Monthly Review: August 2002


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.

Supplemental Appropriations Bill Sets Stage for FY 2003 End Game (Revised: 9-9-02)
Interior Appropriations First on Deck When Congress Returns
Johannesburg Hosts Global Sustainable Development Summit
Senators Urge Delay of President's New Source Review Reforms
President Bush Proposes Healthy Forests Initiative
NASA Accepting Comments on Solid Earth Science Vision
Georgia County Revises School Policy to Placate Evolution Critics
AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Internship Applications Due October 15th
List of Key Federal Register Notices
New Material on Web Site

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Supplemental Appropriations Bill Sets Stage for FY 2003 End Game
Shortly before leaving for the August recess, Congress passed a fiscal year (FY) 2002 supplemental appropriations bill (H.R. 4775) that would help to fund a range of activities related to homeland security.  With President Bush's signature on August 2nd, the Defense and Homeland Security Supplemental became Public Law 07-206.  The majority of the supplemental went for defense-related expenses, but it also included funding for a range of smaller geoscience-related programs. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received $20 million for high-resolution mapping and imagery of US strategic cities and $6 million for the Earth Resources Observation Systems (EROS) Data Center to initiate the conversion of all archived data on outdated types of media to disk-based storage. The National Weather Service received $7.2 million for a supercomputer to serve as backup for the system that is the foundation of weather forecasts. Also within NOAA, the National Ocean Services received $29.2 million to address critical mapping and charting backlog requirements. NOAA's National Environmental, Satellite, Data and Information Service received an additional $2.8 million to support the backup capability for critical satellite products and services. Also included in the supplemental was a provision to extend the contract for the Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics and Science Education program for one year.   Now that this bill -- requested by the president nearly four months earlier -- has been signed into law, Congress will return from the August recess to focus on the FY 2003 appropriations bills that were put on the back burner while the supplemental was finalized.

Interior Appropriations First on Deck When Congress Returns
Congress has its work cut out for it.  Upon returning from recess, legislators will face all 13 of the annual appropriations bills with less than 20 working days left in the current fiscal year. But that October 1st deadline has lost some of its meaning in recent years -- Congress has repeatedly resorted to temporary continuing resolutions to keep the government running into the new fiscal year while debate continues on appropriations. The Senate has placed the Interior bill on its schedule for September 4th, the last step needed before the bill -- already passed by the House -- can go to a conference committee.  In other geoscience-related appropriations, it seems as if funding for NSF and NASA (the VA/HUD and Independent Agencies bill) will be held up until after the end of the fiscal year, possibly even until a lame-duck session after the November elections. The earliest the House Appropriations Committee may take its version up is the second half of September. The committee also has yet to act on the bills funding NOAA (Commerce) or the Department of Energy (Energy and Water).  With the mid-term elections coming up and the control of both chambers up for grabs, neither party will be eager to stick around during prime October campaigning time.  Additional information on geoscience-related appropriations is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/appropsfy2003.html. Addendum: Despite signing the bill, President Bush decided not to distribute the emergency spending. As a result, the USGS will not receive any of the funds contained in the bill.

Johannesburg Hosts Global Sustainable Development Summit
A decade ago, President George H. W. Bush attended the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, signing the climate treaty that established global warming as the dominant international environmental issue. The latest global environmental summit kicked off this month in Johannesburg, South Africa, with climate issues framed in the broader context of sustainable development. The current President Bush will not attend -- Secretary of State Colin Powell heads the US delegation. Although no major international agreements are likely to result from this summit, many hope these negotiations will lead to reaffirmation of those commitments borne out of Rio and to the development of new partnerships that can help narrow the gap between industrialized and developing countries.  This idea of partnerships is supported by the Bush administration as it aims to shift the emphasis from political declarations to encouraging communication between governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and the scientific community to achieve sustainable development goals.  The opening session of the summit began with discussion on proposals to make renewable energy technologies account for 15% of the total global energy production by 2010.  The US and Saudi Arabia reportedly tried to tone down this proposal, claiming such efforts lack compatibility with economic concerns. The ten-day summit is expected to conclude on September 4th.

Senators Urge Delay of President's New Source Review Reforms
Back in June, the Bush administration released plans to reform the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) New Source Review (NSR) permit program. According to the administration, the proposed NSR changes are an attempt at more efficient implementation of the Clean Air Act, allowing electric power companies, refineries and other smokestack industries to upgrade and expand their capacity without enduring complicated regulatory process. This move sparked heated debate as opponents claimed that the president's proposal provides industries too much leeway and undermines current NSR enforcement legal proceedings.  Early this month, a group of 44 Senators, mostly Democrats, signed a letter pushing for delays of NSR reforms by requesting the administration conduct a study on the full potential effects of the reforms on air quality and human health.  In response to the Senate letter, a coalition of industries led by the National Association of Manufacturers and Nation Petrochemical and Refiners Association, wrote in support of Bushís proposed NSR revisions, arguing that the current sluggish economy cannot afford any threats to critical investment decisions. Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and other letter-signers have asserted that they will use the EPA's FY 2003 appropriations bill to prevent the agency from spending funds on the NSR revisions during the coming year.

President Bush Proposes Healthy Forests Initiative
On August 22nd, President Bush announced his new Healthy Forests Initiative during a visit to fire-scorched southwestern Oregon.  With this year's fire season considered the worst in modern history, Bush argued that a federal response is needed to expand catastrophic wildfire prevention efforts in priority forests and rangelands. Bush's initiative aims to reduce regulatory red tape that hinders active forest management, to encourage Congress to pass legislation expediting forest thinning projects, and to streamline National Environmental Policy Act regulations for wildfire management.  Environmentalists are worried that the proposal is an attempt to open more national forest for the timber industry by making logging projects easier to approve and reducing the ability of citizens and environmental groups to appeal projects. Logging companies and a number of western lawmakers showed their support for Bush's initiative and publicly blamed environmentalists for locking up federal forests, thereby creating unnaturally dense growth that in turn fuels catastrophic wildfires. A US Forest Service press release on the initiative can be found at http://www.usda.gov/news/releases/2002/08/0352.htm.

NASA Accepting Comments on Solid Earth Science Vision
NASA is accepting public comments on a long-term vision and strategy for the agency's solid Earth science activities. The plan was developed by an external Solid Earth Science Working Group, initiated in 2000 and chaired by Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. According to NASA, the document "will serve as a guide in developing a stronger and more focused NASA Solid Earth and Natural Hazards Program." The draft can be viewed and downloaded at http://solidearth.jpl.nasa.gov and comments can be sent to seswg@hq.nasa.gov through September 30th.

Georgia County Revises School Policy to Placate Evolution Critics
Responding to pressure from parents opposed to the teaching of evolution, the Cobb County school board voted on August 22nd to consider a revised science education policy that would adopt a "teach the controversy" approach to this subject. The new policy states that "discussion of disputed views of academic subjects is a necessary element of providing a balanced education, including the study of the origin of the species. This subject remains an area of intense interest, research, and discussion among scholars." The policy would replace an earlier one adopted in 1995, which acknowledged that "some scientific accounts of the origin of human species as taught in public schools are inconsistent with the family teachings of a significant number of Cobb County citizens" and pledged respect for those family teachings. Located just to the northwest of Atlanta, Cobb County represents the second-largest school district in the state. The day before the school board vote, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the county to discontinue another related policy adopted earlier this year that requires disclaimers be placed in biology textbooks. Modeled after ones adopted several years ago in Alabama, the disclaimers read: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered." The board's final vote on its revised policy will take place September 26th. In the interim, the board is accepting public comments. More at http://www.ncseweb.org.

AGI/AAPG Spring Semester Internship Applications Due October 15th
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a fourteen-week internship in Spring 2003. 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, 2002. See http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html for further information.

List of Key Federal Register Notices
A new feature of the AGI Monthly Reviews is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations and notices of interest to the geoscience community.  Entries are listed in chronological order and show the federal agency involved, the title, and the citation.  The Federal Register is available online at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/frcont02.html.

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 A. Baker, AGI/AIPG Summer Intern Evelyn Kim, and David Applegate.

Sources: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, E&E News, EPA, Greenwire, House Appropriations Committee, Library of Congress, NASA, National Center for Science Education, Senate Appropriations Committee, Washington Post, and White House Office of Management and Budget.

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

Posted September 1, 2002; Revised September 9, 2002


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