March 2, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


FEDERAL ENERGY REGULATORY COMMISSION VOTES TO REMOVE ELECTRIC STORAGE BARRIERS ON ELECTRIC GRID

Late last week, all five commissioners at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) unanimously voted in favor of implementing new rules aimed at removing barriers for electric storage resource participation. This new ruling will help national electric wholesale markets be more efficient in energy storage in activities such as storing excess power during periods of low demand for use when demand is higher. An official statement released following the vote said, “This order will enhance competition and promote greater efficiency in the nation’s electric wholesale markets, and will help support the resilience of the bulk power system.”

Environment and energy storage groups were in favor of the ruling as it provides more clarity on the future regulatory trajectory of energy storage in the U.S. Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the Energy Storage Association explained, “[this ruling] signaled both a recognition of the value provided by storage today, and more importantly, a clear vision of the role electric storage can play given a clear pathway to wholesale market participation.”

The ruling will go into effect 90 days following publication in the Federal Register.

Click here to view the final FERC ruling: https://www.ferc.gov/whats-new/comm-meet/2018/021518/E-1.pdf


BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT’S PROPOSAL TO REVERT TO PRE-OBAMA ERA VENTING AND FLARING STANDARDS DENIED BY DISTRICT JUDGE

In response to environmental concerns over methane emissions from oil and gas industry activities on federal lands, in November 2016 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued the Methane and Waste Prevention Rule, also known as the Venting and Flaring Rule. The rule requires companies to ensure oil and gas operations on federal lands take new measures to reduce unnecessary methane venting and flaring in order to prevent harmful emissions of the potent greenhouse gas, as well as to promote efficiency within oil and gas operations on federal lands. 

Late last week, the Trump Administration submitted a proposal to rescind the 2016 rule, and instead revert to looser pre-Obama era standards. A BLM press released explained that these proposed changes “would eliminate duplicative regulatory requirements and re-establish long-standing requirements that the 2016 final rule sought to replace.” The proposed change was met with a backlash from leaders at the local and national levels, with significant opposition from the environmental advocacy community.  In a joint statement, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich said, “The BLM’s proposal to gut a rule designed to limit wasteful venting and flaring of natural gas would hurt taxpayers, schoolchildren, New Mexico’s economy, and our environment. Ultimately, it would rob the state of New Mexico of millions of dollars in royalties that could be used to pay for school books, hospitals, and infrastructure projects, and to keep our air clean.”

But in a turn of events following this proposal submission, Judge William Orrick, a deferral district court judge for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction requiring BLM to fully enforce all provisions in the 2016 regulation. In a personal statement he said, “The BLM’s reasoning behind the Suspension Rule is untethered to evidence contradicting the reasons for implementing the Waste Prevention Rule…The have shown irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.” This is the second time the court has blocked efforts to rescind the methane rule following a similar denial in October 2017.

To view BLM’s revised proposal, click here: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/Proposed Waste Prevention Rule 2.12.18.pdf

The BLM is currently accepting comments on the revised proposal until April 23, to electronically file a comment on the proposal, click here: https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=BLM-2018-0001-0001


ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY PROPOSES CLOSING OFFICE RESPONSIBLE FOR RESEARCHING EFFECTS OF CHEMICALS ON HUMANS

In a bold move that breaks with previous administrations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed combining the grants, contracts and administrative functions of the National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), part of the Office of Research and Development (ORD), with two other administrative grants-focused offices. A new Office of Resource Management would be created and tasked with some of the other functions of the NCER and offices of Administration and Research Support, and Program Accountability and Resource Management.

In a statement to Newsweek, EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman explained, “In order to maintain the quality of EPA’s research, ORD career and political leaders are proposing management efficiencies to staff. ORD is proposing combining offices and functions into a new Office of Resource Management, including reorganizing staff to the labs and offices where their expertise is most effective.”

One of NCER’s primary functions was administering grants and fellowship research projects investigating the effects of chemical exposure on humans. Opponents of this merger argue that this move eliminates the EPA’s research arm. In an email to E+E News, Thomas Burke, Head of ORD under the Obama administration said, “Is this another assault on the scientific capacity of the nation to address emerging environmental problems, or is this truly a step forward in organization and accountability and independence of science? That's the important question, and that I don't know.”

A report released by the National Academy of Sciences last year cited the STAR program for its numerous successes, including research on human health implications of air pollution, on environmental effects on children’s health and well-being, and on interactions between climate change and air quality. The full report is available at:  https://www.nap.edu/read/24757/chapter/1


NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY TO REVIEW FEDERAL TECHONOLOGY TRANSFER EFFORTS

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is embarking on an initiative to review Federal technology transfer efforts to see if there is a way to get a greater “Return on Investment” (ROI) from the Federal Government’s Research and Development investments. NIST is working in conjunction with the private sector and other partners to identify gaps and room for improvement in these technology transfer efforts.

The goal if the initiative is to pare down the current technology transfer process and attract greater private sector investment for innovative new products and services that will create a more efficient system overall.

NIST is preparing to release a request for information on the topic, followed by three public forums in March/April. For more information on the ROI initiative, click here: https://www.nist.gov/tpo/return-investment-roi-initiative


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES PULLING FEDERAL FUNDING TO ENERGY STAR PROGRAM

Most people recognize the Energy Star program as a sticker on the fridge indicating a lower utility bill thanks to its energy efficiency. In his FY19 budget, President Trump is calling for the end of the Federal Government’s $42 million in funding for the program that is run by the EPA. In its stead, the president proposes funding the program through fees charged to companies that use the energy certification, arguing that those who benefit from the program should be the ones to fund it.

The EPA explained in its budget request, “By administering the Energy Star Program through the collection of user fees, EPA would continue to provide a trusted resource for consumers and businesses who want to purchase products that save them money and help protect the environment…Entities participating in the program would pay a fee that would offset the costs for managing and administering the program.

The Energy Star program was started in 1992 by the EPA as a way to cut back on excess energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. BY EPA’s estimates, since the program started Americans have saved $362 billion in energy costs. Unsurprising to most, Trump’s proposition to eliminate federal for Energy Star is being met with fervent backlash from groups both in and out of government. One of the many concerns about his plan is that privatizing the program could lower its status as a well-regarded, objective certification. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), a member of the EPA funding panel expressed his displeasure with the proposal and EPA leadership overall, stating, “The Pruitt EPA appears determined to undermine the EPA in every way possible, so it’s not surprising that they took aim at the popular, bipartisan and consumer-friendly Energy Star program.” 

For more information on EPA’s 2019 budget proposal, visit: https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-02/documents/fy-2019-epa-bib.pdf


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ANNOUNCES $30 MILLION IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT GRANTS

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it is awarding $30 million in grant funding through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs for Phase I Research and Development. These grants are intended for small businesses to research new innovative technologies that would support the Office of Science, and determine if they can be applied. Phase I grants run for 6-12months in duration and provide a median award of $150,000.

All successful Phase I grant winners are eligible to apply for Phase II awards in FY19, which will allow them to build on and “validate” their Phase I findings.

For further information on DOE’s SBIR and STTR programs, click here: https://science.energy.gov/sbir/  

For more information on the recently announced projects, click here: https://science.energy.gov/sbir/awards/


FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION TO HOST STEM CELL WEBINAR MARCH 8

Every other month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosts the FDA Grand Rounds webinar series highlighting the latest research its scientists are conducting. An FDA scientist attends each webcast to discuss this work in depth, as well as the role of science in the FDA’s legislative and regulatory activities.

As biomedical advancements continue to be made in leaps and bounds the FDA will be examining stem cells, a lynchpin to many bioengineering activities, in the next webinar. The webinar, titled “Are Stem Cells Ready for Prime Time? A Look at FDA Research Advances in Regenerative Medicine” features Steven Bauer, PhD, Chief of Cellular and Tissue Therapy in the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, as the main presenter. The webinar will discuss the FDA scientist’s research into identifying the characteristics of cell therapy products that indicate a higher likelihood of success in human cell-based therapies.

To learn more about the webinar and register, click here: https://www.fda.gov/ScienceResearch/AboutScienceResearchatFDA/ucm486711.htm

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.