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Monthly Review: December 2009

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. Congressional Fellowship Applications Due Soon

    ***Administration News and Updates***
    1. Interim Climate Accord Emerges From Copenhagen
    2. Obama Signs Bill to Raise Debt Limit by $290 Billion
    3. OSTP Open Access Input
    4. Obama Launches Educate to Innovate Program

    ***Congressional News and Updates***
    1. Congress Completes FY 2010 Appropriations
    2. House Approves of Jobs Bill
    3. Climate Legislation in the Wake of Copenhagen
    4. House Passes Energy and Water Research Bill
    5. Volcano Early Warning System Passes Committee

    ***Federal Agency News and Updates***
    1. DOE Announces $366 Million for 3 Energy Innovation Hubs
    2. EPA Publishes Water Research Strategy
    3. NASA Earth-Observing Capacity Update
    4. NSF Launches Climate Science Web Site “To What Degree?”

    ***Other News and Updates***
    1. Stolen Emails Fuel Debate on the Integrity of Climate Science
    2. New Interactive Tsunami Site from WHOI
    3. Science Film Festival
    4. AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Twitter Feed
    5. Geoscience Policy Internship in Washington DC
    6. Congressional Visits Day Needs Citizen Geoscientists
    7. Key Reports and Publications
    8. Key Federal Register Notices
    9. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

1. Congressional Fellowship Applications Due Soon

The American Geological Institute is accepting applications for the 2010-2011 William L. Fisher Congressional Geoscience Fellowship. The successful candidate will spend 12 months (starting September 2010) in Washington working as a staff member in the office of a member of Congress or on a congressional committee. The fellowship represents a unique opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the federal legislative process and make practical contributions to the effective and timely use of geoscientific knowledge on issues relating to the environment, resources, natural hazards, and federal science policy. Applications are due February 1, 2010.

For more information visit:

The American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Institute of Physics, and the American Meteorological Society also sponsor congressional fellowships that potential AGI applicants may be eligible for as well. Requirements and deadlines vary, so applicants interested in applying to multiple societies are encouraged to check the details.

2. Interim Climate Accord Emerges From Copenhagen

President Obama and a large contingent of federal agency and congressional representatives made the trip to the U.N. Climate Summit in Copenhagen at the beginning of December to negotiate an international climate accord. A total of 193 countries were present to negotiate the interim treaty over the two-week conference, but only about 30 countries have signed on so far. The major accomplishment was to get the U.S., China, and India to sign the interim agreement setting limits on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for developed and developing countries. This Copenhagen Accord is not yet a legally binding treaty, but it indicates a commitment to reducing GHG emissions.

While it may not be the replacement for the Kyoto Treaty that some leaders had hoped for, the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon still considered it a “significant achievement.” Many countries were frustrated that the U.S. would not set higher reduction targets, but Obama was adamant about adhering to the 17 percent reduction below 2005 levels by 2020 and ultimately 42 percent below by 2030 set by the House-passed climate bill (H.R. 2454) because he did not wish to supersede ongoing congressional considerations. 

The U.S. entourage included heads of many key federal agencies; including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Geological Survey Director Marcia McNutt, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a House delegation of 14 democrats and 6 republicans to Copenhagen, including several authors of the Waxman-Markey climate bill (H.R. 2454) passed in the House. From the Senate, only the lead author of the Senate climate bill John Kerry (D-MA) and climate skeptic James Inhofe (R-OK) attended.

The DOI presentations from Copenhagen are available to download as PDFs: 
A more complete summary of the Copenhagen Accord and resulting domestic policy implications is available from the NY Times.

3. Obama Signs Bill To Raise Debt Limit by $290 Billion

On December 28, President Obama signed into law H.R. 4314 to raise the U.S. debt limit from $12.104 trillion to $12.394 trillion. Despite misgivings about the rising deficit, the bill passed the Senate by a vote of 60-39. Several senators voted in favor only after a guarantee that there will be debate at the end of January about creating an independent bipartisan commission to explore ways to control the deficit. Obama’s budget is still expected to raise the deficit by at least $1 trillion this fiscal year, so the debate will discuss another proposal to increase the debt limit by enough to last through 2010. The debt ceiling has been raised three times in the past two years, and the House already agreed to a $13 trillion limit earlier this year.

4. Administration Considers Open Access

The Obama Administration through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) is seeking input on access to federally funded research. A full description of the request for information, as well as the ongoing input, can be found at the OSTP web site: The original deadline for input was January 7, 2010, however, a December 31st federal register notice extended the deadline to January 21, 2010. As of this posting, the OSTP web site does not note the new deadline.

OSTP is asking for comments on two issues regarding free and open access to publications of federally-funded research results. The first issue is which other federal agencies besides the National Institutes of Health, should adopt public access policies. The second issue is a four-part question: how should public access be designed with regards to timing, what version of the paper to use, mandatory versus voluntary posting requirements and other concerns.

The American Geological Institute requested an extension of the January 7 deadline to allow geoscience societies more time to consider the request and offer input.

You may view the request through the updated Federal Register notice at This notice provides additional contact information (telephone and email) and questions, while the OSTP web site provides entry primarily to a blog where you can add your comments and view the comments of others.

5. Obama Launches Educate to Innovate Program

President Obama launched a new program at the end of November, called Educate to Innovate, to spur partnerships aimed at improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and encouraging more students to pursue careers in those fields. The idea is to take pre-existing, successful programs and help them expand using new and creative ways of generating student interest with help from corporations, nonprofit organizations, and individuals in the STEM field.

Educate to Innovate is based on the recommendations to improve STEM education to keep the U.S. competitive globally from the 2005 National Academies report Rising Above the Gathering Storm. Many subsequent reports and studies have led to the new initiatives announced as part of Educate to Innovate. A few examples include: an annual science fair at the White House for all the winners of national STEM competitions; public-private partnerships with Time Warner Cable, Discovery Communications, Sesame Street, Sony, and others to bring educational video games, science literacy TV programming, and student STEM competition announcements to millions of children; and a grassroots National Lab Day to connect teachers with STEM societies and professionals to help implement hands-on, project-based learning in schools.

6. Congress Completes FY 2010 Appropriations

Congress passed H.R. 3288, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2010 on December 13, 2009. This bill provides funding for six separate appropriations bills consolidated into the Transportation/HUD bill. It includes funding for science agencies [National Science Foundation (NSF), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)] and the Department of Education. President Obama signed the bill into law (Public Law 111-117) on December 16. Department of Defense appropriations were handled separately in a later bill and signed into law by the President on December 19. The conference committee provided a joint explanatory statement to explain their budgetary choices in H.R. 3288 in House Report 111-366.

The report calls for several general accounting requests from federal science agencies. NSF, NASA and the Departments of Commerce and Justice must provide the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations with quarterly accounts of cumulative balances of any unobligated funds and must submit spending plans within 60 days of enactment of the bill. In addition these agencies and departments must notify Congress about any cost increases of 10 percent or more for projects with initial costs exceeding $75 million.

The measure provides increases for most science programs, with NOAA receiving the largest percentage increase. Legislators noted that $1.3 billion is provided for climate change research and development in this bill. Within the Department of Commerce, NOAA would receive an 8.3 percent increase for a total budget of $4,737.5 million and NIST would receive a 2 percent increase for a total budget of $856.6 million in FY 2010 compared to FY 2009.

NSF would receive a 6.7 percent increase for a total budget of $6,927 million in FY 2010. Congress expresses concern in the report about future funding for NSF to maintain a doubling of the agency's budget over about a 10 year period as authorized in the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-69). NSF is below the authorized levels in the law for FY 2010 and below a doubling path. Legislators support at least a seven percent increase for NSF in the FY 2011 budget request in the conference report. Congress directs NSF to transfer $54 million to the Coast Guard for icebreaking services for FY 2010, but expects the Department of Homeland Security to request such funding in the future.

Congress does not specify funding levels within NSF programs in general, but the report does request NSF to maintain funding levels for climate change, cyber-enabled discovery and innovation, science and engineering beyond Moore’s law, adaptive systems technology, dynamics of water processes and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. The report specifies support for high-risk, high-reward research, graduate research fellowships, ocean acidification research, climate change education, and EPSCoR. EPSCoR is the Office of Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and provides grants for research and education programs in underrepresented jurisdictions. The report directs NSF to consider integration within the hydrology community, supports strong increases for education and directs the agency to work to improve geographic literacy among K-12 students.

NASA with an increase of $942 million, or 5.3 percent over its FY 2009 appropriations of $17,782 million (without stimulus funding), receives a total budget of $18,742 million for FY 2010. Science funding would decline by about $34 million (0.8 percent). Within Earth science, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) and the Deformation, Ecosystem Structure, and Dynamics of the Ice (DESDnyI) decadal survey missions would receive an additional $15 million above the President’s request and NASA would begin building a replacement for the destroyed Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) with at least $50 million ($25 million in additional funds and $25 million from the Science Mission Directorate) in FY 2010.

Congress remains concerned about NASA's ability to advance Earth science missions and encourages the agency to consider “commercial solutions.” Legislators request NASA and other agencies within the U.S. Global Change Research Program to review and recommend ways to implement the Earth science decadal survey missions with respect to climate science. Congress notes that “NASA should provide leadership in demonstrating satellite-based global change measurements that can then be implemented on an operational basis by NOAA and USGS.”

For a summary of geoscience funding levels please visit AGI’s Government Affairs program appropriation pages.

For a summary of science research and development funding across all federal agencies please visit AAAS’s R&D Budget and Policy program.

7. House Approves of Jobs Bill

On December 16, 2009, the House passed an amendment to H.R. 2847, which has been informally called a “jobs bill.” The amendment was not passed by the Senate, but all or part of the legislation may be considered in 2010. The bill puts more money into transportation infrastructure, water systems, education and renewable energy for a total cost of $174 billion over several years. About $48.3 billion would come from unused funds in the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was set-up in 2008 to help financial institutions.

Some funding highlights of interest to the geoscience community would include the following: $1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund; $1 billion for the Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund; $2 billion for the Energy Department’s Innovative Loan Guarantee Program; $715 million for the Army Corps of Engineers’ environmental restoration, flood protection, hydropower and other initiatives; $100 million for the Bureau of Reclamation’s clean drinking water in rural areas and drought relief programs; $4.1 billion for school renovation grants; $23 billion for an Education Jobs fund, $300 million for College Work Study; $200 million for AmeriCorps, $750 million for job training in high growth fields; and $354 million for Small Business Loans.

Look for Congress to consider these and other stimulus measures in 2010 to improve employment, help state and local governments and improve economic growth.

8. Climate Legislation in the Wake of Copenhagen

At Copenhagen, President Obama staunchly adhered to greenhouse gas emission reduction targets from the House climate bill (H.R. 2454). This is the only legislation formally approved by the House or the Senate and Obama has made it clear that the Administration will follow the lead from Congress in any international negotiations dealing with climate change.

In the Senate, work is continuing on compromise climate legislation with Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) taking the lead on drafting new language, after earlier measures failed to garner support. The three senators sent the framework for a new climate change bill to President Obama on December 10, 2009, as the Copenhagen Climate Summit was underway. The framework is a broad document that outlines 11 vision areas and a goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by about 17 percent of the 2005 levels by 2020. The reduction target is the same as the 2020 target in the House bill.

The framework’s vision areas ask to reach significant and achievable emission targets through investments in clean energy technology, strive for energy independence, set national emission standards by Congress not by federal agencies or states, provide monetary assistance and protection to consumers, encourage new nuclear power plants and a nuclear workforce, promote clean coal technology and rapid deployment of carbon capture and sequestration systems, create American jobs through the clean technology industry, make it beneficial for farmers to reduce emissions without regulations, have vigilant oversight of the carbon market, get a strong global commitment to addressing climate change and protecting intellectual property rights, and build climate legislation consensus in the Senate.

Though the lack of details is frustrating to some, the authors say it sends a clear signal to the international community that the Senate is actively working on legislation. Kerry explains that the lack of specifics allows the committees with jurisdiction over the various vision areas to provide input. He plans on taking language from the Kerry-Boxer climate bill (S. 1733), passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee in November, and the American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009 (S. 1462) passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee in July.

A formal bill will not be introduced until at least the end of January. Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AK) plans on holding climate hearings in late January before submitting her committee’s input and a bill is not expected until the Finance and Commerce Committees have had a chance to do the same.

A day after the Kerry-Lieberman-Graham framework announcement, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) released a “cap and refund” bill called the Carbon Limits and Energy for America's Renewal (CLEAR) Act (S. 2877) as an alternative to the current cap and trade climate legislation model. It auctions off carbon credits and gives the revenues to low- and middle-income families to offset the increased cost of meeting a 20 percent emission reduction by 2020 proposed in the measure. Kerry and the others said they are open to incorporating any idea the will satisfy their vision areas.

As Congress tries to finalize some sort of climate legislation, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has submitted its final endangerment rule that will become effective January 14, 2010. This rule says that GHGs are endangering public health and are caused in part by motor vehicles, therefore the EPA has authority to regulate these emissions under the Clean Air Act. Some members of Congress see this as EPA circumventing congressional authority and have introduced legislation to negate the EPA endangerment findings. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) are leading the charge against the EPA, but are unlikely to gain enough support to overturn the ruling. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) admits Murkowski is unlikely to succeed, but is confident that lawsuits will soon sprout up and “kill the endangerment finding.”

A comprehensive analysis of the Senate climate debate and key senators in the 60-vote race was prepared by ScienceInsider, and is available as part of their climate blog.

9. House Passes Energy and Water Research Bill

The Energy and Water Research Integration Act (H.R. 3598) passed out of the House on December 1, 2009. The bill addresses the nexus between energy and water resource demands by directing the Secretary of Energy to take water into consideration. The Secretary of Energy must work to advance energy technologies to become more water efficient, consider the implications of climate change on water supplies for energy, estimate the water needed for energy production, and understand the energy required to provide water to the public. It creates an Energy-Water Architecture Council to work on improving energy and water resources data and advance technological innovations. The Energy Department will take the lead, but work in coordination with other federal agencies. 

The bill has now goes to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for consideration.

10. Volcano Early Warning System Passes Committee

The National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring Systems Act (S. 782), introduced by Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D), would authorize $15 million annually for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to continually monitoring all 169 potentially hazardous volcanoes in the U.S in real-time.

The bill will codify the USGS National Volcano Early Warning and Monitoring System (NVEWS) program already established to monitor volcanic activity and warn citizens of impending danger. The measure will organize, modernize, standardize, stabilize, expand and unify the current monitoring system to simplify coverage of all U.S. volcanoes.

11. DOE Announces $366 Million for 3 Energy Innovation Hubs

The Department of Energy (DOE) plans to invest up to $366 million to establish and operate three new Energy Innovation Hubs focused on: 1) fuels from sunlight, 2) energy efficient building design, and 3) computer modeling and simulation of advanced nuclear reactors. Each hub will receive $22 million the first year and up to $25 million per year for the following four years. The goal is for a multidisciplinary team of researchers to conduct high-risk research in a single area to accelerate research and commercial deployment of highly promising energy-related technologies.

“The DOE Energy Innovation Hubs represent a new, more proactive approach to managing and conducting research. We are taking a page from America’s great industrial laboratories in their heyday,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The centralized and focused hubs will be complemented by the Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) and Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The EFRCs work on collaborations to make an easier transition from basic science research to game-changing discoveries. ARPA-E funds diverse research with the potential for high reward that would otherwise be too risky for industry or other programs to fund.

Originally Chu wanted eight hubs, but Congress felt they were too redundant and only allocated money for one. However, Chu shuffled existing money around to ultimately fund these three, though at a reduced starting budget from the orignial $35 million.

Information on the implementation plan and strategy for managing the hubs is on the DOE Energy Innovation Hubs web site:

12. EPA Publishes Water Research Strategy

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a national water research strategy on December 18, 2009. The four research priorities include healthy watersheds and coastal waters, safe drinking water, sustainable water infrastructure, and water security. The plan is to “diversify the science the water program uses to develop its regulatory and non-regulatory water management tools and decisions” according to an EPA press release. Water researchers, water managers and the public are invited to view the strategy in order to understand how this national plan may affect their work and use of water. Other federal agencies with water-related research responsibilities may wish to consider this strategy in relation to their work.

More information is available at:

13. NASA Earth-Observing Capacity Update

On December 7, 2009 NASA officially deactivated the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-10 (GOES-10) after 12 years of successful service in tracking hurricanes and for other Earth-observing missions. NOAA has four GOES in space: GOES-11 and GOES-12, which are in operation; GOES-13, in orbital storage and slated to replace GOES-12 when it is repositioned; and GOES-14, which launched this spring and is undergoing post-launch tests. GOES-P, which is slated to become GOES-15 after launch, has been moved to Kennedy Space Center for final preparations for launch on February 25, 2010. GOES-15 will be the last in the series. The next-generation GOES-R satellite series, set to begin launching in 2015, is expected to double the clarity of today’s GOES imagery and provide at least 20 times more atmospheric observations than current capabilities.

In addition to the GOES system, NASA announced at the fall AGU meeting that the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on the Aqua spacecraft has completed a seven-plus years measurement of the concentration and distribution of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere region of Earth’s atmosphere. Carbon dioxide concentrations are less homogeneous than model assumptions and the southern hemisphere serves as a sink for carbon dioxide emitted primarily in the northern hemisphere. The carbon dioxide data combined with AIRS’s daily measurements of temperature, water vapor and other gases will help improve our understanding of Earth’s atmosphere and climate change.

14. NSF Launches Climate Science Web Site “To What Degree?”

The new National Science Foundation (NSF) climate science web site "To What Degree" aims to explain what science is saying about climate change through short video segments. Leading climate change experts answer common questions about the Earth system and climate change. The questions are broken down into four topics: the carbon cycle, Earth’s heat balance, the water cycle, and how do we know. NSF promises that more topics are coming soon.

15. Stolen Emails Fuel Debate on the Integrity of Climate Science

Over 1,000 emails and 2,000 other files dating as far back as 1996 from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom were stolen and posted on the web through a Russian file-sharing site in the city of Tomsk, Siberia on November 19, 2009. The university has called the incident a “criminal breach” and police are investigating. The timing of the release of the stolen information, just before the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen, is suspicious and has led to further charges of criminality in support of climate skeptics.

The content of the private correspondences has spurred a bitter and increasingly acrimonious debate about climate science and scientific ethics. It is uncertain what effect, if any, the emails will have on climate legislation. In the U.K., Professor Phil Jones, the director of CRU, has stepped down and an independent investigator, Sir Muir Russell, will investigate whether there was any suppression or manipulation of data, determine if practices meet “best scientific practice,” review compliance with U.K.’s data access laws and review management and security at CRU. His report is not due until the spring of 2010. In addition, more than 1,700 British scientists signed a letter in support of the scientists involved in the emails and in support of the science showing global warming is in part due to anthropogenic factors.

At the United Nations, the co-chairs of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group One, Thomas Stocker and Qin Dahe, issued a statement saying that their work provides an open, transparent and unbiased report on the current knowledge of the climate system and its changes.  

In the U.S., some of the American scientists involved in the emails held a press conference and stated that they were not involved in any scientific misconduct. Another group of twenty-five climate scientists in the U.S., wrote an open letter (PDF) to Congress stating “The body of evidence that human activity is the dominant cause of global warming is overwhelming. The content of the stolen e-mails has no impact whatsoever on our overall understanding that human activity is driving dangerous levels of global warming.”

Twenty-seven Republican senators sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asking for an independent investigation of the IPCC and its reports based on “allegations of adjusting or manipulating data and why various individuals refused to disclose raw data.” The senators compared their request to an investigation of the U.N.’s Oil for Food program by an outside entity in 2004.

Some Republican senators sent a letter to EPA asking the agency to halt its efforts to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act “until the agency can demonstrate the science underlying these regulatory decisions has not been compromised” based on the information garnered from the stolen emails.

In congressional hearings in December, lawmakers and witnesses expressed their opinions regarding the emails and the science. “The e-mails do nothing to undermine the very strong scientific consensus . . . that tells us the Earth is warming, that warming is largely a result of human activity,” Jane Lubchenco, who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told a House committee. At the other end of the debate and in the other chamber, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) stated at a December 2nd hearing, “One cannot deny that the e-mails raised fundamental questions concerning . . . transparency and openness in science.”

Senator Inhofe has formally requested a hearing about the emails in the Environment and Public Works Committee, while Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), Chair of the House Select Committee on Global Warming and Energy Independence, has stated he will organize a hearing about the emails at the beginning of 2010.

The media continues to cover the controversy regarding the emails from many angles. The Wall Street Journal provides a sixty megabyte file of all of the stolen information as a link in a November 23rd news story while the Associated Press had five reporters read all 1,073 emails and then send summaries of their analyses to research ethics, climate science and science policy experts. The experts indicate that the science regarding global warming was not faked based on the content of the emails.

16. New Interactive Tsunami Site from WHOI

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) launched a new flashy, fact-filled, and comprehensive tsunami information site that teaches everything from tsunami science to how researchers monitor them to how to survive one. Interactive maps, firsthand accounts from survivors, diagrams, and tsunami videos are just some of interesting and useful information on the site.

Visit the site at:

17. Science Film Festival

The second annual Imagine Science Film Festival was held in New York City from October 15-25. The event is organized by Imagine Science Films, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit dedicated to dialogue and collaboration between scientists and filmmakers. The organization’s objectives are to ensure the accurate portrayal of science and scientists in film and to help make science more accessible to the public through the arts, particularly film.

A festival is being planned for 2010 and submissions will likely be due in the spring of 2010. Films must effectively incorporate science into a compelling narrative while maintaining credible scientific groundings. Films may have a scientific or technological theme and storyline, or have a leading character who is a scientist, engineer, or mathematician. The geoscience community is encouraged to nominate films, take advantage of other public outreach opportunities through Imagine Science Film and to consider opportunities for collaboration with filmmakers.

18. AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Twitter Feed

For the February Presidential budget release, AAAS will be posting Twitter updates on the FY2011 budget process and policy updates for research and development (R&D) funding. The Twitter feed will deliver the breaking news and information between their more detailed email updates. Start following the R&D Budget and Policy Program now at:

19. Geoscience Policy Internship in Washington DC

The American Geological Institute’s Government Affairs Program seeks outstanding geoscience students (masters or undergraduate) with a strong interest in federal science policy for summer, fall, and spring internships. Interns will gain a first-hand understanding of the legislative process and the operation of executive branch agencies. They will also hone their writing and web publishing skills. Interns receive a stipend through the generous support of the American Institute of Professional Geologists Foundation, the American Geological Institute or the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

The deadline for summer 2010 is March 15th and the deadlines for fall and spring are April 15 and October 15, respectively. For more information, and how to apply, go to:

20. Congressional Visits Day Needs Citizen Geoscientists

Geoscientists are invited to join organized groups of scientists and engineers for workshops and visits with congressional members and committees in April and September 2010. Decision makers need to hear from geoscientists. Become a citizen geoscientist and join many of your colleagues for a workshop at AGU headquarters followed by a day conducting visits with members of Congress or congressional staff on Capitol Hill to speak on the importance of geoscience research, development, and education.

April 28-29, 2010
Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day (SET-CVD), a larger event for all the sciences. More information is available at:

September 21-22, 2010
Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD), an event specifically geared towards geoscientists. For a synopsis of last year’s event, go to the AGI event site.

Several geoscience societies, including AGI, AAPG, AGU and GSA, are involved in organizing these events. Please contact Linda Rowan,, Director of Government Affairs at AGI, or the public policy office of one of the other societies with any questions and to sign-up.

21. Key Reports and Publications

***Congressional Research Services (CRS)***
Cars and Climate: What Can EPA Do to Control Greenhouse Gases from Mobile Sources?
Released December 12, 2009. This report discusses EPA's authority under Title II of the Clean Air Act to regulate mobile sources of greenhouse gases (GHG). Among the sources in Title II, cars, light trucks and SUVs are the initial targets because they began EPA’s interest in the endangerment issue and are the most significant GHG emitters in Title II.

The Google Library Project: Is Digitization for Purposes of Online Indexing Fair Use Under Copyright Law?
Released November 27, 2009. This report covers the litigation proceedings of the Google Library Project. In December 2004, Google planned to digitize, index, and display parts of books without permission from the copyright holders. Authors and publishers sued Google in 2005 for alleged infringement of their rights. Google contended that because it allowed rights holders to “opt out” of the project it was a non-issue. A settlement hopes to be reached by February 18, 2010 and class members have until January 28, 2010, to opt in, out, or object to the agreement.

U.S. Trade Deficit and the Impact of Changing Oil Prices
Released November 13, 2009. The fall of petroleum prices and import volumes as a result of the economic slowdown reversed the previous trend of rising energy import costs and sharply reduced the overall costs in 2008 and the first two months of 2009. This report estimates the initial impact of these changes on the nation’s merchandise trade deficit.

***Government Accountability Office (GAO)***
International Space Station: Significant Challenges May Limit Onboard Research, November 25, 2009
Released December 21, 2009. In 2010 the International Space Station (ISS) will be completed, and the ISS crew can focus on NASA research. This report identifies ISS research conducted now and how it will change upon completion, management challenges, and common practices at other national laboratories. NASA faces several imminent challenges, including retirement of the space shuttle in 2010, high costs, no dedicated funding for research, and an uncertain future for ISS beyond 2015.

Surface Coal Mining: Characteristics of Mining in Mountainous Areas of Kentucky and West Virginia
Released December 9, 2009. There is limited public information on the size, location, and landscape affects after surface coal mining, or “mountaintop mining,” in Appalachia. This report evaluates the characteristics of surface coal mining and reclaimed lands that were disturbed by surface coal mining in the eastern Kentucky and West Virginia.

Nuclear Waste Management: Key Attributes, Challenges, and Costs for the Yucca Mountain Repository and Two Potential Alternatives, November 4, 2009
Released December 1, 2009. This report examines the key challenges to the Yucca Mountain Repository and explores instead storing the nuclear waste at either two centralized locations or on-site. Centralized storage is possible within 10 to 30 years, but finding a host state could be challenging. In addition, this would be temporary and require later transportation to a final site. On-site storage would be maintaining the status quo, but would become problematic as the storage systems degrade and the waste decays.

***National Academy of Sciences (NAS)***
Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies:
Interim Report
Released December 30, 2009. Congress has mandated that NASA detect and track 90 percent of Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that are 1 kilometer in diameter or larger, and include those 140 meters or larger by 2020. This interim report reviews the NEOs program and some issues associated with survey and detection. The final report will contain findings and recommendations for the program.

Intangible Assets: Measuring and Enhancing Their Contribution to Corporate Value and Economic Growth: Summary of a Workshop
Released December 28, 2009. Increasingly, intangible assets-- including computer software, research and development, intellectual property, workforce training, and money to raise efficiency--are principal drivers of the competitiveness, economic growth, and opportunities for U.S. workers. Yet many intangible assets are not reported, or are treated as expenses rather than investments. This report summarizes a workshop held in June 2008 to examine how to measure these assets and their role in U.S. and global economies.

Liquid Transportation Fuels from Coal and Biomass: Technological Status, Costs, and Environmental Impacts
Released December 28, 2009. This book provides a snapshot of the potential costs of liquid fuels conversion. Policy makers, investors, leaders in industry, the transportation sector, and others with a concern for the environment, economy, and energy security can use this as a roadmap to independence from foreign oil. The book proposes that with immediate action and sustained effort, alternative liquid fuels can be available in 2020.

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Sustainability Partnerships: Summary of a Workshop
Released December 17, 2009. This report summarizes a June 2008 workshop to foster ideas and dialogue to develop effective new partnerships for sustainability. Sustainable development requires scientific innovation, new knowledge, and collaborative approaches to implementing technologies and policies across sectors. Partnerships are increasingly utilized to achieve these goals, possibly spurred by failure of government and international commitments. However, skeptics question their effectiveness.

Transitions to Alternative Transportation Technologies--Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles
Prepublication released December 15, 2009. This publication builds on a 2008 National Research Council report on hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. This volume reviews the current and projected technology for plug in hybrids; how rapidly they could enter the marketplace and interface with the electric transmission and distribution system; and the costs and impacts on petroleum consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

America's Energy Future: Technology and Transformation
Released December 15, 2009. The U.S. has enormous resources to put behind solutions to the energy challenge, but before deciding which technologies to develop there is a need to understand them better. This book offers a detailed assessment of the impacts, costs, and timeframes of implementing technologies for energy efficiency, coal-fired power, nuclear power, renewable energy, oil and natural gas, and alternative fuels.

Real Prospects for Energy Efficiency in the United States
Released December 9, 2009. As part of the America's Energy Future project, this report examines the potential for improving efficiency through existing technologies, those developed but not in wide use, and future technologies. The book evaluates technologies based on their estimated time to commercial deployment, costs, barriers, and research needs. This quantitative characterization will guide policy makers, industry, investors, environmentalists, and others looking at energy efficiency possibilities.

An Enabling Foundation for NASA's Space and Earth Science Missions
Prepublication released December 7, 2009. Nearly one quarter of the NASA Science Mission Directorate budget qualifies as “mission enabling,” or support for basic research, theory, modeling, and data analysis; complementary ground-based programs; and advanced technology development. This volume identifies the appropriate roles for mission-enabling activities, metrics for assessing their effectiveness, and how to achieve a balance of mission-related and mission-enabling elements.

In the Light of Evolution III: Two Centuries of Darwin
Released December 1, 2009. In this third book of the series on interpretting phenomena in various areas of biology through the lens of evolution, leading evolutionary biologists and science historians reflect upon and commemorate the Darwinian Revolution.

22. Key Federal Register Notices

The full federal register notices can be accessed online.

DOE—The Department of Energy published a rule, effective December 4, 2009, to change certain regulations in the loan guarantee program authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 for innovative technologies that will help sustain and promote economic growth, produce a more stable and secure energy supply and economy for the U.S., and improve the environment by reducing or sequestering pollutants or anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The changes to the existing regulations will provide flexibility in determining an appropriate collateral package, facilitate collateral sharing and related intercreditor arrangements, and to provide a more workable interpretation of certain statutory provisions regarding DOE's treatment of collateral. For more information, contact David G. Frantz or Susan S. Richardson in the Loan Guarantee Program Office by e-mail:
[Friday, December 4, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 232)]

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to revise the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for sulfur dioxide. The proposal is to revoke the existing 24-hour and annual sulfur dioxide standards, and establish a new 1-hour standard within the rand of 50-100 parts per billion. The EPA is soliciting comments on this proposed rule. Submit comments by the end of February 8, 2010 identified by Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2007-0352 online at, by email (, or by fax (202-566-9744). For more information, contact Dr. Michael J. Stewart in the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards by phone: 919-541-7524, or email:
[Tuesday, December 8, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 234)]

NSF—The National Science Foundation approved the funding for the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope (ATST) Project construction at the Haleakala High Altitude Observatory on the Island of Maui, Hawaii. The will achieve unprecedented progress in solar observation. Although major adverse impacts to cultural resources, viewsheds, and noise levels will result, the benefits of understanding of the Sun and its ability to affect life on Earth will go a long way toward helping us predict certain catastrophic events and provide us with the opportunity to address the potential consequences outweigh the impacts. Other sites were considered, but this was the least environmentally obtrusive. The record of the decision is available as a PDF at For more information contact the ATST Program Director Craig Foltz by phone: 703-292-4909, or email:
[Tuesday, December 8, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 234)]

OSTP—The President’s Council of Advisor on Science and Technology (PCAST) will hold a partially open meeting at the National Academy of Sciences, 2100 C Street NW, Washington, DC on January 7, 2010 from 10-6pm. During the open portion, PCAST is tentatively scheduled to hear presentations the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Department of Energy, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Commerce, as well as an expert in healthcare policy. Additional information and the agenda will be posted at: Written comments for PCAST should be submitted as far in advance as possible. Instructions are available at in the section entitled “Connect with PCAST.” Direct questions about the meeting to Dr. Deborah D. Stine by email:, or phone: (202) 456-6006.
[Thursday, December 10, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 236)]
EPA—Effective January 14, 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator finds that six greenhouse gases taken in combination endanger both the public health and the public welfare of current and future generations under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. These findings are based on careful consideration of the full weight of scientific evidence and a thorough review of numerous public comments received on the Proposed Findings published April 24, 2009. EPA has a docket on under Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171 for all publically available documents related to this action. For additional information regarding these findings, visit:
[Tuesday, December 15, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 239)

EPA—The Environmental Protection Agency announces the final document “Integrated Science Assessment for Particulate Matter” (EPA/600/R-08/139F) and the supplementary annexes (EPA/600/R-08/139FA) are available online under the Recent Additions and Publications menus The document was prepared by the National Center for Environmental Assessment (NCEA) within EPA's Office of Research and Development as part of the review of the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for particulate matter. For technical information, contact Dr. Lindsay Wichers Stanek by phone: 919-541-7792; or email:
[Tuesday, December 15, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 239)]

DOI—The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement is announcing its intention to request renewed authority for the collection of information regarding the exemption of coal extraction incidental to the extraction of other minerals. Comments on the need for collection of this information, the accuracy of the agency’s burden estimates, or ways to improve information collection and minimize the burden must be received by February 16, 2010. Comments may be submitted electronically to John Trelease by email:
[Thursday, December 17, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 241)]

DOC—The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Division issued guidelines to implement a grant program within the Marine Debris Program (MDP). The MDP works to coordinate, strengthen, and enhance the awareness of marine debris efforts within the agency, and to work with external partners to support research, prevention, and reduction activities related to the issue of marine debris. Information on the MDP is available here: For more information on the guidelines see the full federal register listing or contact Sarah E. Morison by phone: 301-713-2989, or email:
[Monday, December 21, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 243)]

OSTP—The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy requests input from the community regarding enhancing public access to archived publications resulting from research funded by Federal science and technology agencies. This deadline for comments has been extended to January 21, 2010. Respondents are invited to respond online via the OSTP blog Public Access Policy Forum, or may submit responses via email: Responses will be re-posted on the online forum including your email address as part of the comment. Input is welcome on any aspect of expanding public access to peer reviewed publications arising from federal research. Questions that individuals may wish to address are in the full federal register listing as well as on the web site. Instructions and a timetable for topics are described online. For more information contact Dr. Diane DiEuliis by phone: 202-456-6059.
[Thursday, December 31, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 250)]

23. Key AGI Government Affairs Updates

Monthly Review prepared by Corina Cerovski-Darriau and Linda Rowan, Staff of Government Affairs Program.

Sources: Associated Press, Environment and Energy Daily, Greenwire, New York Times, Washington Post, National Academies Press, American Institute of Physics, Government Accountability Office, Open CRS, Thomas, House of Representatives, U.S. Senate and the White House, Department of the Interior, Politico.


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 geosciences 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.


Posted January 5, 2010.


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