ACTION ALERT: Support Geoscience Programs in Final FY 2004 Interior Spending Bill
This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.
IN A NUTSHELL: Next week, the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees are expected to sit down and begin hammering out a final agreement on fiscal year (FY) 2004 spending levels for the Department of the Interior and a number of other agencies. A formal House-Senate conference committee will likely get to work the following week. Both the House and Senate versions of the Interior appropriations bill at least partially restore support for geoscience-related programs cut in the president's budget request, particularly the U.S. Geological Survey and Department of Energy Fossil Energy research and development (R&D) programs. Now is the time to thank the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for their support and encourage them to fully fund base programs in addition to any congressionally directed spending. Please write, especially if you are a constituent of a member on the Interior subcommittee (listed below).
Funding for the USGS totals $936 million in the House version (up 4.2% over the president's $896 million request and 1.8% over FY 2003's $919 million allocation) and $929 million in the Senate version (up 3.6% over request, 1% over FY 2003). Water, mapping and geologic programs that were proposed for large reductions in the president's request were mostly restored in both bills. In the Department of Energy, natural gas research was cut by $20 million in the president's request and only half of that was restored by the House, slightly more by the Senate. Petroleum research, which was threatened with a 64% cut, is still down but by half as much. The House recommendation totaled $32 million (down 24% from last year), and the Senate recommended $34 million (down 19% from last year).
Currently, Congress is more than two weeks late in approving the annual spending budgets for the government. Of the thirteen bills that designate funding levels for next year, only three have been signed by the President -- Defense, Homeland Security and Legislative Branch. The House has approved their version of the remaining ten bills; however, the Senate has yet to take action on six of them. Of those that the Senate has approved, the Interior bill may be one of the last to be considered as a "stand-alone" bill. As Congress is significantly behind on this process, and most lawmakers are looking ahead to spending quality time back in their districts during the holidays, the pressure has increased to move these bills in either a "bundled" format (with one or two considered at the same time), or in an "omnibus" bill wherein everything is considered together.
For the Interior bill, the House Appropriations Committee acted first, passing their version of the fiscal year (FY) 2004 bill, H.R. 2691, on July 17th. The Senate counterpart, S. 1391, passed through committee on July 10th but wasn't considered and approved on the Senate floor until September 10th with a voice vote. Details of all the geoscience-related provisions in the bill are available at www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_interior.html.
Restoring Cuts to USGS
Overall funding for the USGS would total $936 million in the House version and $929 million in the Senate version -- increases over the requested $896 million and last year's $919 million total. The explanatory report accompanying the House bill is critical of proposed cuts to USGS: "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."
In the House bill, geologic programs would total $231 million, an increase of almost 4% over the budget request but still a slight decrease over last year's allocation. The Senate proposal would provide $237 million, an increase of 6.32% above the request and 1.7% more than last year, but senators expressed their frustration with the lack of administration support for this agency by making sure that projects important to their states were earmarked in the bill (also known as "carve-outs" or "congressionally directed spending") -- even at the expense of the base programs.
AGI and several of its member societies signed on to a USGS Coalition letter sent to House and Senate conferees, urging their support for increased investment in USGS programs. Copies of the letter are available at www.usgscoalition.org .
Mineral Resources Program: One of the largest cuts proposed for USGS by the administration was to the Mineral Resources program. The House bill would restore funding for this program by putting back $9.1 million and adding $1.3 million for aggregate and industrial minerals studies. The House report explains why: "The Committee strongly disagrees with the proposed reduction in the Survey's mineral resources program . 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." The Senate likewise restored funding for this program to last year's level of $51 million.
Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS): Both the House and Senate bills restore a proposed $2 million cut, and the Senate bill provides an extra $0.5 million for the program, still only a tenth of the amount authorized by the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Act of 2000. In June, AGI sent an alert urging geoscientists to contact their representatives and recommend that they sign onto a letter being circulated by Reps. Nick Smith (R-MI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) seeking full funding of ANSS. That alert, including the text of the Smith-Lofgren "Dear Colleague" letter is at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/anssletter_alert0603.html .
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 restores the cut to the geologic mapping program and adds an additional $0.5 million, but does not fund the Great Lakes geologic mapping project. These levels are roughly half the $57 million authorized for FY 2004 by the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999.
Water Programs: Water programs would receive a total of $210 million in the Senate bill and $215 in the House, both slight increases over the request and FY 2003. Both bills restore the funding for the Water Resources Research Institutes, which were zeroed out in the president's budget, and restore funding for the Toxic Substances Hydrology program.
For information on the status of other USGS programs in the House
and Senate bills, see www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/appropsfy2004_interior.html.
The full House report is available at thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/cpquery/R?cp108:FLD010:@1(hr195)
and the Senate report at
Restoring Cuts to DOE Oil & Gas R&D Programs
The largest cuts to geoscience-related programs in the president's budget request were directed at DOE's Natural Gas Technologies and Oil Technology research and development (R&D) 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."
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 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."
Natural Gas R&D: Funding for natural gas exploration and production was increased from the budget request -- the Senate providing $42 million (up nearly 36% over the administration request, but still $5 million less than last year's allocation) and the House provided $36 million (25% above the president's request, but 23% below last year's level).
Petroleum R&D: Funding for petroleum exploration and production was also hard hit in the budget request, with a two-thirds reduction from the FY 2003 allocation. Both chambers were able to restore a some of the cuts but still came in below last year's allocation. The House recommendation totaled $32 million (down 23% from last year), and the Senate recommended $34 million (down 19% from last year).
Please Contact Your Representative and Senators
Please take a moment and call or write a note to your representative and senators to encourage their support for these geoscience programs. We particularly need constituents of House and Senate Appropriations Committee members, and especially members of the Interior subcommittee (listed below), to thank them for their support and encourage them to fully fund base programs in addition to any congressionally directed spending. A list of full committee members can be found at appropriations.senate.gov and www.house.gov/appropriations.
Letters can be e-mailed and should be addressed to:
The Honorable ___________
-- or --
The Honorable ___________
Please send us a copy of anything you write: AGI Government Affairs Program, 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502; fax 703 379 7563; e-mail email@example.com.
Rep. Taylor (R-NC, 11th), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee
on Interior 202/225-6401 firstname.lastname@example.org
E-mail contacts for other representatives can be found at www.house.gov/writerep/ . Most representatives only accept e-mails sent from constituents.
Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee
Sen. Burns (R-MT), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee
on Interior 202/224-8594 email@example.com
E-mail contacts for other senators can be found at www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
Alert prepared by Emily M. Lehr and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.
Posted October 17, 2003