March 30, 2013 Capitol Update

In this issue:


FY18 OMNIBUS SPENDING BILL RELEASED WITH MAJOR INCREASES FOR SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

The final FY 2018 Omnibus spending agreement reached last week delivers major funding increases for federal science and technology programs in FY 2018, with the Department of Energy (DOE), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) receiving the largest increases overall. Both basic and applied research funding would receive the largest year-over-year increase since the FY 2009 stimulus package. 

Of the science and research agencies, DOE was one of the biggest winners, scoring an 11 percent increase overall ($34.52b total). The DOE Office of Science received a 14 percent increase to $6.26b, with large increases for Advanced Scientific Computing Research ($810m) and Fusion Energy Sciences ($532m). DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accounts, which were targeted to be cut in half by the Trump Administration, instead received a total of $2.32b, a 16 percent increase. Despite previous concern over the future of the program, ARPA-E similarly received a 13 percent increase, bringing its total funding to a record $353m.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) received a 21 percent increase, bumping its total funding up to $1.19b. The majority of this increase is for construction-related activities, but the Manufacturing Extension Program also received a seven percent increase compared to the administration’s request to eliminate the program. Under NIST, funding for coordinating the cross-agency Manufacturing USA program was capped at $5m, consistent with last year, but the NIST-led NIIMBL Manufacturing Institute with a focus on biopharmaceutical was only received $15m in funding, $10m less than last year and consistent with the Administration’s request. The other 13 established Manufacturing USA Institutes led by DOD and DOE all received continued funding and additional increases for manufacturing research support activities. 

After receiving a boost in the President’s budget, the National Science Foundation (NSF) saw its final funding total increase four percent to $7.7b, with Congress noting “…growing concern that China and other competitors are outpacing the United States in terms of research spending.”

The National Institutes of Health received an eight percent increase overall, with each individual institute receiving at least a roughly five percent increase. The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering received a five percent increase, bringing its overall funding up to $337m.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received flat funding overall, coming in at $8.05b. EPA Science and Technology also received flat funding, but Environmental Programs and Management received increases of $2.64b and $23.5m respectively. Congress rejected calls to move some of EPA’s programing over to the DOE, with language in the bill stating, ““The Committees do not support the proposed termination of voluntary programs, including Natural GasSTAR, AgSTAR, the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, and other partnership programs where EPA works collaboratively with nongovernmental entities to identify beneficial methods to reduce emissions, reduce pollution, or increase efficiency.”

In other public-private partnership technology efforts, Congress provided the Department of Transportation with $100m for ongoing information gathering on autonomous vehicles, as it is argued that not enough data exists to create standards and regulations at the current time. Of these funds, the office of the Secretary of Transportation has been directed to use a minimum of $60m on grants and cooperative agreements that support projects examining the capacities of highly autonomous vehicle and advanced driver-assistance systems technologies. In a statement, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) called the funding “a critical step towards ensuring the United States remains at the forefront of vehicle innovations that will improve safety and transform transportation in the future.”

To view the full Omnibus spending bill (Senate amendment to H.R. 1625), click here: http://docs.house.gov/floor/


CONGRESS DEMANDS ANSWERS ON WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY POLICY VACANCY

Democratic Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Gary Peters (D-MI) recently wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to fill the Director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The position has remained vacant since Trump’s inauguration with Deputy CTO Michael Kratsios serving as the office’s highest-ranking political appointee at the current time. Kratsios, who prior to the White House worked in the venture-capital world, leads the policy side of the office and reports to Chief of Staff John Kelly.

In their letter the Senators urge for the appointment of a “…well-qualified individual, with a background in science on engineering, to this role as soon as possible.” There are currently no scientists on staff in the office, with former OSTP Director John Holdren previously noting to Science Magazine that the remaining scientists in the office left last year.

This is not the first time members of congress have written to the president regarding OSTP staff. In May of last year, members of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology wrote President Trump a letter noting that the absence of a director and qualified staff in OSTP left the Office of the President susceptible to “misinformation and fake news.” “You have a tool at your disposal in this regard” they explained, “should you wish to make use of it, in the office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) which, under your administration, has been left largely unstaffed and without a director. If you appoint a qualified OSTP Director, you will have a reliable source of policy advice for matters related to science and technology, which forms the bedrock of our national security and economic power.” House Science Committee members followed up again with the President in January of this year, this time taking a stronger stance noting, “It is deeply important that you fill the vacant office of OSTP Director, as required by law, and fully staff this institution with qualified and knowledgeable officials, as soon as possible.”

To view Senators Peters and Warner’s letter, click here: https://www.scribd.com/document/374618695/Warner-Peters-OSTP-Letter?irgwc=1&content=27795&campaign=VigLink&ad_group=170017&keyword=ft500noi&source=impactradius&medium=affiliate

To view the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology May 2017 Member letter, click here: https://beyer.house.gov/uploadedfiles/ostp.pdf

To view the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology January 2018 Member letter, click here: https://beyer.house.gov/uploadedfiles/letter_to_trump_-_ostp_vacancy_2_-_1.24.18.pdf


AFTER STALLING, CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS APPEAR TO BE ON THE RISE

According to a recent report from the International Energy Association, carbon dioxide emissions went up in 2017, breaking a stalled growth in emissions seen over the 3 preceding years. “The growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 is a strong warning for global efforts to combat climate change, and demonstrates that current efforts are insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement,” the report explained.

Despite the advent of renewable energy as a viable alternative to pollutants such as coal, global efforts to convert to clean energy are not happening quickly enough to stave off rising greenhouse gas emission levels. This rise in emissions can be directly tied to economic and population growth, with global energy demand rising by 2.1 percent in 2017.  The IEA report notes that more than 40 percent of energy demand growth was driven by China and India, with 72 percent of rising demand being met by fossil fuels. 

Overall global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4 percent in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt). The increase in CO2 emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some                others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest drop came from the United States, mainly because of a high rate in the deployment of renewables.

To view the full IEA report, click here: http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/GECO2017.pdf


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY WITHDRAWS FROM RENEWABLE ENERGY AGREEMENT

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced its withdrawal from an agreement aimed at providing renewable energy to an area that would have included Oklahoma, Arkansas and Tennessee. The original agreement was signed in 2016 for $2.5b with Texas-based private developer Clean Line Energy Partners to provide wind energy through power lines. The high-voltage transmission line project was to run from windmill farms in Oklahoma and Kansas, through Arkansas and ending near Memphis. The project was given the green light by the Obama administration after six years of study.

Despite the amount of research and consideration that went into it, the project was fraught with tensions for several years. Residents in Arkansas rejected the project fearing it would force them off their land. Both in 2015, and again in 2017 an Arkansas congressional delegation introduced the Assuring Private Property Rights Over Vast Access to Lands (APPROVAL) Act to Congress. Similarly, earlier this year members of congress representing Arkansas sent a letter to DOE Secretary Rick Perry encouraging him to cancel the project.

Most recently, following DOE’s decision to withdraw from the project, another Arkansas Congressional delegation comprised of Republican Senators Tom Cotton and John Boozman, as well as Representatives Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman issued a joint statement saying, “This is a victory for states’ rights and a victory for Arkansas. We are pleased that the Department of Energy responded favorably to our request to terminate this agreement. We support policies that put our nation on the path to energy independence, but they should not cost Arkansas landowners a voice in the approval process.” 

In an email to Reuters, a representative from Clean Energy maintained that “The project is not dead, but on a much smaller track.” Issues appeared to come to a head in December when Clean Line announced the sale of the Oklahoma assets ahead of the project to Florida company NextEra Energy.

To view the Arkansas delegation’s joint statement, click here: https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?id=B2751C93-D895-4019-95FE-28312A414DA6


NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES DEVELOPS ROADMAP FOR IMPROVING STATE OF STEM EDUCATION

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recently released a report, “Indicators for Monitoring Undergraduate STEM Education,” explains that policy makers and the public face challenges in understanding whether STEM education initiatives are, “accomplishing their goals and leading to nationwide improvement in undergraduate STEM education.”

The report proposes a conceptual framework for a national STEM Education indicator system that would examine the current state of STEM education and the necessary steps to improve outcomes. It provides three overall goals, along with 21 progress indicators for monitoring trends in the quality of STEM education. As the importance and role of STEM continues to gain momentum, these indicators will also evolve in response.

To view the full report, click here: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24943/indicators-for-monitoring-undergraduate-stem-education

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.