October 13, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chair of the Subcommittee on Energy of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, recently convened a series of hearings exploring the complexities of changing electricity markets in the U.S. entitled:  Part 1: Powering America: Technology’s Role in Empowering Consumers; Part II: Powering America: Defining Reliability in a Transforming Electricity Industry; and Part III: Powering America: Consumer Oriented Perspectives Towards Improving Electricity Markets.

Witnesses from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), Department of Energy (DOE), and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), as well as a variety of public and private stakeholders, examined how regulators and the industry are addressing reliability in the United States electricity system. Testimony focused on factors such as changing fuel costs and generation mix, decreases in electricity demands, advances in technology and evolving consumer preferences. Reliability is generally defined as the ability of the electric system to deliver expected service through planned and unplanned events, and market changes in recent years have led to substantial shifts in U.S. electricity markets and the electric system itself.

Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recently asked FERC to issue a new rule to allow generators with a 90-day supply of fuel on site —namely coal and nuclear facilities —to recover operating costs at “a fair rate of return.” DOE’s proposal would allow FERC to establish “just and reasonable” rates for wholesale electricity sales “to ensure that certain reliability and resilience attributes of electric generation resources are fully valued.” While the proposal received a cold reception in Congress, members of the Subcommittee have frequently noted their concerns about whether existing electricity market rules, State policies, and Federal policies are encouraging a reliable electricity system.

For full witness testimonies and archived webcasts of the three hearings, please visit:  https://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/


The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a new report entitled “Issues in Autonomous Vehicle Deployment” providing information on current policies that govern autonomous vehicles, as well as offering insight into how future policies may be implemented to govern this technology. The report provides an overview of past guidelines while offering a model for the state and federal regulatory tools to help usher in the driverless car revolution. The report also addresses the Trump Administration’s revision of Department of Transportation guidelines.

The report also touches on H.R. 3388, the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution Act—or SELF DRIVE Act, which was recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill incorporates some provisions that would preempt state regulation of some aspects of autonomous vehicle deployment, which was recommended in a 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) report and also in a later 2017 DOT report.

To read the full report please visit: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44940.pdf

H.R. 3388 is available to view at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3388


The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has published the U.S. Commerce Department’s (DOC) 2016 Annual Report on Technology Transfer, which provides an extensive view of technology transfer activities of three bureaus —NIST, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. DOC laboratories aim to support innovations making their ways into the U.S. commercial stream rather than those without foreseeable commercialization prospects.

According to the report, DOC researchers participated in 389 traditional collaborative research and development agreements (CRADAs).  An example of DOC technology transfer is work by NIST in precision medicine diagnostics and delivery, including a measurement standard that industry can use to ensure the quality of treatments for cancers, autoimmune disorders and infectious diseases. Among NIST’s patents in 2016 was a sensor that can improve both the detection of greenhouse gas and the transmission of encrypted information. And building on its expertise in laser tracking technology, NIST teamed with industry partners to develop a commercial device to verify laser tracker accuracy. DOC labs also disclosed 55 new inventions, filed 25 patent applications and were issued 12 patents.

To read the full report please visit:  http://tinyurl.com/yarznxje


A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommends that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) document the design of its Risk Ranking Index Model and implement a process that uses data to periodically assess the model’s effectiveness. The report is one of several evaluations of PHMSA’s current regulatory practices mandated by the Protecting our Infrastructure of Pipelines and Enhancing Safety Act of 2016 (P.L. 114-183).

To determine how PHMSA uses data on materials and corrosion prevention to inform its inspection priorities, GAO analyzed and assessed the reliability of the most recent PHMSA inspection and enforcement data (calendar years 2014–2016) that contained information related to pipelines and corrosion prevention. PHMSA uses materials and corrosion data collected from operators in its Risk Ranking Index Model to determine the frequency of PHMSA's inspections of operators based on threats.

GAO found that the agency also needs to document key decisions for: (1) the threat factors selected, (2) their associated weights, or (3) the thresholds for high, medium, and low risk tiers for pipeline segments inspected by PHMSA. Moreover, PHMSA has not used data to assess its model's overall effectiveness and has not analyzed the model that it developed in 2012. Without documentation and a data-driven evaluation process, PHMSA cannot demonstrate the effectiveness of the model it uses to allocate its inspection resources.

For more information and to download the report, please visit: https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-17-639


The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Subcommittee on Space recently held a hearing on “Private Sector Lunar Exploration.” The purpose was to review the private sector exploration efforts that NASA is currently supporting, and to determine where the challenges and opportunities exist for future public-private collaboration on space exploration. Currently, the private sector’s main area of investment is in technologies aiming to serve the future market for transportation, cargo delivery, and surface operations.

Jason Crusan, director of the Advanced Exploration Systems Division at NASA, testified that in order to expand the frontiers of spaceflight capabilities, NASA wants to foster broader engagement to develop new spacecraft and rockets capable of delivering cargo as well as astronauts to low-Earth orbit. There is also strong interest in exploring the Moon, which could also be done by the private-sector. The expansion of robotic lunar lander capabilities could advance emerging commercial capabilities and allow NASA to expand its reach into deep space.

Four additional witnesses included Mr. Bob Richards, founder and CEO, Moon Express, Inc.; Mr. John Thornton, chief executive officer of Astrobotic Technology, Inc.; Mr. Bretton Alexander, director of business development and strategy at Blue Origin; and Dr. George Sowers, professor of space resources at Colorado School of Mines.

For more information, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/ycvszezm


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has released Appendix D of the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) NNH17ZTT001N, entitled “Use of the NASA Physical Sciences Informatics System.” The purpose it to solicits research proposals from researchers and graduate students to generate new scientific insights through the use of experimental data in NASA’s Physical Sciences Informatics (PSI) system (http://psi.nasa.gov).

A demonstrated clear path from the scientific data obtained from the PSI system to the proposed investigation must be shown as well as addressing an important problem in the areas of research and advanced scientific knowledge or technology.

The full text of the solicitation is available on the NASA Research Opportunities homepage at http://nspires.nasaprs.com under menu listing "Open Solicitations.” The direct link to the umbrella solicitation is http://tinyurl.com/NRA-NNH17ZTT001N. The direct link to the Appendix D webpage is http://tinyurl.com/NASA-17PSI-D.  Questions with regard to responding to this NRA may be addressed to the contacts referenced in the full solicitation document.

Notices of Intent for Appendix D are due on October 31, 2017, and they must be submitted electronically via NSPIRES (http://nspires.nasaprs.com). Proposals are due on December 15, 2017, and they must be submitted electronically by an authorized official of the proposing organization using either NSPIRES (http://nspires.nasaprs.com) or Grants.gov (http://www.grants.gov).

Visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/ for daily news and policy developments, including the following:
Congressional Briefing on Advanced Gas Turbine Technologies – Ensuring America’s Strategic and Economic Competitiveness in a Critical Sector of the U.S. Advanced Manufacturing Industry
Reps. Ryan, Reed and Sens. Graham, Stabenow Recognize Manufacturing Day
Currently Accepting Applications for the Washington Internships for Students of Engineering (WISE) 2018 Program
Secretary Perry Announces Conditional Commitment to Support Continued Construction of Vogtle Advanced Nuclear Energy Project

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