December 1, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


APPLY FOR A 2018-2019 ASME FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FELLOWSHIP! EXPERTISE IN ENERGY AND/OR BIOENGINEERING REQUIRED

For the past four decades, ASME has sponsored over 119 Federal Fellows who have served in the Executive Office of the White House and the US Congress applying their engineering expertise to complex issues.  ASME Federal Government Fellowships are a life-changing experience resulting in new professional qualifications and providing Fellows with the satisfaction of having served the public good at the highest levels.

ASME Members with strong backgrounds in “Energy” and “Bioengineering,” have until January 31, 2018 to apply for our 2018-2019 ASME Congressional Fellowships.  Additional Information about the Fellows Programs is available on our website and in our “Engineering the Greater Good” Brochure.”  Apply online today!

If you’re interested in learning more about the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program, visit our November 2017 webinar featuring two Fellows—one in the U. S. Senate and another in the U.S. House of Representatives – discussing what it is like to be an ASME Federal Government Fellow in Congress. The Fellows provided valuable personal insights on their experiences working on Capitol Hill, including the expectations associated with managing a broad range of diverse issues, writing legislation, preparing floor remarks for their Member of Congress and meeting with constituents.

The webinar recording is available at: http://tinyurl.com/yd7hhgds    Please contact Ellen Kuo, kuoe@asme.org, if you need any assistance.


FINAL SENATE APPROPRIATIONS BILLS RELEASED

altering existing policy for NASA’s human exploration program to focus more on partnerships with commercial and international partners to enable more innovative and cost effective human expansion.

The second witness was Dr. Sandra Magnus, executive director, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), who testified on several exciting new developments in human space flight.  Many companies are working with NASA, such as Boeing, SpaceX, Lockheed Martin, Sierra Nevada, and Orbital ATK, as well as privately funded ones, such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, to develop and operate the next generation of vehicles to send cargo and humans from Earth to into suborbital trajectories, to low Earth orbit, and beyond to the moon and to Mars. However, Dr. Magnus argued that government should be the driver for the expansion of human engagement in space, which will require new operational paradigms and even program management techniques – all high risk areas that require investment not driven solely by profit. 

Full witness testimony and an archived webcast of the hearing are now available: https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings


INNOVATION ADVANCES IN GEOENGINEERING

The Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee on Energy of the House Science Committee held a joint hearing on the topic of geoengineering.  The DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has researchers working on geoengineering, but more federal research is needed in order to understand the effects on complex Earth systems. Representative Marc Veasey (D-TX), Ranking Member of Energy Subcommittee, announced his intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would revamp many of the DOE’s R&D activities related to carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration, and would include new geoengineering research directives focused on carbon dioxide removal. 

Geoengineering, technology intervention in the climate system, has two major paths. One is to reduce the amount of climate change produced by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations using approaches to deflect sunlight away from Earth such as putting tiny particles in the stratosphere or the Sunlight Reduction Methods. The second is Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) to remove greenhouse gases that have already been released to the atmosphere by allowing the heat escape.  

Dr. Phil Rasch, chief scientist for climate science at PNNL, who has testified in the past on geoengineering and said there is not a definitive answer yet that geoengineering is the answer to climate adjustments. Dr. Rasch said that small scale research studies were needed and focused on sunlight reduction or reflection rather than CDR. Many more years or possibly decades of work is needed. Dr. Douglas MacMartin, senior research associate, Cornell University, also supported this position.

Dr. Joseph Majkut, director of climate policy, Niskanen Center, said that there was still uncertainty that geoengineering will work to change the climate, and that Congress will need to protect the public from unintended consequences of such deployment. Regulatory governance will be important as research progresses.

For more information and an archived webcast of the hearing, please visit: https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/subcommittee-environment-and-subcommittee-energy-hearing-geoengineering


HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE FOCUS ON ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE REBUILDING

Witnesses from the across the U.S. government and energy industry testified at recent House Energy & Commerce hearing reviewing hurricane emergency response efforts and restoration of energy infrastructure to the several U.S. states and territories impacted by the unprecedented 2017 hurricane season. Although fuel and electricity supply has largely been restored along the Gulf Coast, recovery efforts continue in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where the majority of residents still remain without power.

Following a disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides federal assistance and coordinates federal recovery efforts through the National Response Coordination Center, in close cooperation with its Federal partners, including the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and State and local officials. DOE has taken the lead for restoration planning on the U.S. Virgin Islands and USACE is leading efforts on Puerto Rico. At the same time, PREPA also has awarded a contract for power restoration on portions of Puerto Rico, which has generated questions concerning response coordination, and the contracting process, including letter requests from the Committee for information surrounding a contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings, LLC.

Other issues discussed at the hearing included coordination of Federal/State/industry emergency response and restoration efforts, ensuring future critical energy infrastructure protection, preparing for fuel and electricity supply disruptions, emergency waiver powers for responding authorities, and reform and modernization of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

To download the testimony from all the witnesses and watch the hearing, please visit:
https://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/2017-hurricane-season-review-emergency-response-energy-infrastructure-recovery-efforts/


FUTURE OF LOW DOSE RADIATION RESEARCH INVESTIGATED

The House Science Subcommittee on Energy, led by Chairman Todd Young (R-IN), recently held a hearing on low dose radiation issues to explore the status of basic research on the topic.  Congress has decreased funding for low dose research across several agencies each year since FY 2012. As of last year, Congress allocated $209.6 million for research on the health effects of low-dose radiation, with the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health accounting for most funding. 

The hearing featured recommendations from a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study entitled “Low Dose Radiation: Interagency Collaboration on Planning Research Could Improve Information on Health Effects,” which recommended that DOE become the lead coordinating agency for low dose radiation research.  Dr. Gayle Woloschak, Professor of Radiation Oncology and Radiology at Northwestern University, testified that the DOE's now terminated low dose research program had led to many significant findings, such as unique biological responses from low dose radiation that were not evident at high doses. However, more work was needed to determine the effects in whole living animals and eventually humans.

Dr. James Brink, Professor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School and Radiologist-in-Chief, Massachusetts General Hospital, testified that there are proven medical benefits from the use of low dose radiation to saves lives, improve the quality of care, and the quality of life for millions each year by allowing for earlier detection of disease, reducing the need for exploratory surgery, and allowing for the use of image-guided procedures to replace more invasive surgical options.

To read the full testimony of witnesses and watch the archived video, please visit:
https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/subcommittee-energy-hearing-future-low-dose-radiation-research.  To view the GAO’s report on low dose radiation issues, visit: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-546

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