Government Affairs Program

Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting DRAFT Report

Monday, November 5, 2001
Sheraton Kent Room
Boston, Massachusetts


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

Attendees

Committee Members
Murray Hitzman, Chair
Phil Astwood, National Association of Geoscience Teachers
Joe Briskey, Society of Economic Geologists
Robert Cowdery, Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists
Lee Gerhard, American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Jack Hess, Geological Society of America
Mary Anne Holmes, Association for Women Geoscientists
Blair Jones, Clay Minerals Society
David Wunsch, Association of American State Geologists

AGI Staff
David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program
Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program
Travis Hudson, AGI Environmental Affairs

Guests
Jamie Robertson, State Geologist Wisconsin
Michelle Williams, AIPG/AGI Summer 2001 Intern

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 April 2001 meeting at AGI Headquarters. The report was unanimously approved.

Applegate distributed a chart of Member society voluntary contributions to the program since its inception.  Several organizations have lower contributions this year than previous years -- with the exception of AWG, which has greatly boosted its support.  Applegate noted that the down turn in the stock market and reorganization in several societies may have had an impact on contributions.

2.0 Update on Recent GAP Activities

2.1 Congressional Science Fellowship
Applegate updated the committee on the current AGI fellows on the Hill.  Katy Makeig, AGI's 2000-2001 fellow, used the four-month extension to continue working in Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) office until the end of the year.  AGI's new fellow, David Curtiss, accepted a position with J.C. Watts, Jr. (R-OK), who is the Republican Conference Chairman.  Curtiss will be based in the leadership office and also will work closely with the personal office staff on pertinent issues.  Applegate noted that Makeig has been to the University of Tulsa and the New Mexico Geological Society recently as part of the CSF Speaker Program that Wunsch initiated after his tenure as AGI's fellow.

Hitzman asked what the current procedure is to line up a speaker and how the program is funded.  Applegate responded that institutions and organizations should contact GAP directly for scheduling and that the program provides matching funds to cover expenses.  Holmes requested to list the former fellows on the AWG speaker list.  Applegate ended the topic by listing the status of other geoscience-related fellows on Capitol Hill -- AGU's fellow accepted a position in Sen. Harry Reid's office, SSSA's fellow will begin in January 2002, and GSA's fellow is still in the placement process.

2.2 Internship Programs
Applegate provided a brief description of the semester and summer internship programs that are co-sponsored by AAPG and AIPG, respectively.  The current semester intern, Catherine Macris, is a senior at Louisiana State University where she will return in January to complete her last semester.  Macris has been working on a range of issues that includes energy policy and clear water regulations.  Applegate went on to say that the three summer interns -- Chris Eisinger, Michelle Williams, and Caetie Ofiesh -- have returned to their respective institutions.  Articles written by the summer interns were published in the November issue of AIPG's The Professional Geologists.  Before leaving town, the three interns had the chance to meet with several people on Capitol Hill and out at the U.S. Geological Survey, including Briskey, and USGS Director Chip Groat.  Applegate also noted that former intern Heidi Mohlman Tringe is now working as the communications director for the House Science Committee.

Hitzman asked about the applicant pools for both the summer and semester internships.  Applegate responded that the semester pool is not nearly as large as the summer pool, which numbers over 40 applications for the three positions.  Hitzman followed up by stating that there needs to be more publicity for the semester program.  Applegate mentioned that the spring 2002 semester intern Heather Golding, currently working on post-graduate course work at University of Georgia, will begin in January.  Robertson added that Applegate is scheduled to give a lunch talk to students at the GSA meeting about geoscientists in government.

Action Item:  A TIF file of the internship flyer should be sent out to Member Societies to help increase the internship application pools.

2.3 Advocacy and Education Activities
Applegate referred to the October 2001 Monthly Review as a synopsis of the issues currently active in Washington.  He then circulated a handout listing the topics covered by Government Affairs since the last meeting in April.  The USGS "wild ride" was highlighted as a typical example of this year's appropriations process, with geoscience-related agencies starting with very low request levels and ending up with healthy allocations.  There was a brief discussion on the letter writing campaign in February to help restore funding for the USGS and how it aided in the agency receiving a boost in the appropriations end game.  It was suggested that there should be an article in Geotimes about the effectiveness of the campaign as an example of the importance of active citizen earth scientists.

Action Item:  Run an article in Geotimes regarding the successful letter writing campaign for restoring funding at the USGS.

Astwood asked about the status of science education in Washington.  Baker responded that both the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill, which includes funding for the Department of Education, have been stalled in Congress while the two chambers try to work out differences in their versions of the bills.

2.4 Member Society Support Activities
Several Member Societies have come to Washington in the past six months to meet with members of Congress and the Administration.  Applegate informed the group of the AAPG Energy Summit that was held at the end of April.  Shortly after the summit, the GSA Geoscience and Public Policy Committee met at AGI, and several of its members stayed on to participate in the Congressional Visits Day events.  The state geologists came to town near the end of September for their bi-annual Washington Fly-In.  Applegate ended his comments by saying that the next Congressional Visits Day will be March 5-6, 2002.

Robertson noted that the GSA G&PP group is in the midst of putting together a list-serve of members interested in policy issues.  Applegate responded that AGI looks forward to helping GSA G&PP in disbursing information to this group.  Jones asked if the issue of toxic metals in water has become an issue on Capitol Hill.  Baker responded that the only water issues that have been brought up in Congress are arsenic in drinking water, total maximum daily loads, and a couple of hearings on the Great Lakes.  Applegate added that the November issue of Geotimes focuses on earth sciences and human health, an important area for making the case of the value of the geosciences.

3.0 The Geosciences and National Security: Where Do We Stand?
Applegate introduced the topic of the role of science in national security and the post September 11th environment in Washington. A background memo prepared by Baker on the stimulus package under consideration by Congress and the outlook for the fiscal year 2003 budget was circulated.  Gerhard talked about an article in the AAPG Explorer that discussed the issue of US dependence on foreign crude oil, especially from the Middle East, and national security.  Congress and the White House are beginning to look seriously at this issue as they prepare both an economic stimulus package for the nation and a recovery package for New York and Washington DC.  Briskey brought up the issue of military geology as an opportunity to highlight the importance of the earth sciences not only in the recovery and security areas but also in infrastructure and military action.  A discussion then ensued regarding the geology of the cave seen in the Osama bin Laden video and how this knowledge could be used to determine his location.

Several committee members noted that there is a good deal of action going on behind the scenes at the USGS, including a small group of military geologists and the issue of "conflict diamonds" as a source of funding for terrorists.  Hitzman emphasized that societies should help to underscore the role of earth scientists in these arenas.  He also suggested that a National Research Council report from the Earth science boards on energy, security, and human health would be useful to gain support for the geosciences.  Through this line of discussion, the group suggested that AGI join forces with the NRC to have a round table in January on the issue of the geosciences and national security as well as to run a series of articles in Geotimes on military geology, Afghanistan geology, infrastructure, and air-born particulate.

Action Item: Work with the National Research Council to schedule a round table on the Earth sciences and national security in early 2002.

Action Item: Publish a series of articles in Geotimes on issues surrounding the Earth sciences and national security.

Action Item: Prepare a national security and geoscience website off the Government Affairs Program website.

4.0 Reports from Member Societies

Blair Jones (CMS) –  no report at this time.

Phil Astwood (NAGT) – NAGT is interested in professional development for Earth science teachers, especially now that Earth science in a part of the national standards and many primary and secondary educators do not have a background in ES.  In the past, professional development for science teachers was under the Eisenhower programs but the current trend in Congress and the Department of Education is to forego this program in favor of public-private partnerships.  NAGT hopes to promote a professional development aspect of the NSF EarthScope program.

Joe Briskey (SEG) – At this time SEG has no specific issues but they are trying to deal with a growing number of international members.  The organization is putting together an email list that it hopes to use to distribute information regarding public policy.  Applegate made reference to the IUGS working group on public policy that he chairs.

Action Item: Develop a memo for societies with international members on the current activities of the IUGS Working Group on Public Policy.

Jack Hess (GSA) – GSA is changing leadership and as such is focusing currently on organizational changes.  It is in the process of hiring someone for a position in outreach and policy.  Hess stated that with his previous experience on Capitol Hill, he is supportive of outreach activities in both education and policy areas.

Lee Gerhard (AAPG) – AAPG held an Energy Summit in April that provided a forum for several other societies to discuss energy policy.  It plans on having a follow up briefing and to have AAPG members fly into Washington t meet with officials before the November elections.  A discussion then ensued regarding the current hiring practices of energy companies and the need for geology students to not only go into these companies but also into federal positions.

Bob Cowdery (SIPES) – SIPES, along with several other Member Societies, signed onto the evolution letter that Applegate and Pete Folger from AGU helped to prepare opposing a Sense of the Senate provision that indicates evolution as a disputed scientific theory.  SIPES also has energy policy as a high priority for the organization.

Mary Anne Holmes (AWG) – AWG was just awarded funding from NSF to study the trends of women in academia.  It also continues its interest in the role of minorities and women in the science workforce to help meet the needs of a changing market place.  Through its email list, AWG is forwarding on the GAP alerts and updates to its members.

David Wunsch (AASG) – AASG continues its biannual congressional fly ins, where its members come to meet with congressional representatives to discuss geoscience issues.  AASG has just entered into a memo of understanding with the USDA National Resources Conservation Service to help foster better communication between the activities of the two organizations.  The organization has also sponsored mentor assistantships for 34 students this year.

Ted Vlamis from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology provided a written report to be included in the committee meeting report.  Applegate explained that SVP supported legislation has been introduced by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) that closely follows the recommendations in the DOI report issued last year on fossils on public lands.

5.0 Evolution in the Senate and the States
Applegate provided a brief history of the Sense of the Senate provision that was sponsored by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), which notes evolution as a controversial theory.  The House-Senate conference committee on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act are still meeting and as of yet it is not clear if it will remain in the conference report -- all indications show that the language will not appear in the actual bill.  Applegate noted that the language of the provision is seemingly innocuous, so there has been some difficulty in gaining Hill support against the provision.  AGI and several other interested organizations, including AIBS the AGI of the biological sciences, have built a coalition that has been meeting with members of the conference committee to help defeat the provision.

6.0 Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Developments
Applegate explained that the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus has been on hold for the last few months because of the events of September 11th.  The group is interested in working on the links between preparing against terrorist activities and natural hazard mitigation.  In July the caucus held a round table on hurricanes, where two new one-pagers were released -- one on floods and another on hurricanes.

7.0 Virtual Geoscience Agency Web Project
Baker presented a new project that the Government Affairs Program has undertaken to provide a virtual geoscience agency website.  The project was started by the Geoscience section of the DOE's Basic Energy Science program and suggested to AGI as something that is needed for the community.  Fall Semester Intern Catherine Macris has been working on filling out the basic information for the database, which will contain a brief description of the program, contact information, and a general budget for the program.  Once the database is complete, which is expected in the next month or so, a front end of the system will be developed.  There was some discussion on trying to find funding for the project.

8.0 Plans for Next Meeting
The next meeting will be held in Washington in early March to coincide with the Congressional Visits Day.  GAP staff will send around a note regarding logistics for the next meeting.

The meeting adjourned.



Memo Accompanying Distribution of Draft Report

January 18, 2002

To:       AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee and Meeting Attendees

From:   Dave Applegate and Margaret Baker

Re:     Report from November 2001 Advisory Committee Meeting

Many thanks to the committee members and alternates who attended the advisory committee meeting in Boston. It was productive and useful for setting the program's agenda in the coming months. The draft report from the meeting is attached as a Word document. It is also posted on the advisory committee's website at http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/gapac.html. 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 April-May time frame at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Based on discussions with Committee Chair Murray Hitzman, we would like to hold the meeting on Sunday with Monday visits to OMB, OSTP, and federal agencies, plus constituent visits on the Hill. Possible dates for the spring meeting include: April 7-8, April 21-22, May 5-6, or May 12-13.  Please let us know by Monday, January 28th which dates work best for your schedule. Once a date is set, we will circulate information on accommodations.

With regard to the action items below, please keep your eye out for the February issue of Geotimes, which focuses on the geosciences and national security (articles on Afghanistan geology, military geology, and national security careers). The National Research Council’s Natural Disasters Roundtable will be holding a forum on national security tie-ins at the end of February, and we are working with them to hold a companion briefing on Capitol Hill.
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Summary of Action Items from November 2001 Meeting


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Uploaded January 18, 2001


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