Monthly Review: August 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.

Congress Returns to Grim Revenue Estimates
Outlook for Geoscience-Related Legislation This Session
Special Update: Senate Amendment on Evolution
AGI Signs on to Education Letter
Bush Announces Groat Staying at USGS
National Academy Looks at Fuel Economy Standards
Summer Interns Return to School; Former Intern Takes Key House Committee Job
Applications Being Accepted for Spring Semester Internships
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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

Congress Returns to Budget Crunch
While members of Congress were home over the August recess, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) both released sharply lower estimates for the federal government's budget surplus.  The combined effect of a weak economy and tax rebate checks have reduced OMB's projected surplus -- excluding Social Security -- to $1 billion, $123 billion less than forecast in April. CBO projects a $9 billion deficit for the current fiscal year (FY), again excluding Social Security. The projections for the next several years are similar. Given the pledges not to cut into Social Security, this razor-thin surplus means Congress will be hard-pressed to make additional funds available for federal programs -- including those supporting science -- as the FY 2002 appropriations process heading into the home stretch during September. According to President Bush, the reduced revenues should force Congress to avoid "old temptations." In recent years, Congress has provided higher levels in the final appropriations bills than in either the earlier House- or Senate-passed versions. The lower surplus estimates also mean that the FY 2003 budget request may be more tightly constrained than the president's request this year when many federal science programs faced steep cuts or at best flat funding.

Outlook for Geoscience-Related Legislation This Session
The remaining months of the first session of the 107th Congress are likely to focus on three topics: appropriations, energy and education. Congress is supposed to adjourn on October 5th, but some analysts are saying that they may be in session through Thanksgiving. A first priority will be the obligatory appropriation bills. Before leaving for the recess, not a single bill had been sent to the president or even released from a House-Senate conference committee for final votes.  The Interior Appropriations bill conference is scheduled to begin in the second week of September.  Both the Energy & Water and the VA/HUD appropriation bills are ready for conference, but it is not clear how easily the two chambers will be able to iron out differences between their separate versions. More information on the appropriation bills is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/appropsfy2002.html. On the education front, the major focus will be on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Both chambers passed versions of H.R.1 before leaving for August.  The original goal was for the final bill to be brought to the House and Senate floors in September, but slow progress in the conference committee might push this date back into October. More on science education at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/science_edu.html. With regard to energy, the big question is how much further will Congress get in formulating a national energy policy.  The House has passed its comprehensive energy policy bill (H.R.4), and it is up to the Senate to make the next move. However, public concerns over high energy costs and electricity blackouts have largely subsided, removing the principal impetus for congressional action. Filibusters have been threatened on several topics, most notably oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). It seems likely that with the appropriations and education bills on the front burners, a comprehensive energy policy may be put on hold until the second session of the 107th Congress begins in January. More on energy policy at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy.html.

Special Update: Senate Amendment on Evolution
As reported in an August 22nd special update, the leaders of 88 scientific and educational organizations have signed on to a joint letter asking the chairmen of a House-Senate conference committee to remove a Senate resolution singling out evolution as a controversial theory. AGI and 15 of its member societies are among the organizations represented. Others include the National Science Teachers Association, the American Institute of Biological Sciences, and the Association of American Universities. The House-Senate conference committee must reconcile the Senate-passed and House-passed version of H.R.1, a massive overhaul of federal elementary and secondary education programs. Negotiations took place at the staff level throughout August with the conference set to resume early in September. Efforts are ongoing to have the resolution dropped from the final bill. The letter with a current list of signatories can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolutionletter.html. The special update is at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolutionletter_update0801.html.

AGI Signs on to Education Letter
AGI joined with 18 other industrial, scientific, and educational organizations in sending a letter to support Math and Science Partnerships in H.R.1.  As the letter states: "The Math and Science Partnership provision in the House and Senate [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] bills authorize merit-based partnerships between school districts, university science and math departments, businesses, and educational organizations to improve teacher quality and student achievement in math and science."  As Congress works through the reconciliation process for ESEA, the next step will be to see how these partnerships are funded within the Labor/HHS Appropriation bill, which has yet to be taken up by either chamber.  More information on ESEA is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/science_edu.html

Bush Announces Groat Staying at USGS
On August 6th, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced that President Bush had officially accepted her recommendation that Charles G. "Chip" Groat continue as U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Director. During an all-hands meeting at the survey's headquarters, Norton said: "Chip has an outstanding science management background and is the perfect director for USGS and for this administration." Groat is the only Clinton-appointed Interior bureau director to be kept on by Bush, and one of only a handful of reappointments across the entire administration. He has been USGS director since November 1998. An Interior Department press release can be found at http://www.doi.gov/news/010815.htm.

National Academy Looks at Fuel Economy Standards
The National Research Council, operating arm of the National Academy of Science, released a report entitled Effectiveness and Impact of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards that looks at both the effects of changing the CAFE standards in relationship to clean air and energy policy and how to improve the existing program. Several recommendations were offered in the congressionally mandated report, including one to adopt a tradable fuel economy credit program and to develop an "attribute-based standard" that would base fuel-economy standards on criteria such as weight instead of the current system based on whether the vehicle is defined as a car or truck.  Another recommendation was for the government to continue to support joint projects with the automotive industry in research and development of fuel-efficiency technologies.  Overall, the committee concludes that the CAFE program has been successful in helping to reduce dependency on foreign oil and in helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  The text of the report is available at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10172.html.

Summer Interns Return to School; Former Intern Takes Key House Committee Job
Many thanks to our three AGI/AIPG Geoscience and Public Policy Interns who each spent twelve weeks researching issues, tracking legislation, and maintaining AGI legislative updates on the web. Chris Eisinger has returned to Arizona State University, where he is pursuing a master's degree in volcanology. Caetie Ofiesh has returned to Amherst College for her senior year as a geology major. Michelle Williams has returned to the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she is a master's student in tectonic sedimentology. Articles by all three will appear in the November issue of The Professional Geologist. AGI gratefully acknowledges major support for the internships provided by the AIPG Foundation.

We are also pleased to report that one of AGI's first policy interns, Heidi Mohlman, is the new communications director for the House Science Committee, where she oversees all media interactions. After her AGI internship, she worked for Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-VT) in a number of capacities, including deputy press secretary. Most recently, she served as press secretary for his successful 2000 re-election campaign. Mohlman, a Vermont native, holds a bachelor's degree in geology from Amherst College. We wish her the best of luck!

Applications Being Accepted for Spring Semester Internship
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a fourteen-week internship in Spring 2002. 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. Support for the spring internship is provided by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Applications must be postmarked by October 15, 2001. See http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html for further information.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
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
Nov. 5   Govt Affairs Advisory Cmte 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 September 5, 2001


  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