In this issue:

 

 

APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE APPROVES FISCAL YEAR 2012 ENERGY AND WATER APPROPRIATIONS BILL

Fresh off of a tenuous compromise that prevented a government shutdown in April, a new budget showdown is brewing in Congress for the coming fiscal year.  Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2012 Energy and Water and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The legislation provides the annual funding for the various agencies and programs under the Department of Energy (DOE), including the National Nuclear Security Administration.  The bill totals $30.6 billion, a cut of $5.9 billion below the President’s request and $1 billion below last year, which brings the total cost of the bill to nearly the 2006 funding level. 
 
A summary of the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill follows:

  • $24.7 billion to support the Department of Energy (DOE); $850 million below the FY11 funding level, and $5.9 billion below the Administration’s FY12 request;
  • $4.8 billion to support the DOE Office of Science; $42.6 million below the FY11 appropriated amount, and $616 million below the Administration’s FY12 request;
  • $733 million to support the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy; $7.8 million above the FY11 appropriated amount; and $20.3 million below the FY12 request;
  • $1.3 billion to support the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE); $491 million below the FY11 appropriated amount, and $1.8 billion below the Administration’s FY12 request;
  • $476.9 million to support the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, a $32.4 million increase over the FY11 appropriated amount, and $24 million above the Administration’s FY12 request; and
  • $100 million to support the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program; $79.6 million below the FY11 appropriated amount; and $450 million below the Administration’s FY12 request. 


For the complete text of the subcommittee draft of the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, please visit: http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/EnergyWaterDPOSTED_xml.pdf

For a table comparing the FY 2012 Energy and Water Appropriations bill with last year’s level and the President’s request, go to:
http://republicans.appropriations.house.gov/_files/6111FY12EnergyandWaterSubcommitteeSummaryTable.pdf

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

 

 

SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND POWER DISCUSSES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT ELECTRIC GRID FROM CYBER ATTACKS

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY), held a hearing last week to discuss draft legislation needed to ensure the nation’s electrical infrastructure is not vulnerable to cyber attacks and other threats. In order to bolster the security of the nation’s grid, the committee is considering draft legislation, entitled the “Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act” or the “GRID Act.” The draft proposal, identical to legislation introduced last Congress by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), would amend the Federal Power Act to enhance the authority of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to protect the nation’s bulk-power system and infrastructure.

Intelligence officials have revealed that nations including China and Russia have recently engaged in cyber espionage to probe the U.S. electric grid. These intrusions highlight vulnerabilities and high security risks. Cyber attacks remain a top threat to national security, particularly threats to power sources, water supply, telecommunications systems and chemical facilities.    

Current security and reliability standards for the electric grid are formed and implemented by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). NERC’s standards have advanced the nation’s grid security; however, the NERC process is ill-suited to respond to imminent cyber threats.

Witnesses at the hearing stressed the need for Congressional action to address cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. Witnesses included representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). Members emphasized that the current draft legislation is a starting point for the discussion, and that additional steps may be taken to ensure the legislation includes the appropriate steps to coordinate with industry to ensure the safety and security of the nation’s bulk power supply.

Additional information on the May 31sst hearing, including witness testimony, background memorandum and text of the discussion draft, is available at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=8639

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

 

 

NINTH HEARING IN "THE AMERICAN ENERGY INITIATIVE" SERIES HELD

The Subcommittee on Energy and Power held the ninth day of its hearing on the House Republicans’ “American Energy Initiative” on Friday, June 3rd. The hearing focused on policy recommendations in H.R. 909, “A Roadmap for America’s Energy Future,” a measure introduced by Representative Devin Numes (R-CA) in March. The legislation currently has 72 co-sponsors.

A background memorandum prepared by Energy and Power Subcommittee staff describes H.R. 909 as seeking “to expand domestic energy supplies by facilitating increased production of conventional sources of oil in the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, non-conventional sources of oil such as oil shale and coal-to-liquids, and increased nuclear power. The additional revenues from leasing and production on federal lands and the OCS in this bill would be used to fund renewable electricity sources through a process of reverse auctions.”  The entire background memorandum may be read at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearings/hearingdetail.aspx?NewsID=8657

An ambitious proposal, H.R. 909 would, in part:

  • Deem the Draft Proposed OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program 2010-2015 to have been approved by the Secretary of the Interior as a final oil and gas leasing program in full compliance with specified environmental law;
  • Direct such Secretary to conduct a lease sale every 270 days in each OCS planning region for which there is a commercial interest in purchasing federal oil and gas leases for OCS production;
  • Amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to: (1) modify the OCS leasing program; and (2) direct the Secretary to include, in each 5-Year Program, lease sales proposals offering for oil and gas leasing at least 75 percent of the available unleased acreage within each OCS Planning Area;
  • Prohibit, on either federal OCS or state waters, uses that are incompatible with: (1) oil and gas leasing, or (2) full oil or natural gas exploration and production on geologically prospective tracts;
  • Amend the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980 (ANILCA) to repeal the prohibition against production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR);
  • Direct the Secretary of Defense (DOD) to develop, construct, and operate a coal-to-liquid facility;
  • Amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to repeal the limitation on federal contracting for procurement and acquisition of alternative fuels with respect to associated lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions;
  • Direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to: (1) issue operating permits for 200 new commercial nuclear reactors, and (2) establish a process for licensing facilities for the recycling of spent nuclear fuel;
  • Require the federal government to site and permit at least one radiological material geologic repository for the disposal of radiological material;
  • Retain the repository site at Yucca Mountain (Nevada) as such a site unless the NRC determines that it is unsuitable;
  • Remove all current statutory limitations upon the amount of radiological material that can be placed in Yucca Mountain and require the NRC to replace them with new limits based on scientific and technical analysis of the full capacity of Yucca Mountain for the storage of radiological material;
  • Prohibit the President from blocking or hindering spent nuclear fuel recycling activities;
  • Direct the DOE Secretary to establish a National Nuclear Energy Council; and,
  • Amend the Clean Air Act to: (1) redefine greenhouse gas, and (2) prohibit regulation of a greenhouse gas for climate change purposes.

A complete list of major provisions, as summarized by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), is available by going to: http://thomas.loc.gov, and searching by bill number.

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

 

 

THIRD ROUND OF RACE TO THE TOP ANNOUNCED: $200 MILLION FOR ROUND 2 RUNNERS-UP, $500 MILLION FOR EARLY EDUCATION

On May 25th, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced a third round of the Race to the Top (RTT) competition, which will award up to $200 million to the runners-up of the Round 2 competition and up to $500 million for a new joint initiative with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) called the “Early Learning Challenge.”  The Department received this $700 million in new RTT funding in the final FY 2011 continuing resolution.

Under the new competition, the nine RTT Round 2 runners-up (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina) would be eligible to seek grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million, the size of which would depend on the final number of grants and the state’s size.   Since these grants would be smaller than those awarded in Round 2, states, working with the U.S. Department of Education, would need to update their RTT plans to reflect a more limited scope of work.

While all nine runner-ups are currently considering whether or not they will apply for the new competition, they are also somewhat hesitant, as the amount of available grant funding is significantly reduced from Round 2.  In addition, in states like Pennsylvania, the state’s RTT application was written during the previous Democratic Governor’s Administration, so any proposal would be written by the new Republican Governor’s team.

On the other hand, the $700 million provided under the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge “will reward states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development.”  States also “will be encouraged to increase access to quality early learning programs for low income and disadvantaged children, design integrated and transparent systems that align their early care and education programs, bolster training and support for the early learning workforce, create robust evaluation systems to document and share effective practices and successful programs, and help parents make informed decisions about care for their children.”  In late April, 43 Democratic lawmakers wrote to Secretary Duncan asking him to set aside a “significant portion” of the RTT funds for early childhood education.

For more information about the $200 million competition for the RTT Round 2 runners-ups, please visit: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-department-education-announces-200-million-continue-state-led-reforms-under-r

Additional information about the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge can be found at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-announces-500-million-race-top-early-learning-challenge

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

 

 

"ENGINEERING EDUCATION FOR INNOVATION ACT" INTRODUCED IN HOUSE AND SENATE

A bill that would strengthen engineering education in K-12 schools was recently re-introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 1951) and the Senate (S. 969).  The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and in the House by Representative Paul Tonko (D-NY).  The bill was originally introduced last year.

The Engineering Education for Innovation Act (also called the E2 for Innovation Act of 2011) implements many of the recommendations of the National Academy of Engineering report, “Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects.” This report suggests that the introduction of more engineering concepts into the K-12 classroom has potential to improve student learning and achievement in STEM subjects, increase awareness about what engineers do and of engineering as a potential career, and boost students' overall technological literacy.

The bill authorizes the Secretary of Education to competitively award planning and implementation grants for educational agencies to integrate engineering education into K–12 curriculum and instruction.  It also funds the research and evaluation of such efforts.

ASME has been supportive of this legislation since the concept’s inception.  In a letter of endorsement to the bill’s sponsors, ASME President Robert Simmons, P.E. said, “With the U.S. facing significant challenges in an increasingly global economy, engineering knowledge is critical to innovation and solving technological problems in high-tech, high-value industries.  While exposure to formal engineering education has increased dramatically over the past 15 years, now reaching several million K-12 students, most students in the United States have never experienced an engineering course or lesson.” 

For additional information about the E2 for Innovation Act, please visit the Library of Congress web site (http://thomas.loc.gov), and search by bill number.

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

 

 

PRESIDENT SIGNS SHORT-TERM SBIR/STTR EXTENSION

Following a brief panic over the Memorial Day weekend, President Obama signed a short-term extension of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs into law this week, ensuring ‘as is’ operations for both programs through September 30, 2011

Administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration and participating federal research agency partners, the SBIR/STTR programs help ensure that small, high-tech, innovative businesses are a significant part of the federal government's research and development efforts.  Eleven federal departments participate in the SBIR program and five departments participate in the STTR program - awarding a combined $2 billion in competitive grants to small high-tech businesses annually.

The House and Senate each overwhelmingly supported legislation last week (S.990) to extend these broadly popular programs, but an arcane procedural move in the Senate left the programs hanging in favor of a last minute extension of the USA PATRIOT Act.  Following the extension of the PATRIOT Act, Senate leaders quickly advanced a new bill (S. 1082), identical to the previously passed S.990, to temporarily extend the SBIR/STTR programs.  The Senate voted unanimously to support the SBIR/STTR extension.  The House quickly followed suit after returning from the Memorial Day congressional recess, voting 387-33 to extend the programs.  Had Congress failed to act, authorizations for the programs were set to expire at midnight on May 31. 

Despite this strong Congressional support, House and Senate leaders remain at odds over how much funding should be diverted from core government research programs into SBIR/STTR and have not announced a schedule for considering a long-term extension of the programs.  The May 16, 2011 edition of Capitol Update contains a summary of House and Senate legislation pertaining to these programs.

To learn more about S.1082, the “Small Business Additional Temporary Extension Act of 2011” please visit: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:s.1082:

To view detailed results on the House of Representative’s vote on S. 1082, go to: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2011/roll378.xml


Paul Fakes handles public policy-related research and development (R&D) issues for ASME.  He can be reached at fakesp@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.

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