Monthly Review: November 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.

Musical Chairs in the 107th Congress
Transition Teams Up But Not Quite Running
Carbon Counting Cause of Collapse at Climate Change Conference
Forest Service Issues Roadless Alternatives
Public Lands See Late-Session Action
Congress Acts on NASA, Hazard Mitigation
Ocean Bills Reauthorize Coastal and Marine Activities
New Congressional Fellows Affected by Election Uncertainty
Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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

Musical Chairs in the 107th Congress
Even though the current 106th Congress will be back in session on Monday to finish up the last appropriations bills, all eyes are on the changing face of the new 107th Congress, elected on November 7th. Republicans have retained control of both chambers but with a narrowed margin in the House and a non-existent margin in the Senate. It remains to be seen whether the even split will produce intensified partisanship or a new bipartisan spirit.

Having held on to a slim majority in the House, Republicans must decide whether to honor the 6-year term limits for committee chairs that they instituted in 1995. If they do, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) will reluctantly step down from the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is next in line. If selected, he would give up his position as Science Committee chair, a post he has held since 1997. That chair would go to Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY). But despite Sensenbrenner's seniority on Judiciary, his unpopularity with some fellow Republicans may derail his ascension. Continuing the term-limit musical chairs, Don Young (R-AK) must give up his chairmanship of the Resources Committee and is likely to be replaced by Jim Hansen (R-UT). In turn, Young may take over from Bud Shuster (R-PA) as chairman of the powerful Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The retirement of Education and the Workforce Committee chairman Bill Goodling (R-PA) opens the top slot for Tom Petri (R-WI). Retiring Commerce Committee chair Tom Bliley (R-VA) will be replaced by either Billy Tauzin (R-LA) or Michael Oxley (R-OH). Stay tuned!

If George W. Bush becomes president and Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA) does not overtake his opponent in the ongoing recount, then the Senate will be tied 50-50 with a Vice President Dick Cheney as the tie-breaker, maintaining Republican control. Although there will be 11 new faces in the Senate, all but one of the committee chairs (the Finance Committee's William Roth, R-DE) return. The biggest change for the geosciences will be Gorton's departure from the chairmanship of the Interior Appropriations subcommittee, where he exercised control over the purse strings of the U.S. Geological Survey and other geoscience-related agencies.

Transition Teams Up But Not Quite Running
With the General Services Administration holding tight to the keys for transition offices at 1800 G Street NW in Washington, Dick Cheney has set up a privately funded transition office across the river in northern Virginia. The Bush transition will be overseen by Cheney but directed by Clay Johnson, Bush's chief of staff in Texas and a close friend of the governor's since they attended preparatory school together at Phillips Andover Academy. Details have yet to emerge on who will be handling science and technology appointments either for the Bush transition or the much lower-profile Gore transition team.

At the beginning of November, AGI distributed to member society leadership a list of key geoscience-related presidential appointments and encouraged societies to nominate qualified geoscientists to the presidential transition team. The list and links to additional sources of information on the transition are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/transition.html.

Carbon Counting Cause of Collapse at Climate Change Conference
During the middle of November, representatives from nations and organizations around the world met at The Hague, Netherlands, to negotiate a new diplomatic agreement on climate change.  The purpose of the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP6) was to work on how nations can progress in implementing the Kyoto Protocol and the Climate Change Convention.  The Kyoto Protocol, signed in 1997 at the third such conference, has been a topic of great debate between the Clinton Administration and Congress. Its congressional critics see Kyoto as a deeply flawed treaty that fails to hold developing nations, such as China and India, to the same standards as developed nations in greenhouse gas emissions.

The conference in The Hague was to work out many of the implementation details for Kyoto. Negotiations ultimately broke down over disagreements between the United States and the European Union on the role of carbon sequestration. Reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere can be accomplished either by reducing emissions or by increasing the uptake of carbon in plants, soil, rock formations, and the oceans. Although much of the focus in the Kyoto pact was on reducing emissions, it left the door open for developed countries to receive credit for sequestering carbon in long-term "sinks" such as forests and agricultural soil or by injection into deep wells. The US sought to maximize sequestration credits, but the European Union argued that doing so would short-circuit the  treaty's central goal of emissions reduction. Instead of completely closing the negotiations, representatives have suspended the discussion until the COP7 meeting in Morocco in May or June of next year.  No matter how the election works out here at home, the debate over carbon sinks is likely to remain heated, initially over whether to accept them and eventually over how to measure them.  More information on COP6 is available at http://cop6.unfccc.int/modules/none.asp?pageid=16.

Forest Service Issues Roadless Alternatives
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has released the final EIS for its regulations to protect certain roadless areas within the National Forest System, a proposal known as the "roadless initiative."  USFS presented the EIS, which outlines four alternative plans, to Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, who is expected to make a final decision in early December.  The USFS preferred alternative would greatly limit timber harvesting in USFS lands and would "prohibit most road construction and reconstruction on 49.2 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, increasing to 58.5 million acres in April 2004 when the Tongass National Forest would be included."  Inventoried roadless areas comprise about 58.5 million acres, nearly a third of the National Forest System lands.  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/roadless.html.

Public Lands See Late-Session Action
While the national political scene is on hold waiting for the results of the November 7th election, President Clinton moved ahead on leaving his lasting stamp on the nation's physical landscape.  Over the last year, Clinton has been active in setting aside public lands in the western states for preservation and conservation. On November 9th, Clinton established Vermilion Cliffs National Monument in northern Arizona, his eleventh such designation using authority granted by the Antiquities Act of 1906. He also expanded the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. The Vermilion Cliffs National Monument covers nearly 300,000 acres of the Colorado Plateau near the Grand Canyon.  Cited as a geologic treasure, the area also contains a number of ancestral human sites. Originally designated in 1924 by President Coolidge, the Craters of the Moon National Monument on the Snake River Plain will be expanded to encompass an additional 661,000 acres, including extensive lava formations. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/natmon.html.

Clinton also signed S. 2547, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preservation Act, into law on November 22nd.  The bill, introduced by Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), would establish the site as a national park and preserve once "the Secretary [of the Interior] determines that sufficient land having a sufficient diversity of resources has been acquired" and annul the National Monument designation.  The bill also establishes the Baca National Wildlife Refuge to help preserve the Colorado section of the Baca ranch - the federal government acquired the ranch's New Mexico section, encompassing the Valles Caldera, earlier this year.

On a related note, geologists in New Mexico are working to establish a national monument at Tent Rocks, a geologically unique area located to the south of the Valles Caldera. The planned monument has the support of surrounding counties, Native American tribes, the state's senators, and the Bureau of Land Management. With bipartisan support, the designation may take place by presidential decree or through legislation in the upcoming session of Congress.

Congress Acts on NASA, Hazard Mitigation
Just before heading out of town for the now infamous election, Congress passed several bills to reauthorize and amend existing federal programs. However, Congress did not pass the appropriations bills that they needed to pass in order to adjourn for good. They return on December 4th to complete that work  One of the passed bills, the NASA Reauthorization Act, was signed into law by President Clinton on October 30th.  The new law authorizes -funding levels for the agency over the next three years: $13.6 billion for the current fiscal year (FY) 2000, $14.2 billion for FY 2001, and $14.6 billion for FY 2002.  A majority of the funding increases in the bill are targeted for science, aeronautics, and technology programs. As an authorization bill, this legislation primarily provides guidelines for future appropriations. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/auth99.html.

A second bill, the Disaster Mitigation and Cost Reduction Act (H.R. 707), introduced by Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-FL), was also signed into law.  The bill would amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to require that states submit a detailed, comprehensive state program for emergency and disaster mitigation prior to receiving funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It would also require FEMA to hold a public comment period before "adopting new or modified policies that may result in a meaningful change in the amount of assistance a State or local community may receive."  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/mitigation.html.

Ocean Bills Reauthorize Coastal and Marine Activities
President Clinton signed S. 1752, the Coastal Barrier Resources Reauthorization Act of 2000, into law on November 13, 2000.  The bill helps to preserve coastal barrier environments by prohibiting federal "subsidies for development and disaster relief" on these areas.  Currently the act covers over 3 million acres of coastal barrier habitats, and the new act would allow other lands to be voluntarily added to these acres.  Also, the revised act would launch a pilot cooperative digital-mapping program.  The same day, Clinton signed the National Marine Sanctuaries Amendments Act of 2000 (S. 1482) into law.  This bill reauthorizes the National Marine Sanctuaries Act (NMSA) for five years and would provide scholarships for work in oceanography, marine biology, and maritime archeology as well as protect the coral reefs off the northwestern Hawaiian Islands.  More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/oceans.html.

New Congressional Fellows Affected by Election Uncertainty
On November 29th, Dick Zimmer (R) conceded the race for the 12th District of New Jersey to incumbent Rep. Rush Holt (D) when Holt's lead grew to over 700 votes during a recount. Zimmer's concession meant a sigh of relief for AGI Congressional Science Fellow Katy Makeig, who has been working in Holt's office for the past month. Holt is one of only two physicists in the House and is the first former science fellow to be elected to Congress. He serves on the Budget, Education, and Resources committees. Katy, who ran her own environmental consulting business before taking the fellowship, will be working on energy, science, and international issues. Across the Hill, new AGU fellow Kirsten Cutler still does not know where she will spend the rest of her fellowship year, having chosen to work on environmental issues for Sen. Joe Lieberman. New GSA fellow Rachel Sours-Page is working on water, natural resources, hazard mitigation, and coastal erosion issues for Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who was easily re-elected to a fourth term representing the Portland area.

Applications for the 2001-2002 AGI Congressional Science Fellowship are due February 1, 2001. For more information on the AGI fellowship and fellowships offered by AGI member societies, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/csf.html.

Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
Dec.14-19    AGU Fall Meeting   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/gap since the last monthly update:



Monthly review prepared by Margaret Baker and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program.

Sources: Bureau of Land Management, Library of Congress, United Nations, U.S. Forest Service, Washington Post, White House.

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

Posted December 1, 2000
  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