Members Make Congressional Visits
This year’s successful Congressional Visits Day (CVD) drew double the number of AAPG participants over 2006, representing twice as many states as well.
AAPG members from Texas, Ohio, California and West Virginia made the excursion to Washington, D.C., to meet with elected representatives and their staff from about 12 offices. As a group we met with staff from the House Resources Committee and the Senate Resources Committee.
Making the most of Congressional Visits Day: from left, Don Juckett, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and AAPG President Will Green.
CVD is sponsored by science-oriented organizations under the umbrella of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
The AAPG participants presented a carefully tuned message on three science and technology priorities for the organization.
The first message related to AAPG support for preserving geological and geophysical data for the public good.
The AAPG members explained that over many years the petroleum sector has invested billions of dollars in acquisition of geological and geophysical data. Significant amounts of data are at risk. These data remain valuable not only to future petroleum exploration but also to basic and applied research, natural hazard mitigation and environmental remediation.
Members made an appeal to fund the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT 05) mandate that includes a provision to preserve geological and geophysical data.
The second message members pointed out was that AAPG recognizes the importance of maintaining a strong domestic petroleum industry, and that AAPG supports the need for a continuing effort in research and development to aid in sustaining its economic viability.
They politely and carefully articulated the role of the independents in the domestic arena.
They highlighted the value of focused research and development and illustrated with personal examples how technology produced by those programs can make a significant contribution to sustaining the domestic petroleum industry.
They pushed for a restoration of a strong federal role in research and development, and requested restoration of the Department of Energy programs in oil and natural gas research.
The third message pointed out that secure global oil and gas supplies requires a qualified and well-trained oil and gas work force. Without immediate recognition and action by government and industry this work force will not be available in the future.
To staff and members, this message was particularly timely because the work force training initiatives highlighted in the National Academy of Science study “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” were getting a lot of attention during that period of time. The Academy’s study is largely silent on the geosciences, so the funding is likely to be focused elsewhere.
Recognizing that, Congress (in EPACT 05) mandated that the Academy undertake several studies to insure analysis of the future work force needs of the energy related and extractive minerals related professions was available.
AAPG members urged Congress to take a strong leadership position to boost geoscience and engineering literacy in primary and secondary schools, and to consider a new federal initiative to support the university departments educating and training the next generation of geoscience workers through teaching and research.
They noted that in the 2007 budget DOE eliminated the funding that supports more than 150 geoscience graduate students across the country. They urged support for vocational training and safety programs to allow the safe and reliable delivery of oil and gas to world markets, citing the role of the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council.
AAPG participants in the 2007 Congressional Visits Day were, from left, GEO-DC Director Don Juckett, Deborah Sacrey, David Curtiss (of GEO-DC), Jim Hill, Dan Smith, AAPG President Will Green, Carl J. Smith and Pete MacKenzie.
The visit by AAPG members was a learning experience for both the members and for the staff and House members that they engaged.
For the AAPG members the experience began with a series of briefings with representatives of the federal agencies who highlighted where and how the budgets for the agencies were spent on science related issues.
As I listened to the AAPG members I discovered that perhaps the messages from the Congressional interns had much greater impact and conveyed much more content through their discussions of what was important when they talked with constituents. It was clear that the intern’s messages were heard and heeded as AAPG members worked their way through the next day of visits with staff and members.
It is always difficult to measure the real success of a visit to Washington to project your message. One indication that you have made an impact is the number of follow up inquiries that CVD participants receive and that I get as the result of the visit.
It also surprised staff that AAPG is doing its part to address these problems by exploring new approaches with our members.
The message that AAPG wants to be a resource to you with respect to energy issues in every way possible was well received.