American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program


CONGRESSIONAL ACTION ALERT

Action Now Completed (for this year!)

June 27, 1996
(Last updated October 19, 1996)

FINAL OUTCOME: Hours before the start of the new fiscal year was to begin on October 1st, President Clinton signed into law an omnibus appropriations package that included full-year funding for all the agencies covered by the six remaining fiscal year 1997 appropriations bills not yet passed. Funding for the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D program was included in this bill with the Oil Technology program receiving an allocation halfway between the House and Senate numbers. Although funding is well below the President's request, the report does not stipulate how this cut will affect the $1 million DOE requested for geoscience data preservation. That determination will be made by DOE's Bartlesville Project Office. Efforts to maintain funding for this crucial program can be considered to be a partial success, and AGI thanks those members of the geoscience community who contacted their legislators on this issue.

Urgent action needed to maintain National Geoscience Data Repository System effort (as updated 8-23-96)

In June, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3662, the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which makes large cuts in the Department of Energy's oil technology R&D budget for fiscal year 1997, including a $2 million cut to the reservoir characterization account that contains funds for the National Geoscience Data Repository System (NGDRS). These funds are critical to move the data repository program from feasibility studies and demonstration projects to a fully operational reality. Vocal support from the geoscience community ensured that funding was restored by the Senate Committee on Appropriations in mid-July, but AGI needs your continued help to ensure that the Senate numbers are adopted when the House and Senate meet in conference! With billions of dollars worth of geoscience data at risk, the data repository effort is a small investment with big payoffs for the nation.

Please contact Senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) and Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior and Related Agencies, and the other members of their subcommittees as soon as possible and urge them to support geoscience data preservation and adopt the Senate levels for the oil technology program when the two houses meet in conference. Also urge your own representatives and senators to contact Gorton and Regula in support of restoring these funds. We must rally support before the House/Senate conference -- chaired by Gorton and Regula -- meets in early September.

For your information, a fact sheet on the NGDRS initiative and description of the location of funding within the bill are attached along with a list of members of the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Interior and Related Agencies and example letters that you may wish to consider as a guide. It would be most helpful if your letter is personally crafted, however, since form lettters do not receive appropriate attention by members of Congress. Please send us copies of your letters so that we can keep track of the efforts being made.

In late July, AGI convened a workshop to develop position statements on geoscience data preservation and to build support for geoscience data preservation efforts, particularly the NGDRS, through visits to federal agencies and on Capitol Hill.

When the House eliminated funds for the data repository last year, they were reinstated by Senate subcommittee chairman Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) after a successful campaign of letter-writing and phone calls from AGI supporters. There is absolutely no guarantee that this will happen again without an all-out effort to convince Congress that this program is in the national interest and not "corporate welfare". Your letters and calls to your legislators and to the members of the House and Senate Subcommittees on Interior and Related Agencies can make the difference!

Additional Information
The Department of Energy's Oil Technology program took a beating in the House version of the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill (H.R. 3662) that was reported out of the Appropriations Committee on June 18th. It funds this program at $42.4 million, down $10.1 million from the President's request and $13.3 million below last year's appropriation. The large decreases in the oil technology accounts were shifted primarily to the fuel cell and advanced turbine systems line items in the natural gas program. In particular, General Electric lobbied hard for and received $19 million over the President's request for its gas turbine operations. During floor action on H.R. 3662, six separate amendments were offered that would further cut fossil energy R&D spending and move the savings into other areas. One of these succeeded, cutting an additional $4 million from the program.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its version of H.R. 3662 in mid July several days after its Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies passed it. The Senate bill restores $5.6 million that the House cut out of the Oil Technology Exploration and Production Supporting Research account, leaving it at $31.7 million, still $2.3 million below the President's request. The report accompanying the bill stipulates, however, that the Reservoir Characterization sub-account, which contains data repository funding, is to receive the full amount of the President's request.

The only potential problem in the Senate report is that it also stipulates that two projects not in the President's request should receive funding from the Reservoir Characterization sub-account: the gypsy field project in Oklahoma ($350,000) and the mid-continent atlas ($500,000). Appropriations staff have assured AGI that these earmarks will not affect data repository funding.

The bill is expected to pass the full Senate when it reconvenes September 4th after the August recess, and the conference to work out differences between the House and Senate versions is expected to take place soon after.


National Geoscience Data Repository System
Fact Sheet

In the global economy of the 1990s, an era when many U.S. oil and gas companies are focusing their attention on overseas investment opportunities, billions of dollars worth of domestic geological and geophysical data are in jeopardy of being lost or destroyed. To counter this situation, the American Geological Institute (AGI) is working to establish a National Geoscience Data Repository System (NGDRS). With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, AGI completed a feasibility study in early 1994. The results were extremely encouraging -- corporations, academic institutions, federal and state agencies, and individual geoscientists enthusiastically supported the creation of a national repository system. DOE-funded pilot projects being completed this fall are demonstrating the feasibility of establishing an integrated, regionally distributed, data repository system encompassing a variety of media. As proposed, the repository system would provide improved public access to public and private sector data in order to better address the needs of data users in a cost-effective way.

What is the National Geoscience Data Repository System?

NGDRS would be a system of regional data repository centers, developed in conjunction with existing state agencies and private organizations. Each repository center would contain unique geologic information, primarily but not exclusively related to its locale. The data would be in a variety of forms, ranging from digital well logs and seismic reflection data tapes at some centers to paper and film records or rock core and cuttings samples at other centers.

Why is NGDRS important to the nation?

Petroleum and mining geologists and engineers have conducted detailed studies of the nation's subsurface for most of this century. But many areas that were once centers of drilling or mining activity have been encroached by urban development or placed off-limits to exploration and production, making further acquisition of seismic and drilling data very difficult and at times, impossible. The drilling records obtained at sites such as Los Angeles represent a vast and irreplaceable trove of information which this nation cannot afford to lose. Future generations of geoscientists must be able to use these data to address the energy, environmental, and natural disaster challenges of the 21st century.

Where would the data repository system be located?

The repository system would consist of an integrated network rather than a single, centralized facility and would be built upon existing data centers, both public and private, located throughout the United States. Shell Oil Company, for example, deeded its core repository in Midland, Texas to the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas-Austin. The Midland collection would become part of the national repository network.

Who would contribute data to the NGDRS?

An AGI survey of domestic oil, gas, and minerals companies as well as universities and existing data repository centers indicated widespread support for NGDRS. Many companies, including international corporations and independent domestic petroleum producers, indicated a willingness to contribute geologic data to a national repository system. In addition to corporate data centers, a variety of public and private organizations maintain regional geoscience data collections. In the past, many of these organizations received financial support directly or indirectly from oil and gas companies. Support for these facilities, however, has decreased or in some cases been terminated in the last few years. A national system can ensure that these data are not lost.

Who would use the National Geoscience Data Repository System?

Much of the geologic data would enter the public domain for the first time, becoming available to the entire geoscience community. NGDRS would serve as an important source of information for private companies and university researchers as well as state and federal agencies in addressing a broad range of issues, including:

What is DOE's role in the National Geoscience Data Repository System?

DOE has been providing funds for the NGDRS since 1993 to cover the costs of the feasibility study and several pilot projects. Continued support in fiscal year 1996 and 1997 will be used to partially cover the cost of transferring data from the private to the public sector. Companies are donating the data at no cost to the public sector. Repositories at state geological surveys and universities are handling the costs of long-term preservation. The DOE money will ensure that the transfer takes place by providing support for prioritizing, cataloging and indexing the data. The DOE funding is heavily leveraged by industry, the states, and academia. These data are an important source of unique information critical to geoscience research, environmental remediation efforts, and domestic energy and minerals exploration.


DOE Funding for Geoscience Data Preservation

Funding for a geoscience data repository is included within H.R. 3662, the Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, Fiscal Year 1997. The President's request for the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D program includes $1 million for a geoscience data repository. The funding is located in:

Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D
-- Oil Technology Program
------ Exploration and Production Supporting Research Account
-------- Reservoir Characterization Sub-Account

As passed by the House, H.R. 3662 provides $8 million below the President's request for the E&P Supporting Research account, including a $2 million cut to the reservoir characterization subaccount that contains data repository funding (H. Rpt. 104-625, p. 78). The Senate Appropriations Committee restored just over $5.6 million of the House cut to the account and made no cuts to the subaccount (S. Rpt. 104-319, p. 76). When the House and Senate go to conference on this bill, it is critical that the Senate numbers be agreed to for this account.

The data repository program is a small one that can pay very large dividends by saving billions of dollars worth of valuable geoscience data that may otherwise be lost. DOE funds for the data repository will be used to partially cover the cost of transferring data from the private to the public sector. Companies are donating the data at no cost to the public sector. Repositories at state geological surveys and universities are handling long-term preservation. The DOE money will bridge the transfer gap, ensuring that the transfer takes place. Otherwise, we are in danger of losing billions of dollars worth of valuable geoscience data. The funding for this program is heavily leveraged by industry, the states, and academia. These data are an important source of unique information critical to geoscience research, environmental remediation efforts, and domestic energy and minerals exploration.


Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies

Republicans (8)				Democrats (7)
(in order of seniority)			(in order of seniority)

Slade Gorton (WA), chairman		Robert C. Byrd (WV), ranking
Ted Stevens (AK)			J. Bennett Johnston (LA)
Thad Cochran (MS)			Patrick J. Leahy (VT)
Pete Domenici (NM)			Dale Bumpers (AR)
Mark Hatfield (OR)			Ernest F. Hollings (SC)
Conrad Burns (MT)			Harry Reid (NV)
Robert Bennett (UT)			Patty Murray (WA)
Connie Mack (FL)				

House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies

Republicans (8)				Democrats (4)
(in order of seniority)			(in order of seniority)

Ralph Regula (OH), chairman		Sidney Yates (IL), ranking
Joe McDade (PA)			Norman Dicks (WA)
Jim Kolbe (AZ)				Tom Bevill (AL)
Joe Skeen (NM)				David Skaggs (CO)
Barbara Vucanovich (NV)
George Nethercutt (WA)
Jim Bunn (OR)
Bob Livingston (LA)

Note: Letters to the chairman and ranking member should be addressed as follows in order to reach their staff on the Appropriations Committee (attention line on envelopes only):

The Honorable Slade Gorton, Chairman
Attention: Bruce Evans
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Ralph Regula, Chairman
Attention: Loretta Beaumont
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Robert Byrd, Ranking Member
Attention: Sue Masica
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510
(Note: Byrd is ranking member of the full committee as well)

The Honorable Sidney Yates, Ranking Member
Attention: Del Davis
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515


Example Letter to Senator

The Honorable ____________
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator ____________:

The purpose of this letter is to ask for your support by contacting Slade Gorton, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, requesting restoration of funds cut by the House from the Administration's fiscal year 1997 request for oil technology program in the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D budget. In particular, $2 million was cut from the reservoir characterization account that funds the development of a national geoscience data repository system to preserve critical geoscience data that is in danger of being irretrievably lost.

The concept of a national repository system has received widespread support from industry, universities, state and federal agencies, and individual research scientists. With the continued downsizing of the U.S. oil and gas industry, companies can no longer maintain seismic data and rock cores collected at considerable expense and effort. In order to keep these irreplaceable materials from being discarded or lost through deterioration, a network would be established linking regional data repositories located at state geological surveys, universities, and private organizations. The preserved information would become part of the public domain and be valuable to domestic energy and mineral exploration, environmental remediation, water resources management, and fundamental scientific research.

The relatively modest appropriation in question stands in stark contrast to the billions of dollars worth of data and materials being threatened by destruction.

Your assistance in the preservation of an endangered national asset is deeply appreciated.


Example Letter to Representative

The Honorable ____________
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative ____________:

The purpose of this letter is to ask for your support by contacting Ralph Regula, chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies, and other conferees for H.R. 3662 requesting restoration of funds cut by the House but restored by the Senate from the oil technology program in the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D budget. In particular, $2 million was cut from the reservoir characterization account that funds the development of a national geoscience data repository system to preserve critical geoscience data that is in danger of being irretrievably lost.

The concept of a national repository system has received widespread support from industry, universities, state and federal agencies, and individual research scientists. With the continued downsizing of the U.S. oil and gas industry, companies can no longer maintain seismic data and rock cores collected at considerable expense and effort. In order to keep these irreplaceable materials from being discarded or lost through deterioration, a network would be established linking regional data repositories located at state geological surveys, universities, and private organizations. The preserved information would become part of the public domain and be valuable to domestic energy and mineral exploration, environmental remediation, water resources management, and fundamental scientific research.

The relatively modest appropriation in question stands in stark contrast to the billions of dollars worth of data and materials being threatened by destruction.

Your assistance in the preservation of an endangered national asset is deeply appreciated.


If you have any questions or need additional information on your senators, please contact David Applegate, AGI's Director of Government Affairs, at (703) 279-2480 or govt@agiweb.org.

Last updated October 19, 1996

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