Monthly Review: March 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.

Participants Needed for Congressional Visits Day, May 1-2
Regula, Lieberman Receive AASG Pick & Gavel Awards
AAPG Testifies at Two Hearings on Energy Policy
USGS Appraises Energy Resources in National Monuments
Democrats Introduce Comprehensive Energy Legislation
Evolution Under Fire in Arkansas, Michigan
Hearing Held on Nisqually Quake
Climate Change Hearing Looks at Research Agenda
S&T Groups Urge Higher Science Funding in Budget
They've Got Mail -- More Than They Can Handle
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Participants Needed for Congressional Visits Day, May 1-2
With the president's budget request set for release in early April, efforts to support federal investment in geoscience programs must now focus on Capitol Hill. There are many new faces in Congress, and it will take a concerted effort from the scientific community to educate them on the importance of federal investment in science. For the geoscience community, the challenge is particularly acute, because several key geoscience programs face likely reductions in the president's request. So mark your calendars and come to Washington for the 6th Annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD), taking place on May 1-2, 2001. AGI would like to see a strong contingent of geoscientists at this event, voicing their support for increased federal investment in science and technology. We especially encourage the leadership of AGI's Member Societies to attend. This year's CVD will consist 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. More on participating at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/cvd_alert2001.html and more on CVD at http://www.agiweb.org/cvd.

Regula, Lieberman Receive AASG Pick & Gavel Awards
On March 20th, the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) presented its third annual Pick and Gavel Awards to Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT). Hill staff and federal agency leaders joined over half of the state geologists for the banquet ceremony in Washington at the Cosmos Club, founded by John Wesley Powell. Ohio State Geologist Tom Berg cited Regula -- who recently stepped down from his position as chairman of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee -- for his enduring support of good geoscience and geologic mapping. He lauded Regula's understanding of "the many-faceted responsibilities of the [U.S. Geological Survey] in today's world, and...the close interaction of the USGS with the state surveys.... Through Mr. Regula's efforts last year, the USGS received the largest budget in its history, and the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program received a major increase."

Connecticut State Geologist Ralph Lewis cited Lieberman for enthusiastic support of the Congressional Science Fellows program. Eleven fellows have served on Lieberman's staff, nearly half of them geoscientists (starting with Murray Hitzman, currently chair of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee). Lewis also noted Lieberman's role as a founder of the Senate Science and Technology Caucus and sponsor of Senate-passed legislation to double federal research funding in the next decade. For more about the Pick and Gavel award, including photographs and the text of citations and Senator Lieberman's response, see http://www.kgs.ukans.edu/AASG/pick.html. (This summary is adapted and condensed from a Society Page item by Christina Reed that will appear in the May 2001 issue of Geotimes.)

AAPG Testifies at Two Energy Policy Hearings
With energy policy a top priority on Capitol Hill, leaders of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) was asked twice this month to provide testimony on future hydrocarbon resources. On March 15th, AAPG President Marlan Downey testified before the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources at a hearing to examine the impact of access restrictions on public lands and the Outer Continental Shelf for domestic natural gas development. In his testimony, Downey argued that growing demand for natural gas -- particularly for gas-fired power plants -- would outstrip supply not because the resource base was inadequate but because of access restrictions.

Appearing before the same subcommittee on March 22nd, Naresh Kumar testified at a hearing on oil and gas resource assessments. Kumar is vice-chair of AAPG's Committee on Resource Evaluation, which reviews the methodology of federal agencies conducting hydrocarbon resource assessments, in particular the USGS and Minerals Management Service. Kumar testified that "the techniques and scientific methods used by both the MMS and USGS are sound and provide a good basis for discussion of a national energy policy." But he also noted that the agencies' estimates were conservative and that it could reasonably be expected that considerably more hydrocarbon resources would be discovered as the result of future exploration. The AAPG testimony is available on the subcommittee's website at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/energy/index.htm. (A longer version of this summary will appear in the May 2001 issue of Geotimes.)

USGS Appraises Energy Resources in National Monuments
In response to a request by the House Resources Committee, the USGS prepared a preliminary appraisal of oil, gas, coal, and coal-bed methane resources in the 21 national monuments that were either established or expanded during the Clinton Administration.  The report used existing USGS data from its 1995 National Oil and Gas Assessment and the National Coal Assessment. The report classified the monuments as either having no potential, very low or low probability of occurrence, or moderate to high probability for each resource.  Although few of the monuments had high to moderate probabilities for either oil or gas, the Carrizo Plain National Monument in California has a high probability of large oil and gas reserves. The Upper Missouri Rivers Breaks National Monument in Montana has a high probability of a large natural gas reserve.  The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah has a high probability of both coal and coalbed methane reserves.  As Congress and the Administration review several actions taken in the last months of the Clinton Administration, the issue of resource potential on federal public lands is likely to remain in the spotlight.  The assessment is available at http://www.house.gov/resources/107cong/energy/2001mar22/2001_0322agenda.htm.

Democrats Introduce Comprehensive Energy Legislation
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (R-SD) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) introduced the Comprehensive and Balanced Energy Policy Act of 2001 (S.596 and S.597) on March 22nd. The bill was introduced as a counter-measure to the energy legislation introduced by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK) on February 27th. Like Murkowski's energy package, Daschle and Bingaman introduced the initiative as two parts. S.596 contains tax incentives while S.597 contains a variety of other measures. Bingaman said at the introduction that although he and many other Democrats support elements of the Republican bill, the provisions of that bill focus too heavily on the supply side of the energy equation. Specifically, climate change should be taken into account in any energy policy. In his legislation, energy efficiency and emissions reductions are encouraged through tax incentives and regulations that reduce the input of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The bill also bolsters the efforts of the federal government to get "clean energy technology" into developing countries that are expected to increase their greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. Other measures in the bill aim to streamline pipeline and dam permitting, and maximize oil and gas production on state and private lands. No action is expected to take place on either Murkowski's or Daschle's proposal until the President's task force on energy releases its plan in early April.  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#energy

Evolution Under Fire in Arkansas, Michigan
On March 23, the Arkansas legislature defeated a bill (HB2548) that would outlaw state agencies from purchasing materials that contain "information that has been proven false or fraudulent."  Under the bill, if teachers come across such information they are required to instruct students to make marginal notes that the information is fraudulent or is a theory that could later be proven false. Section (c) of HB2548 lists examples of information that would be affected by this legislation, which include the theory of the age of the earth, the theory of the origin of life, the geologic column, and radiometric dating.  The bill failed in the House, falling six votes shy of the number needed for passage. The bill's sponsor has vowed to revise and reintroduce the bill, but the House Speaker has indicated that he does not expect any of the votes to change.

In Michigan, a bill that would change the science curriculum standards was referred to the Education Committee on February 28.  HR4382 would require that students be exposed to the "competing theories of evolution and natural selection based on random mutation and the theory that life is the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator." The bill states that references to "evolution" and "natural selection" in science standards at all grade levels will be changed to show that these are unproven theories and also add the sentence: "Describe how life may be the result of the purposeful, intelligent design of a creator." The text of the bill and bill status are available on the Michigan legislature website. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution.html.

Hearing Held on Nisqually Quake
The House Research Subcommittee held its first hearing on March 21st to discuss the effects of the Nisqually earthquake that struck the Seattle area on February 28th. Subcommittee Chair Nick Smith (R-MI) called this hearing "to analyze the earthquake assessments performed by or with funding from various federal agencies, assess the behavior of buildings and land in response to the quake, examine how to improve building codes and earthquake preparations in the Pacific Northwest, and to get ideas where to focus future research efforts." Witnesses included Dr. John Filson of the USGS, Dr. Priscilla Nelson from NSF, Dr. Stephen Palmer of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, and Dr. M. Meghan Miller of the Central Washington University geology department. The discussion focused on earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, but the panel identified some general earthquake research priorities as well as potential hazards in other parts of the country. The proposed NSF Earthscope initiative was given special attention as an important tool for understanding earthquake physics and determining the seismic potential of different areas. The USGS-supported Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) was also discussed at length. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), whose district was hit by the quake, asked what effect proposed budget cuts would have on the survey's earthquake program and also asked about the survey's morale.  Testimony and background information on the hearing is available at http://www.house.gov/science/reshearings.htm.

Climate Change Hearing Looks at Research Agenda
On March 14th, the House Science Committee held a hearing to discuss gaps in current knowledge and future needs for a comprehensive research agenda related to climate change. In his opening statement, Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) called the Bush Administration's reversal earlier that day of a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions "misguided and unjustified." He stated that the president should have waited to hear from scientists before making such an announcement. The committee heard from: Dr. Daniel Albritton from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), who testified on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I report; Dr. Berrian Moore from the University of New Hampshire and lead author on the National Research council report, "Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade" (http://www.nap.edu/catalog/5992.html), who outlined areas that need further study in order to understand and predict climate change phenomena; and Dr. Charles Kennel of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, who made policy recommendations based on the NRC report, "The Science of Regional and Global Change: Putting Knowledge to Work" (http://books.nap.edu/books/0309073278/html/index.html). Boehlert's opening remarks and statements made by other committee members made clear that most of them support continued research into the still unresolved questions surrounding climate change. But the representatives, not strictly along party lines, disagreed on what current science is telling us, and what if anything should be done about it. Witnesses' testimony is available at http://www.house.gov/science/fchearings.htm.

S&T Groups Urge Higher Science Funding in Budget
AGI joined 59 other scientific and professional organizations on a letter sent to Congress on March 6th urging the House and Senate Budget Committees to increase the Function 250 allocation in the fiscal year (FY) 2002 budget resolution.  Function 250 is the budget category for funding of general science, space and technology. It includes activities within the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Department of Energy.  While Congress waits for President Bush's budget request, both chambers are busy preparing their budget resolutions -- Congress's own blueprint that sets the spending limits for each of the 13 appropriation bills.  The letter states that "no other federal investment generates a greater long-term return to the economy and society than does basics research."  More information on the budget process at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#approps.

They've Got Mail -- More Than They Can Handle
Wondering what is the best way to communicate with your elected representatives? The Washington Post reported on March 19th that congressional offices are being inundated by emails, overwhelming an office structure that was designed for a lesser volume of letters.  In a report released by the Congressional Management Foundation and George Washington University, the increase was attributed to "the indiscriminate practices of grass-roots lobbying organizations and companies that are 'spamming' congressional offices with millions of e-mails that they cannot possibly respond to."  At the same time that e-mails are increasing, congressional offices are not using technology to their advantage that could categorize incoming emails by subject and separate out emails from individuals from those sent by special-interest groups.  The report also noted that it is common practice for congressional offices to disregard emails from non-constituents as well as respond to emails via postal mail. Taking all this into account, it looks like the old-fashioned method of letter writing is still the best mode of communication with your congressional delegation.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
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
May 6-8   AIPG Fly-In   Washington DC
May 29-31   AGU Spring Meeting   Boston MA
June 2-5   AAPG Convention   Denver CO
June 11   Utah Geological Society   Salt Lake City UT
June 13   CNSF Congressional Exhibition   Washington DC
June 24-28   GSA/GSL Meeting   Edinburgh UK

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 Baker, AGI/AAPG Semester Intern Mary Patterson, and David Applegate.

Sources: American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Physics, Association of American State Geologists, EENews, Greenwire, Library of Congress, USGS, U.S. House and Senate, Washington Post.
 

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

Posted April 2, 2001


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