April brought AAPG members to Washington, D.C., for visits with federal agencies and Senate and House offices.
At the same time, most of the local population and hordes of visitors focused on the cherry blossoms, while lobbyists and citizen’s groups advocated for or against federal spending and other legislation.
As part of our annual Congressional Visits Day (CVD) AAPG members visited agency and congressional offices, advocating for geoscience research and science-based regulation, learning about the activities and opinions of decision makers, and establishing contacts for future communication.
Our only complaint was that so few AAPG members were able to join us.
This year our group of 10 people – together or as smaller groups – met with six executive branch agencies and 20 senators’ or representatives’ offices.
At the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Oil and Natural Gas we learned about plans for new research on unconventional oil and gas, and the expansion of the online library of research results from projects funded through RPSEA (Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America).
We had an opportunity to meet with several Department of Interior agencies and had the opportunity to talk about “best practices” of resource assessment methodologies and peer review.
On Capitol Hill, every senator and representative is actively involved in decisions about government spending, taxation or regulation, and they try to understand the facts as well as their constituents’ views on pending legislation. AAPG-member communications are aided by the fact that most senators and representatives have a staff member responsible for energy legislation and issues.
Elected officials welcome visits from their constituents, and they value objective information about issues that their constituents are asking them about, such as the safety of hydraulic fracturing. AAPG members offer both. AAPG arranged that a constituent led each CVD meeting, and the diverse experience of our group meant we could answer most questions or offer an email follow-up.
AAPG member visits have additional benefits in establishing bridges for future communication, making members a source of accurate scientific information for senators and representatives.
AAPG members urged lawmakers to pursue policies that encourage responsible development of the nation’s energy resources, and for continuing federal research and development funding that is the foundation of new technologies for more-efficient exploration and production.
Federal R&D also was highlighted as critical to research projects that help educate the next generation of geoscientists.
Hydraulic fracturing for unconventional resources is a major issue on Capitol Hill, and AAPG members were able to share insights and facts, and recommend research articles to staffers.
Discussions ranged from energy research to federal land access. For example:
♦ The America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science Act of 2007 (America COMPETES Act), was reauthorized in 2010 and will expire in 2013. The bill establishes and extends science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and training programs. House Science Committee staff informed us that Committee Chairman, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), is planning to introduce a bill reauthorizing the legislation.
Subscribe to GEO-DC Action Alerts for announcements about pending legislation and the opportunity to inform Congress of your opinions.
♦ We learned that Representative Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) and Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) are planning to introduce bills that would accelerate offshore leasing and use those revenues for bridge, highway and other infrastructure renewal.
♦ Representative Steve Stockman (R-Texas) was interested in our group’s explanations of the potential for shale gas plays to reach his east Texas district.
♦u Representative Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) is a freshman who is interested in learning more about energy issues and energy-related employment – areas where AAPG members can provide useful information.
CVD and Federal Budgets
AAPG Congressional Visits Day traditionally is scheduled in the spring to allow members to discuss budgets and spending plans with federal agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Energy, and allow members to urge funding priorities to Congress.
The president rolled out his fiscal year 2014 budget in early April rather than at the usual time in early February. This late release, as well as the fact that Congress is moving slowly in its budgeting process, meant that our group had few discussions about specific energy and research funding issues.
However, the contacts that we established at CVD will give us an opening to discuss budget issues in the future.
All AAPG members are encouraged to participate in Congressional Visits Day – no experience is required. It is difficult to get away from the office for several days, but past CVD participants will tell you that it is well worth the effort.
Our next AAPG CVD will be in spring 2014, although another opportunity is the Geoscience Congressional Visits Day on Sept. 17-18, which is hosted by the American Geosciences Institute. AAPG members participate in these fall visits, too, with scientists from other AGI member organizations such as the Geological Society of America, the American Geophysical Union and the American Institute of Professional Geologists.
If you cannot participate in either of these annual events, you can ask the GEO-DC office for assistance in setting up visits to your senator or representative whenever you can make it to Washington, D.C.