American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


March 1998


This monthly update goes out to members of the AGI Government Affairs Program (GAP) Advisory Committee as well as the leadership of AGI's member societies and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications betw een GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

This monthly update includes:

Geotimes Special Issue: Geoscience and Public Policy
It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Senate Budget
NIE Receives Low Marks from National Science Board
Low Oil Prices Prompt Senate Action on Strategic Petroleum Reserve
President Unveils Electricity Deregulation Plan
Legislation Moves Ahead on Women in Math and Science
Interns and Externs
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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Geotimes Special Issue: Geoscience and Public Policy
The third annual Geotimes special issue (April 1998) on Geoscience and Public Policy is at your newsstands now. Guest edited by GAP Director David Applegate, the issue contains a Comment by Science Committee Vice Chair Vern Ehlers (R-MI) on science education policy, and articles on the Valles Caldera by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), U.S.-Japan earthquake loss prevention strategies by Art Ziezel of FEMA, regional natural resource forums by Paul Dresler and Mark Schaefer of the Department of the Inte rior, and a review of a presidential advisory committee report on energy R&D by Bill Fisher. The issue also includes the final installment in a series of articles on how to communicate with Congress by former Congressional fellow Joe Briskey, this one foc used on constituents and the media.

It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad Senate Budget
Yesterday, the Senate passed its budget resolution for fiscal year 1999. Like the President's request, the Senate resolution would balance the budget for the first time in 30 years. The good news is that the Senate passed an amendment introduced by Senato r Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to double federal spending on civilian science and technology between FY 1998 and FY2008. The bad news is that the language is non-binding, only expressing "the sense of the Senate," and that the actual numbers in the resolution te ll a different story, cutting non-defense R&D by more than $3.5 billion from current levels between FY 1999 and FY 2003. This level is only $37 billion less than called for in S. 1305, the bill closely associated with the spirit of the Bingaman amendment.

NIE Receives Low Marks from National Science Board
Last year, NSF was directed by Congress to study the feasibility of establishing a National Institute for the Environment (NIE) within their agency. The report, scheduled to be completed by April 1, has not yet been released. Dr. Richard Zare, chair of th e National Science Board, the governing body of NSF, released the Board's position on an NIE on March 20. He stated that the NSB "agrees that there is need for expanded environmental research, education, and assessment, ... [but] a separate organization or entity would not be an effective means of achieving the intellectual goals connected with the proposed NIE because it could isolate environmental research from related science and engineering research, as well as be duplicative of the existing policy a nd management structure and entail unnecessary cost." Although the NSB position is a blow to NIE supporters, it may not represent the end of their efforts. Congress can still dictate the establishment of an NIE within NSF. Moreover, Dr. Rita Colwell, who has been nominated to replace Neal Lane as NSF Director, is a member of the board of the Committee for the NIE.

Low Oil Prices Prompt Senate Action on Strategic Petroleum Reserve
Although consumers no doubt enjoy paying less than a dollar per gallon at the pump, low oil prices have prompted a crisis in the petroleum industry, particularly among small independent producers. On March 26th, in an effort to avoid further depressing p rices, the Senate unanimously adopted an amendment by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Frank Murkowski (R-AK) that would repeal the planned sale of $207.5 million worth of oil from the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The sale previously was approved as part of the fiscal year 1998 appropriations process and was the fourth such sale since 1995. Murkowski and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) had fought a losing battle to stop the original sale last fall, warning that repeated sales fro m the SPR at a time of record oil imports represent unsound policy. The amendment repealing the sale was attached to S. 1768, an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to pay for El Nino-related natural disaster relief and for overseas peacekeeping ef forts.

President Unveils Electricity Deregulation Plan
The Clinton Administration has responded to the debate roaring in Congress on how to restructure the electricity industry. Promising consumer savings of $20 billion per year, the President's plan would require states to decide by January 1, 2003 whether or not to adopt a system allowing consumer choice of energy suppliers. The plan would also create a $3 billion "public benefits fund" to match state spending for research and development in renewable energy and energy efficiency and for assistance to low -income consumers. The proposal would create a system that would set limits on emissions of nitrogen oxides and allow power companies to trade emissions credits. The Administration's plan also emphasizes recovery of stranded costs, reliability, and consu mer information. More information on the plan is available on the GAP website.

Legislation Moves Ahead on Women in Math and Science
The House Science Subcommittee on Technology passed H.R. 3007, the Advancement of Women in Science, Engineering, and Technology Development Act by voice vote on March 26th. Introduced by Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD) last September, the bill would establish a commission to study the barriers that women face in science, engineering, and technology and issue recommendations. The bill would also direct the NSF to study the educational opportunities available to women who want to enter those fields. Within a y ear, NSF would issue recommendations to Congress on ways to improve educational opportunities for women. H.R. 3007 has been endorsed by the American Association of Engineering Societies, American Chemical Society, and the Institute of Electrical and Elec tronic Engineers --USA.

Interns and Externs
The application deadline for the AGI/AIPG summer internship has passed, and we received approximately 25 applicants. We will narrow down the field to a short list within the next few weeks, then make final selections by early May. We hope to have 3 stude nts on board in May for 12 weeks each. We also welcome having students here for shorter periods, such as their spring break or holiday vacation. Josh Chamot, a senior geology major at William and Mary, recently joined GAP for a week as a "shadow" to see what working in public policy is like. During his week, he attended several Congressional hearings, one of which he wrote summarized for the AGI website.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
The GAP Advisory Committee met on February 27, 1998 at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Minutes from the meeting are being distributed to committee members and will be available on the AGI web site early next week. The next meeting will be an in formational one at the AAPG annual meeting in Salt Lake City in May on Saturday, May 16th from 2-6 pm in Salon B of the Marriott.

April 2-3 GSA Geology & Public Policy Cmte. Mtg. Washington DC
April 4 AGI Congr. Fellow Selection Cmte. Mtg.Alexandria VA
April 14 PPP 2000 Forum on Natural Disaster Reduction Washington DC
April 30-May 1 AAAS Science & Technology Policy Colloquium Washington DC
May 3-6 AIPG Washington Fly-In Washington DC
May 16 GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Salt Lake City UT
May 19 AAPG DPA Policy Forum Salt Lake City UT
May 20 CNSF Congressional Exhibition Washington DC

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


Contributed by David Applegate, John Dragonetti, and Kasey Shewey, AGI Government Affairs

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

Uploaded April 6, 1998


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