October 14, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


BILL PASSED TO ENSURE NASA’S STABILITY DURING TRANSITION TO NEW ADMINISTRATION

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee recently advanced the NASA authorization bill, “NASA Transition Authorization Act,” which focuses on space exploration to places such as Mars and setting the year 2021 as Orion’s first crewed mission. Reauthorizing NASA ensures its stability into the next administration since historically, NASA has succumbed to significant directional changes under new administrations, resulting in job losses and cancellation of missions. 

“Satellite servicing is a critical capability not only for NASA but for commercial activities and national security interests as well,” said Mike Gold, vice president of Washington operations and business development for Space Systems Loral. “The companies and countries that can refuel, restore, and refurbish their satellites will have a substantial advantage in the global space arena.”

In February of this year, the House passed the companion bill, the “NASA Authorization Act,” which included guidance to NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

More information can be found at: http://spacenews.com/senate-committee-approves-nasa-authorization-bill


EPA TO REVIEW GAS EMISSIONS STANDARDS AFTER SUIT

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has agreed to re-examine its air pollution estimates from flares at oil and gas drilling sites in response to a lawsuit from several community groups in Texas and Louisiana. The agency agreed to the review as settlement of the suit, and will now reevaluate its emission factor estimates by no later than June 5, 2017, with any final revisions completed by February 5, 2018.

The agreement is a victory for environmental groups who argued that the EPA was using old data to evaluate natural gas facility emissions. The organizations sued EPA in 2013 when air sampling over Houston showed levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were 10 to 100 times higher than EPA-approved reporting methods. Earlier this year, the agency admitted that flares at refineries and chemical plants were releasing about four times more VOCs than previously estimated. Despite requirements that EPA review its emission formula every 3 years, the current formula for measuring VOCs dates to 1985.

EPA has already announced new steps to address methane emissions, just one type of VOC, from new and existing sources in the oil and gas sector as new data demonstrated that these emissions were substantially higher than previously estimated.

For more information, please visit:
https://www.epa.gov/controlling-air-pollution-oil-and-natural-gas-industry


US AND INDIA HOLD JOINT S&T MEETING

Science and technology ties between nations working cooperatively is the key to addressing global challenges according to Sethuraman Panchanathan, the first Indian American to be appointed to the U.S. National Science Board. Solving grand challenges can be achieved more efficiently and more quickly such as combating climate change, dealing with rapid urbanization, and developing clean energy technologies that will benefit the entire world. 

As part of the India-U.S. collaboration in the field of science and technology during the India-U.S. S&T Joint Commission Meeting held recently at the White House, Union Science and Technology Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan and John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science & Technology, co-chaired the meeting where a review was made of the current five Joint Working Groups for S&T cooperation, which include agriculture science and ocean wave modelling. During the meeting, it was decided that innovation and techno-entrepreneurship would be the center piece of future collaboration.

Dr. Vardhan also emphasized the significance of environment and climate change in the Arctic region and its impact on the Indian Monsoon and India's readiness to enhance cooperation on Arctic science and research when he attended the Arctic Ministerial in Washington, D.C. in September.

To read more, please visit: http://bit.ly/2cZlFTz


SECOND ECONOMIC IMPACT ANALYSIS OF THE U.S. BIOBASED PRODUCTS INDUSTRY RELEASED

Recently, the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its second report on the economic impact of the U.S. biobased products industry, which shows the continued positive impact this sector is having on our economy as it supports millions of jobs. According to USDA Secretary Vilsack, "America has an appetite for everyday products- including plastic bottles, textiles, cleanings supplies and more- made from renewable sources, and that demand is fueling millions of jobs, bringing manufacturing back to our rural communities, and reducing our nation's carbon footprint. As this sector is strengthening, so is the economy in rural America, where this year the unemployment rate dropped below six percent for the first time since 2007. USDA is proud to see such strong returns on our investment into the biobased products industry."

Innovative biobased materials have key environmental benefits, such as the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through the replacement of petroleum-based products. An example of this is using biobased material for packing and insulating materials as an alternative to synthetic foams, such as Styrofoam.  By taking steps such as these, biobased products currently displace about 300 million gallons of petroleum per year - the equivalent to taking 200,000 cars off the road.

The full article is available at: https://www.biopreferred.gov/BPResources/files/EconomicReport_6_12_2015.pdf


FERC DEFENDS ALGONQUIN PIPELINE PROJECT

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urged the D.C. Circuit this week to reject calls to stop construction of a $971 million gas pipeline project managed by Algonquin energy, a subsidiary of Spectra Energy Partners. FERC argued the environmental groups opposing the project have not demonstrated any danger associated with the project, instead speculating on potential safety risks that have been already accounted for in various reviews of the project. The majority of the proposed project would replace existing aged pipeline with new pipeline at the same location.

Algonquin’s pipeline system extends from Lambertville and Hanover, New Jersey, through the states of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, to points near the Boston area, and drew opposition from several environmental groups and the City of Boston. Opponents noted particular concern about the project’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear facility operated by Entergy Nuclear Operations in New York, but FERC noted that the final environmental impact study for the proposed project includes a number of measures accounting for the nuclear facility and was reviewed and approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy.

Algonquin also filed a motion in opposition to the bid to halt the project, noting that, “The balance of harms tilts sharply against a stay, which would jeopardize gas supplies in the Northeast during peak winter demand, harm millions of Northeastern natural gas customers and frustrate a project the commission specifically found to be required in the public interest.”

For more information, visit https://www.ferc.gov  and review FERC Docket No. CP14-96.


NATIONAL BIOENERGY DAY IS OCTOBER 19

October 19 is National Bioenergy Day and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has begun sharing bioenergy success stories about national laboratories and industry partners. One particular story features BETO Director Jonathan Male highlighting the following three recent bioenergy innovations:

  • Renewable Jet Fuel from Industrial Waste Gases: LanzaTech uses a process that converts carbon-rich industrial waste gases—such as carbon monoxide from steel production—into fuel for airplanes.  Virgin Atlantic plans to use this fuel as early as next year;
  • Algal Turf Scrubbers Fuel Cars and Clean up Pollution: Sandia National Laboratories researchers are using BETO funding to investigate how to develop “Algal Turf Scrubbers”—long thread-like algae that could be strategically installed near storm water or wastewater runoff sites to absorb excess phosphorus and nitrogen from agricultural sites; and,
  • Biofuel from Sludge Waste: With BETO funding, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and industry partners are working to develop a technology to produce biofuel from wet wastes at water treatment plants.

In addition, a special library has been created with books designed to facilitate collaboration among researchers worldwide and help them overcome the challenges of using biomass as a commercial-scale energy resource.  The library has a wealth of information on organic material such as corn stover, switchgrass, wood chips and wheat straw with close to 50,000 biomass database entries and over 35,000 physical samples. This e library began as a project at the Idaho National Laboratory to collect a wide assortment of biomass samples.

BETO is encouraging researchers to use this resource, which could help the nation reach its goal of deriving more energy from biomass.

To review the full article, go to: https://www.inl.gov/article/bioenergy-research/


PRESIDENTIAL MEMORANDUM ISSUED ON PROMOTING DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN THE NATIONAL SECURITY WORKFORCE

President Obama recently announced a deepened focus on utilizing the talents and skills of our diverse society, which is considered one of our Nation’s greatest strengths.
As one of the largest employers, the federal government intends to lead by example by promoting diversity and inclusion in its hiring, which is critical for our national security workforce as employees with diverse backgrounds and cultural connections support our ability to promote global peace and prosperity. As our nation interacts with an increasingly complex world, building bridges of understanding among communities, both domestically and abroad, is important to addressing threats to our Nation.

A new Presidential Memorandum issued provides guidance on the implementation of policies to promote diversity and inclusion in the nation’s national security workforce. The guidance outlines a number of actions that allow departments and agencies to better leverage the diversity of the federal workforce and promote inclusion, consistent with the existing merit system and applicable law, including:

  • Collection, analysis, and dissemination of workforce data;
  • Provision of professional development opportunities and tools consistent with merit system principles; and
  • Strengthening of leadership engagement and accountability.

For additional information, please visit:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/10/05/presidential-memorandum-promoting-diversity-and-inclusion-national

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