Monthly Review: December 2002


This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

Appropriations Action Stays Behind Closed Doors
Energy Policy: Vice President's Plan, OCS Ban Get Day in Court
Climate Change Conference Held, Canada Ratifies Kyoto
Ohio and Louisiana State School Boards Vote for Evolution (Revised: 1-7-03)
EPA Report on Science Use in Regulations
Congressional Science Fellowship Deadline Approaches
Summer Internship Opportunity for Geoscience Students
Congressional Visits Day Scheduled for April 2-3
List of Key Federal Register Notices
New Material on Web Site

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Appropriations Action Stays Behind Closed Doors
In the middle of December, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young (R-FL) announced his plan of attack for the opening days of the 108th Congress. Young and Senate counterpart Ted Stevens (R-AK) want to finish the fiscal year (FY) 2003 appropriations process before the president's State of the Union Address on January 28th. They have agreed with the White House to cap discretionary spending at the president's proposed $750.5 billion. To meet this number, the Senate Appropriations subcommittees will need to trim $10 - $15 billion from the bills crafted in the last Congress. Although very little information is being released, the cuts are most likely to be an across-the-board percentage reduction from all programs. The Young plan would have the House quickly passing a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the federal government at FY 2002 levels, with some supplemental funds, until the end of January. The House would then pass a second CR that the Senate could use as a vehicle to pass its trimmed-down bills as a single omnibus package. This grand plan will require that the 108th Congress hit the ground running on January 7th and that members can agree upon cuts to popular programs to meet the spending cap agreed to by Republican leadership and the White House. The plan also requires Democratic cooperation, particularly in the Senate. But according to a spokesman for Sen. Robert C. Byrd (WV), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, their side has yet to see any proposal from the majority. More at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/appropsfy2003.html.

The Political Scene column in the January 2003 issue of Geotimes discusses geoscience-related policy issues likely to be addressed by the new 108th Congress, including appropriations. The column is on the Web at http://www.geotimes.org/jan03/scene.html.

Energy Policy: Vice President's Plan, OCS Ban Get Day in Court
While Capitol Hill has been quiet over the last month, federal courts have produced a pair of opinions with an impact on energy policy. On December 9th, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled on David Walker, Comptroller General of the General Accounting Office (GAO), vs. Vice President Dick Cheney, a case related to the administration's national energy policy (NEP) that was released in May 2001. GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress, sought information from the vice president on taskforce meetings during the development of the NEP. GAO did so while undertaking a study requested by Reps. John Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA). The White House refused to provide information, setting up a legal confrontation. Judge Bates dismissed the case, noting that the comptroller general "does not have the personal, concrete, and particularized injury required under Article III standing doctrine, either himself or as the agent of Congress . . .". Bates's decision was the second in a week that favors the administration. On December 6th, a federal appeals court indefinitely postponed a deadline for the release of several NEP taskforce files connected to a case filed by two non-profit organizations -- Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club. A copy of the Bates opinion on the Cheney suit is available in PDF at, http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/02-340.pdf.

In related news, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision that provides California with the power to decide how to manage its offshore oil and gas resources. For years, the state of California and the federal government, particularly the Minerals Management Service (MMS) that supervises offshore oil and gas drilling for the Department of the Interior, have been at odds as to who gets the final say in drilling off central California. The court decision asserts that under the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Environmental Protection Policy Act, the California Coastal Commission has the right to review and reject federal plans for offshore oil and gas leases. A copy of the court's opinion is available at http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/.

Climate Change Conference Held, Canada Ratifies Kyoto
December opened with a three-day conference sponsored by the Bush Administration on climate change science. President Bush recently established a multi-agency Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), which will oversee the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) -- established by the previous President Bush -- along with this Bush administration's Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). The CCSP, USGCRP, and CCRI are not to be confused with the administration's Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI), which is separately coordinated by the Department of Energy. But back to CCSP, a draft strategic plan was made available online in the middle of November. More than 1,000 scientists, policymakers, and other interested parties met in Washington for the three-day conference to review and comment on the draft. The plan provides an outline for activities in a wide array of research areas, such as atmospheric composition, global water and carbon cycles, climate variability, ecosystems, land use, and modeling. Public comments on the strategic plan are being accepted until January 18th. The draft plan and information on commenting is available at http://www.climatescience.gov. Additional information on the workshop and the plan is available from AIP Bulletin of Science Policy News at http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2002/137.html.

In related news, while the Bush Administration works to refine its research plan, the European Union and Canada are moving ahead with meeting goals set by the Kyoto Protocol, which the United States withdraw its support from last year. On December 9th, the European Union agreed to a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases (GHG) modeled after the U.S. acid-rain program. More at http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/climat/home_en.htm. The following day, Canada's House of Commons voted to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. The next week, Prime Minister Jean Chretien ratified the treaty in a ceremony in Ottawa. In order for the international treaty to take effect, it must be ratified by 55 countries that make up 55% of global emissions. More on climate change policy at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/climate.html.

Ohio and Louisiana State School Boards Vote for Evolution
On December 10th, the Ohio State Board of Education voted 18-0, with one absent, to approve new state science standards that for the first time include evolution. According to an AP report, "evolution will be the only origin-of-life theory covered on exams that students must pass to graduate, meaning schools that avoid teaching Charles Darwin's theory that life evolved through natural processes would risk putting their students at a disadvantage." Opponents of the teaching of evolution had sought to downplay evolution and include intelligent design creationism in the standards. But the final version approved by the board contains the specific statement: "The intent of this indicator does not mandate the teaching or testing of Intelligent Design." More on developments in Ohio at http://www.ncseweb.org/pressroom.asp?state=OH and http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis107/evolution.html.

Even as Ohio's state board was voting for evolution, the Louisiana Department of Education's Student and School Standards/Instruction Committee voted for a disclaimer in biology textbooks emphasizing that evolution is a theory, not a fact. Similar disclaimers have been adopted in several states. As reported by the National Center for Science Education, the president of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education opposed the move, asserting: "I am not prepared to go back to the dark ages." His view won out -- two days later, the full board voted 7-3 against the disclaimer.

EPA Report on Science Use in Regulations
The role of science at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been the topic of several hearings and bills over the years, and the agency has weathered considerable criticism over how it uses science in its rulemaking. More is likely to come in the wake of a recent report by the EPA Office of Inspector General that surveyed 16 rulemaking processes between 1991 and 2001, concluding that the role of science has not always been clear. The report, entitled "Science to Support Rulemaking," also looked at where the funding for the science used in the process originated, "scientific blind-spots," and whether the science was independently peer reviewed. Most of the case studies were related to the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. The key suggestion of the report is that the "EPA should ensure that science in rulemaking is presented in a way that is apparent and consistent with the conventions of science." The full report is available in PDF format at http://www.epa.gov/oigearth/ereading_room/SSRulemaking.pdf.

Congressional Science Fellowship Deadline Approaches
The deadline is coming up for next year's congressional science fellowships offered by AGI and several of its member societies. These fellowships provide opportunities for qualified geoscientists to spend a year working as professional staff in congressional committees and the personal offices of representatives and senators. The application deadline for the AGI fellowship is February 3, 2003. Similar fellowships are available from the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America/U.S. Geological Survey, and the Soil Science Society of America. Geoscientists are also eligible for a wide array of congressional and federal agency fellowships offered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Stipends, application procedures, qualifications, timetables, and deadlines vary. For further information, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/csf.html, which includes links to the other AGI member society fellowships, and http://fellowships.aaas.org. Geoscientists are encouraged to apply to all fellowships for which they qualify.

Summer Internship Opportunity for Geoscience Students
AGI is seeking outstanding geoscience students with a strong interest in federal science policy for a twelve-week geoscience and public policy internship in summer 2003. 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. Applications must be postmarked by March 15, 2003. For more information, please visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/intern.html.

Congressional Visits Day Scheduled for April 2-3
Looking ahead, AGI is asking geoscientists to attend the 8th annual Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (CVD) in Washington on April 2-3, 2003. 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 in an effort to increase federal investment in science. AGI would like to see a strong contingent of geoscientists at this event. We especially encouraging Member Society leaders to consider it. Attendees spend the first day receiving briefings from federal agency officials and congressional staff followed by a day of visits. More at http://www.agiweb.org/cvd.

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.

Minerals Management Service (MMS), Department of the Interior. Notice of transfer of responsibility for geospatial data to MMS related to "cadastral offshore", "offshore minerals" and "outer continental shelf submerged lands". Additional information at, http://www.mms.gov/ld/leasing.htm. Vol. 67, No. 231 (2 December 2002): p. 71588.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Semiannual regulatory agenda for regulations that will be considered by the agency between October 1, 2002 and March 31, 2003. Vol. 67, No. 236 (9 December 2002): p. 75324 - 75330.

Department of the Interior (DOI). Semiannual regulatory agenda for regulations that will be considered by the agency between October 1, 2002 and March 31, 2003. Vol. 67, No. 236 (9 December 2002): p. 74584 - 74656.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Semiannual regulatory agenda for regulations that will be considered by the agency between October 1, 2002 and March 31, 2003. Vol. 67, No. 236 (9 December 2002): p. 74352 - 74355.

National Science Foundation (NSF). Semiannual regulatory agenda for regulations that will be considered by the agency between October 1, 2002 and March 31, 2003. Vol. 67, No. 236 (9 December 2002): p. 74378 - 74379.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Solicitation notice for environmental education grants. Vol. 67, No. 244 (19 December 2002): p. 77772 - 77783.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Department of the Interior. Meeting notice of the Scientific Earthquake Studies Advisory Committee (SESAC) to review a draft of the 5-year plan of the National Earthquake Hazards on January 8-9, 2003. Vol. 67, No. 245 (20 December 2002): p. 78011.

Every month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) releases final rules on Modified Base (1-percent annual-chance) Flood Elevations for several communities that are used to calculate flood insurance premium rates related to the National Flood Insurance Program. This month, these announcements were made in No. 231 (p. 71482-71487).

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: American Geophysical Union Science Legislation Alerts, American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News, E&E News Daily, Environmental Protection Agency, Greenwire, National Center for Science Education, U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. Climate Change Science Program, and White House Office of Management and Budget.

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

Posted January 6, 2003


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