American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


Legislative Hearing on National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1997, H.R. 709

Hearing of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources
of the House Committee on Resources

February 27, 1997

Witness List:

Dr. P. Patrick Leahy, Chief Geologist, U.S. Geological Survey
Dr. Charles Mankin, Director, Oklahoma Geological Survey

What follows is a brief summary of the hearing. A more detailed history of efforts to reauthorize the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 is available on this web site as is a copy of AGI testimony. Text of the remaining testimony will soon be available from the House Resources Committee web site.

This short hearing was held immediately before H.R. 709 was marked up and passed by the subcommittee then sent on to the full Resources Committee. The subcommittee held a hearing on identical legislation last year, H.R. 3198, that successfully passed the House. As a result, Chair Barbara Cubin (R-WY) was not planning to hold a new hearing, but the ranking Democrat, Rep. Carlos Romero-Barcelo (D-PR), asked for one because of concerns that Puerto Rico had not been adequately mapped.

In her opening remarks, Cubin emphasized that the new bill did not authorize new money and represented "the continuation of over a century of work" to geologically map the nation. She expressed her hope that the bill would help to find the proper balance between federal and state responsibilities. In Romero-Barcelo's opening remarks, he expressed his interest in extending the StateMap component to include U.S. territories and announced that he would submit an amendment to specifically define "state" in the bill to include territories. He also expressed concern that the last map of Puerto Rico was completed in 1972, twenty-five years ago.

USGS Chief Geologist Leahy testified that the Administration supports H.R. 709 and took the opportunity to review the progress made since the 1992 Act. He referred to geologic maps as a "keystone product" and "cornerstone" of the USGS mission, addressing all four of the Survey's main themes of information, hazards, resources, and the environment. He noted that all four components of the program, including the late-starting EdMap component, had been initiated and funded and that the Advisory Committee called for in the Act had been constituted. In 1997, matching funds were distributed to 41 states, and since 1995 the percentage of program funds available for the StateMap component had increased from 6% to 20%. He argued that the legislation was instrumental in focusing attention on the nation's need for geologic mapping.

In his testimony, Oklahoma State Geologist Mankin stated that reauthorization of the 1992 Act was the number one priority of the Association of American State Geologists and described the program's matching components as a win-win situation. He also expressed concern that the President's fiscal year 1998 budget contained a $1.6 million cut to the USGS program, citing its low priority.

The chairwoman received unanimous consent to enter written testimony into the record from Bob Hatcher on behalf of the American Geological Institute. Hatcher had testified at the hearing last year in support of the EdMap component, and the new testimony closely followed his earlier remarks.

In response to questions, both Leahy and Mankin agreed that the recent mapping forum held last month in Reston was very useful, focusing on the most pressing needs for geologic maps. Mankin went on to applaud the increased cooperation from the USGS in recent years. In response to questions from Romero-Bartolo on Puerto Rico, Leahy noted that the territory had been completely mapped at 1:20,000 scale in 1972. Kentucky is the only state to be completely mapped. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) asked a series of questions about possible technologies that might allow the acceleration of the program's progress. Both witnesses spoke of advances in digital maps, the use of high-resolution aerial photographs and synthetic aperture radar where appropriate, and the use of global positioning system (GPS) technology for locating oneself in the field. In response to a question on mechanisms for incorporating new technology, Mankin replied "we are incorporating everything we can get our hands on."

At the subcommittee markup, Romero-Bartolo introduced his amendment expanding the definition of "state" as promised. It was then subjected to a second-degree amendment from Rep. Green (D-Virgin Islands) to include the Northern Marianas and the District of Columbia. Both amendments passed, and the bill was ordered reported to the full committee.


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs.

Last updated March 8, 1997

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