In this issue:
SECRETARY CHU ANNOUNCES 'NATIONAL CLEAN ENERGY BUSINESS CHALLENGE'
This week, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) that would seek to create a network of regional student-focused clean energy business creation competitions, which would culminate in the chance to compete for a National Grand Prize at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012. These regional competitions will take place before May 1, 2012.
“This investment will train a new generation of scientific and technical leaders and support the Administration's continued effort to ensure that America has the workforce we need to secure our energy future, create jobs here at home, and win the future," said Secretary Chu.
The funding could support up to six regional competitions that are intended to inspire, mentor, and train students from across the country to develop successful business plans to create a new generation of American clean energy companies. This national initiative will enable student participants to gain the skills required to build new businesses and transform promising innovative energy technologies from U.S. universities and national laboratories into innovative new energy products that will to solve our nation’s energy challenges, spur business creation, create American jobs, and boost American competitiveness.
The FOA has been posted to FedConnect and is available under the reference number “DE-FOA-0000570.” Applications are due on August 22, 2011. Selections are expected to be made before the end of September 2011. To learn more about this FOA, please visit: https://www.fedconnect.net/FedConnect/PublicPages/PublicSearch/Public_Opportunities.aspx
Robert Rains handle public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
NRC RELEASES "A FRAMEWORK FOR K-12 SCIENCE EDUCATION"
A report released last week by the National Research Council (NRC) presents a new framework for K-12 science education that identifies the key scientific and engineering ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school. For the first time, engineering is included in the framework as a disciplinary core idea. The framework will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, to replace those issued by the NRC more than a decade ago.
The committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the U.S. The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics. And it strongly emphasizes the practices of science and engineering – developing explanations and designing solutions, for example, as well as planning and carrying out investigations.
The overarching goal of the framework, the committee said, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science and engineering, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they want to do so -- outcomes that existing educational approaches are ill-equipped to achieve.
The framework specifies core ideas in four disciplinary areas -- life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and the applications of science -- that all students should understand by the time they finish high school. The framework also identifies seven crosscutting concepts that have explanatory value across much of science and engineering, such as “cause and effect” and “stability and change.”
From this document, a set of assessments will now be developed for use by interested states. Unlike the common core standards in math and reading that are currently being developed, no states have agreed to adopt the standards to date, or have money to implement them, upon completion.
To review this report, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas,” please visit: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165
Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) issues for ASME. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FERC CLOSES DOCKET ON SMART GRID STANDARDS DUE TO LACK OF CONSENSUS
Under Section 1305(d) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was directed to institute a rulemaking proceeding to adopt such standards and protocols necessary to insure smart-grid functionality and interoperability in interstate transmission of electric power, and regional and wholesale electricity markets. This rulemaking was to occur when FERC was satisfied that the work of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) had led to “sufficient consensus” on smart grid interoperability standards. On July 19th, however, FERC found that there was insufficient consensus for the five families of standards under consideration. For this reason, FERC decided against instituting a rulemaking proceeding at this time with respect to these standards and terminated the docket. FERC encouraged stakeholders to actively participate in the NIST interoperability framework process to work on the development of interoperability standards and to refer to that process for guidance on smart grid standards.
The July 19th order takes action on the five families of standards identified as ready for consideration by regulatory authorities by NIST, which relied on information gathered at technical conferences held on November 14, 2010 and January 31, 2011 and on responses to the Supplemental Notice Requesting Comments issued February 16, 2011 seeking additional information on smart grid interoperability standards and the standards development process.
The NIST interoperability framework process includes the work and outputs of a number of groups and events organized by NIST to achieve the goal of an interoperable smart grid. These groups include the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) along with its committees and working groups. Outputs include the NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0, NIST Special Publication 1108 (Jan. 2010), which is available at: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/upload/smartgrid_interoperability_final.pdf; and the
Guidelines for Smart Grid Cyber Security, NIST Interagency Report 7628 (Aug. 2010), available at http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/PubsNISTIRs.html;
A copy of this FERC decision, as well as supplemental information, may be viewed at: http://www.ferc.gov/EventCalendar/Files/20110719143912-RM11-2-000.pdf
Additional information on the Smart Grid is available at: http://www.nist.gov/smartgrid/index.cfm
Robert Rains handle public policy-related standards issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
SENATORS INTRODUCE BIPARTISAN BOILER BILL
U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the time it has said it needs to adequately consider new boiler Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) rules.
As reported in the May 23, 2011 Edition of Capitol Update, EPA received more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities after publishing the initial rule in April 2010. On May 16, the EPA announced that it was seeking additional public feedback and gathering more information on the final standards for boilers and certain solid waste incinerators that were issued in February 2011. The EPA revised its draft standards after industry groups said the regulations were unworkable. Since the final rules differ so much from the draft rules, EPA opened up a reconsideration period in which the public could comment on and review the final standards.
The same month that EPA reopened the rules for additional comments, the National Association of Manufacturers and ten other trade associations filed a reconsideration petition on the Boiler MACT suite of rules, urging the EPA to “get it right” on the rules affecting the largest emitting boilers(MACT), smaller emitting boilers(GACT) and the solid waste incinerator (CISWI) portions of the regulation. The petition highlighted specific problems with the achievability of the rule that were still of major concern to manufacturers. If unresolved, the organizations contend, these damaging provisions would hurt manufacturers’ competitiveness, causing additional job loss in today’s tough economy.
Specifically, this legislation would:
- Provide the EPA with 15 months from the bill's date of enactment to re-propose and finalize the Boiler MACT regulations;
- Extend compliance deadlines from three years to at least five years which would allow facilities adequate time to comply with the new standards and install necessary equipment;
- Clarify that renewable and carbon-neutral materials remain classified as fuel and not solid waste; and,
- Direct EPA to ensure that the new rules are achievable by real-world boilers, process heaters, and incinerators, and impose the least burdensome regulator alternatives consistent with the President's Executive Order.
To read the press release announcing the introduction of the bill, please visit: http://wyden.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=b58a0f3e-5cc5-43d3-a61c-bd8f953fa2f4
To learn more about the proposed rule by the EPA, go to: http://www.epa.gov/airtoxics/boiler/boilerpg.html
Robert Rains handle public policy-related environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
DETAILS OF MIT NATURAL GAS REPORT SHARED WITH ENR COMMITTEE
This week the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee held a
hearing in order to receive testimony on the recent report of the MIT Energy Initiative entitled “The Future of Natural Gas.” This is the fourth report in a series of MIT multidisciplinary reports, which examine the role of various energy sources that may be important for meeting future demand under carbon dioxide emissions constraints.
The report concluded that because it has the lowest carbon content of all fossil fuels, natural gas can play a critical role as a bridge to a low-carbon future. The study’s economic analysis of the effects of a national policy calling for a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions shows that such a policy would result in widespread substitution of natural gas for coal in electricity generation.
However, in order to achieve even greater reductions in carbon emissions, the report cautions that natural gas may serve best as a bridge fuel for other low- or zero-carbon energy sources. The report says that it is important to continue a robust program of research and development on other energy alternatives, which can be used to take the place of natural gas later in the century if and when emissions regulations become stricter.
The study also concluded that, contrary to best estimates of a decade or so ago, natural gas supplies are abundant and should be ample even for greatly expanded use of the fuel in coming decades. This is largely the result of the development of “unconventional” sources, such as shale gas. Because of its abundance, widespread distribution and advantages in cost and emissions, use of natural gas is expected to increase substantially under virtually all scenarios involving national policies, regulations and incentives, the study notes.
Concerns have been raised about the possible environmental effects of developing shale gas using a controversial process called “fracking” (for hydro-fracturing), which involves injecting fluids into deep horizontal wells under pressure. The ultimate disposal of those fluids after they are pumped back out, and the possibility that they could contaminate water supplies, have been the subject of lawsuits and legislative attempts to limit the practice. The study found that “the environmental impacts of shale development are challenging but manageable,” and that some cases of the gas entering freshwater tables were “most likely the result of substandard well-completion practices by a few operators.”
The study recommends that to address these concerns, “it is essential that both large and small companies follow industry best practices; that water supply and disposal are coordinated on a regional basis and that improved methods are developed for recycling of returned fracture liquids.” Government funding for research on such systems should be “greatly increased in scope and scale,” the report says.
The study group suggests that U.S. national security interests will be served by policies that encourage integration of the presently fragmented global natural gas markets, and calls for better integration of such issues into foreign policy.
The report also includes a set of specific proposals for legislative and regulatory policies, as well as recommendations for actions that the energy industry can pursue on its own, to maximize the fuel’s impact on mitigating greenhouse gas.
For additional information on the report, go to: http://web.mit.edu/mitei/research/studies/natural-gas-2011.shtml
Written statements of the hearing witnesses are available at: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=1fd19b55-9a55-cc31-8fff-7ea2ac989e29, as is an archived web cast of the hearing itself.
Robert Rains handle public policy-related environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE PUSH PIPELINE BILL
The House Energy and Commerce Committee held their second hearing this week, after votes interrupted their first hearing, for a proposal which would seek to beef up inspection for the nation’s oil and natural gas pipelines, levy heavier fines for noncompliance, and provide additional resources for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).
Currently, the bill is entitled “The Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act,” and it was released by the Energy and Commerce committee last week before the hearing on July 15.
As reported in the May 9, 2011 Edition of Capitol Update, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation marked up S. 275, the “Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 (PTSI Act),” on May 5. PTSI Act would reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) within the Department of Transportation (DOT) for fiscal years (FYs) 2011 through 2014.
Although the primary jurisdiction for PHMSA actually lies in the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee, the Energy and Commerce committee introduced a “draft” discussion bill last week, and Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is hopeful to work with House T&I to move a pipeline bill out of the House by fall of this year. Chairman Upton is currently negotiating with the minority party on the committee to introduce a final pipeline proposal as a bipartisan bill.
To review S. 275 and a summary of its provisions drafted by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), go to: http://thomas.loc.gov and search by bill number.
To read the draft discussion for “The Pipeline Infrastructure and Community Protection Act” please visit:http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/Media/file/Hearings/Energy/071511/draft.pdf
Robert Rains handle public policy-related environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOUSE COMMITTEE ADOPTS REDUCED NIST BUDGET FOR FY 2012
The House Appropriations Committee recently approved the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, which contains funding for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Under that proposal, funding for NIST would be reduced by 6.6 percent compared to the current year. Funding for major NIST initiatives is summarized below.
The total NIST FY 2011 appropriation was $750.1 million. The FY 2012 Administration request was just over $1.0 billion, while House appropriators provided $700.8 million, a decline of 6.6 percent or $49.3 million from the current year.
NIST’s scientific and technical research and services were budgeted at $507.0 million in FY 2011. That amount compares to the FY 2012 Administration request of $678.9 million and the House bill’s recommendation of $517.0 million, an increase of 2.0 percent or $10.0 million from the current year.
In FY 2011, NIST’s industrial technology services received $173.3 million in appropriations. The FY 2012 Administration request was $237.6 million, while the House bill provides $128.4 million, a decline of 25.9 percent or $44.9 million from the current year.
Construction of NIST research facilities received $69.9 million in FY 2011. The FY 2012 Administration request was $84.6 million, and the House bill provides recommends $55.4 million, a decline of 20.7 percent or $14.5 million from the current year.
In a troubling development for technology start-up firms, House appropriators denied all of the $75 million in requested funding for the Technology Innovation Program, which provides cost-shared funding to industry for high-risk research and development projects with potentially broad-based economic benefits for the United States.
House Appropriators also denied $12.3 million in funding for a new program proposed by the Obama Administration, the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AmTech). AmTech, included as a part of the Administration’s recently announced American Manufacturing Initiative, was envisioned as a vehicle for aiding private industry seeking to develop nanotechnology products for the manufacturing sector. AmTech would seek to assemble a consortium of public and private stakeholders to identify, and collectively fund, long-term technical challenges to the high-technology manufacturing sector.
The Senate has not yet released its version of the FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, so it is unclear when and if the two bills will be resolved.
Additional information on House Appropriations Committee action is available at: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=251676
Detailed budget justifications are contained in the full House Appropriations Committee report, available at: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/CJS_REPORT.pdf
Robert Rains handle public policy-related NIST issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
HOUSE APPROPRIATORS RECOMMENDS 8.9 PERCENT DECREASE IN FY 2012 NASA BUDGET
The FY 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill approved by House appropriators on July 13th also contained funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Overall NASA funding levels, as well as those for specific programmatic areas, are summarized below.
Total NASA funding for FY 2011 appropriation was $18.4 billion. The FY 2012 Administration request was $18.7 billion. The House Appropriations Committee recommended $16.81 billion, a decline of 8.9 percent or a decrease of $1.63 billion. A large portion of the reductions to NASA came from the cancellation of the James Webb Space Telescope (savings of $373.7 million) – a project which House Appropriators promised to re-examine in future years – and the denial of funding for the majority of the Administration’s new ‘Space Technology’ portfolio, which shaved $650 million off of the President’s topline request.
For FY 2011, funding for NASA’s science programs was $4.93 billion. That figure compares to the Administration’s FY 2012 request of $5.0 billion, and the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $4.5 billion, a decline of 8.7 percent or $431.4 million.
The FY 2011 appropriation for NASA’s aeronautics program was $533.9 million. The FY 2012 Administration request was $569.4 million, while the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation was $569.9 million, an increase of 6.7 percent or $36.0 million.
The Administration’s new budget category, Space Technology, was requested at $1.02 billion compared to the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $375.0 million, a reduction of $649 million. House Appropriators noted support for the Administration’s proposals under Space Technology, but could not support the rate of funding acceleration proposed for such a new program under the current fiscal environment. Appropriators stated that NASA should utilize the FY 2012 fiscal year to further flesh out the details of specific technology roadmaps and goals for the account.
NASA’s exploration budget was $3.8 billion in FY 2011. That figure compares to the FY 2012 Administration request of $3.94 billion and to the House Appropriations Committee’s recommendation of $3.65 billion, a decline of 4.0 percent or $151.7 million. Under the Exploration budget, House appropriators instructed NASA to rely on previous funding to continue Commercial Cargo activities, and flat-funded Commercial Crew activities at $321 million, $521 below the Administration’s $850 million request.
In FY 2011, NASA’s space operations budget was $5.5 billion. The FY 2012 Administration request was $4.34 billion, while the House Appropriations Committee recommended $4.06 billion, a decline of 26.1 percent or $1.43 million which largely reflects the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program.
For additional information, refer to: http://appropriations.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=251676
The bill is accompanied by a report containing more detailed budget justifications, which is available at: http://appropriations.house.gov/UploadedFiles/CJS_REPORT.pdf
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related NASA issues for ASME. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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