June 30, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:



On June 23rd, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exceeded its authority by changing the emissions threshold for greenhouse gases under a clean-air permitting program in the Clean Air Act (CAA). The decision blocks the EPA from altering the threshold for emissions from certain facilities that emit carbon dioxide.

But the ruling, which applied only to EPA’s authority under a specific clean-air permitting program, won't prohibit the agency from using other means to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The case marks the third time in the last seven years that the Supreme Court has affirmed the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the CAA.

The ruling will prevent the EPA from using the CAA’s “Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD)” provisions to regulate carbon emissions from major emitting facilities. The CAA’s PSD clause includes specific statutory limits set by Congress, which the EPA sought to alter in order to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.  The Court ruled that the EPA ran afoul of its authority by increasing the PSD thresholds set by Congress in order to tailor the program to include only very large emitters of carbon dioxide. Without the EPA’s alternation of the threshold, PSD permits would be required for even very small facilities, something the EPA determined was an unreasonable regulatory burden for carbon dioxide emissions.

In response to the ruling, EPA noted that "the Supreme Court's decision is a win for our efforts to reduce carbon pollution because it allows EPA, states and other permitting authorities to continue to require carbon pollution limits in permits for the largest pollution sources…We are pleased that the Court's decision is consistent with our approach to focus on other Clean Air Act tools like the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution as part of the President's Climate Action Plan."

The full text of the Court’s 52-page opinion is available at:



On June 25th, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Water and Energy Subcommittee held a hearing on the legislation: The “Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability (NEWS)” Act (S. 1971).

Introduced in January, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s legislation would direct the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a committee to coordinate and streamline federal energy-water activities.

The energy-water nexus refers to the water used to produce energy, including raw resources, refined products, and electricity; and the energy required to treat, transport, and distribute water.

Murkowski, the top Republican on the energy committee, said the NEWS Act would increase the federal government’s focus on the interconnectedness between energy and water by streamlining coordination and data collection among the various departments and agencies involved.

While the witnesses from the Department of Energy and Department of Interior could not comment on the legislation, Ms. Nicole Carter of the Congressional Research Service found some issues with the current legislation.  Most of the issues were related to funding levels and the need for better defined goals for the NEWS Committee.  Full witness testimony and a webcast of the hearing can be reviewed at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=f708ef7a-a503-4e75-8753-71e42343a900.

As discussed in the May 12th version of Capitol Update, Murkowski released a white paper – The Energy-Water Nexus: Interlinked Resources That Are Vital for Economic Growth and Sustainability – on the importance of the energy-water nexus to the U.S. economy. To review that white paper, please visit: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=9d529812-659b-43a1-a2d1-ef0e67894636



The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the awarding of $100 million for Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to help accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build the 21st-century energy economy. These awards are the second round of funding for EFRCs, and the research supported by this initiative is intended to enable fundamental advances in energy production, storage, and use.

The 32 projects receiving funding were competitively selected from more than 200 proposals. Ten of these projects are new, while the rest received renewed funding based both on their achievements to date and the quality of their proposals for future research. Twenty-three of the projects receiving funding are headed by universities, eight are led by the Energy Department's National Laboratories and one project is run by a non-profit organization.

Awards range from $2 million to $4 million per year per center for up to four fiscal years, subject to a progress review in year two. DOE plans to open the EFRC program to new applications every two years.

The centers selected for the second round of funding cover topics such as for fundamental advances in solar energy, electrical energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, materials and chemistry by design, biosciences, and extreme environments.

Additional information about the EFRCs can be found at: http://science.energy.gov/bes/efrc/



The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is requesting the public and interested organizations to review and comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the agency's proposed Mars 2020 mission. The comment period runs through July 21st.

The DEIS addresses the potential environmental impacts associated with carrying out the Mars 2020 mission, a continuation of NASA's in-depth exploration of the planet. The mission would include a mobile science rover based closely on the design of the Curiosity rover, which was launched in November 2011 and is operating successfully on Mars. The mission is planned to launch in July or August 2020 from Florida on an expendable launch vehicle.

NASA will consider all received comments in the development of its Mars 2020 Final Environmental Impact Statement and comments received, and responses to these comments, will be included in the final document.

The DEIS, background material on the proposed mission, and instructions on how to submit comments on the DEIS are available at: http://www.nasa.gov/agency/nepa/mars2020eis



Each year, the National Science Board (NSB) honors leaders with remarkable contributions and public service in science and engineering through its Vannevar Bush and Public Service Awards. Nominations for the 2015 honorary awards are now open until Wednesday, October 1, 2014.

NSB's Vannevar Bush Award is named after the public servant who was behind the creation of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The award honors life-long leaders who have made exceptional contributions toward the welfare of humankind and the nation through public service activities in science, technology, and public policy.

Candidates for the Vannevar Bush award must be U.S. citizens and have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting at least two of the following selection criteria:

  • Distinguished him/herself through public service activities in science and technology;
  • Pioneered the exploration, charting and settlement of new frontiers in science, technology, education and public service;
  • Demonstrated leadership and creativity that inspired others to distinguished careers in science and technology;
  • Contributed to the welfare of the nation and humankind through activities in science and technology;
  • Demonstrated leadership and creativity that has helped mold the history of advancements in the nation's science, technology and education.

Past recipients include former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine, former science advisor and NSF director Neal Lane, and former Carnegie Institution president Maxine Singer. All recipients are listed on the NSB website at: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/bush_recipients.jsp

Nomination instructions are available on the Vannevar Bush Award webpage, which can be found at: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/bush.jsp

The Public Service Award honors individuals and groups for substantial contributions to increasing public understanding of science and engineering in the United States. These contributions may be in a wide variety of areas, including mass media, social media, education, training programs and entertainment.

NSB typically bestows two public service awards each year: one to an individual and one to a company, corporation or organization. Members of the U.S. government are not eligible to receive the award.

Candidates should have demonstrated outstanding leadership and accomplishment in meeting the following selection criteria:

  • Increased public understanding of science and engineering processes through discovery, innovation and public communication;
  • Encouraged others to raise public understanding of science and technology;
  • Promoted engagement of scientists and engineers in public outreach and scientific literacy;
  • Contributed to the development and support of broad science and engineering policy;
  • Influenced and encouraged the next generation of scientists and engineers;
  • Achieved broad recognition outside of the candidate's area of specialization;
  • Fostered awareness of science and technology among broad segments of the population.

Moira Gunn, Host of Tech Nation; Craig Barrett, Intel Corporation; and, the PBS series "NOVA," are all past awardees. A complete list of recipients, as well as nomination instructions, can be found on the award webpage: http://www.nsf.gov/nsb/awards/public.jsp



U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker has announced a call for applications for membership on the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE), a federal advisory committee that advises the Secretary of Commerce on issues related to accelerating innovation and expanding entrepreneurship, with an added focus on job-driven skills training that creates jobs and spurs innovation. The Commerce Department is now accepting applications for new Council members through July 14, 2014.

NACIE was originally established as part of the America COMPETES Act in 2010. The Council will operate as an independent entity within the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIE), which works to foster a more innovative economy by helping entrepreneurs turn new ideas into products and technologies that spur job growth and competitiveness and promote economic development.

The Secretary of Commerce will appoint up to 30 NACIE members for two-year terms. NACIE members will identify and recommend solutions to issues critical to driving the innovation economy, including enabling entrepreneurs and firms to successfully access and develop a skilled, globally competitive workforce. The Council will also serve as a vehicle for ongoing dialogue with the entrepreneurship and workforce development communities, including working with business and trade associations.

Council members will be selected to ensure balanced perspectives and varied expertise in terms of innovation, entrepreneurship and skills training, including members who represent wide-ranging geographic locations and experience from industry, government, academia and non-governmental organizations.

Applications must be received by July 14, 2014, to be considered for membership. Applications can be submitted electronically to NACIE@DOC.gov  or by mail to the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Attn: Julie Lenzer Kirk, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW, 7thFloor, Washington, DC 20230. To view the Federal Register notice, visit: https://federalregister.gov/a/2014-14153.\


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

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org