Government Affairs Program

Monthly Review: December 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.

Clinton Establishes New Monuments in Arizona, California
Geologic Mapping Act Signed Into Law
EPA Mandates Lower Sulfur Content in Gasoline
Comment Period on National Integrated Land System
AGI Climate Change Statement Distributed on Hill
Mining & Environment Booklet Sent to Capitol Hill
AGU Releases Revised Evolution Statement
Applications Accepted for Congressional Science Fellowships
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Clinton Establishes New Monuments in Arizona, California
On December 14th, President Clinton announced plans to create three new national monuments: Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument (AZ), Agua Fria National Monument (AZ), California Coastal National Monument, as well as the expansion of the existing Pinnacles National Monument (CA). Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt recommended these sites to the President for designation using the authority of the Antiquities Act of 1906 -- authority that Congress is currently seeking to overturn. This law gives the President the power to use executive orders to set aside federal land that has scientific, archaeological, or historical value. Many members of Congress have been critical of Clinton's use of the Antiquities Act and have introduced legislation to limit presidential power in setting aside federal lands and placing limits on recreational and commercial use.

In a separate action the same day, President Clinton announced that he was submitting to Congress a list of 18 proposed sites for purchase and protection through the Interior Department's Land Legacy program. A high priority of the administration, this program received $652 million in the last-minute omnibus fiscal year (FY) 2000 appropriations bill, a 42 percent increase over the previous year. Although Congress allocated most of that money for specific purchases, such as the Baca Ranch in New Mexico, a $35 million fund was included to purchase additional sites. More information on the proposed Land Legacy sites and Secretary Babbitt's national monument recommendations is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/natmon.html.

Geologic Mapping Act Signed Into Law
President Clinton signed the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999 into law on December 9th. In its final hours before adjourning for the year, the Senate unanimously passed H.R. 1528 -- which had already passed the House -- and sent it on to the White House. The new law contains a number of changes from the current law while retaining the program's basic structure of federal (USGS), state, and university education components. It authorizes a doubling of the program's budget and calls on the Secretary of the Interior to develop a 5-year plan for the USGS cooperative geologic mapping program with the advice and review of the program's advisory committee.

EPA Mandates Lower Sulfur Content in Gasoline
On December 21st, President Clinton and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol Browner announced new regulations for automobile emissions and gasoline content. The revised rules will bring emissions from sport-utility vehicles, trucks, and minivans in line with those from other cars. They also require petroleum companies to produce gasoline with a significantly lower sulfur content, which EPA hopes will help increase the efficiency of catalytic converters. The latter action is being compared to the phase out of leaded gasoline. Oil companies will have to decrease the sulfur content by 90 percent to 30 parts per million by 2006. Although the new rules phase in over five years, some refineries are predicting "major supply bottlenecks" that might lead to inflated gasoline prices. For more information on the new regulations and the Clean Air Act, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/cleanair.html.

Comment Period on National Integrated Land System
The National Integrated Land System (NILS) initiative -- a joint Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, state, county, and private industry project -- is seeking public comments on the NILS Concept of Operations and User Requirements. The review document provides an overview of a common data model and tool sets for managing public lands that "meet the needs of the widest possible spectrum of land title and resource information providers and customers." NILS has worked with state, local, and tribal government and private-sector organizations to develop a data model based on ARC/INFO 8.x technology. The new document is a collection of use cases that provide an overview of how the integrated-automated system would work. A complete copy of the review is available at the NILS website along with a link to submit comments. Comments can be submitted via the web (http://www.blm.gov/nils/), via fax at (303) 236-3327, and via mail at BLM NILS Project WO-510, Denver Federal Center-Bldg. 50, PO Box 25047, Denver, CO 80225-0047. The public comment period ends on January 15, 2000. More information on the NILS report is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/nils.html.

AGI Climate Change Statement Distributed on Hill
After receiving the endorsement of 16 member society presidents, AGI's statement on global climate change was distributed to all congressional offices in December. The statement was adopted earlier in the year by the AGI Executive Committee. The primary purpose of the statement is to highlight the important role that a wide range of geoscience disciplines play in understanding climate change past and present, understanding the impacts of that change, and developing mechanisms to mitigate human influence on future climate. No AGI member societies expressed opposition to the statement, which is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/climate_statement.html. Earlier in the year, both the American Geophysical Union and American Association of Petroleum Geologists released statements on climate change. The AGI website now includes links to those and other position statements adopted by AGI and its member societies at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/position_statements.html. If your society has statements not on the list but that are on the web (or could be posted), please let us know.

Mining & Environment Booklet Sent to Capitol Hill
AGI also sent out copies of the second booklet in AGI's Environmental Awareness series, "Metal Mining and the Environment," to selected congressional offices. This booklet discusses both the environmental aspects of mining metals and the scientific and technological advances that modern miners use to prevent or reduce potential environmental impacts. The objective of the Environmental Awareness series is to promote better understanding of the role of the Earth sciences in all aspects of environmental concerns and issues. AGI produced the booklet in cooperation with the Society of Economic Geologists, the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, Inc., and the U.S. Geological Survey with support from the AGI Foundation. For information on purchasing the booklet, visit http://www.agiweb.org/pubs/pubdetail.html?item=604002.

AGU Releases Revised Evolution Statement
The recent controversy over the teaching of evolution was a key topic at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The issue was featured in a session and a workshop on how scientists can become more active in their local and state school boards, textbook committees, and related governmental offices where key decisions on science education are made. At the end of the meeting, the AGU Council adopted a position statement supporting the teaching of evolution and opposing the teaching of "creationism" in science classrooms. The statement is a revision and expansion of an earlier statement originally adopted in 1981 as AGU's first position statement on an issue of public policy and reaffirmed three times since, most recently in 1998. The earlier statement focused solely on opposition to creationism taught as science. The new AGU statement is included in the AGI update on this topic at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/evolution.html. Statements on this topic by AGI and several of its member societies are available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/position_statements.html.

Applications Accepted for Congressional Science Fellowships
AGI and several of its member societies are now accepting applications for next year's congressional science fellowships, providing opportunities for qualified geoscientists to spend a year working as professional staff in congressional committees and the personal offices of representatives and senators. Application deadline for the AGI fellowship is February 1, 2000. Similar fellowships are available from the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. For further information and application deadlines, visit http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/csf.html, which includes links to the other societies. Stipends, application procedures, timetables, and deadlines vary. Geoscientists are encouraged to apply to all societies for which they qualify.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities

Feb. 2-3

NRC Intellectual Property Workshop

Washington DC

March 19-21

AGI Associates Meeting

Reston VA

April 2

GAP Advisory Cmte Mtg.

Alexandria VA

April 4-5

SET Congressional Visits Day

Washington DC

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

Sources: American Geophysical Union, Bureau of Land Management, Environment & Energy Update, Greenwire, Library of Congress, White House.

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

Posted December 31, 1999


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