American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


December 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 between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

Yucca Mountain Viability Assessment: "No Showstoppers"
Senators Press for Science in Fiscal Year 2000 Budget
AGI Thanks Senator Wyden for Earth Science Week Support
AAAS Holds Workshop on House Science Policy Study
1999 AGI Congressional Fellowship, Internships Available
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site
Happy New Year!

********************

Yucca Mountain Viability Assessment: "No Showstoppers"
On December 18th, the Department of Energy released its Viability Assessment of a Repository at Yucca Mountain, which provides an interim report to the President, Congress, and the public on the results from the department's study of this site adjacent to the Nevada Test Site. According to DOE, the assessment -- begun in 1996 -- identified no "show stoppers" with respect to the site's suitability for underground storage of high-level nuclear waste. As a result, "work will proceed toward a decision in 2001 whether to recommend the site to the President for development as a geologic repository." The report acknowledges remaining uncertainties on "key natural processes, the preliminary design, and how the site and the design would work together." Tests will continue over the next three years until the 2001 decision.

DOE announced separately that additional funding would be provided to the State of Nevada for its own tests. The state has been very opposed to the Yucca Mountain project since its inception over 15 years ago. Critics recently released a report that they say demonstrate the site's unsuitability for waste storage. One study, by geoscientist Yuri Dublyansky of the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, shows evidence for past flooding of the mountain by upwelling hot water sometime in the last 12.5 million years. The arguments are similar to ones advanced in the past by former DOE scientist Jerry Szymanski. Those earlier claims were thoroughly debunked by a National Research Council study.

New Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has visited Yucca Mountain twice in recent weeks and has vowed: "I am very intent on making my decision based on science, not politics." On the political front, action will likely begin early in the 106th Congress to establish an interim storage facility adjacent to Yucca Mountain. Efforts to pass such legislation in the 105th Congress were not successful. A synopsis of those efforts and additional background on high-level nuclear waste legislation are available on the AGI web site at http://www.agiweb.org/legis105/yuccup97.html.

Senators Press for Science in Fiscal Year 2000 Budget
In response to the gloomy predictions for science in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 budget, a bipartisan group of 24 Senators wrote a letter to President Clinton on December 11th urging him to increase federal R&D funding by 6 or 7 percent in his budget submission for FY 2000. They cited the broad support for and recent Senate passage of S. 2217, the Federal Research Investment Act, which calls for a doubling of civilian federal R&D funding over the next twelve years. The letter states: "We are hopeful that the Administration's fiscal year 2000 budget will reflect its, and our, priorities for a healthy scientific enterprise. S. 2217 calls for approximately a six percent increase in civilian R&D for fiscal year 2000, bringing the total level of investment for civilian R&D up to $33.6 billion. .... We would appreciate your active help in promoting a six to seven percent investment level as the budget is drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget." This letter mirrors a letter sent by scientific societies, including AGI, to President Clinton in November requesting a similar increased investment in R&D for FY 2000.

AGI Thanks Senator Wyden for Earth Science Week Support
On December 9th, AGI recognized Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) for his efforts in promoting Earth Science Week. Senator Wyden introduced a statement supporting Earth Science Week into the Congressional Record, which was vital in raising the awareness of the earth sciences both in Congress and the general public. His early support was also a key factor in obtaining an Earth Science Week message from President Clinton. AGI President David Stephenson and Oregon State Geologist Don Hull met with the senator in his Washington office and presented him with a plaque bearing a fossilized leaf from Oregon as a token of AGI's appreciation.

AAAS Holds Workshop on House Science Policy Study
On December 16th, the American Association for the Advancement of Science held a day-long symposium on the House Science Policy Study released this fall. Taking Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) at his word that the study, which he spearheaded, was a living document, AAAS plans to provide a report of the workshop to the House Science Committee as feedback on the study and a guide for future directions. Speakers included both supporters and critics of the study. Breakout sessions focused on federal support for basic/applied research, the role of the private sector, sound science for government decision-making, and the importance of science education. The workshop came at a time when the study's fate is decidedly uncertain following the November resignation of its chief patron, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA). A more extensive report on the forum is available from AGU at http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=1998-25.msg. A Geotimes column on the study's implications for the geosciences is available at: http://www.agiweb.org/geotimes/nov98/scene.html.

1999 AGI Congressional Fellowship, Internships Available
AGI is accepting applications for its 1999-2000 congressional science fellowship, and the AGI Government Affairs Program is accepting applications for its 1999 summer and fall internships. Information on both the fellowship and internships is available on the AGI website at http://www.agiweb.org/gaphome.html. We encourage you to pass along the information to individuals that you feel may be interested. The application deadline for the fellowship is February 1, 1999, and the internship deadline is March 1, 1999. Please contact Dave or Kasey if you have any questions.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
A draft report from the last AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee forum held in Toronto is available on the web at http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/report1098.html. The committee's next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 23, 1999 at AGI headquarters in Alexandria VA.

Jan. 22-25

AAAS Annual Meeting

Anaheim CA

Jan. 26

USGS Geologic Division Mtg.

Annapolis MD

Feb. 11

PPP 2000 Summit

Washington DC

April 21-22

Congressional Visits Day

Washington DC

April 23

GAP Advisory Cmte. Mtg.

Alexandria 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:

Happy New Year!


Contributed by Kasey Shewey White and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

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

Posted December 31, 1998


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