July 21, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


On July 13, the House Appropriations Committee, led by Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), approved the fiscal year 2018 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations bill with a vote of 31-21. The draft version of the CJS bill was previously reported in the July 14th edition of Capitol Update.The bill cuts MEP funding by $30 million and defunds the Commerce Department’s portion of the Manufacturing USA network of institutes.

CJS Subcommittee Chairman John Culberson (R-TX) said that the bill provides the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the funding needed to lift America’s space program above the glory days of Apollo. The bill also funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.

The legislation contains $54 billion in total discretionary funding, a decrease of $2.6 billion below fiscal year 2017 and $4 billion above the President’s request for these programs. The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage. Funds were also included to help continue investments in space exploration programs, and advance groundbreaking science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth, which resulted in other programs being reduced or eliminated.

Earlier this week, the House Republican appropriators began to whip votes for a potential 12-bill omnibus package that would be considered on the House floor. However, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy then said that lawmakers will consider a four-bill fiscal 2018 appropriations package consisting of Defense, Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction-VA before leaving for the August recess, with action expected the last full week of July.

For a bill summary of the CJS full Appropriations committee bill, please visit:



At a recent Congressional hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Federal Electrical Regulatory Commission (FERC) testified on how it has prepared for electromagnetic and geomagnetic disturbances (GMD). FERC has the responsibility to approve and enforce mandatory reliability standards for the nation’s bulk-power system under section 215 of the Federal Power Act (FPA). The reliability standards are developed and modified as needed by the Electric Reliability Organization that FERC certifies to perform this task, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

The steps FERC takes to mitigate one aspect of EMP are the implementation of operational procedures to mitigate the effects of GMDs and to require responsible entities to conduct initial and on-going assessments of the potential impacts. FERC also supports grid security through voluntary and collaborative efforts with other federal agencies, states, industry, and other stakeholders to improve coordination and knowledge-sharing regarding threats to the grid. This work includes, among other activities, the development, identification, and dissemination of best practices; participation in grid reliability exercises; providing briefings to state colleagues and ensuring adequate inventories of critical grid infrastructure, particularly long-lead time construction items like high-voltage transformers and through a sharing service for backup or spare transformers among participating transmission owners.

These programs are intended to enhance grid resilience. Nonetheless, there is no consensus as to how best to protect against EMP and more research is needed. Therefore, FERC has not launched a mandatory standard unless it concludes that the standard would effectively mitigate the threat at a justifiable cost.

Additional information about the testimony can be found at:  https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=6C6D7F9C-F0AB-4CEE-A74A-F7A0C6315F1B


U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, convened a hearing entitled “Paving The Way For Self-Driving Vehicles” to explore automated vehicle technology and hurdles for testing and deployment in the United States. The hearing also examined state and federal roles to ensure safety while promoting innovation and American competitiveness.

During the hearing, Mitch Bainwol, President and CEO for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents the twelve manufacturers that have produced 80% of the cars now on American roads and is investing billions of dollars annually on R&D to improve fuel efficiency and enhance safety, made several recommendations as the committee considers future legislation on the topic of self-driving cars. One recommendation was to pass legislation significantly expanding the number and duration of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard  (FMVSS) exemptions of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), directing NHTSA to collect the data and information needed to promptly refresh and modernize the FMVSS to facilitate the safe deployment of self-driving vehicles, and passing legislation clarifying federal versus state regulatory roles to facilitate innovation and the expeditious deployment of life-saving self-driving technologies.

Colleen Sheehey-Church, National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), emphasized the need to improve safety to save lives and encouraged Congress and the administration to provide the guidance for the roll out of autonomous vehicles. She was concerned that if states regulate safety, they may not have the technical expertise to do so and their involvement could hinder the technological progress in the deployment of this life-saving technology.

The Committee also heard that the technology was largely invented in the United States, but other countries are moving quickly to advance the technology development as well as to set the standards.

To review the witness testimony, please go to: https://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2017/6/paving-the-way-for-self-driving-vehicles


The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) recently funded a project developed by a University of Utah team and led by an electrical and computer engineering professor to create liquid-based lenses. These lenses “flex” and allow the wearer to focus on whatever he or she is viewing at the time. Using three electronically controlled mechanical actuators to bend the liquid lens of the smart glasses can create a one size fits all pair of vision wear. These glasses would bend to wearer’s need by incorporating an array of electrical, mechanical, optical, sensor, and computer technologies to mimic the natural lens’ flexing ability, which is lost with age and causes an inability to focus. Focusing can become more complicated if a person is unable to focus at multiple distances, therefore requiring multiple lenses in a pair of glasses, i.e. bifocals, trifocals or progressives.

The lenses are made of glycerin between flexible membranes and mounted into frames that have an electromechanical system that causes the membranes to bend to adjust their focus. A computer algorithm works with the critical variables of the prescription and the precise distance the wearer is looking to make adjustments. Once the wearer looks elsewhere, the lenses can refocus in 14 milliseconds—25 times faster than an eye blink.

Additional information is available at: https://www.nibib.nih.gov/news-events/newsroom/tunable-electric-eyeglasses-bend-will-wearer


The House Science Committee’s Energy Subcommittee held a hearing on oil and gas technology innovation.

During the hearing, witness Mr. Edward Johnston, Senior Vice President for Research and Development of the Gas Technology Institute, emphasized that the boom of shale gas started with over three decades of research in the development of unconventional resources (coal bed methane, tight sands, and shale) and produced seminal research in the fields of the eastern U.S. during the 1980s. Shale production has improved, but there is still much more that can be done to optimize the network of natural and induced fractures to greatly increase recovery. Currently, the volume of available U.S. shale gas and shale oil recovered is typically below 20% and 10%, respectively, and sometimes much lower.

He also said that the U.S. has a very unique alignment of factors that no other country in the world enjoys that has made shale development successful:

  • Vast resource of brittle shale
  • Tremendous pipeline infrastructure
  • Mineral right ownership by landowners
  • Robust service sector
  • Entrepreneurial spirit of the independent producer
  • Great access to capital
  • Public policy that incentivizes development.

Dr. David Brower, Founder and President of Astro Technology, then testified to the invention of the Allam Cycle, a new industrial high-pressure, direct-fired, oxy-combustion, and supercritical carbon dioxide power cycle. The Allam Cycle takes natural gas or gasified coal syngas and combusts it at high pressure with pure oxygen (as opposed to air), nearly eliminating the presence of nitrogen and generates carbon dioxide. This CO2 is then used to drive a high-pressure gas turbine to produce power and can be cooled in a heat exchanger. Then the water can be removed, and the remaining nearly-pure CO2 working fluid is compressed, pumped, re-heated in the heat exchanger, and sent back into the combustor at high pressure and temperature.

More information about the hearing and the other witnesses who testified can be found here: https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/energy-subcommittee-hearing-oil-and-gas-technology-innovation


The purpose of a recent House Science Committee hearing was to develop legislation that updates the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Programs and to hold individual federal agencies and their leaders accountable for compliance and performance to combat waste, fraud and abuse, which will strengthen the programs. Witnesses provided recommendations to accelerate conversion of basic science and engineering into innovative products and solutions and on ways to maximize the return on taxpayers’ investment in these programs.

John Clanton, CEO of Lynntech, Inc., a company involved in infrared camera signal improvements, power systems for the Navy’s Unmanned Undersea Vehicle programs, and on demand hypoxia training devices, described the problems regarding commercialization across agencies as not being a consistent process. Using the military sector as an example, small businesses encounter a procurement system that discourages program managers from taking risk so that new technology development has a high barrier to entry. Many technology development firms decide to not participate in the SBIR program, because it can take years before a new technology can be transitioned.

Another witness, Angela Albán Naranjo, President and CEO of SIMETRI, a small woman-owned, minority-owned business, testified to how her business has successfully participated in the SBIR and STTR programs to create innovative intellectual property that promotes more rapid technological innovation and economic growth. She also urged greater emphasis on research and development by the U.S. to continue to be the world leader and that progress is now determined by the new innovations developed as much as by the ways in which they are applied and quickly disseminated.

Dr. Clinton T. Rubin, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Director of the Center for Biotechnology, testified about the two year old National Institutes of Health (NIH) Research, Evaluation and Commercialization Hub (REACH) program, which is used to catalyze technology development by fostering new intellectual property, increasing credibility with the investor community, promoting a shift in the academic culture, attracting new licensing opportunities, and catalyzing the formation of new companies. REACH also creates an innovative climate on campuses to drive entrepreneurship by creating an ecosystem that will nurture the companies that vie for SBIR‐type support.

For more information about the hearing, go to: https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/joint-subcommittee-contracting-and-workforce-and-subcommittee-research

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:
*ASME Eclipse Intern Goes to Washington
*The U.S. No Longer Has One of the Top Three Fastest Supercomputers
*South Korea Scraps Plants, Signals Shift from Nuclear Energy
*Manufacturing in U.S. Settles In at Solid Pace of Expansion

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