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Monthly Review: November 2006

This monthly review goes out to the leadership of AGI's member societies, members of the AGI Government Affairs Advisory Committee, and other interested geoscientists as part of a continuing effort to improve communications between GAP and the geoscience community that it serves.

1. Mid-Term Elections Swing Both Chambers to Democrats
2. Progress Stalled in Lame Duck Congress
3. GAO Report on Priorities for the 110th Congress
4. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Climate Change Case
5. Congressional Briefing on "Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change"
6. Congressional Seminar on U.S. Perception of Climate Change
7. Climate Change in the News: Lawsuit and United Nations Conference
8. Climate Change Assessment Requested by the USGS
9. BLM Approves Oil Shale Testing Leases in Colorado
10. Update on National Electricity Emissions Corridor
11. Report Questions "Peak Oil" Problem
12. New Report on Innovation and Competitiveness
13. Report on the State of U.S. Higher Education
14. Science Standards in Kansas Again
15. Land Use Conference - Abstracts Due in January
16. NSF Waterman Award Nominations
17. William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship
18. AGU Fall Meeting Science and Policy Events
19. Key Federal Register Notices
20. New Updates to the Web

1. Mid-Term Elections Swing Both Chambers to Democrats

The 2006 mid-term elections featured some very tight races and were the most expensive in U.S. history. In the end, the Democrats gained a majority in the House and the Senate, ending the Republican majority control of about 12 years, excluding a brief and slim Democratic majority in the Senate when Jeffords became an Independent in 2001. Polls indicate that the war in Iraq and corruption in Congress were among the top concerns of voters.

In the House, as of November 30th, there are two undecided races that still need to be officially certified, Florida's 13th and North Carolina's 8th, and two seats, Louisiana's 2nd and Texas' 23rd, to be decided by run-off elections in December. The Florida race to replace Rep. Katherine Harris (R), who vacated the seat to run for the Senate, remains undecided with widespread and significant electronic voting irregularities that are greater than the number of votes that separate the two candidates. In North Carolina, the incumbent, Robin Hayes (R) leads the challenger, Larry Kissell (D), by 329 votes or less than 1 percent of the vote, requiring an automatic recount by state law. The Louisiana race is between the top two democratic candidates, incumbent William Jefferson, who is currently under investigation for several alleged crimes, and state representative, Karen Carter. The Texas race became a non-partisan, "all-up" election in which the March primaries were invalidated and everyone could run because of redistricting issues. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the re-districting of the 23rd violated the Voting Rights Act. Because the election was open to all comers, the winner was required to win a majority of the vote or face a run-off. Incumbent Henry Bonilla (R) captured only 48.6% and will face former congressman Ciro Rodriguez (D) in a run-off in December. Assuming these undecided races go to the current vote leader, the U.S. House of Representatives will consist of 232 Democrats and 203 Republicans, a 58 seat swing from a 29 seat Republican advantage in the 109th to a 29 seat Democratic advantage in the 110th.

The composition of the 33 Senate seats that were up for grabs was not decided until about three days after the elections because of tight races in Montana and Virginia. The Senate will consist of 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two Independents. The two Independents, returning Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who lost the Democratic primary and ran as an Independent, and former congressman and always Independent, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have indicated that they will caucus with the Democrats, giving the party the slimmest majority possible.

The 110th Congress will have at least 64 new faces, eight Democrats, one Republican and one Independent in the Senate and 40 Democrats and 14 Republicans in the House. When the Republicans were in the majority, the committees tended to have less power than the party leadership. In the past, the Democrats have given more power to the committees to develop policies and agendas, when they were in the majority. Indeed the incoming committee chairs from the Democratic party have all served in Congress for more than 20 years, are strong leaders and are veterans of previous Democratic majorities in both chambers. While there are many well-known Democrats returning to committee leadership, about 60 percent of the Democrats in the House were elected after 1994, so the Democratic party will need to balance the ideas and agendas of veteran members with the influx of newer members who have never served in a majority before.

The 110th Congress will run from January 3, 2007 to January 3, 2009. The Democrats have indicated that energy and education will be top priorities. They would like to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, eliminate subsidies for oil and gas companies, enhance the development of alternative energy resources, provide relief to consumers for high energy prices and increase conservation, particularly through increasing vehicle gasoline standards.

With regards to education and science, the Democrats want to make the Research and Development tax credit permanent and allow tax breaks for college tuition. The Higher Education Act, the No Child Left Behind Act and the National Science Foundation are all scheduled for re-authorization in 2007. The 110th Congress may wish to consider these laws and possible changes to these laws in relation to the 20 policy suggestions on research and education provided in the 2005 National Academies (NAS) report on U.S. innovation and competitiveness entitled "Rising Above the Gathering Storm". The NAS report generated a bevy of new bills on innovation and competitiveness in the 109th Congress, however, none of these bills came close to passage. While the Democrats do not have a separate platform for science and engineering, they mention the importance of these disciplines in their economic growth platform. Regardless of which party is in the majority, Earth science issues related to natural resources and natural hazards, which ultimately affect U.S. economic growth, the vitality of the workforce and security, will remain important in the 110th Congress.

More information about the elections and the new Congress is available from the AGI Government Affairs Special Updates on Midterm Elections and New Leadership.

2. Progress Stalled in Lame Duck Congress

After the mid-term elections on November 7th, the 109th Congress returned to Washington DC on November 13th for one week of work before adjourning for the Thanksgiving Day holidays. Unfortunately not much progress was made on the nine unfinished appropriations bills for fiscal year 2007 leaving all of the federal agencies of interest to the Earth science community with uncertain budgets. Congress will reconvene on December 5th and they are expected to pass another continuing resolution that will extend until February 15th. This will leave the nine bills to the new 110th Congress to finish in January, 2007.

Such continuing resolutions are detrimental to federal support for basic research, technological development and science and engineering education. In many cases, government agencies that support science, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Science Administration, will experience reductions in available funds, will have to limit or delay external granting opportunities and will not be as efficient as they could be because of budget uncertainty.

AGI's Government Affairs Program issued an action alert on November 29th regarding the budget of NSF. In the alert, we encouraged all citizen scientists to contact their congressional members and urge them to complete the budget in a timely fashion. It is important that members of Congress hear from you about the value of timely budgets and stable funding, even if the 109th Congress does not complete their work this year. Please consider communicating with congressional members about the importance of timely, steady and increasing support for research, development and science education now and in the future. Members need to hear from their constituents in order to enact thoughtful and effective legislation that benefits the nation.

3. GAO Report on Priorities for the 110th Congress

On November 17, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report entitled "Suggested Areas for Oversight for the 110th Congress." The follow six policy recommendations affect the geoscience community.

Strengthen Efforts to Prevent the Proliferation of Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Weapons and Their Delivery System (Missiles)
According to the President, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missiles poses "the greatest threat before humanity today." Over $8 billion has been given to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) since 1992. Congressional oversight must prevent failure in the form of waste, or at worst, an attack on the nation. The GAO recommends that the following actions occur - 1) DOD and DOE must integrate nonproliferation programs for efficiency, 2) Congress must evaluate U.S. support and development of nonproliferation actions of nations and regimes, and 3) the DOD and State Department must manage Proliferation Security Initiative activities and use international collaboration on issues out of U.S. control.

Ensure Fair Value Collection Efforts of Oil Royalties Produced from Federal Lands
While oil and gas production rose 90 percent and 30 percent respectively between 2001 and 2005, revenues collected by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) have only increased by about 8 percent since 2001. This discrepancy is partly due to royalty relief provisions given to oil and gas companies from MMS. These provisions could result in up to $60 billion in revenues from oil and gas production that the U.S. Treasury is losing. GAO recommends the following oversight actions to ensure collection of revenues based on a fair market value - assessment of 1) data accuracy of oil production volume, price and royalty rates, 2) impacts of royalty relief on U.S. economy and 3) whether or not provisions adjust to changing market conditions.

Ensure a Strategic and Integrated Approach to Prepare for, Respond to, Recover, and Rebuild from Catastrophic Events
Hurricane Katrina and the threat of an influenza outbreak have illustrated the need for strategic disaster management. Risk-based disaster preparation and response can help save lives and prevent damage before it occurs. Lessons learned from past disasters indicate that federal coordination with foreign nations, non-profit organizations and other levels of government is crucial. This coordination and the billions of dollars given to alleviate the impact of disasters require astute congressional oversight on catastrophic disaster management. GAO recommends that Congress have a clear assessment of 1) leadership, roles and responsibilities, 2) the capacity for the nation to prepare, respond recover and rebuild, 3) the extent of risk-based management use by specific federal and state organizations, 4) federal assistance to disaster management and 5) private catastrophe insurance and the National Flood Insurance Program.

Ensure the Adequacy of National Energy Supplies and Related Infrasturcture
The Energy Information Administration estimates that U.S. energy demand could increase by about 30 percent over the next 20 years. Recently, existing energy resources have become strained and less stable with oil imports rising to about 60 percent. The GAO recommends the following policy in order to effectively address U.S. energy needs. Congressional oversight must 1) assess risks, benefits and implications of our increasing dependency on external energy markets, 2) examine the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing process for new power plants, 3) assess the implication of DOE's research and development portfolio, 4) evaluate the development of the renewable energy market and 5) evaluate programs that encourage energy efficiency and reduced energy demand.

Assure the Quality and Competitiveness of the U.S. Education System
As the U.S. faces increasing economic competition from foreign nations, a shift in increased educational efforts to ensure competitiveness and innovation so that citizens can fill the U.S. workforce in the future is necessary. GAO recommends that Congress performs assessments on 1) efforts to close achievement gaps among disadvantage populations in K-16+ education, 2) the ability of education programs to meet future workforce requirements 3) efficiency and effectiveness of programs designed to promote access to and affordability of postsecondary education and 4) the balance of immigration policies, relating to student or work visas, and homeland security.

Examine the Costs, Benefits, and Risks of Key Environmental Issues
Balancing the long-term sustainability of natural resources and the environment with U.S. social and economic needs will be a challenge. The GAO report states that policymaking has been hindered primarily by a lack of clear information on environmental health hazards and the economic benefits of environmental protection. Therefore, the agency recommends that Congress 1) provide oversight to evaluate the implementation of environmental laws and the economic benefits and efficiency of existing environmental programs, 2) identify where more information is needed to better assess the state of the environment and activities to fill knowledge gaps, 3) evaluate the costs and benefits of alternative approaches to achieving environmental outcomes, and 4) determine whether amending current legislation could improve sustainability.

The full GAO report is available on the GAO website.

4. Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Climate Change Case

The Supreme Court heard one hour of oral arguments in the case of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency on November 28, 2006. The case requests the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate greenhouse gases, specifically exhaust emissions from new cars, as part of the Clean Air Act. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito spent much of the time asking Jim Milkey, an assistant attorney general for Massachusetts, whether the state had enough legal standing to bring the case forward. In particular, the justices wanted to know if the state would experience any imminent harm from greenhouse gases, which would give the state the appropriate legal standing.

When Gregory Garre, the deputy U.S. solicitor general representing EPA took the floor to present the government's defense, Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg spent much of the time asking why the EPA had changed its ruling on the regulation of greenhouse gases. Garre insisted the Supreme Court should not order EPA to re-examine its decision unless Massachusetts can show the regulations would help to offset climate change. This statement ignited a series of questions from the justices about how effective EPA regulations would be in altering the effects of climate change in Massachusetts. A decision in this case is likely to rest on the votes of Justices Stevens and Kennedy, with Roberts, Scalia and Alito favoring the EPA and Souter, Breyer and Ginsburg favoring Massachusetts.

Transcripts of arguments and other details are also available from the Supreme Court website.

5. Congressional Briefing on "Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change"

On November 13, 2006, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute sponsored an informative congressional briefing on "The Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change." A flood of attendees packed themselves into a Rayburn House conference room to hear the highlights of this report from the United Kingdom, which compares the economic costs of taking action to address climate change versus those of inaction. Julian Braithwaite, Counselor for Global Issues, Lauren Faber, Environmental Advisor, and David Thomas, First Secretary on Energy and Environment, from the British Embassy summarized the report.

According to Faber, the Stern Review reports about 430 ppm of carbon dioxide equivalent in the atmosphere today with a projected 2 ppm rise each year, which would result in a 2-3º global temperature rise over the next 50 years. If no action to address climate change is taken, Stern projects 5-20% reduction in gross domestic product each year. Yet, if international efforts are made to stabilize the atmosphere between 450 and 550 ppm carbon dioxide equivalent, requiring a 25% decrease in emissions compared to current levels, a 1% reduction in GDP each year would result. Therefore, for every $1 the global economy invests in actions to mitigate climate change, it will save $5.

Thomas summarized Stern's three policy recommendations, including pricing carbon in the form of trade, tax or regulation, continued research and development, a five-fold increase in funding for a variety of carbon-reducing technologies and the incorporation of efficiency, awareness and education into any economic strategy. Stern reports that the world is already locked into climate change for the next 20-30 years. Therefore, both adaptation and mitigation are needed.

Braithwaite concluded with an outline of future policy plans for the United Kingdom. A statutory emissions target will be designated for 2050. New climate change institutions, including one in the Parliament will be implemented. Experts will produce an energy white paper for government strategy on energy policy, and the European Union will seek a dialogue with the United States. However, Braithwaite stated that his nation only emits 2% of the world's carbon, therefore, "The UK is one small part of a bigger equation to promote an international framework."

The presentations from this briefing and the complete Stern Review are available at the EESI website.

6. Congressional Seminar on U.S. Perception of Climate Change

On November 28, the American Meteorological Society's Environmental Science Seminar Series held a congressional seminar entitled "The Divide between Values and Behavior: Exploring American Perceptions of Global Warming and the Environment." The seminar featured, Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, research scientist at Decision Research and principal investigator at the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University, and Dr. Matthew Nisbet, assistant professor at the School of Communications at American University.

Leiserowitz, presented statistics from surveys of a national representation of adults portraying American views about climate change. His results illustrated that Americans perceive climate change as a moderate threat that is distant, lacks urgency and therefore, is not a high priority. Americans generally support policies to reduce greenhouse gases, but oppose taxes on carbon or gasoline. Certain segments of the population react very differently to the issue of climate change and Leiserowitz divided these populations into five groups. The two smallest and most extreme groups are the alarmists and naysayers. Alarmists tend to view climate change as a catastrophically high risk, while naysayers contend that climate change poses little or no risk for a variety of reasons. Alarmists generally represent more disenfranchised portions of the population with lower incomes, primarily minorities and women. Naysayers are generally more conservative and have higher incomes, primarily white men from the business sector and/or religious right.

Because public knowledge on climate change is limited and sometimes confused, Americans often rely on images, emotions and values to make decisions about climate change. Therefore, Leiserowitz says, strategic images or messages that play into certain values should be used to engage Americans on the issue of climate change. Because different groups hold different values, each necessitates a different strategy for presenting climate change.

Matt Nisbet, assistant professor at the School of Communications at American University, asserted that in order to successfully affect an audience on any science policy issue, including climate change, one must identify which segment of the public the audience falls into, determine which frames resonate with this audience, develop heuristics, such as, catch phrases or symbols, to portray this frame and identify the best communication channel to target the public.

Seminar summaries and presentations are available at the AMS website.

7. Climate Change in the News: Lawsuit and United Nations Conference

On November 14, in San Francisco, CA, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace file a suit against the Bush Administration for violating the Global Change Research Act of 1990. This law requires a national scientific assessment of climate change and its effect on the environment every four years. The last assessment, produced during the Clinton Administration, predicted increased intensity of storms, floods and drought, and a two to three-fold increase in heat-related deaths. Following this assessment, the Bush Administration has spent $2 billion in research to produce 21 reports from 13 different agencies. However, it has failed to generate a comprehensive national science assessment. Environmentalists have accused the Administration of suppressing a crucial coherent synthesis on climate change and are asking the court to demand that the Climate Change Science Program and Office of Science and Technology Policy produce a second national assessment.

This lawsuit comes at the end of a two-week United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi, where international experts are collaborating to create a global agenda for controls on greenhouse gas emissions. Britain and other nations have urged the U.S. to reform its energy policies and adopt limits on carbon emissions. Pressure to reform is also coming from within the U.S. where the Supreme Court began hearing arguments from 12 states and a coalition of environmental groups that are suing the Environmental Protection Agency for failure to regulate carbon emissions and comply with the Clean Air Act.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) has backed advocacy groups in its lawsuit charging the government for not providing a national climate science assessment required for informed and effective policy making. He stated that it is "the right time to push Washington" on this major issue.

8. Climate Change Assessment Requested by the USGS

The Climate Change Science Program (CCSP), a consortium of federal agencies performing climate science, has established a synthesis and assessment (S&A) program as a part of its strategic plan, mandated by the U.S. Global Change Research Act. There are 21 S&A products to be administered by 13 federal agencies over a five year period covering a wide range of climate topics. The goal of these products is to provide an objective assessment of the state of the science, and its impacts on policy and decision-making for important societal issues pertaining to climate change.
The United States Geological Survey is the Department of the Interior's representative to CCSP and is responsible for 3 S&A programs. The three programs include: "1.2 Abrupt climate change", "3.4 Past Climate Variability and Change in the Arctic and at High Latitudes" and "4.2 State of knowledge of thresholds of change that could lead to discontinuities in some ecosystems and climate-sensitive resources". The first two programs have a draft prospectus that is now available for public comment. The third program will be available for public comment in a few months. Please visit the program links below and provide public comments for the first two programs by December 7, 2006: S&A product 1.2, S&A product 3.4, S&A product 4.2

9. BLM Approves Oil Shale Testing Leases in Colorado

Higher oil prices have resulted in a push to explore unconventional oil reserves. The prospect of as many as 800 billion barrels of shale oil in Colorado's Piccance Basin, part of the Green River Formation of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, has sparked the interest of Chevron USA INC., EGL Resources INC. and Shell Frontier Oil & Gas Inc. On November 15, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its plans to grant the three companies oil shale testing leases in the area after it approved environmental studies indicating that the project would lead to "no significant impact on the human environment." Companies will be required to monitor groundwater and minimize vegetation clearing which serves as habitat for migratory birds. These 10-year leases over 160 acres illustrate BLM's interest in spurring advances in extraction. All three companies are currently testing new technologies which would separate hydrocarbons from formations by heating shale underground. The leases are short-term so that companies can demonstrate the efficiency and economic viability of this extraction method.

10. Update on National Electricity Emissions Corridor

Utilities will build thousands of miles of new high-voltage electricity transmission lines across the United States in the next five to eight years in an effort to ensure that overloaded wires do not cause costly congestion, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates. While demand for electricity may increase by 19 percent over the next decade, the miles of transmission lines will only increase about 7 percent according to the North American Electric Reliability Council.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee considered the nomination of Kevin Kolevar, director of Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, to be the new assistant secretary of Energy for Energy Delivery and Reliability. The new position was created by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The new assistant secretary would be responsible for a DOE report determining which areas of the country would be designated as national electric transmission corridors. Such corridors would give the federal government siting authority over state and local governments. The controversial legislation was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to help ensure that transmission projects move forward even if there is local to regional opposition. Recommendations of national corridors are expected in December, however, DOE has suggested there might be a delay so they can seek additional public comment.

More information is available from DOE's website.

11. Report Questions "Peak Oil" Problem

A recent report from the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) asserts that geophysicist M. King Hubbert's "peak oil" theory is based on unfounded beliefs that often leads to confusion in energy policy discussion. The report, entitled "Why the 'Peak Oil' Theory Falls Down," argues that peak oil advocates fail to consider new kinds of reserves and technological advances. They estimate remaining oil quantity based on proven conventional reserves that only account for about 1.2 trillion barrels, while in fact, CERA estimates that about 4.82 trillion barrels of oil exist worldwide in conventional as well as unconventional reserves. Given that 1.08 trillion have already been produced, the report concludes that 3.74 trillion barrels remain and no evidence exists for any peak before 2030. The press release and link to report (subscription required) are available at the CERA website.

12. New Report on Innovation and Competitiveness

On November 16, The Task Force on the Future of American Innovation released a new report on innovation and competitiveness entitled "Measuring the Moment: Innovation, National Security, and Economic Competitiveness. Benchmarks of our Innovation Future II". The report echoes the findings of at least 20 previous reports over the past three years from a variety of groups and coalitions. In a nutshell, the report requests greater funding for physical science research and development, greater incentives for students to pursue studies in the physical sciences and improvements in science teaching in grades K through 12. The report updates benchmarks, which measure U.S. innovation and competitiveness relative to other countries.

Benchmarks cited by the report include:
o Defense basic research has remained flat over three decades (after inflation) despite rapid growth in overall defense research, development, testing, and evaluation;
o The federal investment in physical sciences and engineering has declined substantially since 1970 as a share of GDP;
o The U.S. share of published papers in science and engineering - an effective measure of new ideas and discoveries - shrank significantly from 1988 to 2003, and has been bypassed by Western Europe;
o The U.S. share of global high-tech exports fell by nearly one-half from 1980 to 2003;
o U.S. science and engineering degrees as a percentage of all undergraduate degrees are less than two-thirds the world average, and the U.S. is in the bottom quartile among 42 countries that granted more than 20,000 university degrees in 2002.
o Asian production of science and engineering Ph.D.s is on a steep trajectory and has surpassed the number of U.S. Ph.D.s, which has essentially been flat for a decade.

The report concludes: "Those who stand still will fall behind. The United States has been standing still in basic research in the physical sciences for more than a decade -- a decade of immense change and rapid growth in the global economy. The Benchmarks show that if the United States continues to stand still, it faces inevitable decline. Avoiding this outcome does not require huge outlays of federal funds - the research funds in the American Competitive Initiative, if approved, involve only about one-tenth of one percent of federal discretionary spending - but it will require a new attitude and commitment toward sustained investment in basic research. With this commitment, we believe that the United States can continue to prosper and lead in this still-new century."

To view the full report and additional information, click here.

13. Report on the State of U.S. Higher Education

The National Conference of State Legislatures released a report on November 27 stating that the United States, which once boasted to have the best higher education in the world, is now falling behind other nations. The report, "Transforming Higher Education: National Imperative - State Responsibility," declares that more Americans must graduate from college in order to maintain the required workforce and calls for state legislators to deliver results. A mere 18 out of 100 ninth graders in high school who attend college will graduate from college within six years. As tuitions are increasing, financial aid and loan programs are not compensating for the increase and many high school students cannot afford a higher education. Authors from NCSL's bipartisan Blue Ribbon Commission of Higher Education called for fifteen policy recommendations for legislators, including setting clear goals and expectations for higher education, making higher education a priority for legislation, exerting strong leadership, and providing funding on a reactive, not strategic, basis. A press release and link to the full report (subscription required) are available on NCSL's website.

14. Science Standards in Kansas Again

The science standards for public schools in Kansas have been rewritten five times in the past eight years, primarily because of debates about the teaching of evolution. In January, a newly elected Kansas State Board of Education will take over and is likely to rewrite the standards once again. The current standards emphasize controversies about the theory of evolution and modify the definition of science to allow supernatural explanations to explain observations. Members of the new board suggest they will take several months to rewrite the standards. They also plan to reconvene a panel of educators whose evolution-friendly work fell by the wayside last year when the board's conservative majority decided to adopt language suggested by intelligent design supporters. More information about teaching evolution in Kansas is available from the AGI Government Affairs webpage on evolution.

15. Land Use Conference - Abstracts Due in January

The National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC) and the Interuniversity Consortium for Agricultural and Related Sciences in Europe will hold a conference on the science and education of land use. The conference will emphasize a transatlantic approach that combines a number of disciplines to tackle the issues. It will address key players in land use, consequences of business as usual, alternative measures and comparisons of US and European practices. The organizations are requesting abstracts for papers that highlight rational land use decisions. The abstracts should be no more than 500 words and be sent to by January 22, 2007 for consideration. An announcement of the conference and a call for papers is available here.

16. NSF Waterman Award Nominations

The National Science Foundation is currently accepting nominations for the 2007 Alan T. Waterman Award. The award was established in 1975 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of NSF's first director. The annual Waterman award recognizes an outstanding young researcher in any field of science or engineering supported by NSF. Candidates may not be more than 35 years old, or seven years beyond receiving a doctorate. In addition to a medal and an invitation to the official award ceremony in Washington D.C., the awardee receives a grant of $500,000 over a 3-year period for scientific research or advanced study in the mathematical, physical, medical, biological, engineering, social, or other sciences at the institution of the recipient's choice. The deadline for nomination is December 31, 2006. For more information, visit the NSF website.

17. William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship

The American Geological Institute (AGI) is pleased to announce the William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship. The successful candidate will spend 12 months (starting September 2007) in Washington, DC, working as a staffer for a Member of Congress or congressional committee. The fellowship is a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the legislative process and contribute to the effective use of geoscience in crafting public policy.

Minimum requirements are a master's degree with at least three years of post-degree work experience or a Ph.D. at the time of appointment. The fellowship carries an annual stipend of up to $55,000. Support for the fellowship is provided by an endowment, established through the AGI Foundation, in honor of William L. Fisher.

All application materials must be transmitted by February 1, 2007.
More details on this fellowship and similar fellowships offered by AGI Member Societies (AGU, GSA and SSSA) are available here. AGI is an equal opportunity employer.

18. AGU Fall Meeting Science and Policy Events

The American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, 11-15 December, 2006, in San Francisco, California, will include over 100 sessions sponsored or co-sponsored by Public Affairs, as well as workshops and other events that connect science and policy. A special Union Lecture will feature the Honorable Al Gore on Thursday, 14 December, speaking on "Climate Change: The Role of Science and the Media in Policy Making"(Marriott, Salon 8, 1230h -1330h).

In addition to three Public Affairs sessions, several Union Sessions also have strong Public Affairs relevance. Several of these sessions will explore ways in which scientists are communicating their work with the public and policymakers, including Creating Usable Science in the 21st Century: Strategies for More Effectively Connecting Science to Societal Needs, (PA 23A/24A/31A), Educating the Public About Science Through the Media: Lessons Learned and Ways Forward (PA53A/51A) and the Union Session all day on Thursday and on Friday morning, Communicating Broadly: Perspectives and Tools for Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Scientists (U41F/42C/43D/44C/51D).

Two sessions will examine geoscience-related ramifications of societal conflict: Monday's Union session on Environmental Consequences of Regional Nuclear Conflicts (U14A) and Friday's Public Affairs session on Earth Science in Conflicted Terrane (PA54A), which will conclude with a panel discussion on how to approach collaboration with scientists in countries where political or societal conflicts present obstacles. Another Union session, entitled Defining and Protecting the Integrity of Science: New Challenge for the 21st Century (U21C), will offer presentations by scientists on the front lines of this critical issue.

In each of the technical sessions co-sponsored by PA, at least one paper is explicitly concerned with implications for public policy and natural resources management of the science under discussion. For example, in the Atmospheric Sciences Session on Hydroclimate Variability in Monsoon Regions (A31D), Peter Webster's abstract includes a consideration of hydrological management implications; in the session on Critical Climate Uncertainties (GC22/23), a poster by former AGU Congressional Fellow Josh Trapani will explore the role of uncertainties in policy formation; and several Seismology and Tectonophysics sessions include papers on the management implications of advances in earthquake seismology.

Workshops include:
*Communicating With Congress Workshop, Tuesday, 12 December, 1230h 1330h, Marriott Hotel, Salon 1 Are you prepared to speak to your elected representative about science? This hands-on workshop will provide you with tips and techniques for speaking effectively about science to policy makers. Lunch will be served, but space is limited. No advance registration required.

*How to Become a Congressional or Mass Media Fellow and Why! Wednesday, 13 December, 1230h 1330h, Marriott Hotel, Salon 1 2 Current and past fellows from both of these programs will share their experiences and answer your questions. Mass Media Fellows report on and write about science news for a newspaper, magazine, or radio or TV station for a 10-week period during the summer. Congressional Science Fellows deal with science issues in the office of a senator, representative, or committee for a full year. Space is limited. Lunch provided.

Finally, several town hall sessions on Monday and Thursday evenings will also address public policy issues and program funding. Check the full schedule of Town Hall Meetings at

To search the full Fall Meeting Program, visit
This summary is from AGU Science and Legislative Alerts (ASLA) prepared by Cathy O'Riordan, AGU's Public Affairs Manager ( For more information about ASLAs, visit AGU's website.

Key Federal Register Notices

DOE: In accordance with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which directs the Secretary of Energy to develop procedures for the acquisition of petroleum for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) in appropriate circumstances, DOE is issuing the final rule governing procedures for the acquisition of petroleum for the SPR, including acquisition by direct purchase and transfer of royalty oil from the Department of the Interior (DOI). This final rule is effective December 8, 2006. For further information, contact Lynnette le Mat at (202) 586-4398.
[Federal Register: November 8, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 216)]

NOAA: NOAA's Science Advisory Board open meeting will be held Tuesday December 5, 2006, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesday December 6, 2006, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott, 8506 Fenton St. in Silver Spring, MD. The most up-to-date meeting agenda is available at For further information, contact Dr. Cynthia Decker at (301) 713-9121,, or visit the NOAA SAB Web site at
[Federal Register: November 8, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 216)]

DOE: The Department of Energy's Nuclear Regulatory Commission is extending the deadline for public comment on High Level Waste Regulatory Safety Interim Staff Guidance draft, "Preclosure Safety Analysis--Level of Information and Reliability Estimation," on the Yucca Mountain Review plan until December 13, 2006. For further information, contact Jon Chen at (301) 415-5526,
[Federal Register: November 9, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 217)]

NSF: NSF is announcing its intent to hold proposal review meetings throughout the year to provide advice and recommendations concerning proposals submitted to the NSF for financial support. The majority of these meetings will take place at NSF, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Virginia 22230. They will be closed to the public. These closed proposal review meetings will not be announced on an individual basis in the Federal Register, but NSF intends to publish a notice similar to this on a quarterly basis. For an advance listing of the closed proposal review meetings that include the names of the proposal review panel and the time, date, place, and any information on changes, cancellations, please visit the NSF website or call (703) 292-8182.
[Federal Register: November 13, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 218)]

EPA: The Environmental Protection Agency Science Advisory
Board is announcing a consultation via two public teleconferences to provide input on the Agency's proposed Risk and Technology Review (RTR) assessment methodology. Two public teleconferences on December 7, 2006 and December 19, 2006. Each teleconference will begin at 1 p.m. and end at 5 p.m. (Eastern Time). For further information, contact Dr. Sue Shallal at (202) 343-9977 or General information concerning the EPA Science Advisory Board can be found on the EPA website.
[Federal Register: November 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 219)]

DOE: The Department of Energy is announcing an open meeting of the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee on November 28, 2006 from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. November 29, 2006 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, Main Ballroom and Quorum Room, 480 L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, DC 20024. For further information, contact Neil Rossmeissl at (202) 586-8668 or Harriet Foster at (202) 586-4541,
[Federal Register: November 15, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 220)]

MMS: The Minerals Management Service is announcing public hearings to address a draft environmental impact statement on tentatively scheduled 2007-2012 oil and gas leasing proposals in the Western and Central Gulf of Mexico (GOM), off the States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. An electronic copy of the draft EIS is available at the MMS's Internet website. Public Hearings will be held on December 5, 2006 at Wyndham Greenspoint in Houston, Texas at 1 p.m., December 5, 2006 at Riverview Plaza Hotel in Mobile, Alabama at 7 p.m., December 6, 2006 at Hampton Inn and Suites New Orleans-Elmwood in Harahan, Louisiana at 1 p.m., December 6, at Marriott Bay Point Resort at Panama City, Florida at 7 p.m., and December 7, 2006 at Larose Civic Center in Larose, Louisiana at 7 p.m. For further information contact Dennis Chew at (504) 736-2793.
[Federal Register: November 17, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 222)]

NOAA: The Climate Change Science Program Product Development Committee for Synthesis and Assessment Product 5.3 established on October 12, 2006 is announcing an open meeting on Monday, December 11, 2006 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. via teleconference. The most up-to-date agenda is available at from NOAA's website. For further information, contact Dr. Nancy Beller-Simms at (301) 734-1200,
[Federal Register: November 20, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 223)]

NASA: NASA announces its completion of the final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for implementation of the Mars Science Laboratory mission. NASA will take no final action on the proposed MSL mission on or before December 21, 2006. The FEIS is available in pdf format at For further information, contact Mark R. Dahl at 202-358-4800,
[Federal Register: November 21, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 224)]

PHMSA: The Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration is announcing the issuance of an advisory bulletin on pipeline safety regulations and recommendations. This document is available on the PHMSA home page at For further information contact Joy Kadnar, (202) 366-0568,
[Federal Register: November 22, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 225)]

DOE: The Department of Energy is commencing a rulemaking to amend the existing energy conservation standards for residential water heaters, direct heating equipment, and pool heaters. DOE will hold an informal public meeting to present its proposed methodologies on January 16, 2007, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT in Washington, DC. A Framework Document from DOE is available at Written comments on the Framework Document are welcome and encouraged and should be submitted by January 30, 2007. For further information, contact Mohammed Khan at (202) 586-7892, or Francine Pinto at (202) 586-9507,
[Federal Register: November 24, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 226)]

New Updates to the Website

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

Monthly Review prepared by Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs and Rachel Bleshman 2006 AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Associated Press, ClimateScienceWatch, Washington Post, Greenwire, E&E Daily, Library of Congress, Congressional Quarterly, Department of the Interior, American Geophysical Union and American Meteorological Society.

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. Prior updates can be found on the AGI web site under "Public Policy" <>. For additional information on specific policy issues, please visit the web site or contact us at <> or (703) 379-2480, ext. 228.

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

Posted December 1, 2006.


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