In this issue:
ASME AND OTHER STAKEHOLDERS PARTNER TO CONVENE BRIEFING ON 'SMRS'
ASME recently partnered with ten other organizations to host a Congressional briefing on small modular reactors (SMRs) for nuclear energy. The event was held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), Co-Chair of the Congressional Research and Development Caucus, and Representative Michael Simpson, Chairman of the House Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, provided remarks at the event.
To the Obama Administration, small and medium modular reactors, 300 megawatts or less, represent one of the most promising reactor concepts of the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance, offering such advantages as improved safety and economics, shorter construction times, distributed generation, and availability for non-power generation applications.
In its FY 2012 budget, the Administration requested $95 million to support new reactor concepts. In total, the Administration would like $452 million over the next five years to support a government-industry cost share SMR Program. Assistant Secretary for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy Pete Lyons was a featured speaker at the event, and discussed the Administration’s goals related to SMRs, including a five-year public-private partnership that would lead to the commercialization of several concept reactors.
In June, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee fully honored the Administration’s request to support SMRs as part of their annual appropriations bill, providing $95.7 million in their spending bill. So far, the Senate has not been as supportive. Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voiced her skepticism about the technology at a hearing in July, mostly because of the spent fuel issue. This week, the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations bill was passed by the committee, but did not include funding for the program. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is currently considering two design concepts for approval to become licensed reactors.
Following Dr. Lyons at the briefing were Richard J. Myers, Vice President of Policy Development, Planning and Supplier Programs for the Nuclear Energy Institute and Sandy Byrd, Vice President of Strategic Affairs at the Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation. Both discussed the practicability, and economic advantages of nuclear energy, i.e. job creation, economic footprint, and technical feasibility.
For more information about this briefing, or about the Congressional R&D Caucus, please visit: http://www.researchcaucus.org/
Robert Rains handle public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
PRESIDENT OBAMA WITHDRAWS OZONE RULE
On September 2nd, President Obama withdrew a draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards rule, which proposed an ozone standard between 60 and 70 parts per billion (ppb) from the current 75 ppb.
In a written statement, the President justified the withdrawal of the proposed rule by saying, “I have continued to underscore the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover. With that in mind, and after careful consideration, I have requested that Administrator Jackson withdraw the draft Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards at this time. Work is already underway to update a 2006 review of the science that will result in the reconsideration of the ozone standard in 2013. Ultimately, I did not support asking state and local governments to begin implementing a new standard that will soon be reconsidered.”
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Cass Sunstein formally communicated the President’s decision to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson in a letter dated September 2nd in which she (Sunstein) cited two points that warrant reconsideration:
- The Clean Air Act sets out a five-year cycle for review of national ambient air quality standards. The current cycle began in 2008, and EPA will be compelled to revisit the most recent standards again in 2012. Issuing a final rule in late 2011 would be problematic in view of the fact that a new assessment, and potentially new standards, will be developed in the relatively near future.
- Since the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) has already begun a new and forthcoming scientific review based on “the best available science,” it may be prudent to reconsider whether to issue a final rule in late 2011 based on evidence that is no longer the most current when a new scientific assessment is already underway.
Sunstein’s letter concludes by saying “We look forward to continuing to work with you to create, in the words of Executive Order 13563, a regulatory system that will “protect public health, welfare, safety, and our environment while promoting economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation.”
The entire letter to Administrator Jackson may be read at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/ozone_national_ambient_air_quality_standards_letter.pdf
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Chairman of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released the following statement in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will be withdrawing EPA’s proposed ozone standards: “I am pleased that the President has heeded the calls of Americans and stopped his Administration’s unnecessary and burdensome actions to tighten EPA ozone regulations. The rule would have been one of the most costly in U.S. history, and the underlying science and process defied common sense.”
To review Chairman Hall’s entire statement, please visit: http://science.house.gov/press-release/chairman-hall-statement-president%E2%80%99s-announcement-withdrawing-epa%E2%80%99s-ozone-regulation
To learn more about the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), please visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/02/statement-president-ozone-national-ambient-air-quality-standards
Robert Rains handle public policy-related environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
FY 2012 ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT BILL MARKED UP IN SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE AND FULL COMMITTEE
On September 6th, the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcommittee held a markup of the FY 2012 appropriations measure affecting funding for the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Interior and the Department of Energy (DOE). The bill was reported out unanimously by voice vote, and the Full Committee approved the bill the following day.
Key highlights of the bill include:
- $25.549 billion to support the Department of Energy, $42 million less than the fiscal year (FY) 2011 appropriated amount, and $808 million less than the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee appropriated amount;
- $1.79 billion to support the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), flat compared to the FY11 appropriated amount; and $491 million less than the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee appropriated amount;
- $584 million to support the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, $142 million less than the FY11 appropriated amount; and $250 million less than the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee appropriated amount;
- $259 million to support the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, $186 million less than the FY11 appropriated amount; and $218 million less than the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee appropriated amount;
- $4.843 billion to support the DOE Office of Science,, flat from the FY11 appropriation; and $42 million above the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee appropriated amount; and
- $250 million for ARPA-E, $70 million above the FY11 appropriated amount; and $150 million above the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee appropriated amount.
Although the bill was passed in the subcommittee un-amended, there were some areas of disagreement among the Committee members. The subcommittee did not fund the Obama Administration’s proposal for small modular reactors (SMRs), expressing the view that additional research needs to be done on SMRs. Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) explained to the committee that he planned to work with Chairman Feinstein (D-CA) to restore some of the SMR funding in the final bill. Sen. Feinstein’s concerns are mostly related to the uncertainty surrounding spent nuclear fuel.
A press release summarizing the bill may also be viewed at: http://appropriations.senate.gov/news.cfm?method=news.view&id=8053d2e0-2189-4c25-9046-8a90a33c0d9b
Chairman Feinstein’s opening statement is available at: http://appropriations.senate.gov/ht-energy.cfm?method=hearings.view&id=b5297d80-57bc-4919-ba28-60a7b2438987
Robert Rains handle public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
PATENT REFORM LEGISLATION CLEARS SENATE
Last Thursday, the Senate successfully passed by a vote of 89-9 the House version of the America Invents Act, a comprehensive bill designed to update and streamline the patent system in the United States in order to stimulate investment, promote job creation, and increase competitiveness. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law soon.
As many as 1.2 million patent applications await disposition by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with the average application taking almost three years and many applications taking much longer. The America Invents Act (H.R. 1249) includes a suite of reforms that are aimed at making the patent system more efficient and successful in promoting American innovation. The Act:
- Transitions the U.S. to a first-inventor-to-file system;
- Allows third parties to submit prior art with explanations as to its relevance, adding unprecedented depth to the application review process;
- Introduces a new “first window” post-grant opposition proceeding for patent challengers, helping weed-out patents that should not have been issued;
- Will improve the process for challenging a patent before a panel of administrative patent judges while at the same time including procedural protections so that these challenges are not used for purposes of harassment;
- Prevents patents from being issued on claims for tax strategies;
- Provides more certainty in the calculation of damages for patent infringement;
- Will allow the Patent and Trademark Office to set its own fees and will end the practice of fee-diversion, thereby ensuring that PTO has the resources need to produce high-quality patents in an expeditious manner.
To review H.R. 1249, go to the Library of Congress web site, http://thomas.loc.gov, and search by bill number.
Additional information on H.R. 1249 is available at: http://judiciary.house.gov/issues/issues_patentreformact2011.html
Paul Fakes handles public policy-related innovation issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
GAO REPORT: "CLIMATE ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGIES DO NOT NOW OFFER A VIABLE RESPONSE TO GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE"
In a response to a request from former House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) commissioned a report to evaluate the cost, effectiveness and adverse consequences of climate engineering technologies, also referred to as geoengineering. The report concluded that climate engineering technologies do not now offer a viable response to global climate change.
The technologies being proposed have been categorized as carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM). CDR would reduce the atmospheric concentration of CO2, allowing more heat to escape and thus cooling the Earth. For example, proposed CDR technologies include enhancing the uptake of CO2 in oceans and forests and capturing CO2 from air chemically for storage underground. SRM technologies would place reflective material in space or in Earth's atmosphere to scatter or reflect sunlight (for example, by injecting sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to scatter incoming solar radiation or brightening clouds) or would increase the planet's reflectivity (for example, by painting roofs and pavements in light colors).
The GAO report examined a range of proposed geoengineering fixes to determine their “technological readiness” on a scale of one to nine. Direct air capture of carbon dioxide scored the highest at three. No solar resource management approach scored above two.
GAO found these technologies currently immature, many with potentially negative consequences. Some studies say, for example, that stratospheric aerosols might greatly reduce summer precipitation in places such as India and northern China. Many experts advocated research because of its potential benefits but also recognized its risks. For example, a country might unilaterally deploy a technology with a transboundary effect. Research advocates emphasized the need for risk management, envisioning a federal research effort that would:
- Focus internationally on transparency and cooperation, given transboundary effects;
- Enable the public and national leaders to consider issues before they become crises; and,
- Anticipate opportunities and risks.
Additional highlights of the study may be read at: http://www.gao.gov/highlights/d1171high.pdf
The entire 135-page report is available at: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1171.pdf
Robert Rains handles public policy-related climate change issues for ASME. He can be reached at: email@example.com
STATE DEPARTMENT FINDS KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE WILL HAVE LIMITED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS
On August 26th, the U.S. State Department issued its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, an extension of an existing pipeline that – when completed – would carry 1.4 million barrels of crude oil from Canada and North Dakota to U.S. refineries and would create more than 100,000 jobs. The EIS found that the pipeline will have limited adverse environmental impacts during construction and operation.
By way of background, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (Keystone) filed an application in 2008 for a Presidential Permit with the Department of State to build and operate the Keystone XL Project. The proposed Keystone XL Project consists of a 1,700-mile crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crude oil from an oil supply hub in Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed Project would also be capable of transporting U.S. crude oil to those delivery points. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion. If permitted, it would begin operation in 2013, with the actual date dependent on the necessary permits, approvals, and authorizations.
As part of the Presidential Permit review process, the Department has prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) consistent with the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA). The issuance of a Final EIS is one step in the review process and does not represent a final decision on the permit application.
Following the release of the Final EIS, a review period begins to determine if the proposed project is in the national interest. This broader evaluation of the application extends beyond environmental impact, taking into account economic, energy security, foreign policy, and other relevant issues. During this time, the Department will consult with, at least, the eight agencies identified in the Executive Order to obtain their views. The Department will also solicit public comments, both online and in public meetings in the six states the proposed project would traverse and in Washington, D.C.
Detailed information on the final EIS is available at: http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/clientsite/keystonexl.nsf?Open
To review House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton’s response to the State Department’s release of the final EIS, please visit http://energycommerce.house.gov/News/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=8886
For more information about the proposed Keystone XL Project, please visit: http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/clientsite/keystonexl.nsf/map.jpg?OpenFileResource
Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
"HISPANIC COLLEGE ENROLLMENT SPIKES, NARROWING GAPS WITH OTHER GROUPS": PEW REPORT
Driven by a single-year surge of 24 percent in Hispanic enrollment, the overall number of 18- to 24-year-olds attending college in the United States hit an all-time high of 12.2 million in October 2010, according to a Pew Hispanic Center analysis of recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
College-age Hispanics accounted for 1.8 million, or 15 percent, of the overall enrollment of young adults in two- or four-year colleges in 2010 -- setting records both for their number and share of young college students. More Hispanic young adults enrolled in college from 2009 to 2010 than young blacks and young Asian Americans. The number of young whites enrolling in college decreased during that period.
Rising educational attainment was a dominant driver of the enrollment trends for young Hispanic adults, over the long term as well as in recent years. Hispanic educational attainment rose sharply from 2009 to 2010: the share of Hispanic 18-to-24-year-olds who have completed high school increased to 73 percent in 2010 from 70 percent in 2009, and the share of young Hispanic high school graduates who are attending college increased to 44 percent in 2010 from 39 percent in 2009.
The complete report is now available at: http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=146&src=prc-headline
Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME. She can be reached at: email@example.com
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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.
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