December 19, 2014
Capitol Update

Editor' Note:
Due to the upcoming holidays, Update will not be published on December 26th or January 2nd. The next edition of Update will be published during the week of January 5, 2015. Best wishes for a happy holiday season to all!

In this issue:



During a recent meeting of the President’s Export Council (PEC), President Obama announced nearly $400 million to help improve the competitiveness of American businesses and workers by spurring new manufacturing innovations and giving American workers additional opportunities to improve and expand their skill sets.

To help support new advancements in manufacturing, the President announced more than $290 million in public-private investment for two new Manufacturing Innovation Hub Competitions. This announcement will mean the launch of four new institutes this year, for a total of eight institutes launched so far.

The Department of Energy (DOE) will lead a competition for a new public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on smart manufacturing, including advanced sensors, control, platforms, and models for manufacturing.  By combining manufacturing, digital, and energy efficiency expertise, technologies developed by the institute will give American manufacturers real-time control of energy use across factories and companies to increase productivity and save on energy costs. For energy intensive industries, e.g., chemical production, solar cell manufacturing, and steelmaking, these technologies can shave 10-20 percent off the cost of production. 

The Department of Defense competition will focus on flexible hybrid electronics.  Each new institute will receive a federal investment of $70 million that will be matched by at least $70 million in private investments. 

In addition, the President announced $100 million to expand apprenticeships for American workers, a training strategy for workers to learn the skills that employers need for American businesses to grow and thrive in a competitive global environment. Apprenticeships are also a path to the middle class: 87 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs and the average starting wage for apprenticeship graduates is over $50,000.

The Department of Labor competition will use $100 million or more of H-1B funds to award approximately 25 grants to partnerships between employers, labor organizations, training providers, community colleges, local and state governments, the workforce system, non-profits and faith-based organizations that:

  • Launch apprenticeship models in new, high-growth fields;
  • Align apprenticeships to pathways for further learning and career advancement; and,
  • Scale apprenticeship models that work.

To learn more about the manufacturing innovation institute competitions or the apprenticeship grants, please visit: under Regulations and Announcements.



The House Energy and Commerce Committee recently released a new majority staff report outlining critical issues that have been raised during the committee’s hearings and oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” This comprehensive analysis provides a detailed description of the proposal, the legislative history of section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, information on the legal issues raised by the proposed rule, and offers examples of key testimony received by the committee.

The Energy and Power Subcommittee has been conducting aggressive oversight of EPA’s proposal since its release in June 2014, including hearings with testimony from EPA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and state energy and environmental regulators. As a result of this oversight, the Committee has established the following five preliminary conclusions as outlined in the report:

  • There are fundamental legal questions about the EPA’s authority to regulate in this area and, assuming such authority, the scope of that authority;
  • EPA’s plan would transform federal and state decision-making concerning the transmission and delivery of electric power in the United States;
  • Many of the key assumptions in the EPA’s proposed “building blocks” are unrealistic;
  • The proposal would not be workable for potentially many states because of a host of implementation challenges; and,
  • The accelerated timeline for completing the rulemaking appears inadequate to respond fully to all substantive comments.

On the other hand, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) led 11 Senators in calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strengthen its proposed Clean Power Plan to achieve even greater reductions of carbon pollution. In the first major congressional call to further strengthen the plan from its existing targets, the Senators emphasized that it is essential for the plan to hit the target levels of emissions reductions necessary to avoid the most harmful effects of climate change.

Merkley and Schatz were joined by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

In a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Senators wrote: “The Clean Power Plan will be the single most significant step this country has ever taken to tackle greenhouse gas emissions in the power sector, so it is essential that it be done right.  For the Clean Power Plan to be a success, it must achieve the level of emissions reductions that the science calls for to avoid the most dangerous impacts of climate change.”

The Senators emphasized that current technology and market conditions make it possible to deploy renewable energy more aggressively to cut carbon pollution even further from the first draft of the Clean Power Plan. In a detailed appendix to the letter, the Senators laid out specific areas within the proposal where the draft rule can be strengthened.

The aforementioned report and letter are available at under “Issue Reports.”



The Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued the Advanced Nuclear Energy Projects loan guarantee solicitation, which provides as much as $12.5 billion to support innovative nuclear energy projects. With the issuance of this solicitation today, the Department’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) now has open solicitations in four areas, also including the $8 billion Advanced Fossil Energy Projects Solicitation, the $4 billion Renewable Energy and Efficient Energy Projects Solicitation, and the $16 billion Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program.

Authorized by Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Advanced Nuclear Energy Projects Solicitation would provide loan guarantees to support the construction of innovative nuclear energy and front-end nuclear projects in the U.S. that reduce, avoid, or sequester greenhouse gas emissions. While any project that meets the eligibility requirements may apply, the Department has identified four key technology areas of interest in the solicitation: advanced nuclear reactors, small modular reactors, uprates and upgrades at existing facilities, and front-end nuclear projects.

The first deadline for Part I applications is March 18, 2015, followed by rolling deadlines approximately every six months. 

More information about the solicitation can be found under “Regulations and Announcements” at:



At the November National Science Board (NSB) meeting, National Science Foundation (NSF) Director France A. Córdova outlined the agency's new approaches to enhancing transparency and accountability, including a revision to the agency's guidelines for program officers and providing regular updates on the agency's transparency and accountability.

The guidelines for program officers in the Proposal and Award Manual now state that a nontechnical project description must explain the project's significance and importance and "serve as a public justification for NSF funding by articulating how the project serves the national interest, as stated by NSF's mission: to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; or to secure the national defense." The titles and abstracts of NSF's awards are made public on

NSF also has provided to program staff new guidelines and training for writing award abstracts and titles. The agency, Córdova said, also has taken steps to reinforce roles and responsibilities of division directors and program officers related to the merit review process.

On December 26, 2014, NSF's Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide for principal investigators (PIs) will be updated to include the following statement: "Should a proposal be recommended for award, the PI may be contacted by the NSF Program Officer for assistance in preparation of the public award abstract and its title. An NSF award abstract, with its title, is an NSF document that describes the project and justifies the expenditure of Federal funds."

Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) released the following statement after NSF’s announcement:  “I am encouraged by the NSF’s announcement that it will increase transparency and accountability for taxpayer-supported scientific research. For more than a year, I have been calling for the NSF to provide public explanations for how NSF research grants are in the national interest and worthy of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. The NSF’s new policy is a step in the right direction. Congress and taxpayers will be eager to see how the new NSF national interest criterion is implemented."

Information on the new guidelines is available on the PPEC under Latest News on



Dr. Ellen Williams was confirmed by the United States Senate earlier this month as the Director of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

As Director of ARPA-E, Dr. Williams will oversee a program that funds high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. She will work to ensure that the technologies assisted through ARPA-E will help change the energy landscape and better meet our nations changing energy needs.

Prior to joining the Department, Dr. Williams was the Chief Scientist for BP, a position she has held since 2010. She is currently on a leave of absence from the University of Maryland where she has served as a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Physics and the Institute for Physical Science and Technology since 2000. Dr. Williams has served as a Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Maryland since 1991.  She founded the University of Maryland Materials Research Science and Engineering Center and served as its Director from 1996 through 2009.

She has served on the board of reviewing editors of Science Magazine since 2003. She also participated in technical assessments for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense, National Nuclear Security Administration as well as the Department of Energy. Dr. Williams received her B.S. in Chemistry at Michigan State University. She later completed her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology.



The U.S. Department of Commerce recently issued final duties on a comprehensive scope of solar imports, addressing the allegedly unfair trade practices of China and Taiwan. The action paves the way for expansion of solar manufacturing in the U.S. market.

The New York Times reported that the decision, intended to close a loophole that had allowed Chinese manufacturers to avoid tariffs imposed in an earlier ruling by using cells — a major module component — made in Taiwan, found that the companies were selling products below the cost of manufacture and that the Chinese companies were benefiting from unfair subsidies from their government.

The department announced anti-dumping duties of 26.71 percent to 78.42 percent on imports of most solar panels made in China, and rates of 11.45 percent to 27.55 percent on imports of solar cells made in Taiwan. In addition, the department announced anti-subsidy duties of 27.64 percent to 49.79 percent for Chinese modules.

The duties will go into effect around February 1st if the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) affirms that the Chinese and Taiwanese trade practices injured domestic manufacturers. The ITC, which has made three previous affirmative votes in the solar cases, is expected to take its fourth vote on January 20th.


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