September 7, 2018
Capitol Update

In this issue:

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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY TO RECONSIDER PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATION’S CONTROVERSIAL “WAR ON COAL” REGULATIONS

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced that it would be reconsidering the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), a regulation imposed in the Obama administration governing the amount of mercury and other pollutants released by coal plants. The MATS was introduced in 2012 as part of the previous administration’s efforts to clamp down on harmful emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act. When it was first introduced, advocates of the regulation asserted that it would produce health benefits of $37 billion and $90 billion each year in the form of fewer premature deaths, heart and asthma attacks.

Conversely, at the time of introduction it was calculated that the MATS regulation would cost the power plant industry approximately $9.6 billion annually to comply. Opponents of the regulation called the MATS part of President Obama’s “war on coal” arguing that these additional costs would lead to job loss and plant closures. Following the implementation of the MATS regulation, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that nearly one-fifth of coal-fired power plants were forced to shut down.

Reconsideration of the MATS standard is one of several EPA regulations implemented under the Obama administration that the current administration is reviewing. “One of a number of issues EPA is assessing in the context of the appropriate and necessary analysis is striking the right balance when accounting for co-benefits,” EPA spokeswoman Molly Block recently explained. “EPA knows these issues are of importance to the regulated community and the public at large and is committed to a thoughtful and transparent regulatory process in addressing them.”

For further information on the MATS regulation, click here: https://www.epa.gov/mats


U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE SEEKS COMMENTS ON ITS PROPOSED NEW FIVE-YEAR STRATEGY

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently released a draft of its 2018-2022 Strategic Plan. The plan lays out USPTO’s course of action for the next five years. It is based on three principal goals that embody and further the fundamental goal of the USPTO, “swhich is to foster innovation, competitiveness and job growth by recognizing and securing IP rights, through the delivery of high quality and timely patent and trademark examination and review proceedings.”s

The three principal goals of the plan are:

  • Optimize Patent Quality and Timeliness
  • Optimize Trademark Quality and Timeliness
  • Provide Domestic and Global Leadership to Improve Intellectual Property Policy, Enforcement and Protection Worldwide

The USPTO is accepting public comments on the strategic plan until September 20. To view the plan and make a comment, click here: https://www.uspto.gov/about-us/performance-and-planning/strategy-and-reporting.


NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION AWARDS $60 MILLION TO FUND THE MOST POWERFUL SUPERCOMPUTER THE AGENCY HAS SEEN YET

The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently announced that it has awarded $60 million to fund the largest, most powerful supercomputer ever supported by the agency. This new system has a capacity five times greater than the previous computing systems funded by NSF. In a recent press release the agency announced that the high performance-computer (HPC – called Frontera – will be located at the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT Austin) Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC).

Faculty at UT Austin will work with partners from a variety of other institutions, including California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Utah, University of California, Davis, Ohio State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University, to lead science applications on the new HPC.

“For over three decades, NSF has been a leader in providing the computing resources our nation’s researchers need to accelerate innovation,” said NSF Director France Córdova. “Keeping the U.S. at the forefront of advanced computing capabilities and providing researchers across the country access to those resources are key elements in maintaining our status as a global leader in research and education. This award is an investment in the entire U.S. research ecosystem that will enable leap-ahead discoveries.”


THE MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY IS LACKING SKILLED WORKERS, THE AMERICAN NATIONAL STANDARDS INSTITUTE AND MANUFACTURING EXTENSION PARTNERSHIP EXPLORE HOW AND WHY IN NEW REPORT

At the present time, there is a dearth of qualified workers to sufficiently staff the U.S. manufacturing industry. A new report from Workcred – an affiliate of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) – and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) explores this skills misalignment, noting: “To help solve this mismatch and keep up with changing skill needs, a clearer understanding of how credentials are used and valued by the manufacturing industry is essential.”

The report, titled “Examining the Quality, Market Value, and Effectiveness of Manufacturing Credentials in the United States” examines the current state of American manufacturing and the skills the industry desires of its workers at all levels versus those with which they are currently equipped. Based on its findings, several recommendations are made that revolve around themes pertaining to:

  • Improving understanding about the content, use, and value of credentials
  • Expanding the use of quality standards for credentials
  • Strengthening relationships between employers, education and training providers, and credentialing organizations
  • Adding an employability skills component to existing and new credentials
  • Creating credentials that focus on performance and address new roles
  • Increasing the number of apprentices and expand apprenticeships to more occupations

Recommendations in the report were made based on findings after surveying manufacturing workers, as well as examining factors such as how credentials are used in manufacturing facilities, what skills are noted in assessing potential hires and promotional decisions, and what sorts of training opportunities are currently offered to provide further credentials.

To view the report in full, click here: https://workcred.org/Documents/NIST-MEP-Report.pdf


FUTURE OF DATA-DRIVEN MEDICINE TAKES CENTER STAGE IN SEPTEMBER 13th FORUM

The Center for Data Innovation will be hosting a public forum event to discuss the future of data-driven medicine. The event will take place Thursday, September 13 from 1pm to 5pm in Washington D.C., at the District Architecture Center. The event will bring together members of government, industry and academia to share their thoughts on how the latest technological and data developments can be used to improve the American healthcare system. These improvements include lowering the cost of healthcare and improving health care outcomes. Special attention will also be paid to how the pharmaceutical industry is using these advancements to lower costs, bring new products to market more quickly, and customizing their products to the needs of specific patient populations.

For further information and to register for this event, click here: https://datainnovationday.org/?mc_cid=3e0df53cd7&mc_eid=8868d05d6c


TECHNOLOGY COMMERCIALIZATION SEES $20 MILLION BOOST FROM DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it has awarded more than $20 million in funding to 64 projects for the Development and Commercial Deployment of Promising Energy Technologies. The projects are supported by the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), along with additional matching funds from private sector partners. The goal of the projects is to bolster relations between the national labs and private sector to facilitate the commercialization and bringing to market of new products and technologies.

“The Department of Energy is one of the largest supporters of technology transfer within the federal government. By connecting innovators at our national labs with entrepreneurs in the private sector, DOE is breaking down barriers and finding the nexus between ingenuity and opportunity,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “The projects announced today will further strengthen those efforts across a broad spectrum of energy technologies and advance DOE’s important mission of technology transfer.”

To see a full list of TCF awardees and private sector partners, click here: https://www.energy.gov/technologytransitions/articles/department-energy-announces-technology-commercialization-fund-9

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