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.
Transfer of Research Programs to NSF in Question
Science Education Funding Receives Major Blow
Santorum Resolution Removed from Education Bill, But Language Remains
Water Infrastructure Bill Passes House
House Votes on Brownfields Reform
Energy Policy Stalled in Senate
President's Science Advisory Council Coming to Life
Science Scholarship Fund For September 11th Families
Congressional Science Fellowship Application Deadlines Loom
New Material on Web Site
*** Congress Back in Action for Second Session ***
After an abbreviated break, senators and representatives came back to Capitol Hill on January 23rd to begin the second session of the 107th Congress and to pick up several issues that were forced to the back burner in order to pass the compulsory appropriations bills and high-profile education reform legislation. Those back-burner issues include national energy policy, the economic stimulus package, a multi-pollutant bill to revise the Clean Air Act, and the farm bill. President Bush's State of the Union address on January 29th focused congressional action on defense and the new budget cycle, but he also specifically referred to the stimulus package and Senate delays in passing an energy bill. The stimulus package also has been stalled in the Senate -- where the latest attempt to pass the package is to attach it to an adoption tax credit bill -- but movement in the last days of the month gives hope to passage in the coming weeks. In addition to the high priority of the farm bill and a multi-pollutant bill, Congress will contend with the rippling effects of Enron's collapse and the upcoming budget cycle (more on that below). And don't forget: it is an election year.
*** State of the Union Address Previews Budget Priorities ***
In President Bush's first State of the Union Address on January 29th, he highlighted what we will likely see in his budget that comes out on February 4th. Defense, homeland security, and economic renewal will be the over-riding themes, with defense spending marked for the largest increase in twenty years. Bush stated: "to achieve these great national objectives -- to win the war, protect the homeland and revitalize our economy -- our budget will run a deficit that will be small and short term as long as Congress restrains spending and acts in a fiscally responsible way." Exactly how science funding in general, and the geosciences in specific, fare in a war budget will be known after February 4th, when the budget proposal will be released. An AGI special update will go out within a day or two of the budget release. President Bush's complete State of the Union Address is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/stateoftheunion/.
*** Energy Secretary to Recommend Yucca Mountain for Nuclear Waste ***
On January 10th, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham informed Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn (R) and the Nevada Legislature of his intent "to recommend to the President that Yucca Mountain be approved as the site for the Nation's first geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste." Governor Guinn's initial response to the Secretary's letter was succinct: "This decision stinks." Reflecting the times, the Secretary's letter argues that the consolidation of nuclear waste will "enhance protection against terrorist attacks," while also asserting that the chosen site is "scientifically sound and suitable." This action, which is mandated by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, signals that the Secretary's recommendation will be forwarded to the President in at least 30 days. If the President accepts the recommendation -- there is no time limit set for his decision -- then the governor will have 60 days to issue a "Notice of Disapproval", essentially a veto. It will then fall to Congress to vote within 90 days of continuous session (an important qualifier) on whether to sustain the governor's disapproval. Unlike a presidential veto, however, only a simple majority of both houses is required to override the veto. Overriding the disapproval is virtually assured in the House but is less certain in the Senate, where the Democratic leadership -- most notably Assistant Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) -- is strongly opposed to the site's selection. Assuming that President Bush does not delay his decision, congressional action could take place as early as this fall, although election-year politics may encourage a delay until 2003. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/yucca.html.
*** Enron Dominates Energy Debate ***
Early in 2001, the energy crunch in California and gasoline price spikes helped to motivate the Bush Administration to develop a comprehensive energy policy for the nation. Directed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, the National Energy Policy (NEP) was released in May of last year. Since then, the House passed a comprehensive bill (H.R.4) incorporating many of the NEP provisions, but the Senate has been caught up in partisan debate sparked by the administration's proposal to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for petroleum development. Although Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has announced that the Senate will take up energy legislation this spring, the collapse of Enron now appears to be the driving force for interest in energy issues. Several committees have held hearings -- and scheduled many more -- regarding the energy trading company's downfall and its implications for electricity deregulation, pension regulation, and other related issues. The General Accounting Office -- the investigative and auditing arm of Congress -- has renewed its plans (put on hold after September 11th) to sue Cheney in order to gain access to information about meetings that he held while developing the NEP, including meetings with Enron executives. More on energy policy at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/energy.html.
*** Effort Underway to Stop California from Marginalizing Earth Science ***
AGI has sent a letter to the California State Board of Education urging
them not to act on a proposal that would remove Earth science as a core
credit science course for high school graduation. The board may vote on
the proposal at its meeting on February 6. AGI also sent letters to geoscience
department chairs and member society leaders, urging them to send letters
to Reed Hastings, President of the California State Board of Education.
The American Geophysical Union sent an alert to all its California members
http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=2002-03.msg for Hastings' contact information). The Seismological Society of America also sent out an alert to their members.
The letter from AGI Executive Director and Stanford Dean of Earth Sciences Lynn Orr to Board President Hastings sought to convince the Board to retain Earth Science as a recommended high school core science course for graduation. The proposal under consideration is spelled out in the January 25, 2002, "Draft of California Science Framework for K-12 Public Schools," which can be found on the Web at http://www.cde.ca.gov/board/notices/sciencefrmwk (the key passage is on page 9, lines 7-10). In order to meet the minimum two-year laboratory science requirement for high school graduation, students must take "two of the following subjects: biology/life science, chemistry, and physics." The draft proposal goes on to point out that "laboratory courses in Earth sciences are acceptable if they have as prerequisite (or provide basic knowledge in) biology, chemistry, or physics." In AGI's opinion, this proposal essentially relegates Earth Science to a non-course because there is no incentive for schools to offer it or for students to take it. Moreover, the state exit exam -- which takes effect with the Class of 2004 -- will only test on material from required courses, further marginalizing Earth Science.
*** Evolution At Issue in Washington, Ohio; Biologists To Hold Conference ***
The Ohio State Board of Education is currently considering a reevaluation of the state's science curriculum for grades 10 and 12 An alternative curriculum draft is being proposed by the Science Excellence for All Ohioans (SEAO) group, which advocates the approach of intelligent design (ID) creationism. The SEAO curriculum modification would add a new discipline, "origin science," defined as "the study of the origin and development/diversity of life on earth." In SEAO's draft, statements in the existing curriculum that deal with evolution are modified to emphasize doubts about the validity of evolutionary theory, adding words such as "may" and "might." The Ohio State Board of Education will meet in March 2002 for further discussion. SEAO has invoked the U.S. Senate-passed Santorum resolution to justify its current actions. On January 23, a General Assembly bill (House Bill 481) was introduced to require the teaching of "origin science" to encourage the teaching of alternate theories to evolution. Another bill (House Bill 484) introduced the following day would require that state science education standards be approved by both houses of the Ohio legislature, a requirement that does not apply to any other state education standards.
A Washington state legislator re-introduced Senate Bill 6058 on January 14, which proposes that all state-purchased science textbooks contain a disclaimer similar to the one used in Alabama that labels evolution as a controversial theory and reminds students that nobody was around when life began. On January 18th, the same legislator introduced Washington Senate Bill 6500, which states: "the legislature finds that the teaching of the theory of evolution in the common schools of the state of Washington is repugnant to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and thereby unconstitutional and unlawful. All textbooks and curriculum that teach the theory of evolution shall be removed from the public schools forthwith and replaced with textbooks and curriculum that teach the self-evident truth of creation." A companion bill was introduced in the House (House Bill 2681). More on evolution flare-ups around the nation at http://www.ncseweb.org and http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution.html.
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is making evolution the subject of its annual meeting to be held in Washington DC on March 22-24, 2002. For additional information, please visit http://www.aibs.org.
*** AGI's Government Affairs Program Celebrates 10th Anniversary ***
The notion of an AGI role in public policy dates back to the institute's inception in 1948. But it took the leadership of two successive AGI presidents, Frank Harrison in 1990 and especially Bill Fisher in 1991, to get a full-fledged program going in this area. And ten years ago this month, Craig Schiffries joined AGI as the program's first manager, fresh from a stint as a GSA congressional fellow. The program's goal then as now was to serve AGI's member societies. Then as now, a significant percentage of the program's budget comes from voluntary member society contributions. The Political Scene column in the January 2002 issue of Geotimes reprints excerpts from an editorial written at the time of the program's inception by AGI's then-executive director, Charles G. "Chip" Groat, who -- along with current AGI executive director Marcus Milling -- was responsible for nurturing the fledgling program. Please take a moment to read the column at http://www.geotimes.org/jan02/scene.html.
*** Geoscientists Urged to Attend Congressional Visits Day, March 5-6 ***
In a January 14th alert, AGI asked geoscientists to attend the 7th annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) in Washington on March 5-6. This event brings over 200 scientists and engineers to Capitol Hill to visit Members of Congress and their staff early in the congressional budget cycle. With national security the over-riding federal priority, the CVD core message is that broad federal funding for research promotes the nation's security, prosperity, and the innovation of new ideas. AGI would like to see a strong contingent of geoscientists at this event, especially encouraging Member Society leaders to attend. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/cvd_alert0102.html.
*** AGI Co-Sponsors Capitol Hill Briefing on Measuring Science Results ***
The American Geological Institute joined the American Chemical Society to co-sponsor a January 15th luncheon briefing entitled "Measuring the Return on the Federal Research & Development Investment." The briefing, held in a House Science Committee hearing room, drew over 100 congressional staff. Speakers included Marcus Peacock, Associate Director of the White House Office and Management and Budget (OMB) Associate Director Marcus Peacock, who discussed the administration's plans for the coming fiscal year and OMB's efforts to develop performance-based budgets for science programs. Other speakers discussed how industry and federal agencies measure science performance as well as a recent report by the National Academy of Sciences' Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy on how to implement the 1993 Government Performance Results Act for science.
Semester Intern Welcomed, Summer Internship Applications Accepted
AGI welcomes University of Georgia geology graduate student Heather Golding as the spring semester AGI/AAPG Geoscience and Public Policy Intern. She will be spending nearly four months with AGI attending congressional hearings, researching policy issues, and writing issue updates for the program's website. We gratefully acknowledge stipend support for the internship provided by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Applications for the twelve-week summer geoscience policy internships must be postmarked by March 15, 2001. 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. Stipends for the summer interns are funded jointly by AGI and the AIPG Foundation. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.
DOE Bids to Replenish Strategic Petroleum Reserve
According to a January 23rd Greenwire report, the Department of Energy opened bidding for 22 million barrels of oil to fill the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) as a result of an executive order issued by President Bush. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said the installment would not only fill the SPR to its full capacity of 572 million barrels but also would carry out President Bush's efforts to "strength our nation's emergency energy supplies." The oil would be royalty-in-kind payment from companies at the price determined between an oil producer and a willing buyer. Responses from bidders must be completed by February 4 to achieve the initial delivery rate of 60,000 barrels per day in April followed by a rate of 130,000 barrels per day later in 2002. More at http://www.spr.doe.gov. Background on SPR-related issues can be found at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/spr.html.
New National Academy Geotechnical Committee Holds First Meeting
This month, the National Research Council's Committee on Geological and Geotechnical Engineering held its first meeting to discuss potential research topics. The intent of the committee, which is part of the Board on Earth Sciences and Resources, is to identify, investigate, and report on issues dealing with geological and geotechnical engineering and act as an independent adviser on scientific and technical questions of significance. The committee heard from various government agencies such as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in order to discuss their role in geological and geotechnical engineering issues. As a secondary focal point of the meeting, the committee considered the long-term effectiveness of engineered containment systems, in particular the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository site. More at http://www4.nationalacademies.org/cger/besr.nsf/.
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:
Sources: American Geophysical Union, American Institute of Biological Sciences, Greenwire, Department of Energy, Library of Congress, National Research Council, National Center for Science Education, USBudget.com, U.S. House of Representatives website, U.S. Senate website, Washington Post, White House website.
Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted February 3, 2002
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