Monthly Review: July 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.

Status of Geoscience-Related Appropriations Bills
House Passes Comprehensive Energy Bill
Climate Change Negotiations, Senate Panel Moves Legislation
Evolution Debated in Hawaii, Senate Bill in Conference
Science Education Bills Pass House
MMS Seeks Comments on Lease Sale 181 in Eastern Gulf of Mexico
Hazards Caucus Releases Fact Sheets at Hurricane Briefing
National Academy Releases Report on DOE Fossil Energy Program
New Report Looks at Women in Science
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Status of Geoscience-Related Appropriations Bills
Despite an early spurt of congressional action on fiscal year 2002 appropriations, the farthest that any of the 13 bills have progressed so far is a House-Senate conference committee, and a number have yet to be taken up by either chamber. Below is a quick look at the current status of five key geoscience-related bills. With members of Congress heading home for the August recess, now is a good time to arrange appointments in their district offices. Details on the budget process are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/appropsfy2002.html.

House Passes Comprehensive Energy Bill
With four House committees having completed work on their portions of comprehensive energy legislation, their separate bills (H.R. 2436, H.R. 2460, H.R. 2511, and H.R. 2587) were combined into H.R. 4 for House floor debate this week. The final bill passed in the wee hours of August 2nd. A key issue in the floor debate was opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for petroleum exploration. An amendment was passed that limits the area available for exploration to 2000 acres. Energy research portions of the bill were unchanged. Across the Hill, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee began work on its version of comprehensive energy legislation, tackling energy research first and leaving more controversial topics until after the August recess. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy.html.

Climate Change Negotiations in Bonn, Senate Panel Moves Legislation
In the latest action on the Kyoto Protocol, international climate change talks were held in Bonn, Germany from July 16th to the 23rd.  On the first day of the talks, the 15 leaders of the European Union made a declaration vowing to fulfill the treaty commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with the hopes of pulling a reluctant Japan and the United States back into the talks.  Although the United States sent a delegation headed by Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, its position from the start was that the protocol is fatally flawed and that the US would not support it.  Japan did participate in negotiations, pressing for provisions to make the treaty more flexible for industrialized nations.  All countries except the US reached and signed an agreement intended to pave the way for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.  Earlier in July, Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that the US would be formulating an alternative strategy to be released in October at the Morocco climate change discussions, but at the end of the month, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that the Bush administration has not set a deadline for unveiling an alternative to the protocol.

No name is more closely associated with opposition to the Kyoto Protocol than that of Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV), who co-sponsored the 1997 Byrd-Hagel resolution opposing any international climate treaty that did not include developing nations and was harmful to the US economy. The resolution passed 95-0 and was a major factor in the Clinton administration's decision not to seek ratification of Kyoto. Now Byrd and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) have introduced legislation to centralize climate change response efforts in the US as a potential beginning to a US strategy for dealing with climate change.  The Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act, S. 1008, amends the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to develop a United States Climate Change Response Strategy with a goal of stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere without adverse economic impacts.  One of the major provisions in the bill is the creation of a National Office of Climate Change Response within the Executive Office of the President with authorized funds of up to $5 million a year until 2011.  Other goals of the bill include aligning the climate change response strategy with a national energy policy, promoting sound national environmental policy, creating an independent review board to report to Congress to ensure that goals are achieved, and the establishment of a research and development program office in the Department of Energy (DOE) for climate change response technology.  The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on S. 1008 on July 18th and passed it on August 2nd. More on the hearing at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/climate.html.

Evolution Debated in Hawaii, Senate Bill in Conference
The ongoing controversy over the teaching of evolution reached Hawaii when a committee of the state board of education on July 26th approved science performance standards that call on students to identify "multiple theories of origin" and eliminate the term "biological evolution" in favor of "the basic idea of the multiple theories of origin." The revised language was put forward by a board member who favors teaching creationism. Hawaii currently has some of the best science education standards in the nation, and geoscientists there have been actively engaged in turning back the revisions. The effort paid off on August 2nd when the full board rejected the proposed changes. More at http://www.ncseweb.org.

An AGI special update in June reported on Senate passage of an amendment singling out evolution as a controversial theory. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), was attached to legislation (S.1) reauthorizing federal elementary and secondary education programs. Since then, AGI has been working with other science and education groups to have the provision removed or altered in the final bill negotiated between the House and Senate. These same groups are also seeking to restore science testing language that was removed from the House bill (H.R.1) by conservative lawmakers concerned that tests would include questions on evolution. The House-Senate conference began in late July, and staff-level negotiations will continue during the August recess in preparation for final passage in early September. A list of conferees can be found at http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2001/100.html. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution.html.

Science Education Bills Pass House
On July 31st, the House passed two bills that seek to improve science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education. H.R. 100, the National Science Education Act, was introduced by physicist Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and is designed to establish two programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF): a "Master Teacher" program and a program to recruit, train, and retain science and math graduates in the teaching profession.  House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) introduced H.R. 1858, the National Mathematics and Science Partnerships Act, to strengthen public-private partnerships in science education.  The bill would establish an NSF granting program to fund partnerships to improve instruction and curricula. The big test for these bills is how (and if) these ideas will be incorporated into the broader Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization that is currently in a House-Senate conference.  It will take a concerted effort by scientists and educators to ensure that science education is included in the final ESEA bill. The August recess is an ideal time to meet with your representative and senators back in their district to discuss the importance of science education.

MMS Seeks Comments on Lease Sale 181 in Eastern Gulf of Mexico
In the July 27th Federal Register, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) published a request for comments on environmental issues related to the reduced outer continental shelf lease sale of 256 blocks in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico offshore Alabama.  This sale is the only one scheduled during the current MMS five-year leasing plan.  The comment period ends on August 27, 2001.  Public comment periods are the principal mechanism for federal agencies to receive feedback on draft rules, regulations, and policies before they are put into final form and officially promulgated.  More information on the comment period, including where to write, and general background information on the program are available at http://www.mms.gov. More about this issue at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/ocs.html.

Natural Hazards Caucus Releases Fact Sheets at Hurricane Briefing
On July 26th, the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus sponsored a Capitol Hill briefing on "Hurricanes: The Danger, the Impacts, the Outlook." The lunchtime briefing was hosted by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and the American Meteorological Society. Topics included lessons learned from Tropical Storm Alison, which caused $5 billion in flood damage to Houston, and forecasts for the upcoming hurricane season. Colorado State University professor William Gray explained that population has been steadily increasing along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts during a period that has seen relatively few major Atlantic hurricanes, but that we are now entering a more intense part of the natural hurricane cycle with increased potential for loss in the next two decades. At the briefing, the caucus unveiled two new fact sheets addressing floods and hurricanes. They are intended to be useful for Senate staff and constituents. The fact sheets can be downloaded in PDF format at http://www.agiweb.org/workgroup.

National Academy Releases Report on DOE Fossil Energy Program
On July 17th, the National Research Council (NRC) released the report Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It?  The report was requested by Congress to evaluate the success and failures of various programs and provide recommendations for improving the cost-benefit assessment, evaluation and portfolio management of Department of Energy (DOE) research and development programs in the areas of energy efficiency and fossil fuels.  The report examines 17 energy-efficiency programs and 22 fossil fuel technology programs from 1978 through 1999.  The report states that the "DOE's programs in fossil energy and energy efficiency have yielded significant benefits (economic, environmental, and national security-related), important technological options for potential application in a different (but possible) economic, political, and/or environmental setting, and important additions to the stock of engineering and scientific knowledge in a number of fields."  Economic returns are estimated to be $40 billion from an investment of $13 billion.  The report stresses the need to maintain a mixed portfolio of research with a flexible infrastructure and clear targets and focuses.  To read the entire report,  go to http://www.nap.edu/books/0309074487/html/.

New Report Looks at Women in Science
On July 17th, the National Council for Research on Women held a press conference announcing the release of their new report, "Balancing the Equation: Where Are Women and Girls in Science, Engineering, and Technology?" Although progress has been made in some areas of science, the report recognizes that some of women's gains over the past few decades have eroded, especially in the fields of engineering and computer science.  It outlines and analyzes strategies to attract and retain women and girls to science and technological fields as well as noting the many reasons that increased participation by women and girls in the sciences would improve the field.  Speakers at the press conference included Rep. Constance Morella (R-MD); Sally Ride, the first woman in space and current President and CEO of Imaginary Lines; Rita Colwell, Director of the National Science Foundation; and Mariangela Lisanti, winner of the Intel Science Talent Search 2001.  The report is available at http://www.ncrw.org/research/iqsci.htm. For additional background, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/womenscience.html.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
Aug. 18   AGI Executive Cmte Mtg   Shepherdstown WV
Sep. 16   AASG Liaison Cmte Mtg   Washington DC
Oct. 1-4   AIPG/AEG Annual Mtg   St. Louis MO
Oct. 4-6   AGI Foundation Mtg   Jackson WY
Oct. 9-11   NAE Energy Policy Workshop   Washington DC
Nov. 4-8    GSA Annual Mtg   Boston MA

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/AIPG Geoscience Policy Interns Michelle Williams and Caetie Ofiesh.

Sources: American Geophysical Union, CQ Daily Monitor, EENews, Greenwire, House Appropriations Committee, Library of Congress, National Center for Science Education, USBudget.com, Washington Post.

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

Posted August 3, 2001


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