about $30 million in FY 2007 and the Water Resources Program would be cut by about $7.4 million. If enacted, these reductions would hamper the Survey's ability to carry out its important objectives to monitor environmental conditions and provide resource assessments for economic development and national security. The value of domestically processed nonfuel mineral resources is estimated to be about $478 billion and the USGS Mineral Resources Program is the only entity, public or private, that provides an analysis and assessment of the raw materials and processed minerals accessible from domestic and global markets. Specifically, we ask the Subcommittee to restore funds to the Mineral Resources Program and the Water Resources Program and to support a $1.2 billion overall budget for USGS. This budget would allow essential, but consistently under funded, programs throughout the agency to fulfill their basic mission and such a request is supported by the 69 organizations of the USGS Coalition. AGI is a charter member of the USGS Coalition.

For the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the proposed FY 2007 is $7.3 billion, a 5.1% decrease from last year with significant cuts for state water programs. AGI supports full funding for water programs in EPA and USGS, given the importance of clean and readily available water for our citizens, industries, local to federal government agencies and the environment.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 44 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists who work in industry, academia and government. 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 fifth year in a row, the USGS faces cuts in the Administration's request. AGI thanks the Subcommittee for its record of restoring critical funds and recognizing the Survey's essential value to the nation. The USGS is a critical federal science agency and it should receive increased funding like the proposed increases in the President's American Competitiveness Initiative for the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science within the Department of Energy. The USGS performs complementary research, analysis and education and should be part of the President's initiative to advance innovation, reduce imported oil dependencies and ensure American competitiveness in science and technology.

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. 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 these missions be recognized and valued within the Department and by the Administration. AGI asks the Subcommittee to continue its efforts to help the Administration better understand the Survey's value to the nation as a whole

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 2005 appropriated level of $54 million. The huge cut, leaving the program with less than $30 million in FY 2007 would decimate the program. It would cost about 240 full time positions and would eliminate or reduce global mineral resource assessments of mineral commodities, research on industrial minerals, research on inorganic toxins, materials flow analyses, and the Minerals Resources External Research program. The essence of the program would be jeopardized at a time when mineral products account for a rapidly growing and valuable commodity of the U.S. economy.

The Mineral Resources Program (MRP) has 6 divisions with offices across the U.S. working on a broad range of initiatives to secure the nation's economic base and environmental welfare. Each month, the Minerals Information Services of the MRP responds to over 2,000 telephone inquiries and more than 90,000 email or facsimile inquiries from the federal government, state agencies, domestic and foreign agencies, foreign governments and the general public. Cutting-edge research by MRP scientists investigates the role of microbes in the geochemical cycles of arsenic, mercury, lead and zinc to understand the transport and accumulation of health-threatening toxins related to these elements and to distinguish their natural or anthropogenic sources. MRP scientists also investigated and prepared a report on the asbestos-bearing debris in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster. The Global Mineral Resource Assessment Project of the MRP provides unbiased and timely information about the current and future availability of mineral resources around the world, which is needed to understand and anticipate economic, health, environmental and political factors that will affect how these resources are used in this increasingly interconnected world.

The data and analyses of the MRP are used by the Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Federal Reserve, other federal, state and local government entities, foreign governments, private companies and the general public. Analyses based on the MRP data are essential for guiding economic and environmental policy and for providing options for land use decisions posed by industry, government and private land owners. We urge the Subcommittee to restore the Mineral Resources Program to its FY 2005 level of $54 million so that it may perform its core missions effectively and efficiently.

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. AGI is encouraged by the Administration's continued requests for small annual increases for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (the FY 2007 request is for $25.4 million) and values Congress' past support for much larger increases. 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. The program was authorized (P.L. 106-148) to grow by about 10% to 20% per year from a starting level of $28 million in 1999 to $64 million in 2005. Re-authorization at $64 million per year over the next 5 years is currently being considered in Congress. AGI strongly supports the increased funding being considered by Congress because the program provides a timely basis for assessing water availability and quality, risks from hazards and other major land and resource-use issues that are of increasing prominence in many states.

Natural Hazards. 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. The tragic earthquake/tsunami in the Indian Ocean, hurricanes Katrina and Rita striking the Gulf Coast and the massive earthquake in Pakistan, remind us of the need for preparation, education, mitigation and rapid response to natural hazards. A 2006 National Academies report entitled Improved Seismic Monitoring estimates that increased seismic monitoring leads to increased future savings from the damaging effects of potential earthquakes. Given recent events and this timely report, AGI strongly supports the Administration's request for increased funding for Earthquake, Volcano and Landslide Hazards and appreciates Congress' past support for these programs. With great forethought, the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Authorization Act of 1999 called for a significant federal investment in expansion and modernization of existing seismic networks and for the development of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) -- a nationwide network of shaking measurement systems focused 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. ANSS has been allocated about 10% of its authorized funding level per year, which is not nearly enough to deploy the 7,000 instruments called for in the law. Currently, 66 are operating and there is much more work that needs congressional support. We would like to commend the Subcommittee for your leadership in securing previous increases for ANSS and ask for additional increases in FY 2007. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) was reauthorized in October, 2004 and AGI supports the appropriation of full funding for this vital program. We hope that all of these under funded systems will receive additional support to meet their timely goals of better protection and mitigation of earthquake hazards long before we need to react.

Water Programs. The president's request calls for the termination of the Water Resources Research Institutes. AGI strongly encourages the Subcommittee to oppose these reductions and to fully support this program at its small, but effective FY 2005 level of $6.4 million. AGI is pleased that the Administration supports increased funding for stream gages and the National Streamflow Information program.

Homeland Security. Another troubling aspect of the President's request 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 2007 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.

Smithsonian Institution
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 asks the Subcommittee to build up Smithsonian research with steady increases that are a tiny fraction of the overall budget, but would dramatically improve the facilities and their benefit to the country. We support the Administration's request for increased funding for the Smithsonian in FY 2007.

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 Services'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 would like to see additional support for geological staff positions to adequately address the treasured 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. 228 voice, 703-379-7563 fax, rowan@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 22, 2006

 


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