Monthly Review: March 2002


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.

Appropriations Process Gets Under Way
Science Education Back on Agenda
New ANWR Reports Fuel Senate Debate
Clean Air Enters Senate Energy Picture
Congress Expresses Opposition to Sea Grant Transfer
House Resources Committee Passes National Monument Bill
Evolution Challenges in Ohio and Georgia
Interior Secretary Norton Receives AASG Pick & Gavel Award
Geoscientists Visit Capitol Hill
AGI Submits Testimony on NSF Budget
AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Internship Deadline: April 15th
New Material on Web Site

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

Appropriations Process Gets Under Way
Last month President Bush released the fiscal year (FY) 2003 federal budget, and this month Congress has started pulling it apart.  Both the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees have held hearings on the budgets of the different agencies under their jurisdiction.  U.S. Geological Survey Director Charles "Chip" Groat testified at a House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on March 7th regarding the 5% cut the agency would receive under the presidential budget request.  Subcommittee Chairman Joe Skeen (R-NM) and Ranking Member Norman Dicks (D-WA) were extremely critical of what they considered to be substantial reductions in the agency's budget.  Dicks indicated that the subcommittee had wisely rejected the same kind of proposal the year before. The hearing suggests that Congress will support restoration of the USGS budget.

The House passed its budget resolution on March 20th, including an 11.1% increase for the National Science Foundation, considerably more than requested by the administration. The budget resolution sets the total spending levels that will be available for the Appropriations subcommittees to spend. According to a House Science Committee press release, the committee is still concerned about the balance of the federal R&D portfolio and will work to ensure that NSF receives an increase of at least 8% not including the administration's proposal to transfer programs from other agencies.  More from the House Science Committee web site http://www.house.gov/science/press/107/107-192.htm. More information on the appropriations process is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#approps.

Science Education Back on Agenda
As reported in a March 18th Action Alert, the remaining sections of the Eisenhower Professional Development Program -- the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse (ENC) for Mathematics and Science Education and the Eisenhower Regional Mathematics and Science Education Consortia -- are under threat of elimination.  Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) introduced legislation (H.R. 3801) that would revamp the Department of Education's Office of Educational Research and Improvement, which funded these two areas of the Eisenhower program. The bill would establish a new Academy of Education Sciences that would, according to the committee's summary, "oversee coordinated and high quality education research, statistics gathering, program evaluation, and dissemination of information."  The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the legislation on March 20th, so it will now go onto the calendar for floor debate.  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/education_alert0302.html.

The House Science Committee held a hearing on March 20th to honor the 2001 Presidential Awardees for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  The panel of awardees included Dr. Frances Scelsi Hess, an Earth Science teacher from Cooperstown, NY.  In her testimony to the committee, Hess stated that "requiring Earth Science of all students nationwide would significantly increase the quality of science programs."  Testimony from the House Science Committee hearing is available at http://www.house.gov/science/hearings/index.htm.

AGI has again joined forces with science, engineering, technology, and teaching professional societies in its push for congressional support for math and science education.  The Math/Science Partnership Coalition distributed its statement on Capitol Hill at the beginning of the month to urge Congress to provide the full $450 million authorized for the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership Initiative.  More information on current education issues is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#education.

New ANWR Reports Fuel Senate Debate
The Senate spent much of March debating S. 517, the Democrat energy policy bill. As expected, the most heated debate has centered on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Two recent reports are sure to further fuel the debate. A new biological report by the U.S. Geological Survey claims that under certain scenarios, ANWR exploration and drilling would have an impact on Porcupine caribou, musk oxen, snow geese and polar bears. A report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), requested by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK), addresses the effect that oil from ANWR would have on the nation's dependency on foreign oil.  The report found that ANWR oil production would reduce the percentage share of net imports by 2 percent on average -- dropping imports to 60 percent versus 62 percent if ANWR is not drilled --and by 5 percent at most. Also adding to the highly partisan debate was the leadership's attempts to force a cloture vote on the issue before moving ahead with other provisions of the energy policy, such as the renewable portfolio standards, climate change, energy efficiency and tax incentives.  If Sen. Murkowski plans to offer an amendment regarding exploration and development of ANWR, it will be introduced in the second week in April, when the Senate returns from its spring recess.  More information on the national energy policy debate, including links to the reports, is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy.html.

Clean Air Enters Senate Energy Picture
While debating energy policy on the floor, the Senate has also hit on two key clean air issues: the corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards and reformulated gasoline (RFG). On March 14, the Senate rejected a provision from S. 517 that would have established new fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks, increasing the standard from 27.5 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and 20.7 mpg for light trucks to 36 mpg fleetwide by 2015.  The Senate did pass an amendment, introduced by Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA), that would exempt all pick-up trucks from CAFE requirements. Reformulated gasoline legislation seems to have more bipartisan support as well as strong industry support from the American Petroleum Institute, Renewable Fuels Association, and National Corn Growers Association, but some environmental organizations question the details.  A provision of the RFG amendment states that renewable fuel producers are waived of any unforeseen public health effects or environmental damage.  Future amendments are expected to surface that exclude this legal waiver to RFG industries.  More information at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/clean_air.html.

Congress Expresses Opposition to Sea Grant Transfer
The administration's proposal to transfer the Sea Grant program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the National Science Foundation (NSF) has hit a few speed bumps on Capitol Hill. Both authorizers and appropriators oppose the transfer of Sea Grant.  At a business meeting on March 21st, the House Science Committee passed a Sea Grant reauthorization bill that would keep the program intact at NOAA.  At a hearing on the reauthorization, there was discussion of the idea to merge the Sea Grant and NOAA's National Ocean Science program, but the final version of the bill did not include this change. In addition, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce voiced bipartisan opposition to the proposed transfers at a March 19th hearing, noting that the plan would be in conflict with existing law regarding how the Sea Grant program is administered.

House Resources Committee Passes National Monument Bill
The House Resources Committee approved a bill (H.R. 2114), the National Monument Fairness Act, that would require congressional oversight when the president uses the Antiquities Act to designate or expand national monuments of 50,000 or more acres.  Introduced by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), this bill would require that the president work with the communities affected by the proposed monument, notify the governor of the state(s) in which the proposed site is located, and confirm with Congress before making an official proclamation designating the site as a national monument. The president would have to provide the governor and the state congressional delegation 60 days to review the proposal before the designation of national monuments.  Congress would have the power to override a presidential designation if it does not pass the proposal into law within two years of the proclamation.  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/natmon.html.

Evolution Challenges in Ohio and Georgia
On March 11th, a subcommittee of the Ohio State Board of Education held a hearing as part of the board's reevaluation of the state's high-school science curriculum. The board faces considerable pressure from anti-evolution groups to downplay concepts of evolution and the age of the Earth while adding intelligent design theory. Over 1,500 people attended the hearing, which featured speakers supporting and opposing the teaching of intelligent design creationism in Ohio schools. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, letters to the board are about evenly split between those supporting and opposing the inclusion of intelligent design. Should the board adopt standards that include the teaching of intelligent design, it would make Ohio the first state to do so.

The Santorum resolution, appended to education legislation in the U.S. Senate last summer, has played a prominent role in this fray. Despite the fact that the resolution was stripped from the final bill, relegated to explanatory report language, proponents of intelligent design claim that the Santorum language is now law, an assertion that has been hotly disputed. The resolution's sponsor, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), wrote a March 14 editorial in the Washington Times in which he claimed that his resolution -- relegated to explanatory report language accompanying the final bill -- was the law of the land. In the editorial, he quoted Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and interpreted Kennedy's words as support for the teaching of intelligent design. In a letter to the editor, Kennedy responded: "I believe that public school  science classes should focus on teaching students how to understand and critically analyze genuine scientific theories. Unlike biological evolution, 'intelligent design' is not a genuine scientific theory and, therefore, has no place in the curriculum of our nation's public school science classes." Two prominent U.S. congressmen from Ohio, Reps. John Boehner (R) and Steve Chabot (R), wrote a March 15 letter to the board claiming that the Santorum language "is now part of the law." Such an assertion from the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, respectively, is at best misleading. A similar assertion was made by one of the speakers at the board subcommittee hearing. As reported by the National Center for Science Education, "Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller responded by using his computer to search the text of the law for the word "evolution" - unsuccessfully."

Coverage of this controversy in the Cleveland Plain Dealer can be found at http://www.cleveland.com/debate/. An alert from AGU to its Ohio members can be found at http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=2002-07.msg. AGI contacted geoscience department chairs in the state. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution.html.

In Georgia's Cobb County, the school board agreed to add a disclaimer to new science textbooks that evolution is a theory, not a fact. According to an article in the March 31st Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the move was a compromise after 30 parents opposed purchasing the new textbooks because they did not include alternative theories. One parent claimed to have collected 2,300 signatures from people opposed to teaching "Darwinism, unchallenged." Another parent -- seemingly unaware of the underpinnings of modern medicine -- argued against teaching evolution by stating: "Leave this garbage out of the textbooks. I don't want anybody taking care of me in a nursing home some day to think I came from a monkey." The newspaper article noted that no one spoke in favor of the updated textbooks, which were selected "by committees of teachers, working in consultation with the American Association for the Advancement of the Sciences." Superintendent Joe Redden is quoted as saying that the new books will not change how life science is taught in the county, and that it was illegal to teach creationism in public school classrooms. More at http://www.ncseweb.org.

Interior Secretary Norton Receives AASG Pick & Gavel Award
On March 19th, the Association of American State Geologists (AASG) presented its fourth annual Pick and Gavel Award to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. Hill staff and federal agency leaders joined over half of the state geologists for the banquet ceremony at the Cosmos Club in Washington. AASG President and Colorado State Geologist Vicki Cowart presented the award to Norton, who is a former Colorado Attorney General, as "an individual who, through her creation and implementation of our national public policy, both affirms and supports the geosciences." The award features a rhodochrosite crystals from the Sweet Home Mine in Park County, Colorado. A transcript of Cowart's presentation speech can be found at http://www.kgs.ukans.edu/AASG/pick.html. Past recipients of the award include Representatives Barbara Cubin (R-WY), Nick Rahall II (D-WV), Jim Gibbons (R-NV), and Ralph Regula (R-OH); Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT); General Richard Lawson; and National Science Foundation Director Rita Colwell.

Geoscientists Visit Capitol Hill
Over 250 scientists and engineers, including 20 earth scientists, converged on Capitol Hill at the beginning of March as part of the seventh annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) event. The scientists sent a resounding message to Congress in support of strengthening federal investment in research. Most participants spent March 5th attending briefings given by key federal agency officials and Hill staff. During a Capitol Hill reception that evening, the George E. Brown Jr. Science-Engineering-Technology Leadership Award was given to Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) for his leadership as Chairman of the House Science Committee. Participants from AGI's member societies met with more than 40 offices to discuss the importance of federal funding for geoscience research, particularly for those programs facing budgetary reductions in the president's request. Additional information is available from the CVD web site at http://www.agiweb.org/cvd.

AGI Submits Testimony on NSF Budget
AGI submitted written testimony to the Senate VA, HUD & Independent Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee in support of earth science programs at the National Science Foundation. The testimony encourages the Subcommittee to reconsider the president's requested program transfers, enhance support for core programs in the Geosciences Directorate, and expand the Major Research Equipment account to accommodate both existing projects and the requested new starts, including the EarthScope initiative (which is featured in the April issue of Geotimes at http://www.geotimes.org/april02). The full statement is at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/vahud_fy2003.html. In April, AGI will be testifying before the equivalent House subcommittee as well as submitting testimony to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.

AGI/AAPG Fall Semester Internship Deadline: April 15th
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a fourteen-week geoscience and public policy internship in Fall 2002. 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 semester internships are funded by a generous contribution from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Applications must be postmarked by April 15, 2002. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

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, David Applegate, and AGI/AAPG Semester Intern Heather Golding.

Sources: American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Association of American State Geologists, E&ENews, Energy Information Administration, Library of Congress, National Center for Science Education, National Science Teachers Association, SMET Coalition, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senate.

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

Posted April 4, 2002


  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