DOI Nomination - Myers

Nomination of Mark Myers, of Alaska, to be Director of the United States Geological Survey

Statement of Mark D. Myers

Nominee for the Position of Director, United States Geological Survey

Department of the Interior 

Before the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

United States Senate 

July 20, 2006 

Mr. Chairman, Senator Bingaman, and members of the Committee, I am honored and humbled to appear before you as the President’s nominee for Director of the United States Geological Survey.  I greatly appreciate the confidence placed in me by the President and Secretary Kempthorne.  If confirmed, I look forward to the challenge and responsibility of managing one of the premier scientific research organizations in the world. 

I grew up in western Wisconsin on the sandstone bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, where I learned to love the environment around me, especially the area’s geology, the natural processes of the Mississippi River, and the area’s spectacular ecosystem.  This led me to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I received my B.S. and M.S. degrees in geology and my commission in the USAF Reserve.  After completing my M.S. degree, I went to work as a petroleum geologist for Atlantic Richfield (ARCO), largely because they offered me the best chance to be assigned to Alaska.  After working for 20 months at ARCO in Texas and South Louisiana, I was transferred to Alaska, which has been my home for the last 23 years.  While employed by ARCO, I had the opportunity to work on both exploration and development projects in some of the most remote parts of Alaska and offshore waters, as well as participate in and lead geologic field surveys.  I left the company to complete a Ph.D. in geology at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, specializing in clastic sedimentology. 

In 1990, I went to work as a petroleum geologist for the State of Alaska Division of Oil and Gas, where I developed an appreciation for working in the public sector for the people of Alaska.  At the Division of Oil and Gas, I worked on a diverse group of projects which included geological research (some of which was performed jointly with the USGS), management of the State’s petroleum resources, industry regulation, commercial negotiations with oil companies, and selection of the final State land entitlement from the Federal Government.  Following eight years with the State, my desire to work with the latest cutting edge 3-D seismic technology led me back to ARCO, where I was fortunate to be the project geologist on several successful new oil discoveries in Alaska.  In late 2000, I was asked to return to State employ as the Director of the  Division of Oil and Gas.  I served in that position from January 2001 until I resigned in November 2005.  During my tenure with the State,  I was given aditional responsibilities of State Geologist and Director of the Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.  I chose to take a significant reduction in salary to return to State service, because I believed I could make a positive difference for the people of Alaska.  That same desire to make a positive difference for the American public brings me before this committee. 

During my five years of leadership, the Alaska State Division of Oil and Gas and the Geological Survey dramatically increased its research capabilitities and use of advanced technology, including sophisticated 3-D seismic analysis and advanced economic modeling. We built integrated teams of specialists within the divisions and significantly improved the partnership relationships with our sister research and management organizations on the local, State and national levels.  As the Director of Oil and Gas, I was responsible for managing the State’s largest source of general funds, the royalty revenue from Alaska’s oil and gas leasing program and the State royalty share of oil and gas production.  The division would provide up to $2 billion/year of direct revenue to the State. 

As the Director of Oil and Gas, I was responsible for balancing the State’s need for oil and gas production and revenue with the need for habitat and environmental protection.  In order to make sound management decisions it was essential to integrate the best available geological, geophysical, engineering, economic, hydrological, biological and geospatial data. It was critical that these data were accurate, unbiased, and relevant. 

Because of the State’s ability to perform its own scientific studies internally or with partners, and to fully utilize the existing data, we were able to develop effective strategies for dealing with issues proactively.  An essential part of the process was communicating with the public through outreach, hearings, and written Best Interest Findings.  We worked hard at building public consensus on controversial issues, and I believe we maintained our public credibility, because we listened and did our homework. 

As State Geologist, I was responsible for other areas, including general geological mapping, geohazards, mineral assessment and research, and engineering geology.  As the Director of both the Geological and Geophysical Survey and the Division of Oil and Gas, I was able to integrate the superior geophysical, database management, engineering and economic modeling skills of the Division of Oil and Gas with the superior surface geological mapping and remote sensing skills of the State Survey. This resulted in a dramatic increase in the quality of the reports and publications of both organizations, better public policy decisions, and a substantial increase in public demand for the information. 

I mention my background and experiences in order to illustrate the importance I place on the acquistion and use of high quality, unbiased, scientific data to inform the public on policy and resource management decisions.  I believe that it is equally important that the information is effectively communicated to the end users, including, but not limited to, resource and regulatory agencies on the Federal, State and local levels, the broader scientific community, and the general public. 

The scientific research conducted by the USGS has been and will become even more essential to our country and the world as we deal with our ever increasing interaction with and demands on the natural world.  The research and monitoring performed by the USGS supports national, state and local efforts to mitigate risk from natural hazards as well as management of our nation’s water, biological, mineral and energy resources.  Recent worldwide natural disasters and energy supply issues have highlighted the need for this research. 

If confirmed, I will be charged with providing executive leadership, direction and policy oversight to a world class multidisciplinary, scientific organization. I look forward to working with the talented and dedicated professionals of the USGS at a time when the need for focused, impartial science is so important.  I am excited about the opportunities to work in direct cooperation and collaboration with the scientific community, resource managers, regulators, and educators in order to maximize the effectiveness of the USGS.

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee for your time and consideration.

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