American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program

Minutes for the
Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting

Saturday, May 16, 1998
Salt Lake City Marriott, Salon B

A cover memo accompanied these minutes.

A. T. (Toby) Carleton Jr., Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists, Midland TX
Don Davidson, Geological Society of America, Boulder CO
Virgil Frizzell, Geological Society of America, Falls Church VA
Gary Howell, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Littleton CO
Bill Knight, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Arvada CO
Tom Moore, SEPM (Society for Sedimentary Geology), Bartlesville OK
Gary Petersen, Soil Science Society of America, State College PA
Erich Peterson, Society of Economic Geologists, Salt Lake City UT
Susan Landon, AGI President, Denver CO
Marcus Milling, AGI Executive Director
Dave Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

1.0 Introductions

Applegate extended apologies from GAPAC Chair Murray Hitzman who was unable to attend this meeting. It was decided at the committee's February 1998 meeting that committee business should be conducted at two meetings per year in Washington and that the meetings at AAPG and GSA should be informational, an opportunity to update the committee on GAP activities and to discuss issues of concern to the member societies.

1.1 Approval of Minutes

The minutes from the February 1998 meeting were approved.

1.2 Action Items from February 1998 meeting

Applegate reviewed the action items from the February meeting. In the following minutes, the action item is italicized and discussion is in roman:

Action Items for GAP Staff

AGI should look into ways to improve marketing and promoting the geosciences. A similar recommendation came out of a meeting with USGS Geologic Division leadership, state geologists, and other policy-oriented geoscientists at a meeting this spring. Julie Jackson at AGI is developing a prospectus for an AGI outreach initiative building on AGI's 50th anniversary celebration events such as Earth Science Week (October 11-17, 1998).

Make inquiries with other scientific societies (e.g. Ecological Society of America) about field trip access to public lands and report back to committee. Several inquiries have been made, including distribution of copies of an article in GSA Today by John Dragonetti and Applegate, but no indication yet of problems from other disciplines. The article has generated a number of responses from geoscientists with both negative and positive experiences to report. Dragonetti has provided copies of those responses to the Forest Service to make them aware of the problems. GAP is also following up with the Forest Service, looking into the possibility of a memorandum of understanding on this issue to provide guidance to the regions.

Follow up on issue of privatization as it pertains to mapping. GAP continues to monitor this issue, but no specific action to report. AIPG is concerned about cooperative agreements signed by the USGS that are conflicting with private-sector geoscientists. A letter from the Arizona AIPG section has been sent to USGS Chief Hydrologist Bob Hirsch, and contracting was a major issue discussed at last week's AIPG Washington Fly-In.

Identify sources of earth science spending in the federal government. In particular, look into geoscience activities in the Department of Defense. This project will be undertaken by the AGI/AIPG summer interns, and a report will be made at the September meeting.

Conduct an analysis of federal agency needs and uses of geoscience information. Make a list of chief geoscientists in various federal agencies. This project will be undertaken by the AGI/AIPG summer interns, and a report will be made at the September meeting.

Link to state issues through AIPG and AASG as well as through making connections with non-geoscience organizations such as the National Conference of State Legislators (to be brought up with AGI Executive Director Marcus Milling). The matter was brought up with Marcus Milling, and AGI will work with Bill Knight to see that AGI supports the joint AASG/AIPG booth at NCSL in Las Vegas this July.

Plan fall meeting to be held at AGI headquarters. Informational sessions will still be held at AAPG and GSA Annual Meetings. The fall meeting is scheduled for September 18-19 at AGI. The October meeting at GSA in Toronto will be informational and focus on a particular topic of broad interest to the member societies.

Action Items for Member Society Representatives

These items will be discussed at the September business meeting.

Identify how each society can contact and activate their membership on policy issues. Find out how societies feel about forming lists of members who could be called on to act either by AGI or the society.

Identify how society could participate in an Earth Science Youth Day event on Capitol Hill that would bring geoscience students to Washington to present poster, possibly at congressional reception. This item received additional discussion with support voiced for working with the member societies.

Encourage societies to form public policy committees and link them up with AGI's efforts.

1.3 Contributions

Reviewed handout of member society voluntary contributions to GAP for 1998 as of mid-May. Indications are that support will be similar to last year's record-breaking total. Applegate noted that voluntary support for the program in 1997 was up over 25% from 1996, which in turn was up nearly 50% from the previous year. Moreover, nine additional societies contributed to the program, bringing the total to 27 of 31 societies. The GAP budget for the program in 1998 will be $200,000 with roughly half from member society contributions, a quarter from the AGI Foundation for a congressional science fellow, and the remainder from AGI general funds. Applegate thanked the Member Societies for their strong support of the program and particularly GSA for its matching grant that was a big factor in the increased number of societies supporting the program.

2.0 Update on National Geoscience Data Repository System

Milling updated the group on the status of AGI's National Geoscience Data Repository System (NGDRS) project, the concept of which originally came out of this committee. A variety of collections are being targeted for preservation, particularly focused on data that cannot be recollected. Milling portrayed these data as a national treasure. The second phase of the project was completed in early 1997: creating a business plan for establishing the NGDRS, setting standards for indexing, and developing a metadata catalogue system on the World Wide Web. The web site is now up and accessible through the AGI home page. It contains information on government, university, and commercial data. The focus of the ongoing third phase of the project is to initiate transfer of data into the public domain. An Amoco study indicated that there are 4-5 million boxes of cores and cuttings in company collections. A survey of public repositories indicates that there is not enough available space to house that volume of data in existing repositories. AGI is now seeking to develop a warehouse facility. Efforts to secure one in Houston through donation have not been successful, and the focus has now shifted to Denver, where a draft letter of intent has been prepared with Stapleton Development Company to acquire the Continental Airlines hangar at the former Stapleton airport.

Landon noted that the initial focus for the NGDRS was on industry data but now included paleontological collections as well. She recently talked with the chief geologist at Cyprus Amax who expressed strong interest in a facility that housed core from major mineral exploration areas. The Denver water department has 5,000 boxes of core that they were building a facility to house but now are on hold in case they could join forces with the Stapleton facility. She expressed hope that the site would eventually house a geographically complete set of materials.

Milling noted that the challenge was how to support such a facility. AGI hopes to use the "Shell model" based on the transfer of a Shell core facility to the University of Texas in 1994 along with an endowment to maintain the facility. A first-class repository would require $450,000 per year for operational expenses, requiring an endowment on the order of $8-10 million to make it work.

Landon reported that when she met with the USGS in Denver two weeks ago, they were resigned to the fact that they will lose their existing core facility because of a new Government Services Administration policy of averaging the cost of all federal facilities. Rather than charging $4 per square foot for warehouse space and considerably more for office space, they will charge a flat $19 per square foot rate across the board. If that facility is lost, the USGS will need a home by the year 2000 for 400,000 boxes of core. An ideal arrangement would be to have their staff move over to the AGI facility.

Milling noted a recent Eos article that reported the USGS ice core repository in Denver was at capacity. He suggested that such a facility, well supported by the National Science Foundation, could also be co-located with the AGI facility at Stapleton.

Frizzell suggested that it would be possible to create a small campus around this core facility. Landon responded that the location is ideal in many respects with hotels and restaurants within walking distance and a light rail stop planned for half a block from facility, making it attractive for students to use.

In response to a question, Milling reported that the Stapleton Development Corporation is a non-profit entity set up by the City of Denver. The Stapleton airport is jointly owned by the city and the airlines. Because of hazardous waste problems, the airlines have a vested interest in finding new uses and have approved of this plan. The Denver City Council must still approve. Tearing down the facility would cost $1 million and perhaps an additional $2 million for asbestos removal.

Carleton reported that a core facility in Amarillo was going to dispose of its holdings. Milling responded that there is a great deal of material out there in jeopardy. He reported that Amoco/Vastar has agreed to provide 700 seismic lines in the Appalachians to the NGDRS

for academic research. Negotiations are also underway with Shell and with companies in southern California, where it is particularly valuable to preserve data that would be difficult to recollect due to urbanization and environmental restrictions.

3.0 Update on Earth Science Week

Landon reported that AGI was working with both the White House and the Senate to obtain national proclamations of Earth Science Week, slated for October 11-17. She is very pleased by the enthusiasm in the community for this event. AGI is receiving dozens of requests a day from schools, museums, and individuals to participate and get more information. AGI is emulating the highly successful National Chemistry Week organized by the American Chemical Society, which has been very helpful and cooperative. She expressed a hope that this event would help to generate enthusiasm for public outreach. AGI will also hold a celebratory dinner at the National Academy of Sciences, where the Institute was organized fifty years earlier to the day. The dinner will be preceded by a day-long forum on cooperative issues in the geoscience community. Another aspect of the 50th anniversary outreach activities is the distribution of 40,000 careers posters to science classroom teachers.

4.0 Update on GAP Activities

Applegate discussed a number of recent GAP activities. The following descriptions are primarily taken from GAP monthly updates.

AGI Congressional Testimony

On March 5th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies heard testimony from public witnesses on programs within its jurisdiction. Applegate testified on behalf of AGI in support of funding for both the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy Fossil Energy R&D program. Concern was raised over cuts to several Survey programs, especially the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program. The testimony can be viewed on AGI's web site.

Earth Science Chapter in AAAS R&D budget book for fiscal year 1999

As in previous years, AGI has contributed the chapter on earth science R&D funding to the AAAS report on the President's budget request. The report is released at the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Colloquium in late April. Copies of the chapter are available from GAP.

Geotimes April 1998 special issue on geoscience and public policy

The third annual Geotimes special issue on Geoscience and Public Policy, guest-edited by GAP Director David Applegate, contains a Comment by Science Committee Vice Chair Vern Ehlers (R-MI) on science education policy. Articles include one on the Valles Caldera by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), U.S.-Japan earthquake loss prevention strategies by Art Zeizel of FEMA, regional natural resource forums by Paul Dresler and Mark Schaefer of the Department of the Interior, and a review of a presidential advisory committee report on energy R&D by Bill Fisher. The issue also includes the final installment in a series of articles on how to communicate with Congress by former Congressional fellow Joe Briskey, this one focused on constituents and the media.

Climate Change, Government Affairs Forums at AAPG

The day after this meeting, the AAPG Division of Environmental Geosciences is holding a special forum on "Global Warming: What are the Obligations of the Petroleum Industry?," featuring climatologists Richard Lindzen of MIT and Michael McCracken of the U.S. Global Change Research Program as well as petroleum industry executives David Jenkins of British Petroleum and Skip Mick of Marathon Oil. As part of ongoing effort to facilitate dialogue on this important issue, AGI provided underwriting support for the forum. Also at the AAPG convention, Clint Moore is organizing a Division of Professional Affairs forum later in the week to discuss policy issues of concern to AAPG's membership. Speakers include George Yates, chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America; Kansas State Geologist Lee Gerhard; Oklahoma State Geologist Charlie Mankin; and Dave Applegate of AGI.

Congressional Exhibition of NSF-Sponsored Research

For the third year in a row, AGI and the American Geophysical Union joined forces to sponsor a booth at the Coalition for National Science Funding's Capitol Hill exhibition and reception showcasing research and education projects supported by the National Science Foundation. The event took place in the Rayburn House Office Building and was attended by a dozen Members of Congress and over 100 congressional staff. At the AGI/AGU booth, Paul Mayewski and Mark Twickler from the University of New Hampshire's Climate Change Research Center explained the lessons learned from ice-core research over the past decade as well as what they hoped to gain from future investigations. In addition to the AGI/AGU booth, member society National Association of Geoscience Teachers hosted a booth Working Toward More Effective Teaching in the Geosciences that featured its NSF-sponsored projects for undergraduate faculty enhancement and a distinguished lecture series.

Unified Statement on Research/Legislation to Double Federal Support for Research

In January, AGI put out an alert on efforts to gain additional co-sponsors for legislation to authorize a doubling of federal funding for civilian research. The bill, S. 1305, was introduced last fall by Senators Phil Gramm (R-TX), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Pete Domenici (R-NM), and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). The bill's introduction coincided with the release of the "Unified Statement on Research," in which a coalition of 109 organizations - AGI and a number of its member societies included - called on Congress and the President to double federal funding for research in the next decade. At a meeting in late April, Senate staffers told the coalition that S. 1305 was at a crossroads -additional co-sponsors are needed if the bill is to make progress. Currently, 16 senators are listed on the bill, and that number needs to double in coming weeks if the bill is to have enough momentum to carry it through committee and to a floor vote. The coalition is asking scientists to write to their senators asking for them to sign on to S.1305. AGI has not endorsed S. 1305 because it does not include the Department of the Interior among the agencies slated for doubling, an omission due to lingering opposition to the former National Biological Service, now the Biological Resources Division of the U.S. Geological Survey. In alerting the member societies, AGI encouraged their membership to push for the inclusion of Interior. Several of the bill's current co-sponsors favor this change, but more voices are needed. [Please note that events have overtaken this item and the sponsors of S. 1305 have thrown their support behind a new bill, S. 2217]

AGI Congressional Science Fellowship

AGI has selected Dr. David Wunsch as the 1998-1999 AGI Congressional Science Fellow. Dr. Wunsch is currently on the staff of the Kentucky Geological Survey and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Kentucky. His expertise is in hydrogeology and geochemistry, and he will bring with him to Washington considerable experience in evaluating the effects of coal mining and petroleum recovery on ground-water and surface-water systems. Dr. Wunsch will join fellows from GSA, AGU, SSSA, and more than twenty other science and engineering societies for an orientation session in September followed by placement in the office of a representative, senator, or congressional committee for the following year. The AGI fellowship is supported by a generous grant from the AGI Foundation.

AGI/AIPG Summer interns

Three geoscience and public policy interns will spend twelve weeks this summer working with GAP staff and learning about how science and public policy interact. They were selected from a strong field of nearly 30 candidates. The interns will be Shannon Clark from Southern Methodist University, Margaret Baker from Mount Holyoke College, and Joy Roth from Rice University. GAP is grateful to the AIPG Foundation, now in its third year of supporting the summer internship program.

PPP 2000 forum on natural hazards

On June 30th, AGI will join with the American Geophysical Union and the Integrated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) to co-sponsor a policy forum on "Real-Time Monitoring and Warning for Natural Hazards." This forum will be the seventh in the ongoing Public Private Partnership (PPP) 2000 forum series on public policy issues in natural disaster reduction, a joint effort of the National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Natural Disaster Reduction and the insurance industry's Institute for Business and Home Safety. The goal of PPP 2000 is to seek new and innovative opportunities for government and nonprofit, private sector organizations to work together to reduce vulnerability to and losses from natural hazards in communities throughout the Nation. At the forum, panels will address the use of real-time data for atmospheric, hydrologic, and geologic hazards along with some of the obstacles facing implementation of real-time warning systems. The forum will be held at the AGU building in Washington DC with participants from federal and state agencies, universities, and the private sector.

Discussion on these various topics included questions about AGI's lobbying activities and about the reasons for pushing ahead on S. 1305. Applegate explained that even though the bill was primarily symbolic, it represented an opportunity for the geoscience community to work with societies in other disciplines. Frizzell noted that the bill did not have much chance of success.

5.0 Discussion of Member Society Issues

Davidson reported that GSA is searching for replacement for Dan Sarewitz, who was Director of the Institute for Environmental Education (IEE). In the interim, Liz Knapp is handling those duties. GSA's goal is to become engaged in natural systems science, adopting a more integrated approach to working with biologists and atmospheric scientists. IEE will deal with that initiative. At the GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee meeting, Elaine Padovani of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy emphasized how important it is to have a geoscientist in OSTP. Frizzell noted his concern that a presentation by the USGS Geologic Division at the same meeting emphasized how much the division is getting away from geology (noting as a disclaimer that his personal experience as a former Survey employee colored his views). Frizzell feels that the inclusion of the Biological Resources Division (formerly the National Biological Service) presented opportunities that should not be to the detriment of earth science research. G&PP committee members met with 8-10 congressional offices as constituents as well as with several committees.

Erich Peterson reported that he was substituting for Joe Briskey and was there primarily to listen and learn. He did not have a specific report from SEG.

Bill Knight reported that he had just come from the Geo-Environment Forum meeting, which takes place twice a year and includes such organizations as AIPG, the Association of Engineering Geologists, National Ground Water Association, and the American Association of Professional Landmen. The big issue there is ASTM standards for professional practice. Tom Fails is trying to stir up AAPG's Division of Professional Affairs to get involved because standards will affect geologic reports and water issues. The real threat is the insertion of these standards in federal regulations and legislation. It was reported at today's meeting that in both the Senate and House versions of Superfund legislation, the standards need to be pulled out of the bills. Knight claimed that geologists were not mentions but engineers were specified. He would like to have both. ASTM has gone beyond traditional areas such as repeatable testing into areas such as environmental site assessments, which involve professional judgement. The American Society of Civil Engineers' Geo-Institute has urged ASCE to make a statement to its members that they advise against following ASTM standards for these particular practices. The APJGP group of 17 organizations, which includes AIPG and AEG, are trying to negotiate with ASTM on two fronts: first, should they be called standards? Should a provisional standard be issued? They are picked up by attorneys and used in lawsuits. The title "standard" is misleading. Second, the group is attacking the process itself, which looks good on paper but in practice has been corrupted and carried on behind closed doors.

Knight also reported that AIPG will be exhibiting at NCSL again this year, sharing as they have in the past a double booth with AASG. He encouraged other member societies of AGI to join with them to establish a larger presence. It is expensive -- $1400 for a half booth. AIPG's Washington Fly-In group focused concern about competition between the USGS and other agencies with the private sector, especially the Water Resources Division. This issue was also raised at the Geo-Environmental Forum. The USGS is trying to find work in the private sector.

In response to questions from Frizzell about the ASTM standard-making process, Knight emphasized that the standards represent a minimum acceptable common denominators. The American Bankers Association is taking an interest in the new standards. Huge committees of several hundred people, such as D-18, form the standards. Knight claimed that a person could join ASTM, propose a committee to look at a new standard, and push it through. Although drafts are sent to the other committee members, who may object, a small group of people who wrote it will decide whether to accept the objections. There is no room for appeal beyond the committee. Often, ASTM will publish a provisional standard that never becomes final but winds up as the de facto standard from a legal perspective. Knight argued that this issue is very dangerous to all geoscientists.

Gary Howell of SME reported that he is sitting in for Al Perry. He noted that it was difficult to get SME's membership into an agreed position but that the organization focuses on several specific outreach activities which it does very well. SME's GEM program puts together a mineral coalition booth at the regional NSTA meetings: six 10 by 10 foot booths financed by SME, AIME, the National Mining Association, and local companies. It is the best exhibit at these regional meetings with barrels of mineral samples, especially industrial minerals because they are more prevalent in most areas. The goal is to raise awareness of how prevalent minerals are in our lives. SME coordinates this $150,000 per year effort. Women in Mining do a teaching workshop sanctioned by SME, which is conducted by former teachers. The workshops have reached 30,000 teachers in five years, by extension reaching perhaps a million kids. They do not participate at the national NSTA meeting because the logistics are too much. For the 3-5 day regional meetings, it takes 60-65 volunteers to make it work. The local chapter GEM committees give awards at science fairs. They also participated in Earth Day activities, handing out literature. Many of the activities are at the local level -- there are 33 societies in the Denver area alone. Howell expressed some concern over the value of strategic plans.

Gary Petersen, representing SSSA, noted that he is replacing H.H. Cheng. He noted that it is difficult to explain how the tri-society organization of SSSA, the Agronomy Society of America, and the Crop Science Society of America fit together. As a group, they represent 12,000 members. The societies are moving to electronic publication with journals on the Internet through a contract with Springer-Verlag. The tri-societies are moving toward a federation approach to be decided at the national meeting in Baltimore this fall. Soil scientists want to have their own identify and enhance visibility, more than just production agriculture. He noted that soil scientists are more involved in environmental and natural systems science than in agriculture. The soil scientists working on wetlands, for example, have no relation to agriculture.

Tom Moore reported that he had not had much feedback from SEPM on issues they wanted to raise at the meeting but will get together with their leadership during the AAPG convention. He looks forward to hearing the discussion at tomorrow's climate change forum. He noted that SEPM is divided on this issue given its academic and industry membership. He noted that most of SEPM's government affairs efforts were done in conjunction with AAPG, and he sits on Clint Moore's Instant Response Committee.

6.0 Adjourn

Applegate noted that the committee's next meeting would be at AGI headquarters in late September. He suggested that the format of today's meeting was experimental and that perhaps the next informational session (at GSA in Toronto in October) could be focused on a discussion of policy issues, inviting executive directors, the Member Society Council, and anybody else who was interested.

List of Documents Provided to Meeting Attendees

Memo accompanying minutes

To: Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members
GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Attendees

From: Dave Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Re: Minutes from May GAP Advisory Committee Meeting

I have attached the minutes from the May 1998 Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee meeting at the AAPG Convention in Salt Lake City to this message in both text (.txt) and Microsoft Word (.doc) formats encoded with Basic MIME. If you have any problems reading the attached files, the minutes are also available on AGI's web site at We would also be happy to send you a hard copy instead. Just let me or Kasey know.

In keeping with the committee's discussions at the February meeting, the May meeting was designed to be primarily informational. Consequently, there are no action items to report, but progress on action items from the February meeting is discussed in these minutes and will be discussed again at the committee's next meeting at AGI headquarters on September 18-19, 1998. Please let me know if you have any changes or additions to the minutes. They will be approved at the September meeting, which will focus on committee business, including final passage of the GAP strategic plan (a final draft will be circulated next month) and preliminary discussions about an intersociety climate change workshop tentatively planned for early next year focused on geoscience contributions to this important issue. Please let me know if you have agenda items that you would like to have discussed in September.

The committee will also hold an informational session at the GSA Annual Meeting in Toronto on Saturday, October 24th from 2-6 pm. GAPAC Chair Murray Hitzman has suggested that we take advantage of the international location and invite Canadian speakers to talk about how geoscientists are dealing with public policy issues in Canada. The session would be open to anyone interested in the topic. Any additional suggestions are welcome.

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

Uploaded July 7, 1998

  Information Services |Geoscience Education |Public Policy |Environmental
Publications |Workforce |AGI Events

agi logo

© 2014. All rights reserved.
American Geosciences Institute, 4220 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22302-1502.
Please send any comments or problems with this site to:
Privacy Policy