On Sept. 30, AAPG Executive Director David Curtiss and 10 AAPG members participated in a day of visits to Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of strong federal investments for geoscience research and education.
"Talking to policymakers is public outreach, and our goal with GEO-CVD is to help Congress better understand the important role the geosciences play in everyday life," said Curtiss, who was joined for the event by executive directors from the American Geosciences Institute, the Geological Society of America and SEPM/Society for Sedimentary Geology.
Geosciences Congressional Visits Day (GEO-CVD) is organized by AAPG in conjunction with other geoscience organizations, including the American Geosciences Institute, the American Geophysical Union, the Geological Society of America, the National Groundwater Association, the Seismological Society of America, the American Meteorological Society of America, SEPM/Society for Sedimentary Geology and the Soil Science Society of America.
Combined, these societies hosted 53 geoscientists this year who were able to reach out to their senators and representatives in 22 states and the District of Columbia – as well as professional staff from the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the House Science and Technology Committee, the House Natural Resources Committee and various House and Senate appropriations subcommittees that provide funding to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
One of the major topics of discussion this year was the reauthorization of America COMPETES legislation, originally passed in 2007 to address the need to invest in STEM education as well as scientific research and development, to ensure that the United States is able to remain competitive globally.
Earlier this year the House passed a reauthorization of COMPETES (HR 1806) that cuts funding for NSF's Geosciences Directorate (GEO) by 12 percent from this year's funding levels.
In addition, the fiscal year 2016 House Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill, which provides funding for NSF, increases overall funding but would cut funding to GEO by over 16 percent.
One of the major reasons for these cuts seems to be that some House Republicans perceive the geosciences to be mainly focused on climate research.
As a result, AAPG and the other geoscience organizations with a presence in Washington, D.C., have been working hard to educate congressional staff on the diversity of disciplines within the geosciences – including oil and gas development – and the benefits of these areas to the economy and society.
GEO-CVD participants were able build upon these educational efforts by sharing their various backgrounds and experiences.
In the Senate, the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has signaled that it would like to write a COMPETES bill that is more palatable to the scientific community. According to staff, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee could release a bill by the end of the year.
The primary authors of the Senate COMPETES bill are expected to be Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).
Having AAPG members engaged in these conversations is important because they are able to give good examples of how investments in geoscience research and education are critical to the long term success of the workforce and the economy – particularly in oil and gas producing states such as Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
For example, while making visits to the Texas delegation, Dreadless Stubbs made the point that many independent oil and gas companies do not have the capital to build their own scientific research laboratories, particularly in a lower price environment.
An increase in federal funding for geoscience research, therefore, would help these companies acquire technologies – such as more accurate geochemical data – to make the hydraulic fracturing process more efficient and cost effective.
Although geoscience funding was a major topic of discussions, many AAPG members also discussed other hot topics impacting the energy industry during their meetings, including legislation moving through the House and Senate that would lift the ban on oil exports.
AAPG Honorary member Skip Hobbs visited with offices in Connecticut and Massachusetts, which are generally not supportive of the oil and gas industry – but in those meetings he found that many of these offices were open to considering some type of legislation addressing oil exports.
In addition to its participation in GEO-CVD, AAPG also holds a two-day CVD in the spring. Both events offer AAPG members excellent opportunities to cultivate relationships with congressional staff.
Participants also have been able to offer themselves as impartial and reliable resources for congressional staff that are looking for technical information on key issues impacting the oil and gas industry.
In the upcoming AAPG CVD, participants once again will have the opportunity to discuss energy policy issues with their senators, representatives, committee professional staff, the Congressional Research Service and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Interior (both the Bureau of Ocean Energy Resources and USGS).
And please note, we welcome non-U.S. AAPG members to attend AAPG-CVD. Energy policy is global, and policy decisions made by one country impact others.
Also, U.S. policymakers are interested in global energy policy developments and their implications for the United States. Last year, for example, we had two AAPG members from Canada participate who were able to arrange a meeting with the Canadian Embassy to discuss issues such as Keystone pipeline and oil sands.
If you would be interested in participating in AAPG's upcoming CVD in March, please feel free to contact either of us on the GEO-DC team: Edie Allison, at [email protected], or Colleen Newman, at [email protected].