American Geological Institute

Government Affairs MONTHLY REVIEW


October 1999


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.

Earthquake Briefing Shakes Capitol Hill
Officials Recognize Second Annual Earth Science Week
Third Continuing Resolution May Be the Charm
Geologic Mapping Act Passes House, AGI Fellow's Efforts Recognized
Legislation to Double Federal Investment in R&D Introduced in House
Science Education Provision Attached to House-Passed Bill
OMB Issues Final Revised Rule Subjecting Scientific Research to FOIA
Geotimes on Evolution, Interview with USGS Director Groat
AGU/SSA Release Timely Statement on Test Ban Verification
US Forest Service Proposed Planning Regulations
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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

Earthquake Briefing Shakes Capitol Hill
AGI joined forces with the US Geological Survey to hold an October 22nd briefing in the U.S. Capitol entitled "Ten Years After the World Series Earthquake: Progress Toward Safer Communities." The briefing is the first in a series looking at ways that scientific information helps to build safer and healthier communities. The series is hosted by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) who made introductory remarks to begin the briefing. Speakers included David Schwartz, USGS Earthquake Hazards Program; James F. Davis, California State Geologist and Director of the Division of Mines and Geology; and Robert Panero, Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation. Their remarks focused on how the San Francisco Bay area is using earthquake information to save lives and property. Dr. Schwartz commented on the newly released USGS report that the San Francisco Bay area has a 70 percent chance of a 6.7 or greater magnitude earthquake before 2030. The speakers were introduced by Mark Schaefer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science. Additional series sponsors include AGI member societies the Association of American State Geologists and American Geophysical Union.

Two days before the briefing, Seismological Society of America President Terry Wallace testified before the House Basic Research Subcommittee in a hearing on lessons learned from the recent earthquakes in Turkey, Taiwan, Greece, and Mexico. Others testifying included representatives from the USGS, the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute, and a local fire and rescue squad. The testimony is available at http://www.house.gov/science/106_hearing.htm#Basic_Research.

Officials Recognize Second Annual Earth Science Week
Thanks to the efforts of state geological surveys, local geological societies, and individual geoscientists throughout the country, 39 governors and a number of mayors proclaimed October 10-16 as Earth Science Week. Building on last year's Senate recognition by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Earth Science Week was recognized in the House of Representatives this year via remarks entered into the Congressional Record by Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY). Her statement also recognized the awarding of AGI's inaugural Legendary Geoscientist Award to Wyoming geologist extraordinaire J. David Love. For the second year in a row, President Clinton issued a message encouraging national participation in Earth Science Week activities. The text of many proclamations and related official recognition are available at http://www.earthscienceworld.org/week.

Third Continuing Resolution May Be the Charm
President Clinton has signed a third continuing resolution to fund federal programs in the new fiscal year (FY) as the lengthy debates over FY 2000 appropriations continue. Currently, eight of the appropriations bills have been signed into law, three have been vetoed by the President, and two have a veto threat. Clinton signed the VA, HUD and Independent Agencies bill into law on October 20, allocating $3.9 billion to the National Science Foundation and $13.7 billion to NASA. Overall, the geosciences fared well in the VA/HUD bill, but the battle is still heated over the Interior appropriations bill, which funds the U.S. Geological Survey. President Clinton has threatened to veto the bill if it appears on his desk in the current version, which includes a number of unrelated legislative provisions on environmental and public lands issues. Controversial riders cover issues regarding oil royalty valuation regulations, grazing permits in the West, reintroduction of grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness of Idaho and Montana, reinstating a five-acre limitation on mill sites, and low funding levels for the President's Lands Legacy program. The current bill provides the USGS with $823.8 million, more than either the House ($820.4 million ) or the Senate ($813.1 million) but less than the $838 million request. The bill also includes a $40 million downpayment for federal purchase of the Baca ranch in New Mexico, which includes the ancient volcanic edifice of the Valles Caldera.

Geologic Mapping Act Passes House, AGI Fellow's Efforts Recognized
The House passed H.R. 1528, the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999, on October 26th. Both H.R. 1528 and its Senate companion, S. 607, now await action in the Senate. During discussion of the bill before the House vote, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) recognized the contributions of 1998-1999 AGI Congressional Science Fellow David Wunsch, who worked for her on the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, in the development of H.R. 1528. Wunsch was also recognized for his efforts with H.R. 1753, the Methane Hydrate Research and Development Act, which passed the House at the same time as H.R. 1528. More on both bills at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/gaphome.html#new.

Legislation to Double Federal Investment in R&D Introduced in House
On October 28th, Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) and 9 co-sponsors introduced H.R. 3161, the long-awaited House companion to Senate-passed S. 296, which authorizes a doubling of the federal investment in research in the next twelve years. H.R. 3161 has been referred to the Committee on Science, where it is expected to receive a rocky reception from committee chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), whose opposition to S. 296 was a major factor in keeping the doubling effort confined to the Senate until now. H.R. 3161 was additionally referred to the Committees on Commerce, Armed Services, Resources, and Agriculture for those portions of the bill within their jurisdiction. Original co-sponsors include physicist Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ); ranking Commerce Committee Democrat John Dingell (MI); and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), whose California district includes the western regional office of the U.S. Geological Survey. The full Senate passed S. 296 on July 26th by which time it had garnered 41 co-sponsors.

Science Education Provision Attached to House-Passed Bill
Science education received a big push this month from Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Tom Petri (R-WI), who supported an amendment to H.R. 2, the Student Results Act, during House consideration of the bill. The amendment, passed by the House in a 360-62 vote, would require states to develop standard and testing requirements for science education, similar to the requirements already developed for math and reading. Currently, there are close to 20 states that have no standards or assessment for science teaching. H.R. 2 passed the House on October 21st and is now awaiting consideration by the Senate. Education will continue to be a hot topic due to the 2000 elections and the ongoing reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the main legislation for federally funded K-12 programs in the Department of Education.

OMB Issues Final Revised Rule Subjecting Scientific Research to FOIA
After two postings on the Federal Register and several months of work, a final draft of Circular-110 was released by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on September 30th. The revision was mandated by the "Shelby provision" inserted into last year's omnibus appropriations bill (Public Law 105-277), which made data obtained with federal grant money subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Scientists and universities raised concerns that the new provisions could force release of data before it was peer-reviewed or published and could lead to harassment by those opposed to certain research. The final OMB revision narrows the applicability of FOIA only to those data used in the creation or revision of major federal regulations. OMB's initial draft revision in February drew over 9,000 responses, forty times more than normally received. The full text of the circular, as well as the proposed revisions that were released in August and February, can be found at http://www.whitehouse.gov/OMB/grants/index.html#circulars.

Geotimes on Evolution, Interview with USGS Director Groat
The October issue of Geotimes features a series of responses by geoscientists to the decision by the Kansas Board of Education to remove macroevolution, the age of the Earth, and the origin of the universe from state standards. Authors include Rev. James Skehan, S. J., director emeritus of the Weston Observatory at Boston College; University of New Mexico professor John Geissman; AGU executive director Fred Spilhaus; NESTA president Linda Selvig; National Center for Science Education executive director Eugenie Scott; and Kansas state geologist Lee Allison. Columns address the political and pedagogical ramifications of the Kansas decision. The October issue also includes an interview with USGS Director Charles "Chip" Groat, held just days after the announcement of the survey's reorganization. The interview continues in the November issue.

AGU/SSA Release Timely Statement on Test Ban Verification
An AGI special update reported on the October 6th release of a joint statement by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) and Seismological Society of America (SSA) on verification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The statement was released only days after it was announced that the Senate would vote on the treaty after more than two years of inaction. With little debate, the Senate subsequently rejected the treaty, but the issue of verifiability of nuclear tests is not going away, and the treaty may return as a campaign issue in the upcoming presidential elections. For more on CTBT, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/ctbt.html.

US Forest Service Proposed Planning Regulations
As reported in an AGI alert, the USFS is seeking public comments on the proposed changes to forest planning and stewardship regulations. The proposed changes incorporate suggestions made to the agency by the Committee of Scientists, an interdisciplinary group that was dominated by ecologists and social scientists. Comments can be submitted via the web at http://www.fs.fed.us/forum/mepa/rule/, via email at planreg/wo_caet@fs.fed.us, via fax to (406) 329-3021, or via mail at CAET-USDA, Attn: Planning Rule, Forest Service, USDA, 200 East Broadway, Room 103, PO Box 7669, Missoula, Montana 59807. AGI strongly urges geoscientists to submit comments on the new management regulations and advocate for the inclusion of the geosciences in the Regional and National Science Advisory Boards.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities

Nov. 12

AIBS Presidents Mtg.

Airlie VA

Dec. 9-10

AGI Foundation Mtg.

Houston TX

Dec. 13-17

AGU Fall Mtg.

San Francisco CA

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 David Applegate and Margaret Baker, AGI Government Affairs Program, and AGI/AAPG Geoscience Policy Intern Alison Alcott.

Sources: AAAS, AGU, American Institute of Physics, Library of Congress, National Science Teachers Association, Office of Management and Budget, Triangle Coalition, US Forest Service, US Geological Survey.

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

Posted November 1, 1999


  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