April 21, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:



Following up on an issue brought up in the April 7th version of Capitol Update, U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-LA, Chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), held a hearing to review what is being done by both the federal government and the private sector to ensure the security and reliability of our nation’s electric grids. The hearing entitled, “Keeping the Lights On: Are We Doing Enough to Ensure the Reliability and Security of the Electric Grid?,” focused on addressing the threat of both physical and cyber-attacks to substations, as well as the strain on the power supply experienced during this winter’s polar vortex.

The first panel, which included the Honorable Cheryl LaFleur, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Mr. Gerry Cauley, President and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, focused on new and emerging cyber threats, as well as long-standing physical threats to the electricity grid. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included a first-of-its-kind provision to establish reliability standards, including ones to address cyber threats to the nation’s electric grid. In fact, the electricity sector is still the only part of our national critical infrastructure that is subject to binding cyber threat standards. The hearing also examined the attack last year on the Metcalf substation in California’s Silicon Valley, which was the most serious attack ever on the U.S. electricity system.

The hearing’s second panel focused on whether or not there is sufficient generation and unfettered transmission to keep the lights on when electricity demand peaks throughout the country. In particular, the panel examined the strain placed on the system during this winter’s polar vortex.

Additional information on the hearing, including the prepared statements of the witnesses and an archived webcast of the hearing, is available at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=791ff8ea-66db-4a9f-987c-c15bfef8be41



The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a draft loan guarantee solicitation for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. When finalized, the solicitation is expected to make as much as $4 billion in loan guarantees available to help commercialize technologies that may be unable to obtain full commercial financing. This draft solicitation represents another step in the Department's commitment to help overcome the financial barriers to the deployment of innovative, clean energy technologies.

The Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Loan Guarantee solicitation is intended to support technologies that are catalytic, replicable, and market ready. Within the draft solicitation, the Department has included a sample list illustrative of potential technologies for consideration. While any project that meets the eligibility requirements is eligible to apply, the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities; and efficiency improvements.

DOE welcomes public comment on a range of issues and will consider public feedback in defining the scope of the final solicitation. In addition to initiating a 30-day public comment period, a schedule of public meetings will be posted on the Department's website. The draft solicitation can be found online at: http://lpo.energy.gov



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops an annual report called “The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks (Inventory).” This report tracks total annual U.S. emissions and removals by source, economic sector, and greenhouse gas going back to 1990. EPA uses national energy data, data on national agricultural activities, and other national statistics to provide a comprehensive accounting of total greenhouse gas emissions for all man-made sources in the United States. EPA also collects greenhouse gas emissions data from individual facilities and suppliers of certain fossil fuels and industrial gases through the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

The national greenhouse gas inventory is submitted to the United Nations in accordance with the Framework Convention on Climate Change (http://unfccc.int/national_reports/items/1408.php). In preparing the annual emissions inventory report, EPA collaborates with hundreds of experts representing more than a dozen U.S. government agencies, academic institutions, industry associations, consultants and environmental organizations.

“The Inventory” tracks the national trend in greenhouse gas emissions and removals back to 1990. The key findings of the 1990-2012 U.S. Inventory include:

  • In 2012, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,526 million metric tons CO2 Eq.
  • U.S. emissions decreased by 3.4 percent from 2011 to 2012. Recent trends can be attributed to multiple factors including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficiency in vehicles with reductions in miles traveled, and year-to-year changes in the prevailing weather.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions in 2012 were 10 percent below 2005 levels.

For detailed information, go to: http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html.



The Visiting Committee on Advanced Technology (VCAT) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has sent its 2013 annual report to Congress. The committee focused its primary attention on NIST's role and programs in two key administration priorities: advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity.

The committee report supports NIST's ongoing and planned work in cybersecurity and recognizes the level of effort and planning NIST puts into its outreach and partnership mechanisms for cybersecurity. The report applauds the success of NIST's execution of Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity and other collaborative efforts. The committee recommends NIST continue its involvement in the framework's future.

The report addresses NIST's broad portfolio of programs in advanced manufacturing and notes that "NIST's measurement science mission, its unique and longstanding relationship with industry, and its broad portfolio of programs make it a critical element of the Administration's efforts to strengthen manufacturing in America." It also acknowledges NIST's diverse mechanisms for partnering with other organizations, including the NIST user facilities and new Centers of Excellence, and calls them critical to NIST's success.

The VCAT was established by Congress in 1988 to review and make recommendations on NIST's policies, organization, budget and programs to support the agency in its mission to promote and support U.S. technological innovation and industrial competitiveness. For the full text of the VCAT 2013 annual report, please visit: http://www.nist.gov/director/vcat/upload/FINAL-2013-VCAT-Annual-Report.pdf

The next NIST VCAT meeting will be held in June 2014 in Gaithersburg, MD. VCAT meetings are open to the public. For more information, see http://www.nist.gov/director/vcat/



EPA issued its fiscal year (FY) 2014 to 2018 Strategic Plan earlier this month, which provides a blueprint for advancing EPA's mission to protect public health and the environment across the country. The plan envisions new partnerships with state and local governments, tribes, federal agencies, businesses, and industry leaders to achieve environmental benefits in a collaborative way.

The five strategic goals in EPA's plan include:

  • Addressing climate change and improving air quality;
  • Protecting America's waters;
  • Cleaning up communities and advancing sustainable development;
  • Ensuring the safety of chemicals and preventing pollution; and,
  • Protecting human health and the environment by enforcing laws and assuring compliance.

The agency will continue to work to improve air quality and reduce emissions of toxic pollutants, and attempt to reduce risks associated with exposure to toxic chemicals. The agency will also continue efforts to improve water quality, given the nation's significant water infrastructure needs. To do this, it will focus on approaches that rely on sustainable solutions, such as green infrastructure, and build resiliency to help us adapt to the effects of a changing climate.

Additional information on the Strategic Plan is available at: http://www2.epa.gov/planandbudget/strategicplan



The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its annual assessment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) major projects. This report provides a snapshot of how well NASA is planning and executing its major acquisitions. In 2013, GAO reported that the performance of NASA's major projects had improved since GAO's first assessment in 2009.

In response to an explanatory statement of the House Committee on Appropriations accompanying the Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, this report assesses:

  • The current status of NASA's portfolio of major projects;
  • NASA's progress in developing and maturing critical technologies;
  • Efforts NASA has taken to improve design stability of its projects; and,
  • Any challenges to NASA's management of the portfolio.

The assessment found that NASA's total portfolio of major projects saw cost and schedule growth that remains low compared to GAO's first review of the portfolio in 2009. Some projects in this year's portfolio launched within their cost and schedule baselines; however, several others are undergoing re-plans, which could temper the portfolio's positive performance.

NASA projects have continued to make progress in maturing technologies prior to the preliminary design review. This year, 63 percent of projects met this standard, up from only 29 percent of projects in 2010. NASA's heightened awareness of reducing technology risk is further evidenced by new guidance aimed at ensuring continued focus on technical maturity. As NASA continues to undertake more complex projects, it will be important to maintain heightened attention to best practices to lessen the risk of technology development and continue positive cost and schedule performance.

NASA faces several challenges that could impact its ability to effectively manage its portfolio. A primary challenge in the next few years will be to complete a series of complex and expensive projects within constrained budgets and competing priorities. Any cost or schedule growth on NASA's largest, most complex projects, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, could have a ripple effect across the portfolio. While NASA has implemented a plan for improving its acquisition management, monitoring NASA's performance against that plan over time will be important in determining if the agency's efforts to improve its acquisition management practices have become institutionalized.

To read the 104-page report, go to http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-338SP, and click on the link.


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.


ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org