BUDGET APPEARANCE NETS BOTH PRAISE AND QUESTIONS FOR ENERGY SECRETARY
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in front of a Senate subcommittee to defend his agency’s budget request for fiscal 2012, came in for praise and some questions about his agency’s practices.
Both Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and the subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), praised the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program as a promising example of how DOE is addressing previous difficulties in both management and procurement. However, both had questions about the Department’s current practices. Sen. Feinstein was not pleased by the decision to keep nuclear spent fuel in dry cask storage. Sen. Alexander asked about eliminating subsidies for wind energy technology and focusing on research for new technologies.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a surprise appearance at the hearing to ask Secretary Chu about a nuclear processing plant in Paducah, Ky., that makes fuel rods, and is slated for closure. Secretary Chu said the department has not decided to shut down the facility, but would be committed to cleaning up the site if the plant is shuttered.
EPA SEEKS ADDITIONAL COMMENT ON BOILER RULES
The Environmental Protection Agency has delayed until July 15 the deadline for public comments and
information on the final standards for boilers and certain solid waste incinerators issued in February 2011.
The EPA is postponing the effective date of the standards for major source boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators.
Since the initial proposal in April 2010, the agency has received more than 4,800 comments from businesses and communities. Based on that input, EPA made extensive revisions to the standards, and in December 2010 requested additional time for review to ensure the public’s input was fully addressed. The court granted EPA a 30-day extension, after which the final rules were issued. EPA is reconsidering the standards because the public did not have sufficient opportunity to comment on the changes.
In 2010, the EPA revised its draft standards after industry groups said the regulations were unworkable. Since the final rules differ so much from the draft rules, EPA opened up a reconsideration period in which the public can comment on and review the final standards.
COMMITTEE MARKS UP PIPELINE SAFETY BILL
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has marked up S.275, the Pipeline Transportation Safety Improvement Act of 2011. The bill seeks to reauthorize the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration within the Department of Transportation for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.
The legislation is a broad-based reauthorization that targets known vulnerabilities and outstanding issues in pipeline regulation.
The bill was approved, along with other measures, by voice vote.
LOOKING AT THE GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN SETTING STANDARDS
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has released a summary of responses from a Request for Information on how the federal government can more effectively engage in the private sector-led standards system. The RFI had a particular focus on experiences with standards development for multi-disciplinary emerging technologies that address identified national priorities: cyber security, smart grid technologies, health information technology, nuclear/radiation detectors, and emergency communication interoperability.
The RFI was coordinated by the National Science and Technology Council’s Standards Subcommittee, which was created to coordinate among high-level officials within different federal agencies about standards policy for the U.S.
The review of responses identified the following themes related to government participation in standards setting:
• Guidance on government participation needs to be clarified, as it is inconsistent across government agencies;
• More resources need to be applied to increase participation in standards-setting activities—funding of travel, membership dues;
• Federal agency positions must be coordinated during standards development; and,
• NIST’s convener role is appreciated and valued.
NIST received a total of 92 responses: 34 from standards-setting organizations, including ASME; 21 representing industry with global business interests; 16 from individual experts; 15 from nonprofit-type organizations; and six from the government sector.
This report is condensed from "Capitol Update," a weekly report prepared by ASME Government Relations. More information is available online at http://www.asme.org/kb/newsletters/capitol-update.