Monthly Review: April 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.

AAPG President Testifies Before House Resources Committee
Appropriation Levels Look Tight After Passage of Budget Resolution
Congressional Visits Day Brings Geoscientists to Hill
Efforts Stall to Pass Petroleum-Related Legislation
Comments Sought on International Climate Assessment
Clinton Vetoes Nuclear Waste Legislation, Lott Vows Override Attempt
Geotimes Special Issue on Geoscience and Public Policy
AGI Provides Testimony in Support of NSF, USGS, DOE Programs
AGI Selects New Congressional Science Fellow
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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AAPG President Testifies Before House Resources Committee
On April 12th, AAPG President Ray Thomasson testified at a House Resources Committee hearing entitled "Compromising our National Security by Restricting Domestic Exploration and Development of our Oil and Gas Resources." Committee Chairman Don Young (R-AK) stated that he would use the hearing to "focus on the alarming fact that while our nation is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels, it lacks a coherent energy policy." Testifying were members of Congress, notably House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-TX), administration officials, and a number of non-governmental witnesses. Thomasson provided the view of the petroleum geology community, noting that declines in domestic production of crude oil and flat levels of natural gas production are the result of declining opportunities for exploration but not because the resources are not there to be found. Thomasson's testimony and that of other witnesses is available at http://www.house.gov/resources/106cong/fullcomm/00apr12/agenda2000_0412.htm.
 
 

Appropriation Levels Look Tight After Passage of Budget Resolution
Congress has passed a new budget resolution that may put the squeeze on science spending.  The last congressional budget resolution was passed in 1997, the same year that Congress and the President agreed to fixed caps on discretionary spending (non-mandatory spending that includes nearly all funding for science-related programs) designed to help the government balance its books and pay off the national debt.  Projected federal surpluses and a strong economy, along with a presidential proposal to change the spending caps, have prompted Congress to compose their own new fiscal blueprint - a budget resolution does not go to the President but is the principal mechanism by which Congress sets appropriations and other spending levels.

Now that the budget resolution has passed both chambers, the appropriations committees will set the 302(b) allocations (spending levels) for each of the 13 appropriations bills. Each chamber establishes its own 302(b) levels - the discrepancies are smoothed out later in the appropriations process - before the subcommittees report on what they deem suitable for their corresponding bill. Final numbers are not expected until the beginning of May. Despite the budget surplus and strong economy, things are not looking good for the three major geoscience-related functions -- general science, energy, and natural resources and environment. It appears likely that the 302(b) allocations for FY 2001 will be well below the President's request and may be even lower than FY 2000 levels. More information on the budget resolution is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/budget_res2001.html. More on the appropriations process at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2001.html.

Congressional Visits Day Brings Geoscientists to Hill
Over 300 scientists and engineers, including more than 30 earth scientists, converged on Capitol Hill in early April as part of the fifth annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day. The scientists sent a resounding message to Congress in support of balanced federal investment in science, engineering, and technology. Most participants spent April 4th 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 Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to honor their efforts to double the federal investment in science. Over the course of the event, members of ten AGI member societies visited the offices of 29 senators and 29 representatives as well as with committee staff to discuss the importance of federal funding for geoscience research. Briefing materials are available from the CVD website at http://www.agiweb.org/cvd.
 

Efforts Stall to Pass Petroleum-Related Legislation
Gas prices decreased slightly in April following an agreement between OPEC nations to increase petroleum production. But that did not deter Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) from continuing his efforts to push for a federal gas-tax holiday.  Lott attempted to bring his bill, S. 2285, to the Senate floor on April 11th, but the Senate voted 43-56 not to bring the bill up for a vote.  Earlier in the month, Lott's attempt to attach a similar measure to the FY 2001 Senate budget resolution also failed.  Many Members of Congress, including several prominent Republicans, are against reducing the gas tax for fear that it would put the Highway Trust Fund, which is funded by the 4.3 cents/gallon excise tax, in jeopardy. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/oil_price.html.

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) continued his efforts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to petroleum exploration.  Murkowski was able to put language in the Senate's budget resolution assuming $1.2 billion in revenues from ANWR leases during the next two years.  However, the language was shot down by House Republicans and Democrats alike in conference on April 13th, calling his effort "highly speculative and widely disputed." Another blow to Murkowski's efforts came from Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-NH), who announced his opposition to the plan. Smith specifically questioned the effect that opening ANWR would have on reducing US dependence on foreign sources of oil and called for granting permanent protection to the refuge. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/anwr.html.
 

Comments Sought on International Climate Assessment
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released a draft version of its Third Assessment Report on Climate Change for comments by national governments.  The National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Global Change Research is responsible for coordinating the US response and has published a Federal Register notice seeking comments on the draft report from scientists and experts.  A list of the chapters from each of the three working groups and a reviewer registration form is available online at http://www.gcrio.org/ipccform/.  One can also email a request to help@gcrio.org or send a letter to GCRIO at P.O. Box 1000, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY  10964.  The deadline for comments ranges from May 8th to June 26th, depending on the working group. The Third Assessment Report is the sequel to IPCC's Second Assessment, released in 1995, which contained the oft-cited conclusion that "the balance of evidence...suggests a discernible human influence on global climate."
 

Clinton Vetoes Nuclear Waste Legislation, Lott Vows Override Attempt
As expected, President Clinton vetoed legislation -- S. 1287, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act of 2000 -- that would have sped up the process of moving high-level nuclear waste to the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. In a statement accompanying the veto on April 25th, the president cited concerns over the bill's reduction of the Environmental Protection Agency's role in setting radiation standards. According to Greenwire, "Clinton said he is not opposed to opening a repository at Yucca Mountain, but wants the decision based on sound science." Shortly after the veto was announced, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) announced that he would quickly schedule an override vote, but the bill failed to achieve a veto-proof supermajority when it passed the Senate in February and the House in March. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/yucca106.html.
 

Geotimes Special Issue on Geoscience and Public Policy
The fifth annual Geotimes special geoscience and public policy issue (April 2000) reflects the range of policy activities in which geoscientists are engaged -- federal budget policy, the balance between resource development and environmental protection, natural hazard mitigation and fundamental research. The Comment is by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who calls on scientists to make the case to their fellow citizens for federal investment in research. Craig Schiffries discusses the current state of mining law with particular reference to the recent National Research Council study, Mining on Public Lands, which he directed. Tim Cohn and Kathleen Gohn of the USGS report on lessons learned from the Public Private Partnership 2000 forum series that brought together all parties having a stake in hazard mitigation to map out a national strategy for making hazard reduction a public value and improving resilience to disasters in the United States and abroad. The issue also includes an interview with Dr. Margaret Leinen, the new head of the NSF Geosciences Directorate. Leinen outlines a number of new initiatives and her goals for the directorate, specifically in the context of her role as NSF Director Rita Colwell's point person for coordinating environmental research. Both the Gingrich comment and the natural hazards article can be found on the web at http://www.geotimes.org/apr00/index.html. The April issue also marks the debut of full-color presentation for Geotimes, so please take a look!
 

AGI Provides Testimony in Support of NSF, USGS, DOE Programs
On April 12th, the American Geological Institute (AGI) provided both oral and written testimony in support of the National Science Foundation's budget request to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on VA, HUD & Independent Agencies. On April 6th, AGI provided written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies in support of budget requests for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Research and Development program. AGI argued for the value of federal investments in the geosciences, which address a wide range of important environmental, resource, and natural hazard challenges facing this nation. The testimony is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/testimon.html.
 

AGI Selects New Congressional Science Fellow
AGI is pleased to announce the selection of Kathryn Makeig as the 2000-2001 AGI Congressional Science Fellow. She will succeed current fellow Dr. Eileen McLellan, who is serving through August on the staff of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). A member of AIPG, Makeig is president of Waste Science Inc., an environmental and engineering consulting firm located in Rockville, Maryland. Makeig will join fellows from GSA, AGU, SSSA, and more than twenty other science and engineering societies for an orientation session in September followed by placement in the office of a representative, senator, or congressional committee for the following year. The AGI fellowship is supported by a generous grant from the AGI Foundation. More on the fellowship at http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/csf.html.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
May 1-2 AIPG Fly-In Washington DC
May 8 Council of Science Editors Mtg San Antonio TX
May 17 CNSF Congressional Exhibition Washington DC
May 30-June 3 AGU Spring Meeting Washington DC
June 17-20 AASG Annual Meeting St. Louis MO

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

Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, Greenwire, Library of Congress.

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

Posted April 29, 2000


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