Government Affairs Program

Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting Report

November 13, 2000
Reno Hilton Room N-5
Reno, Nevada

An agenda with links to background materials and cover memo accompany this report.


Committee Members
Murray Hitzman, Chair, Golden CO
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Columbia SC
Joseph Briskey, Society of Economic Geologists, Reston VA
Dennis Bryan, Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Reno NV
Bob Cowdery, Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists, Wichita KS
Marie Dvorzak, Geoscience Information Society, Madison WI
Peter Folger, American Geophysical Union, Washington DC
Nick Fraser, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Martinsville VA
Lee Gerhard, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Lawrence KS
Mary Anne Holmes, Association for Women Geoscientists, Lincoln NE
Blair Jones, The Clay Minerals Society, Reston VA
Margo Kingston, American Geophysical Union, Reston VA
Jon Price, Association of American State Geologists, Reno NV
Jamie Robertson, Association of American State Geologists, Madison WI

AGI Staff
David Applegate, AGI GAP Director
Margaret Baker, AGI GAP Staff Associate

Sam Adams, Geotimes Editor in Chief, Lincoln NH
Tammy Dickinson, National Research Council Board on Earth Science and Resources, Washington DC
Joe Johnson, Reno NV
Mary Patterson, AGI/AAPG Spring 2001 Intern, Reno NV
Russell Slayback, AGI President, Trumbull CT

1.0  Introductions and Preliminary Business

After brief introductions, the meeting began with the approval of the report from the April 2000 GAPAC meeting.  Applegate discussed the state of Government Affairs Program (GAP) finances, noting that the totals for both AIPG and AAPG included funding for internships in addition to their regular contribution.

2.0  Update on Recent GAP Activities

Applegate reviewed program activities in a number of areas:

2.1 Congressional Science Fellowship
Applegate announced the selection of  Katy Makeig as the new 2000-2001 AGI Congressional Science Fellow.  Makeig is president of Waste Science Inc., an environmental and engineering consulting firm in Rockville, Md.  She has accepted a position in the office of Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), but is unsure if she will be staying there because Holt’s election has yet to be finalized [Note: Holt did win by a slim margin, and Makeig stayed with the office].  The AGI fellowship is supported by the AGI Foundation.  As in previous years, GAP mailed out packets of AGI, AGU, GSA, and SSSA fellowship flyers to geoscience departments.  A committee member asked if AGI plans to increase the number of fellows. Applegate responded that there were no plans at this time, but AGI would welcome the possibility of supporting a joint fellowship with a member society. The AGI Foundation has agreed to seek support for an additional three years and is exploring opportunities for an endowment that would allow long-term funding for the fellowship.

Staff Action Item:  Put together a one-page description of cost and procedure for other interested societies.

Applegate also described the successful launch of the former-fellow outreach program that makes past AGI fellows available to speak at geoscience society meetings and university geoscience departments about their experiences and geoscience policy. Over the previous year, AGI’s 1998-1999 Congressional Science Fellow, Dr. David Wunsch -- who proposed the outreach program -- spoke at a number of colleges and universities. Ads announcing the opportunity are appearing in Geotimes.

2.2 Summer and Semester Internships
Applegate updated the committee on the Summer 2000 AGI/AIPG interns: Nathan Morris, Audrey Slesinger, and Michael Wagg.  Morris is a master’s student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.  Slesinger just completed a masters degree in geochemistry at the University of Bristol, England, and has taken a job in the office of Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).  Wagg graduated in May from Albion College, where he double majored in geology and history, and began graduate work this fall at the University of Michigan.  Applegate also introduced Mary Patterson, a senior geology major at the University of Nevada, Reno, who will be joining the GAP staff in January 2001 for 14 weeks as an AGI /AAPG intern.

2.3 Appropriations Advocacy
Applegate summarized the general end-game of this year’s appropriations process – in part the fact that the process is not over despite being over a month into the new fiscal year.  Overall figures for the geosciences are promising.  The National Science Foundation received an increase of nearly 13 percent, but Congress provided no funding for the EarthScope initiative.  Applegate explained that the conference report language made clear that it was not funded out of any prejudice against the proposal, just a lack of money. NSF plans to reintroduce the project in the upcoming fiscal year 2002 budget request.

2.4 Evolution and Science Education
Applegate announced that the December 2000 issue of Geotimes will be a special issue focused on the evolution debate.  He also discussed the recent Kansas election that changed the make-up of the State Board on Education to favor returning to the previous science standards that include evolutionary theory in textbooks.  Applegate went on to discuss other actions that GAP and its member societies have taken to highlight the issue of creationism in science standards.  AGI is in the process of republishing an evolution pamphlet/booklet that was originally published in a decade ago.

2.5 Member Society Support Activities
Applegate highlighted work GAP has done to help member societies reach out to members of Congress and their membership to encourage active citizen-geoscientists.  For the GSA annual meeting, GAP provided placards of information for the GSA Geology and Public Policy Committee booth on current issues.  In May and April, GAP aided AAPG in providing testimony to congressional committees on energy policy.  Several members of the advisory committee commented on the need for better communication between the different sides of when activities are happening.

Staff Action Item:  Keep societies updated on Washington geoscience policy events, such as fly-ins and provided testimony.

Staff Action Item: Provide a clearing house of member societies’ activities related to public policy.

Committee Action Item:  Encourage your society to use GAP as a resource for communicating with Congress and Federal agencies.

3.0 Reports from Member Societies

Lee Gerhard (AAPG) – AAPG is reasonably active in public policy for nearly the first time.  It has developed a series of position statements on public lands resource access, tax exemptions, energy policy, and several others.  There are plans to hold a forum in June 2001 on public lands.  Also, AAPG is planning a presidential conference in April 2001 in Washington, D.C. on the need for an energy supply policy.  AAPG is looking for sister resource-oriented societies that are interested in co-sponsoring the event.  The plan is to get a well-known political figure to give the keynote speech.  An AAPG conference on water and energy sustainability took place recently at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska. Policy recommendations from the conference will be available soon.

A committee member asked Gerhard if the April conference would include coal and nuclear power.  Gerhard responded that the conference would focus on natural gas but would also look at understanding the total energy supply equation.  He added that public land access and nuclear waste disposal also would be topics of discussion at the April event.

Bob Cowdery (SIPES) – SIPES currently has 1318 members, most of whom are working in the petroleum industry. He noted that SIPES adopted a statement on energy policy well before AAPG and encouraged AAPG to include SIPES in the energy supply conference.

Committee Action Item (SIPES): Provide AGI with a copy of the SIPES energy position statement for inclusion in the AGI list of member society position statements.

Nick Fraser (SVP) – SVP is concerned about protection for fossils on public lands and is supporting efforts to raise awareness of the problem.  A committee member asked how big the problem is and whether Fraser had a dollar value for illegally collected fossils being sold.  Fraser stated that it is very difficult to put a dollar value on these fossils.  Holmes noted a concern that so many specimens disappear into museums and nobody gets to see them and that it is important to make sure specimens are available to the public.  Fraser responded that one of the problems is getting funding for museums to acquire and exhibit these fossils. Applegate mentioned the recent Department of the Interior policy report on fossils on public lands (see

Jamie Robertson (AASG) – AASG continues to visit DC regularly.  The last visit was in mid-September, when state geologists came to talk to Congress on increasing the appropriation funding for the National Cooperative Geological Mapping Program.  AASG members also emphasized the federal/state water cooperatives and streamgaging efforts as well as NSF’s EarthScope.  Members plan to return for the next DC visit in March, when the focus will be the newly announced fiscal year 2002 federal budget.  Robertson noted that he was cautiously optimistic that science could be a good realm for bipartisanship in the next Congress.

Phil Astwood (NAGT) – NAGT has three key areas of focus: electronic publishing, establishing a national AP course and exam, and science education.  NAGT has been working over the past year with other organizations, including AGI, to develop an Advanced Placement course and test for Earth Sciences.  Astwood noted that an AP course would raise the standing of the Earth sciences.  NAGT is also working on science standards and supporting K-12 teachers as they attempt to institute new science standards.  There is a concern that under the new science standards in most states teachers are being asked to teach topics that were not previously included in curriculum, and NAGT is looking for support from state and national programs, including the National Science Foundation, to help meet teachers’ needs.  The organization continues to advocate for the preservation of the Eisenhower programs that provide resources and professional development for math and science teachers.  Hitzman noted that the Geology subject test of the GRE will be discontinued after the December exam date due to a lack of demand by geology departments.

Margo Kingston (AGU) – Pete Folger and Applegate have been working closely together on a range of issues, including the natural hazards caucus, evolution, and a workshop at the Spring meeting in DC on the ABC’s of Communicating with Congress.  AGU has also put together workshops on science support for evolution teaching and sessions at the Fall meeting on national science education standards.  The Congressional Visits Day is increasing in popularity with AGU members and more are interested in the happenings on Capitol Hill.  Folger added that AGI has helped out with writing and research on issues that he could not cover.  He also stated that AGU is looking at ways to incorporate its large international membership in its public policy interests.

Marie Dvorzak (GIS) – GIS has been following up on the closing of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) that was proposed last year.  After much discussion, a committee will make recommendations and release a report on what should happen to NTIS in late December/early January.  GIS is also concerned with copyright issues, which seem to be moving from the federal level down to the state levels that are not used to dealing with this issue or the ramifications of legislation.  There is also anxiety over the rapid digitization of public information.  Congress has put both financial and legislative pressure on federal agencies, especially the Government Printing Office, to move from printed to electronic access.  There has not been enough discussion or involvement with those who will be providing access to end users as well as how to effectively archive electronic material.

Dvorzak asked if any other organizations are interested in either access or archiving issues.  Price noted that these issues are also important to the state surveys because in the next 10-20 years materials in non-digital formats will not be used.

Committee Action Item (GIS): Put together a 1-2 page document listing access and archiving issues for AGI to distribute to member societies.

Mary Anne Holmes (AWG) – Three members of AWG participated in the Congressional Visits Day in April and visited four Senate offices, two House offices, and the House Science Committee.  Participants asked members to ratify the UN proposal to end discrimination against women, which has been held up by Sen. Jesse Helms.  As a result of the meeting with the House Science Committee, AWG was asked to participate in the rollout of the Commission on the Advancement of Women, Minorities in Science, Engineering and Technology (CAWMSET) report. AWG also hosted a talk by Kathryn Johnson, a geoscientist from Idaho who sat on the commission, at the Spring AGU meeting.  The Lincoln (NE) chapter has been working on the evolution issue.

Dennis Bryan (SME) -- SME headquarters did not provide a report. Mining industry would like to see an energy and minerals policy. Public has sense that if it’s not grown, it comes from Home Depot! Access to public lands is a major issue as are increasingly burdensome regulations. He noted that waste rock is now classified as a toxic release and the upcoming regulations on crystalline silica. Describing the 1872 mining law as a savior to the industry, Bryan noted that the Clinton administration’s plans to continue withdrawing public lands without congressional approval was driving the mining industry offshore.

Blair Jones (CMS) – Jones noted that CMS has been pre-occupied with internal problems of late, and he did not have any specific issues to raise from council. He did note complaints that the president-elect (Blair) had been too good at passing along AGI’s government affairs reports.

Joe Briskey (SEG) – New SEG President Jim Franklin is looking at ways to expand cooperation with AGI, and he recognizes the importance of public policy.  Partially because the new president is Canadian, SEG is interested in improving links with Canadian geoscience groups.  SEG is also eager to find out what happens with the IUGS Workgroup on Public Policy.  To help disseminate information to members, SEG is working on an e-mail distribution list for its members.

4.0 Transition to a New Administration

Despite the fact that the presidential election has not been finalized, both candidates have begun the process of filling potential positions in their administrations.  Applegate noted that of the 100 or so positions related to the geosciences, 45 positions are presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation, 35 positions are civil service appointed by an agency head, and the rest are non-career Senior Executive Service appointments.  AGI is willing to help facilitate the process for any society that has names to forward.

Committee Action Item: Urge societies to try to get portfolio together on interested candidates for presidential appointments.

Hitzman noted that the committee needs to begin thinking of the election four years down the road and how to deal with the transition at that time – a more formal nomination process for AGI endorsement.

5.0  Guest Speaker: Joe Johnson

Joe Johnson, a geologist who served in the Nevada legislature from 1990-92, came to talk to the committee on working with state governments on earth science issues.  Before being elected to office, Johnson worked for the U.S. Bureau of Mines and was a member of the state environmental commission, a regulatory body. First appointed by a Democratic governor, he was reappointed by a Republican governor. He noted the shifts taking place with state government gaining more power due to devolution and deregulation and delegation of authority from the federal government. A registered geologist in California, he noted the problems facing registration efforts in Nevada, where there is a sharp split on the issue. He noted that if there is a conflict, legislators do not want to have to make the decision, hence the need to approach them with a bill that already has reasonable consensus. This is particularly so in a state like Nevada where the legislature meets once every 2 years. There are 21 senators overseen by the lieutenant governor; there are 42 members of the General Assembly with no provision for breaking ties.

He added that the psychology of getting a bill passed in state legislature is similar to that at the national level -- legislation gets passed when all the legislators are ready to go home. He compared the situation in Nevada with that of the neighboring “nation-state” of California, which has a permanent legislative body whose members have their own staff. In California, you are likely to work with staff whereas in Nevada, with no permanent staff, you will meet with the legislator. In Nevada, a legislative counsel bureau staffs committees on a nonpartisan basis and covers various research and bill drafting functions.

Over 1500 bills are introduced every session. Committee chairs have a great deal of power, so being friends with a potential or current chair can make life a lot easier for you. At committee hearings, anyone can come and sign in to speak on a bill. Few citizens participate except on highly charged moral issues. Bills are generally drafted by professional lobbyists who either wrote the bill in their law firm or interface with the bill draft before it is finalized. The public process comes later. Budgets are driven by the executive branch -- although the legislature debates the budget, they make few changes, mostly one-shot earmarks. In order to affect the budget, it is necessary to work with the governor, especially if one is seeking long-term funding.
State agencies are the principal employer of geoscientists in Nevada state government, one of the key functions being water allocation. All waters are owned by the people of the state. Whereas California has very little control over the subsurface, that is not the case in Nevada where all waters are owned by the people of the state and use is based on first claim and beneficial use. The State Engineer employs hydrogeologists as does the Division of Environmental Protection, the Department of Business and Commerce, the Division of Mineral Resources, and the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology. Mining regulation takes place in the Division of Environmental Protection. Nevada recently passed mining reclamation legislation that was drafted jointly by the Sierra Club and the Nevada Mining Association. Neither were completely happy, but the overall outcome was pretty good. In many cases, the agencies are supported by fees from the industries that they regulate. For example, two-thirds of the budget of the Air Quality Division comes from fees related to the Mojave power plant owned by Southern California Edison. Output reductions result in budget cuts for the regulators.

Johnson originally became involved in politics by volunteering on the City of Reno planning commission. There are innumerable advisory boards at the local level such as parks commissions. Normal citizens should participate and consider it as part of their own professional development. Geoscientists are particularly valuable in bodies related to education and where they can bring their technical expertise to bear. The problem with getting geoscientists to participate is a lack of contacts -- as a rule, geologists are not joiners or networkers. They do not belong to the downtown Rotary Club. They drive around all day in the field and write up their report at night. He encouraged the society representatives to invite local legislators and senior administrators to their meetings simply to acquaint them with what you do. When you want to contact them on an issue, they should already know who you are and have a face identified with the name. You can never start off too small -- there’s always a vacancy on the parks commission. It is hard work, but most find it rewarding.

During the question and answer period, Briskey asked Johnson if state legislatures accept and use interns. Johnson responded that there are several types of formal interns, some of which are sponsored by various organizations, but most interns come through the universities.  Few of these interns have a technical background, so it would be useful to encourage earth science students to look at these opportunities.

Folger asked if having a geological background was useful in running for office. Johnson responded that he did not find it very useful in his case, but that was due in part to the fact that a mining background in a metropolitan area is not a strength.

Gerhard noted that unlike Nevada, Colorado does not have citizen legislators, which greatly limits the availability of officials to outside resources.  In the Colorado type bodies, all the work is done behind the scenes, whereas a citizen legislature has to be upfront and honest and tell the truth.  Johnson agreed with the thought and told how a mailbox that he used to use while in office for letters still fills up regularly, even eight years after leaving office.

Robertson agreed with Johnson’s assessment that the individual geologists can make a difference at the local level by being on small local boards, such as the park board, and building a reputation based on their service.  Johnson told how he started on the Reno Planning Advisory Board that made decisions on grants for non-profits.  He also said that it is useful to make and keep contacts.  He went to school with U.S. Representative Jim Gibbons and served in the National Guard together.

Cowdery noted the disconnect between rural and urban interests. In Colorado, there is no knowledge in Denver of the western slope, and in Kansas, folks think the Colorado line is 10 miles west of Topeka! Johnson responded that in Nevada, there is a sharply different culture in Las Vegas than in the rest of the state. Ninety percent of the population lives in Vegas and Reno with 68 percent alone living in Clark County, which will soon have two U.S. House members compared to one for the entire rest of the state, 87 percent of which is owned by the federal government. Water is a particularly sore subject between Vegas and the rest of the state.

Hitzman asked Johnson why he decided to run for office in the first place. Johnson replied that he had worked for the incumbent, who had moved out of the state, leaving the seat open.  The Nevada campaign process is expensive and strongly influenced by interests groups.  There are a wide variety of endorsements from the police, firemen, small business, casino lobbyists, and many others that want a sympathetic legislator in the seat.  As it turned out, it was easier to run for the state legislature than for a citywide election.

6.0 Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus

After a break, Applegate reported that the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus held its kick-off event in June 2000.  As a result of this event, the Work Group prepared a discussion paper (available at the workgroup web site that will be used as the basis for any future legislation.  The workgroup has put together a one-page hazards sheet on winter storms that members of Congress can send out to constituents.  Currently, the workgroup is made up of several AGI member societies, relief organizations, higher education associations, trade associations, and private companies.

Hitzman inquired if there was any way to get the insurance industry workgroup members to help support a large mailing to senators’ constituents along with a Dear Colleague letter.

It was suggested that member societies have their members contact their senators to request copies of the one-pager and encourage them to join the caucus.

Committee Action Item: Get your Senators to join the the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus.

Staff Action Item:  Send winter hazard fact sheet around to member societies.

7.0 IUGS Working Group on Public Policy

Applegate updated the committee on the report that GAP put together from the responses from the IUGS survey on public policy.  There is a concern that as more member societies see growth in their overseas membership, international public policy will need to play an increasing role.  It was this trend that pushed IUGS and AGI to send out the survey to geological surveys and other IUGS member organizations.  From the initial survey an ad hoc working group has been established.

Committee Action Item: Contact GAP staff if you are aware of any other organizations that should be included in the IUGS Workgroup on Public Policy.

8.0 Action Items/Plans for Next Meeting

Action items were duly reviewed, and the next committee meeting will be set via email, either April 22-23 or April 29-30.  With that, the meeting adjourned.

Memo Accompanying Distribution of Draft Report

February 14, 2001

To:  AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee

From:  Dave Applegate and Margaret Baker

The advisory committee's next meeting will take place on Saturday, April 21st at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Please let us know whether you plan to attend or whether your society will be sending an alternate.

The draft report from the last advisory committee meeting is available on the committee's web site at Action items follow at the end of this e-mail. If you need a hard copy,  we would be happy to provide one.  As the report will be approved at the meeting, please let us know if you have any changes or additions to make. Also, please let us know if you have agenda items to suggest for the committee meeting. Additional materials for the meeting will be posted on the committee's website as we get closer to the date.

A block of rooms is being held at the Hampton Inn (4800 Leesburg Pike) down the street from AGI at a $99 rate ($109 double) for the nights of April 20-22 under the name AGI. The Hampton Inn is a short taxi ride from AGI or a somewhat longer stroll. To make  reservations, please contact the Hampton Inn (703-671-4800; 1-800-426-7866) and  personally guarantee your reservation by March 26th.

If your society does not reimburse for these travel expenses, AGI has limited funds available to provide reimbursement. Please do not hesitate to contact Dave (703-379-2480 ext. 228; or Margaret Baker  (703-379-2480 ext. 212; if we can be of any assistance.
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Summary of Action Items from November 2000 Meeting

GAP Staff

Member Society Representatives

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

Uploaded February 15, 2001

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