February 6, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:



President Obama has proposed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget totaling almost $4 trillion. Detailed information on the proposal, including fact sheets for department and agency specific budget requests, is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget.

Highlights of selected departments' and agencies' budget requests appear below:

  • Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP): The President's 2016 budget provides $146 billion for R&D overall, an $8 billion or six percent increase from 2015 enacted levels. Refer to http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/rdbudgets for additional information.
  • Department of Energy (DOE):  The FY 2016 Budget Request represents a nine percent increase above the FY 2015 enacted level. DOE's Office of Science would receive an increase of 5.4 percent in the budget for FY 2016, increasing from $5,067.7 million to $5,339.8 million. ARPA-E would receive $325 million under the budget request, a 16 percent increase over last year. The FY 2016 budget requests also includes $907.6 million for Nuclear Energy for research and development, an 8.6 percent increase that includes significant increases in funding for advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies as well as small modular reactor licensing technical support; $560 million for Fossil Energy Research and Development, a slight overall decline but again with targeted program increases to advance carbon capture and storage and natural gas technologies; and, $270.1 million for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability grid modernization activities, an 84 percent increase, to support a smart, resilient electric grid for the 21st century and fund critical emergency response and grid security capabilities. Refer to http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ for detailed information.
  • National Science Foundation (NSF): The FY16 request calls for $7.7 billion for NSF, an increase of $379 million over FY15, which is an increase of 5.2 percent. Of that amount, Research and Related Activities would receive $6,186.3 million, an increase of $252.7 million or 4.3 percent. Detailed information is available at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/ under General Information.
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): The Obama Administration has requested an increase of 29.6 percent in the budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a component of the US Department of Commerce.  Under this request, sent to Congress on Monday, the budget would increase from $863.9 million to $1,119.7 million.  Detailed information is available at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/ under General Information.  
  • STEM Education: The Budget establishes a new $125 million competitive with a particular focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-themed high schools that expand opportunities for girls and other groups underrepresented in STEM fields. The Budget would also invest $300 million for the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), more than double the 2015 investment, to provide better information to States and school districts on what works in key K-12 education areas such as implementing college- and career-ready standards, improving low-performing schools, and improving the performance of students in STEM.

Additional portions of the FY 2016 budget request which may be of particular interest to ASME members include the following:



The U.S. Senate approved S. 1, legislation authorizing the cross-border permit for constriction of the Keystone XL pipeline. This legislation passed the Senate by a vote of 62-36. 

The Senate's actions to approve the Keystone XL pipeline followed three weeks of debate where more than 40 amendments from both Democrats and Republicans were considered and voted on. To put that into perspective, the Senate held just 15 amendment roll call votes in 2014.

To view Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski's remarks on passage of the legislation, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKpElykzrhk&feature=youtu.be

The passage of this legislation in the Senate follows the House's passage of similar legislation earlier this year.  Earlier this week, House leaders confirmed that body would consider the Senate-passed bill rather than call for a conference committee.

Upon passage of the House bill, H.R. 3, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing that legislation. That statement may be read at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/



The Department of Energy (DOE) pulled the plug on the FutureGen 2.0 "clean-coal" power plant slated to be built in central Illinois. According to an article appearing in Crain’s, “The U.S. Department of Energy has directed the suspension of FutureGen 2.0 project development activities. The DOE has concluded that there is insufficient time to complete the project before federal funding expires in September 2015.”

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released the following statement after learning that the Department of Energy has been forced to cancel federal funding for the FutureGen project due to the FutureGen Alliance’s failure to find agreement with the private partners before the expiration of the $1 billion in funding that was secured for the public-private partnership as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act:

“The Secretary of Energy informed me that because the FutureGen Alliance was unable to secure the private financing necessary to meet the conditions of the project, the Department of Energy has been forced to end their participation. This is a huge disappointment for both Central Illinois and supporters of clean coal technology.” Read his entire statement at: http://www.durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=174a55bf-3988-4a89-923b-2fd273e72904

As part of the President’s FY 2016 budget, the administration has proposed creating a “Carbon Dioxide Investment and Sequestration Tax Credit”. The new credits are intended to accelerate commercial deployment of Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS), as well as to catalyze development of new CCUS technologies. The proposal, part of the President's POWER+ Plan to invest in coal communities, would authorize $2 billion in refundable investment tax credits for carbon capture technology installed at a new or retrofitted electric generating unit that captures and permanently "sequesters" carbon dioxide. A minimum of 70 percent of the credits must flow to projects fueled by greater than 75 percent coal. The proposal would also provide a 20-year, refundable sequestration tax credit for facilities qualifying for the investment credit that would provide $10 per metric ton or $50 per metric ton of carbon dioxide permanently sequestered and either beneficially reused or not beneficially reused, respectively.

For more information, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2016/assets/fact_sheets/building-a-clean-energy-economy-improving-energy-security-and-taking-action-on-climate-change.pdf



The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has published volumes two and five of its safety evaluation report on the geologic high-level nuclear waste repository proposed for Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Publication of these volumes completes the technical safety review of the Department of Energy's (DOE) Yucca Mountain application. The safety evaluation report includes the staff's recommendation that the Commission should not authorize construction of the repository because DOE has not met certain land and water rights requirements identified in Volume 4, published in December, and a supplement to DOE's environmental impact statement has not yet been completed.

Volume 2 covers repository safety before permanent closure. It contains the staff's conclusion that with reasonable assurance, subject to proposed conditions, DOE's application meets the NRC's regulatory requirements in that area. Volume 5 covers proposed conditions on the construction authorization, probable subjects of license specifications, and the staff's overall conclusions.

NUREG-1949, Safety Evaluation Report Related to Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Wastes in a Geologic Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, Volumes 1-5, is available on the NRC website at



The House Science Energy Subcommittee held a hearing on the Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science as a mechanism to support technological advancement in the United States. Scientific discovery in which large volumes of data is gathered and mined to exploit information, sometimes referred to as “big data,” has transformed computing technology needs. Medical research, energy and environment system simulations, computational chemistry, and innumerable other scientific problems directly benefit from this modeling.

Within DOE’s Office of Science, the ASCR program develops and maintains world-class computing facilities and provides funding for research in applied mathematics, computer science, and advanced networking. ASCR’s programs fund discovery-based science in the areas of modeling, analysis, and simulation that may enable breakthroughs in other fields of research and technology development. In May 2013, the Subcommittee held a hearing on one of ASCR’s major new initiatives involving exascale computing (refer to http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-energy-hearing-exascale-computing-challenges-and-opportunities).

Mr. Norman Augustine, Board Member of the Bipartisan Policy Center, discussed high performance computing (HPC) facilities’ unique ability to accelerate innovation and encouraged sustained federal investment in the ASCR program. The greater availability and utilization of HPC makes increasingly complex scientific research possible.  He also talked in general terms about the need for the United States to invest better in research and development.

Mr. David Turek, Vice President for IBM’s Technical Computing, emphasized the importance of the government investing in new algorithms to handle the newest amounts of data.  He claimed the last algorithms were created 40 years ago with significant federal investment and urged Congress to fund this advancement once again.

For more information about the hearing, including a link to the archived webcast, visit the Science, Space, and Technology Committee website at



U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker recently announced that the round two designation competition of the ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership’ (IMCP) is now open. IMCP, an Administration-wide initiative coordinated by the U.S. Commerce Department, is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide.

With the announcement, the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) is seeking to designate up to 12 additional communities as “manufacturing communities” under the IMCP initiative. Specifically, the program aligns federal economic development investments behind long-term economic development strategies that help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports.

A notice has been posted in the Federal Register with information on how to apply. As with the first round of competition, in order to earn the designation, communities need to demonstrate the significance of a manufacturing presence in their region and develop strategies to make investments in six areas: 1) workforce and training, 2) advanced research, 3) infrastructure and site development, 4) supply chain support, 5) trade and international investment, and 6) operational improvement and capital access.

To view the Federal Register Notice, visit http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/ under Regulations and Announcements.

For more information on IMCP, visit http://www.eda.gov/challenges/imcp/index.htm



The Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), an advisory committee that reports to NASA and Congress, has issued its 2014 annual report examining NASA's safety performance over the past year and highlighting accomplishments, issues and concerns to agency and government officials.

The report is based on the panel's 2014 fact-finding and quarterly public meetings; "insight" visits and meetings; direct observations of NASA operations and decision-making processes; discussions with NASA management, employees and contractors; and the panel members' own experience.

The 2014 report highlights include:

  • Constancy of purpose;
  • Risk transparency;
  • International Space Station operations;
  • Exploration systems development; and,
  • Commercial cargo and crew to transport low-Earth orbit.

Congress established the panel in 1968 to provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA administrator on safety matters after the 1967 Apollo 1 fire that claimed the lives of three American astronauts.

For more information about the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and to view the 2014 report, visit http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/ and look under General Information.


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