January 27, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:

Editor’s Note: Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), who holds a B.S. in civil engineering, was inadvertently left off the list of U.S House of Representatives’ members with engineering degrees in the January 20th edition of Capitol Update. We regret this error, and it has been corrected on the version on asme.org.


President Trump issued a series of sweeping Executive Orders this week, kicking off a number of inter-agency policy reviews and resurrecting the review process for the previously stalled-out regulatory decisions on controversial projects like the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. The Executive Actions are the first steps in fulfilling some of the President’s campaign promises to revive American manufacturing and roll back regulations.

In addition to re-opening the review process for the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, the President also issued an order to require “a plan under which all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired, or expanded pipelines, inside the borders of the United States, including portions of pipelines, use materials and equipment produced in the United States, to the maximum extent possible.”

The President also issued Executive Orders aimed at manufacturing in general, pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations and directing all agencies “to support the expansion of manufacturing in the United States through expedited reviews of and approvals for proposals to construct or expand manufacturing facilities and through reductions in regulatory burdens affecting domestic manufacturing.” While vague, the “Streamlining Permitting and Reducing Regulatory Burdens for Domestic Manufacturing” Executive Order requires the Secretary of Commerce to submit a report within 60 days that will outline specific actions, deadlines, and additional needed reforms.

To view each Executive Action, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions


Deloitte recently released a Department of Defense-funded study that came to the overarching conclusion that Manufacturing USA, the industry-led, interagency program charged with revitalizing American manufacturing competitiveness, is achieving its goal since its inception four years earlier.

According to the study, the first eight advanced manufacturing institutes have reached a critical mass of valuable connections among 1,200 participating companies, universities and government agencies. Those connections are: accelerating the innovation needed to develop new products and markets, helping alleviate a shortage of technically trained manufacturing workers, and building a sustainable national manufacturing research infrastructure. An additional six institutes have since launched for a total of 14 with each institute having a distinct focus area.

Congress is also focused on manufacturing with the House Manufacturing Caucus bringing in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) for a briefing in the Rayburn Office Building this past week. Panelists from academia and industry who are working with AMO to achieve its mission of improving the competitiveness of our nation’s manufacturers and manufacturing workforce were invited.

To review the report, go to: http://bit.ly/2jRBnHx 


From March 14-16, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will host nuclear stakeholders, policymakers, regulators, and technical experts at its 29th Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) conference in Bethesda, MD. Speakers include NRC Chairman Stephen Burns and Commissioners Kristine L. Svinicki and Jeff Baran. There will also be numerous technical sessions and posters presented.

Advanced reactors will be on the agenda as well as the focus of international regulators, decommissioning of reactors, and emergency preparedness. Opportunities to network with the NRC staff to learn more about upcoming regulatory and policy trends and to tour the NRC’s operational facility are available.

To read more details and for the live streaming of the conference, please visit:


Under the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will provide long-term, low-cost credit assistance in the form of direct loans and loan guarantees to creditworthy water projects.

The program is available to state, local, and tribal governments; private entities; partnerships; and State Revolving Fund programs. It is estimated that funds appropriated to the WIFIA program ($17 million in FY 17) can be leveraged at a ratio greater than 50 to one, and are a step forward for modernizing our nation’s aging water infrastructure. WIFIA offers a new opportunity to provide billions of dollars in low-interest loans to communities to build large infrastructure projects, significantly accelerating investments that benefit our nation’s public health and water security.

To evaluate projects, criteria such as the following are used:

  • Is the project nationally or regionally significant?
  • How would it help maintain or protect public health or the environment?
  • How would it protect against extreme weather?
  • How would it serve regions with significant water resource challenges?

EPA estimates that the U.S. needs about $660 billion in investments for drinking water, wastewater, and storm water infrastructure over the next 20 years.

Additional information about some of EPA’s WIFIA projects can be found at: http:/www.epa.gov/wifia


A new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends the federal government should use a new framework that would estimate the social cost of carbon dioxide. This framework would strengthen the scientific basis, provide greater transparency, and improve characterization of the uncertainties of the estimates. Additionally, the report identifies both near and longer-term improvements that should be made for calculating the social cost of carbon (SC-CO2).

The SC-CO2 is intended to be a comprehensive estimate of the net damages from carbon emissions —that is, the net costs and benefits associated with climate change impacts such as changes in net agricultural productivity, risks to human health, and damage from such events as floods.  As required by executive orders and a court ruling, government agencies use the SC-CO2 when analyzing the impacts of various regulations, including standards for vehicle emissions and fuel economy, regulation of emissions from power plants, and energy efficiency standards for appliances.

In the past, a federal Interagency Working Group on the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases (IWG) developed a methodology to estimate the SC-CO2. The National Academies committee that authored the report was charged with examining potential approaches for a comprehensive update to this methodology. Efforts by the IWG to estimate the SC-CO2 focus primarily on total global damages because the impacts of CO2 emissions are global regardless of where they originate. While estimating net damages per ton of CO2 emissions to the United States alone is “feasible in principle,” the report says, these efforts are limited by existing SC-CO2 methodologies.

The report recommends that the IWG “unbundle” this process and instead use a framework in which each step of the SC-CO2 calculation is developed as one of four separate but integrated “modules.” There is the socioeconomic module, the climate module, the damages module, and the discounting module. Data generated by the socioeconomic module feeds into the other three modules, and the temperature changes generated by the climate module would inform the damages module. Each module would be developed based on expertise in the relevant scientific disciplines

For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2jiVZrv


Catalysts are at the heart of fuel cells, which are devices that convert hydrogen and oxygen to water and produce electricity. However, finding effective, inexpensive catalysts has been a key challenge to wider deployment of fuel cells.

Scientists have been looking at ways to deal with the high costs of the platinum (Pt)-based nanoparticles used as catalysts in fuel cells to accelerate the reactions converting the chemical energy from renewable fuels—such as hydrogen, methanol, and ethanol. With a focus of incorporating less expensive metals inside the nanoparticles to reduce costs and improve activity and durability, scientists from the Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, California State University–Northridge, Soochow University, Peking University, and Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics have developed catalysts that can undergo 50,000 voltage cycles with a negligible decay in their catalytic activity and no apparent changes in their structure or elemental composition.

To read more, go to: https://www.bnl.gov/CFN/news/news.php?a=11901

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