Monthly Review: August 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.

Crunch Time for FY2001 Appropriations
More National Monuments Under Consideration
Both VP Candidates Familiar With Value of Geosciences
President Establishes National Oceans Commission
Revival of Regulatory Interest in Asbestos Continues Unabated
Verardo To Provide GSA With Washington Presence
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Crunch Time for FY 2001 Appropriations
Congress will return from the August recess next week to pick up where they left off in July - preparing the remaining eleven appropriation bills.  This year's end game is likely to be spirited, especially since the White House Office of Management and Budget has issued a veto threat on nearly all the remaining appropriation bills. The Agriculture, Interior and Related Agencies, and the Labor/HHS appropriation bills are awaiting Conference Committee action.  Most likely, these bills will be among the first up for consideration.  The Senate still needs to vote on the Commerce and the Energy & Water appropriations bills before the two chambers can begin conference committee consideration.

The VA/HUD Appropriations bill, which includes funding for the NSF, NASA, and EPA, still awaits consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) -- the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee -- have signed up twenty senators so far in their effort to generate support for doubling the NSF budget over the next five years.

If science programs are to be successful in receiving allocations even close to the record budget requests, scientists need to contact their senators and representatives in the coming weeks about the value of federal investments in science.  AGI encourages the members of its member societies to contact their congressional delegation and make the case.  More on appropriations at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/appropsfy2001.html.

More National Monuments Under Consideration
On August 11th, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt recommended the creation of a new national monument in Arizona and the expansion of an existing monument in Idaho. The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument on the Colorado Plateau in northern Arizona covers nearly 300,000 acres near the Grand Canyon. Cited as a geologic treasure, the area also contains a number of ancestral human sites.  The second proposed site would increase Craters of the Moon National Monument to nearly 12 times its original size. Created by President Coolidge in 1924, Craters of the Moon preserves a portion of the largest young basaltic lava field in the conterminous United States. The additional lava flows, like the current monument, would be managed by the National Park Service. Vermilion Cliffs would be managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Department of the Interior website at http://www.doi.gov/news/monument811.htm provides a full description and maps of the proposed monuments. According to EENews, Clinton has used his presidential powers under the 1906 Antiquities Act to expand one national monument and designate ten others. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/natmon.html.
 

Both VP Candidates Familiar With Value of Geosciences
The major political news in August flowed from the conventions and the selection of vice presidential candidates. Both Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore picked running mates who have considerable knowledge of the role played by the geosciences in society. Bush's choice, Richard Cheney, comes out of the oil patch, having headed up Halliburton, one of the largest oil-service companies, for the past six years. In recent years, he has been a vocal proponent of normalizing relations with Iran, a move that would have major implications for the future of Caspian Sea oil pipelines. Senator Joe Lieberman has been a vocal proponent of scientific research, leading the bipartisan charge for doubling federal investment in research. Lieberman is a founding member of the Senate Science and Technology Caucus. Lieberman's interest in science extends to his staff, where he has been one of the most prolific users of congressional science fellows, often taking two a year. Three of the past six Geological Society of America fellows have worked for Lieberman, and he currently has AAAS fellow Christy Johnson, also a geoscientist, on staff.

President Establishes National Oceans Commission
President Clinton signed the Oceans Acts of 2000 (S. 2327) into law on August 7th with Martha Vineyard as the backdrop.  The law establishes the Commission on Ocean Policy, which will review current federal ocean policies and activities in order to prepare a report on recommendations for a "coordinated and comprehensive national ocean policy."  The 16-member commission -- appointed by congressional leadership and the president -- will consist of representatives of state and local government, academia, ocean-related industries, and the conservation and scientific communities.  Recommendations for a national ocean policy are to promote: coastal hazards mitigation, coastal resources stewardship, protection against coastal pollution, expansion of our understanding of the oceans, incorporation of marine-related commerce and the private sector in sustainable use of ocean resources, investments in ocean technologies, coordination of federal and private activities, and help for the U.S. to maintain its leadership in ocean and coastal activities.  An American Geophysical Union ASLA on the new law is at http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=2000-19.msg.  More on S. 2327 and other oceans legislation at  http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/oceans.html.

Revival of Regulatory Interest in Asbestos Continues Unabated
The recent revelations about Libby, Montana -- where vermiculite mining has been linked to nearly 200 asbestos-related fatalities -- have produced a renaissance of interest in asbestos toxicity. Following the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) lead, two agencies in the Department of Labor have launched investigations into why the federal government, which knew about the dangerous levels of asbestos in the vermiculite ore since the 1980's, did nothing to warn the mine workers or Libby residents about the health risks.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), as well as EPA, performed several inspections at that time, but only the owner of the mine, W.R. Grace Co. was informed.

In related news, asbestos made headlines in California in late July.  The state's Air Resources Board unanimously decided to ban the use of asbestos-containing rock for walking or driving surfaces.  Because asbestos has been found in serpentine deposits, the board also ruled that all ultramafic rocks must be tested for asbestos fibers.  Local mining and construction industries protested the move, and a spokesman for the Construction Materials Association of California noted that there is no evidence that all ultramafic rocks have asbestos fibers in them. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/asbestos.html.

On another front, MSHA has announced that it expects to propose a standard this coming February on respirable crystalline silica. Some experts predict that increased regulation of crystalline silica could make the asbestos litigation caseload pale in comparison. The MSHA rulemaking comes as several state and federal agencies are giving heightened scrutiny to silica as a carcinogen. The original announcement can be found at http://www.msha.gov/regs/unified/1219%2Dab12.htm.

Verardo To Provide GSA With Washington Presence
On August 18th, GSA Chief Science Officer Cathleen May announced that David Verardo will be working with GSA Headquarters "to implement a program in public service and policy that is consistent with the historical roots, traditions, and values of GSA." In addition to serving as a policy advisor to GSA, Verardo will provide a local contact for the GSA/USGS fellow and will represent GSA at science and policy meetings in the Washington D.C. area. Verardo was the 1997-1998 GSA/USGS Congressional Science Fellow, working in the office of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). Thanks to Verardo's efforts, Sen. Wyden issued a statement endorsing the inaugural Earth Science Week. Prior to coming to Washington, Verardo was on the faculty at the University of Virginia and served for several years as the Association of Engineering Geologists' representative to AGI's Government Affairs Advisory Committee. Since his fellowship, Verardo has worked for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, overseeing development of a scientific and technical assessment of the role of land use, land-use changes, and forestry in climate change mitigation.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
Sept. 13   NASULGC Mineral/Energy Mtg.   Washington 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 Intern Audrey Slesinger.

Sources: American Geophysical Union, Coalition for National Science Funding, Energy and Environment News, Federal Register, Geological Society of America, Library of Congress, Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

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

Posted August 31, 2000

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