Monthly Review: November 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.
 

107th Congress Leaves Appropriations, Energy Bill in Limbo
ANWR Likely to Emerge Early in the New Congress
NSF Doubling Bill Passes Congress, Awaits Bush Signature
Department of Homeland Security Now a Reality
Sea Grant Program Reauthorized
Wetlands Conservation Bill Signed into Law
Paleontology Cuts at National Monument Spark Controversy
New Geoscience Fellows Choose House, Senate Offices
List of Key Federal Register Notices
New Material on Web Site

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107th Congress Leaves Appropriations, Energy Bill in Limbo
As reported in the November 15th Special Update, the 107th Congress has adjourned, leaving many major issues unresolved.  Although they held a brief post-election session, action on the remaining fiscal year (FY) 2003 appropriations bills and comprehensive energy legislation will wait for the new year and the Republican-controlled 108th Congress. Congress passed a long-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund non-defense federal programs at FY 2002 base levels -- a level that translates into a funding decrease for most programs because of inflation -- until January 11, 2003. Staffers for the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are rushing to assemble an omnibus package for the 108th Congress to consider when it convenes on January 7th. The first sticking point is establishing a single allocation for each of the bills since numbers used by the House and Senate differed. For its part, the White House is pressing for Congress to stick to levels close to the president's original request. While the overall amount of funding is likely to be lower than in the existing bills, the impact on individual programs is not yet clear.

The Special Update also noted that efforts to pass a stripped-down version of energy legislation during the lame-duck session failed. On November 13th, House-Senate Conference Committee Chairman Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) attempted to revive the debate by suggesting passage of a bill that would include only provisions related to the Price-Anderson Act (insurance for nuclear power plants) and pipeline safety. Senate conferees quickly rejected the suggestion, as did the White House, which indicated that any bill not including electric utility restructuring would be vetoed. Energy legislation will likely become one of the early issues for the 108th Congress. The Special Update also included a brief rundown of new Republican committee chairs. More at  http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/lameduck_update1102.html.

ANWR Likely to Emerge Early in the New Congress
The New York Times and E&E Daily both report that the incoming chairmen of the Senate Budget Committee and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee -- Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) and Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), respectively -- may seek to use a filibuster-proof budget bill to obtain approval of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Known as budget reconciliation, this type of bill is exempted from filibusters, which require a 60-vote majority to break. Opening ANWR was included in such a bill in 1995, but President Clinton vetoed that bill. ANWR opponents led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) have repeatedly threatened to filibuster any legislation to open ANWR. In test votes earlier this year, a provision to drill ANWR as part of comprehensive energy legislation only obtained 46 votes in the Senate (see AGI Special Update 5-8-02), and it is unclear that ANWR supporters will have the four additional votes they need in the new Senate. The proposal by Nickles and Domenici, however, signals that this issue is likely to come up early in the new year. ANWR was included in the House-passed version of comprehensive energy legislation (H.R.4). More on ANWR at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/anwr.html.

NSF Doubling Bill Passes Congress, Awaits Bush Signature
As stated in a November 18th Action Alert, a compromise version of legislation that authorizes a doubling of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) budget over five years passed Congress just before adjournment. Both the House and Senate acted late at night after a deal was reached to overcome White House objections. The president is expected to sign H.R. 4664 into law any day now, putting both the administration and Congress on record in support of this goal. The bill contains a number of provisions regarding education and workforce issues as well -- indeed the authorization of future appropriations is only a small portion of the overall bill. NSF supporters have sought a budget doubling for the foundation ever since the National Institutes of Health was put on such a track (to be completed with the coming fiscal year's appropriations). Unlike an appropriations bill, however, this legislation only authorizes spending; it does not release any actual funds. A major effort from the scientific community over the next five years will be needed to turn authorization into reality. More at  http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/nsfreauth_alert1102.html.

Department of Homeland Security Now a Reality
President Bush signed the bill establishing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) into law on November 25th. Two provisions of interest to the geoscience community relate to the new department's Office of Science and Technology (OST), which will be headed by the DHS Under Secretary of Science and Technology, and the incorporation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) into DHS's Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate. OST will be responsible for developing a national plan to counter "emerging terrorist threats."  FEMA stakeholders have expressed concern about how the formerly independent agency's natural hazards programs would be incorporated in DHS. The Political Scene column in the November issue of Geotimes looks at the potential impact of DHS on the geosciences, calling for a broad definition of homeland security. The column is available on the web at
http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/nov02/scene.html.

Congress Reauthorizes Sea Grant Program
On November 12th, the House unanimously approved legislation (H.R. 3389) to reauthorize the National Sea Grant College Program. The bill, which the Senate passed in October, reauthorizes Sea Grant for a total of $550 million over five years, starting with $60 million in fiscal year (FY) 2003 and gradually increasing to $85 million in FY 2008. H.R. 3389 keeps Sea Grant within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), rejecting the Bush Administration's proposal to move the program into the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, reforms to Sea Grant were included in H.R. 3389 to address President Bush's concerns over insufficient merit-based competition and poor overall management within the program. Also included are amendments requiring Sea Grant to develop a comprehensive strategic plan and to report annually to Congress on program progress. The bill also includes language ensuring that minority and economically disadvantaged students have equal access to the program and requires that the oceans and coastal research activities of NOAA (including Sea Grant and the Coastal Ocean Program) coordinate with activities carried out through NSF.  President Bush signed the bill into law on November 26th.  More at http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=2002-26.msg.

Wetlands Conservation Bill Signed into Law
Shortly before leaving town, Congress passed H.R. 3908, the North American Wetlands Conservation Reauthorization Act, which amends provisions in the current law related to funding levels and cost-sharing requirements.  The bill would also extend the Chesapeake Bay Initiative through fiscal year 2008.  Under the new law, the federal government would continue to match donations from non-federal groups to restore wetlands throughout North America.  Millions of acres of wetlands in Canada, Mexico and the United States have been restored through this program since 1991.  The bill would authorize $325 million for wetland preservation over the next five years.  President Bush signed the bill into law on December 2nd.  His statement is available at  http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/12/20021202-1.html.

Paleontology Cuts at National Monument Spark Controversy
Controversy has erupted over the decision by the superintendent of Dinosaur National Monument in Utah earlier this fall to cut one paleontologist position and eventually transform a second from a research-grade position into a "physical resources program specialist" responsible for not only fossil resources but other resources as well. The National Park Service has subsequently clarified that this position, while generically defined, would be filled by a paleontologist. The monument was established in 1915 for its tremendous Mesozoic fossil beds and has remained a flagship for paleontological research ever since. The superintendent has characterized his actions as part of a broader effort within the Park Service to expand external research partnerships rather than internally funded research positions. Concerns over the superintendent's actions were distributed widely within the geoscience community primarily through e-mail listserves, generating letters to the Park Service as well as to Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) and other lawmakers.  The issue received coverage this month in the Denver Post, Washington Post and other papers. Efforts are underway to establish a dialogue between the Park Service and AGI's member societies about the future role of paleontological research not just at Dinosaur but across the park system.

New Geoscience Fellows Choose House, Senate Offices
Amidst the political turmoil leading up to the November elections, a new crop of congressional science fellows was getting oriented and finding placements with House and Senate offices. AGI and its member societies sponsor four of the 29 fellows in the program, now approaching its 30th year, coordinated by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. AGI fellow Larry Kennedy came to Capitol Hill from Reno, where he was pursuing a graduate degree in hydrology at the University of Nevada after a 20-year career in the mining industry. He also holds a doctorate in geochemistry from the University of Western Ontario. Kennedy chose to work for his home-state senator, Harry Reid (D), who will be the assistant minority leader in the 108th Congress. Kennedy expects to work on mining and other resource and public-land issues.

The Geological Society of America /U.S. Geological Survey fellow, Raphael "Rafe" Sagarin, has chosen to work in the personal office of second-term Rep. Hilda Solis (D), whose east Los Angeles district is confronted with a wide range of environmental  problems. Sagarin has a Ph.D. in marine ecology from the University of California at Santa Barbara, where he studied proxies for recording recent  climate changes.

AGU fellow Illa Amerson is working for Sen. Kent Conrad (D) of North Dakota, where she will focus on water quality and environmental issues. She holds a doctorate in environmental science and engineering from Oregon Health & Science University. The Soil Science Society of America co-sponsors fellow Lee Van Wychen, who starts in January. He recently received his doctorate in land resources and environmental science from Montana State University.

For more on the current cast of fellows, see their Society Page profile in the December issue of Geotimes at  http://www.geotimes.org/dec02/society.html. For more information on the AGI fellowship, which is funded by the AGI Foundation, and fellowships offered by AGI member societies, please visit  http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/csf.html.  Applications for the 2003-2004 AGI Congressional Science Fellowship are due February 3, 2003.

List of Key Federal Register Notices
A recent feature of the AGI Monthly Review is a summary of Federal Register announcements regarding federal regulations, agency meetings, and other 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.

Department of Education (DoEd).  Meeting announcement of the National Education Advisory Board to discuss guidelines for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NEAP) on November 14-16, 2002, in Alexandria, VA.  Vol. 67, No. 212 (1 November 2002): p. 66618.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Request for nominations for the newly formed National Ambient Air Monitoring Strategy Subcommittee of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee.  Vol. 67, No. 214 (4 November 2002): p. 67403 - 67405.

Department of Defense (DOD). Meeting announcement of the Defense Science Board on January 29-30, 2003, that will be closed to the public.  Vol. 67, No. 215 (6 November 2002): p. 67605 - 67606.

Minerals Management Service (MMS).  Meeting announcement of the Outer Continental Shelf Policy Committee on November 20-21, 2002, in New Orleans, LA.  Vol. 67, No. 215 (6 November 2002): p. 67645.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  Meeting announcement of the Earth Systems Science and Applications Advisory Committee (ESSAAC).on November 12, 2002, in Washington, DC.  Vol. 67, No. 216 (7 November 2002): p. 67877.

EPA.  Announcement of the extension of the public comment period on the draft National Management Measures to Control Nonpoint Source Pollution from Urban Areas to January 15, 2002 -- draft text available at http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/urbanmm/index.html. Vo. 67, No. 218 (12 November 2002): p. 68596.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  Announcement of the request for preproposals and full proposals to expand the knowledge base of the oceanís physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the oceanic and Great Lakes regions.  Vol. 67, No. 221 (15 November 2002): p. 69197 - 69201.

EPA.  Meeting announcement of an open meeting of the EPA Science Advisory Board to hear public comments on proposed restructuring of the committee, additional information at, http://www.epa.gov/sab.  Vol. 67, No. 228 (26 November 2002): p. 70729 - 70730.

Every month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) releases final rules on Modified Base (1-percent annual-chance) Flood Elevations for several communities. These flood maps are used to calculate flood insurance premium rates related to the National Flood Insurance Program.  This month, these announcements were made in No. 213 (p. 67119 - 67130) and No. 228 (p. 70696 - 70702).

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 and David Applegate.

Sources: AGU Science Legislation Alert, E&E News, Federal Register, Greenwire, Library of Congress, House Resources Committee, National Park Service, The New York Times, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington Post, and White House.

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

Posted December 5, 2002


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