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Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization Update (12-13-99)

Most Recent Action
In its final hours before adjourning for the year, the Senate passed H.R. 1528, the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999 by unanimous consent.  The bill, which was passed by the House on October 26th, was signed by the President on December 9th.

During discussion of the bill before the House vote, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) recognized the contributions of 1998-1999 AGI Congressional Science Fellow David Wunsch, who worked for her on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, in the development of H.R. 1528. Her remarks are included in the Congressional Record.

Action in the 106th Congress
On May 19th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously in favor of S. 607, companion legislation to H.R. 1528. The bill has now been reported to the full Senate for consideration, accompanied by Senate Report 106-78.

On April 28th, the Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management held a hearing on S. 607. Witnesses included U.S. Geological Survey Chief Geologist P. Patrick Leahy and West Virginia State Geologist Larry Woodfork, current president of the Association of American State Geologists. Both witnesses expressed their support for the bill and for the partnership that it represents between the USGS, state surveys, and universities. Subcommittee chairman and bill sponsor Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) spoke of the fundamental importance of geologic mapping to issues such as natural hazards, resources, and land-use planning. Oregon's two senators -- Ron Wyden (D) and Gordon Smith (R) -- also spoke in favor of the bill, Wyden emphasizing the growing awareness in his state of its vulnerability to earthquakes.

The previous week, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) introduced H.R. 1528 on Earth Day, remarking that "geologists like to say that for them `every day is Earth Day.' What better day than today to introduce the bill to keep the benefits of this important cooperative program flowing?" Both S. 607 and H.R. 1528 authorize a doubling of funding for the program over seven years.

When Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) introduced S. 607 on March 15th, he noted that geologic maps "are vital to understanding groundwater regimes, mineral resources, geologic hazards such as landslides and earthquakes, geology essential for all types of land use planning, as well as providing basic scientific data." He touted the success of the cooperative mapping program between the U.S. Geological Survey, state geological surveys, and universities. He cited a survey by the Association of American State Geologists showing that the states have produced over 1,900 new geologic maps since the original National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Act was signed into law in 1992. An additional 300 maps are currently being completed. He also noted the increasing digitization of existing maps and the development of a national geologic map database.

On June 17th, the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on H.R. 1528. The hearing was chaired by Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), himself a former geologist. Witnesses included U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Chief Geologist P. Patrick Leahy; West Virginia State Geologist Larry Woodfork, current president of the Association of American State Geologists; and University of Kentucky geoscience professor William A. Thomas, representing the American Geological Institute. All three witnesses expressed their support for the bill and for the partnership that it represents between the USGS, state surveys, and universities. Thomas focused his testimony on the EDMAP component of the bill, which provides matching funds for universities to train graduate students in geologic mapping on projects jointly undertaken with the state geologic surveys or USGS. The testimony is available in an AGI special update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/geomapupdate.html.  On June 30th, the House Committee on Resources passed H.R. 1528 by voice vote.
 

Background and Legislation Overview
The last reauthorization effort for the 1992 law took place two years ago, culminating in President Clinton signing into law the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-36) on August 5, 1997. Two weeks earlier, the Senate had unanimously accepted the House-passed version (H.R. 709), which authorized appropriations of $26 million in FY 1998, $28 million in FY 1999, and $30 million in FY 2000. It further stipulated that not less than 20 percent of the funds are to be allocated for State mapping activities and not less than 2 percent for educational mapping activities. For further information on the 1997 reauthorization effort, please see an earlier AGI update at: http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/ngmaup97.html.

The new reauthorization bill contains a number of changes from the current law while retaining the program's basic structure of federal (USGS), state, and education components. It calls for the Secretary of the Interior to develop a 5-year plan for the USGS cooperative geologic mapping program with the advice and review of the program's advisory committee. Federal mapping priorities are to be described in the plan and based on:

S. 607 also provides for interdisciplinary studies including the development of a national geologic map database; studies leading to implementation of cost-effective digital methods for geologic map development and distribution; and various supplemental investigations in areas such as paleontology, geochronology, geochemistry, and geophysics.

The new bill also establishes priorities for the state geologic mapping component identical to the national priorities but focused on state-level requirements. The bill also provides for coordination between the state and national priorities. The education component "for the training of geologic mappers" is to include investigations integrated with the mapping priorities of the state and federal components.

The bill calls for the Secretary of the Interior to submit a report to the House Committee on Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on the program's process every two years starting three years from the date of enactment.

As an authorizing bill, this legislation provides maximum funding levels through FY 2005. The actual funding levels, however, will vary depending on amounts appropriated annually. The bill authorizes:

Moreover, the bill provides that half of "any amounts appropriated for any fiscal year in excess of the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2000" are to be given to the state component (48 percent) and education component (2 percent).


Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program, and Alison Alcott, AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern.

Source: Congressional Record

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

Posted April 29, 1999; Last Updated December 13, 1999


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