GEO-DC Office Still Doing Business

AAPG’s presence in Washington, D.C., the Geoscience and Energy Office, or GEO-DC, was established by the DPA and AAPG in 2005 – it is fast approaching a six-year anniversary.

It was created because we saw a niche need for energy geoscientists’ input to policy, a voice to inform policy-making with science by taking action:

  • To advise and educate government officials and science and energy policy organizations.
  • To communicate to AAPG members timely information on relevant legislative and regulatory actions.
  • To create opportunities for AAPG members to engage with and impart expertise directly into the policy making process.

Early this summer I assumed the role of chair of the GEO-DC Governance Board, whose job it is to provide strategic oversight and direction for GEO-DC activities, taking over for the venerable former AAPG President Dan Smith – and within weeks our GEO-DC director left for a new job. How’s that for an introduction?

Fortunately, David Curtiss left the GEO-DC office for a new challenge in filling Rick Fritz’s shoes (and they are BIG shoes to fill) as the new executive director of AAPG.

Speaking for the Governance Board, as David’s previous supervisory body, we are confident that he will serve the AAPG membership well in his new position. We are proud, you might say.

Now, with the help of the Executive Committee, the Governmental Affairs Committee, the DPA leadership, the Advisory Council and David, we will seek out a suitable replacement in order to maintain the organizational momentum we have been building in Washington.

The momentum has been building, and the office is a “go-to” source of quick information and referrals from and to numerous agencies, lawmakers and their staffers. The importance and value to our membership of having a representative there, on the ground in Washington, cannot be understated.

In short, if we want to be a part of the conversation we can’t sit around and wait for a call, because they won’t call – and there are other, less knowledgeable sources of information who are all-to-happy to dialog.

You might think politicians, institutions, lobbyists or dynasties hold power in Washington. The real power is in the people, the constituencies – and the power that a constituent holds is immense. A constituent is a voter (or should be), and to a politician, a vote is more valuable than a dollar (votes are what they spend dollars for). A constituent has instant credibility (it’s potentially a vote).


One of my goals (other than help find a replacement for David) over the next few years is to help the GEO-DC office develop strategies and support materials to assist the membership in engaging their representatives on a more regular and meaningful basis.

As geoscientists, we are uniquely qualified to be a part of the conversation of a plethora of public issues. Science, education, energy, environment and the economy are important to us. Find ways to share that knowledge with your community and its leaders.

Science education (geosciences in particular), for example, needs your attention as a constituent.

State Geologic Surveys virtually across the nation are on the budget ropes, and they also need your attention as a constituent.

The value of a vocal constituent is they represent the 1,000 or more others that do not take the time out of their personal lives to contact their representatives, at virtually all levels of government.

So, in a manner of speaking, you are no longer a single vote if you become engaged.

One way GEO-DC is facilitating connections is the organized Congressional Visits Day. We have, for the last four years, participated – with other geoscience organizations at first, and later, on our own – in organized visits, where members meet with congressional committee members, administration department personnel such as the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of the Interior, congressmen, senators and their staff, and discuss the role of science in the decision-making process.

Through these repeated visits, the GEO-DC office has established credibility as a go-to resource for geoscience and energy related issues among Inside-the-Beltway circles.

These same methods are being applied at state and local levels, and can even be used in other countries, wherever AAPG members have an interest to become involved.

The ultimate goal is to bring geoscience into the decision-making process – and, conversely, to benefit our profession through sound, scientific reasoning.

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Washington Watch

Washington Watch - Peter MacKenzie

 Peter MacKenzie is vice chair of the Governance Board. 

Policy Watch is a monthly column of the EXPLORER written by the director of AAPG's  Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. *The first article appeared in February 2006 under the name "Washington Watch" and the column name was changed to "Policy Watch" in January 2013 to broaden the subject matter to a more global view.

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