AAAS Policy Alert -- November 2, 2011
IN THIS ISSUE
Senate To Vote on FY 2012 "Minibus." The Senate returns from a week-long recess to vote on a "minibus" package (H.R. 2112) that would combine three appropriation bills for FY 2012: Agriculture (H.R.2112); Commerce, Justice, Science (S. 1572); and Transportation (S. 1596). As reported in last week's issue of the Policy Alert, the Senate is also expected to vote to attach an amendment to the minibus that would extend funding for the federal government beyond November 18 via another continuing resolution. Meanwhile, political news sources reported that House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that the House would also speed passage of FY 2012 appropriation bills by creating minibus packages as well. To date, the House Appropriations Committee has reported out nine appropriation bills and the House has passed six, whereas the Senate Appropriations Committee has reported out 11 appropriations bills but the Senate has passed only one. The current status of all appropriations bills is summarized graphically on Thomas, the congressional website.
NEWS UPDATE: On Tuesday evening the Senate passed the minibus by a vote of 69-30. Look for additional updates in next week's Policy Alert.
Update on Deficit Committee Hearings. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (generally known as the "Super Committee") continues to hold hearings as it develops its plans for reducing the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion in ten years. Last week it received testimony from Douglas Elmendorf (PDF file), director of the Congressional Budget Office, on the estimated cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending over ten years that would result from a sequestration. According to Elmendorf, if automatic procedures to cut spending were triggered by a sequestration, funding for defense would decrease a total of $110 billion (or 16%), and non-defense spending would fall $99 billion (or 15%). This week the committee is expected to hear testimony from the co-chairs of two former bipartisan deficit commissions; one chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, and the second chaired by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici.
Visit the AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program Website to stay up-to-date on the latest congressional action on the FY 2012 budget.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL NEWS
Committee Advances REINS Act. The House Judiciary Committee favorably reported the REINS Act – Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act – of 2011, by a vote of 22 to 14 on October 25. The REINS Act (H.R. 10) would require major rules – those with an impact of $100 million dollars or more – to be approved by both houses of Congress within 70 legislative days. At earlier hearings on the legislation, witnesses testified that the legislation would effectively stop all rulemaking from going forward.
House Allows Airlines to Avoid EU Laws. The House passed by voice vote legislation (H.R. 2594) that would prohibit U.S. airlines from complying with a European Union climate change law that will soon subject any airplane flights into or out of an EU airport to the European cap-and-trade restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions. The EU's high court is examining the legality of the proposal, which is also opposed by other nations. The Senate is not likely to take up the measure.
House Science Committee Democrats Announce New Subcommittee Ranking Members. Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee announced new Ranking Members for three subcommittees under the committee's jurisdiction. (See the announcement here.) Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) will serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation; Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) will serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight; and Rep. Hansen Clarke (D-MI) will serve as Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.
Obama Administration Announces Tech Transfer Initiative. The Obama Administration has announced an initiative designed to speed up the transfer of federal R&D from research lab to marketplace. A Presidential Memorandum issued October 28 directs federal research agencies to streamline and accelerate the process for public-private research partnerships, small business R&D grants, and university-startup collaborations. It also gives agencies more flexibility to partner with industry and directs them to develop a five-year strategic plan, with metrics that include tracking how many patents labs generate. In addition, the Administration will create BusinessUSA, a "one-stop shop" for small business owners seeking information on federal services and for businesses seeking to begin or increase exporting.
PCAST to Meet November 2. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is scheduled to meet November 2. Topics on the agenda (which can be found here) include wireless technology, chemistry and jobs, and nanotechnology.
CEQ Releases Reports on Climate Change Adaptation, Freshwater Resources. On October 28 the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a report on the federal government's efforts to improve its understanding of and capacity to respond to climate-related risks, titled Federal Actions for a Climate Resilient Nation: Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force. Since the previous progress report had identified freshwater resources as a priority, the CEQ also released (PDF file) the final National Action Plan: Priorities for Managing Freshwater Resources in a Changing Climate. A synthesis report will be released in 2013.
NASA Launches NPP Satellite. NASA launched the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System Preparation Project (NPP) on October 28. The satellite, a joint project of NASA and NOAA, is the bridge between current earth-orbiting satellites and the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and will collect weather and climate data for the next five years. Delays in funding have pushed back the planned launch of the JPSS, which means that there will be a gap in data collection between when the NPP degrades from exposure to the harsh space environment and whenever the JPSS is fully operational.
Interior Department Releases Solar Development Plan. On October 27 the Department of the Interior (DOI) released the Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS)(PDF file), which establishes solar energy zones on public lands and provides incentives for development within those zones in six western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. In the press release, the DOI said the Solar PEIS will "ultimately make for faster, better permitting of large-scale solar projects on public lands."
Report Estimates Scale of Skills Gap in U.S. Manufacturing. A new report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that American manufacturing companies are having trouble filling open positions that require skilled labor. The survey found 67% of respondents reporting a moderate to severe shortage of available, qualified workers, and 56% expecting the shortage to grow worse in the next three to five years. In addition, the survey indicates that 5% of current jobs at respondent manufacturers are unfilled due to a lack of qualified candidates. This would translate to 600,000 unfilled positions nationally.
Comment on the above item. The Policy Alert blog is located on AAAS's MemberCentral. Once you are logged in, click on "Blogs" and look for "Capitol Connection" in the drop-down list.
California Finalizes Cap-and-Trade Regulations. On October 20 the California Air Resources Board unanimously approved regulations for a cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This program is part of California's efforts to implement AB 32, the state's landmark Global Warming Solutions Act which requires California to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The emissions cap will take effect on January 1, 2013, for electric generating units, importers of electricity, and large industrial sources and will expand to cover additional sectors in 2015. For additional information see the article in the Los Angeles Times.
European Commission Defines Nanomaterials. Earlier this month the European Commission (EC) adopted a definition of nanomaterials to guide legislative approaches for regulating materials containing nanoparticles. According to the EC press release, the nanomaterials definition focuses not on hazard or risk, but on particle size. The definition says a nanomaterial is "a natural, incidental or manufactured material containing particles, in an unbound state or as an aggregate or as an agglomerate and where, for 50% or more of the particles in the number size distribution, one or more external dimensions is in the size range 1 nm – 100 nm." Reactions to this definition have been mixed, according to a Chemical & Engineering News article, with consumer, industrial, and environmental groups disagreeing about whether the definition is too inclusive or too exclusive for regulatory purposes.
Brazilian Government Initiates Program Sponsoring Students' S&T Study Abroad. The Brazilian government has received the first round of applications for its "Science Without Borders" program, which sponsors Brazilian students to go abroad for research. The program (described here)(PDF file) focuses on selected areas of research of national priority. Administered jointly by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology, the program plans to grow to 75,000 scholarships by 2014.
People in the News. Penrose ("Parney") C. Albright has been named the 11th director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, effective December 1. He replaces George Miller, who is retiring after four decades at Livermore and six years as director. Albright joined the laboratory in 2009 after more than 20 years experience with the federal government and the private sector, including as assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security.
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Publisher: Alan I. Leshner
Editor: Steve Nelson
Contributors: Kavita Berger, Joanne Carney, Patrick Clemins, Ed Derrick, Erin Heath, Emily Lamb, Earl Lane, Anne Poduska, Gretchen Seiler, Al Teich, Kasey
NOTE: The AAAS Policy Alert is a newsletter provided to AAAS Members to inform them of developments in science and technology policy that may be of interest. Information in the Policy Alert is gathered from published news reports, unpublished documents, and personal communications. Although the information contained in this newsletter is regarded as reliable, it is provided only for the convenience and private use of our members. Comments and suggestions regarding the Policy Alert are welcome. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.