May 20, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


EPA RELEASES STANDARDS TO CUT METHANE EMISSIONS FROM THE OIL AND GAS SECTOR

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced comprehensive steps to address methane emissions from both new and existing sources in the oil and gas sector. For new, modified and reconstructed sources, EPA is finalizing a set of standards that will reduce methane, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and toxic air emissions in the oil and natural gas industry. EPA has also started the process to control emissions from existing sources by issuing for public comment an Information Collection Request (ICR) that requires companies to provide the information that will be necessary for EPA to reduce methane emissions from existing oil and gas sources.

Methane, the key constituent of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with a warming potential more than 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. The final standards aim to significantly curb methane emissions from new, reconstructed, and modified processes and equipment, along with reducing VOC emissions from sources not covered in the agency’s 2012 rules. These sources include hydraulically fractured oil wells, some of which can contain a large amount of gas along with oil, and equipment used across the industry that was not regulated in the 2012 rules.

The final standards for new and modified sources are expected to reduce 510,000 short tons of methane in 2025, the equivalent of reducing 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Natural gas that is recovered as a result of the rule can be used on site or sold. EPA estimates the final rule will yield climate benefits of $690 million in 2025, which will outweigh estimated costs of $530 million in 2025. Reductions in VOCs and air toxics are also expected to yield benefits; however EPA was not able to quantify those benefits.

Earlier this year, EPA launched the Methane Challenge Program, which provides a new way for U.S. oil and gas companies to achieve ambitious commitments to reduce methane emissions. This voluntary program has the potential to foster significant cost-effective emission reductions across the oil and gas sector and to provide transparency on the progress partner companies are making to reduce emissions.

More information, including technical fact sheets, is available at https://www3.epa.gov/airquality/oilandgas/index.html


ENERGY DEPARTMENT ANNOUNCES FUNDING FOR DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION OF MANUFACTURING OF BIOFUELS, BIOPRODUCTS, AND BIOPOWER

Recognizing the importance of biofuels to energy and climate security, the Energy Department has announced up to $90 million in project funding focused on designing, constructing, and operating integrated biorefinery facilities. The production of biofuels from sustainable, non-food, domestic biomass resources is an important strategy to meet the Administration’s goals to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on imported oil.

“Project Development for Pilot and Demonstration Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower” is a funding opportunity meant to assist in the construction of bioenergy infrastructure to integrate cutting-edge pretreatment, process, and convergence technologies. Biorefineries are modeled after petroleum refineries, but use domestic biomass sources instead of crude oil, or other fossil fuels to produce biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. They convert biomass feedstocks – the plant and algal materials used to derive fuels like ethanol, butanol, biodiesel and other hydrocarbon fuels – to another form of fuel or energy product. This funding will support efforts to improve and demonstrate processes that break down complex biomass feedstocks and convert them to gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, as well as plastics and chemicals.

The United States spends approximately $1 billion every three days on imported oil. Meanwhile, the Energy Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate that the United States could sustainably produce more than 1 billion tons of biomass that could be converted to biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. This would spur economic development in rural communities across the nation and those products could be used to fuel vehicles, heat homes and replace everyday materials such as plastic — all while potentially displacing over 25 percent of U.S. petroleum use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 550 million tons.

Prior Energy Department investments in biomass have helped develop a number of biofuels pathways, some of which are ready to scale up toward commercialization. Today’s funding opportunity announcement will advance the Department’s goal of producing at least three total pioneer commercial plants over the next twelve years. To learn more about this funding opportunity and application requirements, visit Energy.gov

at https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/default.aspx#FoaId751733aa-d067-485a-aeb6-6927147d81f7


CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON “EXPLORING THE NEXUS OF FOOD AND ADVANCED MANUFACTURING FOR AMERICAN COMPETITIVENESS, FOOD SAFETY, AND GLOBAL SECURITY”

On Tuesday, May 10, ASME co-hosted a Congressional briefing entitled, “Exploring the Nexus of Food and Advanced Manufacturing for American Competitiveness, Food Safety, and Global Security,” along with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of California-Davis, and the Georgia Institute of Technology. The briefing was convened as part of an ongoing dialogue among universities and stakeholders in an effort to educate lawmakers on the issues surrounding food. Tim Wei, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Outreach at ASME, opened the briefing by sharing an overview of work done so far to meet the challenges the U.S. is facing.

The first panelist to speak was Jeff Korengel, former Vice President of Process R&D-Technical Commercialization for ConAgra Foods. Korengel shed light on why food security is an important policy concern the U.S., despite the appearance that it is a non-issue. While the U.S. has seen great progress in the areas of food safety, affordability, quality, and convenience in the past decade, security in each of these areas remains fragile. Past accomplishments are taken for granted and mask the remaining challenges we face, including population growth, the expanding middle class, climate change, sustainable fuels, lower efficiency farming trends, and water availability. Manufacturing innovation has played a key role in overcoming these past hurdles and will continue to play a vital role as we work to address future threats to the system.

The second panelist was Theodore Lioutas, Principle and CEO of Lioutas Global Group, LLC and former Chief Innovation, Quality, Science, and Technology Officer at McCain Foods Ltd. Lioutas further addressed the challenges we see with food security and safety, pointing to recent real-life crises, including the unusually high number and diversity of food recalls we have seen in recent years along with the vast food waste we see despite growing food demand globally. These challenges can only be overcome through innovation in engineering and science, which will work to fill the technology gaps so that the industry can meet new and growing consumer demands. Major areas for growth include: automation/robotics, modular manufacturing and packaging lines, and big data analytics. We are already beginning to see the ideas of the future come to life in 3D farming techniques and faster, more accurate processing, leading to better sanitation, worker safety, and customization.

The third and final panelist was Ronnie Green, Chancellor Elect of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and former Vice President and Harlan Vice Chancellor of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Green spoke about the importance of water and its huge effect on sanitation. He also discussed how building data into the system can dramatically change how we are able to manufacture food. Green touched on the vital need for government involvement in addressing these challenges, as much of what needs to be done must happen in a pre-competitive environment due to the extremely tight margins that exist in the industry.

For additional information, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/


NEW NNMI INSTITUTE ON HIGH TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTORS INCLUDED IN THE HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS DEFENSE SUBCOMMITTEE’S REPORT

On Tuesday, the full House Appropriations Committee mark-uped the FY 2017 Defense Bill and Revised Report on the Interim Suballocation of Budget Allocations. The previous week, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense passed the draft FY 2017 Defense Appropriations bill and submitted an accompanying report offering an explanation of the bill making appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017 to the full Committee.

The accompanying report highlights the DOD’s focus on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) by calling for a new NNMI institute focusing on high temperature superconductors:

“MANUFACTURING INNOVATION INSTITUTE FOR HIGH TEMPERATURE SUPERCONDUCTORS
The Committee notes that high temperature superconductors offer the potential to reduce the magnetic signature of Navy warships, to accelerate the use of motors and generators for all-electric ships and aircraft, to develop minesweeping magnets, and to create magnetic energy storage systems and rail guns. The Committee urges the Secretary of Defense to consider establishing a Manufacturing Innovation Institute that focuses on high temperature superconductors.”

Detailed FY 2017 budget and appropriation updates can be found on the Manufacturing/Innovation & Competitiveness page of the PPEC at: http://ppec.asme.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/FY-17-Advanced-Manufacturing-Funding-UPDATE-5-17-16.pdf This page will be updated as the Appropriations Committee advances this legislation.


SENATE HEARING EXAMINES THE STATUS OF ADVANCED NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGIES

On May 17, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee conducted oversight of the innovation taking place in the nation’s advanced nuclear industry. Among the issues highlighted were a range of emerging technologies, the need to remove barriers to their domestic deployment and the importance of the United States remaining the global leader on nuclear energy.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Committee Chairman, highlighted nuclear power as a safe, reliable, emissions-free source of baseload power. Noting that nuclear power today provides 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, including 63 percent of its emissions-free electricity, Murkowski argued that it must remain a strong part of the domestic energy mix. She also underscored the importance of rational federal policies that will boost, rather than hold back, nuclear development.

She also observed that removing barriers to public-private partnerships, reforming the licensing structure, and continuing responsible funding for nuclear science RD&D will help drive these innovative technologies to revolutionize the industry and provide robust economic growth. Murkowski expressed her continued support for both the existing nuclear fleet and next generation technologies, which include small modular reactors, micro-reactors, Generation-four reactors, and future fusion reactors.   

Witness testimony and archived video from Tuesday’s hearing is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website at: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/


NIST ‘RAMPS’ UP CYBERSECURITY EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT WITH NEW GRANTS

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is offering up to $1 million in grants to establish up to eight Regional Alliances and Multi-stakeholder Partnerships to Stimulate (RAMPS) cybersecurity education and workforce development. As part of the Department of Commerce’s “Skills for Business” initiative that has made job-driven training a priority, RAMPS will support the NIST-led National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).

NICE works with government, academia, and the private sector to bring leadership and vision to increase the number of skilled cybersecurity professionals helping to keep the nation secure from computer-based attacks.

Effective partnerships will focus on organizing employers with cybersecurity skill shortages to join with educators to focus on developing the skilled workforce to meet industry needs within the local or regional economy. The program’s goals are to align the workforce needs of local business and nonprofit organizations with the learning objectives for education and training provided in NICE’s National Cybersecurity Workforce Framework and to increase the pipeline of students pursuing cybersecurity careers. NIST anticipates funding five to eight awards of up to $200,000 during 15 months as cooperative agreements.

Applicants must be nonprofit organizations, including institutions of higher education, located in the United States or its territories. Applicants must also demonstrate through letters of interest that at least one of each of the following types of organizations is interested in being part of the proposed regional alliance: K-12 school or Local Education Agency (LEA); institution of higher education or college/university system; and, a local employer.

The deadline to apply is July 12, 2016, by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. NIST will hold a webinar for interested applicants to provide general information regarding this grant, offer general guidance on preparing applications and answer questions. For more information, the Grants.gov announcement can be found at: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=283764, and the NICE web page is also available at: http://csrc.nist.gov/nice/  


Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:

ASME Government Relations
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
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Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations