American Geological Institute

Government Affairs Program UPDATE

November 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.

Election Produces Few Changes for 1999
Gloomy White House Prediction for FY2000 Budget
US Signs Kyoto Treaty at Buenos Aires Conference
Groat Sworn in as 13th USGS Director
CUR to Showcase Undergraduate Research on Capitol Hill
1999 AGI Congressional Fellowship, Internships Available
Tentative Schedule of Upcoming GAP Activities
New Material on Web Site


Election Produces Few Changes for 1999
Although the Republicans held on to their majorities in both the House and Senate, the loss of five House seats in the mid-term elections was enough to produce a change at the top. Within days, Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) resigned and was replaced by current Appropriations Committee Chair Bob Livingston (R-LA). Gingrich was an advocate for science and technology issues, asking Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) to undertake a national science policy study and at one point calling for the budget surplus to be used for science, defense, and transportation. Representing the oil-rich state of Louisiana, Livingston has long been an advocate of the petroleum sector, which may bode well for efforts to provide tax relief for the industry as oil prices continue to hit record lows.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) will replace Livingston as Appropriations Committee chair. The VA/HUD/Independent Agencies Appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Science Foundation, NASA, and EPA is getting a new chair as well. Rep. James Walsh (R-NY), whose upstate New York district includes Syracuse University, replaces Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who moves up to chair the subcommittee that handles defense spending. The new ranking member for the VA/HUD subcommittee will be Rep. Carrie Meek (D-FL), a former biology professor.

In the Senate, Republicans maintained their 55-45 seat majority despite the loss of incumbents Lauch Faircloth (R-NC) and Alphonse D'Amato (R-NY). Among the notable changes in committee leadership, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) replaces retiring Senator Dale Bumpers (D-AR) as ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Gloomy White House Prediction for FY2000 Budget
The scientific community will have another fight on its hands in order to secure funding increases in the President's Fiscal Year 2000 budget. Speaking to the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew said that the administration's commitment to science and technology "is a very deep one" but also cautioned that FY 2000 is a "very tight budget year." The administration is committed to staying within the budget caps and plans to use any surplus for social security. Lew indicated that the Administration favors research that is long term, collaborative, and has potentially high payoffs.

US Signs Kyoto Treaty at Buenos Aires Conference
On November 14th in Buenos Aires, more than 160 nations agreed to a follow-up agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, negotiated in December 1997. The Buenos Aires agreement sets a deadline of late 2000 for establishing rules to enforce the Kyoto treaty and setting guidelines for a market-based trading program. In addition, the negotiations showed that developing countries are becoming involved in the effort to reduce greenhouse gases, a condition necessary to gain the support of the US Senate for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. More than 12 developing nations -- including host Argentina and Kazakhstan -- agreed to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

During the negotiations, the US signed the Kyoto Protocol, but administration officials indicated that they would not submit it to the Senate. Vice President Gore stated: "Our signing of the Protocol underscores our determination to achieve a truly global solution to this global challenge. We hope to achieve progress in refining the market-based tools agreed to in Kyoto, and in securing the meaningful participation of key developing countries. Signing the Protocol, while an important step forward, imposes no obligations on the United States. The Protocol becomes binding only with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. As we have said before, we will not submit the Protocol for ratification without the meaningful participation of key developing countries in efforts to address climate change."

Groat Sworn in as 13th USGS Director
Claiming that 13 is his lucky number, Charles G. "Chip" Groat was sworn in on Friday the 13th as the 13th Director of the U.S. Geological Survey. The ceremony was held at the USGS National Headquarters in Reston, Virginia. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt administered the oath of office. In his remarks, Groat stated: "USGS responsiveness to society's needs for a better understanding of the earth, its life, processes, environments, and resources depends on first class science. A major challenge for the USGS is maintaining its strong tradition for scientific excellence while expanding the capacity to make it relevant to decision makers at all levels and effectively communicating the needed information. I will work hard at supporting and advancing both the science and its applications." Groat was most recently Associate Vice President for Research and Sponsored Projects at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is a former executive director of AGI and was Louisiana State Geologist for twelve years.

CUR to Showcase Undergraduate Research for Congress
One of AGI's member societies, the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR), is seeking undergraduate students to present posters on their research to Congress. On Wednesday, April 14, 1999, CUR will host an undergraduate poster session to help members of Congress understand the importance of undergraduate research programs by giving them a chance to talk directly with the students whom these programs impact. More information on the event is available on the CUR website:

1999 AGI Congressional Fellowship, Internships Available
GAP is now accepting applications for its 1999 summer and fall internships. Although the AGI/AIPG summer 1998 interns are gone now, articles they wrote recently appeared in the October issue of The Professional Geologist. These articles and other legislative and policy updates prepared by the interns are available on the AGI website.

AGI is also accepting applications for its 1999-2000 congressional science fellowship. Information on both the internships and fellowship is available on the AGI website at, and flyers have been mailed to over 200 university geoscience departments. 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 David 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 The committee's next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Friday, April 23, 1999 at AGI headquarters in Alexandria VA.

Dec. 6-10

AGU Fall Meeting

San Francisco CA

Dec. 15

PPP 2000 Natural Hazards Forum

Washington DC

Dec. 16

AAAS Science Policy Workshop

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 Kasey Shewey White and David Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Please send any comments or requests for information to AGI Government Affairs Program at

Posted December 3, 1998

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