Monthly Review: April 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.

Special Updates: President Bush Releases Detailed Budget Request
Norton Testifies Before House, Senate Appropriators
AAPG Hosts Washington Energy Summit
Evolution Under Fire in Lousiana on Two Fronts
Alert: Senators Seeking to Boost NSF Funding
Senate Unanimously Passes Brownfields Legislation
Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Named at Interior
AGI Submits Testimony on USGS, DOE Fossil Energy
Geotimes Special Issue on Geoscience and Public Policy
AGI Fall Semester Internship Deadline: June 1st
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Special Updates: President Bush Releases Detailed Budget Request
As reported in two AGI Special Updates, President Bush released the details of his Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 budget request for Congress on April 12th, having released an outline in early March. As expected from that earlier blueprint, science funding did not fare well. For the geosciences, the big losers were the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the Department of Energy (DOE) Fossil Energy research program. A strong show of support from the geoscience community and an internal education effort helped to reduce a cut to the USGS from 22 percent initially to 8 percent in the final request. The cut is not evenly distributed -- the Water Resources Division faces a 21 percent decrease compared to 5-7 percent cuts in the other divisions. The reduction in the Survey's budget pales in comparison to cuts of over 50 percent for petroleum and natural gas research programs in DOE's Office of Fossil Energy. Those cuts reflect a major shift by the new administration toward "clean coal" research. The National Science Foundation's Geoscience Directorate is slated for a small cut, and no funding is provided for EarthScope. NASA's earth science programs are down 14 percent relative to FY 2001. NOAA is slated for a 2 percent cut overall, but Oceanic and Atmospheric Research is up nearly 5 percent. DOE science programs would receive flat funding, but DOE's high-level nuclear waste disposal project would receive a 14 percent boost in anticipation of presidential approval of the Yucca Mountain site. Science programs at EPA are down 8 percent. The Department of Defense will release its budget in May -- please let us know which DOD accounts are important to geoscience and that we should cover in a future update. Copies of the two Special Updates are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/budget_update1_0401.html and at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/budget_update2_0401.html.

Norton Testifies Before House, Senate Appropriators
On April 24th and 25th, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton testified before both the House and Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittees regarding the Interior Department's FY 2002 budget request. At both hearings, Norton was upbeat about the Interior request, despite significant cuts from the FY 2001 enacted budget. At the House hearing, she stated that the budget is "compassionate in the way it protects our environment and conservative in how it spends taxpayers' money and gives local people more control over the lands they know and the lands they love." Both Republican and Democratic members raised concerns about the proposed cuts to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) budget. At the House hearing, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) simply stated that the technology and science budget of the USGS needed to be maintained. Norton explained that the cuts reflect the fact that the USGS fully supports many programs that are used by other agencies or the public. She suggested that the USGS partner with these entities to complete its mission. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) requested that Norton delineate the manner in which vital USGS programs that would be drastically cut by this budget will be taken up by other parts of the president's request. Norton admitted that the USGS structure was still being analyzed within DOI and more information would be forthcoming. Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) expressed frustration that he had been part of a group of legislators that had to fight for the USGS budget just a few years ago. The group was finally confident that the agency was appropriately consolidated and goal oriented, only to have to start all over again. Regula explained the critical role that the USGS plays as the only scientific body within Interior and the importance of agency programs that support actions in other parts of government. A full hearing summary is available on the AGI website http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/norton_hearing.html. AIP coverage of both hearings can be found at http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2001/057.html.

AAPG Hosts Washington Energy Summit
On April 23rd, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) convened a summit in Washington D.C. to discuss United States energy policy. The conference, held at the Army & Navy Club, brought leading petroleum geologists together with policymakers from federal and state agencies, Capitol Hill, and non-governmental organizations. AAPG President Marlan Downey challenged the group to think about the longer term.  The acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy (DOE), Robert Kripowicz, spoke about the need for a more balanced and hence stable energy policy. The majority staff scientist and the minority staff director of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Bryan Hannegan and Robert Simon, outlined and contrasted the Republican (S. 388 and S. 389) and Democratic (S.596 and S.597) energy proposals. USGS Director Charles "Chip" Groat  outlined the USGS's estimations of oil and gas resources under U.S. public lands. William Fisher of the University of Texas at Austin summarized the proceedings and laid out key elements of a national energy strategy. The event was co-convened by the American Association of Professional Landmen, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Association of American State Geologists, Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists, and Society of Exploration Geophysicists, all of whose presidents provided their perspectives in a panel presentation. An agenda with additional speaker information is available at http://www.wvgs.wvnet.edu/www/energy/summit.htm.

Evolution Under Fire in Lousiana on Two Fronts
Louisiana legislators have put forward two separate bills attacking evolution, one quite stealthy and the other a frontal attack but from a very disturbing angle. House Bill 1286, introduced by Rep. Tony Perkins (R-Baker), prohibits any state or local government entity from "knowingly printing or distributing material that contains information that is false or fraudulent." The bill is nearly identical to an Arkansas bill that was defeated in March by a handful of votes. The difference is that the Arkansas bill specifically mentioned the theory of the age of the earth, the theory of the origin of life, the geologic column, and radiometric dating as examples of such falsehoods. The Perkins bill does not provide any examples at all. Evolution opponents could use the bill's provisions to challenge textbooks, forcing school districts into endless cycles of litigation.

An even more troubling measure was introduced by Rep. Sharon Weston Broome (D-Baton Rouge). House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 74 states that "the writings of Charles Darwin...promoted the justification of racism" and urges public schools in Louisiana to address "the weaknesses of Darwinian racism." Elsewhere, the resolution asserts "Adolf Hitler and others have exploited the racist views of Darwin and those he influenced." According to newspaper accounts, Broome has linked Darwinism to the Ku Klux Klan and the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. On May 1st, the House Education Committee passed HCR 74 by a 9-5 vote. It next goes to the full House. Geoscientists in Lousiana are encouraged to contact their state representative on these two pieces of legislation. The National Center for Science Education website has links to these bills and other anti-evolution measures pending around the country at http://www.ncseweb.org. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#evolution.

Alert: Senators Seeking to Boost NSF Funding
As reported in an AGI alert on April 6th, Senators Christopher "Kit" Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) have prepared a "Dear Colleague" letter calling on the Senate leadership to support doubling the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget over the next five years. Building on an effort begun last year, Bond and Mikulski -- the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds NSF -- are asking their peers to sign on to the letter that they plan to send to Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD).  The alert is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/bond_alert0401.html.

Senate Unanimously Passes Brownfields Legislation
After years of trying to pass a comprehensive Brownfields bill, the Senate passed S. 350 by unanimous consent on April 25th.  The Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act 2001 was introduced in February by Senators Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Environment and Public Works Chairman Robert Smith (R-NH), and Ranking Member Harry Reid (D-NV). According to EENews, S. 350 "carefully balances states' and developers' concerns about liability and regulatory intervention while preserving, though limiting, the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to intervene in a state-supervised cleanup to protect human health and the environment, the so-called 'federal safety net.'"   The bill has widespread bipartisan support and is supported by the Administration.  Now that it has passed the Senate, the bill will be referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Leaders in the House have already stated that they will produce legislation that differs from the Senate approach, ensuring that it will still be some time before this bill makes it into law.

Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Named at Interior
Although President Bush quickly assembled his cabinet, many of the cabinet members have yet to be joined by additional political appointees in their departments and agencies. At the 100-day mark for the Bush administration (April 20th), 29 of 488 top slots had been confirmed by the Senate with another 31 nominated but awaiting confirmation. The administration has announced its intention to nominate an additional 177 candidates, but those individuals must still fill out White House paperwork and undergo FBI background checks before they are nominated. Once nominated, they must go through the Senate confirmation process of more paperwork, a hearing, a committee vote, and a floor vote. A person announced in April might be in place by August, but September is more likely. There are 17 Senate-confirmed positions in the Department of the Interior. The only ones filled are the Secretary and two holdovers from the previous administration -- USGS Director Chip Groat and an official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Deputy Secretary was nominated in March: Steven Griles, who served as Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management in the first Bush administration. On April 16th, Norton announced the president's intention to nominate Bennett Raley as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, a position that oversees the USGS and Bureau of Reclamation. Raley previously was general counsel for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.  Before that, he served as Special Assistant Attorney General for the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer. He served on Capitol Hill as staff counsel to Sen. Hank Brown (R-CO). The press release on his appointment can be found at http://www.doi.gov/news/010416a.html.

AGI Submits Testimony on USGS, DOE Fossil Energy
As in previous years, AGI has provided written testimony to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee on behalf of geoscience programs within their jurisdiction, particularly the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Research and Development program. The testimony emphasizes the societal value of these programs and encourages Congress to provide the same level of funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2002 as in FY 2001 rather than the substantial cuts called for in the president's request. The testimony also supports geoscience programs in other Interior bureaus -- including the National Park Service and Minerals Management Service -- and at the Smithsonian Institution. The testimony is on the web at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/testimon.html.

Geotimes Special Issue on Geoscience and Public Policy
The April 2001 issue of Geotimes is the sixth annual special geoscience and public policy issue. Features focus on geology in the national parks, the congressional science fellowship program, and two new reports from the National Research Council on the USGS and NSF Earth Sciences Division. The Comment is by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), the first congressional science fellow elected to Congress. The Political Scene column by Margaret Baker looks at trends in geoscience funding. Much of the material can be found on the web at http://www.geotimes.org/apr01/.

AGI Fall Semester Internship Deadline: June 1st
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 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 semester internships are funded by a generous contribution from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Applications must be postmarked by June 1, 2001. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
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 Institute of Physics, Baton Rouge Advocate, Department of the Interior, EENews, Greenwire, National Center for Science Education, U.S. Senate.

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

Posted May 2, 2001


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