Wednesday, March 23, 2011

House Committee asks, "Where is the geology in the USGS?"

How can the Geological Survey in its budget continue to support cuts in the energy and minerals programs while at the same time increasing significantly the budgets for ecosystem restoration and climate change?” That was the opening question of USGS Director Marcia McNutt by Doug Lamborn (R-CO), chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources,at a hearing on the USGS budget on March 9 as described in a report issued by the American Institute of Physics today.

AIP said "Ranking Member Rush Holt (D-NJ) expressed concern about potential cuts to the national streamgage network and National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program and the proposed elimination of the National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program, citing the import of these programs to state geologists and local communities who rely on the data provided."

Both of these programs are cooperative efforts with AASG and are priority issues for State Geological Surveys.

"The Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing...had a very different tenor. Both Chairman Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Ranking Member Jim Moran (D-VA) expressed great appreciation for the important work carried out by USGS."

The AIP report adds a lot more detail on the hearings.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Delaware's "First State Geology" newsletter now digital only

First State Geology (FSG) offers news on Delaware geology and water resources, on recent Delaware Geological Survey publications, and on DGS staff activities as an online newsletter publication. Interested parties may be placed on the First State Geology mailing list by completing the online signup form, sending an email request to, or simply giving us a phone call.

Each issue of FSG is made available as a PDF on this DGS website, going back to our inaugural issue during the Summer of 1983.

Starting with the online-only publication of First State Geology in 2011, new issues will no longer be named using the volume and number format; rather, issues will be named using season and year.

Utah's 'GeoSites' apps available for the Android

The Utah Geological Survey's "GeoSites" app for the Android phone offers interactive maps, facts, and histories of more than 30 famous geologic sites around the state. An article in the BYU Universe magazine says app locations range "from the Spiral Jetty at Rozel Point in the Great Salt Lake to the Fisher Towers in Moab down to Arches near Zion National Park." [right, Lower Cathedral Valley GeoSight. Credit, UGS]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Utah Geological Survey seeking proposals for geologic research

The Utah Geological Survey is issuing a solicitation for geologic research proposals in the area of "Characterization of Utah's Hydrocarbon Reservoirs, Metals, and Industrial Minerals." They expect to award up to 8 grants, at a maximum of $25,000 per grant, for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. Proposals are due May 27.

A list of previous and current projects is posted on the UGS web site. [right, coalbed methane well, Castlegate field, Utah. Credit, UGS]

This is cross-posted with Arizona Geology blog

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NY State Geologist calls frac'ing fears exaggerated

New York State Geologist Langhorne "Taury" Smith told the Albany Times Union that fears of hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale for natural gas are exaggerated. Taury went on to call for strong state regulation of drilling and a possible severance tax on production. [right, Marcellus Shale producing areas, 2009. Credit NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation]

Monday, March 14, 2011

Open Letter to Supporters of Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology

March 13, 2011

13 March 2011


We request that you express your support for the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology (NBMG) by writing to members of the Nevada Senate and Assembly, Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education, and Governor Brian Sandoval.

In an effort to meet proposed budget targets, the University of Nevada, Reno announced on March 7th that it plans to cut NBMG’s State funding from $2.1 million per year to $1.0 million, if the funds are available from the State. We believe this is a tragic mistake, because it will mean that Nevada will lose money, miss economic opportunities, and not protect and serve our citizens and visitors as well as we should. NBMG stimulates economic diversification and development in the State, saves lives, and protects property from natural disasters.

NBMG is the statewide research and public service unit that serves as the State geological survey. NBMG's mission, to provide the State's needs for geological and energy- and mineral-resource information and research, is defined in its enabling legislation. Established by the Nevada Legislature as a department within the public service division of the Nevada System of Higher Education, NBMG is one of the Statewide Programs at UNR. Although NBMG contributes to the educational mission of UNR through support of numerous graduate and undergraduate students on externally funded research and occasional teaching, NBMG’s main contributions are accomplished through research and dissemination of results. We are supplementing our State funding with approximately $4 million per year in external grants. Nevada stands to annually lose $2 million or more in additional federal grant funding, if NBMG’s State funding is cut by $1.1 million.

NBMG scientists conduct research and publish reports that foster economic development, promote public safety, and improve quality of life in urban and rural areas of Nevada. Some areas of economic development and risk reduction from natural hazards are listed below. The NBMG website,, has links to NBMG publications and services. The latest NBMG biennial report,, provides details on what we have accomplished recently, and Appendix B of the report lists the statutory mandates for NBMG.

We ask that you contact Legislators, Regents, and the Governor to express, from your perspective on the benefits of NBMG to the State, your support for NBMG. One option that should be considered is dedicating some of the Net Proceeds of Minerals tax to support NBMG. With the revenue from this tax likely to rise with increasing mineral and energy production, the State could benefit tremendously from dedicating a portion of this revenue to support NBMG.

We would appreciate receiving a copy of your letter or e-mail of support by March 23, because it may help us in our internal response to UNR’s proposed cut.


Jon Price

State Geologist and Director, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology

E-mail: Telephone: 775-784-6691 extension 5

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Economic Development

Geologic maps and related reports on applied research are excellent incentives for economic development. As an example, geologic mapping and related interpretation of regional geological structures played a critical role in the discovery of the Carlin gold deposit in 1961 (NBMG Special Publication 13, Carlin Trend Exploration History: Discovery of the Carlin Deposit, In the last 35 years, mining companies in Nevada have produced over $230 billion in gold and silver (at today’s prices) and have directly and indirectly provided high-paying jobs for tens of thousands of Nevadans. As documented in NBMG’s annual special publication, The Nevada Mineral Industry (, we are in the midst of the biggest gold-mining boom in Nevada’s, America’s, or the world’s history. There are still many deposits to be found in Nevada, particularly buried under volcanic rocks and alluvium. Estimates of the value of undiscovered deposits range up to $1.2 trillion. The geologic maps and reports that are produced annually by NBMG are critical to the continued discovery of additional mineral and energy resources.

Geothermal energy development in Nevada is booming, thanks in part to research and maps produced by NBMG scientists. Our work on how faults control the location of geothermal systems, shallow temperature surveys, and water chemistry from springs stimulated companies to acquire leases, discover previously unknown geothermal resources, and build several new power plants. NBMG Map 161, Nevada Geothermal Resources (2010),, demonstrates the fact that Nevada has considerable potential for geothermal development. Production capacity is currently approximately 425 megawatts, but NBMG and other geothermal experts estimate that by 2025 Nevada could add as much as 3,000 megawatts of geothermal power-generating capacity. If this potential were realized, and if energy prices continue to rise, geothermal power could become a billion-dollar per year business in Nevada and account for 35% or more of the State’s electricity needs.

The Value of Geologic Maps

Cost-benefit studies show that modern geologic maps save developers and engineers about $50,000 for every project occurring within a standard mapping area of 56 square miles. Typically, many projects utilize a single map, multiplying these cost savings many times over. The maps, and data collected to make them, are of great value because society can use them in perpetuity. A rigorous analysis calculated the value of the geologic maps to be 25 to 39 times the cost of the mapping ( We estimate that about 80% of Nevada lacks adequate, modern geologic maps.

Geologic mapping at the scale and overall coverage done by NBMG is clearly a role for government, because the public benefits in many ways. The private sector limits their work to small areas of immediate interest to their businesses but relies on the knowledge of geologists at government geological surveys, like NBMG, to build the geological history and three-dimensional framework of an area and to publish the results for everyone to use.

Saving Lives and Protecting Property from Natural Disasters

The magnitude 6.0 earthquake near Wells in northeastern Nevada in February, 2008, and the swarm of earthquakes that included a magnitude 4.7 at Mogul (western part of Reno) in April of 2008 highlighted our need to be prepared for earthquakes. NBMG joined the Nevada Division of Emergency Management’s team that responded to the Wells earthquake and prepared a comprehensive report on the earthquake, We were also successful in putting NBMG Special Publication 27, Living with Earthquakes in Nevada,, in the hands of residents in the Mogul area before the largest of the earthquakes. Because residents followed the publication’s instructions for securing items to avoid damage during an earthquake, perhaps millions of dollars in potential damage was avoided. With the assistance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), we were also able to distribute this publication as a Sunday supplement in the Reno Gazette-Journal. The public’s heightened awareness about earthquakes will help to save lives.

We have used FEMA’s loss-estimation model, HAZUS, a computer simulation of earthquakes of a given size,, to evaluate earthquake risks for each county and 38 communities throughout Nevada. This work indicates that a major earthquake either in the Las Vegas or Reno-Carson City areas, like ones that have occurred in the geological past and will occur in the future, could cause hundreds of fatalities and billions of dollars in economic loss, if we are not prepared. One of the major lessons learned in the NBMG report on the Wells earthquake is that an earthquake can occur anywhere in Nevada. The probability of a damaging earthquake hitting Las Vegas is approximately the same as for Wells, and the probability for the Reno-Carson City urban corridor is six times higher than for Wells. NBMG’s continued work on locating active faults, mapping areas of potential liquefaction and landslides, measuring stresses with geodetic instruments, informing decision makers about options to reduce risks from vulnerable buildings, and informing the public about earthquake hazards is essential to saving the lives of our citizens and visitors.

Floods along major streams and flash floods along normally dry washes are all too common phenomena in Nevada. NBMG research is helping to understand the frequency and severity of past floods in southern, northwestern, and north-central Nevada. NBMG Report 53, Geologic Assessment of Piedmont and Playa Flood Hazards in the Ivanpah Valley Area, Clark County, Nevada,, has assisted the Clark County Regional Flood Control District in its disaster-prevention efforts.


The Nevada Legislature’s website,, has a link to “Who’s My Legislator?” at, where you can enter a street address and zip code. Lists of members of the Nevada Assembly,, and Senate,, are also available on the web.

The website of the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education,, lists names, mailing addresses, and e-mail addresses for each Regent.

The Governor can be reached at the following address and telephone number:

The Honorable Governor Brian Sandoval 775-684-5670

Capitol Building

Carson City, NV 89701

[For more info on the proposed cuts at UNR, go to]