June 9, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:



On June 2nd, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a new “Clean Power Plan” proposal aimed at cutting carbon emissions from existing power plants. Power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, and are the single largest source of carbon emissions. While there are limits in place for the level of arsenic, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particle pollution that power plants can emit, there are currently no national limits on carbon emission levels.

The EPA plan would allow states and companies to employ a variety of ­measures — including new ­renewable-energy and energy-efficiency projects “outside the fence,” or away from the power plant site — to meet the target for carbon reduction. This approach aims to keep consumer electricity prices from rising too sharply. However, this approach could also lead to the first legal challenges to the rule. Regulation of pollutants by the EPA has historically been limited to “bolt-on” controls at the point of emissions. In these instances, plant operators could be held liable if they failed to meet mandated targets. By allowing for an “outside the fence” approach to reduce overall costs, critics argue that the EPA is outside their legal authority and also leaves open the question of who is liable for meeting the new targets.

According to the EPA’s proposal, the plan could:

  • Cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
  • Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent;
  • Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits; and,
  • Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system.

The Clean Power Plan would be implemented through a state-federal partnership under which states identify a path forward using either current or new electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the goals of the proposal. The EPA’s outline provides guidelines for states to develop plans to meet state-specific goals to reduce carbon emissions, and gives states flexibility to design programs appropriate to their unique situation. Under the EPA’s proposal, states would choose a mix of generation, energy efficiency, and demand-side management policies to meet the new targets. The proposal also allows states to partner and develop multi-state plans.

EPA fact sheets and details about the proposed rule are available at: http://www.epa.gov/cleanpowerplan

To read the press release issued by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) in response to the proposed rule, visit:

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders’ response to the proposal is also available at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/upton-and-whitfield-respond-epas-cap-and-trade-proposal

A statement in response to the proposed rule from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, may be read at: http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Majority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=9f740686-da4e-ea5f-d1ad-c369cf225f4c



Arguing for a continuation of the nation’s human space exploration program, a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council (NRC) concludes that the expense of human spaceflight and the dangers to astronauts can be justified only by the goal of putting humans on other worlds. The report recommends that the nation pursue a disciplined “pathway” approach that executes intermediate accomplishments leading to the “horizon goal” of putting humans on Mars. The success of this approach would require a commitment to a consensus goal, international collaboration, and a budget that increases by more than the rate of inflation.

Public opinion of the space program since its inception has been generally positive, but the report found that most of the public does not pay much attention to or feel well-informed about the topic and spending on space exploration is not a high priority. The NRC conducted its own survey of stakeholders and scientists in non-space-related fields. In both the public and stakeholder opinion data, the committee found there was no majority agreement on a single rationale for human spaceflight.

Historically, rationales for a human spaceflight program have included economic benefits, national security, national stature and international relations, inspiration for science and engineering education, contributions to science and knowledge, a shared human destiny and urge to explore, and the eventual survival of the human species.

The report evaluates three different pathways to illustrate the trade-offs among affordability, schedule, developmental risk, and the frequency of missions for different sequences of intermediate destinations. All the pathways culminate in landing on the surface of Mars -- which is the most challenging yet technically feasible destination -- and have anywhere between three and six steps that include some combination of missions to asteroids, the moon, and Martian moons.

To review the full report, please visit: http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18801



U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker announced the first 12 communities that will be designated Manufacturing Communities as part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) initiative. The U.S. Commerce Department-led program is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies that help communities attract and expand private investment in the manufacturing sector and increase international trade and exports.

The first 12 Manufacturing Communities include:

  • Southwest Alabama, led by the University of South Alabama;
  • Southern California, led by the University of Southern California Center for Economic Development;
  • Northwest Georgia, led by the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission;
  • The Chicago metro region, led by the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development;
  • South Kansas, led by Wichita State University;
  • Greater Portland region in Maine, led by the Great Portland Council of Governments;
  • Southeastern Michigan, led by the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine;
  • The New York Finger Lakes region, led by the City of Rochester;
  • Southwestern Ohio Aerospace Region, led by the City of Cincinnati;
  • The Tennessee Valley, led by the University of Tennessee;
  • The Washington Puget Sound region, led by the Puget Sound Regional Council; and,
  • The Milwaukee 7 region, led by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee.

In order to earn the designation, communities had to demonstrate the significance of manufacturing already present in their region and develop strategies to make investments in six areas: 1) workforce and training, 2) advanced research, 3) infrastructure and site development, 4) supply chain support, 5) trade and international investment, 6) operational improvement and capital access.

For more information on IMCP, visit http://www.eda.gov/challenges/imcp/index.htm



The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), recently held a hearing to examine recent developments and the current status of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan programs, including the Section 1703 and Section 1705 loan guarantee programs and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program. Members questioned witnesses from DOE and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) about reforms to the programs, efforts to improve management and oversight, and the Department’s announced plans to grant additional loans with its remaining $40 billion dollars of existing loan authority. The efforts by DOE come about after a string of loan failures like Solyndra, Fisker Automotive, and A123 Systems.

Peter Davidson, Executive Director of the Loan Programs Office at DOE, testified on the DOE’s current loan portfolio and plans for expansion. He also explained reforms the department has made over the past two years in response to identified management failures and taxpayer losses like Solyndra. In the past month, the Government Accountability Office and the DOE Inspector General have issued reports evaluating DOE’s management of its loans. The reports indicate DOE has made some progress in its oversight of the loan programs but problems still remain.

Frank Rusco, Director of Energy and Science Issues at GAO, testified on the government watchdog’s recent findings. “We found DOE has not fully developed or consistently adhered to loan monitoring policies for its loan programs. In particular, DOE has established policies for most loan monitoring activities, but policies for some of these activities—for example, for evaluating and mitigating program-wide risk—remain incomplete or outdated,” said Rusco.

Additional information on the hearing is available at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/%E2%80%9Cdepartment-energy-oversight-status-loan-programs%E2%80%9D

To read the most recent GAO report on DOE’s loan programs, go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-645T



The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Commercial Crew Program and industry have completed the first step in the certification process that will enable American-made commercial spacecraft safely to ferry astronauts from U.S. soil to and from the International Space Station by 2017. The completion of the Certification Products Contracts (CPC) marks critical progress in the development of next-generation American space transportation systems that are safe, reliable and cost-effective.

Under the contracts, The Boeing Company, Sierra Nevada Corporation Space Systems (SNC) and Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed reviews detailing how each plans to meet NASA's certification requirements to transport space station crew members to and from the orbiting laboratory. NASA awarded the contracts totaling $30 million in December 2012. Throughout the CPC process, the companies provided plans to show safety has been a key element in the design of their spacecraft and demonstrate how their systems will meet NASA's performance requirements.

The second phase of the certification process, the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap), is open to any company with system designs at a maturity level consistent with the completion of the first certification phase. NASA will announce one or more CCtCap awards later this year. This second phase will include at least one crewed flight test per awardee to verify the spacecraft can dock to the space station and all its systems perform as expected. Contracts also will include at least two, and as many as six, crewed, post-certification missions to enable NASA to meet its station crew rotation requirements.

For additional information about NASA's Commercial Crew Program and its aerospace industry partners, refer to http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew


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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Washington, DC 20036
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