National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Act (11-22-05)

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The National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992 established the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (NCGMP). The program is designed to increase coordination between the United States Geological Survey and the State Geologic Surveys to develop geologic maps through three component programs: FEDMAP (USGS); STATEMAP (State Geological Surveys); and EDMAP (student program). The federal government provides matching-funds grants to State Geological Surveys and universities who successfully complete a competetive application process. The Act was reauthorized in 1997 and 1999 with consistent increases as well as some amendments. The program is currently seeking reauthorization through 2010.

The Geologic Mapping Act has generally received widespread, bipartisan support since its inception, although some Members of Congress in the past have pushed for the increased privitization of the mapping process. Geologic maps are recognized as important components of federal, state, local, and tribal efforts to manage mineral and water resources, mitigate hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes, plan urban development, and ensure security. NCGMP has demonstrated successes in all three major programs it is currently running by producing 7,500 geologic maps and developing a database of high quality digital geologic maps. The mapping process is never complete, however, as maps may be continually updated and refined through the use of advancing technologies such as digitization.

Recent Action

On November 16, 2005, the full Senate passed the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 2005 (S.485). The act re-authorizes the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program at $64 million for each of fiscal years 2006 through 2015. Within this total authorization, percentages allocated for the state (STATEMAP) and education (EDMAP) components of the program would be increased.

The bill extends deadlines somewhat for the development of a strategic plan and for the appointment of the program's advisory committee. It also modifies the requirements of the advisory committee, changing the chair from Chief Geologist to Associate Director of Geology at the U.S. Geological Survey, and it adds a second seat for a private sector representative, increasing the number of committee members from 10 to 11. The bill removes from the original 1992 law requirements to create geophysical- and geochemical- map databases, instead directing the committee to determine such mapping priorities based on the needs of Department of the Interior's land management agencies.

Similar to the House bill, which was passed on June 27, 2005, the legislation is likely to be signed into law before the end of the year. (11/22/05)

Previous Action

On September 28, 2005, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 2005 by unanimous consent. The bill, which reauthorizes the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, was reported to the full Senate along with many other bills concerning public lands. The bill was passed by the House in June (see below), and will likely be approved by the Senate. (10/3/05)

On June 27, 2005, the House approved the National Geologic Mapping Reathorization Act of 2005 by voice vote, passing on the baton to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for further action. After being introduced on May 16th by Representative Jim Gibbons (R-NV), the House bill (H.R. 2362) moved quickly through the Committee on Resources, where on May 18th it was favorably reported to the full House without amendment by a unanimous vote.

Like its counterpart introduced in the Senate (S. 485), the House bill authorizes the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program at $64 million annually through 2010. Amending the National Geologic Mapping Act of 1992, the legislation extends current deadlines for plans, reports, and other programmatic requirements in order "to expedite the production of a geologic-map data base for the Nation."

The bill reads that "although significant progress has been made in the production of geologic maps since the establishment of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program in 1992, no modern, digital, geologic map exists for approximately 75 percent of the Nation." One of the minor, technical amendments to the 1992 and 1999 authorizations was a word change that emphasizes the value of geologic mapping in "homeland and environmental protection" in addition to the value of providing a primary database to help the nation evaluate land use, siting, and natural hazards.

According to the report that accompanies H.R. 2362, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that carrying out the 1992 act, as amended by H.R. 2362, would cost $21 million in fiscal year 2006 and $255 million over the 2006-2010 period. The bill report also states that enacting the legislation would have no effect on revenues or direct spending, and contains no unfunded mandates for state or local governments. (6/28/05)

On March 1st, the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 2005 was introduced in the Senate. The bill is a reintroduction of S. 2353, a version that was never voted on in the 108th congress. Proposed changes to the original 1992 act are minor, with authorized funding set at $64 million per year for FY 2006-2010 and slightly higher percentages of funding going to the STATEMAP and EDMAP programs. The bill was referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where the Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests addressed it as part of a hearing on March 8th. Both administration representatives and the sponsoring senators affirmed their support for the reauthorization. Chris Kearney, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Management and International Affairs of the Department of the Interior, expressed concern in his prepared statement that the appropriated funding levels are well below what has been authorized in the past due to the competitive appropriations process. For FY 2005 authorized funding levels were $64 million, while only $25 million was actually appropriated. A committee consideration and mark-up date has not yet been determined. (6/10/05)

Background

National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization 1997
The National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1997 was signed by President Clinton on August 5, 1997. Two weeks earlier, the Senate had unanimously accepted the House-passed version (H.R. 709), which authorized appropriations of $26 million in FY 1998, $28 million in FY 1999, and $30 million in FY 2000. It further stipulated that not less than 20 percent of the funds are to be allocated for State mapping activities and not less than 2 percent for educational mapping activities. For further information on the 1997 reauthorization effort, please see an earlier AGI update at: http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/ngmaup97.html.

National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization 1999
In its final hours before adjourning for the year, the Senate passed S. 607, the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999, by unanimous consent. The bill, which was passed by the House on October 26th, was signed by President Clinton on December 9th. During discussion of the bill before the House vote, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) recognized the contributions of 1998-1999 AGI Congressional Science Fellow David Wunsch, who worked for her on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources in the development of H.R. 1528. Her remarks are included in the Congressional Record.

Cubin had introduced H.R. 1528 on Earth Day, remarking that "geologists like to say that for them `every day is Earth Day.' What better day than today to introduce the bill to keep the benefits of this important cooperative program flowing?" Both S. 607 and H.R. 1528 authorized a doubling of funding for the program over seven years.

The reauthorization bill contained a number of changes from the 1992 law while retaining the program's basic structure of federal (USGS), state, and education components. It called for the Secretary of the Interior to develop a 5-year plan for the USGS cooperative geologic mapping program with the advice and review of the program's advisory committee. The Secretary of the Interior must also submit a report to the House Committee on Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources regarding the program's process every two years.

S. 607 also provides for interdisciplinary studies including the development of a national geologic map database; studies leading to implementation of cost-effective digital methods for geologic map development and distribution; and various supplemental investigations in areas such as paleontology, geochronology, geochemistry, and geophysics.

As an authorizing bill, this legislation provides maximum funding levels through FY 2005. The actual funding levels, however, will vary depending on amounts appropriated annually. The bill authorizes:

$28 million for FY 1999
$30 million for FY 2000
$37 million for FY 2001
$43 million for FY 2002
$50 million for FY 2003
$57 million for FY 2004
$64 million for FY 2005

Moreover, the bill provides that half of "any amounts appropriated for any fiscal year in excess of the amount appropriated for fiscal year 2000" are to be given to the state component (48 percent) and education component (2 percent).

National Geologic Mapping Act Reauthorization 2004
On July 14th, 2004, the House version of the geologic mapping act, H.R. 4010, was discharged from the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. That afternoon, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests met to discuss S. 2353, "a bill to reauthorize the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and amend the national Geologic Mapping Act of 1992". Witnesses in the Senate subcommittee hearing all testified in support of reauthorization.

On June 24th, the House Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources met to discuss H.R. 4010. The bill was introduced by Subcommittee Chair Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and committee member and former geologist Jim Gibbons (R-NV). The subcommittee heard testimony from USGS Chief Geologist Pat Leahy and John Steinmentz, President of the Association of American State Geologists. Both testified in support of the bill and all members of the subcommittee who attended the hearing also expressed their support as well. Leahy outlined some of the successes of the NCGNP including the ways in which USGS has worked in cooperation with agencies and states. He noted the high economic return of dollars invested in mapping programs as seen in the state of Kentucky, the only state that is completely mapped. Leahy also said that mapping aids security efforts by providing information on energy, mineral, and water availability as well as geologic hazards.

The bill was placed on the House calendar but was not revisited before the adjournment of the 108th Congress.

Sources: Thomas, Congressional Record, Hearing Testimony, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.

Contributed by Katie Ackerly, Government Affairs Staff, David Millar 2004 AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Intern, John Vermylen, 2005 AGI/AIPG Summer Intern, and Peter Douglas, 2005 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Background section includes material from AGI's Update on Geologic Mapping for the 106th Congress.

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

Last updated on November 22, 2005.