August 28, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


EPA PROPOSES NEW MEASURES TO CUT METHANE EMISSIONS FROM THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed standards that would reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) and volatile organic compounds (VOC) from the oil and natural gas industry. Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is also a potent GHG with a global warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities, and nearly 30 percent of those emissions come from oil production and the production, transmission and distribution of natural gas.

To cut methane and VOC emissions, the proposal requires:

  • Finding and repairing leaks;
  • Capturing natural gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells;
  • Limiting emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps; and,
  • Limiting emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers.

EPA will take comment on the proposals for 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register. The agency will hold public hearings and will announce details soon.

More information, including the technical fact sheets, is available at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/  


UPTON AND WHITFIELD QUESTION USE OF QUALITATIVE FACTORS IN NRC RULEMAKING PROCESS

Concerned with two upcoming regulatory decisions, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and House Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY) have sent a letter to Stephen Burns, Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The leaders are worried that NRC staff are using “qualitative factors” when developing cost-benefit analysis for two pending regulatory decisions: “Proposed Mitigation of Beyond-Design-Basis Events” and “Evaluation of Containment Protection and Release Reduction for Mark I and Mark II Boiling Water Reactors Rulemaking Activities.”

Recent inquiries by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) and NRC Inspector General have questioned the agency’s credibility when it bases its regulations on the cost-benefit analyses. Upton and Whitfield write, “GAO found that NRC relied on inaccurate cost estimating procedures that misinformed NRC’s regulatory analysis and recommended NRC align its procedures with relevant cost estimating best practices.”

The leaders continued, “This disregard for commission direction opens the door for unfettered and unrestrained staff justification that contradict NRC’s rulemaking process. ... These actions could undermine the commission’s credibility as a fair and thorough regulator. We encourage the commission to carefully consider the extent that staff proposals rely on qualitative factors to justify the backfit rule.”

To read the letter, visit: http://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/files/letters/20150815NRC.pdf


PRESIDENT OBAMA ANNOUNCES MORE THAN A BILLION DOLLARS IN DOE INITIATIVES TO ADVANCE INNOVATIVE CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES

President Obama announced more than one billion dollars in Department of Energy (DOE) initiatives to drive innovation and accelerate the clean energy economy. 

As part of the President's Clean Power Plan, DOE's Loan Programs Office (LPO) is making up to one billion dollars in loan guarantees available to support commercial-scale distributed energy projects, such as rooftop solar with storage and smart grid technology. In addition, through the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), DOE is awarding $24 million in funding for 11 high-performance solar power projects that could lower the cost and improve the performance of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems. Together, these initiatives hope to spur innovation, ensure grid reliability and help ensure America's low-carbon energy future.

Distributed energy technologies, such as rooftop solar, energy storage, smart grid technology, and methane capture for oil and gas wells, solve key energy challenges, create economic opportunity, strengthen energy security and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, these distributed technologies may be limited by market barriers since commercial lenders are often unwilling or unable to take on the risk of a new or innovative technology until it has a solid history of credit performance and commercial operation.  The LPO's announcement will help overcome market barriers and accelerate deployment of innovative distributed energy technologies by making one billion dollars of loan guarantee authority available through the existing Title XVII program and providing guidance on the types of financial structures it can support for distributed energy projects.

For additional information on the LPO announcement, please visit http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/


DOE SELECTS U.C. BERKELEY TO LEAD CONSORTIUM FOR U.S.-CHINA CERC'S ENERGY-WATER TRACK

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected the University of California, Berkeley to lead a consortium of university, nonprofit, utility, and national laboratory partners in a new technical track under the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) that addresses water-related aspects of energy production and use. Once the award is finalized, the U.S. consortium will match or exceed DOE funding of $12.5 million and work with their Chinese counterparts to bolster collaborative efforts to ensure energy, water, and environmental security and combat climate change. The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, with its consortium partners, has pledged an equivalent amount of resources, bringing the total bilateral effort to $50 million over five years.

The University of California, Berkeley-led team will build the foundation for the technologies and expertise that will position the United States and China to continue to thrive in a future with constrained energy and water resources.  The team will use innovative technologies, modeling capabilities, and analytical research to explore and try to advance: water use reduction at thermoelectric plants; treatment and management of non-traditional waters; improvements in sustainable hydropower design and operation; climate impact modeling, methods and scenarios to support improved understanding of energy and water systems; and data and analysis to inform planning and policy.  In coming months, members of the U.S. consortium will develop joint work plans with members of the Chinese consortium.

The energy-water track was announced in November 2014 by President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.  In addition to expanding work under CERC for research in energy and water, the announcement by President Obama and President Xi extended the collaborative efforts of CERC to 2020, with an additional investment of up to $150 million to continue initiatives underway. The current efforts focus on the development and deployment of clean vehicles, building energy efficiency, and advanced coal technologies for carbon capture, utilization and sequestration. Through this new joint effort, DOE seeks to transform how water is used in energy production and electricity generation, while improving water quality and availability for a diverse range of human applications.

Additional information about CERC can be found at: www.us-china-cerc.org


NASA AWARDS GRANTS TO EXPAND STEM EDUCATION AT MINORITY SERVING INSTITUTIONS

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) has selected five educational institutions for cooperative agreement awards totaling $6 million to provide educator training and expand course offerings in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

MUREP Community College Curriculum Improvement (MC3I) grants were given to four community colleges; the grants provide up to $250,000 per year for a maximum of three years. The community colleges selected for MC3I grants are:

  • Baltimore City Community College, Baltimore, MD
  • Napa Valley College, Napa, CA
  • Queensborough Community College, Bayside, NY
  • Santa Monica College, Santa Monica, CA

Texas State University in San Marcos was selected to serve as a MUREP Educator Institute and may receive up to $1 million per year for three years. As an educator institute, the university will create learning opportunities at NASA's ten field centers for future teachers.

Awards were made through the 2014 Education Opportunities in NASA Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (EONS STEM) research announcement. MUREP awards promote STEM literacy and enhance and sustain the capability of institutions to perform NASA-related research and education. The goals of the program are to expand the nation's base for aerospace research and development, increase participation by faculty and students at minority serving institutions, and increase the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in NASA-related fields awarded to students from minority serving institutions.

For more information on the award process, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/stem-workforce-development/


COMPANY R&D EXPENDITURES IN U.S. INCREASED 6.7 PERCENT IN 2013

Companies spent $323 billion on research and development performed in the United States during 2013, 6.7 percent more than the $302 billion they spent the previous year.

A report from the National Science Foundation's National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) finds that the companies' own level of R&D funding also rose, going from $247 billion to $265 billion between 2012 and 2013. The federal government was the chief source of external funding companies put into R&D, accounting for $29 billion in 2013, most of which came from the Defense Department.

Manufacturing industries, including chemicals, machinery and computer products, were responsible for 69 percent--or $221 billion--of domestic R&D spending in 2013. Of the nonmanufacturing industries, the most R&D spending came from the information sector, which includes software publishers and others, with $57 billion, followed by professional, scientific and technical services, with $31 billion.

U.S. companies that performed or funded R&D reported domestic net sales of $10 trillion in 2013. Those businesses employed 20 million people, a total of 1.5 million of whom were employees associated with R&D efforts. Of those 1.5 million workers, 30 percent were at small companies, 43 percent were at mid-size companies and 27 percent were at the largest companies.

More information about the report is available at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/

 

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