Capitol Hill Roundup

By Steve Brachmann
September 10, 2018

This week in Capitol Hill hearings, automated systems for providing railroad safety control, innovative Medicare initiatives and the Army Futures Command are discussed in the House of Representatives while the Senate explores advances in nuclear fuel technologies and emerging modes of transportation.

Thursday, September 13th

House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials – The State of Positive Train Control Implementation in the United States

At 10:00 AM on Thursday, the railroad subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will convene a hearing to discuss implementation of positive train control (PTC) on the country’s passenger and freight rail network. PTC technologies are designed to minimize the risk of rail accidents by automatically slowing or stopping rail vehicles in response to certain conditions. PTC installation mandates were enacted through passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 but certain deadlines were extended by the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015. As of June 30th, 2018, more than 90 percent of mandated PTC radio towers have been installed on freight and passenger lines but nine railroads remain at risk of not meeting statutory criteria to qualify for alternative schedules to complete PTC system hardware implementation. The hearing’s witness panel will include representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, Amtrak, the Association of American Railroads, the Government Accountability Office, the American Public Transportation Association and Altamont Corridor Express.

House Subcommittees on Oversight and Environment – Examining the Underlying Science and Impacts of Glider Truck Regulations

At 10:00 AM on Thursday. No hearing notice. Glider trucks are tractor trailers which utilize older engines in newer truck bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General recently announced plans to audit a 2017 study which found that glider trucks create more pollution than trucks that meet federal emissions standards. The hearing’s witness panel will include Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and Dr. Richard Belzer, an independent consultant in regulation, risk, economics and information quality.

Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works – Advanced Nuclear Technology: Safety and Associated Benefits of Licensing Accident Tolerant Fuels for Commercial Nuclear Reactors

At 10:00 AM on Thursday. No hearing notice. Congress has directed the U.S. Department of Energy to explore the development of nuclear reactor fuels with enhanced accident tolerance in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011. Accident tolerant fuels are designed to endure the loss of active cooling in a reactor core, improve nuclear plant performance as well as reduce operational and maintenance costs. The hearing’s witness panel has yet to be announced.

Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation – Transportation of Tomorrow: Emerging Technologies That Will Move America

At 10:00 AM on Thursday, the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to discuss emerging transportation technologies that can improve both safety and efficacy as well as explore federal-level policy opportunities that can encourage private sector innovation. The hearing’s witness panel will include representatives from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, Virgin Hyperloop One, Rolls-Royce Marine North America and GE Transportation.

House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies – FY19 Oversight Hearing on the NASA James Webb Telescope

At 10:30 AM on Thursday. No hearing notice. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is expected to be the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope when NASA makes its launch currently scheduled for March 2021. Recently, the JWST’s flight operations team concluded successful tests of the telescope’s communications suite, including a demonstration that it can successfully communicate with the missions operation center located in Baltimore, Maryland. The hearing’s witness panel will include Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for Science Mission Directorate, and Tom Young, chair of the JWST Independent Review Board.

House Subcommittee on Health – Examining Barriers to Expanding Innovative, Value-Based Care in Medicare

At 1:15 PM on Thursday, this hearing will be convened by the health subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This February, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a 10-year forecast which predicted that national health expenditure growth will increase each year by an average of 5.5 percent to reach $5.7 trillion in 2026, representing nearly 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The hearing’s witness panel has yet to be announced.

House Subcommittee on Readiness – Army Futures Command: Will It Help?

At 1:30 PM on Thursday. No hearing notice. The U.S. Army Futures Command focuses on six priorities in modernizing our nation’s military: long-range precision fires; next-generation combat vehicle; future vertical lift platforms; a mobile expedition Army network; air and missile defense capabilities; and soldier lethality. This July, the Army selected Austin, TX, as the headquarters for this newest command in the Army. The hearing’s panel witnesses will include Ryan McCarthy, Under Secretary of the Army, and General John Murray, Commanding General of the Army Futures Command.

Friday, September 14th

House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology – Solutions to Strengthen U.S. Public Safety Communications

At 9:00 AM on Friday, this hearing will be convened by the communications subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The subcommittee will discuss three pieces of legislation related to U.S. public safety communications: H.R. 6424, the 9-1-1 Fee Integrity Act; H.R. 5700, the National Non-Emergency Mobile Number Act; and H.R. 6003, the Anti-Swatting Act of 2018. The hearing’s witness panel has yet to be announced.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a writer located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He has become a regular contributor to IPWatchdog.com, writing about technology, innovation and is the primary author of the Companies We Follow series. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

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There are currently 2 Comments comments. Join the discussion.

  1. Paul Morinville September 10, 2018 12:42 pm

    This is excellent info. Please continue posting this info.

  2. Lost In Norway September 11, 2018 2:17 am

    Thanks for the article, Steve. I hope that this is a regular series.

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