April 28, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

NATIONAL SCIENCE BOARD RELEASES A STATEMENT ON THE FIRST ACT

The National Science Board, the oversight advisory board of the National Science Foundation, recently released a statement in opposition to the FIRST Act, which is under consideration in the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. As discussed in previous Capitol Update articles, the FIRST Act aims to reauthorize programs at NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the White House Office of Standards and Technology (OSTP), and is a follow-up to the American COMPETES Act, of which ASME has been a strong supporter.

This is a rare public response to a piece of legislation currently under consideration by Congress.

Signed by 23 members of the NSB, who are mostly university scientists and administrators, the statement begins, “The National Science Board (NSB) appreciates the historic strong commitment of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and to the research that NSF supports. In the face of global challenges to our Nation’s scientific leadership, NSF must maintain an unwavering focus on enabling scientific breakthroughs and on supporting the next generation of scientists. These scientists’ discoveries will underpin the health of the United States long into the future, especially with respect to its economic growth, prosperity, and security.

However, we are concerned that elements of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act do not advance those goals. In fact, some of its provisions and tone suggest that Congress intends to impose constraints that would compromise NSF’s ability to fulfill its statutory purpose. Some elements of the bill would also impose significant new burdens on scientists that would not be offset by gains to the nation. Our greatest concern is that the bill's specification of budget allocations to each NSF Directorate would significantly impede NSF’s flexibility to deploy its funds to support the best ideas in fulfillment of its mission to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense; and for other purposes.”

To read the statement in its entirety, please visit:
http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=131218&org=NSB&from=news

In his response to media sources looking for comment, House Science, Space, and Technology Chairman remained adamant, saying the NSF’s "last-minute" promises (on Thursday) of improved transparency and accountability were "too little, too late."

 

COMMITTEE LEADERS PRESS FERC FOR DETAILS ON MANAGEMENT OF GRID SECURITY

Continuing the committee’s oversight of the safety and security of the nation’s electric grid, House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have written to Acting Chairwoman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Cheryl LaFleur seeking information relating to the agency’s management of sensitive security information.

The letter was sent following the release of a Management Alert from the Department of Energy’s Inspector General (IG), which noted weaknesses in FERC’s internal information controls and requested the agency take immediate action to protect certain information. The IG is reviewing FERC’s information management in response to an alleged inappropriate release of information related to the April 2013 Metcalf substation attack near San Jose, CA. The Management Alert may be read at: http://energy.gov/ig/downloads/management-alert-doeig-0906

In the letter to LaFleur, the committee leaders wrote, “The IG Management Alert raises questions concerning FERC’s management and controls of sensitive information pertaining to the integrity and security of electric grid and other critical infrastructure. In light of this report and our ongoing oversight, we write pursuant to Rules X and XI of the U.S. House of Representatives to request information to help us evaluate the facts and circumstances surrounding FERC’s management of information relating to the Metcalf incident and of sensitive security information generally.” The committee requested a response from FERC by May 5, 2014.

The letter was signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), full committee Vice Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Chairman Emeritus Joe Barton (R-TX), and Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), Vice Chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee.

A full copy of the letter may be reviewed at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/letters/20140417FERC/
041714%20FERC%20Infrastructure%20Security%20Letter.pdf

 

NASA INNOVATIVE ADVANCED CONCEPT PROGRAM SEEKS PHASE II PROPOSALS

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is seeking proposals for technologies that could be used on future exploration missions. The new proposals will build on the most promising ideas developed in the program's first phase. The NIAC program funds cutting-edge concepts that have the potential to transform future missions, enable new capabilities, or significantly alter current approaches to launching, building, and operating aerospace systems.

NIAC's Phase II studies provide an opportunity to develop the most promising Phase I concepts. These are aerospace architecture, mission, or system concepts with transformative potential. They must continue to push into new frontiers, while remaining technically and programmatically credible. NIAC's current portfolio of diverse efforts advances aerospace technology in many areas, including construction, human systems, transportation, imaging, and robotic exploration.

During the second phase of the NIAC program, visionary concepts are matured to advance concepts from notional to feasible, taking concepts from paper studies to engineering implementation. Recent NIAC Phase II studies have included a concept for a sample return for extreme environments, which could lead to a simple and efficient way to obtain multiple samples drilled out of an asteroid crust.

NASA will be accepting NIAC Phase II proposals of no more than 20 pages until June 3rd. Selection announcements are expected later this year. This solicitation is open only to current or previously awarded NIAC Phase I concepts. Complete guidelines for proposal submissions are available on the NIAC website at http://www.nasa.gov/niac

NASA expects to select approximately five new Phase II studies this year. The number of awards will depend on the strength of proposals, availability of appropriated funds, and the overall number of Phase I and Phase II awards. Selected proposers may receive as much as $500,000 over two years to further analyze and develop their innovative concepts.

 

NIST REQUESTS COMMENTS ON SMART GRID FRAMEWORK UPDATE

The primary guiding document for creating the next-generation "smart" energy grid is getting its first major update in two years. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is requesting public comment on a draft of the NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 3.0.

The new document builds upon and updates the February 2012 Framework Release 2.0, NIST's outline of the plan to transform the nation's aging electric power system into an interoperable smart grid. As described in previous editions of Capitol Update, the interoperable smart grid is a network that will integrate information and communication technologies with the power-delivery infrastructure, enabling bidirectional flows of energy as well as two-way communication and control. Release 2.0 is available at: http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/tech-beat/tb20120306.cfm#framework

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 established a goal to modernize the nation's electricity system and assigned to NIST the primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems. This revised framework furthers the goals of the Act.

Important new elements in this revision are international smart grid activities, revised guidelines for cybersecurity, advances in testing and certification frameworks, and discussion of smart grid research and development needs.

Another update is to the reference model of the smart grid, adding clearer definitions and a methodological approach. This model, which offers a broad picture of how the fundamental elements of the smart grid connect and communicate, now incorporates "distributed energy resources," a concept that includes energy production from nontraditional sources such as customer-owned solar and wind power systems.

NIST is planning to host a webinar to present the new draft framework to the public on May 2, 2014. Attendance information is available at https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=vbz1164cprha

The Framework 3.0 document is posted to the Federal Register (https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-08513) and will be open for public comment until Friday, May 30th.

 

EPA ANNOUNCES LIST OF TOP 100 U.S. ORGANIZATIONS USING RENEWABLE ENERGY

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Green Power Partnership released an updated list of the Top 100 organizations that are choosing to use electricity from clean, renewable sources like wind and solar power. In total, the combined green power usage of these Top 100 Partners amounts to nearly 24 billion kWh annually, which represents close to 83 percent of the green power commitments made by all EPA Green Power Partners. The list is calculated based on annual green power usage (in kilowatt-hours) by Green Power Partners.

Intel Corporation continues its seven-year run as the nation's largest voluntary user of green power, meeting 100 percent of its electricity load with renewable resources.

Other technology companies in the top 10 include Microsoft Corporation, Google Inc., and Apple Inc. Apple increased its annual green power use by nearly 100 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), moving from No. 11 to No. 8 on the list.

The top 10 partners appearing on the Top 100 list include:
1. Intel Corporation (Santa Clara, CA)
2. Kohl's Department Stores (Menomonee Falls, WI)
3. Microsoft Corporation (Redmond, WA)
4. Whole Foods Market (Austin, TX)
5. Google Inc. (Mountain View, CA)
6. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (Bentonville, AR)
7. Staples (Framingham, MA)
8. Apple Inc. (Cupertino, CA)
9. City of Houston, TX
10. U.S. Department of Energy (Washington, DC)

In addition, for the eighth year in a row, EPA is encouraging increased green power use among higher education institutions through the College and University Green Power Challenge. Out of the 33 competing conferences, the Big 10 is this year's conference champion, collectively using more than 309 million kWh of green power annually and avoiding carbon pollution equal to that produced by the electricity use of more than 30,000 American homes. The University of Pennsylvania continues to be the top individual school in the challenge for the seventh year in a row, purchasing more than 200 million kWh of wind power annually - more green power than any of the 78 other competing schools.

For additional information on the Top 100 list and other Top rankings, visit: www.epa.gov/greenpower/toplists

Additional information on the 2013-14 EPA College & University Green Power Challenge conference champions is available at: www.epa.gov/greenpower/initiatives/cu_challenge.htm

 

SSTI SEEKS APPLICATIONS FOR EXCELLENCE IN TBED AWARDS

Each year, SSTI recognizes initiatives that greatly impact state and regional economies through a national competition showcasing effective and innovative approaches to building tech-based economies. The Excellence in TBED (technology-based economic development) Awards are presented to organizations demonstrating successful local, state and regional efforts across six categories:

  • Expanding the Research Capacity
  • Commercializing Research
  • Building Entrepreneurial Capacity
  • Increasing Access to Capital
  • Improving Competitiveness of Existing Industries
  • Most Promising TBED Initiative

While the Awards program was designed to celebrate long standing achievement with winners serving as models for other states and regions to replicate, SSTI also recognizes the value in showcasing innovative initiatives that show promise. The award for Most Promising TBED Initiative is presented to organizations that address a specific need in a community or region identified as an obstacle to growth with an innovative approach in design or implementation. Judges look for creative and out-of-the-box thinking alongside a well-defined action plan. Scoring is heavily weighted on innovativeness and transferability.

Any TBED program or practitioner is eligible to apply. This includes, but is not limited to, nonprofit organizations, local and state governments, colleges and universities, federal agencies and labs, industry associations, economic development councils, and other organizations that promote innovation and technology-based economic development.

Sign up for the May 7 informational call to learn more about the 2014 awards program and for helpful hints on writing an outstanding application. You may register for the call at https://docs.google.com/a/ssti.org/forms/d/1TSMChExHuIjdQb11fc-BDygDKH3k2bsYYu2gY6GJz-E/viewform

The deadline for applying is June 17th. Winners will be recognized on September 15th.

Additional information is available at http://www.sstiawards.org/

 

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