Government Affairs Program SPECIAL UPDATE

Congress Sets Spending Levels for NSF, NASA, EPA, DOE


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

IN A NUTSHELL: With the election looming, Congress is finally making headway on appropriations bills. Both the House and Senate have passed a merged Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 VA, HUD & Independent Agencies and Energy & Water bill. The president is expected to sign. Final negotiations provided substantially higher figures for most agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), which receives $4.43 billion, up 13.6 percent over FY 2000 levels. Funding for research programs – including the Geosciences Directorate – is up 13.2 percent, but no funding was provided to initiate the EarthScope project. This update also highlights geoscience programs within NASA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE).


After weeks of closed-door negotiations, the dust has finally settled on two of the most important appropriations bills for the geosciences -- the VA, HUD, & Independent Agencies bill (which funds NSF, NASA, and EPA) and the Energy & Water bill (which funds most of DOE). These two pieces of legislation were combined after the president vetoed an earlier version of the Energy & Water bill over a non-spending provision to block revision of Army Corps of Engineers policies for the Missouri River. With that provision removed, the merged bills passed the House by a vote of 386-24 and the Senate by 85-8. A presidential signature is expected this week. For more details on this legislation or other appropriations bills, please visit

National Science Foundation

As negotiations with the White House progressed, congressional leaders found more and more money for domestic spending. As a result, the final bills generally contain higher spending levels than either the previous House-passed or Senate-passed versions. NSF did particularly well in this regard. In his request, the president asked for a 17.5 percent increase. The House provided a 4.3 percent increase, the Senate a 10.3 percent increase. But the House-Senate conference negotiated a 13.6 percent increase to $4.43 billion for the foundation. Within that total, the Research and Related Activities account that funds most of the directorates (including the Geosciences Directorate and Office of Polar Programs) will receive $3.35 billion, up 13.2 percent from FY 2000 but down 5 percent from the request. According to a Senate Appropriations Committee press release, that figure includes funding for three initiatives: $215 million for information technology research (up $125 million), $150 million for nanotechnology (up $52.7 million), and $75 million for biocomplexity (up $25 million), as well as a $65 million earmark for plant genome research.

Neither the bill (H.R. 4635) nor its accompanying report language (H. Rept. 106-988) specifies dollar amounts for the disciplinary directorates, leaving the allocation up to NSF based on the president’s request. The Geosciences Directorate requested a 19.5 percent increase, and within it the Earth Sciences Division requested a 16.6 percent increase. These figures were similar to the requested increases for other directorates. As a result, the geosciences should see increases in the 11-13 percent range.

The big disappointment in the final NSF appropriation is the $121 million allocated for the Major Research Equipment account, down 24.7 percent from FY 2000 and down 12.2 percent from the request. Congress failed to fund two new projects proposed in the president’s budget request -- EarthScope (which was to include the USArray seismic network and San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth) and the National Ecological Observatory Network. Both initiatives are expected to re-appear in the FY 2002 request. Report language made clear that the lack of funding "does not reflect on the quality of research proposed to be developed" by either program but simply budgetary realities. Congress did provide $12.5 million to fund the High-Performance Instrumental Airborne Platform for Environmental Research (HIAPER), a high-altitude aircraft that was not in the president’s request but had received congressional funding the previous year.

Funding for the Education and Human Resources programs totaled $787.4 million, a 3.6% increase from the budget request and a 8.8% increase over last year’s funding.  This total includes $75 million for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) directed at smaller research institutions and smaller states "to allow for renewed emphasis on research infrastructure development."  The Graduate Research Fellowship program receives $55.2 million, and the Graduate Teaching Fellowship in K-12 education receives $19.8 million.


The grand total for NASA comes to $14.3 billion, including $6.19 billion for science, aeronautics and technology.  Within the science accounts, $1.50 billion is directed toward earth science programs, up from $1.44 billion last year and a $1.41 billion request.  Report language regarding the Earth Science Enterprise goes into detail regarding congressional concern over reprogramming funds and not following the report language in the FY 2000 appropriations bill.  "The conferees direct NASA to report to the Committees on Appropriations of the House and Senate, by March 15, 2001 with a ten-year strategy and funding profile to extend the benefits of Earth science, technology and data results beyond the traditional science community and address practical, near-term problems." Funding for the Earth Observing System Data Information  System (EOSDIS) totaled $277 million, a $35 million increase over last year's allocation.

Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a total of $7.8 billion, an increase of $633 million above the President's request and $395 million above FY 2000 enacted level.  According to the House Appropriations press release, the EPA "is funded with an emphasis on state grants, particularly in the areas of clean water and safe drinking water."  The Superfund program was provided $1.27 billion, roughly equivalent to last year's allocation. Funding for the Climate Change Technology Initiative totals $123 million, and funding for the Global Climate Change Research (USGCRP) totals $20.6 million.  As in previous years, report language was included "prohibiting EPA from spending funds to implement the Kyoto Protocol."  This language reaffirms the Senate’s Byrd-Hagel Resolution passed in 1997 and reflects concerns among Republicans that the Clinton Administration might seek to implement parts of the Kyoto Protocol without congressional consent.  Also within the environmental program section of the Conference Committee report was a section on the agency's decision to implement Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) standards related to the Clean Water Act.  "The conferees directs EPA to contract expeditiously with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for a review of the quality of science used to develop and implement TMDLs, and direct that the final report be submitted to Congress by June 1, 2001."  Similar concerns over EPA regulations on dioxins and on radon in drinking water were addressed in the report.  The report also gave details on funding within the science and technology programs, which totaled $696 million.

Department of Energy

The Energy & Water bill includes most of the Department of Energy except for the fossil fuel and energy efficiency programs, both of which are covered in the Interior and Related Agencies bill. (For those numbers, see last week's special update at

The DOE Office of Science received a boost in its funding to total $3.2 billion, compared to the $2.8 billion in the House and the proposed $2.9 billion in the Senate.  Within that, the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program receives $1.0 billion, including $40 million for the engineering and geoscience subdivision, a slight increase over the budget request.  For comparison, BES programs in materials sciences received $456 million, chemical sciences received $223 million, and energy biosciences received $34 million.

Nuclear Waste Disposal programs received $191 million for civilian and $200 million for defense-related nuclear waste disposal, both of which are primarily directed toward the Yucca Mountain site characterization effort.  The House/Senate conference report stresses Congress's expectation that DOE release its site recommendation report on Yucca Mountain by July 2001.  "In addition, the conferees recommend that $10,000,000 of funds previously appropriated for interim waste storage activities in Public Law 104-46 may be made available upon written certification by the Secretary of Energy to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations that the site recommendation report cannot be completed on time without additional funding."  Nevada will receive $2.5 million as reimbursement from DOE for expenditures.  Also, local governments around the site will receive $6 million for oversight activities.

Funding for the DOE Energy Supply programs, including renewable energy resources and nuclear energy, received a total of $660.6 million, a compromise between the House figure of $616.5 million and the Senate figure of $691.5 million.  Funding for the Renewable Energy programs includes $113 million for biomass/biofuels, $27 million for geothermal, $30 million for hydrogen resources (including targeted funding for such activities as the gasification of Iowa switch grass and a program to develop underground mining equipment fueled by hydrogen in Nevada), $5 million for hydropower, $111 million for solar energy, and $40 million for wind energy.  Nuclear energy programs received a total of $259.9 million, including $47.5 million for research and development and $53.4 million for uranium programs.

Special update prepared by Margaret Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: DOE, E&E News, House Appropriations Committee, Library of Congress, Senate Appropriations Committee, NSF,, and the White House.

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

Posted October 25, 2000

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