GEO-DC was pleased to host 14 AAPG members in Washington, D.C., in May for the first-ever AAPG Congressional Visits Day (AAPG CVD).
As frequent readers of this column know, AAPG has regularly participated in the Science Engineering Technology Congressional Visits Day. Each year this large gathering brings together a broad spectrum of science and engineering associations and societies whose members come to Washington, D.C., and communicate to Congress the importance of science and engineering.
Similarly, last autumn AAPG participated in the first geosciences Congressional Visits Day, along with other member societies of the American Geological Institute. At that event we talked to lawmakers and their staffs about the importance of the geosciences to society.
Both of these are excellent events. But DPA Washington Advocacy Group chair Deborah Sacrey, along with DPA Government Affairs Committee chair Carl Smith, GEO-DC Governance Board chair Patrick J.F. Gratton and vice chair Dan Smith, both past AAPG presidents, decided to develop an exclusive event for AAPG members.
In keeping with our mission to inform policy with science, AAPG CVD was designed to focus on issues of interest to Congress and agencies where AAPG members have unique insight and expertise.
The issues we discussed were:
- The future work force needs of the oil and gas industry.
Specifically, we asked lawmakers to support the Strengthening Education and Training in the Subsurface Geosciences and Engineering for Energy Development Act of 2009, developed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to address these needs.
We also asked representatives to consider introducing similar language in the House.
- The importance of the environmentally responsible development of oil and natural gas on U.S. public lands, including the Outer Continental Shelf, NPRA and ANWR. We further urged Congress to resist royalty and tax policies that discourage exploration and production of oil and natural gas on federal lands.
- The vital roles that federally funded oil and natural gas research and development play in fostering a vibrant domestic petroleum industry, enabling more efficient recovery of resources on public lands, and supporting the education and development of the next generation geoscience work force.
We urged Congress to appropriate $500 million for oil and natural gas R&D for fiscal year 2010.
AAPG CVD began with an orientation session for participants where we talked about objectives for our meetings, the issues we planned to cover and the current political and legislative landscape in Washington, D.C.
The following morning began with meetings at the U.S. Department of the Interior with the Bureau of Land Management and Minerals Management Service. During the meetings we covered the issues that we were planning to discuss with lawmakers, and the agency representatives gave us an overview of their current programs and activities.
Later that day we also met with the Department of Energy to discuss fossil energy R&D programs. The addition of federal agencies to our CVD agenda is a new feature, and one that our participants found useful.
We also spent time on Capitol Hill that day in meetings with House committee staff and the Congressional Research Service, a non-partisan research arm of the Library of Congress. They serve a very important function in Congress, which is their only client; their mission is to provide 535 representatives and senators with factual information and background on every conceivable topic of interest, including natural resources and the geosciences.
As has become tradition, the Army and Navy Club of Washington, D.C., was our base of operations for AAPG CVD, thanks to Carl J. Smith. And at the close of the first day, as also has become customary, our group enjoyed the sumptuous seafood buffet in the club’s majestic dining room.
The entire second day was dedicated to meetings on Capitol Hill. Each participant had meetings scheduled with their representative and senators, or their staff. We also met with additional House and Senate committee staff handling energy, natural resources and appropriations.
Fortuitously, the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), a non-profit, non-partisan organization of energy and consumer organizations of which AAPG is a member, was holding its annual Energy Day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, and AAPG CVD participants had the opportunity to attend.
CEA’s mission “is to expand the dialogue between the energy and consuming sectors to improve overall understanding of energy security and the thoughtful development and utilization of energy resources to help create sound energy policy and maintain stable energy prices for consumers.”
The event was hosted by Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and nearly 90 other House and Senate members.
The third (very full) day started with our first meeting at 9 a.m. and ended when the last meeting concluded just before 6 p.m. All told, we had 27 meetings with legislators and staff.
Our CVD alumni, those who have attended multiple times, are now finding that staff know their names and faces when they make their visits. As a result, AAPG is increasingly recognized on Capitol Hill as a credible source of information – even more so because it is delivered by known-constituents.
That is precisely what we are trying to accomplish.
I would like to offer personal thanks to Don and Cynthia Clarke of California; Pete MacKenzie of Ohio; Lee Harvard of New Mexico; Mary Harris of South Carolina; Paul Britt, Pat Gratton, Will Green, Larry Jones, John Jordan, Deborah Sacrey and Dan Smith of Texas; Jeff Eppink of Virginia; and Carl Smithof West Virginia, for investing their time and effort to participate in AAPG CVD.
We are looking for others to join them at a future event. We are especially hoping to broaden the number of participating states. Watch here for details about upcoming CVD opportunities.
Come join us in Washington, D.C., and help us make a difference.