July 10, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


Register for ASME'S July 15th Public Policy Webinar on "Advanced Manufacturing Initiatives for America's Future!"

ASME Members – and non-members - are invited to join ASME Government Relations for a webinar scheduled for Wednesday, July 15th from 12:00 noon-1:00pm (EST) featuring Dr. Gloria Wiens, the Assistant Director for Research Partnerships at the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office and a current ASME Foundation Swanson Fellow. 

Manufacturing is a matter of fundamental importance to the economic strength and national security of the United States. More than any other industry, a globally competitive manufacturing sector translates inventions, research discoveries, and new ideas into better or novel products or processes. This webinar will provide a briefing on the game-changing federal government initiatives, public-private partnerships and opportunities in advanced manufacturing, with a focus on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership recommendations detailed in their report on Accelerating U.S. Advanced Manufacturing. 

Gloria Wiens, Ph.D., has been serving as an ASME Foundation Swanson Fellow since September 2013.  Dr. Wiens is an associate professor and the director of the Space, Automation, and Manufacturing Mechanisms (SAMM) Laboratory at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Her research interests include robotics; spatial mechanisms; system dynamics and controls with applications in space; reconfigurable micro/small satellite deployable systems; automation; MEMS/biomedical devices; and micro/mesoscale manipulation and manufacturing. Her teaching focuses on dynamics and controls of robotic systems; kinematics and dynamics of machinery; and vibrations and controls.

Information about the webinar is available on the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/

The online registration is available at is: https://engage.vevent.com/rt/asme~advancedmanufacturingpartnership

Members who were unable to participate in the June 24th webinar on the “Fiscal Year 2016 Federal Research and Development Budget” can view the webinar at https://engage.vevent.com/rt/asme~fed_research.


ASME Interns Begin WISE Program in Washington, D.C.

The Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) program began its 35th year in June. The WISE goal is to prepare future leaders of the engineering profession in the United States who are aware of, and who can contribute to, the increasingly important issues at the intersection of science, technology, and public policy.

This year, ASME is sponsoring three interns, each of whom will produce a public policy paper of interest at the conclusion of the program. This year's ASME interns' paper topics showcase the diversity of mechanical engineering:

  • Paige Balcom, a rising senior at the University of New Hampshire who is being sponsored by ASME Engineering for Global Development, is researching how irrigation and aquaponics can be better utilized in the developing world to improve lives and help local communities
  • Garrett Dowd, a recent graduate at the University of Akron, is examining the possibility of improving public safety through the inclusion of newer automated safety features on standard passenger vehicles.
  • David MacPherson is a senior that is being sponsored by his undergraduate institution, the Georgia Institute of Technology. His topic relates to ocean and wave energy, and the feasibility of this technology becoming a larger percentage of the renewable energy mix.

Read more about the WISE Program and ASME's three WISE interns at
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/asme-interns-begin-wise-program-in-washington-d-c/


Bipartisan Senators Introduce Bill to Level the Playing Field for Renewable Energy

U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Representatives Ted Poe (R-TX) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) re-introduced bipartisan legislation to give investors in renewable energy projects access to a decades-old corporate structure whose tax advantage is currently available only to investors in fossil fuel-based energy projects. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act is a modification of the federal tax code that could provide private capital by helping additional energy-generation and renewable fuel companies form master limited partnerships, which combine the funding advantages of corporations and the tax advantages of partnerships.

A master limited partnership (MLP) is a business structure that is taxed as a partnership, but whose ownership interests are traded like corporate stock on a market. By statute, MLPs have only been available to investors in energy portfolios for oil, natural gas, coal extraction, and pipeline projects.

These projects get access to capital at a lower cost and are more liquid than traditional financing approaches to energy projects, making them highly effective at attracting private investment. Investors in renewable energy projects, however, have been explicitly prevented from forming MLPs, starving a fast growing portion of America's domestic energy sector of the capital it needs to build and grow.

Newly eligible power generation from renewables, renewable fuels and related energy activities: Solar (PV and CSP), Wind, Hydropower, Marine/Hydrokinetic, Fuel Cells, Electricity Storage, Combined Heat and Power, Biomass, Waste Heat to Power, Renewable Fuels, Biodiesel, Biorefineries, Energy Efficient Buildings, Carbon Capture and Storage.

A detailed overview of the bill is available at: http://www.coons.senate.gov/issues/master-limited-partnerships-parity-act


House Passes Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015; White House Issues Unconditional Veto Threat

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, by a margin of 247 to 180. The Office of Management and Budget issued a Statement of Administration Policy on the bill stating that if the President were presented with the bill, he would veto it.

In June of 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule for existing power plants, referred to by the agency as its “Clean Power Plan.” In the rule, EPA interprets a rarely invoked provision of the Clean Air Act, section 111(d), to allow the agency to set mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) “goals” for each state’s electricity system.

Under EPA’s proposal, states would be required to submit plans to the EPA in 2016, and to begin to meet interim goals in 2020 and a final goal in 2030. For states that do not submit a satisfactory plan, EPA would impose a federal plan, a model of which has not yet been proposed by the agency. EPA estimates annual costs of $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion in 2020 and $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030. But according to other forecasts, the potential costs are much higher and could range from $366 billion to $479 billion over the period 2017-2031.

Additional information on H.R. 2042 is available at:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/fact-sheet/ratepayer-protection-act#sthash.ow441ZwU.dpuf

The measure is headed to the Senate where Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) has introduced a measure, S. 1324, which would allow states to delay submitting an implementation plan to EPA or choose not to implement the power plant rule at all, citing reliability or economic concerns.

With regard to H.R. 2042, the Statement of Administration Policy reads as follows: “the bill is premature and unnecessary. It is premature because the Clean Power Plan has not yet been finalized; it is unnecessary because EPA has made clear its commitment to address concerns raised during the public comment period (including concerns related to cost and reliability) when issuing the final Clean Power Plan this summer and working with the States on the development of the State Plans. The effect of the bill would therefore be a wholly unnecessary postponement of reductions of harmful air pollution.”

To review the entire Statement of Administration Policy, please visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr2042r_20150623.pdf


House Science Subcommittees Examine "Is NSF Properly Managing its Rotating Staff?"

The House Science Oversight and Research & Technology Subcommittees held a joint hearing titled” Is NSF Properly Managing its Rotating Staff?” The hearing examined the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) use of “rotators” or external researchers and educators from across the United States in addition to the NSF’s permanent scientific and engineering staff.

Nearly one-third of all NSF program officers are rotators, who are involved in making funding decisions. Most of these rotators come to NSF under the authority of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignments.

According to a 2013 Inspector General (IG) report, IPAs cost the NSF on average $36,448 more per IPA than the average permanent federal employee.5 IPA-related costs totaled more than $6.7 million in 2013. Additionally, a 2010 IG report found that IPAs in management level positions at the NSF lacked the institutional knowledge regarding federal employment protocols, training, and expectations.

The NSF IG, The Honorable Allison Lerner, completed a report on June 19, 2015, outlining a specific circumstance where clear conflicts of interest existed at NSF between an IPA and recipients of NSF grants the IPA oversaw. The NSF IG made several recommendations including the suspension of the three grants awarded in light of clear conflicts of interests and discussed  the findings of the report in addition to recommendations to prevent similar situations from being repeated in the future.

Additional information on the hearing may be viewed at: http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-oversight-and-subcommittee-research-and-technology-hearing-nsf-ig-findings


GAO Report: "3D Printing: Opportunities, Challenges, and Policy Implications of Additive Manufacturing"

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “3D Printing: Opportunities, Challenges, and Policy Implications of Additive Manufacturing,” a summary of the discussions at the October 15-16, 2014, forum convened by GAO with the assistance of the National Academies. Forum participants included officials from government, business, academia, and nongovernmental organizations that were selected to represent a range of viewpoints and backgrounds.

Forum participants identified many opportunities for using additive manufacturing, also known as three-dimensional (3D) printing, to produce functional parts and discussed benefits that have been realized in the medical, aerospace, and defense sectors. For example, they said that the medical industry is using additive manufacturing to produce customized prosthetics and implants, including cranial implants. Because it is made specifically for a patient, the part results in a better fit, which leads to a better medical outcome. In the aerospace industry, participants said additive manufacturing was used to design and produce a complex jet engine fuel nozzle as a single part, which will reduce assembly time and costs for the engine. Participants identified some future applications of additive manufacturing including enhancing supply chain management. Overall, participants concluded that additive manufacturing will not replace conventional manufacturing, but rather it will be an additional tool for manufacturers to use when it is appropriate from a cost-benefit perspective.

Forum participants also identified three broad groups of challenges in using additive manufacturing to produce functional parts: ensuring product quality; limited design tools and workforce skills; and, supporting increased production of functional parts.
Forum participants identified key considerations for potential federal policy actions that could affect the future use of additive manufacturing, including industry challenges, areas affected by additive manufacturing growth, and tradeoffs. Participants discussed several areas of potential government involvement, such as coordinating standards setting, considering risks for infringement of intellectual property rights with regard to additive manufacturing products, and encouraging a national dialogue about the government's role and its goals.

The complete 63-page report is available at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/ under “Issue Reports”.

 

The articles contained in Capitol Update are not positions of ASME or any of its sub-entities, unless specifically noted as such. This publication is designed to inform ASME members about issues of concern being debated and discussed in the halls of congress, in the states and in the federal agencies.

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