In this issue:

 

 

ASME SUPPORTS SENATE STEM EDUCATION BILL, INCLUDED IN SENATE ESEA REAUTHORIZATION

On October 19, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee began the mark-up of its version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Reauthorization Act (ESEA). Included in the 800- plus page bill is S. 1675, the “Preparing Students for Success in the Global Economy Act,” legislation introduced earlier this month by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) to reauthorize and strengthen the current Math and Science Partnership (MSP) Program at the Department of Education.
S.1675 aims to improve student achievement in the STEM fields by providing an array of competitive grants to states and districts, which would transition to formula-based grants after a threshold funding level is reached.  The goals of the bill are as follows:

  • Improve student engagement in, and increase student access to, courses in STEM subjects;
  • Strengthen quality STEM instruction and professional development programs;
  • Recruit, train, and support highly-effective teachers in STEM subjects and provide robust tools and supports for students and teachers;
  • Close student achievement gaps, and prepare more students to be on track to college and career readiness and success in these subjects; and,
  • Require states to develop a statewide STEM education plans.

The text of Senator Merkley’s bill can be found at: http://thomas.loc.gov, and searching by bill number.

In a letter to Senator Merkley endorsing the bill, ASME President Victoria Rockwell said, “ASME believes that our nation's continued leadership and prosperity will hinge on continued efforts like yours to prioritize robust funding for quality STEM education programs, so that all students are scientifically literate and have the skills and training to compete for jobs in the 21st century economy.  We also commend your bill for being fiscally responsible by amending and improving an existing Department of Education program – the Math and Science Partnerships (Title IIB of ESEA) – rather than creating a wholly new initiative.  Finally, we strongly support the bill’s focus on innovation through a variety of best practices such as hands-on engineering competitions, STEM Master Teachers, and innovative professional development models."    

To review ASME President Rockwell’s letter to Senator Merkley, please visit: Position Statements
The STEM Education Coalition and ASME, as its engineering co-chair, have worked closely with Senator Merkley over the last several months to craft this comprehensive STEM education bill, which directly reflects a number of the Coalition’s core policy objectives.  Additional information about the STEM Education Coalition can be found at:  http://www.stemedcoalition.org

Additional information about the Senate version of the ESEA reauthorization bill can be found at: http://help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=b4d24a56-5056-9502-5d73-a45a120b096b

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

 

 

U.S. SENATE UNANIMOUSLY PASSES PIPELINE SAFETY BILL

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved pipeline safety legislation introduced by Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV and Surface Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Frank R. Lautenberg.  The Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 would strengthen pipeline safety oversight by the federal government and address long-standing safety issues.  The legislation, approved on October 17th, would help mitigate pipeline risks through a number of measures.  It must now be passed by the House of Representatives before being signed into law by the President.

The legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the authority of the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) through fiscal year 2015.  Specifically, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011 includes provisions that would:

  • Increase civil penalties for violators of pipeline regulations and add civil penalties for obstructing investigations;
  • Expand excess flow valve requirements to include multi-family buildings and small commercial facilities;
  • Eliminate exemptions and require all local and state government agencies, and their contractors, to notify “One-Call” notification centers before digging;
  • Require the installation of automatic or remote-controlled shut-off valves on new transmission pipelines;
  • Require the Secretary of Transportation to evaluate whether integrity management system requirements should be expanded beyond currently defined high consequence areas and establish regulations as appropriate;
  • Make pipeline information, inspections, and standards available to the public on the PHMSA’s website;
  • Authorize additional pipeline inspectors and pipeline safety support employees, through a phased-in increase over the next four years; and,
  • Authorize appropriations for PHMSA for fiscal years 2012 through 2015.

For additional background information on this legislation, please visit: http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Legislation&ContentRecord_id=72c19ebc-e9fc-41c1-9315-3ddc07a11634

In a related development, the Senate Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security Subcommittee held a hearing on October 18th to examine the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NSTB) conclusions about what caused the 2010 California gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno, CA. An archived webcast of that hearing may be viewed at: http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&ContentRecord_id=e860846a-9a7b-4338-83c2-d1cabe296442&ContentType_id=14f995b9-dfa5-407a-9d35-56cc7152a7ed&Group_id=008a7dfc-46ca-4137-bf98-abd201b8c011

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

 

 

SS&T COMMITTEE SUBMITS RECOMMENDATIONS TO JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON DEFICIT REDUCTION

The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) recently submitted a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction offering recommendations on areas within the Committee’s jurisdiction. The Committee recommended over $1.5 billion in savings in FY12 alone, including:

  • Reduction of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) from $1.8 billion to $1.2 billion, siting, as examples, programs for developing K-12 curricula as being of “questionable merit” and programs providing individuals with funding for the purpose of commercializing profitable technology as “an inappropriate intervention in the market.”
  • No future funding of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) “unless and until programmatic improvements are made to ensure awards fund truly high-risk research that industry is not likely to undertake.”
  • The repeal of Section 1705 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as amended which permits the DOE Secretary to make loan guarantees for renewable energy systems and facilities that manufacture related components, electric power transmission systems and leading edge biofuels projects.
  • The $4.8 billion budget for DOE’s Office of Science “should be the top funding priority among DOE R&D programs and be protected from cuts by the Joint Committee.”
  • Among programs at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the committee recommended continued funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program over the Technology Innovation Program (TIP) program, the Baldrige National Quality Program and the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) program.

Along with SS&T Chairman Ralph Hall (R-TX), the following Committee Republicans signed the letter: Vice Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI); Rep. Lamar Smith (TX); Rep. Judy Biggert (IL); Rep. Todd Akin (MO); Rep. Michael McCaul (TX);  Investigations and Oversight Subcommitte Chairman Paul Broun (GA); Space and Aeronautics Subcommitte Chairman Steven Palazzo (MS); Research and Science Education Chairman Mo Brooks (AL); Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Andy Harris (MD); and, Rep. Randy Hultgren (IL).

Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) also sent a letter to the Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, urging the Committee to take into account the critically important role that federal investments in science, technology, and STEM education play in keeping the United States a global economic and technological leader, reducing the nation’s debt over the long term, creating new industries and jobs, and providing practical benefits to all citizens. She asked the Committee to take a balanced approach to deficit reduction and to include revenue enhancements as part of its recommendations so that critically important federal investments in R&D will not be jeopardized.

The entire text of Chairman Hall’s letter may be viewed at: http://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/Letter_to_Joint_Select_Committee.pdf

Ranking Member Johnson’s letter is also available at: http://democrats.science.house.gov/letter/ranking-member-johnsons-letter-joint-committee-deficit-reduction

Recommendation letters from other House and Senate Committees are available at:  http://www.deficitreduction.gov/public/index.cfm/deficit-reduction-request-letters

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

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

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

 

 

BLUE RIBBON COMMISSION ON AMERICA'S NUCLEAR ENERGY FUTURE HOLDS PUBLIC MEETING

The 15-member Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC) held a public meeting in Washington, D.C. on October 20 to present its draft report issued in late July of 2011.  The meeting was one in a series of public hearings in Washington, D.C., and across the country, to hear from technical and policy experts, elected officials, community leaders, environmental organizations and other interested parties. ).

After some brief technical difficulties that temporarily delayed the start of the meeting, former-Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) provided some brief remarks regarding the scope and purpose of the BRC.  Jon Kotek, the BRC Staff Director, then provided a brief overview of the Commission’s key recommendations, which included a proposal to establish a corporation of stakeholders, confirmed by the Senate, to handle the transportation and disposal of spent nuclear fuel (SNF).  Finally, panel discussions were held on the subjects of transportation of SNF; advanced technology; and the co-mingling of government and civilian wastes.  A wide variety of stakeholders participated, including representatives from the Department of Energy (DOE), utilities, and consumer groups.    

The BRC has also established three subcommittees to specifically focus on reactor and fuel cycle technologies, storage and transportation, and disposal. These subcommittees have held public meetings and will be reporting back to the full Commission any recommendations for consideration. 

The Commission’s final report will be submitted to the Administration in January 2012.  The draft report is now available for review at: http://brc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/brc_draft_report_29jul2011_0.pdf

A transcript of the aforementioned meeting is also available at: www.brc.gov.

For additional background information about the BRC, please see the August 1, 2011 Edition of Capitol Update.

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

 

SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE EXAMINES SHALE GAS PRODUCTION AND WATER RESOURCES IN THE EASTERN UNITED STATES

On October 20, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Water and Power Subcommittee held a hearing to examine shale gas production and water resources in the eastern United States. The hearing focused on the question of whether water supplies are being adequately protected from the large-scale drilling for shale gas (“fracking”) in the eastern states. 

The Clean Drinking Water Act currently exempts fracking from regulation; however, states have begun to take action.  Earlier this year, Texas passed a law that mandated the disclosure of the chemical “cocktails” used for fracking.  New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania are all considering state legislation addressing the issue.  The Subcommittee is currently working on a proposal related to shale gas production that may be introduced soon. 

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) are examining the issue, with Energy Secretary Steven Chu creating a Natural Gas Subcommittee group to provide recommendations.  At a full committee hearing last month, members of the fracking panel, officially the Natural Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, offered high praise for state oil and gas regulators, but stopped short of backing either state or federal regulation. 
The Natural Gas advisory group released an interim report last August that drew some criticism from both industry and environmental groups because of its conclusions regarding some of the environmental and health concerns about shale gas drilling.  The group is planning to expand on its recommendations and conclusions in a more detailed report due out in about six weeks.

To learn more about the EPA’s efforts to examine hydraulic fracturing, please visit: http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/class2/hydraulicfracturing/index.cfm The written statements of the witnesses, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing, are available at: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=f443c03b-da42-837b-6bce-d209db351414

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

 

 

ASME ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR SUMMER POLICY INTERNSHIP

Ranked as one of the best internships in the U.S. by the Princeton Review, WISE (Washington Internships for Students of Engineering) offers a unique opportunity to 3rd and 4th year engineering students to spend the summer of 2012 in Washington, D.C., learning about the interaction of technology and public policy.  The dates of the 2012 WISE program are June 4- August 3, 2012. 

Selected from a nationwide competition, WISE Interns spend nine weeks learning how government officials make decisions on complex technological issues and how engineers can contribute to legislative and regulatory public policy decisions.   At the end of the nine weeks, interns produce a public policy paper on a topic of interest, i.e. alternate energy, and present their findings on Capitol Hill. 

After the completion of her internship, 2010 ASME WISE intern Phi Nguyen said, "The WISE program provided me an interesting opportunity to see first-hand how public policy decisions can directly affect the field of engineering.  With this knowledge, I now understand why it is so important for engineers to be aware of what is going on in Washington and get involved in the process."

2011 ASME WISE intern Julian Leland agreed, saying “The WISE program presented the perfect opportunity for me to pursue my passion for engineering and my interest in public policy.” 

ASME is now accepting applications for its 2012 WISE intern.  The ASME application can downloaded at http://www.wise-intern.org, and this year’s application deadline is December 31, 2011.  To see examples of previous year’s policy papers, please visit: http://www.wise-intern.org/journal/2011/index.html

In addition to 3rd and 4th year engineering students, recent graduates, beginning study in an engineering policy-related Master’s program, will also be considered.  WISE interns are provided housing in a dormitory on the campus of George Washington University in the heart of Washington, D.C., and receive a stipend to assist with living and travel expenses. 

For more information, please visit the ASME WISE program website at Washington Internships for Students of Engineering or you may contact Melissa Carl, Government Relations Manager, 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.

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