June 29, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


SENATE CLEARS APPROPRIATIONS MINIBUS BOOSTING KEY DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY RESEARCH PROGRAMS

The Senate advanced a combination of three appropriations bills this week, including increased funding for key Department of Energy (DOE) research accounts.  The funding measure, which is the first FY 2019 appropriations legislation passed by the Senate, was approved by a vote of 86-5. Congress has until the end of September to come to agreement on funding the government for FY 2019.

H.R. 5895, the minibus appropriations bill, includes the Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Development, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and the Legislative Branch appropriations measures.  The Senate’s Energy and Water Development package includes $43.76 billion to funds programs to advance American energy security and economic competitiveness, and is $566 million above the FY2018 enacted level and $7.24 billion above the President’s budget request. 

Key Department of Energy allocations include:

  • $6.65 billion for the DOE Office of Science (+$390 million);
  • $13.3 billion for DOE’s Applied Energy programs (+$379 million);
  • $2.32 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs, the same as FY 2018;
  • $260 million for Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (+$12 million);
  • $1.2 billion for Nuclear Energy R&D, the same as FY 2018;
  • $727 million for Fossil Energy R&D (+$183,000); and
  • $375 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (+22 million.)

The minibus package now heads to conference with the House to work out differences before it can advance to the President’s desk. 

To view the full text of HR 5895, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5895/text


WHITE HOUSE REORGANIZATION PROPOSAL INCLUDES SCIENCE AGENCY REFORMS

The White House recently released a blueprint for a proposed overhaul of much of the federal government. “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century: Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations” proposes changes that affect many of the scientific agencies, and are based on workforce reform plans federal agencies were mandated to submit last fall. While the administration has already and continues to implement some of the changes, many of the larger proposals require congressional authorization to move forward.

Looking at the Department of Energy (DOE), the blueprint proposes creating a new “Office of Energy Innovation” that combines the Offices of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Nuclear Energy and Fossil Energy, with a stronger focus on early stage research and development. The blueprint also proposes eliminating the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), explaining, “While the [ARPA-E] program features positive aspects, such as coordination with industry and cross-cutting research, it makes little strategic sense that this entity exists independent of DOE’s main applied research programs.”

For the National Science Foundation (NSF), the plan proposes consolidating all “smaller” graduate research fellowship programs across the federal government into one office under NSF as the agency already awards the highest number of graduate fellowships. The plan states doing this “could be more efficient and produce savings if fellowship offices at other agencies can be downsized or eliminated.”

The Department of Education and Department of Labor would merge into the “Department of Education and the Workforce” (DEW). The plan explained that both agencies share a common mission of “preparing Americans for success in a globally competitive world,” and this consolidation “would help create alignment throughout the education-to-career pipeline, while also creating coherence within the workforce development and higher education worlds.” The new DEW would include four subcommittees: K-12 Education, American Workforce and higher Education Administration (AWHEA); Research, Evaluation, and Administration; and Enforcement.

The plan proposes combining the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; National Institute on Occupational Safety and Health; and National Institute of Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research from the Department of Health and Human Services into one entity under the National Institutes of Health.

Most of the reorganization plan will still require Congressional approval, creating a turf battle for congressional committees that could lose power if their jurisdictions change. 

To view the plan in full, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Government-Reform-and-Reorg-Plan.pdf


OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY CREATES QUANTUM COMPUTING ADVISORY SUBCOMMITTEE

The White House recently announced that the creation of a new advisory subcommittee focused on Quantum Information Science within the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The role of the subcommittee is to oversee the national agenda on the emerging technology, including coordinating quantum information initiatives across all agencies.

“Quantum information science has the potential to revolutionize all manner of industries, open up new fields of discovery and accelerate scientific breakthroughs,” Michael Kratsios, deputy assistant to the president for technology policy, said in a statement. “Now is the time to build upon and expand that leadership if we are going to realize the true potential of this technology, which will be critical to our future economic growth and national security.”

This subcommittee comes hot on the heels of a similar announcements of legislation on the issue. House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) recently announced his intention to introduce new legislation to provide the government with the tools to navigate the ongoing developments in quantum computing. The new legislation would create a National Quantum Coordination Office inside the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, which would oversee the coordination of research between agencies, serve as the primary point of contact and encourage commercialization of federal research innovations with the private sector. “Quantum is poised to redefine the next generation of scientific breakthroughs. We must ensure that the United States does not fall behind other nations that are advancing quantum programs,” he said. “The National Quantum Initiative Act will accelerate quantum research and development. It will promote greater quantum research, standards, federal coordination and collaboration among the key quantum players — laboratories, industry and universities.”

On the Senate side, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) also recently introduced the Quantum Research Computing Act of 2018. The legislation calls on the Department of Defense to create a Quantum Computing Research Consortium that would oversee research and grant funding to address the development of quantum communication and quantum computing technology.

To view the Quantum Research Computing Act of 2018, visit:  https://www.harris.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/BAG18779.pdf


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR 31 NEW BIOTECHNOLOGY PROJECTS SPONSORED BY THE OFFICE OF BIOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH

The Department of Energy recently announced $41 million in funding for 31 new biotechnology projects. The selected projects are tasked with “advancing research in the development of microbes as practical platforms for the production of biofuels and other bioproducts from renewable resources.” The projects will build on the growing momentum in the biotechnology space to increase understanding of the capabilities of scientific innovation at the cellular level.

Selected projects are working with existing organisms to find ways to improve on their current functions by increasing their abilities as “producers.” The resulting product that is produced can vary from biofuels to other chemical-based substances that has the potential for multiple different uses down the road. Roughly one-third of the projects are focusing on the imaging tools needed to work with these organisms through tasks such as identifying and transforming them to accomplish different functions, rather than modifying the organism itself.

Further information on the projects, as well as a full list of projects can be found here: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/4C7317A50AF94F069737C2C58B917F83.ashx and at: https://science.energy.gov/~/media/C9A09E93B8D94DC587E9E17F7C28A204.ashx


INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE RELEASES GUIDANCE FOR SECURING TAX BREAKS FOR SOLAR COMPANIES

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released guidance for solar companies to help them secure tax breaks. Solar developers can claim up to a 30 percent investment tax credit if they invest a minimum of five percent of the total anticipated cost of their project, or make a sizable start to the physical work of the project by the close of 2019.

Earlier this year, President Trump imposed tariffs on imported solar materials. At the time, this decision was widely contested amongst those in the solar power industry. There was a fear that the tariffs would significantly raise the costs of solar materials for those interested in installing solar panels on their homes, which would consequently serve as a deterrent to switching to solar power. However, last month several international and domestic solar companies announced they would be building factories in the U.S. Hanwah Q Cells announced it will be building a factory in Georgia, Chinese company JingkoSolar Holding announced it will be building a factory in Florida, and U.S. companies SunPower Corp. and First Solar Inc. stated their intentions to increase production in Oregon and Ohio.

To view the full IRS guidance, click here: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-18-59.pdf


AMERICAN-MADE SOLAR PRIZE CHALLENGE ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THREE-TIERED READY! SET! GO! COMPETITION

The American-Made Solar Prize Challenge is soliciting applications under its Ready! Set! Go! Competition. The competition is made up of three progressive challenges designed to foster and strengthen innovation. Interested applicants select a “problem” facing the solar industry that they would like to solve through the Ideation platform and progress through a set of three progressive competitions to hone their solution.

Competitors have 90 days to submit their application to the first step of the competition, the Ready! Challenge. 20-40 winners will be selected, with prize of up to $50,000. Those winners will have 90 days to hone their submission for the Set! Challenge to create a “viable and promising proof of concept.” Five to ten winners will be selected for this next phase of the competition, with prizes of up to $200,000, and up to $75,000 in vouchers. Selected winners will have an additional 90 days to further refine their technology to create a refined prototype and find a partner to perform a pilot test of the prototype for the Go! Challenge. Following the completion of this final challenge, two winners will be selected and will receive a $500,000 prize with up to $75,000 in vouchers.

The competition is open to all interested participants including members of one or multiple organizations, students, university faculty members, small business owners, researchers who legally reside in the U.S.

For further information about the Solar Prize Challenge and to enter, click here: https://www.herox.com/SolarPrize

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.

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036

Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

Paul Fakes is the Regulatory and Government Relations Manager, Technology Policy. He covers Standards and Energy and Environment.

Samantha Fijacko is the Senior Government Relations Representative. She covers Advanced Manufacturing, Robotics and R&D.

Anne Nadler is the Government Relations Representative. She covers Bioengineering, STEM Education and R&D.