Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE


AGI Testifies on USGS and DOE Appropriations

(4-14-99)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies

Earlier today, the American Geological Institute (AGI) provided both oral and written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies. AGI testified in support of geoscience programs within the subcommittee's jurisdiction, including the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Research and Development program. The subcommittee provides annual funding for the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, DOE Fossil Energy and Energy Conservation programs, Smithsonian Institution, National Endowment for the Arts, and a range of other agencies and programs. AGI argued for the value of federal investments in the geosciences that address a wide range of important environmental, resource, and natural hazard challenges facing this nation.

The AGI testimony, which follows below, drew on previous AGI testimony before this subcommittee with amendments suggested by the AGI Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from AGI's member societies. Previous AGI testimony is available at http://www.agiweb.org/testimon.html. For more on the President's FY 2000 budget request, see http://www.agiweb.org/legis.html#approps.

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Statement to the
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
U.S. House of Representatives
in support of Fiscal Year 2000 Appropriations for the
U.S. Geological Survey and the
Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D Program
April 14, 1999

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Good afternoon. I am Dr. David Applegate, government affairs director of the American Geological Institute (AGI). I appreciate this opportunity to present AGI's testimony in support of fiscal year 2000 appropriations for geoscience programs within this subcommittee's jurisdiction. Although my remarks will focus on the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Research and Development Program, AGI also urges the subcommittee to fund geoscience activities at the Minerals Management Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Smithsonian Institution. In particular, we support the National Park Service's requested $735,000 increase for the Geologic Expertise for Resource Protection initiative, which will improve that agency's ability to integrate geoscience information into resource management, interpretation, and park planning.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 34 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. In addition, 115 colleges and universities are AGI Academic Associates, and 30 private companies are AGI Corporate Members. Last year, AGI celebrated 50 years of providing information services to geoscientists. AGI 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 mankind's use of resources and interaction with the environment.

The agencies under this subcommittee's jurisdiction provide geoscience information and expertise on a wide range of important problems facing this nation: from earthquakes, floods, droughts, and volcanic eruptions to global environmental changes, water pollution, contamination from waste disposal, and reliance on unstable sources of foreign oil and minerals. This subcommittee has long recognized the value of federal investments in the geosciences, which continue to pay back large dividends. The rationale for continuing this investment has never been stronger. The national need for a federal role in the geosciences is based on a number of factors, most notably:

U.S. Geological Survey

The central mission of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is to provide reliable, objective earth science data and analysis of hazards, resources, and the environment from a national perspective. Virtually every American citizen and every federal, state, and local agency benefits either directly or indirectly from USGS products and services. The USGS is widely recognized for providing unbiased data used by others to better manage the nation's resources. The USGS plays a key role in focusing many nationally important investigations that address natural systems and hazards. With the inclusion of the Biological Resources Division, the USGS can demonstrate the integrating role of the earth sciences and the importance of interaction among disciplines to solve complex problems.

AGI encourages the subcommittee to support the President's overall request of $838.5 million for the USGS, an increase of $40.6 million over FY 1999. We are pleased that for the first time in several years, the Administration has requested an increase for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. 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, or resource development. It must be noted that the Administration request still falls below levels set by the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1997.

In supporting the President's requested increase, we also ask the subcommittee to carefully scrutinize the distribution of this increase, particularly the cuts to the Geologic Division's coastal studies, mineral resources, and energy resources programs. We are cautiously optimistic that the budget restructuring will be beneficial for the USGS. Specifically, we hope that the transfer of the USGS Library -- our national library for the geosciences -- to a Survey-wide "Science Support" account will lead to a higher profile for this national treasure and lead to future increases in support. It is critical that the USGS Library keep pace with the rapid advances now taking place in scientific publishing and archiving.

Even with the increases proposed in the President's fiscal year 2000 budget request, science at the Department of the Interior is still far below what it was five years ago. According to calculations by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Interior's budgets for science declined by over 20% in constant dollars between fiscal year 1994 and fiscal year 1999, far more than in any other federal department or agency. We recognize that a significant part of that decrease was associated with the closure of the U.S. Bureau of Mines and the National Biological Service, many of whose former functions were transferred to the USGS. AGI strongly believes that the Survey's new responsibilities should not come at the expense of important existing programs. Scientific activities within Interior should be strongly supported as a wise investment in improving the nation's ability to make wise decisions about its land and resources.

Last year's landslides and flooding brought on by the strong El Niño effect are powerful reminders of the need to reduce the impact of natural hazards. In order to be successful, the federal government's increased mitigation efforts must include a strong component of research into these hazards. Investing in research to better understand geologic hazards produces societal benefits and returns that extend to such areas as housing, transportation, commerce, agriculture, communications, and human health and safety. AGI strongly supports the requested increases for real-time earthquake and flood warning systems. The subcommittee is to be commended for commissioning a study of the nation's stream-gaging system. The resulting report from the USGS highlights the need to maintain long-term baseline information and support modernization. The real-time initiative is a good start but much more investment is needed.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development

Continued research on fossil energy is critical to America's future. The societal benefits of fossil energy R&D extend to such areas as economic and national security, job creation, capital investment, and reduction of the trade deficit. The nation will remain dependent on petroleum as its principal transportation fuel for the foreseeable future, and it is critical that domestic production not be allowed to prematurely decline at a time when tremendous advances are being made in improving the technology with which these resources are extracted. This is particularly true at a time when low oil prices are threatening to shut down wells -- technological advances are the key to maintaining our resource base.

The federal investment in energy R&D is particularly important when it comes to longer-range research with broad benefits. In today's competitive markets, the private sector focuses dwindling research dollars on shorter-term results in highly applied areas such as technical services. According to Energy Information Administration analysis, the major oil and gas companies have sharply curtailed their research in recent years. For example, there was a decrease of over 17 percent in constant dollars between 1989 and 1993 from $811 million to $671 million. In that same time period, private-sector support for long-term basic and applied research (with a time horizon of 7 years or greater) dropped over 30 percent from $260 million to $180 million.

In this context, DOE's support of fossil energy research is very significant both in magnitude and impact compared to that done in the private sector. Without it, we risk losing our technological edge with this global commodity. AGI requests that this subcommittee grant DOE's request for R&D programs within the Office of Fossil Energy. These funds are a small fraction of DOE's total budget, but they represent an important investment in this nation's future. DOE's Fossil Energy R&D program is making a significant contribution to development of new technologies required for cost-effective, efficient development of U.S. oil and gas resources. The federal money spent on these programs goes to support laboratories and improve information dissemination. This money does not go into corporate coffers, but it helps American businesses stay in business by giving them a technological edge over their foreign competitors.

Technology transfer is one important role for DOE. The historic symbiotic relationship between major oil companies and independent producers has largely disappeared, and independent producers do not have access to existing and emerging advanced exploration, reservoir management, and production technologies. AGI supports DOE's efforts to accelerate the dissemination of these technologies through the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC) and other mechanisms so that more domestic petroleum can be produced, and fewer producing fields are abandoned.

Another important DOE program that is contributing to the sustainability of domestic production is the Reservoir Class Field Demonstration Program, which is designed to decrease the rate of abandonment of marginal oil wells and fields, a key challenge to maintaining domestic production. In a 1996 report, a National Research Council panel concluded "that the Reservoir Class Program is demonstrating advanced and conventional technologies that have the potential to prolong the lives of marginal oil fields."

AGI's own National Geoscience Data Repository System project is an excellent example of a partnership between DOE, state government, and the private sector. Domestic geological and geophysical data are critical to the energy security and economic prosperity of the United States. A consequence of the ongoing downsizing and mega-mergers in the U.S. oil and gas industry is that billions of dollars worth of domestic geological and geophysical data are in jeopardy of being irrevocably lost or destroyed. According to many independent oil producers, a national geoscience data repository system would enable them to expand their search for and development of domestic oil and gas resources. AGI is working with DOE and the private sector to leverage federal dollars with industry contributions in order to establish a national geoscience data repository system for the use of industry, government, and the scientific research community.

I appreciate the opportunity to present this testimony to the subcommittee. I would be pleased to answer any questions or to provide additional information for the record.


Contributed by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

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

Posted April 14, 1999


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