Wednesday, February 06, 2008

AZGS-ADMMR merger Q&A, part 3

I continue to address claims about the proposed merger of ADMMR with AZGS. Statements taken from messages we’ve received or seen are in bold. My responses follow each one.

The STATE GEOLOGIST is directed to charge fees for services and that includes accessing donated or loaned data currently at the ADMMR

AZGS does not charge anyone to access our repositories of data and samples. Under Arizona statute 24-152.01, AZGS is required to maintain data and sample repositories that are open to the public:

4. Operate and maintain a central repository and a computerized database for reports, books, maps and other publications regarding the geology, mineral resources and associated technologies. Such repository and database shall be available for the use of the public and may be located at or connected with the university of Arizona or another state university or agency of this state.

5. Operate and maintain a central repository for rock cores, well cuttings and related subsurface samples and all associated supplemental data consistent with the laws of this state requiring the deposit of such material and information. Such repository shall be available for the use of the public.

Under the laws for the Arizona Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, they are authorized to “Collect such fees as will cover the costs of such services as, but not limited to, reproduction of records or any portion thereof and copies of rules.” AZGS provides the administrative support to the Commission and can collect fees on their behalf.

There are no provisions in statute or in HB2584 for AZGS to charge fees to access the ADMMR files.

This legislation would allow the appointment of a “radical environmental” or “anti-mining” STATE GEOLOGIST to run the combined agency

A governor must appoint someone with the required technical background as State Geologist, and that person has to be confirmed by the State Senate, thus providing a check and balance.

However, there is no similar check and balance for the ADMMR Board of Governors. A governor can appoint anyone they want and those appointments last 5 years, often continuing in to the term of the subsequent governor, who has no way to remove them. There is no Senate review or confirmation of ADMMR Board members.

So, the ADMMR Board seems more vulnerable to politicization than does the appointment of the State Geologist.

The STATE GEOLOGIST will be appointed by the Arizona Geographic Information Council (AGIC)

No, AGIC will have absolutely no role in picking or approving the State Geologist. There is apparently some confusion over a second element of the merger bill. HB2584 includes a separate section that would move the AGIC from being administratively housed in the State Land Dept to AZGS. It has nothing to do with appointment of the State Geologist or management of the agency.

The ADMMR would be eliminated by HB2584

No – ADMMR would continue to exist and carry out its duties, only with additional support from the AZGS rather than by itself. A merger is not elimination.

Many of the messages we’re seeing state categorically or imply that the merger means the agency will disappear along with its staff, files, and facilities. That is not true.

The US Bureau of Mines was eliminated and shut down. ADMMR will continue to operate. There is a big difference.

This merger will send a message that Arizona is anti-mining

I disagree. Making the ADMMR functions stronger, and the entity more viable and stable, are messages that Arizona recognizes the value and impacts of mining. In other western states this is a given. Arizona is viewed now by many as not serious about mining.

ADMMR has a business culture, AZGS has a scientific culture and the two are incompatible

One of the driving forces behind the merger is to bring together AZGS’s entrepreneurial spirit and capabilities with ADMMR’s mission and assets.

The claim among some ADMMR supporters is that that agency talks with the business community while AZGS only talks to academic researchers. However, both are applied technology agencies with strong outreach and education missions. Just as with ADMMR, AZGS gets a continual stream of visitors and inquiries from the mining industry, although more typically focused on geology and exploration and less so on current activities. In addition, our library in Tucson is open to the public and many small companies, independents, and consultants find it to be an invaluable resource. AZGS and ADMMR staff routinely refer inquiries to each other as needed.

ADMMR has engineers on staff, AZGS has geologists on staff, and the two are incompatible

ADMMR has one engineer and one geologist in an engineering slot in staff positions. AZGS and ADMMR work together collaboratively without problem and, in fact, the integration of engineering and geology makes sense.

Some of the claims of incompatibility are coming from academics where I surmise there are barriers between geologic and engineering departments in their universities. Elsewhere, especially in industry, engineers and geologists have to work together to accomplish their tasks. We see team work among geologists, engineers and mineral economists as a valuable and productive arrangement.

Arizona needs to preserve ADMMR as a strong independent agency to support the mining industry

The operative word here for me is “strong.” Independent-but-weak is a formula for failure. Since the merger was proposed, I’ve been hearing from colleagues in other western mining states, saying it’s about time for this to happen. They can’t understand why a major mining center like Arizona would deliberately break up their mining and mineral resource programs, so that they are small, weak, and less effective. Strong mining states like Nevada, Idaho, and New Mexico, have integrated programs that are more influential and effective.

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