June 23, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


A congressionally mandated report, An Assessment of ARPA-E, released on June 13 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, found that the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) has had early success in spurring energy technology innovation.

The report offers 14 recommendations to allow ARPA-E’s success to continue, and notes that the agency has been a positive change agent and that its best practices should be adopted in other Department of Energy offices. ARPA-E best practices included using a workshop to define a program, using concept papers to screen funding applicants, and supporting early termination of underperforming projects. 

Key recommendations from the full report included:

  • ARPA-E should preserve its distinctive and flexible management approach that empowers program directors and stresses active project management.
  • ARPA-E should re-conceptualize its “tech-to-market” program to account for the wide variation in support needed across programs and performers with respect to prospective funding, commercialization, and deployment pathways.
  • Policy makers should recognize that there is limited evidence to date on transformational impacts emerging from ARPA-E, given the short time since ARPA-E began.
  • The director of ARPA-E should continue to promote and maintain a high-risk culture within the agency. Means to this end include periodic reassessment to ensure that the principles that drive support for high-risk projects are being maintained.
  • ARPA-E should continue to use processes designed to identify and support unexplored opportunities that hold promise for resulting in transformational technological advances.
  • ARPA-E should increase and improve its communication for nontechnical audiences, including the impact of its activities, the diversity of appropriate metrics to judge the success of individual projects and programs, and the fact that no single metric is appropriate for this purpose.

To review the report, please visit: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24778/an-assessment-of-arpa-e


On June 15, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing entitled, "Helping Americans Get Back to Work: Implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act” chaired by Chairman Brett Guthrie (R-KY). This was the same day as President Trump’s Executive Order (EO) expanding apprenticeship programs by taking funds from the Department of Labor job training fund and allowing the private sector increased influence in designing apprenticeship programs. According to the EO, federally funded education and workforce development programs that are not working must be improved or eliminated to better use taxpayer dollars.

WIOA was bipartisan legislation signed into law on July 22, 2014 by President Obama. It sought to ensure a skilled workforce through innovative training programs where the Department of Labor (DOL), in coordination with the U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS), supported the implementation. Ranking Member Susan Davis (D-CA) cautioned at the hearing that as budgets are cut, the newest and often most innovative programs are affected. She also said that by 2020, sixty percent of all jobs will require postsecondary degrees or credentials. However, Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) pushed back during this discussion, and said that increasing federal funds does not necessarily mean the same results will occur. He warned that just keeping WIOA funding the same as last year without a relook to ensure that funds are being appropriately used, i.e. removing unnecessary administrative costs and improving delivery systems, is insufficient, but he didn’t advocate for the 40% reduction in workforce development training grants proposed by the Trump administration.

Ms. Michelle Paczynski from the SC Department of Employment and Workforce spoke about the progress being made under WIOA. With collaboration from industry in South Carolina, the focus was to look at trends that would improve workforce skills. One was to design better transportation systems, so people could gain access to needed education and go to the jobs that utilize their skills. There was also an increase in apprenticeships with over 800 apprenticeship programs using WIOA federal funds to provide businesses with workforce solutions. The $1000 tax credit to businesses engaged in the apprenticeship program was an essential component of the WIOA program. 

Mr. Heath Berlin from the Naval Health Clinic in Annapolis, MD was a successful candidate that benefited from WIOA. After being laid off and gaining no traction from job fairs and interviews, he registered for a WIOA workshop in Maryland, which helped him map out a strategy to become employed full time again and obtain funding to attain the needed certifications in cybersecurity even though he had practical experience in the area. Through the earn and learn program in Maryland, he was able to secure a position in a startup that lacked the funding to hire someone with his skills.

Mr. Louis Dubin, Board Chair of the Workforce Development Board for the State of Maryland, spoke to the composition of the workforce board that builds partnerships with key stakeholders to support job growth. Five areas of focus within Maryland, such as cybersecurity and healthcare, allowed business leaders to collaborate with academic leaders in local schools to share knowledge about opportunities to assist the development of apprenticeship programs.

The full witness testimony and archived webcast are available at: https://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=401733

The Executive Order expanding the apprenticeship program can be found here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/15/presidential-executive-order-expanding-apprenticeships-america


The Senate Environment and Public Works committee (EPW) held a hearing on the nomination of three individuals to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on June 13.

The NRC commission has five seats with two currently vacant. The administration nominated Chairman Kristine Svinicki for reappointment as Commissioner and has named two additional nominees to fill the vacant seats. The nominees will have to face a confirmation process followed by a full Senate vote. Commissioner Svinicki, who became chairman just three days after the presidential inauguration, and is a nuclear engineer, has been an NRC member since 2008 and worked on Capitol Hill for the Senate and the Department of Energy. The Senate is working to quickly confirm the NRC’s nominees to ensure the commission continues to operate with a quorum.

Annie Caputo, one of the two new NRC nominees, is currently working as a senior policy advisor reporting to Republican Senator John Barrasso, Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW), which has oversight responsibility for the NRC. Caputo has also worked for Republican Senator James Inhofe and as a congressional affairs manager for Exelon, a nuclear power plant operator. In her written statement, she said that safety and operations are inextricably linked and would carry this principle forward at the NRC. Her nuclear expertise has made her invaluable to both Democratic and Republicans, and she has played a central role in developing the bipartisan Nuclear Innovation Act, legislation aimed at advanced nuclear reactor design activities.

The second new NRC nominee, David Wright, has experience at the state regulatory level, and was a member and chairman of the South Carolina Public Service Commission from 2004 through 2013. Wright has also served in various elected positions in local and state government.

To watch the archived hearing and view the testimony and transcript, please visit: https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings?ID=8A391353-EECC-4D5F-A426-848BF12054E5


The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), on behalf of its Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), seeks feedback on technologies with the potential for early stage research and development (R&D) that if successfully advanced could impact the cost-effective and energy efficient availability of clean water.

This request for information (RFI) targets R&D for processing technologies used to create clean water from a variety of sources, such as surface water, ground water, brackish water, seawater, wastewater and produced water for a range of applications including municipal drinking water, agricultural uses, and industrial needs. This is solely a request for information and not a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). EERE is not accepting applications.

Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically no later than 5:00 PM EST on July 28, 2017. Additional information can be found at:


The Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), recently held a hearing to consider cost trends in emerging energy technologies and to better understand what is happening in the energy marketplace, including how federal energy policies may be affecting those changes and what additional work can be done to help keep energy affordable.

According to Sen. Murkowski, the big story in recent years has been sustained and historically low prices for electricity and the dramatically reduced cost of renewable energy. The oversight hearing is one in a series of innovation-themed hearings the committee will hold to consider whether federal policies are keeping up with the changes in the energy landscape since it has been a full decade since the last major energy bill was signed into law.

According to the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center, which works with over 200 members on both the buyer and developer sides and whose members account for 93 percent of all corporate renewable energy deals, renewable energy investment won’t be considered if it is not competitive with fossil fuels. Additionally, BRC companies are making decisions based on market opportunity and in areas where they have a vested interest in the local community and where there are open market conditions. Despite the U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Agreement, the cost curves for renewable technologies continue to point downward.

David Greeson, Vice President of Development for NRG Energy, Inc., was from the electric power industry and spoke to the $1 billion Petra Nova Carbon Capture and Enhance Oil Recovery project, which was meant to find a way to de-carbonize our coal-fired generation fleet and do so without increasing the cost of electricity. It is now on-line capturing 5,000 tons per day of CO2 and was a first of its kind deployment of a technology at full commercial scale. Petra has the same carbon footprint as a natural gas-fired unit.

To read testimony from all the witnesses, please visit: https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=A4A8F241-CEB9-4CBB-A9C9-1D9D328207B0


The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) recently co-hosted with the National Institute of General Medical Science a workshop to promote dialogue on the responsible communication of basic biomedical research. The workshop brought together scientists, science reporters, advocates, and others and featured a keynote presentation from Erika Check Hayden, a veteran science journalist and director of the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

A series of panel discussions explored topics such as how science communication affects the biomedical research landscape, how science communication affects public perception of science; explored the goals and incentives of science communication, and looked at better practices by re-examining decision-making on communicating scientific results.

For more details, see the workshop agenda.

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

*Collaboration and Partnership: The Crucial Elements to Achieving a US Manufacturing Renaissance
*Trump Administration Delays Rules Limiting Methane Emissions
*Bioengineers Use Quantum Dots to Drive Next-Generation Therapies for MS
*DoD Fighting Wars On Multiple Cyber Fronts Simultaneously

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