Monthly Review: June 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.

High Gasoline Prices Fuel Dueling Energy Policies
Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Holds First Event
Update on Geoscience Appropriations
Supreme Court Rules on OCS Oil Royalty Case
Call for Comments on National Climate Change Assessment
Forest Service Accepts Comments on Roadless Initiative
NRC Releases Report on Science at EPA
AGI Joins in Advocating Science Education in the States
Welcome to AGI/AIPG Summer Interns
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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

High Gasoline Prices Fuel Dueling Energy Policies
High gasoline prices have everybody talking about energy policy. On June 15th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on S. 2557, the National Energy Security Act of 2000, the Republican leadership's broad energy policy bill.  The hearing provided another opportunity for majority members to voice their concerns over the current administration's energy decisions.  For his part, President Clinton ordered the Federal Trade Commission to subpoena major oil companies in an investigation into possible collusion, price-gouging, or antitrust violations causing ever-higher gasoline prices in the Midwest since the beginning of June. A Congressional Research Service report attributes those high prices to five factors: higher crude oil prices, low inventories, pipeline problems and most importantly, the use of reformulated gas (RFG).  The report stated that the use of ethanol in the patented RFG process may be responsible for approximately half of the Midwest's price increase.

Earlier this week, Vice President Al Gore released a $125 billion energy plan for the next 10 years. In contrast to the Senate Republican plan, which focuses on increasing energy supply, the Gore plan focuses on reducing consumption through the use of "green technologies." The proposal leans heavily on the mechanism of tax incentives for the use of enviromentally friendly cars, sport utility vehicles (SUVs), and trucks.  It also increases tax breaks or funding for energy efficient building equipment and homes, as well as funding for weatherization upgrading for low-income houses.  Economic incentives are extended for further natural gas exploration and increased contributions of renewable energy sources to electricity production.

Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Holds First Event
An AGI alert reported on the initial forum of the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus. The forum focused on reducing America's vulnerability to disasters and featured testimony from leaders in the federal, state, disaster relief, insurance, and scientific sectors. The goal of the caucus, co-chaired by Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Senator John Edwards (D-NC), is to improve the ways in which local, state and federal government prepare for and help mitigate the costs of natural disasters. The AGI alert encouraged geoscientists to contact their senators about the caucus and encourage them to join, particularly Republican senators. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/caucus_alert0600.html.

Update on Geoscience Appropriations
On June 27th, AGI sent out a special update on the latest geoscience appropriations activities.  After the House passed H.R. 4578, the fiscal year (FY) 2001 Department of the Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, the Senate Appropriations Committee began consideration of the bill. Senate appropriators had a larger overall allocation for the bill than their House counterparts, allowing them to provide higher funding levels for the U.S. Geological Survey -- $847.6 million compared to $816.7 million in the House version and $895.4 million requested by the President. The Interior bill now awaits a vote on the Senate floor. The House also passed H.R. 4635, the FY 2001 VA/HUD and Independent Agencies Appropriations bill, which includes funding for NSF, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Funding for the geosciences stayed the same as in the original bill -- $523.8 million for the Geoscience Directorate, down $59.2 million from the request.  As reported in May, the EarthScope project in the Major Research Equipment account was not funded.  On June 19th, the White House's Office of Management and Budget released a Statement of Administration Policy regarding H.R. 4635 and included a section stating: "The Committee's deletion of funding for Earthscope and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) would delay the development of large-scale research equipment to enable us to understand better and predict earthquakes and threats to sensitive ecological regions."  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2001.html.  A copy of the special update is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/approps_update0600.html.

Supreme Court Rules on OCS Oil Royalty Case
The oil industry received some welcome news June 26th when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Mobil Oil Exploration & Producing Southeast, Inc. v. United States that the federal government must pay $156 million to Mobil Oil and Marathon, Inc. This amount is equal to that paid by the two companies for offshore oil and natural gas lease contracts purchased in 1981.  These contracts gave them the right to explore and develop oil reserves off the North Carolina coast, contingent upon environmental approval.  Soon after the purchase, however, Congress passed the Outer Banks Protection Act that prohibited the Department of the Interior from approving either company's "plan of exploration" (required for a company to begin oil exploration) as well as setting up further obstacles to offshore oil exploration and drilling.  Frustrated, the oil companies sued the federal government for breach of contract. This week, eight of the court's nine justices agreed that the oil companies' rights had been violated, stating "We agree that the government broke its promise; it repudiated the contracts; and it must give the companies their money back." Claiming that Mobil's predicament was far from unique, an oil industry representative asserted that the high court's decision would have a substantial impact, particularly on exploration and production in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where the Department of the Interior has been unable to fund new leases since the early 1980s.

Call for Comments on National Climate Change Assessment
AGI sent out an action alert encouraging geoscientists to provide their views on the national climate change assessment, parts of which have been released for public comment.  The assessment has three main components: regional analysis, sectoral analysis, and a national synthesis.  A draft version of the national synthesis, "Climate Change Impacts on the United States: the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change,"  is available at http://www.gcrio.org/NationalAssessment/ as a PDF document along with information on submitting comments and other supporting documents.  The deadline for submitting comments is August 11, 200 deadline.  The AGI alert is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/climate_alert0600.html, and additional information on the climate change debate is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/climate.html.

Forest Service Accepts Comments on Roadless Initiative
Under President Clinton's Roadless Initiative, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed new regulations to protect certain roadless areas within the National Forest System.  The most controversial provision of the roadless initiative is to restrict certain activities such as road construction and reconstruction in the unroaded portions of inventoried roadless areas.  There is also concern from the geoscience community about the lack of access for scientific research and to conduct field studies on national forest land deemed roadless if such an initiative is promulgated.  The U.S. Forest Service issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement and proposed rule on May 10, 2000.  It is currently up for public comment and review until July 17, 2000.  The U.S. Forest Service will hold 330 public meetings nationwide.  The meetings will both provide information and be open for oral and written comments.  Comments on the proposed rule and DEIS may also be sent to: USDA Forest Service-CAET, Attn: Roadless, PO Box 221090, Salt Lake City, UT 84122 by mail; by e-mail to roadlessdeis@fs.fed.us; and by fax to 877-703-2494.  A final environmental impact statement is due for release this winter.  More extensive information and the full text of the DEIS is available on the U.S. Forest Service's roadless website at http://roadless.fs.fed.us/.

NRC Releases Report on Science at EPA
The National Research Council (NRC) has released its final report entitled "Strengthening Science at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Research Management and Peer Review Practices."  The committee recommended the creation of a high-level administration position to coordinate and oversee all scientific activities in the agency. The administrator would be responsible for all aspects of the transfer of sound scientific and technical information into the agency's proposed policies or regulations.  The report also details several ways the Office of Research and Development (ORD) could better maintain research program continuity, enhance research leadership and strengthen scientific communication in the agency and between it and outside entities.  The report stressed the need for a new peer-review policy to promote separation, objectivity and independence between the reviewer and the project decision-maker.  The committee applauded the advancements the EPA has made in the past five years, and supports the continued attention to balancing core and applied research. The report can be viewed at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9882.html.

AGI Joins in Advocating Science Education in the States
Earlier this month, AGI joined with other professional organizations to promote the need for greater attention to science education at the state level.  Under the auspices of the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology, a group of professional organizations - including the American Chemical Society, the International Technology Education Association, the National Biology Teachers Association, the National Science Teachers Association, the National Society of Professional Engineers, and Project 2061 at the American Association for the Advancement of Science - sent a letter to the 50 chief state school officers urging them "to continue to make improved student learning in elementary and secondary science, mathematics, and technology education a state priority."  The letter also recommended the need for a curriculum specialist at the state department of education to help lead state reform efforts in science education.  A copy of the letter and information on science education is available at AGI's Science Education Policy Update http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ike106.html.

Welcome to AGI/AIPG Summer Interns
The AGI Government Affairs Program staff has been augmented this summer by three interns, who have already spent several weeks attending congressional hearings, researching policy issues, and maintaining the AGI website. Nathan Morris is a masters student in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University; Audrey Slesinger just completed a masters degree in geochemistry at the University of Bristol, England; and Michael Wagg graduated in May from Albion College, where he double majored in geology and history. He begins graduate work this fall at the University of Michigan. AGI gratefully acknowledges major support for the internships provided by the AIPG Foundation.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
July 8-11 Natural Hazards Workshop Boulder CO
July 12-15 CESSE Meeting New York NY

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 Margaret Baker and David Applegate, AGI
Government Affairs Program, and AGI/AIPG Geoscience Policy Interns Audrey Slesinger, Nathan Morris, and Michael Wagg.

Sources: Energy and Environment Daily, Federal Register, Greenwire, House Science Committee, Library of Congress, National Research Council, Supreme Court, Triangle Coalition, USBudget.com, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Global Change Research Program, Washington Post.

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

Posted June 30, 2000


  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