American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Minutes for the
Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting

February 23-24, 1997
AGI Headquarters, Alexandria VA

A cover memo with action items accompanied these draft minutes.

Jim Gibbs, Committee Chair, Dallas TX
Dan Morris, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Houston TX
Bill Sax, Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Durham NC
Tom Dutro, Association of Earth Science Editors, Washington DC
E-an Zen, Geological Society of America, Reston VA
Joe Senftle, The Society for Organic Petrology, Landover MD
Mac Ross, Mineralogical Society of America, Reston VA
Mike McDermott, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston VA
Margo Kingston, American Geophysical Union, Reston VA
Al Perry, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Herndon VA
Tom Moore, SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), Bartlesville OK
Dennis Pennington, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Tel Ford PA
Stephen Testa, AIPG, Mokulumne Hill CA
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia SC
Dave Verardo, Association of Engineering Geologists, Charlottesville VA
Emery Cleaves, Association of American State Geologists, Baltimore MD
Larry Flynn, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Cambridge MA
Marcus Milling, AGI Executive Director
John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs Program
Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs Program
David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

1.0 Introductions and Preliminary Business

Jim Gibbs welcomed everyone to the meeting and thanked them for their attendance.

1.1 Approval of minutes from October 1996 meeting at GSA Annual Meeting in Denver
The minutes were approved. Gibbs especially encouraged all present to review them, if they had not already done so, as a review of member society concerns and program activities.

1.2 Review program finances
Gibbs noted the new and increased contributions in 1996 from a number of member societies. Re-emphasized that program's goal is to have every society contribute. Chart of 1996 contributions is attached.

1.3 Chairman's Remarks
Gibbs stated that the program has come a long way in the last five years, providing a linkage between AGI's member societies and the federal government over a wide spectrum of concerns and issues. Although each society could construct a model of what GAP should be doing, we need to combine those interests into a coordinated, cogent focus for GAP's activities.

2.0 Report on Recent GAP Activities

Applegate discussed recent GAP activities (for additional background see attached monthly updates for October 1996 through February 1997):

2.1 Discussion of Geoscience Input Into Public Lands Decisionmaking
The report of GAP activities led to a discussion of geoscience input into public land management and into federal agencies in general. Zen suggested that GAP invite BLM officials to meeting next fall at Salt Lake City to discuss the issue. Sax noted CIA geoscience involvement in Desert Storm geomorphology, geophones in ocean tracking subs, and estimation of world oil reserves. Dutro noted the fragmentation of BLM as illustrated by a Paleontological Society meeting on fossil collecting on public lands at which BLM headquarters made a statement, but the northern Great Plains field office indicated that it was going to go its own way. Ross noted that EPA's regional offices are similarly autonomous. Zen also urged that contact be made with the Army Corps of Engineers. Cleaves emphasized the need for discussions between agencies on ecosystem maps with an opportunity for geoscientists to present the tools that they can provide. Ross noted the lack of soil scientists in the USGS as an obstacle. Senftle pointed out that with tight budgets, it would be necessary to find links between existing programs, for example with DARPA on shallow subsurface data. He also emphasized the need to collectively prioritize. In a discussion of fossil collecting on public lands that followed, Cleaves reminded the group that "public lands" at the federal level may be primarily a western phenomenon but that many state lands and parks in the east face similar restrictions and controversies over rock and fossil collecting.

Pennington raised the point that the Department of Defense conducts a great deal of research in the environmental arena, much of it funding projects conducted by civilian agencies through interagency agreements. He raised the possibility that as a result there may be considerable redundancy of effort. He cited DOD funded research on the effects of coal mining on the environment as an example. Milling emphasized the geoscience basis for environmental investigations that is often ignored. Senftle noted that DOD-funded science was rife with politically motivated projects that amount to scientific welfare. Applegate expressed difficulty in getting inside the DOD budget to figure out where funding for geoscience projects was located.

2.2 Increasing Awareness and Geoscience Input Into Federal Advisory Committees
Following a comment by Testa on a recent forum held by the USGS on the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, Perry suggested that most agencies have advisory committees with constituents represented and that it would be worthwhile for AGI to make an effort to get representation on as many as possible. Moore suggested that GAP identify ones on which member societies should be represented. Zen suggested that AGI could hold a workshop for the heads of such advisory committees to make them aware of geoscience input. Cleaves noted the Department of the Interior's Outer Continental Shelf Advisory Committee as an example of such a committee where the state geologists have played a major role. He also suggested that EPA should be a very fruitful area for geologists since water is the key to many environmental problems. He suggested that EPA's index sites were dominantly rural and needed to include urban areas as well. Testa noted the Survey's increased emphasis in the geologic mapping program on urban corridors and national parks. Pennington and Cleaves both expressed concern that the USGS Water Resources Division was shutting down stream gaging stations and hydrologic surveys, making choices whether to sustain employees or long-term databases. Zen pointed out that here was an example of how shifts in the federal science budget affect states and localities, which rely on the USGS expertise and infrastructure to carry out such hydrologic surveys. McDermott noted that reprogramming within the Water Resources Division to make way for the President's Kalamazoo Initiative represented the biggest hits within the USGS. Pennington asked the group whether ecosystems programs were driving geologic investigations to a greater degree than they should.

Perry returned to the issue of advisory committees, making the distinction between permanent ones that develop long-term policy and ad-hoc ones for specific issues with a fixed end point, usually a report. The latter are hard to know about in order to make a pitch, and he suggested keeping an eye on the Federal Register where all such committees are announced. Pennington suggested using key committee staffers in Congress to recommend geoscientists to these panels. Kingston cautioned that there is an executive order out to reduce the number of such advisory committees. Zen suggested working with Craig Schiffries and the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, which has a shared interest in this issue. Verardo noted that geology has an image problem in that the public thinks only of oil and coal studies rather than the broad range of disciplines that relate to environmental and other issues of public interest.

3.0 Update on AGI Geoscience Data Preservation Efforts

Following a break, AGI Executive Director Marcus Milling updated the committee on AGI's efforts to develop a National Geoscience Data Repository System (NGDRS). AGI was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Energy (DOE) to begin the Phase III implementation of the system, beginning transfers of private-sector data to public-domain repositories and developing a metadata repository to improve access to existing data. Perry asked whether attempts had been made to obtain U.S. Bureau of Mines data when that agency closed, noting that mining maps would have been lost if not transferred to the Office of Surface Mining. Milling responded that the USBM data was transferred to the USGS. Gibbs noted that the private Dallas Geologic Information Library had just been forced to close. McDermott asked whether the AGI effort was connected to the National Spatial Data Infrastructure initiative and the Federal Geographic Data Committee, which is charged with finding a proper home for federal databases that could be lost down the road. Milling responded that closer cooperation with NSDI was needed. Gibbs inquired about the status of USGS paleontology collections, and McDermott responded that those decisions were being made by the USGS Science Council in conjunction with the Smithsonian.

4.0 Specific Issues of Society Concern: AIPG Draft Position on USGS Name Change

After a brief introduction by Applegate, Testa provided the AIPG draft position opposing a name change for the USGS (explanatory memo attached). McDermott responded that changing the name was not something being discussed on a day-to-day basis even though they were in the midst of a major visual identity review. He also stated that Eaton had discussed such a possibility to Babbitt early on, but Babbitt had said no, the USGS name has good brand equity. McDermott emphasized that there are no committees and no activities looking into a name change, just informal comments by the Director. He expressed his personal reaction that by raising the issue, geologists -- who make up only one-fifth of the USGS -- might lose control of the argument. Several others disagreed, arguing that the hydrologists are geologists or geoscientists as well, and they represent half the Survey.

Pennington raised two concerns. He first questioned whether the purpose of putting the NBS into the USGS was to dilute the geoscience component in order to argue that it was not important and expressed that the dilution process was just beginning. Second, he was concerned that the agenda of Vice President Gore and environmental groups is focused on biology and not other disciplines. He reported that at briefings, EPA Director Carol Browner had mentioned that the USGS name should change. He also raised concerns about the proposed National Institute for the Environment. Ross stated that morale in the USGS Geologic Division was "zero" and that there was a widespread belief that the division is being phased out. Pennington went on to note that organizations such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club had pushed the Kalamazoo Initiative, which is a function of the Office of Drinking Water at EPA. Dragonetti noted that a National Institute for the Environment could incorporate the WRD and that there have been plans in the past to create a stand-alone national mapping agency. He also noted the name change of the Soils Conservation Service to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Testa stated that the process is being driven by the agencies, not by Congress.

Perry raised several points: the breadth of the definition of geology covering all activities of the USGS, the Nixon-era attempts to create a Natural Resources Science Agency which failed because it would have required shifts in committee jurisdictions on the Hill, the lack of recognition for the NRCS since the name change, and the large administrative costs associated with a name change. Zen stated that GSA's leadership did not want to become involved in such a position. He went on to state his personal view that if a name change does come about, it would require an act of Congress. Moreover, he felt that it was healthy to have a discussion of the agency's name. Kingston made a personal comment that the American Geophysical Union is made up of scientists from a wide variety of disciplines and despite the fact that many are not geophysicists and half are not American, they are perfectly happy with the name AGU. Cleaves reported that AASG supports the AIPG position and then made the personal comment that the USGS has not sold the wider community on the geoscience role in the study of ecosystems. He emphasized the need to go out and talk to folks outside the geosciences -- ecosystem management is the current paradigm, but people do not understand the geoscience role. Flynn noted that this issue represents a public image problem for the USGS and asserted that the dismissal of macropaleontologists severed a link between geology and biology. Verardo noted that this issue has struck a nerve and an effort should be made to determine what is rumor and what is in fact going on. He also commented that he was at Lamont-Doherty when Eaton changed the name from Geologic Observatory to Earth Observatory. Pennington emphasized that vigilance is the key word. Gibbs concluded the discussion by thanking AIPG for sensitizing the group to this issue and encouraged the other societies to consider their position on this issue.

5.0 Reports from Member Societies

Gibbs asked society representatives to discuss their priority issues, shared concerns and ideas, and proposals for mobilizing society memberships on public policy issues.

Cleaves expressed AASG's concern that geologic mapping is considered a low priority by the USGS Geologic Division. Testa echoed the concern and noted that with the focus on urban areas and parks, the program is very viable and defensible. Cleaves passed out a recent survey of geologic map users in Maryland. Applegate stated that he would send out a Congressional Action Alert to the community on the pending geologic mapping legislation in Congress.

Perry suggested that AGI should stay aware of international geoscience policy activities, citing recent agreements between western science and technology ministers on issues including data exchange. He suggested that GAP should obtain copies of the declaration and plan of action from the summit. Applegate noted the upcoming NRC symposium to be co-sponsored by AGI on the role of the geosciences in international affairs. Zen noted that GSA had recently created the position of foreign secretary, and Ian Dalziel had been appointed to fill it. Gibbs agreed that the international arena was an important one but expressed concern that it could be beyond the scope of GAP.

Following lunch, Astwood expressed his pleasure that educational issues were included among GAP's priorities. He suggested that the image problem discussed earlier was an education problem and pointed to the opportunity embodied in the new national education standards. He pointed out that the Higher Education Act would need to be renewed toward the end of this year and emphasized the importance of continued funding for students to attend college and improve the diversity of undergraduate enrollments. In response to a question from Gibbs, Astwood stated that AP tests in earth science had been discussed, but first colleges have to recognize the value of AP courses in earth science in high school as opposed to the usual physics-chemistry-biology track. Zen added that there needs to be a market for such courses and that college departments had not been vocal enough. As an example, he pointed out that Virginia Tech does not recognize high school earth science as a laboratory science for advanced placement purposes. Verardo added that the same problem was arising at the graduate level with the development of a GRE test for environmental science.

Flynn described SVP's position on the fossil issue as one of "constructive discussion," having taken advice from GAPAC and the Hill to get the community together. He stated that efforts to find common ground were on track in contrast to the past. He felt that the Paleontological Society and SVP were moving to the point of being able to articulate shared goals. Unfortunately, legislation in the last Congress was born outside that process. He went on to suggest that perhaps legislation was not necessary and that alterations of current regulations and procedures may be all that is needed. He reiterated SVP's position that some degree of protection is needed for fossils on public lands -- uncontrolled commercial collecting will hurt scientific value especially given the skyrocketing commercial market, which has become comparable to fine art trading. In response to questions, he stated that amateur collectors provide a valuable service in elevating public understanding but reiterated the need to control commercial collecting. Gibbs asked how much value was in the casts that commercial collectors often make. Flynn responded that the original specimen in situ can produce much more information than a cast, but that casts can serve a role for teaching and comparative work. He also questioned how many of these casts actually make it into public institutions.

Representing the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, Morris described SEG efforts to request professional registration for geophysicists. He also stated that SEG is actively seeking to extend itself internationally and now has a significant international component to its membership.

Verardo reported that there was some confusion at AEG about the GAP voluntary contribution as opposed to society dues and suggested that AGI might want to combine the two in the future so that the contribution is not so easy to ax. Perry noted similar confusion at SME. He also suggested that GAP coordinate with the Washington issues page in Mining Engineering magazine and have input into that. A discussion ensued on why GAP contributions were originally separated from regular AGI dues: at the time GAP was created, AGI's leadership did not want to cut into funding for existing programs and established the voluntary support system.

Ross emphasized that geology can contribute a great deal to medical science in providing information on ambient levels of minerals and elements such as arsenic. Perry added that the Bureau of Mines health and safety committee used to provide a scientific database on background levels.

6.0 Discussion on AGI Testimony and Positions

The committee discussed several possible AGI positions, including:

Having discussed the first issue earlier in the meeting, the committee focused on the suggestion to urge co-sponsors of the Gramm R&D bill. It was agreed that support should be given but then push for an amendment to include the Department of the Interior under the list of covered agencies. GAP will let societies know who to contact. There was also broad support for science community-wide efforts to increase federal funding for research. Applegate agreed to distribute information on the American Physical Society letter from scientific society presidents to the society representatives to allow member societies the opportunity to add their presidents' signatures to the letter.

7.0 Plans for Future GAP Activities

Applegate ran through a list of planned GAP activities, including:

Perry noted that 1998 was the 150th anniversary of AAAS as well as the 100th anniversary of the Washington Academy of Sciences and suggested joint activities with AGI's 50th anniversary celebration. On the subject of fall semester internships, Bill Sax noted that many schools had funds available for students to work at nonprofit organizations for a semester. Gibbs brought up the issue of AGI Foundation planned support for additional congressional science fellows in the geosciences. Cleaves suggested sponsoring field trips for the congressional fellows, noting one to the Chesapeake Bay arranged by Murray Hitzman. Gibbs noted the enthusiasm on the Hill for field trips. Perry suggested arranging meetings with science councilors from embassies, and Dutro wondered how many science attaches are earth scientists.

8.0 Introduction to GAP Strategic Planning Exercise

Gibbs provided background for the strategic planning exercise, suggesting that it was time to stop and consider what the program can accomplish, how big it should be, how to effectively leverage resources, and what other programs do that is effective. He mentioned his own interest in forming strategic alliances with other like-minded groups. He then introduced Bill Sax, who currently teaches strategic planning at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and is a former executive with UNOCAL Corporation with a background in geophysics.

Sax emphasized the importance of achieving maximum involvement and input into the planning process from the program's stakeholders. He introduced the concept of a SWOT analysis, which looks at the internal strengths and weaknesses of a program as well as the external opportunities and threats that face it such as emerging national trends in environmental awareness. It was agreed that member society leadership, the GAP advisory committee, AGI staff, and others would be asked to complete SWOT analyses by the end of March for discussion with Sax at the next advisory committee meeting at AAPG in Dallas. Zen emphasized the importance of going out to agencies and Congress to find out what will be successful. The GAP advisory committee was asked to facilitate input from the member societies. It was also suggested that part of the process be a survey of non-member societies to identify possible collaborations and useful activities.

9.0 Date for Next GAP Meeting

As the meeting was breaking up, Applegate reminded the group that the next committee meeting would be at the AAPG Annual Convention in Dallas at 7:30 am on Wednesday, April 9th in the Cottonbowl Room at the Hyatt Regency Dallas Hotel at Reunion. The meeting will focus on the strategic planning exercise.


Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee
Capitol Hill Visits
February 24, 1997

On the Monday following the Advisory Committee meeting, Tom Moore, Dan Morris, Mac Ross, Larry Flynn, Kasey Shewey, and Dave Applegate visited several House and Senate offices in order to get an update on what was happening on geoscience-related issues and to explain AGI priorities and eagerness to be of service.

Bob Cook, Project Director, House Committee on Science

Cook described his role on the committee as the first point of contact for groups such as AGI. The Science Committee authorizes all R&D funding except NIH and some of DOE. The committee was still in the midst of organizing, trying to fill four Republican vacancies. He described the goals of new committee chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI): getting the committee back into a bipartisan mode that was lost in the last Congress and working with the Senate to ensure that Science Committee bills do not die over there since there is no equivalent committee. He suggested that they may try to pass smaller bills that correspond with Senate committee jurisdictions rather than the omnibus bills that failed to make any headway the past two years. Sensenbrenner seeks a steady increase in R&D spending within the confines of a balanced budget. Cook described the Gramm bill as a great goal but unrealistic. He expressed committee interest in looking at the science behind the newly proposed Clean Air Act regulations on ozone and fine particulate matter. He also discussed committee interest in getting away from a cookbook approach to remediation efforts and emphasized the potential of environmental technology. He seemed to recognize that there is not a sharp divide between basic and aplied science and that research that is too risky or has large external spillovers was not being done in the private sector.

John Rishel, Senior Professional Staff Member, House Committee on Resources

Rishel has a geoscience background and has met with GAP advisory committee representatives in the past. He said that the geologic mapping act would have smooth sailing through the House but suggested that the committee might conduct hearings on mapping privatization issues. He wondered aloud whether the country was really taking advantage of advances in GPS technology. He emphasized that the USGS should focus on data collection and not necessarily interpretation or dissemination. Mining law and Endangered Species Act reform are both important agenda items for committee chairman Rep. Don Young (R-AK), but he was not expecting much progress on those issues since the makeup of the Congress has not changed much since last year. He discussed the inability to raise interest on energy issues, citing the poor turnout at a field hearing on the oil industry held last year in Houston. He subsequently provided us with copies of both that hearing and a companion one held in Washington at which AAPG Executive Director Lyle Baie testified. Rishel discussed the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and the dangerous precedent of paying people for such lands.

Tamara Nameroff (GSA Congressional Fellow) and Joe Michels (APS Congressional Fellow), Office of Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT)

Our discussion with Nameroff and Michels focused on Lieberman's involvement in the nascent Science and Technology Caucus developed by Lieberman, Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN), Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM). Michels stressed the need of the physical science community to point out that the wildly popular advances in medical science has come through tools developed by the physical sciences. The key is to demonstrate a direct impact on constituents, an area that the USGS could emphasize more with regard to hazards. Scientists need to build up relationships with their elected officials and staff on an individual basis. They emphasized the importance of letter-writing but downplayed the need to know the name of the staffer handling a particular issue -- the letter would be routed to that person anyway.

Jack Victory, Senior Legislative Assistant, Office of Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV)

We asked Victory about Rep. Gibbons legislative agenda. Gibbons has asked for a field hearing in Elko on mining issues. He sits on the National Security, Resources, and Select Intelligence Committees. Victory covers energy, agriculture, and resources issues for the congressman and formerly worked for Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA). In the resources area, Gibbons plans to follow the agenda of Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee chair Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY). Victory emphasized the importance of getting eastern members, both Republican and Democrat, to understand the impact of federal policy on the West. Victory emphasized Gibbons commitment to be a spokesperson for the geosciences on the Hill and encouraged AGI to communicate geoscience concerns to him.

List of Attached Documents

Cover Memo Accompanying Minutes

March 21, 1997

To: Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members and Liaisons

From: Dave Applegate, Director of Government Affairs

Re: Minutes from February GAP Advisory Committee meeting

I am enclosing the minutes and several related documents from the February meeting of the Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Many thanks to those of who were able to make the meeting for your helpful comments on the program. Please let me know if you have any changes or additions to the minutes. They will be reviewed at the next committee meeting, which will be held at the AAPG Annual Convention in Dallas at 7:30 am on Wednesday, April 9th in the Cottonbowl Room at the Hyatt Regency Dallas Hotel at Reunion. Response forms have been sent out by e-mail or fax to committee representatives. If you cannot make the meeting, please consider naming an alternate who can attend. We will be focusing on the strategic planning exercise. If you have not already done so, please send in your SWOT Analysis of the Government Affairs Program and facilitate input from your society's leadership as well.

Action Items from February meeting:

  • Identify federal agency advisory committees that should have geoscience representation and monitor announcements of ad hoc advisory committees.

  • Monitor efforts to change the name of the U.S. Geological Survey and notify the member societies if the issue becomes more pressing.

  • Send out a Congressional Action Alert to the community on the pending geologic mapping legislation in Congress (alert sent out on 3-13-97 and posted on Web).

  • Stay aware of international geoscience policy activities.

  • Track efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act during this session of Congress.

  • Support the Gramm R&D bill and push for an amendment to include the Department of the Interior under the list of covered agencies. Let societies know how to provide support.

  • Support science community-wide efforts to increase federal funding for research and distribute information on the American Physical Society letter from scientific society presidents to the society representatives in order to allow member societies the opportunity to add their presidents' signatures to the letter (Note sent to GAPAC representatives 2-25-97 and special update on letter sent out 3-9-97).

  • Consider sponsoring field trips for the congressional science fellows.

  • Member society leadership, the GAP advisory committee, AGI staff, and others should be asked to complete SWOT analyses by the end of March. Input should also be sought from federal agencies and Congress to find out what will be effective. The GAP advisory committee was asked to facilitate input from the member societies.

    (Prepared by David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs)

    Please send any changes to the minutes or questions to AGI Government Affairs Program at

    Uploaded March 21, 1997

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