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AGI Fiscal Year 2009 Testimony to Senate Subcommittee on Interior, Environmental and Related Agencies Appropriations

Written Testimony Submitted by
Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
in support of Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations for
U.S. Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency, Smithsonian Institute and National Parks Service
April 25, 2008

Thank you for this opportunity to provide the American Geological Institute's perspective on fiscal year (FY) 2009 appropriations for geoscience programs within the Subcommittee's jurisdiction. We ask the Subcommittee to support conservative and fiscally responsible increases relative to proposed cuts by the Administration for the United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior (DOI). The President’s request for FY 2009 for DOI is $10.7 billion, which is almost the same as the enacted budget of $10.675 billion in FY 2003. Unfortunately, DOI continues to suffer from flat to decreasing funding over too many years and cannot sustain vital work to understand and manage natural resources without wise investments now.

If the President’s request were enacted, the USGS would receive a total budget of about $969 million, a nearly 4% decrease compared to last year’s funding. Regrettably, the request proposes significant cuts to mineral resources, water programs and hazards investigations. The Mineral Resources Program would be cut by more than $24 million, Earthquake Hazards would be cut by $5 million and water programs would be cut by more than $17 million. If enacted, these reductions would hamper the Survey's ability to carry out its important objectives to monitor environmental conditions and provide resource assessments for economic development and national security. Specifically, we ask the Subcommittee to restore funds to the Mineral Resources Program as well as several hazards and water programs and to support a $1.3 billion overall budget for USGS. Such a moderate budget increase of almost $300 million would allow essential, but consistently under funded, programs throughout the agency to fulfill their basic mission. Such a request is robustly supported by the 70 organizations of the USGS Coalition as well as other stakeholders. AGI is a charter member of the USGS Coalition.

We also seek support for fiscally responsible increases relative to proposed cuts for water programs at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and research at the Smithsonian Institution as well as support for the Geologic Resources Division of the National Park Service. For the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the proposed FY 2009 is $7.1 billion, continuing a steady decline from a budget of $8.4 billion in FY 2004. The budget would cut more than $318 million for the clean water programs, brownfields programs, healthy ecosystems and watershed grants. The proposed budget would also cut more than $11 million from the Smithsonian Institution’s budget for public programs, exhibitions and research.

AGI is a nonprofit federation of 44 geoscientific and professional associations that represent more than 100,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists who work in industry, academia and government. 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 society's use of resources and interaction with the environment.

U.S. Geological Survey
For the sixth year in a row, the USGS faces cuts in the Administration's request. AGI thanks the Subcommittee for its record of restoring critical funds and recognizing the Survey's essential value to the nation. The USGS is a critical federal science agency and it should receive increased funding like the proposed increases in the America COMPETES Act for the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science within the Department of Energy. The USGS performs complementary research, analysis and education and should be part of competitiveness initiatives to advance innovation in energy, climate change, water resources and hazards mitigation, assess natural resource needs, which are the foundation of a strong economy, and ensure American competitiveness in science and technology through basic geologic and geographic research.

Virtually every American citizen and every federal, state, and local agency benefits either directly or indirectly from USGS products and services. As was made clear by the 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 Department of the Interior’s stewardship mission for public lands. USGS information and expertise address a wide range of important problems facing this nation: earthquakes and floods, global environmental change, water availability, waste disposal, and availability of energy and mineral resources. At the same time, the Survey has a responsibility to provide scientific support for its sister land management agencies at Interior; an important mission that needs to be well executed if land management decisions are to be made with the best available scientific information. AGI asks the Subcommittee to continue its efforts to help the Administration better understand the Survey's value to the nation as a whole

Mineral Resources Program. The value of domestically processed nonfuel mineral resources is estimated to be about $542 billion in 2006 and growing. The USGS Mineral Resources Program is the only entity, public or private, that provides an analysis and assessment of the raw materials and processed minerals accessible from domestic and global markets. This highly regarded research program is the nation's premier credible source for regional, national and global mineral resource and mineral environmental assessments, statistics and research critical for sound economic, mineral-supply, land-use and environmental analysis, planning and decision-making. AGI urges the Subcommittee to reject the Administration's requested cuts to this program and to fund it at the FY 2005 appropriated level of $54 million. The huge cut, leaving the program with less than $30 million in FY 2009 would decimate the program. It would cost about 200 of 380 full time positions and would eliminate or reduce global mineral resource assessments of mineral commodities, research on industrial minerals, research on inorganic toxins, materials flow analyses, and the Minerals Resources External Research program.

The data and analyses of the MRP are used by the Department of the Interior, Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of State, the Federal Reserve, other federal, state and local government entities, foreign governments, private companies and the general public. We urge the Subcommittee to restore the Mineral Resources Program to its FY 2005 level of $54 million so that it may perform its core missions effectively and efficiently.

National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. AGI is encouraged by the Administration's continued requests for small annual increases for the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and values Congress’ past support for much larger increases. This important partnership between the USGS, state geological surveys, and universities provides the nation with fundamental data for addressing natural hazard mitigation, water resource management, environmental remediation, land-use planning, and raw material resource development. The program was authorized (P.L. 106-148) to grow from a starting level of $28 million in FY 1999 to $64 million in FY 2005, but did not receive even 10 % of the annual funding level in any given year. AGI strongly supports re-authorization of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program at $64 million per year over the next 5 years.

Natural Hazards. 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 tragic earthquake/tsunami in the Indian Ocean, hurricanes Katrina and Rita striking the Gulf Coast and the massive earthquake in Pakistan, remind us of the need for preparation, education, mitigation and rapid response to natural hazards. A 2006 National Academies report, Improved Seismic Monitoring, estimates that increased seismic monitoring leads to increased future savings from the damaging effects of potential earthquakes. With great forethought, the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Authorization Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-503) called for a significant federal investment in expansion and modernization of existing seismic networks and for the development of the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) -- a nationwide network of shaking measurement systems focused on urban areas. ANSS can provide real-time earthquake information to emergency responders as well as building and ground shaking data for engineers and scientists seeking to understand earthquake processes and mitigate damage.  ANSS has been allocated about 10% of its authorized funding level per year, which is not nearly enough to deploy the 7,000 instruments called for in the law. 

We would like to commend the Subcommittee for your leadership in securing previous increases for ANSS and ask for full funding in FY 2009. The National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP) was reauthorized in 2004 (P.L. 108-360) and AGI supports the appropriation of full funding of $88.9 million for the USGS component of NEHRP in FY 2009 with not less than $36 million of these funds for the continued development of ANSS

Water Programs. AGI applauds the proposed increases for a National Water Census to be conducted by the USGS as part of the Water for America Initiative. Increases for the National Streamflow Information and Ground-Water Resources programs as part of the census and to meet core mission objectives is excellent. We do request that the proposed termination of the State Water Resources Research projects and cuts to the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) and the Hydrologic Research and Development programs be opposed by the Subcommittee.  In particular, the NAWQA program has for more than a decade provided the Nation with critical information on status and trends in surface and ground water quality.  Such information has been extremely valuable to policymakers at local, state and national levels in areas such as identifying emerging contaminants, the effectiveness of policies and regulations, and the impact of land-use changes on water quality.  We also support the restoration of funding to water research programs conducted by State Water Resource Research Institutes and within the USGS.  Research is critical to expanding the knowledge base to improve the design and implementation of assessment programs like NAWQA, to build the next generation of world- class water scientists, and to ensure that the Nation is conducting insightful and effective water monitoring.
 
Environmental Protection Agency
The President’s budget proposal would cut more than $274 million from the Clean and Safe Water Goal and more than $36 million from the Healthy Communities and Ecosystems Goal at the Environmental Protection Agency. AGI opposes these proposed cuts and instead asks for modest increases for these programs to deal with rising costs and help the EPA carry out its mission of monitoring water quality, assuring safe drinking water, cleaning up contaminated waters, protecting and maintaining water infrastructure, monitoring and protecting watersheds and cleaning up superfund and brownfield sites.

Smithsonian Institution
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 collections. AGI asks the Subcommittee to build up Smithsonian research with steady increases that are a tiny fraction of the overall budget, but would dramatically improve the facilities and their benefit to the country. We support increased funding for Smithsonian research in FY 2009 and request that proposed cuts of more than $11 million (with a loss of more than 100 full time employees) for research, public programs and exhibitions be removed from consideration.

National Park Service
The national parks are very important to the geoscience community as unique national treasures that showcase the geologic splendor of our country and offer unparalleled opportunities for both research and education of our fellow citizens. The National Park Services’ Geologic Resources Division was established in 1995 to provide park managers with geologic expertise. Working in conjunction with USGS and other partners, the division helps ensure that geoscientists are becoming part of an integrated approach to science-based resource management in parks. AGI would like to see additional support for geological staff positions to adequately address the treasured geologic resources in the national parks, especially as the National Parks approach their 100th anniversary. AGI supports funding for the National Parks Centennial Initiative, but is disappointed by the overall decrease of about 2% for the National Park Service in the President’s request. The Service needs steady increases in order to keep pace with rising costs, to hire new staff and to carry out their core missions.

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, rowan@agiweb.org, or 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502.

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

Posted: April 24, 2008

 


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