September 12, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE UNVEILS CONTINUING RESOLUTION

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers introduced a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) (H.J.Res.124) to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2014.

The legislation continues funding for government programs and services at the current annual cap rate of $1.012 trillion until December 11, 2014. This rate of funding will remain in place for the length of the continuing resolution, or until Congress approves the annual Appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2015. The bill is “clean” and does not contain highly controversial provisions.

Chairman Rogers gave the following statement on the introduction of the CR:

“We have reached the point where a Continuing Resolution is necessary to keep the government functioning and avoid another shutdown. It is a critical piece of legislation, and my Committee has crafted the bill in a responsible, restrained way that should draw wide support in the House and Senate. This bill is free of controversial riders, maintains current levels, and does not seek to change existing federal policies.”

For additional information, visit the ASME Public Policy Education Center at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/

 

U.S. EPA APPROVES FIRST CARBON SEQUESTRATION PERMITS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved permits allowing the FutureGen Industrial Alliance Inc. to inject carbon dioxide (CO2) deep underground in four wells near Jacksonville, Illinois. The four identical permits are the nation's first Class VI underground injection permits for carbon sequestration.

FutureGen plans to capture CO2 produced by a retrofitted coal-fueled power plant formerly operated by Ameren Energy Resources in Meredosia, Illinois. The captured CO2 would then be transported and injected deep underground via the four proposed wells, which would be constructed in Morgan County. FutureGen's goal is to capture and inject 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 each year for 20 years. Sequestering 1.1 million metric tons of CO2 each year is the equivalent of eliminating carbon emissions from 232,000 cars.

EPA completed a technical review of the permits and responded to over 280 public comments before approving the permits. FutureGen can begin drilling the wells next month in preparation for injecting liquefied CO2. The wells will be drilled from the same location to a depth of approximately 4,000 feet underground. FutureGen must demonstrate the integrity of the wells before injecting CO2 and conduct extensive monitoring at the location.

Additional information is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region5/water/uic/futuregen/

 

100 PERCENT OF NEW U.S. GENERATING CAPACITY IN JULY IS RENEWABLE

According to an article published in the August 20th edition of Financial & Legal Affairs, Market & Trends, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reported that July's renewable sources accounted for 100 percent of new generating capacity added to U.S. electricity grids.

In 2014, natural gas continues to be the largest source for new generation capacity added to U.S. grids with solar, wind and hydropower dominating the figures for July. Figures from FERC show that two wind, two hydro and five solar generating facilities were the only new generation capacity added during the month.

Solar's share of the July capacity adds totaled 21 MW, behind wind, which saw two facilities responsible for 379 MW completed. Solar was ahead of hydro, which had two new facilities adding 5 MW of capacity. In terms of total generation, solar remains a minnow, accounting for only 0.75 percent of total generating capacity in the U.S., with 9.31 GW installed according to the FERC figures.

To read the full article, please visit:
http://www.pv-magazine.com/fileadmin/PDFs/US_FERC_Report_July_2014_infrastructure_01.pdf

The FERC report is also available at: http://ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2014/jul-infrastructure.pdf

Information on other recent advancements in renewables can be found on the ASME Public Policy Education Center's Energy page at: http://ppec.asme.org/latest-news/duke-energy-partnering-with-progressive-utilities-on-renewables/

 

INHOFE OUTLINES CONCERNS ABOUT EPA'S METHANE STRATEGY WHITE PAPERS

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, has sent a letter to White House advisor Dan Utech, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy, and Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe in response to the EPA's white papers recently released on the oil and natural gas sector as part of the Obama Administration's methane strategy.

 

In the letter, Inhofe wrote that the "White Papers are handicapped by inaccurate and outdated data estimates of industry-wide emissions.” He continued the letter by prescribing the following steps for the Administration to take before continuing with its methane strategy:

  • Conduct a roundtable discussion with oil and natural gas industry representatives and state regulators to determine appropriate terms to be used throughout the White Papers that are consistent with their uses within the oil and natural gas community and discuss mitigation options for each of the five areas being explored by EPA. 
  • Conduct a review of regulatory hurdles to deploying technologies and developing infrastructure that would reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations. 
  • Conduct a series of roundtable meetings with state regulatory officials to better understand state efforts to regulate methane emissions. 
  • Develop, in cooperation with industry and state regulators, a unified national data set articulating an agreed upon estimate of nationwide methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry that is differentiated by basin and alleged source. 

Senator Inhofe also asked the officials to provide him with an overview of what the Administration plans to do once the White Paper process has been completed.

Additional information, including the letter, is available at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/energy/

 

FEDERAL FUNDING FOR BASIC RESEARCH AT UNIVERSITIES AND COLLEGES ESSENTIALLY UNCHANGED IN FY 2012

According to a new report from the National Science Foundation (NSF), federal funding for basic research performed at universities and colleges decreased 0.3 percent between fiscal years (FYs) 2011 and 2012.

Three broad fields of science in basic research performed at universities and colleges declined between FY 2011 and FY 2012. Computer sciences and mathematics decreased $75 million, life sciences decreased $55 million, and other sciences not elsewhere classified decreased $160 million.

Even with these declines for federal research funding, the report shows universities and colleges received 51 percent of the total $31 billion in federal obligations for basic research in FY 2012.

Five federal departments and agencies provided $15.4 billion, or 98 percent, of all federal basic research obligations to universities and colleges in FY 2012. Of the basic research total:

  • Department of Health and Human Services obligated 59 percent ($9.2 billion);
  • NSF obligated 24 percent ($3.8 billion);
  • Department of Defense obligated eight percent ($1.2 billion);
  • Department of Energy obligated five percent ($0.7 billion); and,
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration obligated 4 percent ($0.6 billion).

In FY 2012, basic research at universities and colleges accounted for 11.4 percent of total research and development obligations. The obligations were estimated to increase to 11.8 percent of total R&D obligations in FY 2013 and are projected to grow to 12.5 percent in FY 2014.

Data for the report are from NSF's Survey of Federal Funds for Research and Development for FYs 2012-14, which is accessible at http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/

 

ENGINEERS DEVELOP NEW SENSOR TO DETECT TINY INDIVIDUAL NANOPARTICLES

A team of researchers at Washington University in St. Louis and their collaborators at Tsinghua University in China have developed a new sensor that can detect and count nanoparticles, at sizes as small as 10 nanometers, one at a time. The research appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online Early Edition September 1, 2014.

Nanoparticles, engineered materials about a billionth of a meter in size, are around us every day. Although they are tiny, they can benefit human health, as in some innovative early cancer treatments. But they can also interfere with it through viruses, air pollution, traffic emissions, cosmetics, sunscreen and electronics.

The researchers have created the Raman microlaser sensor in a silicon dioxide chip to find individual nanoparticles without the need to “dope” the chip with chemicals called rare-earth ions to provide optical gain for the microlaser. Incorporating additions to the microresonator creates the need for more processing steps and increased costs and invites biocompatibility risks. In addition, the use of rare-earth ions requires specific “pump” lasers matching the energy transitions of the ions to generate optical gain, meaning different pump lasers must be used for different rare-earth ions. Using the Raman process loosens the requirement of specific wavelength bands for pump lasers because Raman gain can be obtained using pump at any wavelength band.

In addition to the demonstration of Raman microlasers for particle sensing, the team says their work shows the possibility of using intrinsic gain mechanisms, such as Raman and parametric gain. This would be instead of optical dyes, rare-earth ions or quantum dots, for loss compensation in optical and plasmonic systems where dissipation hinders progress and limits applications.

For additional information, visit: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/27295.aspx

 

NASA INVITES PUBLIC TO SUBMIT MESSAGES FOR ASTEROID MISSION TIME CAPSULE

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is inviting the public to submit short messages and images on social media that could be placed in a time capsule aboard a spacecraft launching to an asteroid in 2016.

Called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), the spacecraft will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2019, collect a sample and return the cache in a capsule to Earth in 2023 for detailed study. The robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid and return a minimum of two ounces (60 grams) of its surface material.

The OSIRIS-REx mission is focused on finding answers to basic questions about the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made life possible on Earth. The mission also will contribute to NASA's Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and support the agency's efforts to understand the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects and characterize those suitable for future asteroid exploration missions.

NASA's ARM is a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s, and return with samples. The mission will advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for humans to explore Mars in the 2030s.

Topics for submissions by the public should be about solar system exploration in 2014 and predictions for space exploration activities in 2023. The mission team will choose 50 tweets and 50 images to be placed in the capsule. Messages may be submitted between September 2nd and 30th.

When the capsule returns to Earth in 2023 with the asteroid material, the mission team will open the time capsule to view the messages and images, at which time the selected submissions will be posted online at http://www.asteroidmission.org/timecapsule

For details on procedures and rules for submitting a message and image, visit
http://www.asteroidmission.org/timecapsule

For more about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit http://www.nasa.gov/osiris-rex

 

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
1828 L Street, NW, Suite 810
Washington, DC 20036
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