In this issue:
DEEP BUDGET CUTS PROPOSED BY HOUSE GOP GROUP
Late last week, the House Republican Study Committee (RSC), a subset of the House Republican Caucus that promotes a conservative social and economic agenda, introduced the Spending Reduction Act, a proposal that would cut $2.5 trillion from the federal government’s budget over the next decade. The RSC now boasts a membership of 165 members, which is two-thirds of the House Republican Caucus and includes 73 newly elected freshman members of Congress.
The Act proposes to do the following:
- Reduce the spending levels in the FY 2011 continuing resolution for non-defense, non-homeland security, non-veteran’s programs to FY 2008 levels, including prohibiting any FY 2011 funding to be used to fund the President’s health care bill;
- Impose discretionary spending limits through 2021 at 2006 levels for non-defense spending and eliminate automatic budgetary increases for inflation from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline projections;
- Eliminate automatic pay increases for civilian federal employees for five years and cut the federal civilian workforce by 15 percent through attrition; and,
- Abolish all remaining “stimulus” funding.
In addition, the following science and technology programs would also be eliminated:
- Technology Innovation Program;
- Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program;
- Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization;
- Applied Research at Department of Energy; and,
- Energy Star Program.
Additional information about this proposal can be found at: http://rsc.jordan.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Spending_Reduction_Act--TWOPAGER.pdf
While this proposal is not yet supported by the House leadership, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will be under great pressure to meet at least some of these RSC demands. On the other hand, the proposal is not likely to gain any traction in the Democratic-controlled Senate, but sets the stage for the upcoming appropriations battles between House and Senate leaders.
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com.*
DOE ISSUES UPDATE ON U.S.-CHINA CLEAN ENERGY COOPERATION
Last week, in conjunction with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state visit, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu announced the next milestones in the establishment of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center, a $150 million initiative funded equally by both countries over five-years with a combination of public and private-sector sources. The Center will enable the U.S. and China to work together to accelerate clean energy research and development. The Center's research areas will initially be in building energy efficiency, clean coal and clean vehicles.
Among Chu’s announcements were the following:
- DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Nuclear Security Center of Excellence (COE) that was originally announced by China during the April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit. The COE will help meet Chinese and regional training needs in all aspects of nuclear material security and will build on the nuclear security best practices program that has been underway between the U.S. and China since 2004. NNSA is working with the U.S. Department of Defense and CAEA on a preliminary design for the Center.
- DOE and the Chinese Academy of Sciences signed an agreement to facilitate and promote cooperation in energy sciences research and development through joint research programs and information exchange. Under the Protocol for Cooperation in Energy Sciences, specific topics of focus include: high energy physics, nuclear physics, nuclear energy sciences, basic energy science, biological science, and environmental science.
- DOE will work with China’s National Energy Administration, Peking University and U.S-based Applied Materials, Inc., to help establish Solar Decathlon China, a competition to challenge Chinese university students to design, build and operate houses that are energy efficient and self-reliant in energy usage based on DOE’s existing Solar Decathlon program. Under the Memorandum of Understanding on Collaboration in Organizing an International Solar Decathlon in China, DOE will provide advisory support to help organize the competition, which will create opportunities for U.S. companies to showcase their leading energy technologies in the Chinese market. The first Solar Decathlon China will be held in 2013, with a call for applications later in the year.
- DOE and China’s National Development and Reform Commission agreed to organize the Second U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Forum on May 5 and 6, 2011, in Washington, D.C.
For more information, please visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/19/us-china-building-positive-cooperative-and-comprehensive-relationship
Secretary Chu also unveiled a new logo for the Center (http://www.flickr.com/photos/departmentofenergy/5367698091/sizes/o/) and announced the launch of a new website, www.us-chinacerc.org, on which the joint work plans for the Center may be viewed.
For a more thorough account of how the world's two largest consumers of energy are cooperating to create a cleaner energy future, read DOE’s recently released report, “U.S.-China Clean Energy Cooperation: A Progress Report by the U.S. Department of Energy,” which is available at http://www.pi.energy.gov/documents/USChinaCleanEnergy.PDF
Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org*
EPA SEEKS TO CLARIFY ON FRACTURING RULE
Amid increased attention and scrutiny on the cocktail mixes that are being used to conduct hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in shale for natural gas, it was also recently discovered that the EPA website posted new information explaining how hydraulic fracturing would be regulated under the “Safe Drinking Water Act” when diesel is mixed into the fracturing fluid. While the EPA had been seeking public disclosure of the chemical cocktails as part of the completion of a study mandated by Congress in the fiscal year (FY) 2010 budget report from the U.S. House of Representatives, the new language caught many stakeholders off guard because there was no public announcement from the agency.
Some industry groups, interpreting the addition to be a violation of traditional process for rulemaking and comment periods, filed a lawsuit against the EPA. The suit alleged that the language imposed new rules on the industry without proper process, making it difficult to comply.
“The information on EPA's website is nothing more than a statement of law,” said an EPA statement to E&ENews provided by an agency spokeswoman. “Formal public notice and comment is not required because the Agency's statements do not impose new legal obligations; it only summarizes a well-known, six-year old exemption made to the Safe Drinking Water Act.”
EPA also said that it took the specifics of its rules for fracturing permits from its implementation of a 1997 appeals court ruling in an Alabama case that found fracturing did fall under the Underground Injection Control provisions of the “Safe Drinking Water Act.”
To read the language in question, posted to the EPA website regarding the use of diesel as part of the cocktail used in hydraulic fracturing, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/wells_hydroreg.cfm
Robert Rains handles public policy-related environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
NASA SUBMITS PRELIMINARY REPORT ON SPACE LAUNCH SYSTEM AND MULTI-PURPOSE
CREW VEHICLE TO CONGRESS
As required by a provision of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Authorization Act that was signed into law on October 11, 2010, the agency has submitted its “Preliminary Report Regarding NASA’s Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle” to Congress. The report includes warnings of inadequate funding and an unattainable legislatively mandated schedule.
With regard to the Space Launch System (SLS), the report notes that “the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 directs NASA to begin development of the SLS vehicle ‘as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment’ and with the goal of achieving operational capability for the core elements not later than December 31, 2016. While NASA will work as expeditiously as possible to meet the 2016 goal, NASA does not believe this goal is achievable based on a combination of the current funding profile estimate, traditional approaches to acquisition, and currently considered vehicle architectures.”
The report sounds a similar cautionary note on the development of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) noting that the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 directs the agency to begin development of the MPCV capsule with the goal of achieving full operational capability not later than December 31, 2016: “While NASA will work expeditiously to meet the 2016 goal, NASA notes that, as with the SLS, a 2016 crewed first flight does not appear to be possible within projected FY 2011 and out year funding levels.”
A major factor working against NASA as it seeks to implement the provisions of the new authorization act is the great uncertainty about its final FY 2011 appropriation. The new fiscal year started on October 1, and Congress and the Administration have been unable to reach agreement on a short term funding bill providing level funding through early March, a full five months into the year. Complicating the agency’s actions is a prohibition on any “new starts” and the requirement that it continue spending on elements of the now-cancelled Constellation Program.
In a seven-page letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin underscores the uncertainty the agency faces about its FY 2011 appropriation. The letter reads, in part, as follows:
“We write this letter to highlight a situation at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that we believe requires immediate action by Congress. Due to restrictive language in NASA’s fiscal year (FY) 2010 appropriation, coupled with the fact that NASA and the rest of the Federal Government are currently being funded by a continuing resolution (CR) that carries over these restrictions and prohibits initiation of new projects, NASA is continuing to spend approximately $200 million each month on the Constellation Program, aspects of which both NASA and Congress have agreed not to build.
“Constraining NASA’s ability to stop spending money on aspects of a rocket program that the Administration and Congress both have agreed to cancel while at the same time prohibiting the Agency from beginning the follow-on program called for in the 2010 Authorization Act strikes us as a problem ripe for correction. Accordingly, we urge Congress to take immediate action that will enable NASA to reduce or cease funding aspects of the Constellation Program in order to more efficiently redirect these funds to the priorities outlined in the Authorization Act.”
To review this letter, please visit: http://oig.nasa.gov/readingRoom/Paul.pdf
The full 22-page preliminary report may be found at: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/510449main_SLS_MPCV_90-day_Report.pdf
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
AEROSPACE SAFETY ADVISORY PANEL RELEASES ANNUAL REPORT
The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) has released its 2010 annual report. The panel examines NASA’s safety performance during the past year and alerts agency and government leaders to issues and concerns.
Congress established the ASAP in 1968 after the Apollo 1 fire to provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA administrator on safety matters. The panel holds quarterly fact-finding and public meetings and makes one or more visits annually to NASA centers and related sites. This year's report advises NASA on issues that have significant potential to impact human spaceflight.
"The panel's first and foremost concern is the lack of clarity and constancy of purpose among NASA, Congress, and the administration," panel Chairman Joseph W. Dyer said. "We believe this increases the likelihood that essential knowledge and competencies in the contractor or government workforce, such as those involving safety considerations, lessons learned, and past experience will not be present to effectively reduce risk in the future."
Some of the panel's critical safety issues or concerns include:
- Human spaceflight acquisition strategy and safety approach;
- FAA/NASA relationship;
- Workforce and safety culture; and,
- International Space Station challenges.
The full 18-page report is available at: http://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/asap/documents/2010_ASAP_Annual_Report.pdf.
For more information about the ASAP, please visit: http://oiir.hq.nasa.gov/asap.
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
PRESIDENT ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER OUTLINING THE ADMINISTRATION’S
Last week, President Obama signed an Executive Order outlining his regulatory strategy. The Executive Order on Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review requires federal agencies to design cost-effective, evidence-based regulations that are compatible with economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness. It outlines the following guiding principles:
- Cost-Effective and Cost-Justified: Consistent with law, Agencies must consider costs and benefits and choose the least burdensome path;
- Transparent: The regulatory process must be transparent and include public participation, with an opportunity for the public to comment;
- Coordinated and Simplified: Agencies must attempt to coordinate, simplify, and harmonize regulations to reduce costs and promote certainty for businesses and the public;
- Flexible: Agencies must consider approaches that maintain freedom of choice and flexibility, including disclosure of relevant information to the public;
- Science-driven: Regulations must be guided by objective scientific evidence; and,
- Necessary and Up-to-Date: Existing regulations must be reviewed to determine that they are still necessary and crafted effectively to solve current problems. If they are outdated, they must be changed or repealed.
As part of the immediate implementation of this strategy, the President also issued a memorandum to the heads of Executive Agencies and Departments calling for more transparency and accountability in regulatory compliance, as well as a memorandum emphasizing the need to reduce burdens on small businesses whenever possible.
The Presidential Memorandum on Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement requires federal enforcement agencies to make publicly-available compliance information easily accessible, downloadable, and searchable on-line to provide citizens with information they need to determine when entities fail to comply with the law. Such disclosure is a critical step in ensuring that regulations succeed in protecting Americans and critical to ensuring that consistent regulatory enforcement levels the playing field among regulated entities, ensuring that those that fail to comply with the law do not have an unfair advantage over their law-abiding competitors.
The Presidential Memorandum on Regulatory Flexibility, Small Business, and Job Creation reinforces the need for federal agencies to consider ways to reduce regulatory burdens on small business. Because there can be significant differences in scale and resources among businesses of ranging size, regulations can impose disproportionately high burdens on small businesses.
The Executive Order may be viewed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/18/improving-regulation-and-regulatory-review-executive-order
For more information about the memorandums, please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/01/18/regulatory-flexibility-small-business-and-job-creation-presidential-memo
THE ARTICLES CONTAINED IN CAPITOL UPDATE ARE NOT POSITIONS OF ASME OR ANY OF ITS SUB-ENTITIES, UNLESS SPECIFICALLY NOTED AS SUCH. THIS PUBLICATION IS DESIGNED TO INFORM ASME MEMBERS ABOUT ISSUES OF CONCERN BEING DEBATED AND DISCUSSED IN THE HALLS OF CONGRESS, IN THE STATES, AND IN THE FEDERAL AGENCIES.
EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.