Government Affairs Program

Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting Report

April 21, 2001
AGI Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia

An agenda with links to background materials and cover memo accompany this report. Changes in the draft are shown in red.


Murray Hitzman, Chair, representing the Society of Economic Geologists
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Emery Cleaves, Association of American State Geologists
Virginia Colten-Bradley, Clay Minerals Society
Pete Folger, American Geophysical Union
Lee Gerhard, American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Blair Jones, Clay Minerals Society
Margo Kingston, Association for Women Geoscientists
Gordon Matheson, Geo-Institute of ASCE
Tom Moore, SEPM, The Society for Sedimentary Geology
John Padan, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration

David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

1.0. Introductions and Preliminary Business

After introductions, Committee Chair Murray Hitzman opened the meeting by seeking approval of the report from the committee's November 2000 meeting in Reno. The report was unanimously approved.

Applegate distributed a chart of member society contributions to the program since its inception. He reported that GAP received 93% of the dues requested in 2000 but that there were still a number of member societies not contributing. Gerhard suggested that Applegate talk to Society of Exploration Geophysicists president Sally Zinke at the upcoming Energy Summit and also to work with Don Steeples at the University of Kansas.

Committee Action Item: Get your societies to support the program if they are not already doing so.

2.0  Update on GAP Activities

Applegate reported that offers had been made to three geoscience students for the summer AGI/AIPG internships. Two had accepted so far and the third is expected to do so. Michelle Williams, a masters student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Chris Eisinger at Arizona State University are the two acceptances. The program is currently benefiting from the assistance of Mary Patterson, a geoscience major at the University of Nevada, Reno and Mackay School of Mines. She is at AGI for the semester in an internship supported by AAPG.

Staff Action Item: Ensure that societies get student chapters engaged; Contact AAPG staff handling the Visiting Professional Geologist program to encourage those speakers to bring up the internship.

Cleaves asked whether any of geoscience graduate programs had forums or programs on public policy. Gerhard noted that if one institution grants independent study credits for policy activities, then those credits can be transferred to another -- need to nucleate the first one. Hitzman noted that the Colorado School of Mines had a program limited to honors students. Applegate noted that the congressional fellow outreach program was developed to provide opportunities for former fellows to give presentations to geoscience departments within the traditional departmental seminar series.

Staff Action Item: Find out how many schools have official or unofficial programs in science policy associated with geoscience departments.

The April geoscience and public policy issue of Geotimes was discussed. Articles focus on geology in the National Parks (including the GSA internship program), the impact of the congressional science fellowship program on former fellows, and two recent studies by the National Research Council on the future of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation's Earth Science Division. The Comment by U.S. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) recounts his experience with the fellowship -- he is the first former fellow elected to Congress. Cleaves noted that some geology students who served as park interns did not have a positive experience owing to lack of supervision, a problem that points out one of the reasons for the program -- the lack of geoscientists in many parks.

Committee and Staff Action Item: Target meetings with policymakers at the National Park Service in conjunction with the next GAPAC meeting.

Gerhard pointed out that one of the most difficult things our profession can do is to communicate to the lay public. He suggested that there was a role for AGI as the interface taking the technical and making it general. Applegate noted that such was the goal of AGI's outreach program, including Earth Science Week and the Earth Science World website.

Staff Action Item: Develop a portfolio of communication tools that have worked (e.g. fact sheets, maps, brochures, web pages, etc.) with examples to be shown to the Park Service.

Hitzman inquired whether Geotimes would be covering energy policy issues. Applegate responded that the June issue would have a feature by Texas State Geologist Scott Tinker on the impact of natural gas research. Geotimes has also run a number of news notes and Resources Page items on energy policy issues.

Applegate discussed AGI activities in coalition with other organizations. These include the Coalition for National Science Funding, which develops an annual statement and advocacy efforts on behalf of the National Science Foundation; the Science-Engineering-Technology Work Group, which organizes Congressional Visits Day; Climate Focus, which provides members of Congress with spin-free summaries of recent climate-related research that has made the news; and a coalition of biological, physical, and geoscience societies concerned with threats to the teaching of evolution. He passed out a sheet describing the most recent threats in Louisiana: a pair of bills, one that would allow teachers to remove textbook material that was false, the other accusing Darwinism of spawning racism. Gerhard noted the recent turnaround on Kansas, informing the group that none of the events in Kansas would have transpired if the University of Kansas faculty had bothered to vote in the primary election in which a conservative board member was elected, tipping the balance.

Staff Action Item: Make sure that geoscientists are aware of the Kansas voting story as an example of how votes count.

Applegate also described a number of GAP activities in support of member society public policy efforts, including AAPG testimony on two occasions before the House Resources Committee in recent months, the AAPG energy summit, an upcoming GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee meeting in Washington, and the upcoming AIPG Washington Fly-In. He also met with representatives from SAFE, an entity associated with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, to discuss their legislative efforts. He emphasized that service to the member societies is a major mission of the program.

3.0  Planning AGI Appropriations Advocacy Strategy

Applegate briefed the group on the president's budget request focusing on three drivers: campaign promises, limiting the growth in federal spending, and philosophical issues. The committee then discussed how AGI should take action on the Fiscal Year 2002 budget cuts to various geoscience agencies and programs.

Staff Action Item: Explore ways to make inroads into the National Institutes of Health for geoscience research through the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or the National Institute for Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), which are separate entities within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Committee Action Item:  Identify society members who work in these fields and provide the list to AGI so we can start to put together a group who could contact the relevant federal agencies and help argue the case for additional funding for geoscience related research.

Gerhard noted that budgets are affected by external forces, noting the impact of ExxonMobil's lack of interest in DOE Fossil Energy R&D on the massive cuts to the petroleum and natural gas programs, which principally benefit independent producers. Gerhard also urged that arguments in support of USGS should focus on the need to separate science from regulatory agencies. Hitzman emphasized the need to focus efforts on OMB. Cleaves questioned whether the focus should be on the administration's philosophy or the immediate task of fund restoration in Congress. It was agreed that both are important, one for FY 2003, the other for the current budget.

Staff Action Item: Focus appropriations advocacy efforts both on Congress for restoration of funds to geoscience programs in FY 2002 and on the administration for improving the next budget request.

4.0  AGI Congressional Science Fellowship

AGI's 2000-2001 Congressional Science Fellow, Katy Makeig, gave a presentation to the group on her experiences as a fellow with Rep. Rush Holt, a physicist who is former deputy director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. She noted that there are only 24 members of Congress with a technical background. In contrast to the Senate, where staff may be more specialized, a House office has only 18 total staff, including districts, so everyone has broad responsibilities. She handles environmental issues for the congressman as well as energy and transportation and general science. She meets with lots of constituents, staffs committee meetings, and is responsible for answering mail. Given Holt's background in fusion, Makeig decided to work on energy issues, where environmental lobby has not been as active as industry groups. She put together a national energy policy speech that she has given to the USGS energy group, the University of Tulsa, and a meeting of women scientists and engineers at EPA. At Tulsa, she also gave a talk on bioremediation, her past expertise. She is developing draft legislation to commission a National Research Council study on energy R&D to go back 10 years to determine what the returns have been on research focused on various energy types then project ahead 10 years to determine where we want to put our money. She is also working on a comprehensive energy package for Holt to start a discussion on the House side.

Makeig gave some advice based on her many visits with people who have specific requests for the congressman. She said that such visits are more effective than letters or phone calls, but that it is important to recognize that members only have a limited amount of political capital to expend, and members in contested districts have less than members with safe seats. It is important to convey how a given action will benefit the member back in his district and help him to get re-elected.

Makeig said that the fellowship had been an eye-opening experience. In Congress, all facts are negotiable and decisions have to be made based on 5% of the information. She described her recent experience with an army depot adjacent to Holt's district. A shipment of mercury to the depot was made public, causing widespread concern. She determined that the mercury was being stored safely and that removing it would take 1400 truckloads. In the process, she found that there was other contamination from the facility of potentially greater concern. She saw first-hand the problems of trying to balance a technical decision with a political decision.

She is also working on a legislative effort to revive the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), which was defunded in 1995 but never formally eliminated. Holt wants to resurrect it and is trying to build momentum in Congress to do that.

Astwood asked whether Makeig felt that she was more effective on Capitol Hill than as a consultant. She responded that it depends on the time-frame. In the short-term, she was more effective as a consultant because she could solve people's problems, but in the long term, she could have more of an impact on the Hill.

Following Makeig's presentation, Hitzman asked the group to assess how the fellowship program has been going and whether we are attracting the right people to apply and be the fellow. Applegate distributed tables prepared by Margaret Baker showing the background of fellowship candidates. Applegate also announced AGI's selection of its next congressional fellow, David Curtiss, currently with the Energy Geoscience Institute at the University of Utah, which is a consulting entity primarily for the petroleum industry.

Hitzman noted that Makeig is an example of the program's intention to reach out to include professional geologists, but he also noted the lack of petroleum geologists among the first three AGI fellows. Gerhard responded that the petroleum geology community has a long history of lack of participation in policy. The AGI congressional fellowship program is not visible to petroleum geologists. Within AAPG, government affairs is a small group run through the Division of Professional Affairs, although there is discussion about bringing it back into the mainstream. AAPG's decision to become a major contributor to GAP arose from a conference he organized seven years ago at which many argued that AGI was not doing the job, and AAPG should take the lead on government affairs. But AAPG leadership decided that AGI was the place for it and doubled contributions to GAP. Gerhard stated that there is a need to educate our profession on the responsibility to participate in the political process and contribute our special skills and knowledge for the advancement of society. He encouraged the fellows to get involved in AAPG student chapter meetings, talking not just about the fellowship but about strategic issues that matter to working geologists. He suggested the Houston Geological Society and Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists as good places to start.

Staff Action Item: Expand current efforts to have fellows speak to geoscience groups in order to raise awareness of the program and its value to the geoscience community. Specifically target local or regional societies where high concentration of petroleum geologists.

5.0  Reports from Member Societies

After lunch, member society representatives provided reports from their societies.

Phil Astwood (NAGT) Astwood described the society's policy priorities: maintaining the availability of federal funding for grants to support Eisenhower-like teacher development programs at universities. Through the Eisenhower program, 15% of teacher enhancement funds have been available for such partners with the remainder going to school districts and state departments of education. If all the funding is block granting, it will be difficult to have a cohesive program. Colten-Bradley noted that the Eisenhower program at St. Mary's College in southern Maryland recently shut down, leaving that region without science and math teacher development opportunities, perhaps a sign of what is to come elsewhere.

Astwood asked for clarification from GAP on whether such a set-aside for partners was still available, and Applegate promised to bring the issue up with Margaret Baker, who would get back to him.

Staff Action Item: Follow up on NAGT question about status of Eisenhower set-aside for partner institutions.

NAGT leaders are also opposed to school vouchers and are concerned about the current focus on testing. Astwood noted that only carefully crafted tests will lead to an improvement in teaching and learning.

John Padan (SME) SME is undergoing a transition to a new executive director, Paul Scheidig. There are no issues at this time. Applegate noted that Scheidig's background with the Nevada Mining Association suggests that he may take the society in a more active policy direction. Applegate also described his recent contact from the National Mining Association to support the USGS international minerals information program and the Department of Energy's Industries of the Future program for mining. Padan stressed the importance to SME of educating young persons as to the importance of minerals.  He cited as an example the mineral exhibits supported by SME at the three or four annual regional conventions of the National Science Teachers Association. At each convention well over 1000 teachers
receives a beautiful display of minerals to help with classroom instruction. He thanked Emery Cleaves for the support of the Maryland Geologic Survey in helping to make a success of the exhibit at the November 2000 convention in Baltimore.

Blair Jones and Virginia Colten-Bradley (CMS) The society is trying to expand its industrial membership and explore common interests both with industry and with the Mineralogical Society of America, particularly with respect to minerals in the environment. He noted concern over decreasing funding on environmental mineralogical problems. Colten-Bradley provided a private-sector perspective. She noted that the OSHA rule on crystalline silica, discussed at the committee's April 2000 meeting, had been tabled until this spring, and the new administration may not pursue it. Asbestos is hot again because of the Libby, Montana situation. EPA is holding a conference in May. She noted that we were seeing the results of a lot of education about mineralogical differences that geoscientists did not do in the 1970's.

Staff and Committee (Colten-Bradley) Action Item: Develop fact sheet on asbestos. Work with Colten-Bradley on possible article for Geotimes.

AGI should seek to relate to the public what the geologic elements of environmental problems are. Currently, NIH funding goes to clinical and experimental studies rather than to applications. Doing so means laying out the geoscience context for biomedical research.

Staff Action Item: Develop a list of people who are working at the interface of geology and public health and are the bridges between these communities.

Pete Folger (AGU) AGU's public policy activities are focused on four objectives. The first is to get members more involved at the local and state level. To that end, AGU has developed e-mail alerts targeted toward states and districts rather than just national. Examples include state challenges to the teaching of evolution and a congressman's town meeting for scientists. The second is get AGU members more involved at national level. Activities include AGU's Science Legislative Alerts (ASLA), which go out to 1500 members.  AGI has been indispensable in writing or assisting with those alerts. AGU holds public policy sessions at the society's national meetings with the goal of getting members to think about policy aspects of their science. AGU is working with AGI on Congressional Visits Day and other individual Capitol Hill meetings. At last spring's AGU meeting, Folger held a workshop on Capitol Hill for AGU members to learn about the policy process. The third objective is to communicate AGU positions to policymakers, an example being the Climate Focus coalition to inform Hill offices of climate change science that appeared in peer-reviewed journals and then appeared in press. The congressional natural hazards caucus is another example. The fourth objective is to improve the number and quality of applicants to AGU's congressional science fellows program. Those numbers have increased three years running. Kingston also noted that the upcoming spring meeting in Boston would have a session on Intelligent Design, co-organized by Folger and Applegate. The session will inform scientists about the changing face of opposition to evolution. It will be videotaped and available on the AGU website.

Margo Kingston (AWG) AWG helped to distribute AGI's new evolution booklet, providing copies to Kansas Citizens for Science. She noted that the booklet's second author is AWG's president-elect. AWG also sent a letter of support to Kansas Board of Education members who returned evolution to the state's standards. Three AWG leaders will participate in Congressional Visits Day. AWG is working to secure funding for a nationwide geology camp for minority girls at Yellowstone National Park and is funding three geoscience students to work in national parks this summer. AGI e-mail updates are passed along to AWG membership.

Lee Gerhard (AAPG) The biggest challenge currently faced at AAPG is developing future leadership for the society's public policy efforts and interest in those efforts. Last October, Gerhard organized the third in a series of conferences on the environment and natural resources. This one focused on sustainability of energy and water through the 21st century. One result was a request to brief both houses of the Kansas legislature on energy policy and an endorsement from the legislature for the upcoming energy summit. An AAPG position paper on coal-bed methane is in the process of going through formal approval. The Energy Summit being held on April 23rd is AAPG's first effort to engage decision makers in Washington rather than just the geoscience choir. Executive branch and congressional staff have been invited, and 120 attendees are expected. AAPG has just released Geological Perspectives of Global Climate Change, a collection of articles edited by Gerhard and others with submissions from both sides of the current debate. The introductory material has been reproduced separately for distribution to policymakers and others.

Emery Cleaves (AASG) Thirty state geologists came to Washington in mid-March for the annual Pick and Gavel award dinner. The award, which provides recognition to policymakers for their contributions, went to Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT).

They held three days of meetings on Capitol Hill and at federal agencies. Three themes were emphasized: the USGS National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program, the USGS National Streamgaging Program, and national energy policy. With regard to the last, AAPG is concerned that in many producing states, the major integrated companies have largely been replaced by independent producers who lack the same research and data collection and preservation capability, intensifying the need for DOE R&D programs.

Committee Action Item (Cleaves): Provide GAP staff with copy of the 30 state maps showing geologic mapping products.

Cleaves noted concern that Title VIII funds from OCS revenues provided in FY 2001 for geologic mapping and streamgaging were not in the president's request. He also was concerned by the philosophy embedded in the USGS budget request reflecting a desire to switch the survey over to solely a service bureau for land managers and also encouraging the USGS to compete with the private sector for funding.

Staff Action Item: Use the upper Midwest floods to encourage geoscientists in affected states to write their members of Congress and OMB on the streamgage issue.

Tom Moore (SEPM) He plans to lobby SEPM's leadership to increase their policy activity and identify issues of concern. A cursory look at the society's membership directory suggests that the membership is equally divided among government, private sector, and academic employment. At least two of those areas should be very interested in policies that affect them.

Murray Hitzman (SocEconGeol) SEG's involvement in government affairs has been vigorously debated in light of the society's majority international membership. All of the society's leaders are foreign. The past president, Jim Franklin from Canada, has successfully convinced SEG's council to maintain a significant role in AGI and government affairs. SEG will not advocate for the mining industry, but rather sees itself as a scientific society with interests in R&D policy both in the US and abroad. It is also interested in education at all levels.

Gerhard stated that a role for AGI is to explain to the society leaderships that most policy-related activities are not lobbying but rather information transfer -- bringing science to educate policymakers. Lobbying is restricted to advocacy for specific legislation. Applegate clarified that AGI does engage in lobbying related to federal agency budgets but otherwise agreed that most AGI member society activities were not related to specific legislation and thus fell into the education/information category. Folger suggested that AGI could resend the memo that GAP staff developed several years ago on this subject. A session at the upcoming CESSE meeting in July will provide additional material that can be used for this purpose.

Staff Action Item: Send revised AGI lobbying memo around to member society leaders explaining what they can and cannot do.

6.0  Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Developments

Applegate updated the group on caucus activities since the last committee meeting. In January, the caucus held an event to unveil a white paper developed by the Natural Hazards Caucus Work Group outlining top challenges related to natural hazards and what Congress could do about them. The event was also an opportunity to brief the senators on recent earthquakes. Folger described the most recent event held by the caucus for congressional staff in March. Princeton students briefed staff on their research into hazard vulnerability distribution, identifying "sleeper" areas where high concentrations of wealth and infrastructure were particularly vulnerable without extensive mitigation efforts. The students were all from a class taught by Greg van der Vink, a seismologist and program director at the IRIS Consortium.

Committee Action Item: Encourage your senator to join the caucus (list at or thank them for being a member.

7.0  The New Administration -- Presidential Appointments

Applegate described the current situation in which very few appointments have been made below Cabinet level. Part of the slowdown is due to the administration's decision to fill positions from the top down without exceptions. For example, in the Department of the Interior (DOI), three of 17 Senate-confirmed appointments have been made: the Secretary and two holdovers (one being Chip Groat of USGS). The administration has announced its intention to nominate individuals for three additional positions, most recently Denver lawyer Bennett Raley as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science. The DOI press release on Raley was distributed. Applegate noted that AGI planned to send a letter to Raley congratulating him on his impending nomination and informing him about AGI and the constituency for USGS.

Staff Action Item: Invite Bennett Raley to AGI Past Presidents Dinner at Denver AAPG meeting.

Although geoscientists' names are being considered for several presidential appointments, none were put forward for Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, a key position that oversees the USGS. Hitzman encouraged committee members to provide names of individuals who might be appropriate, particularly western Republicans who like the USGS. Other key positions relative to USGS are the Deputy Secretary (Steven Griles has been nominated) and Assistant Secretary for Policy and Budget.

Committee Action Item: Identify possible candidates for Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science.

With respect to the president's science advisor, there aren't even any rumors who might be appointed.

VIII. Proposed Joint National Research Council/AGI Workshop on Public Policy

Applegate described the proposal from the National Research Council's Board on Earth Science and Resources for an event in October. He solicited the group for their suggestions on possible agenda items and outcomes from such a workshop. Gerhard opined that what was not needed was another report that talked about talking. Instead, the workshop should define the policy issues for the nation in which we, as a profession, are involved and design a process by which we can address those issues. Three priorities suggest themselves: education, energy, and health with the last of those including water. Currently, national policymakers lack any prioritization of the importance of various issues.  Cleaves suggested that the workshop use one or two case studies to illustrate the issues, for example radon in groundwater. Jones suggested USGS Associate Chief Geologist for Science Linda Gunderson as a good resource for that issue. She served early on as a liaison to EPA.

Staff Action Item: Relay the committee's workshop suggestions to the NRC Board on Earth Science and Resources.

IX. IUGS Working Group on Public Affairs

This IUGS working group has now been established by the IUGS Executive Committee. Applegate is chair, because AGI conducted a survey (discussed at the last GAPAC meeting) on IUGS's behalf to determine the potential level of interest. Noting that the working group needs to develop a mission, Applegate asked the committee how such an entity could be valuable to them, particularly in light of the concern in many member societies over the US-limited focus of AGI government affairs. Hitzman stated that it would be useful to know where there are international organizations focused on public policy. The working group could develop a contact list so that geoscientists in other countries would be better aware. Folger added that it would be useful for him to have a better idea of how to get AGU statements into the hands of other groups. The working group could serve as a clearinghouse for success stories so that geologists in one country could learn from the experiences of geologists in other countries on how to deal with governments. Applegate described his and Folger's recent experience of meeting with the head of the Australian federation of scientific organizations who had used the US Congressional Visits Day materials as a template for developing a similar effort in Australia. Hitzman noted Jim Franklin's activities with the Canadian Parliament as another success story.

Staff Action Item: Develop the IUGS Working Group on Public Affairs into a clearinghouse for success stories of geoscience-government interaction. Share the story of Australia's use of the CVD example.

10.0  Plans for Next Meeting

The next meeting will be held in Washington in the September-October timeframe. We will plan to include a series of visits with the new administration, particularly OMB and the National Park Service, since most of the appointees should be in place by that time. GAP staff will sent around a note seeking a workable date for committee members.

The meeting adjourned.

Memo Accompanying Distribution of Draft Report

April 22, 2001

To:       AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee and Meeting Attendees

From:   Dave Applegate

Re:     Report from April 2001 Advisory Committee Meeting

Many thanks to the committee members and alternates who attended Saturday's advisory committee meeting. It was productive and useful for setting the program's agenda in the coming months. The draft report from Saturday's meeting is attached as a Word document. It will also be posted on the advisory committee's website at Please review the document and suggest any changes -- it will be approved at the next committee meeting. In particular, please review the action items in the report -- they are also listed at the end of this e-mail for your convenience. If you need a hard copy of the report, just let us know and we will provide one.

The advisory committee's next meeting will take place in the September-October timeframe at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. The meeting will be accompanied by visits with the administration and Congress. A memo exploring possible dates will be sent at a later time.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Summary of Action Items from April 2001 Meeting

Committee Action Items

Staff Action Items

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

Uploaded April 22, 2001

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