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SPECIAL UPDATE: Geoscience Cuts Largely Restored by Interior Spending Bills

(Posted 7-17-03)


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

IN A NUTSHELL: Geoscience-related agencies covered by the Interior and Related Agencies appropriations bill took a beating in the president's fiscal year (FY) 2004 budget request. But the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have restored cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey and partially restored deep cuts to the Department of Energy's oil and gas research programs. Other geoscience funding levels described in this update include the Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Forest Service.

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With Congress's August recess looming just around the corner, the fiscal year (FY) 2004 appropriations process is now under a full head of steam. Six of the 13 appropriations bills are through the House, and two have passed the Senate. The Interior and Related Agencies bill (H.R. 2691) made it through the House Appropriations Committee on June 25th and is awaiting floor action. It passed the Senate Appropriations Committee as S. 1391 on July 10th. Although Senate floor action is possible before the August recess, September seems more likely with a House-Senate conference to iron out differences getting underway late that month in the waning weeks of the current fiscal year.

The Interior bill is one of the most important for the geosciences because it funds not only several key geoscience-related bureaus of the Department of the Interior -- the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management, Minerals Management Service, and National Park Service -- but also the U.S. Forest Service (part of the Agriculture Department), the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D programs, and the Smithsonian Institution. This update provides a snapshot of the explanatory reports that both the House and Senate committees included with their versions of the Interior bill. Whereas appropriations bills are themselves little more than a long string of numbers, the accompanying reports contain specific directions and instructions that agencies for agencies to follow. House Report 108-195 is available on the web at
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp108:FLD010:@1(hr195): and Senate Report 108-89 is available at
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp108:FLD010:@1(sr089):

US Geological Survey (USGS)

The House bill would provide USGS with $935.7 million, nearly 2% above FY 2003 and 4.5% above the president's request. The Senate bill provides $928.9 million, slightly less than the House but still above the previous allocation and the president's request.

The House report expresses frustration with the administration's repeated attempts to cut the USGS budget: "For the third year in a row the [House Appropriations]Committee has restored a number of high-priority research programs that were proposed for reduction or elimination. The Department [of the Interior] has placed a high-priority on both cooperative programs and programs that are outsourced to the private sector. For the most part, the programs that are being proposed for reduction or elimination in fiscal year 2004 are the very programs that meet these criteria. More than any other Bureau in the Department, the Survey has been a leader in the development of cooperative programs and outsourcing its activities. The Committee believes that Bureaus that are successful in implementing these policies should be rewarded and not penalized."

USGS Geologic Programs -- Geologic programs would receive $231.4 million in the House bill, slightly below FY 2003 levels but 4.5% above the president's request. The Senate bill would provide $236.9 million, up 1.5% over FY 2003 and up 7% over the request.

Advanced National Seismic System -- Both the House and Senate bills restore a $1.9 million proposed cut to the Advanced National Seismic System, and the Senate bill provides an additional $0.5 million "to expand the earthquake program's capabilities."

Geologic Mapping -- The House bill restores all but $0.5 million of the administration's proposed cut to the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and also provides $0.5 million for the Great Lakes geologic mapping project. The Senate bill does not fund the latter but restores the cut to the geologic mapping program and adds $0.5 million on top.

Mineral Resources -- One of the largest cuts proposed for USGS by the administration was to the Mineral Resources program. Both the House and Senate bills would restore funding for this program with the House version putting back $9.1 million (and adding $1.3 million for aggregate and industrial minerals studies) and the Senate restoring the full $11.2 million cut. The House report states: "The Committee strongly disagrees with the proposed reduction in the Survey's mineral resources program. Minerals and mineral products are important to the U.S. economy with processed minerals accounting for over $370 billion to the economy in 2002. Mineral commodities are essential to both national security and infrastructure development. Mineral resources research and assessments are a core responsibility of the survey. Since the 1996 review by the National Academy, the Survey's mineral program has refocused its efforts to address better the Nation's need for more and better information regarding the regional, national, and global availability of mineral resources. For these reasons the Committee has restored the proposed cuts to this high-priority program."

Other increases above the president's request in the House bill would go to global dust event impact studies and the national coastal program, but the bill rejects the administration's request for $4 million directed at Everglades research. The Senate report details quite a number of earmarked increases over FY 2003 for volcano monitoring in Hawaii and Alaska, a mineral inventory in Nevada, a Kansas well log inventory, a coalbed methane study in Montana, a North Carolina erosion study, completion of the Alaska Minerals at Risk program, South Carolina/Georgia Coastal erosion, coastal monitoring studies and land subsidence studies in Louisiana, and INSAR data acquisition. Cuts are directed at the global dust program, a LIDAR consortium and an unspecified "Tampa Bay pilot project."

USGS Water Resources Programs -- The House bill would fund the Survey's water programs at $215.2 million, up nearly 4% above FY 2003 and up 7.5% above the president's request. The Senate bill is not quite as generous, providing $209.5 million, still slightly above FY 2003 and nearly 5% above the request. Both bills restore roughly $6 million in funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes, which were zeroed out in the president's budget, and restore cuts to the Toxic Substances Hydrology program. And both the House and Senate reports call for quite a number of site-specific studies.

USGS Mapping Programs -- The Survey's mapping programs would receive $130.2 million from the House and $128.9 million from the Senate, both levels are below FY 2003 levels (by 2% and 3% respectively) and above the president's request (by 8% and 7%).

National Map -- The House report includes extensive language supporting the Survey's National Map project, laying out its justification and emphasizing the importance of partnerships. The House report notes that funding is restored for "data collection activities through partnerships and contracts with the private sector,…cooperative topographic mapping to expand and enhance initial National Map implementation through partnerships," and geographic analysis and monitoring related research, among others.

EROS Data Center -- The House report also emphasizes the importance of the USGS EROS Data Center and supports USGS efforts to "convert its archived remote sensing data from outdated storage media to disk-based storage [in order to] … provide access to users more efficiently and at lower cost." Noting the data center's designation as critical infrastructure for homeland security, the report also supports "implementation of a continuity of operations capability… utilizing `remote mirroring' technology, which will eliminate a single point of failure for data storage infrastructure and ensure full recovery with zero data loss from any potential outage."

The Senate report notes the restoration of funding for data collection and geographic analysis as well as taking exception to the administration's proposed $6.6 million cut associated with government-wide information technology savings, noting that this is an amount much greater than proposed for agencies two to four times the Survey's size. The Senate report also notes a $3 million cut for the AmericaView program and a $1.4 million cut associated with closure of the Center for Integration and Natural Disaster Information (CINDI) program and transfer of its functions elsewhere.

USGS Biology, Facilities, and Science Support Accounts -- The Survey's biological programs would receive $173.3 million in the House bill and $169.6 million in the Senate bill. The president requested $168.8 million, and these programs received $169.8 in FY 2003. The Survey's Facilities account is slated for $93.9 million in the House bill and $92.6 million in the Senate bill. It received $90.8 million in FY 2003, and the president requested $92.9 million. The Science Support account is slated for $91.5 million in the House bill, the same as requested, and $91.4 million in the Senate bill, up $6.2 million above FY 2003.

DOE Fossil Energy R&D

Overall, the House bill would provide $609.3 million for Fossil Energy research and development, which is 2% below FY 2003 but 18% over the president's request. The Senate bill recommends $593.5 million, down 5% from FY 2003 but up 15% from the request. The lion's share of Fossil Energy funding goes to coal programs, particularly those focused on clean coal technology. The House report notes the Appropriations Committee's prior support for the administration's National Energy Policy but chastises the administration for requesting "a few major initiatives and program expansions at the expense of critical ongoing research." The report goes on to note that the committee has restored many of the proposed cuts "for research to improve fossil energy technologies. It would be fiscally irresponsible to discontinue research in which we have made major investments without bringing that research to a logical conclusion."

The largest cuts to geoscience-related programs in the president's budget request were directed at DOE's Natural Gas Technologies and Oil Technology programs. The House report takes the administration to task for requesting deep cuts to these programs: "Oil and natural gas research is critical to improving current technology and ensuring the best use of our domestic oil and gas reserves. These research areas need more serious consideration in future budgets." The Senate report expresses "regrets that the current budget scenario prevented the restoration of many accounts vital to our Nation's energy security."

Natural Gas Technologies Programs -- The House bill includes $36.5 million for natural gas research, down 22% from FY 2003 but 35% higher than the president's request. The Senate bill would provide $41.9 million for natural gas programs, down 11% from FY 2003 but up 58% over the request. Both the House and Senate bills deny the administration's request to transfer natural gas funding to hydrogen research. The House report "rejects the premise that domestic natural gas production and infrastructure research and development should be cut at a time when natural gas demand is increasing and supplies are already insufficient to meet demand. Similarly, it is an unwise policy decision to balance a new initiative to turn natural gas into hydrogen (and potentially adding more stress to natural gas markets) by cutting the programs necessary to stabilize natural gas supplies."

Oil Technology Programs -- The House bill provides $32.2 million, down 23% from FY 2003 (and down 39% from FY 2002) but a whopping 215% higher than the president's request. The Senate bill recommends $34.5 million, down 18% from FY 2003 but up an even more whopping 230% from the request.

Carbon Sequestration -- Within the coal accounts, carbon sequestration research would receive $40.8 million, nearly the same as FY 2003 but 52% below the president's request. The Senate bill allocates $39.8 million. Both the House and Senate reports argued that the president's proposed National Climate Change Technology Initiative, which was to receive the bulk of the increase, needs to be more clearly defined. The House report suggested that it should be funded within the Energy and Water appropriations bill. The Senate bill states: "The Committee understands the need for additional Sequestration R&D…but does not believe it is a wise policy decision to eliminate basic research and development in well-established and successful coal, oil and gas programs in order to shift funds to unexplained initiatives."

Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center -- Both the House and Senate bills restore funding for this center, located on the national petroleum reserve at the infamous Teapot Dome site in Wyoming. The president's request proposed to eliminate the center.

National Academies Study -- The House report directs that $0.5 million go to the National Academy of Sciences to provide an annual review of Fossil Energy R&D programs "to measure the relative benefits expected to be achieved and to inform decision making on what programs should be continued, expanded, scaled back, or eliminated." In 2001, the Academy produced a report entitled "Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research 1978 to 2000," which can be read online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10165.html

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

The House bill would provide $109.7 million for BLM's Energy and Minerals program, slightly above FY 2003 levels and the president's request. According to the House report, the additional funds are intended "to address the significant coalbed methane permit backlog." The Senate report identifies increases for processing applications for permits to drill and increased inspection and monitoring activities along with decreases for EPCA activities and information technology.

Minerals Management Service (MMS)

The House bill provides MMS with $264.4 million, virtually unchanged from either FY 2003 or the president's request. The Senate bill provides an additional $1.8 million for the Outer Continental Shelf resource evaluation program "to support exploration and sustainable development of seabed minerals," earmarking the funds for two centers in Mississippi and Alaska.

National Park Service (NPS)

In both the House and Senate bills, the National Park Service is slated to receive $1.64 billion, up $73 million from what the agency received in FY 2003 and essentially the same as the president's request for FY 2004. The Geologic Resources Division is funded within the NPS Resource Stewardship account, which is slated for $340.4 million in the House bill and $342.5 million in the Senate bill, both slightly above FY 2003 and the request. The House report calls for an increase of $7.9 million for inventory and monitoring activities while the Senate report provides a $5 million boost for those activities. Both reports identify a $0.6 million increase for water quality monitoring.

Smithsonian Institution

The House bill would fund the Smithsonian at $489.7 million, a 10% increase over the FY 2003 allocation and 3% above the president's request. The Senate would provide slightly less ($488.0 million). The Senate report notes that $1.1 million is provided "to expand the Latino grants program and reinstate the science fellowships program.

U.S. Forest Service (USFS)

In both the House and Senate bills, the USFS Minerals and Geology Management program would receive $54.1 million, up 3% from FY 2003 and the same as requested.

The Senate bill restores funding for the trust overseeing the Valles Caldera site in New Mexico, which the administration proposed to cut by two-thirds. The site, an immense collapsed volcano in northern New Mexico, was purchased by the federal government several years ago to preserve and study its unique geological and ecological characteristics.

Special update prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Sources: House and Senate Appropriations Committee Reports.

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

Posted July 17, 2003


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