May 12, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

ENERGY AND POWER SUBCOMMITTEE EXAMINES "THE NRC FY 2015 BUDGET AND POLICY ISSUES"

On May 7, the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power conducted a hearing entitled “The NRC FY 2015 Budget and Policy Issues.” The hearing examined the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) budget for fiscal year 2015. NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane testified alongside NRC Commissioners Kristine Svinicki, George Apostolakis, William Magwood, and William Ostendorff.

The NRC’s fiscal year 2015 budget request is $1,060 million, a $3.6 million increase over FY 2014. Ninety percent of the agency’s budget is recovered through fees assessed on its licensees. The Nuclear Reactor Safety Program, which encompasses NRC efforts to license, regulate, and oversee civilian nuclear power, accounts for approximately $815 million of agency resources. The Nuclear Materials and Waste Safety Program, which encompasses the agency’s efforts to license, regulate, and oversee nuclear materials and waste, accounts for approximately $232 million in agency budget authority.

Discussion at the hearing focused on the following three areas:

  • Impact of nuclear plant closures on the NRC’s budget;
  • Budgeting for the Yucca Mountain license review; and,
  • Commission’s efficient use of resources and staffing.

Subcommittee members pressed the NRC Chair Macfarlane and the commissioners about the agency’s productivity and use of resources. The members also asked for an update on the NRC’s efforts to restart the Yucca Mountain licensing process. Last year, a DC Circuit Court upheld the NRC’s statutory mandate to review and issue a decision on the license application. The NRC has repeatedly stated it lacks the resources to do so.

The written statement on NRC Chair Allison Macfarlane, who testified on behalf of the Commission, may be reviewed at:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/nrc-fy-2015-budget-and-policy-issues#overlay=node/3952/edit

An archived webcast of the hearing is also available at the site listed above.

Additional information about the hearing can be found at:
http://energycommerce.house.gov/press-release/nrc-commissioners-testify-budget-and-policy-issues

 

SENATOR MURKOWSKI: TECHNOLOGY KEY TO ADDRESSING ENERGY-WATER NEXUS

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is calling on the federal government to partner with the private sector and academia to support research to improve the efficient use of energy and water in the production and use of both critical resources. In a speech on May 6 at the Atlantic Council, Murkowski said that a coordinated public-private approach to energy-water nexus issues would promote economic growth and lead to the discovery of breakthrough technologies in energy and water resiliency.

“There is a clear need to obtain reliable, current, and comprehensive data on energy-for-water and water-for-energy use by all stakeholders, both public and private. More accurate data can improve informed decision making; help prioritize investments in energy-water related infrastructure; and lead to better water and energy use practices,” Murkowski said.

The energy-water nexus is comprised of the water used to produce energy, including raw resources, refined products, and electricity; and the energy required to treat, transport, and distribute water. Some 410 billion gallons of water are being treated and transported across the United States on a daily basis. Researchers also found that direct water-related energy consumption amounted to more than 12 percent of domestic primary energy consumption in 2010. That is equivalent to the annual water consumption of about 40 million Americans.

“We should not assume that water will always be available for these purposes,” Murkowski said. “With a steady population increase and the resource needs of a modern economy, freshwater could well become a limited resource in many parts of this nation.”

Murkowski has already taken legislative action, introducing, in January, the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability (NEWS) Act of 2014 (S. 1971). The legislation directs the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a committee to coordinate and streamline federal energy and water nexus activities.

Murkowski, the top Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on Tuesday also released a white paper – The Energy-Water Nexus: Interlinked Resources That Are Vital for Economic Growth and Sustainability – on the importance of the energy-water nexus to the U.S. economy.

The white paper and full text of Murkowski’s speech are available on the energy panel’s website at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/republican-news?ID=2e47f654-dfd9-44a0-8927-a8f40a2ef831

Archived video of Murkowski’s speech is available on the Atlantic Council website at: http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/events/webcasts/webcast-the-nexus-of-energy-and-water-for-us-sustainability-and-national-security

 

USGCRP RELEASES NATIONAL CLIMATE ASSESSMENT, LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

On May 6, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) released the Third National Climate Assessment, a comprehensive scientific report on U.S. climate change impacts. The report provides information on how changing weather patterns are affecting every region of the country and key sectors of the U.S. economy.

The Third National Climate Assessment was developed over four years by hundreds of the nation’s top climate scientists and technical experts, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, and informed by extensive input from the public and outside organizations gathered through town hall meetings, public comment opportunities, and technical workshops across the country.

The report communicates the impacts of climate change according to geographic region of the U.S., and by economic and societal sector, including agriculture, energy, and health. One of the goals of the report is to tailor findings to help translate scientific insights into practical, usable knowledge that can help decision-makers and citizens anticipate and prepare for specific climate-change impacts.

A fact sheet, “What Climate Change Means for Regions across America and Major Sectors of the Economy,” is available at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/06/fact-sheet-what-climate-change-means-regions-across-america-and-major-se

The Third National Climate Assessment is available to download at: http://nca2014.globalchange.gov/downloads and can be explored interactively through a newly redeployed website: http://www.globalchange.gov/

A press release from the Majority side of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in response to the Assessment may be read at: http://science.house.gov/press-release/smith-white-house-climate-report-stretches-truth

Read the statement of DOE Secretary Moniz on the National Climate Assessment at: http://energy.gov/articles/statement-secretary-moniz-national-climate-assessment

 

NEW NRC REPORT FOCUSES ON ADVANCING WOMEN OF COLOR IN ACADEMIA

On May 1, the National Research Council (NRC) Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine held an event to disseminate the NRC recent report, "Seeking Solutions: Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia." The report examines the current status of women of color faculty in academia, investigates the challenges for women of color, and discusses successful programs and policies for creating institutional transformation.

Seeking Solutions also clarifies factors and draws attention to ways that organizations can take action to create institutional cultures that are hospitable to people of any gender, race and ethnicity. The report also pinpoints reliable and credible data sources, as well as areas for new research and data collection.

To review an overview of the conference summary or the slides that were presented at the event, please visit: http://sites.nationalacademies.org/PGA/cwsem/minoritywomen/PGA_087695

 

GAO ANALYSIS: IMPROVEMENTS NEEDED IN DOE LOAN MONITORING PROGRAM

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) Loan Programs Office.   The Office administers the Loan Guarantee Program (LGP) for certain renewable or innovative energy projects and the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) loan program for projects to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles and components. As of March 2014, the programs had made more than $30 billion in loans and guarantees: approximately $21.9 billion for 33 loan guarantees under the LGP and $8.4 billion for 5 loans under the ATVM loan program.

GAO assessed the extent to which DOE has developed and adhered to loan monitoring policies for its loan programs for 2009 to 2013. GAO analyzed relevant regulations and guidance; prior audits; DOE policies; and DOE data, documents, and monitoring reports for a non-probability sample of 10 loans and guarantees.

From its analysis, the GAO concluded that DOE has not fully developed or consistently adhered to loan monitoring policies for its loan programs. In particular, DOE has established policies for most loan monitoring activities, but policies for evaluating and mitigating program-wide risk remain incomplete and outdated. These activities are generally the responsibility of the Risk Management Division in DOE's Loan Programs Office. This division, established in February 2012, has been operating since its inception under incomplete or outdated policies. DOE has missed several internal deadlines for updating its loan monitoring policies.

In some cases GAO examined, DOE generally adhered to the loan monitoring policies that it had in place. But, in other cases, DOE adhered to the policies inconsistently or not at all because the Loan Programs Office had staff vacancies and was still developing management and reporting software and procedures for implementing policies.

As a result, DOE was making loans and disbursing funds from 2009 through 2013 without a fully developed loan monitoring function. During this time, inconsistent adherence to policies limited assurance that DOE was completing activities important to monitoring the loans and protecting the government's interest.

GAO has recommended that DOE: staff key positions; update management and reporting software; complete policies for loan monitoring; and, evaluate the effectiveness of its loan monitoring. DOE generally agreed with the recommendations.

To read the 35-page report, go to: http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-367, and click on View the Report.

 

EXCESSIVE REGULATIONS TURNING SCIENTISTS INTO BUREAUCRATS: NSB REPORT

Excessive regulations are consuming scientists' time and wasting taxpayer dollars, says a report released earlier this month by the National Science Board (NSB), the policymaking body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and advisor to Congress and the President.

"Regulation and oversight of research are needed to ensure accountability, transparency and safety," said Arthur Bienenstock, chair of the NSB task force that examined the issue. "But excessive and ineffective requirements take scientists away from the bench unnecessarily and divert taxpayer dollars from research to superfluous grant administration. This is a real problem, particularly in the current budget climate."

Thousands of federally funded scientists responded to NSB's request to identify requirements they believe unnecessarily increase their administrative workload. The responses raised concerns related to financial management, grant proposal preparation, reporting, personnel management, and institutional review boards and animal care and use committees (IRBs and IACUCs).

Scientists and institutions pinpointed regulations they believe are ineffective or inappropriately applied to research, and audit and compliance activities that take away research time and result in university over-regulation.

The report, “Reducing Investigators' Administrative Workload for Federally Funded Research,” recommends limiting proposal requirements to those essential to evaluate merit; keeping reporting focused on outcomes; and automating payroll certification for effort reporting. The NSB further recommends an evaluation of animal research, conflict of interest, and safety and security requirements, and encourages universities to review their IRB and IACUC processes to achieve rapid approval of protocols.

The report cites a continued lack of consistency in requirements within and between federal agencies and recommends the creation of a permanent high-level, inter-agency, inter-sector committee. The committee would address the recommendations in the NSB and other reports; identify and prioritize, with stakeholder engagement, additional opportunities to streamline and harmonize regulations; and, help standardize the implementation of new requirements affecting investigators and institutions.

To read the report, visit http://nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=nsb1418

 

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
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Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations

  • Melissa Carl covers public policy-related science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and diversity issues for ASME. She can be reached at carlm@asme.org
  • Paul Fakes covers public policy-related energy, standards and environmental issues for ASME. He can be reached at fakesp@asme.org
  • Roy Chrobocinski covers public policy-related research and development (R&D) and manufacturing issues for ASME. He can be reached at chrobocinski@asme.org