AGI Testimony on Fiscal Year 2002 Appropriations for the U.S. Geological Survey and Department of Energy

Written Testimony Submitted by the
American Geological Institute
to the
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations
April 16, 2001

 

To the Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

The American Geological Institute (AGI) urges the subcommittee to maintain funding for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Department of Energy's (DOE) Fossil Energy Research and Development Program at the same level as in fiscal year (FY) 2001. AGI also urges the subcommittee to fund geoscience-related activities at the Minerals Management Service (MMS), Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Smithsonian Institution.

The USGS provides 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. Research funded by DOE leads to new technologies that improve the efficiency and productivity of the domestic energy industry. MMS does important work in energy resource assessment and collection of geoscience data. Geoscience programs within the land management agencies provide a scientific basis for land-use decisions, a role that they share with the USGS. The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History plays a dual role in communicating the excitement of the geosciences and preserving geoscience data, particularly fossil collections.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 37 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. The institute 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.

We thank the subcommittee for recognizing 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 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. Since the inclusion of the Biological Resources Division, the USGS has been in a position to demonstrate the integrating role of the earth sciences and the importance of interaction among disciplines to solve complex problems.

AGI encourages the subcommittee to maintain funding for the USGS at the FY 2001 level of $882.8 million. Even with the increases provided last year, science at the Department of the Interior is still far below what it was seven 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 FY 1994 and FY 1999, far more than in any other federal department or agency. Scientific activities within Interior should be strongly supported as a wise investment in improving the nation's ability to make informed decisions about its land and resources.

In particular, we urge the subcommittee to maintain funding for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, including the Title VIII funds that were directed at the program in FY 2001.  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. Last year's increase represented a significant step toward reaching the funding levels set by the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999.

A key role for the USGS is providing the research, monitoring, and assessment that are critically needed to better prepare for and respond to natural hazards. February's earthquake in Washington state was a reminder that these hazards are not limited to any one section of the nation. That quake, along with the devastating quake that struck India the previous month, is a reminder of the impact these events have on people and their communities. The success of federal mitigation efforts depends on the improved understanding that comes from research and monitoring -- an investment that produces societal benefits and returns in housing, transportation, commerce, agriculture, communications, and human health and safety. The subcommittee is to be commended for commissioning studies of the nation's stream-gaging and seismic networks -- the resulting reports clearly demonstrated the pressing need for modernization and expansion in both cases. More investment is needed, and we hope that the subcommittee will maintain funding for real-time earthquake and flood warning systems, including the Title VIII funding for the stream-gage network.

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. The recent spike in natural gas prices is a reminder of the need to retain a vibrant domestic industry, and technological advances are the key to maintaining our resource base and ensuring this country's future energy security.

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. 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.

For that reason, AGI is concerned by the significant reductions in the President's budget request to the Petroleum R&D and Natural Gas R&D programs. The proposed cuts of over 50 percent would decimate these programs, funding from which 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. AGI urges the subcommittee to restore funding for these programs to FY 2001 levels.

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.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony to the subcommittee. If you would like any additional information for the record, please contact David Applegate at 703-379-2480, ext. 228 or applegate@agiweb.org.


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

Posted by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs

Posted May 2, 2001


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