In this issue:

 

 

ADVANCE YOUR CAREER AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE! APPLY FOR AN ASME FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FELLOWSHIP, INCLUDING A NEW OPPORTUNITY AT USAID!

ASME is currently accepting applications for participation in its Federal Government Fellowship Program through which ASME members provide engineering and technical expertise to policy-makers in Congress.  Federal Fellows provide a valuable public service to the nation, while at the same time providing engineers with a unique opportunity to participate directly in the public policy making process.

This year, ASME is pleased to announce a Federal Government Fellowship opportunity with the USAID (United States Agency for International Development), the principal federal  agency to extend assistance to countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty, and engaging in democratic reforms. 

USAID is currently developing Grand Challenges for Development in rain-fed agriculture and off grid, renewable energy for agriculture. The Office of Science & Technology seeks a fellow who can help drive the development of these two challenges, ensure that the problem statement is scientifically valid and rooted in the most current data and information, and liaise with the necessary and appropriate parties – both within and outside of USAID.   The Fellow will be expected to provide scientific, technical, and intellectual leadership, and analytical support contributing to the advancement of the Grand Challenges effort.  The Fellow will serve as a liaison with internal and external partners, helping USAID enhance its network of development solution providers.  The Fellow will also serve as an engineering adviser to the Director of the Office of Science & Technology.

ASME is also seeking persons interested in serving as a 2012-2013 Congressional Fellow, who would spend one year in Washington, D.C. working with the staff of a congressional committee, U.S. Senator or U.S. Representative. Congressional Fellowships are designed to demonstrate the value of engineering-government interaction, bring technical backgrounds and external perspectives to the decision making process in Congress and provide a unique public policy learning experience to the Fellow. Because of the limited number of Congressional Fellowships available, the process is very competitive. The following credentials are encouraged: at least five years of professional experience; an advanced engineering degree; professional engineer registration; and, some public policy experience.

All ASME Fellows will be awarded a stipend of $60,000 for the one year Fellowship. ASME Federal Fellows typically serve from September through August, but a January through December term is sometimes an option. Applications are accepted annually from December 1st through March 31st. All Fellows must be U.S. citizens and ASME members at the time of application.

To apply for an ASME Congressional Fellowship, fill out the online application at https://secure.asme.org/fedgovfellows/appform.cfm  and provide the requested materials. The application deadline is March 31, 2012.

For additional information about the ASME Federal Government Fellowship Program, contact Patti Jo Snyder, ASME Government Relations, at snyderp@asme.org.

 

 

NRC APPROVES UPDATED AP1000 REACTOR DESIGN

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has voted unanimously to approve a rule certifying an amended version of Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design for use in the United States. The amended certification, which will be incorporated into NRC regulations, will be valid for 15 years.

“The Commission is able to reach this final step in approving the amended AP1000 reactor design due to the staff’s dedicated work ensuring the design meets NRC’s safety requirements,” said NRC Chairman Gregory B. Jaczko. “The design provides enhanced safety margins through the use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials.”

Although NRC rules normally become effective 30 days after publication, the Commission found good cause to make this rule immediately effective once it is published in the Federal Register. The Federal Register notice and the Commission’s directions to the staff on publishing the approved rule will include a discussion on the good cause finding.

The design certification process provides for public participation and early resolution of safety issues for proposed reactor designs. NRC certification, in the form of a final rule, means the design meets the agency’s applicable safety requirements. If an applicant for a nuclear power plant license references a certified design, the applicant need not submit safety information for the design. Instead, the license application and the NRC’s safety review would address the remaining safety issues specific to the proposed nuclear power plant.

More information about the amended AP1000 design review can be found on the NRC’s website at: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/design-cert/amended-ap1000.html

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu issued the following statement in response to the NRC’s action: “The Administration and the Energy Department are committed to restarting America’s nuclear industry – creating thousands of jobs in the years ahead and powering our nation’s homes and businesses with domestic, low-carbon energy,” said Secretary Chu. “Today’s decision certifying the AP1000 reactor design marks an important milestone towards constructing the first U.S. nuclear reactors in three decades.”

Additional background on the AP1000 reactor design is available at: http://energy.gov/articles/secretary-chu-statement-ap1000-reactor-design-certification

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

DOE RELEASES 2011 CRITICAL MATERIALS STRATEGY

On December 22nd, DOE released the 2011 Critical Materials Strategy. The report examines the role that rare earth metals and other key materials play in clean energy technologies, such as wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar cells and energy-efficient lighting. The report found that several clean energy technologies use materials at risk of supply disruptions in the short term, with risks generally decreasing in the medium and long terms. Supply challenges for five rare earth metals (dysprosium, neodymium, terbium, europium and yttrium) may affect clean energy technology deployment in the years ahead.

“The transition to a clean energy economy will create jobs, enhance our security and cut pollution,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.  “This report provides information to help with the transition to a clean energy future, identifying strategies for responding to potential shortages of critical materials in the years ahead.  It will help us seize opportunities, using American innovation to find substitutes, promote recycling and help secure supplies of rare earth elements and other materials used in energy technologies.”

In the past year, DOE has developed its first critical materials research and development (R&D) plan, provided new funding for priority research, convened international workshops that brought together leading experts, and participated in substantial new coordination among federal agencies working on these topics. The fiscal year 2012 spending bill also includes $20 million to fund an energy innovation hub focused on critical materials that will help to further advance the three pillars of the DOE strategy: diversifying supply, developing substitutes, and improving recycling, reuse and more efficient use.   

The 2011 Critical Materials Strategy is DOE’s second report on this topic and provides an update to last year’s analysis. Using a methodology adapted from the National Academy of Sciences, the report includes criticality assessments for 16 elements based on their importance to clean energy and supply risk. The report is the product of extensive research and data collection by the Department over the last 12 months.

The full strategy is available for download at: http://energy.gov/pi/office-policy-and-international-affairs/office-policy-and-international-affairs/office-policy--16

A summary is available for download at: http://energy.gov/pi/office-policy-and-international-affairs/office-policy-and-international-affairs/office-policy--17

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

EPA ISSUES FIRST NATIONAL STANDARDS FOR MERCURY POLLUTION FROM POWER PLANTS

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently issued a  Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, the first national standards intended to address power plant emissions of mercury and air pollutants like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide. The standards will seek to reduce emissions of these pollutants by relying on pollution controls that are already in use in over half of the nation’s existing coal-fired power plants. EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year.

As part of the commitment to maximize flexibilities under the law, the standards are accompanied by a Presidential Memorandum that directs EPA to use tools provided in the Clean Air Act (P.L. 101-549) to implement MATS in a cost-effective manner that ensures electric reliability. For example, under these standards, EPA is not only providing the standard three years for compliance, but also encouraging permitting authorities to make a fourth year broadly available for technology installations, and if still more time is needed, providing a well-defined pathway to address any localized reliability problems should they arise.

The Presidential Memorandum may be viewed at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/12/21/presidential-memorandum-flexible-implementation-mercury-and-air-toxics-s

Additional information on the new standards is available at: http://www.epa.gov/mats/, as well as at http://www.epa.gov/mats/actions.html

Robert Rains handles public policy-related environmental issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

RENEWABLE FUEL TARGETS FOR 2012 RAISED

Late last month, the EPA was able to finalize the 2012 percentage standards for four fuel categories that are part of the agency’s Renewable Fuel Standard program (RFS2). The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140) established the RFS2 program and the annual renewable fuel volume targets, which will steadily increase to an overall level of 36 billion gallons in 2022. To achieve these volumes, EPA calculates a percentage-based standard for the following year. Based on the standard, each refiner and importer determines the minimum volume of renewable fuel that it must ensure is used in its transportation fuel.

The final 2012 overall volumes and standards are:

  • Biomass-based diesel (1.0 billion gallons; 0.91 percent);
  • Advanced biofuels (2.0 billion gallons; 1.21 percent);
  • Cellulosic biofuels (8.65 million gallons; 0.006 percent); and,
  • Total renewable fuels (15.2 billion gallons; 9.23 percent).

Overall, EPA’s RFS2 program encourages greater use of renewable fuels, including advanced biofuels. For 2012, the program is implementing EISA’s requirement to blend more than 1.25 billion gallons of renewable fuels over the amount mandated for 2011.  The national fuel standard remains in place, even as the tax credits that industry has argued as essential quietly expired at the end of 2011.  It has been estimated that the cost of these credits to the government was about $6 billion per year.      

Last spring, EPA had proposed a volume requirement of 1.28 billion gallons for biomass-based diesel for 2013. EISA specifies a one billion gallon minimum volume requirement for that category for 2013 and beyond, but enables EPA to increase the volume requirement after consideration of a variety of environmental, market, and energy-related factors.

Ethanol is the most commonly produced biofuel in the United States. In 2010, the nation produced 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol, the vast majority of which came from corn.  Cellulosic ethanol has not moved beyond the laboratory stage to overtake corn-based ethanol in scale and production.  Currently, the U.S. consumes almost 19 million barrels of oil per day.  

More information on the standards and regulations is available at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/regulations.htm

Additional information on renewable fuels may be viewed at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/index.htm

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

 

 

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION SEEKS PUBLIC INPUT ON ADVANCED MANUFACTURING

The Obama Administration’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) is seeking public comments on ideas and activities the AMP initiative should pursue.  The AMP was formed last fall in an effort to respond to the President's call for a national effort to support job creation by helping U.S. manufacturers to reduce costs, improve quality, and accelerate product development.

In particular, AMP is seeking comment on its four main work streams:

  • Technology Development -  identifying emerging technologies with transformative potential with the express intent that they be commercialized and deployed in the United States;
  • Policy -  making recommendations to the Administration on economic and innovation policies that can directly or significantly impact the ability to improve research collaboration and the pathway to commercialization in support of U.S. based manufacturing and jobs;
  • Education and Workforce Development -  identifying tangible actions that will support a robust supply of talented individuals to provide human capital to companies interested in investing in advanced manufacturing activities in the United States; and,
  • Shared Facilities and Infrastructure – assessing opportunities to de-risk, speed up, and lower the cost of accelerating technology from research to production through unique capabilities and facilities that serve all U.S. based manufacturers, in particular small- and medium-sized manufacturers.

The AMP is soliciting this information via the Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) website, which can be found at:  http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/amp/getinvolved.html.

ASME issued a General Position Statement entitled “Strengthening the U.S. Manufacturing Sector” (PS11-23), following the announcement of the AMP last year.

While the public comment has no specific close date, it is anticipated that AMP will issue a preliminary report sometime in March 2012. 

Robert Rains handles public policy-related energy issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: rainsr@asme.org

Paul Fakes handles public policy-related manufacturing issues for ASME.  He can be reached at: fakesp@asme.org

 

 

SEVEN STATES WIN NEW RACE TO THE TOP COMPETITION

On December 23rd, the Department of Education announced that seven states- Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania- will receive a portion of the $200 million in the Race to the Top Round 3 (RTT3) fund, which “focuses on supporting efforts to leverage comprehensive statewide reform, while also improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.”   Their grants range in size, based on each state's student population, from $17 million for Colorado, Kentucky, and Louisiana to nearly $43 million for Illinois.  All of these states were runners-up in the last Race to the Top competition.

Even with this stated emphasis on STEM, some education experts are questioning how much RTT3 will benefit STEM education, since the winning states will primarily use this money to implement part of their original Race to the Top plans and do not have to spend it explicitly on STEM programming.  These plans focused on making progress in one of the core areas of the economic-stimulus legislation, i.e. turning around low-performing schools, raising standards, or improving evaluation systems.

The Department of Education recently released a summary document that includes a few more details of what states plan to spend their funding on.  Arizona is one of multiple states that plans to focus on STEM as they transition to the Common Core State Standards.  Louisiana, on the other hand, plans to embed STEM throughout its reform work. Kentucky and Colorado will build on existing STEM efforts, while Illinois will build a "public-private infrastructure to support STEM integration across the curriculum.”

This announcement came on heels of some bad news for the Race to the Top (RTT) program.  On December 21st, federal officials cited Hawaii for "unsatisfactory performance" on its Race to the Top grant, and placed the state on "high-risk" status. Because of this status, the state will now “have to ask the department for permission before spending any more of its $75 million, will face an extensive on-site review, and increased reporting requirements.” The Department also indicated if Hawaii did not comply, it could be in danger of losing its grant altogether.

Counterbalancing this bad news, however, was the fact that Congress included an additional $550 million for Race to the Top in its recently- passed an omnibus spending bill for fiscal year 2012.  The omnibus bill also provided language that would allow the Department to create a district-level competition and continue the investment in the Early Learning Challenge.

For more information about the RTT3 winners, including a link to the Education Department summary document, please visit: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2011/12/will_rttt3_benefit_stem_educat.html

To learn more about the Department’s recent action against Hawaii, please visit: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2011/12/_this_is_the_departments.html

Additional information about the final FY 2012 omnibus spending bill can be found at: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2011/12/key_formula_programs_that_scho.html

Melissa Carl handles public policy-related science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education issues for ASME.  She can be reached at: carlm@asme.org

 

 

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
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