American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE


April 1999


This monthly update 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.

North Carolina Geological Survey Threatened
Earthquake Bill Passes House
New Climate Legislation Introduced in Senate by Murkowski
Geologic Mapping Bill Makes Progress
Geotimes Special Issue: Geoscience Policy At Home and Abroad
AGI Selects Next Congressional Science Fellow
Geoscientists Active on Capitol Hill
AGI Testifies on USGS and DOE Appropriations
Climate Forum at AAPG Annual Convention
Dragonetti Speaks at GSA Public Policy Symposium
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site

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North Carolina Geological Survey Threatened
The state general assembly in North Carolina is considering the elimination of the North Carolina Geological Survey as part of its efforts to trim the state budget. AGI Executive Director Marcus Milling has written a letter to state legislators urging them to support this historic (founded in 1823) agency that provides unbiased geoscience information in support of land-use planning, natural hazard mitigation, and the wise use of the state's resources. The survey has also played an important role in environmental education. The North Carolina Geological Survey works on critical state issues, including disposal of nuclear waste, beach nourishment studies, and protection of public water supplies. The survey also enforces North Carolina's oil and gas regulations. Geoscientists in North Carolina are encouraged to contact their state representatives on this issue by Tuesday, May 4th.

Earthquake Bill Passes House
On April 21st, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1184, the Earthquake Hazards Reduction Authorization Act of 1999, by a nearly unanimous vote of 414-3. The bill authorizes a total of $469.6 million over five years for the National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP), which includes earthquake-preparedness projects at four participating agencies: U.S. Geological Survey, National Science Foundation, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and National Institute of Standards and Technology. The bill also includes $170 million over five years for the USGS to modernize its earthquake monitoring systems. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the near future. Although passage of the bill is good news, Science Committee sources warn that the tight budget climate may make it difficult for this authorization to translate into actual money during the appropriations process. More on the bill is available at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/nehrp.html.

New Climate Legislation Introduced in Senate by Murkowski
On April 27th, Senator Frank Murkowski (R-AK) joined with nine cosponsors -- many of whom are leading opponents of the Kyoto Protocol -- to introduce S. 882, the Energy and Climate Policy Act of 1999. The bill has three main purposes. First, it would authorize $2 billion for research and development on new technologies to stabilize greenhouse gases. Second, it would expand provisions in the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the Federal Nonnuclear Energy Research and Development Act of 1974 regarding voluntary greenhouse gas reduction programs. Finally, it would establish a global climate change office within the Department of Energy. In his introductory remarks, Murkowski commented that the bill sets the stage for "a long-term, technology-based, global effort." This bill joins another voluntary reduction bill introduced by Environment and Publics Work Committee Chair John Chafee (R-RI) -- S. 547, the Credit for Voluntary Reductions Act of 1999. More information is available on the AGI site at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/climate.html.

Geologic Mapping Bill Makes Progress
The Senate Subcommittee on Forests and Public Land Management held a hearing April 28th on S. 607, the National Geologic Mapping Reauthorization Act of 1999. Witnesses included U.S. Geological Survey Chief Geologist P. Patrick Leahy and West Virginia State Geologist Larry Woodfork, current president of the Association of American State Geologists. Both witnesses expressed their support for the bill and for the partnership that it represents between the USGS, state surveys, and universities. Subcommittee chairman and bill sponsor Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) spoke of the fundamental importance of geologic mapping for natural hazard mitigation, wise resource development, and sensible land-use planning. Oregon's two senators -- Ron Wyden (D) and Gordon Smith (R) -- also spoke in favor of the bill, Wyden emphasizing the growing awareness in his state of its vulnerability to earthquakes. The previous week, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) introduced companion legislation in the House (H.R. 1528). Introducing the bill on Earth Day, Cubin remarked that "geologists like to say that for them `every day is Earth Day.' What better day than today to introduce the bill to keep the benefits of this important cooperative program flowing?" Both S. 607 and H.R. 1528 authorize a doubling of funding for the program over seven years. For more information on these bills, see http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/geomap99.html.

Geotimes Special Issue: Geoscience Policy At Home and Abroad
The fourth annual Geotimes special issue (April 1999) focuses on the interactions between geoscience and public policy both in the US and around the world. Guest edited by GAP staff, the issue starts off with a Comment by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) on the domestic petroleum industry. An article by former Geological Survey of Canada chief scientist Jim Franklin describes the rebuilding process that took place after the survey experienced major budget reductions. Former British Geological Survey director Peter Cook challenges geoscientists to play more active and cooperative roles in addressing critical societal issues such as nuclear-waste disposal, greenhouse-gas emissions, and water shortages. USGS Chief Hydrologist Bob Hirsch reports on the state of the USGS streamgaging network, laying out the case for investing in an improved infrastructure. Dan Sarewitz and others review the results of a symposium on the use and misuse of scientific predictions by policymakers.

AGI Selects Congressional Science Fellow
AGI is pleased to announce the selection of Dr. Eileen McLellan as the 1999-2000 AGI Congressional Science Fellow. She will succeed current fellow Dr. David Wunsch, who is serving through August with the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. McLellan is a geology professor at the University of Maryland, where she also created an interdisciplinary curriculum in environmental science and policy. McLellan will join fellows from GSA, AGU, SSSA, and more than twenty other science and engineering societies for an orientation session in September followed by placement in the office of a representative, senator, or congressional committee for the following year. The AGI fellowship is supported by a generous grant from the AGI Foundation.

Geoscientists Active on Capitol Hill
On April 21-22, 14 geoscientists joined with approximately 200 other scientists and engineers for two days on Capitol Hill as part of the fourth annual Science, Engineering, and Technology Congressional Visits Day. The event consisted of a day of briefings by key Administration and congressional officials followed by a day of meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. Geoscientists participated in more than 20 meetings spanning 10 states and various committee staffs. The main messages of the visits are that federal investment in science, engineering, and technology is vital to the future of our Nation's people and economy and that partnerships between government, universities, and industries mean progress, economic growth and jobs. A more complete description of the event is available from the American Geophysical Union at http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/asla/asla-list?read=1999-12.msg.

The following week, the American Institute of Professional Geologists (AIPG) held its annual Washington Fly-In, during which approximately a dozen AIPG members came to Washington for three days of meetings with agency officials, members of Congress, and professional societies. AGI commends AIPG for this effort and is happy to help with logistics for similar events for other societies.

AGI Testifies on USGS and DOE Appropriations
On April 14th, the American Geological Institute (AGI) provided both oral and written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies. AGI testified in support of geoscience programs within the subcommittee's jurisdiction, including the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy's Fossil Energy Research and Development program. The subcommittee provides annual funding for the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, DOE Fossil Energy and Energy Conservation programs, Smithsonian Institution, National Endowment for the Arts, and a range of other agencies and programs. AGI argued for the value of federal investments in the geosciences that address a wide range of important environmental, resource, and natural hazard challenges facing this nation. The testimony drew on previous AGI testimony before this subcommittee with amendments suggested by the AGI Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee, comprised of representatives from AGI's member societies. The testimony was sent out as a special update, which is available on the web at http://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/interiorupdate.html.

Climate Forum at AAPG Annual Convention
At the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Annual Convention in San Antonio, the AAPG Division of Professional Affairs focused its annual government affairs forum on the issue of climate change. Speakers at the forum, which provides an opportunity for AAPG members to share their views on policy issues, included Science and Environmental Policy Project President S. Fred Singer, a noted global warming skeptic; and Kansas State Geologist Lee Gerhard, who co-chairs an AAPG ad hoc committee on the climate change issue. AGI Government Affairs Director David Applegate spoke on development of AGI's climate change statement, and AGI Congressional Science Fellow David Wunsch discussed current climate-related legislative initiatives in Congress.

Dragonetti Speaks at GSA Public Policy Symposium
AGI Government Affairs Program Senior Advisor John Dragonetti spoke at the Geological Society of America's North-Central Section annual meeting in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois on April 22nd. As part of a session entitled "Is 'Geology and Public Policy' Just Another Oxymoron?", Dragonetti spoke on the need for geoscientists to identify a compelling political rationale to encourage support for our profession. Other speakers included representatives from state and Canadian provincial geological surveys who provided case studies of how geologic information is incorporated into public policy.

Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
The Government Affairs Advisory Committee met at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia on April 23rd. A report from that meeting, including action items, will be available on the committee's website in the near future. The next meeting will be held at AGI headquarters in September.

May 4-6

Seismological Soc. of America Mtg.

Seattle WA

May 19

CSNF Exhibition

Washington DC

May 30-June 2

AGU Spring Meeting

Boston MA

June 6-9

AASG Annual Meeting

Fairbanks AK

July 20-23

CESSE Annual Meeting

Cleveland OH

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:


Contributed by David Applegate and Kasey Shewey White, AGI

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

Posted April 30, 1999


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