June 9, 2017
Capitol Update

In this issue:


SENATE ADVANCES FERC, ENERGY, INTERIOR NOMINEES

The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources this week advanced four nominees to the Senate floor: David Bernhardt to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, Dan Brouillette to be Deputy Secretary of Energy, and Neil Chatterjee and Robert Powelson to be members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Secretary Zinke and Secretary Perry need their deputies in place to help them set strategic direction and run their departments on a day-to-day basis. At more than four months and counting, it is also critical to restore a working quorum at FERC as soon as possible,” said Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). “I recognize that calendar space is limited, but am hopeful that we will be able to confirm all four of these nominees during this work period.”

FERC traditionally operates with two commissioners from each party and a chairman selected by the President. Both of President Trump's nominees are Republicans, and he did not designate either as chairman, leaving another seat for him to fill with a Republican who could assume that post.

The committee favorably reported out Bernhardt by a vote of 14-9, Brouillette by a vote of 17-6, Chatterjee by a vote of 20-3, and Powelson by a vote of 20-3.

After the vote, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) expressed concern about Brouillette’s nomination for the deputy secretary position at the Department of Energy because he thought his responses to questions related to Yucca Mountain were not detailed enough.

“If confirmed as the Department of Energy’s Deputy Secretary, Dan Brouillette will play a key role in any attempt to restart licensing activities at Yucca Mountain,” said Heller. “I take my role to advise and consent seriously, and that is why I need clarification on his position on Yucca Mountain’s nuclear waste repository, which Nevadans have never consented to and continue to reject. I also requested detailed answers to several questions that will provide an indication of whether or not he would support turning Yucca Mountain into a nuclear waste dump. Prior to any vote in the U.S. Senate to confirm him as the deputy secretary, Nevadans deserve to know exactly where he stands on Yucca Mountain.”  

Sen. Heller’s letter seeking additional information about Brouillette’s position on Yucca Mountain is available at:  https://www.heller.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/pressreleases?ID=A13C6633-DE62-4EB3-AC3E-05B360E709EA


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SEEKS COMMENT ON REDUCING REGULATORY BURDENS

As part of its implementation of Executive Order 13771, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs,” issued by the President on January 30, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking comments and information from interested parties to assist in identifying existing regulations, paperwork requirements and other regulatory obligations that can be modified or repealed, consistent with law, to achieve meaningful burden reduction while continuing to achieve the Department's statutory obligations. Written comments and information are requested on or before July 14, 2017.

Interested persons are encouraged to submit comments, identified by “Regulatory Burden Reduction RFI,” by any of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Email: Regulatory.Review@hq.doe.gov. Include “Regulatory Burden RFI” in the subject line of the message.
  • Mail: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of the General Counsel, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Room 6A245, Washington, DC 20585.

For further information, please visit: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/05/30/2017-10866/reducing-regulation-and-controlling-regulatory-costs


TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT: INTERNET OF THINGS: STATUS AND IMPLICATIONS OF AN INCREASINGLY CONNECTED WORLD

The General Accountability Office (GAO) did a study of the global proliferation of IoT devices in light of the current and potential effects of the IoT on consumers, businesses, and policy makers. GAO’s assessment reviewed key reports and scientific literature; convened two expert meetings; and interviewed officials from two agencies to obtain their views on specific implications of the IoT.

With the miniaturization and cost reduction of electronic processors and sensors, it is now easier to equip devices with IoT capabilities and further fuels the proliferation of connected devices in everyday products. However, some of the challenges that have resulted are the following:

  • Information security. The risks inherent in potentially unsecured information technology systems into homes, factories, and communities is spread through IoT.
  • Privacy. Smart devices that monitor public spaces may collect information about individuals without their knowledge or consent and use that information in ways unknown to the individuals.
  • Safety. Researchers have demonstrated that IoT devices such as connected automobiles and medical devices can be hacked and result in endangering the health and safety of their owners.
  • Standards. Technical standards to enable this communication will need to be developed and implemented effectively. 
  • Economic issues. Economic disruptions are also possible, such as reducing the need for certain types of businesses and jobs that rely on individual interventions, including assembly line work or commercial vehicle deliveries.

To review the full GAO report, please visit: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-75


USING HIGH PERFORMANCE COMPUTING IN ENERGY MANUFACTURING

Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy announced close to $3.9 million for projects designed to stimulate the use of high performance supercomputing (HPC) in U.S. manufacturing. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Advanced Manufacturing Office's High Performance Computing for Manufacturing (HPC4Mfg) program enables innovation in U.S. manufacturing by using HPC to advance applied science and technology relevant to manufacturing by increasing the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes, advancing energy technology, and reducing the environmental impacts of energy.

Through these projects, the computing resources and expertise of the national laboratories, which include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Argonne National Laboratory, will be used to help address key challenges in U.S. manufacturing while improving energy efficiency across the manufacturing industry through applied research and development of energy technologies.

For information about the individual projects, go to:
https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/energy-department-announces-39-million-help-industry-address-high-performance


SENATE HOLDS HEARING ON UNDERSTANDING THE CYBERSECURITY LANDSCAPE

As the digital transformation moves forward in society touching nearly every industry, Congress continues to hold hearings on the topic. The Senate Homeland Security Committee recently held a hearing to take a look at the cybersecurity landscape. Witnesses were from Symantec Corporation, White & Case LLP, Marine Corps University, and the Missouri National Guard Cyber Incident Response Team.

According to the witness from the Marine Corps University, the cyber security landscape is much more than high-profile incidents. Taking a macro view is necessary to provide critical pathways to meeting the cyber security challenge and developing the policies necessary. Offering an academic empirical perspective of the macro dynamics of the cyber security field, the committee heard an explanation of the construction of cyber threats as coercive tools, the behavior of major threat actors, and pathways toward ensuring that we have a stable cyber future devoid of escalation. The committee was told that there needs to be a broader framework to encourage the political, policy, historical, sociological, and biological understanding of cyber security.

There was also testimony detailing the growing number of Nation State actors in private industry. Dealing with extremists and criminal threat actors can be dealt with in most corporate environments using traditional counter measures, but not Nation State threat actors, which are playing the disciplined, strategic, and carefully curated long game involving espionage.  The National Guard, which bridges industry and the military, could support defending the nation through closer integration of USNORTHCOM and the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, the National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers was also on Capitol Hill speaking about the administration’s work on a government-wide strategy to deter adversary cyberattacks. For example, he provided an update on the U.S. Cyber Command, which he leads and expects to be fully operational in 2018. During the discussion, Senator McCain expressed concern that many CYBERCOM troops who go through rigorous training end up moving to non-cyber posts on future tours. Director Rogers assured him there were efforts being made to keep such troops in cyber posts.

The webcast of the hearing and witness testimony is available at:
https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/hearings/cyber-threats-facing-america-an-overview-of-the-cybersecurity-threat-landscape


SENATE EXAMINES FALLOUT FROM CYBERATTACKS

May 12 was the beginning of the attack affecting over 200,000 computers in 150 countries by WannaCry ransomware, which demanded payment within 7 days in turn for not deleting files on the infected computer. Some of those attacked were FedX in the U.S., the National Health Services in the U.K., and Renault factories in France. Recommendations from authorities were not to pay the ransom because there is no guarantee that restoration would not lead to a future attack of the same computer.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a hearing on this topic to understand the threat and explore solutions with two panels of witnesses, which included Mr. Richard W. Downing, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice. He provided a detailed explanation of the criminal activity and recommended to the assembled Senators to expand the courts’ authority to issue injunctions to shut down botnets (computers infected with malware that criminals can control remotely) and widespread ransomware schemes. A second recommendation was to amend the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,  which acts as the primary Federal anti-hacking statute, so that current criminal law is expanded from not only prohibiting the creation of a botnet and using it to hack into computers, but also the renting or sale of botnets.

Additional information about the hearing is available at:
https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/ransomware-understanding-the-threat-and-exploring-solutions

The U.S. Computer Emergency Response Team also provided information to the public about what to do in the event of such a situation: https://www.us-cert.gov/ncas/current-activity/2017/05/12/Multiple-Ransomware-Infections-Reported

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

*ARPA- E Coalition Support Letter
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/energy-news/arpa-e-coalition-letter-of-support-in-the-fy-2018-budget/
*New Method Combines Organoid Technology with Bioengineering to Build Better Brains
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/competitiveness-news/stem-news/new-method-combines-organoid-technology-with-bioengineering-to-build-better-brains/
*Tucking in to NIST’s ‘3D Printer’ Testbed
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/manufacturing-news/tucking-in-to-nists-3d-printer-testbed/
*Trump Plans a 69 Percent Budget Cut, Large Staff Reductions at Clean Energy Office
http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/energy-news/trump-plans-a-69-percent-budget-cut-large-staff-reductions-at-clean-energy-office/

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