May 29, 2015
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

ASME & IEEE-USA HOST SMART GRID CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING

ASME and IEEE-USA recently co-hosted a congressional staff briefing focusing on developments related to smart grid technologies. The briefing, entitled, “Grid Security and Advancements in Smart Grid Technology,” was convened in conjunction with the Congressional Reach and Development (R&D) Caucus, an organization dedicated to communicating the importance of R&D to Members of Congress and their staff. The R&D Caucus is co-chaired by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) and Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL).

The briefing included presentations from Dr. S. Massoud Amin, D.Sc., an ASME and IEEE member who is broadly recognized as a world leader and smart grid and cyber security issues, Dr. Damir Novosel, President Elect of IEEE’s Power & Energy Society and expert on smart grid-enabled technologies, and Kerrick Johnson, VP of Strategy and Communications from (VELCO) Vermont Electric and member of the Gridwise Alliance, who spoke about how electric utilities are utilizing smart grid technologies to reduce costs to consumers and improve the reliability and resilience of the electric grid. The briefing was moderated by the chair of ASME’s Inter Sector Committee on Federal R&D, Tommy Gardner, and featured an introduction to smart grid issues from Veronika Rabl, Chair of IEEE-USA’s Energy Policy Committee.

R&D Caucus co-Chair Rep. Bill Foster – the only physicist serving in the current Congress – was able to stop by the briefing to provide comments on his experience as a scientist and businessman who worked at Fermi National Laboratory for over 20 years. Rep. Foster underscored how federal R&D efforts were critical to enabling a whole range of new economic opportunities, and that support for R&D was essential to maintaining America’s economic competitiveness. While unable to attend the briefing, Rep. Culberson plays a key role in supporting R&D in Congress as he chairs the Commerce, Justice & Science Appropriations Subcommittee, which overseas funding key science agencies like the National Science Foundation and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Links to speaker presentations are available on the R&D Caucus Advisory Committee website.

 

SENATORS INTRODUCE BILL TO EXPAND BASIC ENERGY RESEARCH

U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE), a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have introduced legislation to reauthorize the energy programs included in the America COMPETES Act.

Cosponsors include the chair and ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Maria Cantwell, (D-WA), and Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM). The legislation will be considered by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as part of the committee’s effort to produce broad energy legislation this summer.

The legislation would accomplish three of the major goals of the America COMPETES Act. It would:

  • Authorize a four percent increase in funding each year for basic energy research, and reauthorize for five years the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science and ARPA-E, an agency that supports research in energy technology. The legislation would put DOE on a path toward doubling the roughly $5 billion it spends on basic energy research.
  • Eliminate six DOE programs that were never fully implemented, and reform five other DOE programs.
  • Attract and keep the country’s most talented scientists through competitive grant programs funded through DOE.

The America COMPETES Act grew out of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report on American competitiveness, written in 2005 by a commission headed by former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO Norm Augustine. The legislation set out to double the federal government’s investment in basic research in order to maintain America’s competitiveness in science and technology.

A 2014 update to the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report further demonstrated the need to support government-sponsored research in order to provide for long-term sustainability of the country’s science and engineering research system to benefit the American people. The report recommended a sustainable growth rate of four percent in the federal investment in basic research.

To review the bill, visit http://www.eenews.net/assets/2015/05/20/document_gw_01.pdf

 

BICAMERAL LEADERS CALL ON EPA TO INCLUDE SMALL BUSINESS INPUT IN CLEAN POWER PLAN RULEMAKING

Earlier this month, members of the House and Senate sent a letter to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on EPA to include input from small business representatives as the agency develops a model federal plan under the proposed Clean Power Plan.

Under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA), EPA is required to convene a Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) panel before publishing a proposed rule that will have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The purpose of a SBAR panel is to give Small Entity Representatives (SERs) an opportunity to assess a proposed rule’s potential impacts and provide recommendations to the agency to minimize any significant economic impacts. EPA did not convene a panel for its Clean Power Plan proposal, but recently decided to formally convene a panel for its model federal plan, which is expected to be proposed later this summer.

With EPA operating under an expedited timeline to finalize its proposed carbon regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, and issue a model federal plan, some congressional leaders are concerned the agency is not fulfilling their SBREFA requirements and not engaging in a meaningful discussion with small businesses.

In part, the letter reads “"It is our understanding that EPA informed participants involved in this process on April 30, 2015, that it was officially convening a SBAR panel. At the same time, however, it would appear that EPA is very close to the time when the agency will be submitting the proposed federal plan to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for interagency review. It is not clear how EPA can solicit, receive, and incorporate meaningful stakeholder input from small entities into the soon-to-be proposed federal plan if the agency intends to meet its summer 2015 deadline."

The entire letter may be read at: http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Files.View&FileStore_id=e0dabfa5-ec58-45c2-978a-fe86f9c74b66

 

HOUSE PASSES PERMANENT R&D TAX CREDIT

The House of Representatives passed H.R. 880, the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015, legislation to make permanent the research and development tax credit. The 274-145 vote to approve the R&D tax break included 37 Democrats and all but one Republican.

This bill revises and makes permanent after 2014 the research tax credit. The rate of such credit is modified “to equal the sum of 20 percent of the qualified research expenses for the taxable year as exceeds 50 percent of the average qualified research expenses for the three preceding taxable years, 20 percent of the basic research payments for the taxable year as exceeds 50 percent of the average basic research payments for the three preceding taxable years, plus 20 percent of amounts paid by a business taxpayer to an energy research consortium for energy research.” If a taxpayer has no qualified research expenses in any of the three preceding taxable years, the rate of the tax credit is reduced to 10 percent of current research expenses.

The bill also provides that in the case of an eligible small business (i.e., a corporation whose stock is not publicly traded, a partnership, or a sole proprietorship with annual gross receipts not exceeding $50 million in a three-year period), the research credit may offset alternative minimum tax liability.

The day prior to the House vote, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 880 saying that the bill “represents the wrong approach”  to strengthen the economy. In part, the Statement reads:

“The Administration supports enhancing, simplifying, and making permanent the Research and Experimentation Credit ("R&D credit"), and offsetting the cost by closing tax loopholes... Making the R&D credit permanent will increase its effectiveness, since it will allow businesses to make investments and create jobs today confident that they will continue to benefit from the credit in the future... However, the Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 880, which would permanently extend and expand the R&D credit without offsetting the cost, adding to long-run deficits. By making the R&D credit permanent without offsets, H.R. 880 would add $180 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.”

The full Statement of Administration Policy on H.R. 880 may be read at https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr880r_20150519.pdf

 

ENERGY DEPARTMENT RELEASES REPORT, EVALUATES POTENTIAL FOR WIND POWER IN ALL 50 STATES

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the release of Enabling Wind Power Nationwide, a report showing how the United States can unlock the vast potential for wind energy deployment in all 50 states made possible through the next-generation of larger wind turbines.

The new report highlights the potential for technical advancements to unlock wind resources in regions with limited wind deployment today, such as the Southeast. These new regions represent an additional 700,000 square miles (about one-fifth of the United States) bringing the total area of technical wind potential to 1.8 million square miles.

Technological advancements, such as taller wind turbine towers of 110 and 140 meters and larger rotors, currently under development by the Energy Department and its private sector partners, can more efficiently capture the stronger and more consistent wind resources typically found at greater heights above ground level, compared with the average 80 meter wind turbine towers installed in 39 states today.

To read the report, visit http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ and look under “Issue Reports”.

 

NACAA RELEASES CLEAN POWER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION TOOL

The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) has released a comprehensive technical resource to help states comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP). “ Implementing EPA’s Clean Power Plan: A Menu of Options” examines a wide range of technologies and policies that states might consider as they develop plans to reduce power-sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and achieve the state-specific emissions targets set by EPA in the CPP. The “Menu of Options” contains 26 detailed chapters, 25 of which explore various approaches to reducing GHG emissions in the electric sector.

Each chapter includes a common core of information that begins with a profile of the particular approach, followed by discussions of its regulatory backdrop, policy underpinnings, and implementation experiences. Each chapter also examines the co-benefits of the approach, including but not limited to reductions of non-GHG pollutants, as well as an examination of costs and cost-effectiveness.

Finally, in the 26th chapter, the “Menu of Options” addresses emerging technologies and other important policies that regulators may wish to consider as they formulate plans to reduce power sector GHG emissions.

To review the report, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/ and look under “Issue Reports”.

 

NASA SEEKS ADDITIONAL INFORMATION FOR ASTEROID REDIRECT MISSION SPACECRAFT

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking ideas from American companies for a spacecraft design that could be used for both the agency's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and a robotic satellite servicing mission in low-Earth orbit.

In the early-2020s NASA plans to launch the Asteroid Redirect Mission, which will use a robotic spacecraft to capture a large boulder from the surface of a near-Earth asteroid and move it into a stable orbit around the moon for exploration by astronauts, all in support of advancing the nation's journey to Mars.

NASA also has been studying the "Restore-L" mission concept, during which a spacecraft would use dexterous robotic systems to grapple and refuel a government satellite in low-Earth orbit. Restore-L would bring to operational status capabilities needed for future commercial satellite servicing by demonstrating technologies and reducing risk.

The RFI is not a request for proposal or formal procurement and therefore is not a solicitation or commitment by the government. Deadline for submissions is 45 days after public posting of the RFI. The full RFI is available at http://www.nasa.gov/feature/arm-spacecraft-bus-request-for-information

For more information about NASA's Asteroid Initiative, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/asteroidinitiative

For more information about NASA's robotic satellite servicing capabilities office, go to: http://go.usa.gov/3kpV5

 

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
Washington, DC 20036
Website: http://www.asme.org/about-asme/advocacy-government-relations