September 19, 2014
Capitol Update

In this issue:

 

HOUSE PASSES MANUFACTURING INNOVATION BILL

On September 15th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by voice vote, bipartisan legislation providing $300 million to the Commerce Department to establish a network of manufacturing innovation institutes. The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 (H.R. 2996) amends the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Act to direct the Secretary of Commerce to establish within NIST a Network for Manufacturing Innovation Program to:

  • Improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and increase domestic production;
  • Stimulate U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing research, innovation, and technology; and,
  • Accelerate the development of an advanced manufacturing workforce.

In addition, the legislation:

  • Requires the Secretary to establish a network of centers for manufacturing innovation, to be known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) and to award financial assistance to assist in planning, establishing, or supporting such centers.
  • Directs the Secretary to establish within NIST the National Office of the Network for Manufacturing Innovation Program to oversee the Program, enter into memorandums of understanding with federal agencies whose missions contribute to or are affected by advanced manufacturing, develop and periodically update a strategic plan for the Program, establish procedures to maximize cooperation and coordinate Program activities with those of other federal agencies, establish a clearinghouse of public information related to Program activities, and act as a convener of the Network.
  • Requires the Secretary to ensure that the Office incorporates the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership into Program planning to ensure that the results of the Program reach small- and medium-sized entities.
  • Establishes in the Treasury a Network for Manufacturing Innovation Fund for carrying out the Program.

The text of H.R. 2996 may be viewed at: https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/2996/text

A companion Senate bill, S. 1468, passed the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee earlier this year. ASME issued a position statement in support of both pieces of legislation. To review the statement, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/q3jgges

Additional information on the NNMI, including a recent webinar done for ASME by NIST can be found at the new PPEC: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/

 

EPA EXTENDS COMMENT PERIOD ON CLEAN POWER PROPOSAL AFTER SENATORS ASK FOR EXTENSION

On September 16th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) extended the comment period on its Clean Power Rule by an additional 45 days. The comment period will now remain open until December 1, 2014.

The action follows a September 11th letter from a bipartisan group of 53 Senators who called on EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to provide a 60-day extension for the public comment period on the EPA’s proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Taking issue with the complex and broad nature of the proposal that would affect electric generation, use, and costs throughout the country, the group of Senators expressed the need for an additional 60 days in order to provide more time for all sides to fully review it and offer comments.

In part, the Senators’ letter reads as follows: “The proposed rule regulates or affects the generation, transmission, and use of electricity in every corner of this country... In light of the broad energy impacts of the proposed rule, state environmental agencies must coordinate their comments across multiple state agencies and stakeholders, including public utility commissions, regional transmission organizations, and transmission and reliability experts... This level of coordination to comment on an EPA rule is unprecedented, extraordinary, and extremely time consuming.”

To read the letter in its entirety, go to: http://www.fischer.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/37ae316d-ec3c-4ce8-89a6-6a19fdb63fd5/9.11.14-letter-from-53-senators-to-epa-to-request-60-day-extension-for-public-comment-on-111d-rule-1-.pdf

Information on how to submit comments can be found at: http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule

 

MURKOWSKI: GAO FINDINGS REINFORCE RELIABILITY CONCERNS

At the request of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report documenting federal agencies’ inadequate response to concerns about the potential electric reliability impacts of multiple federal regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The report is an update to GAO’s previous work in 2012 on electric reliability. The nonpartisan GAO found that federal agencies have in the last two years taken only “initial steps” to establish interagency interactions and have failed to develop a formal, documented process to track industry compliance efforts, while focusing primarily on just one of several new federal regulations that could impact reliability. GAO also reported that coal plant retirements are now on track to be considerably higher than projected just two years ago.

GAO’s analysis is an update to its July 2012 report entitled, “EPA Regulations and Electricity: Better Monitoring by Agencies Could Strengthen Efforts to Address Potential Challenges.”  Murkowski requested the update earlier this year, in the wake of last winter’s polar vortex events, ongoing announcements of plant retirements, and the promulgation of additional environmental regulations.  

In 2012, GAO “reported estimates that 2 to 12 percent of coal-fueled capacity could be retired, and that some regions, particularly the Midwest, could see more significant levels of retirements.” In its update, GAO wrote that, “According to our analysis of SNL data, planned retirements of coal-fueled generating units appear to have increased and are above the high end of the estimates we reported in July 2012. Specifically, power companies retired or plan to retire about 13 percent of coal-fueled net summer generating capacity (42,192 MW from 238 units) from 2012 through 2025.” GAO further noted that, “… in April 2014, EIA projected that retirements from 2012 through 2020 could reach approximately 50,000 MW or about 16 percent of net summer generating capacity available at the end of 2012.”

To read Senator Murkowski’s press release outlining the results of the GAO report, go to http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/republican-news?ID=5a9e8d3b-dac5-4119-be62-fdc741e291bb

The entire report may be read at http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665325.pdf

 

SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE EXPLORES ENERGY TAX CODE REFORM

The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on September 17 entitled, “Reforming America’s Outdated Energy Tax Code.”  The Committee received testimony from several energy industry and tax experts, including Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin and one of the key thought leaders of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” series of reports.

Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) made his objective for energy tax reform clear, noting that, “the disparity in how the tax code treats energy sources – and the uncertainty it causes – has to end. Traditional sources benefit from tax incentives that are permanently baked into law. But clean energy sources are stuck with stop-and-go incentives that have to be renewed every few years. Congress has developed a familiar pattern of passing temporary extensions of those incentives, shaking hands, and heading home. But short-term extensions cannot put renewables on the same footing as the other energy sources in America’s competitive marketplace.”

Speaking on behalf of the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), an independent group of high-profile industry leaders that includes Bill Gates, Charles Holliday, Jeff Immelt, and others, Augustine underscored the importance of robust government and private sector investment in R&D combined with tax policies designed to drive innovation and technology development and deployment.

Augustine plugged some of the findings of recent AEIC staff papers for the Committee, which included support for the America INNOVATES Act, and major investments in DOE-funded research: “America’s investment in energy innovation from the public and private sectors together is less than one-half of one percent of the nation’s energy bill. This fraction is eclipsed by the innovation investment in most other sectors, particularly in the high-tech arena…AEIC has called for roughly tripling U.S. energy R&D spending as a key economic, national security, energy policy and environmental priority.”

Other witnesses provided detailed views on oil and gas tax credits, wind production and other renewable energy related tax credits, and various carbon tax schemes. Full witness testimony and an archived webcast are available at:  http://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=cfd3ba55-5056-a032-5258-2751125c414c

 

AAAS’S “RESTORING THE FOUNDATION” OFFERS RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE LONG-TERM SUSTAINABILITY OF THE U.S. SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH SYSTEM

On September 16th, The American Academy of Arts & Sciences (www.amacad.org) released a new report offering recommendations for academia, government agencies, and the private sector to reset the course for the future of American leadership in science, engineering, and technology.

The report, “Restoring the Foundation: the Vital Role of Research in Preserving the American Dream,” highlights troubling statistics and warns that America may soon lose its competitive edge in the global economy unless it changes course. Today, the United States ranks 10th place among OECD nations in overall R&D investment relative to economic growth, and China is projected to outspend the United States in R&D less than 10 years from now.

The report makes the case that scientific and technological advances – which are grounded in basic research – are fundamental to the prosperity, health, and security of the American people. Co-chaired by American Academy Fellows Norman R. Augustine (Retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corporation) and Neal Lane (Malcolm Gillis University Professor, Rice University, and Senior Fellow in Science and Technology at Rice University’s Baker Institute), the report recommends actions to recapture American leadership in scientific and engineering research, including:

  • “Securing America’s Leadership in Science and Engineering Research – Especially Basic Research – by Providing Sustainable Federal Funding and Setting Long-Term Investment Goals
  • Establish a sustainable real growth rate of at least 4% in the federal investment in basic research.
  • Adopt multiyear appropriations for agencies (or parts of agencies) that primarily support research and graduate STEM education.
  • Ensuring that the American People Receive the Maximum Benefit from Federal Investments in Research
  • Enhance the productivity of America’s researchers, particularly those based at universities, by adopting best practices, streamlining burdensome regulations and practices governing federally funded research, reducing researchers’ time spent writing and reviewing grant proposals, and fostering an appropriately sized and sustainable biomedical research workforce.
  • Regaining America’s Standing as an Innovation Leader by Establishing a More Robust National Government-University-Industry Research Partnership
  • Remove lingering barriers to university-industry research cooperation by helping universities reevaluate their technology transfer policies.
  • Urge corporate boards and chief executives to place a higher priority on funding research in universities and to work with university presidents and boards to develop new forms of partnership that can justify increased company investments in university research.”

These recommendations mirror those made in the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, which ASME has supported since its release.

A briefing was recently held to discuss the report recommendations, which is now available for re-play at: https://www.amacad.org/content.aspx?d=1611

The entire “Restoring the Foundation” report may be downloaded at: https://www.amacad.org/multimedia/pdfs/publications/researchpapersmonographs/restoringFoundation.pdf

The executive summary is also available at: https://www.amacad.org/multimedia/pdfs/publications/researchpapersmonographs/restoringFoundationBrief.pdf

 

SUBCOMMITTEE CONSIDERS ASTEROIDS ACT, PLANETARY EXPLORATION PRIORITIES

The House Science, Space and Technology Space Subcommittee recently held a hearing to review issues facing planetary exploration of our solar system, including NASA’s proposed budget for planetary science, and potential commercial interests. Witnesses also testified on the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, H.R. 5063, a bipartisan bill introduced by Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA).

Advances in the commercial space industry have been accompanied by interest in exploring resources that exist in space, including on asteroids and the Moon. Private companies recognize the potential for finding and extracting rare minerals and water in asteroids, and how the ability to access and retrieve these minerals may reduce U.S. dependence on foreign countries to supply domestic demand.

At this time there is not a clear legal precedent for how these companies would claim ownership of resources extracted from asteroids. The ASTEROIDS Act of 2014 expresses the desire of commercial and private entities in this burgeoning industry to address the challenges of staking claims to resources in outer space. Without a guarantee of property rights to minerals extracted from an asteroid (not rights to ownership of an asteroid), there is no incentive for these companies to engage in this activity.

Additional information on the hearing, including hearing charter, prepared statements of the witnesses and archived webcast of the hearing itself, are available at http://science.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-space-exploring-our-solar-system-asteroids-act-key-step

 

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