American Geological Institute

Government Affairs MONTHLY REVIEW


September 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.

Appropriations Process Spills Into New Fiscal Year
USGS Re-Organization Takes Shape
AGI Joins Other Societies In Support of Federal R&D
AGI Letter to Kansas Governor Graves on Evolution Issue
Proposed NTIS Elimination Raises Hackles
National Research Council Releases Report on Mining
Leinen to Head NSF Geosciences Directorate
Washington Visits by AGI Member Society Leaders
New Congressional Science Fellows Take Their Place on Capitol Hill
Staff/Intern Arrivals
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Appropriations Process Spills Into New Fiscal Year
Today is the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2000, but with 9 of 13 appropriations bills as yet unsigned, most federal agencies are experiencing daja vu all over again. A continuing resolution will keep them at FY 1999 levels for at least the next three weeks or until final bills can be signed. Among science-related bills, only Energy and Water (H.R. 2605) -- funding most of the Department of Energy -- had been signed by the September 30 deadline. The Interior (USGS), Commerce (NOAA), and VA/HUD (NSF, NASA, EPA) bills are all awaiting conferences to resolve significant differences between spending levels set by the House and Senate. After weeks of debate and filibusters, the Interior bill passed the Senate on September 23rd after voting to extend a moratorium on the promulgation of Minerals Management Service regulations on oil and gas royalty collection from federal lands. In addition to spending differences, the two houses must agree on provisions relating to grazing, mining, and other contentious issues. Scientists hope that the VA/HUD conference will adopt the spending levels for NSF and NASA set by the Senate, which are considerably higher than those emerging from the House where both agencies suffered substantial cuts.

USGS Re-Organization Takes Shape
U.S. Geological Survey Director Charles "Chip" Groat has initiated a series of structural changes in the Survey's organization designed to break down barriers between the four discipline-based divisions and shift power to the three regions. In mid September, Groat named new eastern, central, and western regional directors who will be titled Associate Director and will have both line and budget authority to a much greater extent than in the past. The chiefs of the geologic, national mapping, water resources, and biological resources divisions will also be retitled as bureau-wide associate directors and shifted to the director's office. A new Office of Outreach will house both congressional and public affairs and report directly to the director. For more on the re-organization, be sure to read the October and November issues of Geotimes, which will feature a two-part interview with Groat on his vision for the future of the Survey.

AGI Joins Other Societies In Support of Federal R&D
In early September, AGI joined with twenty-four engineering, scientific, and business associations to send letters to all members of Congress regarding the proposed budget cuts for science and technology programs. A letter from AGI President David Stephenson was bundled with letters from other society presidents in a show of broad support for science programs whose Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 budgets were cut by the House of Representatives. Organized by the Science, Engineering and Technology Working Group (SETWG) -- which AGI co-chairs -- the campaign drew attention to the role of federally funded research in the growing economy and the need for continued investment. The AGI letter focused on cuts to the National Science Foundation and NASA's Office of Earth Science and also urged full support for the U.S. Geological Survey and geoscience programs in the Department of Energy.

AGI Letter to Kansas Governor Graves on Evolution Issue
On September 8th, AGI President David Stephenson wrote to Kansas Governor Bill Graves expressing support for the governor and the Kansas Geological Survey in their strong stance against the new state science standards that eliminate any mention of biological macroevolution, the age of the Earth, or the origin and early development of the universe. The letter includes a 1981 AGI position statement on evolution. Copies of this letter were also sent to the Kansas state school board. The letter is included in an AGI update at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/evolution.html.

On September 23rd, the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) announced that they were denying the Kansas State Board of Education's request to use portions of education documents developed by their organizations in the new Kansas science education standards. The denial was due to the failure of the Kansas standards to meet the claim that they "...embrace the vision and content" of those documents. The presidents otherwise disassociated themselves and their organizations from the Kansas standards. More at http://www.project2061.org/newsinfo/kansas.htm.

Proposed NTIS Elimination Raises Hackles
Concern has been raised in the geoscience community over an August 12 announcement by the Department of Commerce of plans to eliminate the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). NTIS serves as a clearinghouse of federal scientific and technical information. In 1987, Congress mandated that NTIS must support itself with user fees, but lower usage rates have led to increasing difficulty at covering costs. Because the decrease in use of NTIS has been attributed to increased Internet access of government documents, Commerce proposes to close NTIS, move its archive to the Library of Congress, and shift responsibility to federal agencies to make their own documents available through the Internet. On September 14th, the House Technology Subcommittee held a hearing at which witnesses reminded the subcommittee that many people still did not have access to the Internet and that many older federal documents are not available in electronic form. Among AGI member societies, the Geoscience Information Society has been particularly concerned by these developments. Testimony on the hearing is available at http://www.house.gov/science/106_hearing.htm#Technology. An update is available from the American Institute of Physics at http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/1999/fyi99.139.htm.

National Research Council Releases Report on Mining
In last year's appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) attached a provision requiring a study by the National Research Council of current Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service hardrock mining regulations before BLM could finalize draft changes to its Section 3809 regulations. The NRC report was delivered to Congress on September 29th. Although generally supportive of the current state and federal regulatory framework, the report calls for a number of changes in the way these regulations are implemented and for adjustments in the rules themselves. The report emphasizes the need for better coordination between state and federal agencies responsible for mining regulation but endorses a case-by-case approach to permitting under the National Environmental Policy Act, recognizing the wide variation in environmental impacts of mining in different geological and biological environments. The report recommends an expansion of financial guarantee requirements to include all mining operations, not just ones of a certain minimum acreage. The report also calls for additional research into the impacts of mining on the environment. Language attached to a recent emergency supplemental appropriations bill requires a 120-day comment period on the Academy report before BLM may issue a final rule. A pre-publication copy of the NRC report is available on the web at http://books.nap.edu/catalog/9682.html.

Leinen to Head NSF Geosciences Directorate
On September 22nd, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced that Margaret Leinen will be the next head of the Geosciences Directorate (GEO), which includes earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences. She will also be responsible for coordinating environmental science and engineering programs at NSF. Leinen is currently dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island and interim dean of the College of the Environment and Life Sciences. According to an NSF press release, Leinen is a well-known researcher in paleoceanography and paleoclimatology, working on the history of biogenic and eolian sedimentation in the oceans and their relationship to global biogeochemical cycles and climate. Leinen will replace current GEO head Robert Corell, who has held that position since 1987, in January 2000. Corell has promised a smooth transition, noting that Leinen has been actively involved in the development of the directorate's GEO 2000 strategic plan. For more information, the NSF press release is available at http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/press/99/pa992.htm.

Washington Visits by AGI Member Society Leaders
Member society representatives on the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee followed up their biannual committee meeting with visits to officials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Department of the Interior, USGS, and NSF. The visits were an opportunity to learn about recent developments at those agencies as well as to communicate issues and concerns of the geoscience community.

On September 27th and 28th, a delegation from the American Association of Petroleum Geologists led by AAPG President Ray Thomasson discussed the society's position statements with Members of Congress and staff, including House Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX).

The following day, Geological Society of America President Gail Ashley represented the geosciences at a meeting of science and engineering society presidents with NSF Director Rita Colwell to discuss agency priorities and budget. The presidents spent the afternoon on Capitol Hill meeting with House Science Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Science Committee ranking Democrat Ralph Hall (TX), and senior staff on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

New Congressional Science Fellows Take Their Place on Capitol Hill
Following several weeks of intensive orientation, geoscience congressional fellows have begun to accept placement offers with congressional offices. AGI fellow Eileen McLellan, a geoscience professor at the University of Maryland, will work for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) on resource and land-use issues. Wyden is a strong supporter of the geosciences. Last year, he read a statement into the Congressional Record in support of the inaugural Earth Science Week, including a resolution adopted by the Association of American State Geologists. AGU fellow Brian Hannegan will work on climate change issues for the majority staff of the Senate Committee on Energy and Mineral Resources, chaired by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-AK). GSA Fellow Melody Brown Burkins will work for Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on environmental issues. AAAS fellow Christy Johnson, also a geoscientist, is also working on environmental issues for Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT).

Staff/Intern Arrivals
AGI's Government Affairs Program is back up to full strength with the addition of Margaret Baker as a full-time program associate. Margaret is returning to AGI, having served as an AGI/AIPG summer geoscience policy intern in 1998. She graduated in May from Mt. Holyoke College, where she majored in geology and Asian studies, completing a thesis on Standard Oil's entry into China at the last turn of the century. September also saw the arrival of AGI/AAPG fall semester intern Alison Alcott, who is completing a master's degree at the University of Utah where she is applying structural geology to hydrologic systems in vicinity of Salt Lake City . A warm welcome to both!

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities

Oct. 21-22

AGU Cmte. on Public Affairs

Washington DC

Oct. 24-27

GSA Annual Meeting

Denver CO

Nov. 12

AIBS Presidents Mtg.

Airlie VA

New Material on Web Site
The following updates and reports were added to the Government Affairs portion of AGI's web site www.agiweb.org since the last monthly update:


Sources: AAAS, American Institute of Physics, Department of Commerce, E&E News, National Research Council, NSF, USGS.

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

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

Posted October 1, 1999


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