March 23, 2013 Capitol Update

In this issue:


AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE LEGISLATION DRAWS CONCERN

As companies like Uber and Google attempt to push forward with testing Autonomous Vehicle technologies, five Democratic Senators have stated in a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation leadership this week that they would like to see changes made to the AV START Act. The bill, introduced by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, proposes a national framework to regulate autonomous cars and trucks under 10,000lbs.

In their letter, the five Senators—Senators Tom Udall  (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)—express several concerns about the bill. They believe autonomous vehicles are still a relatively new technological milestone, meaning there are still many unknowns, including a lack of federal safety standards. As it currently stands, the bill preempts state and local authorities from developing regulations on factors such as performance, safety and construction of Autonomous Vehicles, deferring all regulating authority to the federal government. The Senators explain that they are aware that it will take time for this new technology to develop to a stage where federal regulations can be drafted. In their letter, they request a sunset provision to protect against the possibility federal standards are never drafted. They note, “Placing a sunset on this interim preemption provision would encourage collaboration with federal regulators and maintain a firm timetable for new safety standards, which will have their own preemptive effect.”

The Senators also note that Autonomous Vehicle exemptions should be temporary and applied to companies, rather than to a specific model or level of autonomy. Additional concerns listed in the letter include cybersecurity and customer safety, as well as the future deployment of autonomous vehicles. A concern that was abruptly brought into perspective earlier this week when a pedestrian was hit by an Autonomous Vehicle in Arizona. As technology will only grow more sophisticated, the senators urge that all vehicles be subject to safety evaluation reports to ensure any flaws are noted at the beginning of the regulatory process.

Despite these concerns, other members expressed confidence in the bill, with Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) reporting that he expected the bill to get up to 80 votes on the floor, should it get to that point.

To view the full letter, visit: http://src.bna.com/w4q


SENATORS PRESS OPPOSITION TO RESEARCH CUTS IN ENERGY BUDGET HEARING

The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee met this week to examine the President’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget request for the Department of Energy (DOE).  As reported in the February 16th edition of Capitol Update, the administration’s request would pare DOE’s budget down to $30.6 billion, a $4.2 billion cut from 2017 levels. Many cuts are targeted to DOE applied energy research programs, including a $1.4 billion cut the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and elimination of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), a $306 million budget reduction.

In her opening statement, Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) called out proposed cuts to energy and science programs and elimination of ARPA-E. “While we should always be looking for places to cut the budget, we should also recognize that innovation is critical to our nation’s energy future – it creates jobs, it boosts growth, it adds to our security, and it increases our competitiveness. We need to focus on maintain our global leadership in science, research, and development. Central to that mission are the hardworking scientists and engineers at our national laboratories and universities.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) echoed concerns about energy and science program cuts, warning that cuts to DOE’s applied energy programs would undermine technology development for technologies like carbon capture utilization and storage and advanced nuclear energy.

The administration’s proposal would provide the DOE Office of Science with flat funding, and cut EERE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) by 71 percent (to $75 million), and eliminate the DOE’s Critical Materials Hub, Clean Water Hub, five Manufacturing USA institutes, and its network of Industrial Assessment Centers. 

Secretary Perry emphasized that congressional priorities would be supported in an effective way, and praised the department’s work on energy technology innovation and basic science discovery.

View a webcast of the hearing at: https://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/hearings-and-business-meetings?ID=61B9265B-578C-4DAC-BDFD-23DAE9F6CD9F


NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY LEGISLATION ADVANCES

In a promising move for nuclear technology development efforts, the Senate recently approved the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which allows private industry to directly collaborate with Department of Energy National Labs to create new reactor models. A companion bill in the House was already passed, increasing chances that the bill may make it to the President in the near future.

The Senate Energy Committee also passed the Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies Act, mandating the Energy Secretary to secure agreements with private companies to collaborate on at least four advanced nuclear reactor projects by fall 2028.

To view the Senate-Approved Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, click here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1457

To view the Advanced Nuclear Energy Technologies Act, recently passed by the Senate Energy Committee, click here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/97


CONGRESSMEN VOICE SUPPORT FOR DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY CYBERSECURITY EFFORTS

As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to protect federal networks against cyberattacks, the agency has created the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program. The program was originally launched as a four-phase initiative in 2012. In February, government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton won an award of over $600 million for a six-year contract to execute the three remaining phases.

In a display of the program’s relevance, three members of Congress, Representatives John Ratcliffe (R-TX), Will Hurd (R-TX) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) recently submitted a letter to Appropriations Committee leadership requesting $237 million for the program in FY19. This request is in line with the President’s FY19 budget request, which allocated $237.6 million to the program. In their letter, the Congressmen, who all sit on the Homeland Security Committee, explained, “The CDM program is of paramount importance because of the ability to monitor and assess the vulnerabilities and threats to its networks and systems in an ever-changing cyber threat landscape.

To learn more about the CDM program, click here: https://www.dhs.gov/cdm


DIGITAL MANUFACTURING DESIGN AND INNOVATION INSTITUTE CREATING NEW CYBER HUB FOR MANUFACTURING

The Manufacturing USA Digital Manufacturing Design and Innovation Institute (DMDII) recently announced the launching of a “Cyber Hub for Manufacturing” thanks to $750,000 in Department of Defense (DoD) funding. The Hub will be ground zero for new cyber technology development to secure American manufacturing shop floors. The initiative is part of DMDII’s public-private partnerships as one of the Manufacturing USA Institutes that are sponsored by DoD in an effort to advance cutting edge digital manufacturing.

The impetus for the new Hub is that as we move towards a more digitized society, cybersecurity is becoming more of a concern for a list of industries, manufacturing top among them. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), the online aspects of the industry are developing at an increased rate. This brings the advantage of innovative new products that will benefit society, but “As the manufacturing sector becomes more intertwined with advanced technology data and robotics, it is increasingly important that our manufacturers are prepared to face cybersecurity threat. This new cyber hub will be an extension of DNDII’s innovative work of making America’s manufacturing industry more competitive,” Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) said.


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY ANNOUNCES $32.5M IN SOLID OXIDE FUEL CELL TECHNOLOGIES FUNDING

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced up to $32.5m in funding available for cost-shared research and development to advance solid oxide fuel cell technologies (SOFC). There are two funding opportunity announcements for projects under the office of Fossil Energy:  Preliminary Design and Techno-Economic Analysis of MWe-Class Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Systems; and Solid Oxide Fuel Cells Core Technology Research. The selected projects will be managed by the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory.

For more information about NETL, click here: https://www.netl.doe.gov/

For further information about the Office of Fossil Energy Programs, including SOFC, click here: https://www.netl.doe.gov/research/coal/energy-systems/fuel-cells

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.