December 5, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

ASME BOARD OF GOVERNORS APPROVES THE 2015-2016 ASME PUBLIC POLICY AGENDA (PPA) AND GENERAL POSITION PAPERS ON ENERGY, MANUFACTURING AND STEM

The ASME Board of Governors recently approved the 2015-2016 ASME Public Policy Agenda (PPA), as well as three ASME General Position Papers.

The ASME Public Policy Agenda lists the issue priorities of the Society for calendar years 2015‐2016. One of the public service goals of ASME and its 130,000+ members is to provide advice to government officials at all levels on engineering and technology matters and policies affecting the public interest, and to develop a climate of understanding and credibility that fosters a continuing dialogue. This document plays a part in fulfilling that goal, as it provides an overview of ASME’s public policy priorities and offers channels of communication for more detailed discussion.

The following priority issues for 2015‐2016, which were identified and prioritized by ASME members, will drive ASME’s government relations activities and programs during the 114th Congress, which convenes in January 2015:

  • Energy
  • Manufacturing
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education/Workforce Development
  • Research and Development
  • Environment
  • Standards

To review the PPA, visit ASME’s Public Policy Education Center (PPEC) at http://ppec.asme.org/members-outreach/

The ASME Board of Governors also approved the following General Position Papers which are available to view on the PPEC:

ASME is currently accepting applications for our 2015-2016 ASME Federal Government Fellowships and WISE Internships.  The announcements are available on each of the issues web pages on the PPEC under “Regulations and Announcements.”

ASME Members and non-members are invited to sign-up for announcements pertaining to the Federal Fellows Program, WISE Internships, Webinars, Regulations and other opportunities for engagement in public policy issues at: http://ppec.asme.org/members-outreach/

 

COMMENT PERIOD CLOSES ON EPA'S PROPOSED REGULATION OF GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

The comment period on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed regulation of greenhouse gas emissions closed on December 1st.  The rule was proposed on June 2, 2014.

Comments submitted on the rule by state governments, utility companies and other stakeholders, are available to view under “Regulations and Announcements” at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/.

 

SENATE EPW HOLDS HEARING ON "NRC'S IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FUKUSHIMA NEAR-TERM TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATIONS AND OTHER ACTIONS TO ENHANCE AND MAINTAIN NUCLEAR SAFETY"

On December 3rd, the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing entitled "NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and Other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety.” The lead witness was the Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairman, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

EPW Chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA) expressed concern that the NRC is not doing all that it can to live up to the NRC's mission "to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment." She cited a recent study by the National Academy of Sciences which concluded that the Fukushima meltdowns resulted because the power plant's operator failed to protect the reactors' key safety equipment from flooding, even though the large tsunami risk for the plant was well known. The National Academy went on to recommend that nuclear reactor operators act quickly to protect reactors from newly-discovered risks, a recommendation also made in the NRC's own expert post-Fukushima report. 

Chair Boxer’s full statement may be read at http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Majority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=a6f46ada-a42f-e3ea-0374-6318559a72b3&Region_id=&Issue_id=

Chairman Macfarlane testified that the NRC remains deeply engaged in activities to oversee the operational safety of nuclear reactors, fuel cycle plants and other materials facilities on a daily basis. The Commission is, in her view, successfully meeting a variety of challenges while also seeking to continuously improve its processes to remain a strong and effective regulator.

“Over the coming months and years, we will gain additional insights from implementation of the highest-priority actions, and the decommissioning activities at the Fukushima Dai-ichi site. As NRC staff with critical skills are freed up from the highest-priority and most safety-significant Fukushima work, we will focus our efforts on the remaining lessons learned activities, and we will disposition the remaining recommendations from the Near-Term Task Force.”

Chairman Macfarlane’s 19-page prepared testimony may be viewed at http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=55cb7f40-6b4c-4460-972f-444b7b9b5f5b

Statements of other hearing witnesses are available at http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=e00b7db3-aae3-b792-852a-bee992bb2be7

An ASME Presidential Task Force Report issued a 2012 report in response to the Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events.  The report, entitled “Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct,” is available to view on the ASME PPEC at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/

 

HOUSE PASSES EPA SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD REFORM ACT OF 2013

The House of Representatives has passed the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013 (H.R.1422), introduced by former Environment Subcommittee Chairman Chris Stewart (R-Utah).  The bill makes changes to the EPA's Science Advisory Board (SAB) regarding public participation, the process for selecting expert advisors, transparency requirements and non-scientific policy advice.  The bill passed by a vote of 229-191.

Established by Congress in 1978, the SAB plays an important role in reviewing the scientific foundation of EPA regulatory decisions and advising the agency broadly on science and technology-related matters. To address perceived deficiencies in EPA's scientific advisory process, H.R. 1422:

  • Strengthens public participation and public comment opportunities;
  • Improves the make-up of SAB and its sub-panels by reinforcing peer review requirements regarding balance and independence;
  • Requires opportunities for dissenting panelists to make their views known;
  • Requires communication of uncertainties in scientific findings and conclusions;
  • Limits non-scientific policy advice and recommendations, while requiring explicit disclosure of such advice when SAB feels compelled to provide it; and,
  • Reiterates that the EPA's SAB is to be fully and independently responsive to the Congress

The provisions in the bill draw upon recent recommendations from the Keystone Center's Research Integrity Roundtable, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and other stakeholders, as well as relevant testimony received by the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology during the 112th and 113th Congresses. Additional information can be found at: http://science.house.gov/sab-bill-press-release-quotes

 

FEDERAL BUDGET AUTHORITY FOR R&D IN FY 2014 RISES SLIGHTLY

New data indicate that in fiscal year (FY) 2014, Congress gave federal agencies authority to spend $3.2 billion more on research and development (R&D) and R&D plant (together) than in FY 2013. However, the increase only partially offset successive declines experienced in previous fiscal years.

According to a report just released by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, preliminary data for FY 2014 shows a 2.4 percent increase in federal budget authority for R&D and R&D plant, totaling an estimated $135.7 billion in current-year dollars.

The increase slightly counterbalances cuts in federal budget authority for R&D and R&D plant, which were down $4.6 billion in FY 2011; down $0.6 billion in FY 2012 and down $11.3 billion in FY 2013.

Funding cuts have fallen much more heavily on national defense than on non-defense budget functions. Preliminary estimates show that in FY 2014, federal agencies had authority to spend $70.7 billion on defense related R&D, which was down from a high of $86.8 billion in FY 2010.

To review this report, Federal Budget Authority for R&D in FY 2014 Rises Slightly Above the FY 2013 Level; Extent of Increase in FY 2015 Uncertain, please visit: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2015/nsf15308/

 

EPA ANNOUNCES DELAY IN ISSUING 2014 STANDARDS FOR THE RENEWABLE FUEL STANDARD PROGRAM

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will not be finalizing 2014 applicable percentage standards under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program before the end of 2014. In light of this delay in issuing the 2014 RFS standards, the compliance demonstration deadline for the 2013 RFS standards will take place in 2015. EPA will be making modifications to the EPA-Moderated Transaction System (EMTS) to ensure that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) generated in 2012 are valid for demonstrating compliance with the 2013 applicable standards.

On November 29, 2013, EPA published a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish the 2014 RFS standards. The proposal generated significant comment and controversy, particularly about how volumes should be set in light of lower gasoline consumption than had been forecast at the time that the Energy Independence and Security Act was enacted, and whether and on what basis the statutory volumes should be waived. Most notably, commenters expressed concerns regarding the proposal's ability to ensure continued progress towards achieving the volumes of renewable fuel targeted by the statute.

EPA has been evaluating these issues in light of the purposes of the statute and the Administration's commitment to the goals of the statute to increase the use of renewable fuels, particularly cellulosic biofuels, which will reduce the greenhouse gases emitted from the consumption of transportation fuels and diversify the nation's fuel supply. The agency intends to take action on the 2014 standards rule in 2015 prior to or in conjunction with action on the 2015 standards rule.

For additional information, go to: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/documents/fr-notice-2014-rf-standards.pdf

 

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

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