An Update on Public Issues

Title: An Update on Public Issues

Author: Larry Anna

Publication: The Outcrop, April 2001, p. 8-9

Teaching of Evolution

In 1999, the Kansas State Board of Education adopted science-education standards that contain no mention of biological macroevolution, the age of the Earth, or the origin and early development of the universe. This February, the board reinstated the teaching of biological evolution and the origin of the earth.

A number of other states are facing challenges to the teaching of evolution. In Alabama, the final draft of revised science education standards was released this January. The state board of education will vote on the standards on February 8th. Scientists in Pennsylvania have raised an alarm about that state’s proposed science education standards, which call for teaching alternative theories to evolution. Pennsylvania’s current standards are some of the best in the country.

In May of 2000, supporters of intelligent design theory brought to Capitol Hill their version of the debate between Darwinian evolutionary theory and intelligent design theory. Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) co-sponsored the event. He is expected to be the next chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. A summary of the briefing is available as an AGI special update at ttp://www.agiweb.org/gap/legis106/id_update.html.

Energy Policy

The National Energy Security Act (S.2557) introduced in the Senate during the last Congress is expected to form the basis of GOP energy legislation. S.2557 intends to reduce the dependency of the United States on foreign oil by increased domestic production.

President Bush organized the Energy Policy Development Group, a task force designed to determine how to cope with reliance on foreign oil. Top priority items are expected to be building pipelines, new power plants in the West, and reducing clean air regulations that may be inhibiting production. The task force will include several senior members of the cabinet. (See also the AGI website Congressional Energy Policy: Response to Rising Oil Prices).

Public Lands

Shortly before leaving office, President Clinton designated fifteen new national monuments and expanded several others under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Many of his designations are being reviewed by Congress and the new Administration.

In January 2001, President Bush ordered the Federal Register to stop publication of new rules implemented in the final weeks of the Clinton Administration. Also halted was a plan that restricted road building and logging in 60 million acres of national forest. The sixty-day stay of the roadless initiative pushed back the effective date for the initiative to May 12. (See also AGI Forest Service Roadless Initiative Update).

Natural Hazards

In January the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus held a roundtable event to consider the impacts of the recent earthquake in El Salvador and to discuss the broader natural hazards challenges facing the United States. Dr. P. Patrick Leahy, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) updated the senators on the January 13th earthquake and resulting landslides that killed over 600 people and destroyed more than 21,000 houses. He also spoke about areas in the U.S., such as the Pacific Northwest, that are vulnerable to earthquake-triggered landslides. Leahy told the senators that programs such as the Advanced National Seismic System and the USGS stream-gaging network help provide Americans with the data needed to understand the potential for natural disasters in vulnerable areas throughout the country. (Information condensed from AGI website on 2/27/01: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/gaphome.html.)

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