Monthly Review: January 2003


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

FY 2003 Spending Package in Final House-Senate Conference
Senate Opens with Climate Hearing
Interior Reports on Domestic Oil and Gas
Homeland Security Department Takes Shape
EPA Withdraws Clinton-Era TMDL Rule
Army Corps of Engineers and EPA Seek Wetlands Input
Smithsonian Commission Urges Boost for Science
Energy, Environment Initiatives in State of the Union Address
AGI Supports Federal Research and Science Education Funding
AGI Participates in USGS Listening Session
Semester Intern Welcomed, Summer Applications Due March 15th
List of Key Federal Register Notices
New Material on Web Site

********************

FY 2003 Spending Package in Final House-Senate Conference
As reported in a January 31st AGI alert, the Senate has passed an omnibus spending package for fiscal year (FY) 2003. The legislation (H.J. Res 2) incorporates all 11 remaining FY 2003 appropriations bills. Funding levels are $10 billion below those considered (but not passed) by the Senate during the last Congress. Among the cuts, the U.S. Geological Survey would receive to $888 million, well below its FY 2002 level of $914 million. The Department of Energy's Fossil Energy R&D program also would fall to levels below FY 2002. The legislation would eliminate the National Science Foundation's EarthScope project, which was requested by the president and funded in the previous House and Senate bills. The final FY 2003 funding levels will be determined by a House-Senate conference committee in the first two weeks of February. The alert particularly encouraged geoscientists who are constituents of House or Senate Appropriations Committee members to press for a restoration of these programs. Civilian agencies are currently funded at FY 2002 levels under a series of continuing resolutions, the most recent of which extends through February 7th. The alert is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/fy2003_alert0103.html

Senate Opens with Climate Hearing
Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) have introduced legislation to establish a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. On January 8th, McCain held a hearing of the Commerce, Science and Technology Committee, which he chairs, on the legislation. Although the press focus has been mostly about the cap-and-trade provision that would regulate carbon dioxide in addition to other greenhouse gases, the bill also includes provisions for abrupt climate change research and establishing a National Greenhouse Gas Database administered by the Secretary of Commerce. Despite the hearing, the Senate parliamentarian decided not to refer the bill (S. 139) to McCain's committee but instead referred it to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. That committee's chairman, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), does not favor regulating carbon dioxide emissions and is not likely to act on the bill. Inhofe has announced his plans to hold hearings next month on power plant emissions and introduce legislation along the lines of President Bush's Clear Skies Initiative aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis108/climate.html.

Interior Reports on Domestic Oil and Gas
On January 16th, the Department of the Interior released a study of the oil and natural gas resources in several key western basins. The report, entitled "Scientific Inventory of Onshore Federal Lands' Oil and Gas Resources and Reserves and the Extent and Nature of Restrictions or Impediments to Their Development", was prepared as a collaborative effort between Interior and the Departments of Energy and Agriculture. The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000 requested that the study combine U.S. Geological Survey reserve estimates with "the extent and nature of any restrictions or impediments to the development of such resources." The report does not make any policy recommendations and is intended to serve as a planning tool for Congress as it resumes debate on national energy policy. The report is available as a PDF document at http://www.doi.gov/epca/.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a draft environmental impact statement outlining four possible options for oil leasing in the Northwest National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) Planning Area. Having indicated no preferred alternative, BLM has opened a public comment period until March 18th to seek input on the options presented, including reasoning for choosing one option over another. Alternative A would make all BLM lands in the planning area available for oil and gas leasing with few additional regulations to protect animal habitats. Alternative B would open 96% of the planning area but would have some special areas to protect animal habitats. Alternative C would open 47% of the planning area to leasing and would have several regulations to protect potentially sensitive areas. As is custom in such reports, the last alternative would be one of no action, or the status quo. The draft is available at http://www.ak.blm.gov/nwnpra/index.html.

Homeland Security Department Takes Shape
On January 24th, Vice President Dick Cheney swore in Tom Ridge as the nation's first Secretary of Homeland Security. His new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will incorporate around 22 separate agencies and programs from throughout the federal government, ranging from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the Coast Guard. The reorganization will take months, but in the meantime, the President's Council of Advisors for Science and Technology (PCAST) officially released a report on the "contribution of science and technology to the DHS mission." Of key interest to the geoscience community is the fate of FEMA in the reorganization, an aspect not covered by the PCAST report. Information about the new department is available at http://www.dhs.gov. The PCAST report is available as a PDF document at
http://www.ostp.gov/PCAST/FINAL%20DHS%20REPORT%20WITH%20APPENDICES.pdf (an odd URL but, yes, it is correct).

In related news, House Appropriations Committee chairman Bill Young (R-FL) announced a reorganization of the 13 subcommittees in order to create a new subcommittee to fund the Department of Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY). The Transportation and Treasury subcommittees are being combined under Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK), and a number of other subcommittees will lose jurisdiction over agencies and programs now within DHS. Although Young reportedly has made a deal with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) to do the same, Stevens is waiting to reorganize until after completing work on the FY 2003 omnibus spending package. Earlier this year, the House established a Select Committee on Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA), to handle DHS oversight responsibilities. The Senate has left jurisdiction for homeland security where it was in the Committee on Governmental Affairs, chaired by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

EPA Withdraws Clinton-Era TMDL Rule
The Bush administration is taking steps to formally withdraw the July 2000 final rule revising the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program originally proposed by the Clinton administration to implement the Clean Water Act. The 2000 rule required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve state plans and step in if states failed to develop acceptable plans. Shortly after the last administration released its final TMDL rule, Congress passed legislation prohibiting the EPA from implementing the rule. An EPA press release notes: "The 2000 rule was determined to be unworkable based on reasons described by thousands of comments and was challenged in court by some two dozen parties." EPA Administrator Christie Whitman has indicated that the agency will continue to work with states under the existing TMDL program. EPA is currently working on crafting a revised TMDL program that gives states more flexibility and does not include the EPA approval requirements that were incorporated into the Clinton-era rule. Additional information on the TMDL program is available at http://www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/.

Army Corps of Engineers and EPA Seek Wetlands Input
The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have made three major announcements recently to provide better guidelines and definitions for wetland mitigation. These actions come in response to a 2001 Supreme Court decision and are intended to improve wetland mitigation coordination among federal, state and local agencies. At the end of December, the two agencies released the National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan "to ensure effective, scientifically-based restoration of wetlands impacted by development activities." The plan outlines 17 action items for agencies to undertake over the next two years to improve the effectiveness of wetland mitigation programs. On January 10th, the two agencies jointly published a solicitation in the Federal Register seeking public comment on the definition of "waters of the United States" and the implications of the 2001 Supreme Court decision in Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for federal authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate certain isolated wetlands. More on the National Wetlands Mitigation Action Plan at http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/guidance/index.html#mitigation. Additional information on the announcement regarding definitions of waters subject to the Clean Water Act is available at http://www.epa.gov/owow/wetlands/swanccnav.html.

Smithsonian Commission Urges Boost for Science
On January 7th, a blue-ribbon commission on science at the Smithsonian Institution delivered its final report to Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small and the Board of Regents. The report recommends that steps be taken to "reverse the long-term trend of declining support and relative neglect of scientific units." Science at the Smithsonian was also the subject of recent reports by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Public Administration, both of which came to similar conclusions about the need to build up science capabilities and improve coordination.

One chapter of the report is devoted to assessing the qualifications needed for leaders of the institution's science units. The report singles out the National Museum of Natural History as having been plagued by "long-term instability in the Office of the Director." According to the Washington Post, the museum has had 11 permanent and acting directors in the last 22 years. The newest director was appointed on January 30th: Cristan Samper, a 37-year-old Costa Rican conservation biologist who has been deputy director of the Smithsonian's Tropical Research Institute in Panama for the past two years. Before that, he founded a biodiversity research institute in Colombia. Samper, who received his Ph.D. from Harvard, will take over from paleontologist Douglas Erwin, who has been serving as acting director.

The report and information about the commission is available at http://www.si.edu/sciencecommission/. A longer summary of the report was prepared by the American Institute of Biological Sciences and is available in their January 21st Public Policy Report at http://spars.aibs.org/publicpolicy/index.html.

Energy, Environment Initiatives in State of the Union Address
Although President Bush's State of the Union Address on January 28th focused heavily on national security and Iraq, the president also discussed energy and environmental issues. The president called on Congress to pass his comprehensive energy plan, Clear Skies initiative to reduce power-plant emissions, and Healthy Forests initiative to prevent catastrophic wildfires. He argued that they should do so "for the good of both our environment and our economy." He also announced a major new Freedom Fuel initiative, proposing $1.2 billion to promote energy independence through "research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles." At least a portion of that funding will go to research associated with traditional fuels used to provide the power needed to produce hydrogen in a usable form. Details on the new initiative will be included as part of the president's FY 2004 budget being released on February 3rd. A series of AGI special updates on the budget request will go out later this week. President Bush's complete State of the Union Address is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/.

AGI Supports Federal Research and Science Education Funding
AGI joined with other scientific and engineering societies on a January 3rd letter to President Bush, encouraging him to "reverse the decline in science and engineering support that threatens our status as the world's leader in these areas, placing our nation at great future risk." The letter argues that "renewed attention to federal research budgets is central to achieving the economic and military security goals you have identified for your administration and the nation." It urges increased support for programs within the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, and the Interior along with NASA and the National Science Foundation. The letter was signed by more than 30 organizations, representing more than 1.5 million scientists and engineers.

AGI also co-sponsored letters to members of Congress requesting support for the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships program, which is the successor to the Eisenhower Professional Development program providing funds for teachers to receive professional development training. The presidential flagship No Child Left Behind Act replaced the Eisenhower program with MSP when it was enacted a year ago, authorizing $450 million for the program. However, MSP was only funded at $12.5 million in FY 2002, down from $485 million for the Eisenhower program. The letter specifies a $100 million funding level that triggers an allotment to every state dedicated solely for math and science education programs.

AGI Participates in USGS Listening Session
On January 29-30, AGI participated in a U.S. Geological Survey Customer Listening Session in downtown Washington to help the agency "ensure that our science is connected, available, and targeted to meet the needs of our partners and the public in the critical areas of public health and the vitality of all living resources, public safety and reducing the risks and damages from natural hazards, and public prosperity and ensuring the availability and knowledge of the resources needed for economic security." Approximately 40 entities were represented, including other federal agencies, scientific societies, professional and trade associations, environmental groups, and others. AGI member society American Institute of Professional Geologists was one of those represented. For organizations that could not attend the session, written statements may be submitted until February 7th to conversation@usgs.gov.

Semester Intern Welcomed, Summer Internship Applications Accepted
AGI welcomes Charna Meth as our AGI/AAPG Geoscience and Policy Intern for the spring semester. Charna, who holds a master's degree in geology from the University of Texas at Austin, will be spending nearly four months with AGI attending congressional hearings, researching policy issues, and writing issue updates for the program's web site. We gratefully acknowledge stipend support for the internship provided by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students and recent graduates with a strong interest in federal science policy for a twelve-week geoscience and public policy internship in summer 2003. 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 made possible through the generous support of the AIPG Foundation. Applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2003. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

List of Key Federal Register Notices
A recent feature of the AGI Monthly Review is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other notices of interest to the geoscience community.  Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation.  The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont02.html.

To facilitate public input in rulemaking, several federal agencies have collaborated to launch http://www.regulation.gov where you can find, review, and submit comments on Federal documents that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register. Also recently launched is a web site for science within the federal government: http://science.gov.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Issuance of final rules on Water Quality Trading Policy that describes ways that water quality trading programs may be aligned with the Clean Water Act and implementing regulations, and describes elements of environmentally sound trading programs. Vol. 68, No. 8 (13 January 2003): p. 1608-1613.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and EPA. Issuance of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in order to obtain early comment on issues associated with the scope of waters that are subject to the Clean Water Act. Vol. 68, No. 10 (15 January 2003): p. 1991-1998.

Minerals Management Service (MMS). Notice of future meetings of the Royalty Policy Committee of the Minerals Management Advisory Board in New Orleans, LA, on March 19-20, 2003. Vol. 68, No. 18 (28 January 2003): p. 4230.

Every month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) releases final rules on Modified Base (1-percent annual-chance) Flood Elevations for several communities that are used to calculate flood insurance premium rates related to the National Flood Insurance Program. This month, these announcements were made in No. 8 (p. 1540-1554, 1581-1586) and No. 12 (p. 2477-2480).

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/gap since the last monthly update:

Monthly review prepared by Margaret A. Baker, David Applegate, and AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern Charna Meth.

Sources: American Institute of Biological Sciences, Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior, E&E Daily, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Register, Greenwire, Smithsonian Institution, Union of Concern Scientists, United States Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington Post, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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

Posted February 3, 2003


  Information Services |Geoscience Education |Public Policy |Environmental
Geoscience
 |
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: webmaster@agiweb.org.
Privacy Policy