Government Affairs Program

AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee Meeting Report

March 3, 2008
AGI Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia

An agenda with links to background materials accompanies this report.

Mary Lou Zoback (Chair), Risk Management Solutions
David Curtiss, American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Skip Hobbs, American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Pat Leahy, American Geological Institute (AGI)
Marianne Guffanti, American Geophysical Union (AGU)
Kate Von Holle, American Geophysical Union
John Keith, Association of Earth Science Editors (ESE)
Dorian Kuper,  Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists (AEG)
Blair Jones, Clay Minerals Society (CMS)
Carol Bowers, Geo-Institute of American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
John France, Geo-Institute of ASCE
David Diodato, Geological Society of America (GSA)
Jack Hess, Geological Society of America
Craig Schiffries, Geological Society of America
Lenny Konikow, International Association of Hydrogeologists (IAH)
Eric Riggs, National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)
Tim West, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
Hal Gluskoter, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Inc. (SMME)
Jingle Ruppert, The Society for Organic Petrology (TSOP)
Ray Willemann, Seismological Society of America (SSA)
David Lindbo, Soil Science Society of America (SSSA)

Linda Rowan, AGI GAP Director
Marcy Gallo, AGI GAP Policy Associate

I. Introductions and Preliminary Business

A. Approval of Agenda
Zoback asked that the committee approve the agenda, and the motion was agreed to.

September 9-10, 2008 are the dates for the Geoscience specific Congressional Visits Day. 

B. Introduction of new GAPAC Chair- The GAPAC Transition
            Zoback introduced herself, giving a brief synopsis of her background. She also described her vision for GAPAC and the transition document, indicating that she was pleased with the breadth of science represented by the participants especially given the major role the geosciences, should and will play in the country’s future. The geosciences will be vital in providing data, expertise and advice on issues of national importance such as climate change, water resources, innovation and competitiveness.

C. Introductions of member society representatives
Meeting participants introduced themselves and stated their affiliations.

II. Transition to New Leadership in the Federal Government

Rowan began with a general explanation of the GAP’s interest/reason for creating a transition document and noted some things to keep in mind.  Specifically, the budget for fiscal year 2010 will be developed by the current Administration and it is unclear if that template will be used by the new administration with some changes or if an entirely new document will be drafted. In either case, the new administration will have very little time to work on a fiscal year 2010 budget.

The Office of Management and Budget may play a greater role than expected for a new administration because they are providing the next budget and also have the experience to help with crafting a new budget quickly.

Rowan also discussed identifying who may assume science and technology leadership roles in a new administration and in Congress.  This brings up the question of timing and when should AGI begin to push a geoscience agenda.

Timing is also a concern in regards to discussions with new leadership and transition teams. When will transition teams be established and how do we identify the appropriate person to contact about geoscience policy priorities.

Leahy emphasized the need to deliver the geoscience message early and that the message needed to be concise, so that earth sciences has a seat at the table in regards to the new administration’s priorities for research and development (R&D).

West mentioned that there will be many familiar faces in the agencies’ transition between leadership as many individuals fluctuate back and forth between Congress and the executive branch.

Zoback mentioned that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is developing a report like they have prepared during previous leadership transitions. The intent of the report is to identify key science and technology (S&T) positions and to request that these positions be filled quickly. During the past few recent transitions, it has taken longer and longer for the new administrations to appoint their science teams, leaving science in a very weak position during the most important period of any leadership transition. The NAS report should be released in time for the party conventions, so candidates can review it before the general election and prepare for their science leadership transitions in advance.  A series of briefing papers may accompany the report to highlight specific needs and challenges for S&T.

AGI’s transition materials should dovetail nicely with the timing of NAS report, emphasizing the central role of geosciences in the nation’s future.

III. Input from Member Societies for the Transition
            Current activity or plans for transition?
            Areas of concern for member societies?

IAH- does not have transition activities planned.
CMS- interested in open access issues.
GSA- will be preparing a transition document most likely placing a wrapper around current position papers: natural hazards, teaching evolution, climate change, energy and minerals, water resources, and federal investment in geoscience R&D.

USGS- most likely briefing books will be created for transition at the Department of the Interior (DOI) main office, they may be looking at retirement; generally USGS briefing book issues driven by Congressional interest such as climate, budget issues, minerals, etc.

AGU- also has position papers and there is a fair bit of topic overlap, unclear if they will pursue an individual transition document, most likely will support AGI transition materials, have already worked with a small group on a a transition document regarding severe weather and climate change. Many agreed this is a useful example for the transition efforts of the geoscience community.

SMME- does not have any individual policy statements or plans for a transition document, but interested specifically in carbon capture and storage and the minerals program at USGS.

ESE- will support AGI transition materials and has no plans for individual document.

AAPG- has a series of position statements highlighting areas of interest. AAPG is becoming more international and has created a new subcommittee focusing on Washington, DC specific issues.  Topics of particular interest are: increased funding for energy R&D, technology transfer issues, adequate workforce, and preservation of geoscience data; will support AGI materials and work on separate documents emphasizing energy concerns.

GEO-institute of ASCE- recently established a new committee for geo-policy issues. The society is interested in the applied geoscience arena such as natural hazards and infrastructure security, climate change and sustainability, workforce, dam safety, and R&D investments.

SSSA- the society has been using the Soils Caucus and Hill briefings to highlight concerns such as nutrients and soils, wildfires, drought, carbon sequestration, and is developing a biofuels policy statement.

TSOP- will follow AGI’s lead; the society has concerns about the lack of organic petrology classes and professors, and the decline in an adequately trained workforce.

AEG-the society has developed an advocacy committee; they are interested in natural hazard issues, wildfires and debris flows, workforce issues and dealing with the negative perception of petroleum and mining as they advocate environmental friendly methods. 

NAGT- interested in geoscience education, specifically undergraduate education, teaching evolution, geoscience education funding, and recruiting pathways for science and engineering majors.

SSA-no plans for leadership transition; recommends the reauthorization of National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program and involved in policies related to the comprehensive test ban treaty (SSA has a joint position statement on CTBT with AGU that was recently revised).

IV. Input for a Transition Briefing Document About the Value of Geoscience

General discussion

Hobbs discussed the number one campaign issue, which is the economy. He suggested the transition document should highlight the impact the geosciences have on the economy (i.e. currently high gas and mineral prices) and the role geosciences play in energy security and climate change.

Guffanti mentioned that it is never enough to just assert the relevance of the geosciences, and in the document we need to show practically how the geosciences can help in areas of concern (i.e. managing risk for natural disasters and the need for science based information to mitigate risk). 

Diodato pointed out that U.S. economic security depends on reliable geoscience knowledge, for example predictions regarding water resources and natural hazards require trend analysis and hence strong geoscience data.

Zoback stated that she liked the idea of stating the relevance or importance of the geosciences by using a question format. For example asking “will there be enough clean water?” and then show how geoscience research can answer that question.  Other potential questions: How can we reduce our dependency on oil? What is the next natural disaster that we are not prepared for? How can we be competitive in a global economy? How do we live in a carbon constrained world?

The need for good graphics in the transition document was emphasized. The style of the evolution pamphlet was discussed and the committee recommended modeling the final transition document after it.

Committee developed a list of geoscience issues to be considered by new federal leadership. Below is an outline of these issues framed as questions that might be used in the transition materials.

  1. Climate / Energy: How do we secure stable energy supplies in an increasingly carbon-constrained world?
    1. Air quality
    2. Carbon constraints
    3. Energy security
    4. Carbon sequestration
    5. Land use
    6. Ocean health
  2. Water: Will there be enough clean water and where will it come from?
    1. Quality
    2. Availability
  3. Waste Disposal and Treatment: How will we handle waste (such as nuclear, landfills and sewage) and provide a healthy environment for all?
    1. Yucca Mountain/nuclear waste
    2. Mining waste
    3. Landfills/brownfields/superfund sites
    4. Sewage/waste water
  4. Natural Hazards: How will we mitigate hazards and provide a safer environment for all?
    1. Catastrophic hazards, such as earthquakes
    2. Long-term, slowly developing hazards, such as drought
    3. Assessing and managing risk
  5. Infrastructure Modernization: How will we develop and modernize our infrastructure?
  6. Raw Materials: Will there be enough raw materials and where will they come from?
    1. Aggregate
    2. Minerals
    3. Metals
    4. Soils
  7. Workforce: Who will do the work and training? Where will the workforce to do everything from technically skilled labor to professors to train the next generation of geoscientists and engineers come from?
    1. Call to Action
    2. Competitiveness
    3. Education

Interlinking themes include: managing risk, understanding the value of Earth/where resources come from, workforce/educated public, Earth system/ecosystem connections and economic factors.

Specifics about Transition Document

-Committee liked general format of NAS report, ~15 page glossy report.
-Prepare specific one-pagers on each topic area.
-Development of question format discussed.

Potential Policy Recommendations

-Balancing of funding at NSF between directorates, called for in Commerce, Science and Justice Appropriations bill.
-Doubling of USGS budget.
-Increased federal investment in basic research.

Timeline for Transition Document

-Annotated outline for April 21st meeting in San Antonio, TX where AGI will solicit more input from member society representatives
-Draft to GAPAC members May/June
-Incorporation of comments June/July
-Release in August before party conventions

V. Other Business

Next GAPAC meeting will be held during GSA meeting in Houston, TX, October 5-9.

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

Posted March 27, 2008