February 01, 2019
Capitol Update

In this issue:


SHUTDOWN LEAVES SCIENCE AGENCIES WITH LARGE BACKLOG

President Trump recently announced that a deal had been reached to end the government shutdown. Totaling 35 days, the longest government shutdown ended when President Trump signed a piece of stopgap legislation that reopens all affected agencies for three weeks, through February 15.

Despite the shutdown being over, many science agencies are struggling to resume the normal operative status quo. Major science agencies that were closed include the National Science Foundation (NSF), NASA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Among the litany of tasks facing these agencies are the updating of their public-facing websites. These websites are one of the primary ways agencies communicate with the public, but since the shutdown they have remained unchanged, reflecting only announcements from the beginning of December.

For agencies that provide grants and awards such as the NSF, getting back on track and reviewing the backlog of applications will be neither quick nor easy. “Nobody has looked at any of that stuff,” David Conover, vice president of research at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and a former ocean division director at NSF explained in an interview with Science Magazine. “And NSF may want to wait a while to see what happens in Congress before they think about rescheduling everything, because they could be shut down again.”

If a new agreement is not reached by February 15, there is the possibility that Congress and the White House will agree to a further extension rather than another shutdown. To avoid another shutdown, Congress and the White House must come to an agreement regarding President Trump’s $5.7 billion wall along the Southern border.


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY RELEASES 2018 YEAR IN REVIEW

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released its Year in Review report for 2018. The report includes a list of accomplishments the agency achieved over the past year.

“Over the past year, the Trump Administration has continued to deliver on its promises to the American public. Not only are the economic prospects of Americans brighter and improving by the day, but so are environmental and public health conditions. Under President Trump, America is on a path to a stronger, safer, and cleaner future,” EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated in the report’s introduction. 

The achievements highlighted in the report include 13 deregulatory actions that were finalized in 2018. Since President Trump assumed office in 2018, the report notes that the EPA has finalized 33 major deregulatory actions, which have resulted in an almost $2 billion savings for the American people.

Among the major proposals issued in 2018, the report calls out the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, the Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient Vehicles Rule, both of which drew debate when first released, and the New Waters of the U.S. Definition. Thanks to these deregulatory actions, the report notes that the agency almost doubled its cost-savings goals. Looking ahead to FY19, the agency has proposed a regulatory budget with more than $800 million in anticipated regulatory cost savings.

Beyond its regulatory outcomes, the report explains that the agency awarded $4,451,520,905 in federal grants in FY18, including 37 environment education grants totaling $3,306,760. Through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, EPA awarded $3.5 million to 22 small businesses in Phase I and II contracts to create new technologies that would help resolve current environmental issues.

To read the report in full, click here: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2019-01/documents/epa_2018_yearinreview_0128-4.pdf


HOUSE SCIENCE COMMITTEE ANNOUNCES FULL ROSTER OF MEMBERS FOR 116TH CONGRESS

Both the Democrats and Republicans recently released their committee rosters for the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. The democratic roster, led by Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, includes a number of new members of congress. The full roster is:

DEMOCRATS
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Chairwoman
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1)
Rep. Ami Bera (CA-7)
Rep. Conor Lamb (PA-17)
Rep. Lizzie Fletcher (TX-7)
Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-11)
Rep. Kendra Horn (OK-5)
Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11)
Rep. Brad Sherman (CA-30)
Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-9)
Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9)
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO-7)
Rep. Paul Tonko (NY-20)
Rep. Bill Foster (IL-11)
Rep. Don Beyer (VA-8)
Rep. Charlie Crist (FL-13)
Rep. Sean Casten (IL-6)
Rep. Katie Hill (CA-25)
Rep. Ben McAdams (UT-4)
Rep. Jennifer Wexton (VA-10)

REPUBLICANS
Rep. Frank Lucas (OK-3), Ranking Member
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)
Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL)
Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX)
Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX)
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS)
Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC)
Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX)
Rep. Troy Balderson (R-OH)
Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX)
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH)
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL)
Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN)

On the Republican side, two committee spots remain open and will be filled at a later date. Neither the House Democrats nor the House Republicans have released the names of who will chair each of the subcommittees. On the House side, there are five subcommittees: Subcommittee on Energy; Environment; Oversight; Research and Technology; and Space.


HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP QUESTION ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY’S CLEAN AIR ROLLBACK POLICIES

Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee recently sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requesting further information regarding EPA’s clean air rollbacks. Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee Chairman Paul Tonko (D-NY) requested information on five specific areas in which they note EPA is taking or planning on taking action:

  • Weakening mercury and air toxics standards;
  • Undermining protections against toxic air pollution by withdrawing the longstanding “Once in Always in” (OIAI) policy;
  • Undermining human health protections against harmful exhaust from certain freight trucks;
  • Undermining scientific integrity in reviewing and setting National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) under the Clean Air Act (CAA); and
  • Weakening and discrediting the role of science in Agency proceedings.

“Congress and the public require a more detailed explanation of EPA’s actions to assess the consequences of these policy changes. We request information to enable to Committee to evaluate the potential effects of these actions on public health and the environment.”

A recently press release from the Energy and Commerce Committee notes that recent release of the administration’s Fourth National Climate Assessment stated that over 100 million people in the U.S. currently live in areas where air pollution exceeds air quality standards. The assessment explained that without more stringent air quality standards, air quality will continue to deteriorate. This will lead to consequences such as increased adverse health effects, primarily among vulnerable populations such as older adults, pregnant women, and children.

The Committee requests a response to its letter no later than February 11.
To view the letter in full, click here: https://energycommerce.house.gov/sites/democrats.energycommerce.house.gov/files/documents/EPA.2019.1.28.%20Letter%20re%20EPA%20Air%20Rollbacks.EE_.OI_.pdf


NEW REPORT SEEKS TO MAKE THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES A PIONEER PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT ON CLIMATE CHANGE

The Climate Change Initiative (CCI), an initiative launched by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently released its strategic plan. The Climate Change Initiative Strategic plan seeks to bolster the National Academies’ bandwidth in providing the administration and Congress with accurate scientific and technological counsel. The National Academies created the CCI as a means to:

  • More effectively meet the nation’s needs for climate information by being responsive to and engaging with different audiences;
  • Identify the National Academies’ particular niche in the broader landscape of climate communication efforts;
  • Leverage climate-related work from across the institution to more fully realize the potential of the information to meet user needs;
  • Develop innovative approaches to be nimbler and more responsive, and to proactively meet user needs in a rapidly changing context; and
  • Advance institutional coordination on this cross-cutting issue

The goal of the report is to promote the National Academies as a thought leader and vehicle for communicating the threats of climate change. This new report bills itself as “a starting point and guidance for advancing how the National Academies engage with audiences about the climate, with the understanding that priorities will be responsive to evaluation and adapted as the institution learns more about its audience and their needs.”

To view the report in full, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/25368/climate-communications-initiative-strategic-plan


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ANNOUNCES NEW FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES ON COAL MODERNIZATION, SMART GRID, QUANTUM

The Department of Energy recently announced $38 million available in funding for projects that will improve current technologies pertaining to the overall performance, reliability, and flexibility of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. The funding is available under the Office of Fossil Energy’s funding opportunity announcement (FOA) Improving Efficiency, Reliability, and Flexibility of Existing Coal-Based Power Plants. Awarded projects under this FOA will support both the DOE’s Transformative Power Generation Program and the Crosscutting Research Program.

“Utilizing all of our energy resources to ensure the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s electricity is a top priority for the Department of Energy,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. “Modernizing and advancing the existing coal fleet is imperative to this mission. By improving the efficiency of our baseload generation, we are strengthening the reliability of all our electricity generation.” For further information and to apply for this FOA, visit: https://www.fedconnect.net/FedConnect/default.aspx?ReturnUrl=%2fFedConnect%2f%3fdoc%3dDE-FOA-0001989%26agency%3dDOE&doc=DE-FOA-0001989&agency=DOE

DOE also recently announced $40 million in available funding for its crosscutting Grid Modernization Initiative (GMI). The goal of the GMI is to engage both public and private partners in collaboration to develop new tools and technologies that measure, analyze, predict, protect, and control the grid of the future. This new FOA will focus on supporting the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC) and bolstering core competencies for the future. Specific topic areas include modeling; advanced sensors; energy storage; cyber security; and institutional support. Additional details of the FOA will be released in the coming month.

The GMI is a collaboration that spans all of DOE, including the national laboratories. GMI focuses on the development of new architectural concepts, tools, and technologies that measure, analyze, predict, protect, and control the grid of the future, and on enabling the institutional conditions that allow for more rapid development and widespread adoption of these tools and technologies The GMLC is a key component of the GMI. It was established as a strategic partnership between DOE and the national laboratories to bring together leading experts, technologies, and resources to collaborate on the goal of modernizing the nation’s grid.

For further information about the GMI, visit: https://www.energy.gov/grid-modernization-initiative

Additionally, DOE recently announced $45 million in funding available for research in chemical and materials sciences with the goal of advancing the field of Quantum Information Science (QIS). QIS has become a top priority across the administration. At the beginning of this year the president signed the National Quantum Initiative Act into law, a multi-agency initiative that calls for the implementation of a National Quantum Initiative Program establishing a set of goals and priorities for a 10-year plan that that will augment and ameliorate U.S. quantum information science and technology applications. Late last year the White House held a summit on Advancing American Leadership in QIS. Following this event the National Science Foundation announced $31 million in QIS research funding, and DOE announced $218 million in QIS funding.

DOE is soliciting proposals in two separate areas:

  • Chemical and materials sciences research aimed at the design and discovery of novel systems and materials relevant to the development of quantum information science;
  • The use of quantum computing to solve problems in chemical and materials science research.

“QIS will play a major role in shaping the future of computing and a range of other vitally important technologies,” said DOE Under Secretary of Science Paul Dabbar. “This initiative ensures that America will remain on the cutting edge of the chemical and materials science breakthroughs that will form the basis for future QIS systems.”

The award is funded by the Basic Energy Sciences program in the DOE’s Office of Science. Awards will be available for both single investigators and small groups, as well as larger teams. Pre-applications are February 13 at 5pm, final applications are due May 3 at 5pm.

The funding opportunity announcement for nonprofits and universities can be found here: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html?keywords=de-foa-0002054

And here: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/grants/pdf/foas/2019/SC_FOA_0002054.pdf

The FOA for National laboratories can be found here: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/grants/pdf/lab-announcements/2019/LAB_19-2054.pdf

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