WASHINGTON, DC – In light of the recent developments surrounding the Sony breach, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) today announced that the committee will hold a series of hearings throughout the coming year to examine the numerous threats to electronic commerce and the overall American economy posed by cybercrime. The hearings will continue work begun over the last four years to examine ongoing cyber threats.
Upton commented, “Sadly, every American is now aware of the economic havoc that hacking can wreak on American soil. With a single swipe or click, e-crime hurts consumers and businesses alike. It is a threat to private investment, public companies, jobs, economic freedom, and overall growth. The Sony incident underscores the clear and present threat to America’s thriving digital economy. In early 2015, the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue its active examination of this growing threat to jobs, whether from foreign nations, state enterprises, or other criminal elements. The economic damage is real, and we must work to protect American jobs and commerce.”
The committee’s work on cyber threats and security will provide a foundation for this examination, with previous topics including supply chain security, intellectual property and technology, consumer information, Internet governance and security, and agency data protection.
On heels of administration’s Gruber mess, HHS CFO declares, “The costs of ensuring 100 percent accuracy … would far outweigh the benefit to the public.”
December 17, 2014
Federal Department’s CFO Says Accurate Spending Reports Won’t Help Taxpayers
“The costs of ensuring 100 percent accuracy ... would far outweigh the benefit to the public.”
That's how a top federal official explained opposition to a government watchdog's call on her department to do a better job of accounting for spending on conferences.
The comment by Ellen Murray, the department's assistant secretary for financial services and chief financial officer, came in response to an investigation by the inspector general of how government workers spent $1.4 million on conferences in 2012 that was never reported.
The IG recommended that HHS officials report actual conference costs instead of estimates after finding discrepancies in the actual costs for four of the events held that year. The four events included an international AIDS conference, an awards ceremony and two medical preparedness meetings.
In 2012, HHS sponsored 140 conferences that cost more than $100,000 each, according to the report. The agency spent more than $56 million on conferences that year.
In her response to the IG, Murray added that “striving for perfection would put the department at risk of not fulfilling the statutory requirement for a timely report,” citing the availability of data as a factor in its ability to produce accurate reports.
HHS failed to list $1.4 million between the four conferences that the IG reviewed for its report. The agency reported spending $15.8 million for those conferences on its website as required by new Office of Management and Budget rules.
Partly in response to public backlash over reports of the General Service Administration’s lavish Las Vegas conference in April 2012, OMB issued stricter requirements for approving and reporting such spending that May. …
Read the article online HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC – House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today responded the Environmental Protection Agency’s final rule regulating the disposal of coal ash and committed to oversight of the rule early next Congress.
“We still have a job to do on coal ash. While I am pleased to see that EPA did not pursue the regulatory approach that would have hamstrung recycling and other beneficial uses right now, a glaring hole remains as this rule fails to provide an effective solution or the regulatory certainty that job creators need,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “We share EPA’s goal of improving environmental protections. The good news is we don't need to settle for this shortsighted fix when what we need is a long-term solution that protects both the environment and jobs. We still need a bill, and we'll get it done.”
“While this rule isn’t the worst that EPA could do, it’s certainly not the best either. We offered a better solution with our bipartisan legislation that created a state and federal partnership” said Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL). “EPA’s rule does not close the door on a hazardous waste designation, it will require closure of impoundments that are operating safely, it regulates closed impoundments which may not be legally permitted, and it will open the door to more lawsuits. There are still many questions surrounding this rule, and we will continue our thoughtful oversight early next year as we work to legislate a long-term solution.”
“For the past four years we have sought to find a workable solution for the regulation of coal ash that will maintain hundreds of thousands of jobs, encourage recycling, protect the environment, and provide certainty. Today’s announcement by the EPA shows that our work has made a difference, but there is still more to be done,” said Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), author of the House-passed Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act. “A legislative answer is still necessary to close many of the open-ended questions and concerns the EPA left us under this regulation. The plan we laid out in H.R. 2218 calls for federal standards for coal ash disposal and requires the states to develop disposal programs that meet those standards. This approach was developed in consultation with states, utilities, recyclers, and the EPA, and remains the best way to ensure coal ash can continue to be disposed and recycled in a safe and economical manner.”
Among the committee’s questions for EPA on the rule:
Does the final rule resolve the regulatory uncertainty for the recycling industry posed by EPA's proposed Subtitle C rule?
Does the final rule provide for an enforceable permit program that contains minimum federal standards for the regulation of coal ash?
Does the final rule provide regulatory certainty for the utility industry by creating a single, clear standard for the regulation of coal ash?
Does the final rule provide authority to the states to adopt and enforce coal ash permit programs?
Does the final rule take a measured approach to the regulation of existing impoundments through the use of performance standards rather than requiring across-the-board closure? And does the final rule take into account the need for alternative disposal capacity for impoundments that need to be closed?
Does the final rule address legacy surface impoundments that are no longer receiving coal ash and is the approach authorized by the Solid Waste Disposal Act?
Will the final rule result in more litigation and citizen suits?
The committee recently released a report highlighting that coal ash legislation provides an urgently needed solution and model for regulation. Read the report here.
December 18, 2014
Protecting the Internet From Government Control
By Reps. Fred Upton, Henry A. Waxman, Ed Royce and Eliot Engel
Internet governance is at an inflection point and debate about the fundamental structure of the Internet is ramping up. This debate, now being had in the United Nations, Internet Governance Forum, ICANN and other organizations, will affect global business models relying on networked technologies and freedom of expression and privacy. The multi-stakeholder systems of Internet governance — which includes the private sector, civil society, governments, research institutions and non-government organizations in decision making — has made the Internet a transformative technology.
The United States’ position has been clear on this question: The multi-stakeholder system must continue.
But not every country shares our nation’s passion for free expression. Around the world, oppressive governments have restricted access to Facebook, Google, YouTube, as well as other sites, in an effort to control the free flow of opinions and information. During a late-September U.N. General Assembly gathering, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo asked the Iranian president, via Twitter, “Mr. President, enjoying your Tweets from the UN. We would love the Iranian people to enjoy them as well. When will that be?”
Unfortunately, Iran is not the only government that has sought to thwart its citizens’ access to the Internet. China is blocking websites and filtering its citizen’s searches, Cuba only allows pro-government users to upload content, Saudi Arabia has blocked more than 40,000 sites that it deems unacceptable with the government, and Turkey is taking steps to make it easier to block sites without a court order. The list goes on.
During the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) in Dubai in 2012, countries including Russia, Iran and China sought to legitimize these practices by placing aspects of Internet governance under the UN’s International Telecommunication Regulations administered by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The ITU dates back to 1865, when it was established as the International Telegraph Union to coordinate the delivery of telegraphs among nations. Governments are the only voting members. Whether “telegraph” or “telecommunications,” ITU’s mandate was never to cover the Internet, and installing the ITU or any similar body as the gatekeeper of Internet resources, policy and standards is the wrong approach to Internet governance. That is why, when there was an effort in 2012 in Dubai to bring the Internet under ITU control, the U.S. and 53 other nations, many in the European Union, stood together in the name of Internet freedom and refused to sign.
Over the past few weeks, American diplomats and a large delegation of businesses and civil society members joined others from around the world in Busan, South Korea, for the ITU’s plenipotentiary conference, which is held every four years. The U.S. delegation worked to persuade other countries to ally themselves with a multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance that embraces individual users, academia, technologists, civil society, commercial interests, and governments, and in large part, achieved their goals.
Many countries joined the U.S. in recognizing that multi-stakeholder governance will ensure the resilience of the Internet, and enable commerce and economic development. They are increasingly seeing the self-interest and incentives of resisting an ITU-centric model, because it could empower countries to censor the free flow of information and suppress dissent, as well as stifle broadband investment in both e-commerce and network infrastructure.
Our U.S. delegation made some important progress. Despite a push by a number of countries, the ITU remains peripheral to Internet governance. However, this issue was by no means defeated. The participants to the conference agreed that the ITU could act as a forum for the discussion, but not regulation, of Internet matters. While this is a seemingly small concession, it strongly indicates that the effort to expand ITU jurisdiction into Internet governance will only continue.
Countries that don’t share our commitment to an open Internet will continue to press for a greater role for governments and intergovernmental organizations like the ITU. We must remain vigilant in our convictions. It is critical that, on issues of Internet governance, the ITU-member states refrain from changing the current, well-functioning system. For continued advancement of the Internet, the world must maintain multi-stakeholder governance and reject efforts to recast the ITU or any other similar intergovernmental entity as an international Internet regulator.
Handing over the reins of Internet governance to a body like the ITU would imperil the Internet at a time when its dynamism and innovation are benefitting more people around the globe than ever before. With the future of the Internet on the line, the U.S. and the many countries around the world supporting the principles of freedom, openness and innovation must continue to stand firm. The U.S. Congress remains unified in support of the U.S. delegation’s efforts to keep Internet governance out of the ITU’s jurisdiction.
The multi-stakeholder model for Internet governance must prevail for more countries around the world to realize the transformative benefits of Internet connectivity.
This essay was written for Re/code by the bipartisan leaders of the House Energy & Commerce and Foreign Affairs Committees: Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY).
Read the column online HERE.
Rep. Susan Brooks – “This impactful committee is focused on identifying solutions that will make us stronger and more secure as a state and as a nation.”
As the 113th Congress comes to a close, the Energy and Commerce Committee has made a profound statement on Capitol Hill and across the country with its ever growing #RecordOfSuccess. To date, 91 committee bills have cleared the House of Representatives, with 40 bills becoming law, and another 11 bills currently pending the president’s signature. The committee’s seven incoming Republican members look forward to building upon this record of bipartisan results in the 114th Congress. Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) wrote in today’s Kokomo Tribune, “I came to Congress to be a problem solver and consensus builder — to increase the number of opportunities open to Hoosiers and to all Americans. … This impactful committee is focused on identifying solutions that will make us stronger and more secure as a state and as a nation.”
In the 114th Congress the Energy and Commerce Committee will continue to build on its #RecordOfSuccess by working to spur a new era of medical innovation with its 21st Century Cures initiative, ensuring we have the right policies in place to unleash the Architecture of Abundance to create job growth and manufacturing, and updating our nation’s communications laws for the innovation era with the #CommActUpdate.
December 18, 2014
Susan Brooks: Committee's Record of Success Fuels Growth, Innovation
As your representative in Congress, my goal is to make life better for you. I came to Congress to be a problem solver and consensus builder — to increase the number of opportunities open to Hoosiers and to all Americans. That’s why I’m looking forward to serving on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the 114th Congress. This impactful committee is focused on identifying solutions that will make us stronger and more secure as a state and as a nation.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is the oldest standing committee in Congress. It has a broad jurisdiction that includes oversight of policies related to health care, energy, manufacturing, telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, environmental quality and trade.
Under the leadership of Chairman Fred Upton, R-Michigan, in the 113th Congress, the committee has passed 90 bills in a bipartisan fashion and has seen 40 of those bills signed into law by the president. In the next Congress, it will build on this bipartisan record of success by addressing several pressing matters, including:
· How the U.S. can spur a new era of medical innovation that prolongs and saves lives;
· How we can work together to unleash our nation’s energy abundance and attract new energy jobs;
· How we can make government more efficient and more prepared to promote and safeguard the well-being of our citizens.
All of these questions are intrinsically connected to goals 5th District Hoosiers have spoken to me about time and again: health care reform, job creation, energy security and government accountability. …
I’m also proud that my friend and colleague, Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Indiana, will be joining the Energy and Commerce Committee as well. I look forward to working with him to be a voice for Hoosiers as we collaborate with our colleagues on vital legislation. …
It’s an honor to serve my fellow Hoosiers, and I will take on this new assignment with a keen focus on making a positive impact in your lives and jump-starting a new era of growth and innovation for our nation.
Rep. Susan W. Brooks represents Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, which includes eastern Howard and much of Tipton counties.
Read the article online HERE.
December 16, 2014
12 Days of Broadband, Day 9: Progress Report on Modernizing Communications Act
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Boy, how times have changed since 1996.
The information and communications technology sector has gone through dramatic changes since 1996. Today's communications industry is a critical part of the economy, accounting for a large part of our economy in terms of GDP.
One year ago this month, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) announced the #CommActUpdate initiative to review and update the nation’s communications laws.
Upton and Walden recently commented on the committee’s progress this year.
“Written in a time when the telegraph was the prevailing technology and last updated when dial-up Internet was considered lightning speed, the Communications Act has not kept pace with the innovation that has been the hallmark of America’s technological leadership. We have made incredible strides, but we can be doing better,” said Upton and Walden on Dec. 4. “Over the past year, the committee has sought and received thoughtful public and stakeholder feedback on a variety of issues to inform our work moving forward. As that work continues, we will begin drafting legislation next year to update the law to better meet the dynamic needs of the 21st century.”
In a year, the committee has asked for and received public input through a series of white papers and held a hearing with former chairmen of the Federal Communications Commission to better understand their perspective on the law.
In January, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee kicked off 2014 with the arduous process to discuss what can be done to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace. The first white paper released Jan. 8 focused on broad thematic concepts and talked about ways to foster an environment for innovation, consumer choice and economic growth.
When the Communications Act was last updated to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, most could not have dreamed of the many innovations and advancements that make the Internet what it is today. Walden explained that the committee plans “to look at the Communications Act and all of the changes that have been made piecemeal over the last 89 years and ask one simple question: ‘Is this working for today’s communications marketplace?’”
The reference to “89 years” refers to 1934 when the first Communications Act was adopted creating many regulations still in existence today including the creation of the FCC and its regulatory powers. In 1934 when Congress passed the Communications Act, it was considered a minor piece of legislation bundled with the New Deal. The dominant technology was AM radio. In 1996, the legislation was updated – but at the time it barely had a mention of the Internet since we all were mostly using NetScape as our browser and there were only about 100,000 websites online.
“It’s time for our laws to reflect our modern technological landscape – one grounded in the networks and services of our past and driven by our IP and mobile future,” said Walden.
Chairman Upton noted that the changes in technology since the last update in 1996 have been dramatic and existing laws have failed to keep pace with the vibrant and dynamic telecommunications industry.
Former Chairman Richard Wiley cited his almost five decades in the telecommunications sector in explaining that history shows us innovation happens most when a light regulatory touch is applied. He suggested that the objective of a statutory rewrite should not be to legislate premised on the current state of the marketplace or even on predictions of what it may look like in the future. Instead, he concluded, Congress should consider a flexible and technologically-neutral framework that will be capable of adapting to technical invention and innovation, whatever it may prove to be.
Track the progression of this work on this website, or keep up with the latest news using hashtag #CommActUpdate.
To read the article online, click HERE.
Committee Focus on Careful Oversight a Highlight of 2014
Through public hearings, letters to agencies, official committee reports, and more, the Energy and Commerce Committee has remained at the forefront of House Republican efforts to hold the federal government accountable to the people.
Highlights of this important oversight from 2014 include:
The committee also conducted comprehensive reviews of federal mental health programs, prescription drug and heroin abuse, and the Obama administration hindering major construction and job-creating projects. Oversight has been – and will remain – a priority of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The first white paper in the bipartisan 21st Century Cures initiative asked, “How can we best leverage advances in translational research, health information technology, and communications so that we can collectively ‘connect the dots’ more quickly and start developing potential therapies and cures?” A new partnership between Autism Speaks and Google, MSSNG, exemplifies the opportunities technology can and will provide in finding more cures and treatments.
The Washington Post reports that this partnership is “an effort to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 people in families affected by autism, and to share the results with researchers around the world on the Google Cloud Platform. It is sort of like digitizing a DNA library.”
CNBC adds, “Over the past 10 years, no disorder has become so familiar to Americans, yet remained so mysterious, as autism. … If successful, the $50 million project could not only help doctors understand and treat autism but change the way illnesses are tackled in the 21st century.”
December 8, 2014
If you put 10,000 people’s genomes in the cloud, could you demystify autism?
“The world,” the narrator notes in Mark Haddon’s novel “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” “is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” The novel is a mystery. The narrator is a 15-year-old boy named Christopher John Francis Boone. He is autistic, and he is quoting Sherlock Holmes – who was not speaking about autism, in the original Arthur Conan Doyle story, but perhaps could have been.
For all the strides researchers have made in recent years in understanding the disorder we generally think of as autism – actually, it’s a group of disorders, which collectively affect an estimated one out of 68 children in America – so much of it remains mysterious. Scientists are only beginning to untangle which genetic and environmental factors cause the disorders on the autism spectrum.
But there are clues to autism, and lately, many of them have come from studying what amounts to the mapped DNA of people on the spectrum. A major autism non-profit, backed by a tech giant, is betting there are a lot more breakthroughs where those came from.
On Tuesday, the nonprofit, Autism Speaks, will announce the details of an effort to sequence the whole genomes of 10,000 people in families affected by autism, and to share the results with researchers around the world on the Google Cloud Platform. It is sort of like digitizing a DNA library. The effort is called MSSNG; the dropped vowels are meant to show all the things about autism that no one has yet observed, as Holmes might have put it…
The goal is for that access to produce a sort of crowdsourcing for autism answers. David Glazer, the engineering director at Google, compared it to using Google Translate on a Web page, a process that is powered by patterns detected in human translations of words from one language to another…
Read the full article online HERE.
November 6, 2014
Can Google find the cure for autism?
Over the past 10 years, no disorder has become so familiar to Americans, yet remained so mysterious, as autism.
Now affecting 1 in every 68 children born in the United States—up from 1 in 166 a decade ago—the condition has so far resisted nearly all efforts to cure it, curb it or even precisely define it. As a result, speculation and controversy surrounding the disease has mounted, leaving parents unsure what to believe and doctors frustrated with a lack of options.
But an unusual partnership between science, business and philanthropy may soon provide some answers. Autism Speaks, Google and geneticist Dr. Stephen Scherer have devised an ambitious plan to upload the complete genomes of 10,000 autistic patients and their families to a cloud database that will be searchable, sortable and shareable with researchers around the world. The plan, known as the Autism Speaks Ten Thousands Genome Program—or AUT10K—aims to harness the combined power of big data, crowdsourcing and genetic know-how to isolate the causes of autism and find new genetic targets for treatment.
If successful, the $50 million project could not only help doctors understand and treat autism but change the way illnesses are tackled in the 21st century….
Read the full article online HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC – The House Energy and Commerce Committee today released a new majority staff report outlining critical issues that have been raised during the committee’s hearings and oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, known as the “Clean Power Plan.” This comprehensive analysis provides a detailed description of the proposal, the legislative history of section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act, information on the legal issues raised by the proposed rule, and offers examples of key testimony received by the committee.
The Energy and Power Subcommittee has been conducting aggressive oversight of EPA’s proposal since its release in June 2014, including hearings with testimony from EPA, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and state energy and environmental regulators. As a result of this oversight, the committee has as established the following five preliminary conclusions as outlined in the report:
“It seems like the deeper we dig into this proposal, the more problems we uncover,” said full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “The administration is trying to push through an unprecedented plan that will fundamentally change the way we generate and consume electricity. And while EPA’s legal authority remains in question, the consequences for consumers and our economy are certain – higher prices, fewer jobs, and reduced reliability. A runaway regulatory train is barreling toward us, and we must do everything we can to stop it.”
“We have conducted extensive oversight of this proposal, and our work is not finished. EPA has not provided the true cost and consequences of its clean power plan, nor have they adequately explained how the agency will address the myriad of legal and feasibility issues,” said Energy and Power Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield (R-KY). “This Administration’s extreme actions at EPA are being implemented because of President Obama’s view that climate is the most important issue that is facing mankind. While we all agree that climate is changing, we simply cannot agree with his plan which will dramatically increase electricity costs, affect the reliability of the grid system, and will create additional obstacles to economic growth. We will continue to press the administration for answers and hold EPA accountable under the law.”
To read the full report, click HERE.
WASHINGTON, DC –House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), regarding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) cost estimating procedures. NRC’s cost estimates for a regulation failed the cost-benefit test in a recent case. The GAO report found that NRC staff failed to sufficiently follow the best practices to determine a reliable cost estimate for regulations.
Upton said, “Nuclear power is critical to an all-of-the-above strategy needed to meet our energy and environmental goals. To ensure this important clean energy source remains part of our energy mix, we need to be promoting balanced and effective policies that meaningfully enhance safety, and we cannot do that without accurate cost estimates.”
“GAO’s report confirms my suspicion that NRC’s cost estimates are egregiously off target from the actual costs of implementing their regulations,” said Vitter. “Nuclear safety is absolutely a priority, and at the same time, we must ensure that the consumers and businesses who bear the brunt of the regulatory burden are protected from unnecessary costs.”
In May 2013, Upton and Vitter requested a report from the GAO on the methods and procedures currently being utilized by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct cost analyses when developing and proposing new policies and regulations. Click here to read more.
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