Monthly Review: February 2001


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.

Comprehensive Energy Legislation Introduced in Senate
Science Faces Uphill Budget Battle
Threatened Cut to USGS Sparks Strong Response
Evolution Returns to Kansas; Other States Face Issue
New National Monuments To Remain, Face Revised Management
Second IPCC Report Focuses on Climate Change Impacts
Brownfields Breakthrough on the Horizon?
Report Notes Importance of Science for National Security
Special Update on New Faces in Congress, Administration
Summer Internship Application Deadline is March 15th
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Comprehensive Energy Legislation Introduced in Senate
On February 27th, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) formally introduced the National Energy Security Act of 2001 (S.388 and S.389), calling it "the starting point for what will be an important debate during this session of the 107th Congress."  The pair of bills, cosponsored by twelve senators, including Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) as the lone Democrat, aim to decrease the nation's reliance on foreign oil to 50% by 2011 through a suite of policy changes. Press attention has focused on the proposed opening of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for oil exploration.  Several senators have already expressed their opposition to any energy bill that includes petroleum exploration in ANWR.  Other provisions in S. 388 and S. 389 include tax incentives for domestic oil and gas production, measures to expedite construction of gas pipelines, measures to promote energy conservation, incentives for research and development into "clean coal" technology, and many others addressing a range of energy sources.  S. 388 contains the entire energy package and was referred to the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. S. 389 contains only the tax provisions and has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.  Because Vice President Cheney's task force is expected to spend several months developing the administration's energy proposal, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) has indicated that full Senate action on these bills will not take place before the summer. A PDF file of the full text of the National Energy Security Act of 2001 can be viewed at http://www.senate.gov/~murkowski/pdfs/NatEnergySecurityAct.pdf.   A section by section summary is available at http://www.senate.gov/~murkowski/pdfs/section_by_section.pdf.

With the California energy crisis still in full swing, energy policy has been the subject of numerous congressional hearings. The House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality held a hearing February 15th to compare the market structure of different states that have deregulated electricity markets.  On February 27th, the same subcommittee held the first in a series of hearings focusing on different energy resources, beginning with natural gas.  Subcommittee Chair Joe Barton (R-TX) stated that the hearings would lead to the development of comprehensive energy legislation. The hearing record is being submitted to the Cheney task force. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy.html

Science Faces Uphill Budget Battle
An AGI Special Update on February 28th reported on the release of President Bush’s budget outline for fiscal year (FY) 2002.  Entitled "A Blueprint for New Beginnings: A Responsible Budget for America's Priorities," the document only reveals funding levels for broad budgetary categories and for agency totals. Detailed numbers will be provided on April 3rd. The special update inadvertently left out NASA, which is slated for a 2-percent increase over FY 2001 levels to $14.5 billion. The web version of the special update contains NASA-related language from the President's proposal: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/bushbudget0201.html.

As previously reported in the Wall Street Journal, the president's budget proposal limits the National Science Foundation (NSF) to a one-percent increase over FY 2001 with "no new starts or major facility projects in 2002." In response to an AGI alert, many geoscientists have written to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) expressing their concern over the below-inflation increase, which would further delay implementation of the Earthscope project. AGI has again signed on to a statement by the Coalition for National Science Funding -- a network of over 70 scientific and engineering societies and university associations -- in support of doubling the NSF budget over the coming decade. The statement is available at http://www.cnsfweb.org.

The release of the president's budget plan is the starting gun for the congressional budget season. Both the House and Senate Budget Committees have begun work on the allocations for appropriations and other government spending. While praising the president's overall goals of tax cuts and limited spending, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-NM) cautions that the budget request does not provide adequate support for key programs. For his part, Bush has threatened to veto any appropriations bill that exceeds his budget numbers. Let the games begin.

Threatened Cut to USGS Sparks Strong Response
Many thanks to the more than 200 geoscientists who have copied us on letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton and OMB Director Mitchell Daniels opposing large cuts to the USGS budget. These letters make a strong case for the value of the Survey's work and demonstrate that the USGS has a vocal constituency. No specific numbers were provided for USGS in the president's budget outline, but it does propose to "better target" USGS programs to support other Interior Department bureaus. The specific numbers for USGS will not be released until April 3rd. If you have not sent a letter yet, you can still have an impact. A sample letter and contact information are available as part of the alert at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/usgs_alert0201.html.

Evolution Returns to Kansas; Other States Face Issue
In a February 14th valentine to good science, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 7-3 to reinstate the teaching of biological evolution and the origin of the Earth into the state's science education standards. With this vote, the board adopts science education standards that nullify the controversial 1999 standards, which had de-emphasized evolution and removed the age of the Earth and Big Bang theory from teaching requirements.  The Kansas Science Education Standards include teaching guidelines for all grades. The introductory statement, the eighth grade standards, and the twelfth grade standards include specific reference to students understanding biological evolution, the significance of fossils, the geologic time scale, and theories regarding the origins of the Earth.  Although the board's favorable vote has been applauded by many science organizations, the Kansas board has received many complaints from those opposed to the new standards. Geoscientists, especially those residing in Kansas, are encouraged to thank those school board members who voted for the new standards: Board Chairman Sonny Rundell, Vice Chairman Janet Waugh, Bruce Wyatt, Sue Gamble, Carol Rupe, Bill Wagnon, and Val DeFever. Their contact information is at http://www.ksde.org/commiss/bdaddr.html. The new standards can be viewed at http://www.ksbe.state.ks.us/.

On February 19th, the Montana House Committee on State Administration voted 14-4 to defeat a bill that would have required Montana's science teachers to present additional theories of origin along with evolution.  House Bill (HB) 588 would have changed Montana's present administrative rules in which evolution is taught exclusively.  Supporters of the bill want to "ensure that children are exposed to all theories of human existence."   Many in the state were surprised that the debate was even occurring.  The spokesman for the State Office of Instruction, Joe Lamson, said in amazement: "We don't put nonscientific things in a science class."

A bill introduced this month in the Georgia state legislature seeks to amend the official state code to reform the teaching of "scientific theories of the origins about life and living things." The final section of the bill (HB 391) repeals all laws in conflict with it, presumably including the Constitution.

New National Monuments To Remain, Face Revised Management
Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton has stated that she will not seek to overturn any of the national monument designations created by President Clinton. In a Washington Post interview, she criticized the previous administration for moving too quickly: "The monument designations were more show than substance. We now have to provide the substance."  She has pledged to work with state and local governments as well as landowners to ensure that the monuments are managed to suit local needs and circumstances.  On Capitol Hill, House Resources Committee Chairman James Hanson (R-UT) sent a letter to encourage House members who are unhappy with monuments in their districts to draft legislation challenging the designations. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/natmon.html.

Second IPCC Report Focuses on Climate Change Impacts
On February 19th, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of its second report in the ongoing Third Assessment. Prepared by IPCC Working Group II, this report focuses on potential effects of climate change on ecosystems, water resources, and human systems (energy, industry, financial services, and health), as they are presently understood.  All 100 IPCC member countries approved the SPM, which notes the difficulty of separating changes caused by land-use alteration, pollution, and increasing human population from changes caused by global warming. Other uncertainties relate to the future responses of human and natural systems to climate change and the rate at which change occurs.  Many of the consequences of global warming will provide improvements in some regions while worsening conditions elsewhere.  It is unclear how much the beneficial changes that occur in one region or season will offset damages that occur in another region or at a different time of the year.  The report recommends that further research include complete regional studies of the effects of climate change. The full SPM can be downloaded from http://www.usgcrp.gov/ipcc/wg2spm.pdf.  AGI's update on this topic provides more information on how IPCC creates its reports: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/climate.html.

Working Group I released their SPM detailing the state of climate change science in January. Working Group III is slated to release their summary, which focuses on actions that can be taken to mitigate the impacts of climate change, in early March. Reuters reports that the third report "predicts that if international governments implement measures to limit carbon emissions, the oil and coal industries could be 'forced into decline'."

According to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, the Bush Administration recognizes that problems associated with global warming are real.  She said, "while scientists can't predict where the droughts will occur, where the flooding will occur, or when, we know they will occur. The science is strong there." As for emissions control, Bush may support regulating power plant emissions of carbon dioxide under a "multi-pollutant" approach to the Clean Air Act.

Brownfields Breakthrough on the Horizon?
On February 27th, the Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Control, and Risk Assessment held a hearing on The Brownfield Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act of 2001 (S.350).  The popular bill encourages assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites through revolving loan funds, grants, enhancement of state programs, and non-liability measures to protect landowners.  Brownfields have historically been included in Superfund legislation, but S.350 allows the lower toxicity sites to stand alone.   A similar bill last Congress got stuck in committee because some felt that the legislation should be part of broader Superfund reform.  In her debut performance before the committee as EPA Administrator, Christine Todd Whitman announced that the Administration supports S. 350: "Brownfields clean-up is an important redevelopment tool that provides an alternative to development of greenfields."  With 67 co-sponsors in the Senate and support from the Administration, S.350 may break through legislative gridlock this session. A full committee vote is scheduled for the coming week. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has also pledged to take up the brownfields issue. More on the hearing at http://www.senate.gov/~epw/super_107.htm.

Report Notes Importance of Science for National Security
The U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century -- a congressionally mandated commission to review the nation's security structure -- stresses the importance of basic science research and education. In its final report, "Road Map for National Security: Imperative for Change," the commission states: "Our system of basic scientific research and education are in serious crisis, while other countries are redoubling their efforts.  In the next quarter century, we will likely see ourselves surpassed, and in relative decline, unless we make a conscious national commitment to maintain our edge."  Chaired by former senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Gary Hart (D-CO), the bipartisan commission makes a series of recommendations and reforms that the government should take into account to better address the nation's future security.  More information on the commission is available at http://www.nssg.gov.  A summary of the report and recommendations are available from the American Institute of Physics at http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2001/.

Special Update on New Faces in Congress, Administration
AGI sent out a Special Update on February 10th summarizing the recent changes in leadership in Congress and federal agencies.  Many of the key players on issues affecting the geosciences have changed in both Congress and the Administration. This special update provides a snapshot of the new leaders.  Freshly confirmed Secretaries of the Interior and Energy are in place along with the new EPA Administrator, but virtually all non-Cabinet level appointments are still waiting to be filled, including the president's science advisor and NOAA Administrator. In the House of Representatives, a six-year term limit for committee chairs, set in 1995 when Republicans gained the majority, has resulted in a sizeable turnover.  The Senate has experienced less change in terms of committee chairs, but the even split between the parties has led to numerous shifts in committee procedures and assignments. See http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/newfaces_update0201.html.

Since the update, the Senate unanimously confirmed Joe Allbaugh as Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  In the previous administration the FEMA director was elevated to Cabinet status, but it is not known if President Bush will do the same.  Less than two weeks into his tenure, Allbaugh was sent to Seattle, WA, to assess the damage of the magnitude 6.8 earthquake that hit the area on February 28th causing upwards of $2 billion in damage but very few casualties.

Summer Internship Application Deadline is March 15th
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 2001 and a fourteen-week internship in Fall 2001. 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, 2001 for the summer and by June 1, 2001 for the fall. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
March 20    AASG Awards Banquet    Washington DC
April 21    AGI Govt Affairs Advisory Cmte.   Alexandria VA
April 23   AAPG Energy Supply Conference   Washington DC
May 1-2   SET Congressional Visits Day   Washington DC
May 3-4   AAAS Colloquium   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/gap since the last monthly update:
 

  • Climate Change Policy Update (3-2-01)
  • Energy Policy Update (3-2-01)
  • Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) Update (3-1-01)
  • Geotimes Political Scene: Confronting Natural Disasters (3/01)
  • Special Update: President Bush Releases Fiscal Year 2002 Budget Blueprint (2-28-01)
  • Public Land Issues Update (2-18-01)
  • Challenges to the Teaching of Evolution Update (2-20-01)
  • NRC Report Summary: Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey (2-18-01)
  • NRC Report Summary: Basic Research Opportunities in Earth Science (2-18-01)
  • National Forests Roadless Initiative Update (2-18-01)
  • Action Alert: Bush Administration Threatens Major Cut to USGS Budget (Posted: 2-17-01)
  • Special Update: New Faces in Congressional and Administration Leadership (2-10-01)
  • List of Expired or Expiring Geoscience Related Authorization Bills (2-7-01)
  • Geotimes Political Scene: The Road Ahead (2/01)
  • Senate Hearing on California Power Crisis (2-2-01)



  • Monthly review prepared by David Applegate and Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program, and AGI/AAPG Semester Intern Mary Patterson.

    Sources: American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, Associated Press, EENews, Greenwire, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Reuters, U.S. Senate, White House.

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

    Posted March 4, 2001


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