Monthly Review: October 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.

Energy Legislation Tests Bipartisanship
Geoscience Appropriations Leading the Pack
Federal Science Leaders on the Move
Federal Hardrock Mining Regulations Revised After Delay
EPA Adopts New Arsenic Limits
House Bill  Addresses Fossils on Public Lands
Pennsylvania Restores Evolution in Standards; U.S. Senate Resolution Still Pending
MMS Seeks Comments on Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Plan
Forest Service Provides Plan for Energy Production on Public Lands
New Congressional Fellows Try to Settle In
AGI Testifies at USGS Listening Session
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Energy Legislation Tests Bipartisanship
In early October, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) called off plans for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to vote on comprehensive energy legislation. Instead, he asked the committee's chairman, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), to draft an energy bill that would be brought directly to the Senate floor, a move that allowed Daschle to bypass the committee process and shape the bill more directly.  Bingaman defended Daschle's move, stating that it was intended to "avoid quarrelsome, divisive votes in committee...and avoid those contentious issues that divide, rather than unite us." But the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. Frank Murkowski (AK) was having none of it, accusing Democrats of ducking a committee vote on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) that they would lose. The Democratic bill is not expected to contain language that would allow drilling in ANWR. Opening the refuge for exploration remains a top priority of the administration.  President Bush has given a number of recent speeches urging the Senate to pass an energy bill that would allow drilling in ANWR, referring to the issue as a matter of national security because it would reduce the nation's reliance on foreign oil.  Bush's sentiments were echoed by Murkowski and other Senate Republicans whose comprehensive energy bill (S. 388) would allow drilling in the refuge and now includes an energy security measure for federal dams and public lands.  Moving away from oil and gas toward renewable energy resources, Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced the Renewable Energy Incentives Act (S. 1566) on October 18th to allow public utilities to trade tax credits from energy they produce using renewable energy sources. Even without the committee process, the prospects for energy legislation passing before the end of the year are slim and getting slimmer due to the ongoing anthrax scare on Capitol Hill. The Hart Senate Office Building remains closed, and many other offices are only partially functioning. More on energy policy developments at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy.html.

Geoscience Appropriations Leading the Pack
As reported in an October 17 Action Alert, Congress has passed the fiscal year (FY) 2002 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, which is awaiting a presidential signature to become law.  The conference report passed by wide margins in both the House and the Senate (380-28 and 95-3 votes, respectively).  When all was said and done, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) received $914 million, more than was provided by either the House or Senate version of the bill and a 12% increase over the president's budget request. The Department of Energy's Fossil Energy programs received close to $583 million, a 30% increase above the budget request. Also on the fast track to being passed is the FY 2002 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, H.R. 2311.  On October 31st, the House-Senate Conference Committee released its report (H. Rept. 107-258).  Under this version, the Department of Energy's Office of Science is marked to receive $3.2 billion, which would include $1 billion for Basic Energy Science programs. Since the fiscal year began on October 1st, all federal programs are being funded under a series of continuing resolutions, the latest of which extends until November 16th. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/appropsfy2002.html.

Federal Science Leaders on the Move
On October 23rd, the Senate confirmed John Marburger to lead the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP). He is the first high-level scientific appointment to make it through the lengthy confirmation process.  Marburger, who was the Director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory before being nominated, will not only head OSTP but also act as the president's science advisor.  On a related note, President Bush announced that he intends to nominate Richard M. Russell to be Associate Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  Russell has been serving as Chief of Staff at OSTP and previously worked on the House Science Committee before leaving to head up the president's transition team for science.  More information on Richard Russell is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/10/20011026-13.html. President Bush also announced his intentions to nominate Michael Smith to be the Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy at the Department of Energy.  Smith has a long history of activity related to energy resources and has most recently been serving as the Oklahoma Secretary for Energy.  Also announced this month, NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin will step down as head of the agency on November 17th after a nine-year tenure that spanned three administrations, having been appointed by the first President Bush. Goldin made his announcement shortly before the Mars Odyssey probe made a successful entry into orbit and just ahead of a highly critical independent review of the International Space Station (released today). No word yet on a successor. More on Goldin's announcement at ftp://ftp.hq.nasa.gov/pub/pao/pressrel/2001/01-191.txt.

Federal Hardrock Mining Regulations Revised After Delay
In the October 30th Federal Register, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released the final rules for hardrock mining on federal lands, commonly referred to as the 3809 regulations.  Originally prepared during the Clinton Administration, the new regulations were delayed several years by provisions added to annual appropriations bills.  In the last days of the Clinton administration, the revised regulations were finally announced only to be shelved again by the incoming Bush Administration for review and further consideration.  Now that the current administration has reviewed and modified the regulations, the final 3809 rules will take effect on December 31, 2001.  A Clinton revision that would have allowed the Secretary of the Interior to block projects that pose "substantial irreparable harm to significant scientific, cultural, or environmental resources" has been removed in the final version.  The new revisions would maintain the Clinton-era bonding regulations and regulations regarding the use of cyanide in mining gold deposits. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/mining.html.

House Bill  Addresses Fossils on Public Lands
October saw the introduction of new legislation intended to protect paleontological resources on federal lands.  The Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, H.R. 2974, was introduced by Rep. James P. McGovern (D-MA) on October 2nd, and immediately referred to the House Committee on Resources where it was subsequently referred to three subcommittees. According to McGovern, the bill is designed to establish a unified policy for federal land management agencies to encourage stewardship of paleontological resources on federal lands. The bill is based on recommendations contained in a report issued last year by the Department of the Interior. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/fossils.html.

EPA Adopts New Arsenic Limits
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Todd Whitman announced on Halloween that her agency would adopt a new limit for arsenic in drinking water of 10 parts per billion (ppb), down from the current 50 ppb.  The new limit was originally proposed by the Clinton Administration in January, suspended by the Bush Administration in March, and now officially reinstated in a letter from Whitman to Congress.  Environmental groups pushed for an even tighter standard of 3 ppb, while many business and mining groups opposed the stricter arsenic limits because of the high costs anticipated for small water systems.  Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (D-TX) praised Whitman's decision, calling it "a victory for the health of American families" and "a reasonable compromise," respectively.  The new standard will be met by 2006 with the aid of $20 million in earmarked funds to develop more cost-effective technologies for small towns to meet the standard. EPA's decision followed an October 4th hearing held by the House Science Subcommittee on Environment, Technology and Standards on three reports recently submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that update the state of knowledge on the science, benefits, and cost of regulating arsenic in drinking water.  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/clean_water.html.

Pennsylvania Restores Evolution in Standards; U.S. Senate Resolution Still Pending
In Pennsylvania, House and Senate Education Committees have passed regulations to implement new science and technology education standards that include evolution. The new standards do not include language previously inserted by the state board of education, which would have required students to "analyze... studies that support or do not support the theory of evolution" and required teachers to present theories that "do and do not support the theory of evolution." These requirements were included in draft standards submitted for public comment in April 2001. Many scientific and educational organizations as well as individual concerned Pennsylvanians
responded to the call. As a result of public input, the Pennsylvania Department of Education removed the anti-evolution requirements from the final standards. The standards face one final hurdle -- a vote by the state's Independent Regulatory Review Commission.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, a Senate resolution introduced by Pennsylvania's own Sen. Rick Santorum (R) is still being considered as part of a final compromise education bill (H.R. 1). A House-Senate conference committee met most recently on October 31st to work out differences between House and Senate versions. The conference's work has been slowed considerably in the aftermath of September 11th, but President Bush has continued to press Congress for a final bill. The American Geophysical Union recently sent out an alert to its members urging them to write members of the conference committee. The alert is on the web at http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=2001-26.msg. More on this topic at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis.html#evolution.

MMS Seeks Comments on Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Plan
The Minerals Management Service (MMS) announced on October 26th that it has taken the next steps for developing a 5-year plan for outer continental shelf (OCS) oil and gas leases.  MMS is required by law to establish and maintain a schedule for lease sales that "best meet[s] national energy needs" for the coming five years.  The current plan is due to expire at the end of June 2002.  Public comments are sought on both a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the second draft of the proposed plan.  Under the new program, a total of 20 lease sales in 8 areas would be scheduled: 5 off the coast of Alaska and 3 in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Federal Register announcement, MMS is most interested in receiving comments "on the size, timing, and location of leasing and the procedures for assuring fair market value" intended in the proposal.  As is typical for EIS reports, the draft EIS proposes three alternatives, which includes a "no action alternative."  Public comments on both reports can be made either via mail or email.  The MMS website provides both mailing addresses and email addresses for comments and a schedule of public meetings that are scheduled in the next few months.  More at http://www.mms.gov/5-year.

Forest Service Provides Plan for Energy Production on Public Lands
As part of President Bush's National Energy Policy proposal, federal agencies were requested to assess energy policy issues under their jurisdiction.  The U.S. Forest Service (FS) established an energy group to look at the potential energy resources on FS lands, which released its finding in the "U.S. Forest Service Implementation of National Energy Plan."  Divided into topics based on the recommendations in the National Energy Policy report, the implementation plan outlines specific action underway to coordinate with other agencies and programs to develop a comprehensive energy policy for federal lands.  According to the report, in the area of fossil fuel and geothermal energy, the FS Minerals and Geology Management program will complete an inventory of these resources and will study the effects of forest planning on energy resources.  More at http://www.fs.fed.us/geology.

New Congressional Fellows Attempt to Settle In
Last year's crop of congressional science fellows faced a turbulent situation as they sought placements on Capitol Hill in the midst of a contested presidential race. But what they experienced was nothing compared with the 39 congressional fellows in this year's class. The fellows were partway through their orientation, which is run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on September 11th. Since that time, they have faced the challenge of  seeking placement in the face of anthrax scares, closed office buildings, and myriad other disruptions. AGI fellow David Curtiss chose to work for Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. (R-OK), who chairs the House Republican Conference, putting him fourth in the House Republican leadership. The Republican Conference is an information resource for all Republican representatives on a variety of issues, and Curtiss expects to focus on energy and international issues. Before taking the fellowship, Curtiss was Manager of Program Development and a research scientist at the Energy and Geoscience Institute of the University of Utah. He holds a master's degree in Earth Resource Management from the University of South Carolina.

AGU fellow Karen Weyland recently received her Ph.D. in environmental geochemistry from Michigan State University. She is working for Senate Assistant Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), replacing Jack Hess, who has served as a Desert Research Institute fellow with Reid for the past year and a half. Jack is the new Geological Society of America Executive Director, and we wish him the best of luck in his new job. GSA/USGS fellow Chester "Skip" Watts is on leave from Radford University where he is a geology professor and director of the Institute for Engineering Geosciences. Phillip Owens will start in January as the Soil Science Society of America's fellow. He is completing his doctorate in soil science at Texas A&M University. Another geoscientist, Ana Unruh, is sponsored by the American Meteorological Society. She is working for Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA). AAAS also oversees a number of fellowships in the executive branch, and one of the new EPA fellows is Steve Gaffield, a hydrologist with the Wisconsin Geological Survey.

Applications for the 2002-2003 AGI Congressional Science Fellowship are due February 1, 2002. For more information on the AGI fellowship and fellowships offered by AGI member societies, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/csf.html.

AGI Testifies at USGS Listening Session
On October 11th, AGI participated in a listening session held by USGS Director Charles G. "Chip" Groat and his leadership team. The purpose of the session was to receive input from the survey's customers. Federal agencies, state agencies, and scientific organizations were among the forty-two entities giving statements during the all-day session. Participants were asked to base their comments on a series of questions relating to the recommendations of the recent National Research Council report Future Roles and Opportunities for the U.S. Geological Survey. The AGI statement is at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/usgs_listening.html. For more on the NRC report, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/nrc_usgsrprt.html.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
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 and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program, and Catherine Macris, AAPG/AGI Geoscience Policy Intern.

Sources: Bureau of Land Management, Federal Register, Greensheets, Greenwire, hearing testimony, Library of Congress, Minerals Management Service, NASA, National Center for Science Education, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Washington Post, White House.

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

Posted November 2, 2001


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