Monthly Review: July 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.

Congress Has Long Way To Go On Appropriations
Senate Appropriators Call for Doubling of NSF Budget
AAPG Testifies at Senate Hearing on Natural Gas Supply
Kansas Republicans Vote Out Evolution Opponents
Valles Caldera National Preserve Signed Into Law
Senate Committee Passes Oil Royalty Revenue Bill
Commission Releases Report on Women and Minorities in Science
Action on Science Education Bills Probably Over
TMDL Standards Promulgated Over Hill Objections
Ocean Policy Gets Congressional Attention
USGS Briefs Congressional Staff on Drought Tools
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Congress Has Long Way To Go On Appropriations
Congress has left town for the month of August, trading committees and caucuses for conventions and campaigning. When they return in early September, the focus will be on appropriations, appropriations, and appropriations. If science programs are to do well in this frantic end game, it is imperative that when members of Congress are back in their home districts they hear from their constituents about the value of federal investments in science. AGI encourages member society members to contact their representative and senators to make the case for the geosciences.

Despite Congress's best attempts to keep the appropriations process moving, they have passed only one of the thirteen appropriation bills. They can draw some small comfort in that they are ahead of last year's process. Unlike last year, however, members are eager to get out of town by the targeted adjournment date of October 6th in order to campaign some more. Before leaving for the August recess, Congress did make progress on a number of key bills affecting the geosciences. The Senate passed H.R. 4578, the FY 2001 Interior Appropriations bill, on July 18th. The Senate version would provide the U.S. Geological Survey with a total of $847.6 million and provide the Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy R&D with $401.3 million, an increase of $25.8 million above the budget request. Funding for the FY 2001 Energy and Water Appropriations bill (H.R. 4733), which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 18th, would provide $915 million for the Department of Energy's (DOE) Basic Energy Science program, well shy of the $1 billion requested. That same day, the FY 2001 Commerce Appropriations bill (H.R. 4690) passed its Senate subcommittee. The bill would provide NOAA with $2.7 billion, well above the House figure of $2.2 billion but still less than the $2.9 billion in the President's budget request.

Once Congress returns from the recess, these three bills will be on a fast track. To move these and other appropriations bills, Congress has shifted money from the politically popular VA/HUD bill -- which funds NSF, NASA, and EPA -- hoping they can translate its popularity into a mandate at the end of the session to break spending caps in order to fully fund the bill. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2001.html.

Senate Appropriators Call for Doubling of NSF Budget
An AGI action alert on July 21st urged geoscientists to encourage their senators to sign on to a "Dear Colleague" letter being circulated by Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who are seeking to convince the Senate leadership to support a doubling of the National Science Foundation (NSF) budget over the next five years. Bond and Mikulski -- the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds NSF -- are seeking to translate their colleagues' support for the National Institutes of Health into support for the physical science research that underlies high-profile biomedical and information technology advances. The across-the-board doubling proposed by Bond and Mikulski would substantially benefit the Geosciences Directorate, which is the second-largest at NSF. The alert, including text of the "Dear Colleague" letter, can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/bondletter_alert.html.

AAPG Testifies at Senate Hearing on Natural Gas Supply
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources held a hearing on July 26th to address rising natural gas prices, which have doubled in recent months and are expected to spike further this winter. AAPG Division of Professional Affairs President G. Warfield "Skip" Hobbs was invited to testify on domestic natural gas supply. In his testimony, Hobbs emphasized the abundance of US natural gas resources, the current supply crunch, and the need to open public lands to exploration. In response to Hobbs' presentation, committee chair Frank Murkowski (R-AK) emphasized the need to help the public recognize the disconnect between declining proven reserves and the abundant resources that have been identified but cannot be accessed. Complete testimony is available at http://energy.senate.gov. The day before the hearing, Chevron, Conoco and Murphy Oil filed suit against the federal government for blocking their ability to develop natural gas leases they purchased from the federal government nearly 20 years ago off the Florida coast. Last month, the Supreme Court ruled against the federal government in a similar suit dealing with leases offshore North Carolina. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ocs106.html.

Kansas Republicans Vote Out Evolution Opponents
Nearly a year ago, the Kansas State Board of Education voted 6-4 to remove evolution and the age of the Earth from state science education standards. Of the six board members who voted for the new standards, three faced Republican primary challenges and a fourth chose not to run for re-election. Two of the three, including board chairman Linda Holloway, were defeated by moderates in the Aug. 1 primary, and the open seat also went to a moderate. All of the challengers made opposition to the anti-evolution standards the central focus of their campaign. Board member Steve Abrams, who helped write the new standards, was the lone anti-evolution board member to prevail. In the primary to decide the Republican challenger for Rep. Dennis Moore, the state's only Democratic House member, the moderate candidate who opposed the new standards lost to a conservative candidate who did not discuss the evolution issue. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/evolution.html.

Valles Caldera National Preserve Signed Into Law
President Clinton signed S. 1892, the Valles Caldera Preservation and Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, into law on July 25th. Forming the center of the Jemez Mountain range, the Valles Caldera is a resurgent caldera created by massive volcanic eruption over a million years ago. It is more than a half-mile deep and close to 15 miles across. Although most of the Jemez is public land, the Valles Caldera is primarily within the privately held Baca Ranch. S. 1892 was introduced on November 9, 1999 by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to authorize the acquisition of the Baca by the U.S. Forest Service. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous consent in April 2000, and the House passed it on July 12th by a 377-45 vote. At the signing ceremony, the president said, "Under an innovative arrangement, [this] new preserve will be managed in a way that allows for sustainable resource use while ensuring public access and full protection of the ranch's extraordinary natural assets." More information is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/baca.html.

Senate Committee Passes Oil Royalty Revenue Bill
The same day that President Clinton signed the Valles Caldera bill, the
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a bill designed to greatly increase the funds available for federal land acquisition. Following a contentious, five-day markup, the committee passed its version of the H.R. 701, the House-passed Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA), by a 13-7 vote. The final bill represented a compromise between committee chair Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and ranking Democrat Jeff Bingaman (D-NM). Other western Republicans generally opposed the bill, characterizing it as an entitlement that unnecessarily encroaches on private property rights. The legislation supplies nearly $3 billion in outer continental shelf oil and gas revenues to a host of conservation programs for each of the next 15 years, $450 million of which is to go to federal land acquisition under the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). If Congress fails to appropriate a full $450 million for land acquisition in a given fiscal year, then none of the other conservation programs will be funded that year. While many amendments were proposed during the committee's marathon markup, only two passed, one dealing with water rights and the other with easements. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ocs106.html.

Commission Releases Report on Women and Minorities in Science
The congressionally mandated Commission on the Advancement of Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development released its recommendations on how the nation can build its domestic science, engineering, and technology (SET) work force by increasing the participation of women, underrepresented minorities and persons with disabilities. The commission found that community colleges, which serve a large population of women and minorities, need to improve links with four-year institutions. They propose a program to target and encourage potentially able students at the high school and community college levels to move into four-year colleges, as well as to increase Pell Grants for those SET students. To improve career opportunities, the report recommends that public and private employers should be required to report yearly on the comparative pay, career development and advancement of these groups. The report urges a media campaign to battle stereotypes and improve the public image of scientists and engineers. Finally, the commission recommends the formation of a collaborative body to continue to coordinate, monitor and oversee the implementation of these plans. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/womenscience.html.

Action on Science Education Bills Probably Over
On July 25th, the House Science Committee unanimously passed the National Science Education Act (H.R. 4271), the keystone of Rep. Vern Ehlers's (R-MI) three-bill package to reform federal K-12 science education programs. Further progress on H.R. 4271 or the other two bills in the package (H.R. 4272 and H.R. 4273) is unlikely given that Congress will spend most of its remaining legislative days on the must-pass appropriations bills. Further action is also unlikely on Congress's massive overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which passed the House but awaits action in the Senate. The delay is good news for the Eisenhower science and math education programs, which are targeted for elimination in the ESEA reform measures. Both the Ehlers bills and ESEA reform are certain to return in the 107th Congress. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ike106.html.

TMDL Standards Promulgated Over Hill Objections
On July 11th, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner signed a rule to revise the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program in the Clean Water Act prior to enactment of a congressional bill that would have blocked funding for the rule.
Senators Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) and Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR) had attached an amendment to H.R. 4425, the Military Construction Appropriations Act for fiscal year (FY) 2001, that blocked promulgation of "new" TMDL rules. Because President Clinton waited to sign the appropriations bill until two days after Browner signed the TMDL rule, the rider did not apply. Opposition to the rule stems mainly from agriculture and timber groups who argue that it would cost too much and restrict state authority to control water pollution through other voluntary measures. The new TMDL rule still faces pressure from Senator Hutchinson, who may push for restrictive language to be added to the Senate VA-HUD appropriations bill (H.R. 4635), which has not yet undergone markup. On July 26th, similar TMDL moratorium language was removed from S. 2417, Clean Water Act reform legislation introduced by Senators Bob Smith (R-NH) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) in April. The bill substantially increases the authorization of funds for non-point pollution programs under the Clean Water Act -- up to $750 million annually for FY 2001 through FY 2007. It also authorizes a National Academy of Sciences study to evaluate the science behind the TMDL rule, its implementation cost, and the availability of alternative non-point pollution programs; and a National Academy of Public Administration study on the breadth and success of state and other non-point pollution control programs. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/cwa106.html.

Ocean Policy Gets Congressional Attention
The American Geophysical Union and American Association for the Advancement of Science hosted an Ocean Policy Conference on July 18th in conjunction with the House Oceans Caucus. Formed earlier this year to raise the profile of oceans issues within the House and develop appropriate legislation, the caucus used the meeting's panel discussions to develop a policy framework in four key areas -- biology, pollution, national security, and governance. One panel dealt with marine protected areas while another addressed both the importance of a sustained, integrated ocean observation system and the consequences of U.S. failure to ratify the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. Other panels discussed the impacts of non-point source pollution on the coastal ocean as well as ocean governance in the twenty-first century. Speakers included Jean-Michel Cousteau, President and Founder of the Ocean Futures Society; Dr. Robert Ballard, President of the Institute for Exploration; Dr. Sylvia Earle, noted marine biologist and author of the 1995 book "Sea Change -- A Message of the Oceans"; Dr. Ellen Prager, Assistant Dean of the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science; and Dr. William Brown, Science Advisor to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt.

USGS Briefs Congressional Staff on Drought Tools
AGI, AGU, the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin (ICPRB), and the American Water Resources Association cosponsored a U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) briefing on "Water Management During Drought: Lessons Learned." The well-attended Capitol Hill briefing was the sixth and final presentation of the USGS series on Science for Safer and Healthier Communities. Speakers from USGS and NOAA discussed real-time, interactive information available on streamflow (http://water.usgs.gov/dwc) and drought conditions (http://www.cpc.noaa.gov). ICPRB Executive Director Joe Hoffman closed the session by talking about how water managers use the end-products of the USGS and other agencies in decision making. All three speakers encouraged the development of a real-time groundwater monitoring system to aid water management decisions. More on the briefing series at http://www.usgs.gov/safer/.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
August 19 AGI Executive Cmte Mtg  Hartford CT 
Sept. 13 NASULGC Mineral/Energy Mtg. Wash. DC 
Oct. 10-14 AIPG National Meeting  Milwaukee WI 
Nov. 11-16 GSA Annual Meeting  Reno NV 

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 Michael Wagg, Nathan Morris, and Audrey Slesinger.

Sources: Associated Press, Energy and Environment Daily, Federal Register, Greenwire, House Science Committee, Library of Congress, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, USBudget.com.

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

Posted August 3, 2000

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