June 12, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:


ASME Members are invited to join us for two upcoming webinars. The first will be on Wednesday, June 24th at 12:00pm (EST) and will discuss the “Fiscal Year 2016 Federal Research and Development (R&D) Budget”. The second will take place on July 15th at noon and will cover the “Latest Developments in Manufacturing Policy”.

The first webinar will provide a deeper understanding of the FY16 R&D Budget, the budget priorities for the Administration and Congress and insights into the impact of federal investments on engineering research. The presenter for the webinar will be Matthew Hourihan, Director of the R&D Budget and Policy Program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This webinar is rescheduled from May 20th, when the webcast vendor had some technical difficulties.

The second webinar will feature Dr. Gloria Wiens, the Assistant Director for Research Partnerships at the Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office and current ASME Swanson Federal Fellow. Dr. Wiens will discuss the current state of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and how the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0 Committee’s recommendations have been implemented.

Registration information is available on the ASME Public Policy Education Center at:


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released a report in which faculty and other researchers detail specific impacts, within their fields, of the declining federal investment in basic research. The report, “The Future Postponed: Why Declining Investment in Basic Research Threatens a U.S. Innovation Deficit”, was prepared by a committee of MIT researchers and research administrators. Examining how funding cutbacks will affect the future of scientific studies in the U.S., the report highlights opportunities in basic research that could help shape and maintain U.S. economic power, and benefit society.

The report looks at challenges facing the U.S. and the world in a variety of fields, from cybersecurity and robotics to plant biology and infectious diseases, and details the potential benefits, in each, of increased U.S. federal government support for basic research. In “The Future Postponed,” MIT researchers discuss 15 discrete areas in which government support is needed, highlighting potential opportunities within these fields. For example, the report cites the need to expand research in neurobiology, brain chemistry, and the science of aging to develop new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Additionally, the report’s authors emphasize that the U.S. has an opportunity to take a global leadership role in areas including fusion energy research, robotics, and quantum information technologies.

To read the report, visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/ and look under “Issue Reports”.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a draft assessment on the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing activities on drinking water resources in the United States. The assessment, done at the request of Congress, shows that while hydraulic fracturing activities in the U.S. are carried out in a way that have not led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources, there are potential vulnerabilities in the water lifecycle that could impact drinking water. The assessment follows the water used for hydraulic fracturing from water acquisition, chemical mixing at the well pad site, well injection of fracking fluids, the collection of hydraulic fracturing wastewater (including flowback and produced water), and wastewater treatment and disposal.

EPA's review of data sources available to the agency found specific instances where well integrity and waste water management related to hydraulic fracturing activities impacted drinking water resources, but they were small compared to the large number of hydraulically fractured wells across the country. The report provides valuable information about potential vulnerabilities, some of which are not unique to hydraulic fracturing, to drinking water resources, but was not designed to be a list of documented impacts. 

These vulnerabilities to drinking water resources include:

  • Water withdrawals in areas with low water availability;
  • Hydraulic fracturing conducted directly into formations containing drinking water resources;
  • Inadequately cased or cemented wells resulting in below ground migration of gases and liquids;
  • Inadequately treated wastewater discharged into drinking water resources; and,
  • Spills of hydraulic fluids and hydraulic fracturing wastewater, including flowback and produced water.

The study will be finalized after review by the Science Advisory Board and public review and comment. The Federal Register Notice with information on the SAB review and how to comment on the draft assessment can be found at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/fedrgstr_activites/HF%20Drinking%20Water%20Assessment?OpenDocument.

For a copy of the study, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/hf_es_erd_jun2015.pdf


A new study published online in the journal Science finds that the rate of global warming during the last 15 years has been as fast as or faster than that seen during the latter half of the 20th Century. The study refutes the notion that there has been a slowdown or "hiatus" in the rate of global warming in recent years.

The apparent observed slowing or decrease in the upward rate of global surface temperature warming has been nicknamed the "hiatus." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/),
released in stages between September 2013 and November 2014, concluded that the upward global surface temperature trend from 1998­­-2012 was markedly lower than the trend from 1951-2012.

Since the release of the IPCC report, NOAA scientists have made significant improvements in the calculation of trends and now use a global surface temperature record that includes the most recent two years of data, 2013 and 2014--the hottest year on record. The calculations also use improved versions of both sea surface temperature and land surface air temperature datasets. One of the most substantial improvements is a correction that accounts for the difference in data collected from buoys and ship-based data.

"Adding in the last two years of global surface temperature data and other improvements in the quality of the observed record provide evidence that contradict the notion of a hiatus in recent global warming trends," said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D., Director, NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. "Our new analysis suggests that the apparent hiatus may have been largely the result of limitations in past datasets, and that the rate of warming over the first 15 years of this century has, in fact, been as fast or faster than that seen over the last half of the 20th century."

To review the Science study, go to: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2015/06/03/science.aaa5632.full


The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Department of Energy (DOE) have announced a new private-public partnership that will identify and pursue collaborative opportunities between the government and the utility industry to promote and accelerate the nationwide adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). The Memorandum of Understanding with the nation's electric power industry allows the DOE to tap into the experience and scale of the EV industry.

EEI's collaboration with DOE builds on the electric utility industry's leadership on transportation electrification. One example of this dedication is EEI's fleet electrification initiative. Launched last year, this effort includes a commitment by EEI and its partnering member companies to invest at least 5 percent of their annual fleet budgets in plug-in vehicles and technologies.

EEI also announced that its fleet electrification initiative has exceeded the anticipated $50 million annual industry commitment, and will total more than $90 million in 2015, adding more than 800 new plug-in vehicles and 740 new charging ports to utility fleets.

A fact sheet on the partnership is available at: http://www.eei.org/resourcesandmedia/newsroom/Documents/EVFactSheet.pdf

The Memorandum of Understanding may be viewed at: http://www.eei.org/resourcesandmedia/newsroom/Documents/MOU.pdf


Originally enacted as part of the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, the solar investment tax credit (ITC) provides a 30 percent tax credit for the cost of solar energy systems on commercial properties and a 10 percent tax credit for residential properties placed in service before December 31, 2016. After that date, the tax credit will drop to 10 percent for commercial solar energy systems placed in service and will cease to be available for residential systems altogether, unless the deadline is changed.

President Obama, in presenting his proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 federal budget has proposed that the solar ITC be extended permanently. It is not clear if that provision of the FY 2016 budget will be approved by Congress. ASME supports the solar ITC extended so that additional projects can come online.

There is additional information available for review on the Department of Energy's website at: http://energy.gov/savings/business-energy-investment-tax-credit-itc.


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: