August 24, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:

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REVISED REGULATIONS GOVERNING COAL-BURNING POWER PLANTS RELEASED TO APPLAUSE FROM ADMINISTRATION

The Trump Administration recently released its proposed new set of pollution rules for coal-burning power plants. The new regulations, titled the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule would replace the Obama-era’s Clean Power Plan.

“The ACE Rule would restore the rule of law and empower states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide modern, reliable, and affordable energy for all Americans,” said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a press release. “Today’s proposal provides the states and regulated community the certainty they need to continue environmental progress while fulfilling President Trump’s goal of energy dominance.”

ASME Capitol Update has followed the path of this legislation, noting back in May that despite the uncontroversial nature of the bill, it appeared to have stalled in Congress after being unanimously approved by the House in 2018. However, last month the Senate voted to pass the legislation to applause from many in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education community. A further indication of the support for this legislation on Capitol Hill was the House Appropriations Committee’s FY19 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) bill in which it gave the Department of Education a $115 million increase for career, technical, and adult education programs. This bump brought funding for career and technical education programs (CTE) up to $1.9 billion for FY19.

The proposed new regulations, issued by the EPA, will work to combat pollution and the release of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through 4 key actions:

  • ACE defines the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) for existing power plants as on-site, heat-rate efficiency improvements;
  • ACE provides states with a list of “candidate technologies” that can be used to establish standards of performance and be incorporated into their state plans;
  • ACE updates the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program to further encourage efficiency improvements at existing power plants; and
  • ACE aligns regulations under CAA section 111(d) to give states adequate time and flexibility to develop their state plans.

The proposal will be placed in the Federal Register (FR). Once the notice is in the FR, the EPA will take comments for 60 days. A public hearing will also be held on the proposal.

For a fact sheet on the proposal, as well as a view of the pre-FR notice, click here: https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-proposes-affordable-clean-energy-ace-rule


U.S TRADE REPRESENTATIVE HOLDS HEARINGS ON INCREASED TARIFFS AGAINST CHINA

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) held a series of public hearings this past week regarding proposed increased tariffs on Chinese-imported goods. The hearings were regarding a proposal to increase tariffs on approximately $200 billion worth of Chinese goods.

In June of this year, the U.S. announced it would be placing tariffs on roughly $34 billion in Chinese-imported goods, effective in July. In response to these tariffs, China announced that it would be imposing a 25% tariff on roughly $50 billion worth of U.S.-imported goods. These new hearings are regarding a new set of tariffs to be imposed following China’s tariffs.

In a press release regarding the hearings, the USTR explained, “The Trump Administration continues to urge China to stop its unfair practices, open its market, and engage in true market competition. We have been very clear about the specific changes China should undertake. Regrettably, instead of changing its harmful behavior, China has illegally retaliated against U.S. workers, farmers, ranchers and businesses.

“The increase in the possible rate of the additional duty is intended to provide the Administration with additional options to encourage China to change its harmful policies and behavior and adopt policies that will lead to fairer markets and prosperity for all of our citizens.”

According to a USTR press release, the proposed tariffs are in response to China’s unfair trade practices related to technology transfer, intellectual property, and innovation, based on the findings in USTR’s investigation of China under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Their findings are available to view at https://ustr.gov/sites/default/files/Section%20301%20FINAL.PDF

A full transcript of the hearings will be posted on the official USTR website, found here: https://ustr.gov/


FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION ANNOUNCES STREAMLINED GUIDANCE TO HELP RESEARCHERS BRING CANCER-FIGHTING TREATMENTS TO MARKET

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released new guidance documents on how to modernize clinical oncology trials. The regulatory process for human trials is rigorous. These new guidance documents seek to facilitate understanding of the process, thereby increasing the chances that innovative new therapies can be approved and brought to market.

“The approach we’re describing in new guidance today is to help innovators to evaluate drugs in trials that are potentially lower cost, more efficient, and could enable us to learn more about the safety and efficacy when compared to traditional trial designs,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a recent press release.

The guidance documents provide four main sets of recommendations to help pharmaceutical companies and researchers navigate the following:

  • Characteristics of drug products best suited for consideration for development under a multiple expansion cohort trial
  • Information to include in investigational new drug application submissions to support the design of individual expansion cohorts
  • When to interact with FDA on planning and conduct of multiple expansion cohort studies
  • Safeguards to protect patients enrolled in these expansion cohort studies.

To view the new guidance documents, click here:
https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM616325.pdf

To watch a videocast of the webinar, click here:
https://www.nibib.nih.gov/news-events/meetings-events/artificial-intelligence-medical-imaging-workshop


WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT SEES BOOST IN SUPPORT FROM ALL SIDES

Last month, President Trump issued an Executive order in which he discussed the state of the American workforce and the rapid advancement of technology. In his executive order he called for the establishment of the President’s National Council for the American Worker, citing the need to “provide a coordinated process for developing a national strategy to ensure that America’s students and workers have access to affordable, relevant, and innovative education and job training that will equip them to compete and win in the global economy, and for monitoring the implementation of that strategy…”

This Executive Order is consistent with President Trump’s ongoing support for bolstering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Earlier this year he instructed Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to include STEM in the Education Department’s priorities for the fiscal year, and recently signed into law the Perkins Career and Technical Education Reauthorization Act that provides significant support to STEM. This dedication to STEM was also evident in the White House’s most recent FY19 Research and Development Priorities.

As the State Science and Technology Institute noted, this need to bolster the American workforce and provide comprehensive training programs was also recently explained in a new report from the National Skills Coalition (NSC), titled Powerful Partners: Businesses and Community Colleges. In its report, the NSC explains that roughly 53% of jobs on the labor market are “middle-skill”, meaning workers need qualifications beyond a high-school diploma, but not necessarily a college degree. However, despite over half the jobs on the market receiving this classification, only 43% percent of workers currently have the necessarily qualifications leaving employers with a dearth of suitable workers to choose from.

To help address this problem, the National Skills Coalition calls on Congress in their new report, to increase federal investment in private-public partnerships. The positive correlation between strong support in these partnerships and a bolstered workforce are highlighted in further support of their position.

To view President Trump’s Executive Order, click here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-establishing-presidents-national-council-american-worker/

To view the National Skills Coalition’s report, click here: https://www.nationalskillscoalition.org/resources/publications/file/Powerful-Partners-Businesses-and-Community-Colleges.pdf


AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES REMAIN A TOP PRIORITY WITH NEW REPORT DETAILING SUGGESTED REGULATIONS

The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration recently released a new report detailing its recommendations for how to proceed with autonomous vehicle regulations. The report, titled Preparing for Automated Vehicles: Traffic Safety Issues for States, tackles several emerging challenges for autonomous vehicles at the state level. As the report explains, more than 50 companies are currently working on vehicles that can operate independently without a driver.

The report explains that this technology can be broken down into five levels, with level zero meaning the driver controls the vehicle completely, and level five meaning the vehicle is operated completely autonomously. The report provides a comprehensive explanation of the current projected state of autonomous vehicle technology and regulations through four sections:

  • Automated driving system vehicle development status, plans and projections.
  • Behavioral Traffic Safety Issues posed by Automated Vehicles.
  • What states should do to Prepare for Automated Vehicle Testing and Operations.
  • What National Organizations are Doing and Should do to Assist States.

Within each section, along with an explanation of the current technological status are the GHSA’s own recommendations for how to proceed with this technology development in the safest, most efficient way possible.

To view the report in full, click here:
https://www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/Final_AVs2018.pdf


NASA’S PARKER SOLAR PROBE SETS OUT TO GET CLOSER TO THE SUN THAN EVER BEFORE

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced the successful launch of its Parker Solar Probe. The Spacecraft, named for retired University of Chicago Astrophysicist Eugene N. Parker who was the first person to predict the solar wind, will complete 24 orbits of the sun before concluding its mission in 2025. The aim of the mission is to increase understanding of the sun. As part of its mission, the spacecraft will collect data such as measurements of the sun’s electrical and magnetic fields, analyzing the components the solar wind and photographing the sun’s corona, its outer atmosphere that more than 300 times hotter than its surface.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

In addition to its 24 orbits around the sun, the probe will also pass around Venus six times. It will use Venus’ orbit and gravitational pull to get closer to the sun. The probe will use cutting edge thermal engineering advances to get closer to the sun than any other spacecraft to date. “Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Click here to follow the progress of the Parker Solar Probe mission:
https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/parker-solar-probe

To view the original Vision and Voyages for Planetary Science in the Decade 2013-2022 report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/13117/vision-and-voyages-for-planetary-science-in-the-decade-2013-2022

To view the midterm report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25186/visions-into-voyages-for-planetary-sciences-in-the-decade-2013-2022

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