Congress Rests, But Work Goes On
As you read this column, the results of the mid-term elections will be relegated to the annals of history -- at least we can hope that is the case and we are not mired in issues of “hanging chads” or other election process quarrels.
On the other hand, with some notable exceptions, Washington has benefited by having senators and congressmen back in their own states and districts. Commuter traffic is a little lighter, parking is easier to find in the District and it is much easier to communicate with congressional staff about issues that are likely to emerge in the waning days of the 109th Congress and what will be the direction and agenda of the 110th Congress.
Some of these issues, while not entirely new, will have both short- and long-term impact on AAPG members. As Congress entered into the election recess period, they left a large portion of the federal government operating under a continuing resolution budget.
Continuing resolution, while generally providing for ongoing programs, usually precludes any new program initiation.
Efforts among the academic and industry petroleum geosciences support groups have continued, even in recess, to draw attention to the impact that budget action in both houses of Congress has had on the support for geoscience students as the result of severe reduction in R&D spending for petroleum-related university programs.
Congress recessed with no resolution between the House and the Senate on the two disparate bills addressing Outer Continental Shelf access. Staffs continued their quiet negotiations in the absence of members, but there will be little time and probably not much enthusiasm for bringing closure to a final bill in the 109th Congress. The elections and the prospects of a change in the majority in the House and possibly in the Senate did not create great optimism for some of these important issues will be resolved.
If anything, a change in the House and/or Senate majority portended that much of the first months of the 110th Congress would be consumed with leadership selection and pressure to sort through the budget issues remaining. That assumed the 109th Congress would not be successful in bringing closure to the multitude of budget differences that have stalled its deliberations so far.
All in all, it is difficult to be inspired by the gridlock and lackluster performance of the legislative process during the past year.
Dec. 1 marked the first year anniversary of the AAPG Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington. Over the past 12 months, AAPG’s presence as a professional society with significant resources to bring to the policy dialog has become well recognized by the Energy and Resources staff of both Houses of Congress, in the administration and among the industry associations and organizations in Washington.
The GEO-DC office, AAPG members and AAPG headquarters staff have:
- Responded to a significant number of requests for information, testimony and drafted written materials on a wide range of subjects ranging from resource potential to impacts of federal budget impacts to the science of climate change.
- Provided AAPG members and leadership with analysis of specific legislative initiatives and responded to special requests for information on pending and proposed legislation.
- Together with the Division of Professional Affairs and the Government Affairs Committee we have reinstituted the “Action Alert” procedures and provided materials for three “alerts” for members on the AAPG Web site.
- Assisted the president and the Executive Committee in preparation of testimony on geosciences research and development, OCS access and support for university petroleum geosciences programs funded by the various federal agencies.
In establishing the GEO-DC office, AAPG’s members have gained recognition and presence in Washington activities through visits to Senate and House members’ offices during Congressional Visits Days, an annual science-related event of which AAPG has become a sponsor.
Members have briefed and provided background materials for House and Senate staff. AAPG members are playing an active role in the National Petroleum Council’s study on Global Oil and Gas Study requested by the Secretary of Energy.
In a recent conversation with one of the senior House Energy and Minerals Resources staff, I was told that the staff increasingly holds up AAPG’s decision to establish a Washington presence as a challenge to other energy and minerals professional organizations as the most effective avenue to informing policy makers of the importance of natural resources to the national and global economy.
That reflects well on the AAPG leadership and members who have worked to establish the GEO-DC office.