Monthly Review: February 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.

High Prices at the Pump Lead to Senate Hearing
Nuclear Waste Bill Fails to Veto-Proof Itself
US Geological Survey Seeks User Input on Future Activities
President's Budget Features Big Boost for Science Programs
AGI Joins in Call to Support Math & Science Teacher Training
Looking for a Few Good Summer and Fall Interns
Not Too Late to Join in Congressional Visits Day
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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High Prices at the Pump Lead to Senate Hearing
With oil prices at record lows last year, Congress focused attention on legislation to provide tax incentives for the domestic petroleum industry. Now -- with oil prices hovering around $30 per barrel and price spikes for diesel fuel and home heating oil -- congressional focus has shifted to tax relief for consumers and calls for increased domestic production in order to decrease reliance on foreign oil. At a February 24 hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the main witnesses -- including former Energy Secretary James Schlesinger -- argued that US dependence on foreign petroleum puts the country in a predicament when it comes to economic and national security concerns. Although the witnesses mainly discussed the commodities market, they also noted that the fluctuation in the cost of oil could be dampened by the production of more domestic petroleum. In heated opening statements critical of the Clinton Administration's attitude towards petroleum development, many senators called for new federal policy regarding the production of domestic petroleum. Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) was especially vocal, blaming overly strict environmental policy that has closed many areas of the country to exploration and development as one of the causes of the decrease in national oil productivity. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/oil_price_hearing.html .

Nuclear Waste Bill Fails to Veto-Proof Itself
The latest congressional attempt to overhaul the nation's high-level nuclear waste disposal program came to a head in early February. Senate Energy Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) forced a vote on S. 1287, which he introduced last summer after his previous bill (S. 608) met with substantial opposition. In a major concession to the Administration, S. 1287 does not include provisions to establish an interim storage facility adjacent to the proposed permanent site at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. In place of interim storage, the bill authorizes the federal government to take possession of waste at individual sites and also authorizes early receipt of waste at the Yucca Mountain permanent repository facility when construction begins. Compromise efforts ran aground, however, over a provision that would shift responsibility for developing radiation standards from EPA to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (US NRC). Shortly before the final vote, Murkowski offered then withdrew one last compromise that would have returned responsibility to EPA but required that rules be consistent with recommendations from the US NRC and the National Academy of Sciences. S. 1287 passed the Senate on February 10 by a 64-34 vote, a large plurality but three short of the 67-vote supermajority needed to override a veto. The companion legislation in the House, H.R. 45, has been awaiting floor action pending the fate of the Senate bill. Thus the failure in the Senate to achieve a veto-proof majority may signal the end of reform efforts in this Congress. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/yucca106.html.

US Geological Survey Seeks User Input on Future Activities
On March 22 and 23, 2000, the USGS is sponsoring two days of listening sessions to help share its plans for fiscal year 2002 and beyond. The USGS is sponsoring these sessions at its National Center (12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, VA 20192) as an opportunity for users of earth and life science data and research to share their views on future science directions of the USGS. The sessions will be organized around broad science topics, and customers who have registered in advance will have an opportunity to give a brief presentation of their science needs and issues. Registration information can be obtained by sending an email message to conversation@usgs.gov. You may also call the USGS Office of External Affairs, 703-648-4599. For anyone who wishes to provide input, but who cannot attend, please submit ideas to the same email address: conversation@usgs.gov. Registration deadline is March 13, 2000. For more information contact Gail Wendt, USGS Office of External Affairs, 703-648-5604 or 703-648-4599 (gwendt@usgs.gov).

President's Budget Features Big Boost for Science Programs
President Clinton released his proposed budget request for fiscal year (FY) 2001 -- the last full budget cycle of this Administration -- on February 7th. As expected from the President's earlier remarks at Caltech and his State of the Union Address, federal funding for science agencies and programs received a generous increase in the president's request. For the geosciences, the big winners were the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) -- up 17 percent and 10 percent, respectively -- both requesting their largest dollar increases ever. Most of the science agencies are up in this budget request. NOAA is requesting a 20 percent increase, and EPA's request is up nearly 10 percent. With the theme "Strength Through Science," the Department of Energy has requested an 8 percent increase for its research and development (R&D) budget. R&D at the Department of Agriculture would increase 3.1 percent. Within this rosy picture, however, there are a few down notes including a proposed 3 percent decrease for earth science at NASA and a proposed 8.2 percent decrease in upstream petroleum R&D within DOE with major shifts in funding to more downstream natural gas technology research. For more information on the President's request visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/approps_pres2001.html or for information on the appropriations process at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2001.html.

AGI Joins in Call to Support Math & Science Teacher Training
One of the hot topics in Congress is the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which includes authorization of the Eisenhower Professional Development Programs for math and science educators. Currently, ESEA is working its way through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. HELP Chairman James Jeffords (R-VT) released the latest version of ESEA, a modified S. 2, in late January. This version of the bill would not only remove the set aside for Eisenhower (currently at $250 million) but also would allow funds from the program to be converted into block grants that could be used for other purposes (i.e. no specific language for math and science educators). This year marks the fourth year in which professional development for science and math educators has been up for congressional elimination. In response to the latest threat to the Eisenhower program, AGI has again joined with other science, math, engineering, and technology organizations to urge Congress, especially the Senate HELP Committee, to maintain the federal priority for math and science education by sending a joint statement. A Senate HELP hearing on ESEA is expected the first week of March and floor action quickly thereafter. More information on ESEA reauthorization is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ike106.html and a copy of the email alert is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ike_alert2000.html.

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 15, 2000. For more information on application materials and the internship, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

Not Too Late to Join in Congressional Visits Day
Please consider joining us in Washington for the fifth annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) on April 4-5, 2000. Over 200 scientists and engineers from academia and industry will be voicing their support for increased federal investment in science and technology. We would 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. The preliminary schedule is up at http://www.agiweb.org/cvd. 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.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
March 18-20 AGI Associates Meeting  Reston VA 
April 2 GAP Advisory Cmte Mtg. Alexandria VA 
April 4-5 SET Congressional Visits Day Washington DC 
April 11-13 AAAS Science Policy Colloquium  Washington DC 
April 16-18 AAPG Annual Convention  New Orleans LA 

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 and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program, and AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern Alison Alcott.

Sources: Environment & Energy Update, Library of Congress, National Science Teachers Association, Senate Cmte. on Energy & Natural Resources, US Geological Survey.

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

Posted February 29, 2000


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