In this issue:

 

 

EPA FINALIZES TWO RULES RELATED TO CCS
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently finalized two rules related to carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). The new rules aim to protect drinking water and to track the amount of carbon dioxide that is sequestered from facilities that carry out geologic sequestration.

“Today the Obama Administration reaffirmed its commitment to leading the way in the clean energy future. We’re taking a major step towards path breaking innovations that will reduce greenhouse gases and put America in the forefront of the clean energy economy,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “By providing clarity about greenhouse gas reporting and the necessary protections for drinking water sources during carbon sequestration, we’ve cleared the way for people to use this promising technology.”

With regard to drinking water protection, the final rule sets requirements for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide, including the development of a new class of injection well called Class VI, established under EPA’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program. The rule requirements are designed to ensure that wells used for geologic sequestration of carbon dioxide are appropriately sited, constructed, tested, monitored, and closed. The UIC Program was established under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Additional information on the geologic sequestration rule may be viewed at:
http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/wells_sequestration.cfm

EPA also finalized the rule on the greenhouse gas reporting requirements for facilities that carry out geologic sequestration. Information gathered under the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program will enable EPA to track the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered by these facilities. The program was established in 2009 under authority of the Clean Air Act and requires reporting of greenhouse gases from various source categories in the United States. Additional information on the greenhouse gas reporting final rule is available at:
http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ghgrulemaking.html

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

 

 

NGA FORMS STEM ADVISORY PANEL
Earlier this month, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) announced it has created a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Advisory Committee, which will help inform the Center’s work in this area and assist the governors, twenty-nine of whom are newly elected, to develop comprehensive STEM agendas in their states.

“The increasingly globalized economy requires workers with strong science, technology, engineering and math skills,” said John Thomasian, director of the NGA Center. “This Committee is intended to provide the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders to governors and states as they work to establish and grow STEM education programs that can contribute to economic competitiveness.”

This Committee will also “guide the expansion of the NGA Center STEM agenda to include both K-12 and higher education; provide a series of recommendations for building and advancing comprehensive STEM education agendas; and inform the development of a national STEM meeting the NGA Center will host in the fall of 2011.”

Panel members will serve two-year terms, and represent expertise across education, policy, business, and the STEM fields.

For more information about NGA Center STEM education efforts, please visit: www.nga.org/center/edu.

Melissa Carl covers public policy-related STEM education issues for ASME.  She can be reached at: carlm@asme.org

 

 

CONGRESSIONAL HEARING HIGHLIGHTS THE “SCIENCE, EVIDENCE, AND RESPONSE” TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Earlier this month, the House Science and Technology Committee’s Energy and Environment Subcommittee convened a hearing entitled “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.”

In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Brian Baird (D-WA) observed, “The purpose of today’s hearing is to conduct an objective review of the science behind the greenhouse effect, climate change and ocean acidification. I believe the evidence of climate change and ocean acidification is compelling and troubling, but even without that conclusion, I am convinced that we must change our energy policies for reasons of economics, national security and environmental and human health. The United States has long been a leader in renewable energy technology. This committee has taken positive steps to ensure that continues. So too, we have been at the forefront of climate research and should remain a leader there as well. We must continue this endeavor if we intend to leave our children and grandchildren a strong economy, and truly independent and secure nation, and an environment in which they can live, work, and play.” Chairman Baird’s full statement may be read at: http://science.house.gov/publications/OpeningStatement.aspx?OSID=2851

In his prepared remarks, Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC), the Subcommittee’s Ranking Member, noted, “There is an irrefutable connection between the ways we use energy and the quantity of greenhouse gases that we emit.” He added, “It’s difficult to get Congress to come to agreement on climate science, but I hope we’ll bridge that gap to build a more prosperous, secure, innovation-driven economy.”

Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Ranking Member of the full Committee and its likely chair in the 112th Congress, took a somewhat different position, saying, “We must hold this Administration accountable for meeting a level of scientific integrity the public expects from their government.” Hall continued, “I think this hearing demonstrates that reasonable people have serious questions about our knowledge of the state of the science, what the evidence is, and what constitutes a proportional response.  Sorting scientific fact from rhetoric is essential, and we have a long way to go on this topic.”

Subcommittee members heard from three panels of witnesses who focused on three key aspects of climate change:

  • The fundamental physics and chemistry underlying the role of carbon dioxide and other atmospheric gasses in regulating or altering Earth’s temperature and the acidity of the oceans;
  • Climate models and whether the predicted impacts of carbon on temperature and ocean acidity are, in fact, happening; and,
  • The impacts that are being observed that can be anticipated from climate change and ocean acidification.

The hearing perhaps gave a sneak-peek at topics that could be pursued by the new Committee Chairman, expected to be Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX).  Departing Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) a vocal advocate for climate change policy to reduce carbon emissions, took time at the hearing to lament his frustration with inaction on this issue as well as defend his vote against the 2009 “Waxman-Markey” energy bill that sought to establish a cap-and-trade program (see June 19th, 2009 Edition of Capitol Update).  Rep. Hall differs with Rep. Inglis on this issue.

The complete written statements of the witnesses are available to read at: http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2947.

Additional information on the hearing, including a video archive, may be found at: http://gop.science.house.gov/Pressroom/Item.aspx?ID=276

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

 

 

IG REPORT OUTLINES DOE MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES FOR FY 2011
On an annual basis, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) identifies what it considers to be the most significant management challenges facing the Department of Energy (DOE). This effort is intended to also assess the agency's progress in addressing previously identified challenges and the agency’s attention to emerging issues. The identified challenges represent risks inherent in the Department's wide ranging and complex operations, as well as those related to specific management processes.

The latest assessment, “Special Report – Management Challenges at the Department of Energy” (DOE/IG-0844), identifies the following seven management challenges in FY 2011:

  • Contract and Financial Assistance Award Management;
  • Cyber Security;
  • Energy Supply;
  • Environmental Cleanup;
  • Human Capital Management;
  • Safeguards and Security; and,
  • Stockpile Stewardship.

A previous report last month indicated that the Department of Energy has been slow to obligate and dispense funds that it received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5).  According to Recovery.gov, the website that tracks ARRA spending, $8.97 billion of $33.29 billion had been paid out as of late October.  Energy Secretary Steven Chu has experienced some success with the department, notably standing up the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program in 2009, but has also been questioned for decisions like closing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.  The report notes that many of these challenges are not amenable to immediate resolution and must, therefore, be addressed through a concerted effort over time.

Additionally, the report designates a "watch list," which consists of significant issues that do not meet the threshold of being classified as management challenges, yet warrant continued attention by DOE officials. For FY 2011, the watch list includes: Infrastructure; Modernization; Nuclear Waste Disposal; and, Worker and Community Safety.

The complete 13-page report may be viewed at http://www.ig.energy.gov/documents/IG-0844.pdf

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

 

 

NSF TAKES LEAD IN MAKING ETHICS RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO RESEARCHERS
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently taken definitive steps to ensure that the science and engineering community has valuable resources at its disposal to make informed, ethical, responsible decisions in research projects and professional practices. NSF has made a five-year, $5 million grant to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to develop a national center for professional and research ethics in science, mathematics and engineering.

"This award will create a great resource for instructors, students and administrators interested in prioritizing high quality ethics training and education. This resource will be the go-to place for people interested in ethics in science and engineering education and research," said Kelly Joyce, NSF's Science, Technology, and Society Program director.

The America COMPETES Act requires that "... each institution that applies for financial assistance from the Foundation for science and engineering research or education describe in its grant proposal a plan to provide appropriate training and oversight in the responsible and ethical conduct of research to undergraduate students, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers participating in the proposed research project."

The new online resource center will develop, gather, preserve and provide comprehensive access to resources related to ethics for teachers, students, researchers, administrators and other audiences. As such, it will provide information and expertise for: instructors who teach ethics, students with questions about research integrity, researchers and engineers who encounter ethical challenges in practice, administrators in universities and businesses who oversee ethics and compliance policies, scholars who conduct research on professional and research ethics, and others with questions or interests in these areas.

The center, part of the Coordinated Science Laboratory (CSL), an interdisciplinary research laboratory in the College of Engineering at Illinois, will draw on the University's collective strength in engineering, digital library technologies, mathematics, medicine, business and law, among other fields. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will partner with Howard University, the National Academy of Engineering, and Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) to develop content for the site.
For additional information, go to: http://www.csl.illinois.edu/news/university-illinois-develop-national-center-ethics-science-mathematics-and-engineering

Paul Fakes covers 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.

EDITOR: Mary James Legatski, ASME Government Relations, 1828 L Street, NW, Suite 906, Washington, DC 20036-5104.