Monthly Review: January 2000


This monthly review goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee, the leadership of AGI's member societies, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

Preview of the President's Science Funding Request
5th Annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day
Interior's Solicitor General Releases New Mining Opinion
Course and Name Change for National Institute for the Environment Supporters
New Forest Service Rules for Special Permit Cost Recovery
Energy Department Announces Geothermal Initiative
Gore, McCain Win in Granite State
Looking for a Few Good Summer and Fall Interns
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Preview of the President's Science Funding Request
In a speech on January 20th at Caltech, President Clinton announced that his budget will include several large funding increases for science, technology, and engineering programs. Clinton stressed the importance of supporting increased funding in all scientific and engineering fields because "advances in one field are often dependent on breakthroughs in other disciplines." The President's budget request will include a $675 million increase for the National Science Foundation, the largest dollar increase in the agency's history. Clinton also announced $500 million for a nanotechnology initiative that will cut across several federal agencies. Although the President's budget is not officially released until February 7th, indications are that most geoscience-related agencies will see increases this year. The president's budget, however, is just a request, and it will take a concerted effort from the scientific community to convince Congress to turn the presidential request into bipartisan reality.

5th Annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day
Please come to Washington on April 4-5, 2000 for Congressional Visits Day (CVD). Over 200 scientists and engineers from academia and industry are expected to participate in this fifth annual event to voice support for increased federal investment in science and technology. Last year, 20 geoscientists participated, and we would again like to see a strong contingent of geoscientists visiting their members of Congress and congressional staff on Capitol Hill. We need your help to identify geoscientists who would be interested in participating, and we particularly encourage the leadership of AGI's member societies to come. CVD consists of an opening day of briefings by key administration and congressional leaders followed by a day of constituent meetings with senators, representatives, and their staff. AGI will join with AGU to hold a pre-briefing for geoscience participants on the first day, and we can help arrange the constituent visits. If this event appeals to you or you know of someone who would be interested in coming to Washington, please contact Margaret Baker by e-mail at mab@agiweb.org or phone at (703) 379-2480 ext. 212.

Interior's Solicitor General Releases New Mining Opinion
Interior Department Solicitor John Leshy, fresh from tangles with Congress over his views on mill-site size under the Mining Law of 1872, issued another controversial legal opinion earlier this month that sets a precedent by which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) can reject a mining permit application due to environmental and cultural degradation. The legal opinion was in response to a permit application for the Glamis Imperial Mine in southeastern California. In Leshy's view, the mine is located in an area of important religious, cultural, and historical resources for the Quechan people as well as a delicate desert environment. First proposed in 1994, Glamis Imperial mine would be an open-pit, cyanide heap-leach gold mine that is proposed to extract up to 150 million tons of ore. Leshy's opinion endorses the Federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation's request that Secretary Babbitt and the Department of the Interior help to protect cultural resources. More information on the decision is available in AGI's mining law reform update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/miningup99.html.

Course and Name Change for National Institute for the Environment Supporters
On January 26th, the Committee for the National Institute for the Environment (CNIE) announced that it was changing its name to the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE), declaring victory in translating its goals for improving science information for environmental decisionmaking into National Science Foundation (NSF) initiatives. CNIE originally formed in 1989 with the goal of establishing a new federal agency -- the National Institute for the Environment -- but in recent years shifted toward a goal of establishing a semi-autonomous NIE within NSF. The National Science Board rejected the idea but undertook a study of environmental science at NSF. The ensuing report called for a major increase in funding for environmental research and, in CNIE's opinion, recommended implementation of "most of the activities initially proposed for a National Institute for the Environment." As a result, CNIE announced last October it fully supported implementation of the report and was suspending its call for the creation of a NIE. The newly named NCSE will work to "develop an online information dissemination system through which users can find understandable, science-based information about the environment." More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/nie99.html.

New Forest Service Rules for Special Permit Cost Recovery
In November, the U.S. Forest Service proposed new rules to include a fee for processing an application for special-use permits. Because many geologic research and educational activities in the national forests require such permits, the issue is of interest to our community. According to Forest Service staff, such permits include paleontological permits issued on National Forest System Lands. Processing fees range from $75 to $750, but can be waived for institutions submitting evidence of an IRS exemption under Code 501(c)(3) -- a classification that most scientific societies and universities fall under -- and that studies are of public benefit. Since most paleontological permits are issued to institutions or organizations for scientific or educational purposes, it is anticipated that they may qualify for a waiver of the processing and monitoring fees. However, any waiver or exemption is not automatic but subject to the required evidence being submitted with the permit application. Where a third party contractor (subcontractor) is involved, that contractor may require a permit and may have to pay associated fees. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis. The complete proposed rule: "Recovery of Costs for Processing Special Use Applications and Monitoring Compliance with Special Use Authorization" was published in the Federal Register on November 24, 1999. The comment period has been extended to February 24, 2000. Information can be obtained on the web at: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/permits/.

DOE Announces Geothermal Initiative
On January 24th, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) announced a new Department of Energy initiative to expand and develop the use of geothermal energy in the western states. The program, known as GeoPowering the West, aims to provide ten percent of the electrical needs of the western states by 2020, to supply electric power to at least 7 million homes by 2010, and to double the number of states using geothermal energy. GeoPowering the West will award nearly $5 million in grants to geothermal activities in Nevada, California, Texas, Utah, Idaho, and North Dakota. A draft action plan for the program is available at its website -- http://www.eren.doe.gov/geopoweringthewest/ -- along with a list of the grants already approved by the program. In a Las Vegas Review-Journal article, Reid said: "This modest investment by the federal government has the potential to stimulate billions of dollars in investment and tens of thousands of new jobs ."

Gore, McCain Win in Granite State
Alright, there is nothing particularly geologic about the presidential campaign except for the time period over which the campaigns have been waged. Nor have the geosciences been a hot topic in the debates, but New Hampshire's nickname is a good enough hook to remind geoscientists that campaigns are gearing up in all 50 states for the entire House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and innumerable state and local offices (at least we can't enumerate them). In an earlier campaign season, the Nevada section of the American Institute for Professional Geologists (AIPG) set a great precedent by hosting a candidate's debate on issues important to geoscientists in Nevada, asking questions about resource development, environmental protection, and related topics. Non-profit societies cannot support or endorse candidates, but they can encourage a healthy debate of the issues. It's all part of being active citizen-scientists.

Looking for a Few Good Summer and Fall Interns
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a twelve-week geoscience and public policy internship in Summer 2000 and a fourteen-week internship in Fall 2000. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone both their writing and Web publishing skills. Stipends for the summer interns are funded jointly by AGI and the AIPG Foundation and for the fall interns by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Applications must be postmarked by March 1, 2000. For more information on application materials and the internship, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
March 19-21 AGI Associates Meeting  Reston VA 
April 2 GAP Advisory Cmte Mtg. Alexandria VA 
April 4-5 SET Congressional Visits Day Washington DC 

New Material on Web Site
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site http://www.agiweb.org since the last monthly update:



Monthly review prepared by Margaret Baker, David Applegate, and John Dragonetti, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Sources: Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, Environment & Energy Update, Greenwire, Library of Congress.

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

Posted February 2, 2000


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