September 28, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:


PRESIDENT SIGNS DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY FUNDING BILL

The Department of Energy (DOE) will receive $35.7 billion in fiscal year 2019 under legislation (H.R. 5895) signed into law by President Trump late last week. The total is $1.44 billion more than enacted in the fiscal 2018 omnibus spending bill, and $8.32 billion more than the President requested for FY 2019.  In addition to rejecting the Administration’s call to cut research funding and eliminate entire research agencies, such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the bill also excluded funding to support development of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage site, another Administration priority for the bill. 

The legislation provides significant support for the DOE’s national labs and basic energy research programs, with the DOE Office of Science receiving a 5 percent increase to almost $6.6 billion, a $325 million increase over last year.  DOE’s applied energy programs also received a significant funding increase, including:

  • $2.3 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (+$57 million),
  • $1.1 billion for the Office of Nuclear Energy (+107.9 million), and
  • $740 million for the Office of Fossil Energy R&D (+$13 million)

ARPA-E received a total of $366 million (+$12 million), and supporting conference report language specifically prohibiting DOE from using any appropriated funds to plan or execute the termination of ARPA-E. 

In a further push back against calls to eliminate many of DOE’s applied energy research and technology commercialization programs, the conference report also includes language on the DOE’s broader R&D efforts, noting, “The Department is directed throughout all of its programs to maintain a diverse portfolio of early-, mid-, and late-stage research, development, and market transformation activities. The Department is further directed to fully execute the funds appropriated in a timely manner and to keep the Committees on Appropriations of both Houses of Congress apprised of progress in implementing funded programs, projects, and activities.” 

To view the final FY 2019 DOE appropriations package, visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/5895


RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION OF STEM STUDENTS SEES BOOST THROUGH NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION FUNDING

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced that it will be funding six new centers to support the recruitment and retention of minority undergraduate and graduate students pursuing programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The programs, known as Louis Stokes regional centers of excellence (LSRSCE) are being established in conjunction with existing academic institutions to provide support to underrepresented populations in STEM and ensure their success in today’s job market.

"With national news reporting that more than 2 million science-related jobs remain unfilled, NSF views broadening participation to achieve workforce diversity as a key driver for the nation's economic productivity and societal well-being," said Jermelina Tupas, acting division director of NSF's Human Resource Development Division (HRD).

The LSRSCE are funded by the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program, which falls under HRD. The centers have been established with two and four year institutions that include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities; federal agencies such as NASA and the Department of Energy has also partnering with these institutions to support the program.

For further information about each of the LSCRES, click here: https://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=296504&org=NSF&from=news


ADMINISTRATION ROLLS BACK METHANE POLLUTION REGULATION

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently finalized a new rule regarding methane pollution standards for drillers on public lands. The regulation replaces one implemented under the Obama administration, easing methane regulatory and monitoring requirements. The new regulation brings emission standards back to a similar level that had been in place for roughly 30 years prior to being changed under the Obama administration.

“This is really about fulfilling our commitments to the policy vision that the president has established,” David Bernhardt, deputy secretary of the Interior Department recently stated. He further explained that the president had instructed the Interior Department to review the standards in place, as well as any others that “unduly burden” the development of domestic energy resources. Kate MacGregor, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Interior Department, also noted that these new measures would help the industry avoid expensive and duplicative measures, summarizing the new regulations as “smart regulations that harness domestic energy production but do so responsibly.”

The announcement has been received with both criticism and applause. Shortly following announcement of this new rule, California and New Mexico Attorney Generals Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Hector Balderas (D-NM) sued the Interior Department in California federal court, arguing that officials didn’t adequately justify the rollback and that the new regulation doesn’t meet the government’s legal obligations.

However, many in industry support the new measure. “The [old] B.L.M. rule could have taken a lot of wells out of service, which is counter to what we’re trying to achieve here by making our country more self-reliant and less dependent on foreign sources,” said Erik Milito, director of exploration and production with the American Petroleum Institute.

For more information, visit: https://www.blm.gov/node/17701


FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION RECRUITING NEW APPLICANTS TO ITS PATIENT ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recruiting interested individuals to serve as consultants to its Patient Advisory Committee. The Patient Advisory Committee focuses on patients and patient-related issues.  Committee members, advise the FDA on complex issues relating to medical devices, the regulation of devices, and their use by patients.

The committee will be holding its second public meeting on November 15 to discuss how the FDA can utilize patient-driven platforms, such as social media, digital health technology and patient registry data, to inform the regulatory evaluation of medical devices. During this meeting the committee will also discuss whether and how the FDA can harness these patient-driven online and mobile platforms to better engage with patients and consumers, as well as to collect and evaluate real-world data in the form of health information provided by patients and consumers.

For further information, see the Federal Register Notice here:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/09/24/2018-20640/patient-engagement-advisory-committee-notice-of-meeting


DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY SELECTS TEN PROJECTS TO SUPPORT DEVELOPMENT OF SUSTAINABLE LONG TERM ENERGY STORAGE

The Department of Energy recently announced that it has selected 10 projects to support the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) program: Duration Addition to electricitY Storage (DAYS). The DAYS program aims to develop new energy storage systems that can power the electric grid for greater periods of time-including up to 100 hours. The program seeks projects that will provide new forms of long-duration stationary electricity storage systems that enhance grid resiliency, provide low-cost energy capacity, support grid infrastructure, and enable a greater share of intermittent renewable resources in the generation mix.

The goal of the selected projects is to combine the long-term power output of technologies such as pumped storage hydroelectric (PSH) systems with the flexibility of battery systems that can be deployed in multiple environments. 95% of electric grid storage capacity is currently provided by PSH, however there are still very few PSH storage installations due the high costs and geographical limitations. On the flip side, lithium ion batteries are being used in the grid more and more, but long term storage of this form of electricity is very expensive in the long term.

If successful, the selected DAYS projects will develop ways to provide long term storage of renewable energies that will improve grid efficiency and promote the growth of domestic energy sources. 

For further information about the DAYS program, click here: https://arpa-e.energy.gov/?q=arpa-e-programs/days

For a full of selected projects, click here: https://arpa-e.energy.gov/?q=document/days-project-descriptions


NASA RELEASES NEW PHYSICAL SCIENCES INFORMATICS RESEARCH ANNOUNCEMENT FOR ESTABLISHED RESEARCHERS AND GRADUATE STUDENTS

NASA has released the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) titled “Use of the NASA Physical Sciences Informatics System – Appendix E,” which solicits ground-based research proposals to generate new scientific insights by utilizing experimental data residing in NASA’s Physical Sciences Informatics (PSI) system (http://psi.nasa.gov). This online database provides investigators access to the raw and processed experimental data from physical science reduced-gravity flight experiments conducted on the International Space Station, Space Shuttle flights, Free Flyers, or commercial cargo flights to and from the ISS, and from related ground-based studies.

The current call for proposals solicits proposals in the five research areas – Combustion Science, Complex Fluids, Fluid Physics, Fundamental Physics, and Materials Science – for which eligible experimental data will be available in the PSI by the proposal due date of December 14, 2018. Data from 55 investigations are eligible for this NRA. The call is open to two types of investigators: established researchers and graduate students. Anticipated award amounts, eligibility requirements, and further instructions for both types of investigators are provided in the solicitation document, which is available at https://tinyurl.com/NASA-PSI-E.

For a full list of anticipated award amounts, eligibility requirements, and further instructions for both types of investigators are provided in the solicitation document, click here: https://tinyurl.com/NASA-PSI-E.

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