March 18, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


The Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), held a markup on the Pipeline Safety Act of 2016 this week. The draft legislation, entitled the “Pipeline Safety Act of 2016,” contains spending authorizations for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and targeted mandates to increase transparency and accountability, help PHMSA complete overdue regulations, and improve safety outcomes.

The draft bill would allow the Secretary of Transportation to impose new emergency rules when regulators spot potential unsafe conditions that aren't being addressed, but also allows pipeline companies to demand a review of new rules by the Department of Transportation, which must be completed in 30 days. The House draft also eliminates a provision that would allow citizens to sue the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for failing to write rules. Other key provisions include

  • Re-prioritizing and requiring PHMSA to complete outstanding mandates from the 2011 reauthorization bill.
  • Requesting that PHMSA conduct an assessment of inspections process and Integrity Management programs for natural gas and liquid pipelines.
  • Encouraging PHMSA to investigate and report on advanced mapping technologies for pipeline networks.
  • Providing direct hire authority to the agency so PHMSA can address its staffing challenges.
  • Calling for minimum standards to ensure the safety of natural gas storage facilities.
  • Ensuring coordination and collaboration on research, development, and technology between PHMSA, industry, and public sector stakeholders.

The discussion draft text, Majority Memorandum, webcast, and witness testimony will be available as they are posted.

The Senate passed its version of a Pipeline Safety Reauthorization, S. 2276, in December, but the bill has not yet been taken up by the full Senate. For more information on the Senate’s legislation, visit:


The House Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing this week on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) fiscal year 2017 budget request. NIST’s request totals $1 billion, an increase of $50.5 million or about 5 percent from the fiscal year 2016 enacted level.

In opening the hearing, subcommittee chair Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) framed the major challenges for Congress. “The requested increases from NIST for FY17 would also be devoted in large part to bolster advanced manufacturing initiatives at NIST. In fact, $47 million dollars is requested for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI). This program was authorized by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2014 (RAMI Act), authored by Chairman Lamar Smith and approved by this Committee on a bipartisan basis…The FY17 request for NNMI is an 88 percent increase from what was appropriated for FY16, and my colleagues and I will be asking questions this morning about that increase and other aspects of NNMI.”

A number of NIST’s manufacturing program efforts received high-praise at the hearing, including the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program and the NNMI. Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) called for DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to fully fund its contribution to NIST’s NNMI efforts as called for by the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI), which Congress passed in December 2015.

An archived webcast of the hearing with links to witness testimony is available at:


Late last week, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that Denver will serve as the host city for the next U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition in the fall of 2017. This biennial event, in which student teams compete to design, build, and operate cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses, attracts teams from across the country and around the world competing for $2 million in prize money.

Over the next 18 months, the competing teams will raise funds; design and build their 800-square foot, 100-percent solar-powered houses; and then transport their houses to the Denver competition site. The teams are strongly interdisciplinary: drawing together students of architecture, engineering, computer science, marketing, and other disciplines to carry out their projects.

The solar-powered houses developed by the teams will represent a diverse range of design approaches and building technologies. They will cater to a variety of target markets and geographic locations, climates and regions, including urban, suburban, and rural settings. In the fall of 2017, the competing student teams will showcase their solar-powered houses to the public, providing free tours of renewable energy systems and energy-efficient technologies, products, and appliances helping homeowners nationwide save money by saving energy

To learn more, visit


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Game Changing Development (GCD) program has selected four proposals to develop solar array technologies that will aid spacecraft in exploring destinations well beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

NASA’s future deep space missions will require solar arrays that can operate in high-radiation and low-temperature environments. Developing a new generation of solar power technologies that focuses on these attributes will improve mission performance, increase solar array life, and ultimately may allow solar-powered vehicles to explore deeper into space than ever before.

The four proposals selected for contract negotiations are:

  • Transformational Solar Array for Extreme Environments -- Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory of Laurel, Maryland
  • Micro-Concentrator Solar Array Technology for Extreme Environments – The Boeing Company of Huntington Beach, California;
  • Solar Array for Low-intensity Low Temperature and High-Radiation Environments, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; and,
  • Concentrator Solar Power Systems for Low-intensity Low Temperature and High Radiation Game Changing Technology Development -- ATK Space Systems of Goleta, California.

Thirteen proposals were received from NASA centers, laboratories, research groups, and industry in response to the Extreme Environment Solar Power Appendix to the SpaceTech-REDDI-2015 NASA Research Announcement. Initial contract awards are as much as $400,000, providing awardees with funding for nine months of system design, component testing and analysis.

After completing the initial nine months, NASA anticipates a second phase, and may select up to two of these technologies to receive up to $1.25 million to develop and test their hardware during the second stage of the project. In the third and final phase of the project, one awardee may be asked to continue the development and deliver scalable system hardware.

For more information about NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, the Game Changing Development Program and cross-cutting space technologies of interest to the agency, visit


College life can present students with an overwhelming number of decisions and opportunities, all of which can have an impact on the rest of their professional lives. Having someone to talk to, especially someone who was once in the same place, can have a profound impact on student success and navigating career goals.

About eight years ago, the newly formed Penn State Mechanical Engineering Society (PSMES) decided to leverage the experience of the thousands of mechanical engineering alumni who had once been students themselves by creating a formal mentoring program. In early 2008, with strong support from the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, the first group of 54 students sat down to meet with their 39 alumni mentors.

Currently, about 235 juniors, seniors and graduate students are receiving advice and guidance from 226 mechanical engineering alumni volunteers, ranging from recent graduates to seasoned professionals. The success of the program is evident in its growth, as well as the fact that many alumni who took part in the program as students are now volunteering their time as alumni mentors.

While every student’s needs are different, many students ask their mentors for resume help, so they are getting advice from someone who knows the industry. In addition, mentors open students’ eyes to unknown opportunities, such as undergraduate research; provide networking connections; and give tips on dining etiquette, interview practices, business dress and letter writing. However, probably the most important thing mentors can help students with is narrowing down career options.

Mentors and students are paired based on a set of criteria including technical interests, career aspirations, industry interests and hobbies. The hope is that the mentor and protégé can connect on a personal level and form a lasting relationship. In most cases, the formula works and successful mentoring relationships last long past graduation.

For additional information, visit


The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced a new initiative, “NSF INCLUDES.” NSF INCLUDES is a comprehensive initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in science and engineering discovery and innovation by proactively seeking and effectively developing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent from all sectors and groups in our society. By facilitating partnerships, communication and cooperation, NSF aims to build on and scale up what works in broadening participation programs to reach underserved populations nationwide.

The impetus behind NSF INCLUDES is that broadening participation in science and engineering is a national challenge that requires national solutions. The approach of NSF INCLUDES is to develop networks and partnerships that involve organizations and consortia from different sectors committed to a common agenda. These alliances will work to find a solution to a specific STEM inclusion problem that has potential to realize national scale impact on the broadening participation challenge.

The NSF INCLUDES (NSF 16-048) Dear Colleague Letter ( from NSF Director France Córdova introduces the program’s rationale, context and goals.

The first solicitation for NSF INCLUDES (NSF 16-544) ( describes program goals, contacts, requirements and instructions for those interested in submitting a proposal to NSF for design and development launch pilots.

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

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