AGI Testimony on Fiscal Year 2003 Appropriations for the U.S. Geological Survey and Department of Energy

Written Testimony Submitted by
David Applegate, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
to the
U.S. House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations
April 4, 2002


To the Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to express the perspective of the geoscience community on the fiscal year (FY) 2003 appropriations within the subcommittee's jurisdiction. The American Geological Institute (AGI) respectfully requests the subcommittee to oppose the president's requested budget cuts for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Department of Energy's (DOE) Fossil Energy Research and Development Program. These reductions would severely hamper the ability of these agencies to carry out their important mission at a time of great national need. AGI also urges the subcommittee to provide adequate funding for 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 enhancing knowledge through research and preservation of geoscience data.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 40 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.

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.

For the second year in a row, the USGS faces substantial cuts in the president's request. The request makes clear that the USGS should focus its resources on providing scientific support for its sister land management agencies in the Department of the Interior. That mission is certainly important and needs to be well executed if land management decisions are to be made with the best available scientific information. AGI is concerned, however, that the budget assigns lower priority to "programs that primarily benefit external customers." These externally beneficial programs provide some of the greatest benefits to the nation's citizens. As was made clear by the recent National Research Council report Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey, the USGS's value to the nation goes well beyond the Departmentís stewardship mission for public lands. Some of the most important activities of the Survey -- such as natural hazard reduction, resource assessment, and environmental monitoring -- serve the entire nation and often are most applicable to those non-federal lands where the nationís citizens reside. It is imperative that these missions be recognized and valued within the Department and the White House. AGI thanks the subcommittee for recognizing the Survey's broader value by rejecting the cuts proposed in last year's request. We urge the subcommittee to again provide full and adequate funding to the USGS so that it can continue to carry out its vitally important mission. AGI asks the subcommittee to help the administration better understand the Survey's value.

AGI urges the subcommittee to reject the administration's requested cuts to the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and to restore funding for this important program, including the Title VIII funds that were directed at the program in FY 2001 and FY 2002.  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, and resource development.

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. The devastating quakes that struck Afghanistan and Taiwan last month are reminders 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. AGI asks the subcommittee to maintain funding for real-time earthquake and flood warning systems, including the Title VIII funding for the stream-gage network. We encourage increased funding for the Advanced National Seismic System, which is authorized at $35 million in FY 2003, ten times the $3.5 million request.

As was the case a year ago, USGS water programs take the brunt of the cuts in the president's request. Several programs are targeted for elimination and, in one case, transfer out of Interior. The requested cut in the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program would result in the termination of activities in 6 of the 42 study units. The president's request transfers funds for the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program to the National Science Foundation. Simply put, this transfer does not make sense. The Toxics program supports targeted, long-term research on water resource contamination in both surface and groundwater environments. Such problem-specific research is highly appropriate for a mission agency like USGS but would not fit well in a basic science agency like NSF that funds research on a three-year grant cycle with more broadly defined research areas. The president's request also calls for the termination of the Water Resources Research Institutes. AGI strongly encourages the subcommittee to oppose these reductions and transfers and to fully support these programs.

Another troubling aspect of the president's request that is not apparent from the budget documents is the lack of funding for the USGS activities in support of homeland security and the war on terrorism overseas. All four disciplines within the Survey have made and continue to make significant contributions to these efforts, but neither the emergency supplementals nor the FY 2003 request provides any direct funding. Instead, those costs must be absorbed in addition to the proposed cuts. AGI encourages the subcommittee to recognize the Survey's important role and ensure adequate support for its newfound responsibilities.

DOE Fossil Energy Research and Development

Continued research on fossil energy is critical to America's future and should be a key component of any national energy strategy. 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 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.

AGI is very concerned by the significant reductions in the President's budget request to the Petroleum R&D and Natural Gas R&D programs. The proposed 37 percent cut to petroleum and 50 percent for natural gas 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 fully fund these programs at or above FY 2002 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 me at 703-379-2480, ext. 228 voice, 703-379-7563 fax, applegate@agiweb.org, or 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502.


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 April 5, 2002


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