- The Department of Energy announced that its Buildings Performance Database has exceeded a milestone of 750,000 building records, making it the world’s largest public database of real buildings’ energy performance information.
- The Energy Department launched a SunShot Catalyst prize challenge.
- The Department of Energy launched a National Geothermal Data System, a “resource that contains enough raw geoscience data to pinpoint elusive sweet spots of geothermal energy deep in the earth, enabling researchers and commercial developers to find the most promising areas for geothermal energy. Access to this data will reduce costs and risks of geothermal electricity production and, in turn, accelerate its deployment.
- The Department of Energy released a study “which identified 65-85 gigawatts of untapped hydropower potential in the United States. Accompanying the release of this report, Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released detailed data resulting from this study.”
- Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz announced that WattBuddy won the Department of Energy’s “Apps for Energy” contest, the second part of its year-long American Energy Data Challenge.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the AVoided Emissions and geneRation Tool (AVERT), “a free software tool designed to help state and local air quality planners evaluate county-level emissions displaced at electric power plants by efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs.”
- 7 new utilities and state-wide energy efficiency programs adopted the Green Button standard, including Seattle City Light, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Green Mountain Power, Wake Electric, Hawaiian Electric Company, Maui Electric Company, Hawai’i Electric Light Company, and Hawaii Energy.
- Pivotal Labs collaborated with NIST and EnergyOS to create OpenESPI, an open source implementation of the Green Button standard.
- 7 electric utilities “agreed to the development and use of a voluntary open standard for the publishing of power outage and restoration information. The commitment of utilities to publish their already public outage information as a structured data in an easy-to-use and common format, in a consistent location, will make it easier for a wide set of interested parties—including first responders, public health officials, utility operations and mutual assistance efforts, and the public at large—to make use of and act upon this important information, especially during times of natural disaster or crisis.” iFactor Consulting will support it and, notably, Google will use the data in its Crisis Maps.
- Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington D.C. will use the Department of Energy’s open source Standard Energy Efficiency Data (SEED) platform to publish data collected through benchmarking disclosure of building energy efficiency.
This afternoon, the United States House of Representatives passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) of 2013, voting to send S.994, the bill that enjoyed unanimous support in the U.S. Senate earlier this month, on to the president’s desk.
The DATA Act is the most significant open government legislation enacted by Congress in generations, going back to the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. An administration official at the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed that President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law.
The DATA Act establishes financial open data standards for agencies in the federal government, requires compliance with those standards, and that the data will then be published online. The bipartisan bill was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and in the House by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
Representative Issa, who first introduced the transparency legislation in 2011, spoke about the bill on the House floor this afternoon and tweeted out a long list of beneficial outcomes his office expects to result from its passage.
— Darrell Issa (@DarrellIssa) April 28, 2014
The Senators who drafted and co-sponsored the version of the bill that the House passed today quickly hailed its passage.
“In the digital age, we should be able to search online to see how every grant, contract and disbursement is spent in a more connected and transparent way through the federal government,” said Senator Warner, in a statement. “Independent watchdogs and transparency advocates have endorsed the DATA Act’s move toward greater transparency and open data. Our taxpayers deserve to see clear, accessible information about government spending, and this accountability will highlight and help us eliminate waste and fraud.”
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) April 28, 2014
“During a time of record $17 trillion debt, our bipartisan bill will help identify and eliminate waste by better tracking federal spending,” said Senator Portman, in a statement. “I’m pleased that our bill to empower taxpayers to see how their money is spent and improve federal financial transparency has unanimously passed both chambers of Congress and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.”
— Rob Portman (@robportman) April 28, 2014
“The DATA Act is a transformational piece of legislation that has the potential to permanently transform how the Federal government operates,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a statement. “For the first time ever, the American people will have open, standardized access to how the federal government spends their money. Washington has an abundance of information that is often bogged down by federal bureaucracy and is inaccessible to our nation’s innovators, developers and citizens. The standardization and publication of federal spending information in an open format will empower innovative citizens to tackle many of our nation’s challenges on their own. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people should be open to the people.”
The DATA Act earned support from a broad coalition of open government advocates and industry groups. Its passage in Congress was hailed today by open government advocates and trade groups alike.
“The central idea behind the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act is simple: disclose to the public what the federal government spends,” “>said Daniel Schuman, policy council for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
“The means necessary to accomplish this purpose—increased agency reporting, the use of modern technology, implementation of government-wide standards, regular quality assurance on the data—will require government to systematically address how it stovepipes federal spending information. This is no small task, and one that is long overdue. The effort to reform transparency around federal spending arose in large part because members of both political parties concluded that their ability to govern effectively depends on making sure federal spending data is comprehensive, accessible, reliable, and timely. Currently, it is not. The leaders of the reform efforts in the Senate are Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Tom Coburn (R-OK), and the leaders in the House are Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), although they are joined by many others. We welcome and applaud the House of Representative’s passage of the DATA Act. It is a remarkable bill that, if properly implemented, will empower elected officials and everyday citizens alike to follow how the federal government spends money.”
“Sunlight has been advocating for the DATA Act for some time, and are thrilled to see it emerge from Congress,” said Matt Rumsey, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation. “As I wrote while describing the history of the bill after it passed through the Senate, ‘Congress has taken a big step by passing the DATA Act. The challenge now will be ensuring that it is implemented effectively.’ We hope that the President swiftly signs the bill and we look forward to working with his administration to shed more light on federal spending.
“With this legislation, big data is finally coming of age in the federal government,” said Daniel Castro, Director of the Center for Data Innovation, in a statement. “The DATA Act promises to usher in a new era of data-driven transparency, accountability, and innovation in federal financial information. This is a big win for taxpayers, innovators, and journalists.”
“After three years of debate and negotiation over the DATA Act, Congress has issued a clear and unified mandate for open, reliable federal spending data,” said Hudson Hollister, the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. Hollister helped to draft the first version of the DATA Act in 2011, when he was on Representative Issa’s staff. “Our Coalition now calls on President Obama to put his open data policies into action by signing the DATA Act and committing his Office of Management and Budget to pursue robust data standards throughout federal financial, budget, grant, and contract reporting.”
“The Administration shares Senator Warner’s commitment to government transparency and accountability, and appreciates his leadership in Congress on this issue,” said Steve Posner, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. “The Administration supports the objectives of the DATA Act and looks forward to working with Congress on implementing the new data standards and reporting requirements within the realities of the current constrained budget environment and agency financial systems.”
Update: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) signed the DATA Act on April 30, before sending it on to President Obama’s desk.
“From publishing legislative data in XML to live-streaming hearings and floor debates, our majority has introduced a number of innovations to make the legislative process more open and accessible,” he said, in a statement touting open government progress in the House. “With the DATA Act, which I signed today, we’re bringing this spirit of transparency to the rest of the federal government. For years, we’ve been able to track the status of our packages, but to this day there is no one website where you can see how all of your tax dollars are being spent. Once the president signs this bill, that will start to change. There is always more to be done when it comes to opening government and putting power back in the hands of the people, and the House will be there to lead the way.”
Statement by Press Secretary Jay Carney:
On Friday, May 9, 2014, the President signed into law:
S. 994, the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014” or the “DATA Act,” which amends the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to make publicly available specific classes of Federal agency spending data, with more specificity and at a deeper level than is currently reported; require agencies to report this data on USASpending.gov; create Government-wide standards for financial data; apply to all agencies various accounting approaches developed by the Recovery Act’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; and streamline agency reporting requirements.
Rep. Darrell Issa issued the following statement in response:
“The enactment of the DATA Act marks a transformation in government transparency by shedding light on runaway federal spending,” said Chairman Issa. “The reforms of this bipartisan legislation not only move the federal bureaucracy into the digital era, but they improve accountability to taxpayers and provide tools to allow lawmakers and citizen watchdogs to root out waste and abuse. Government-wide structured data requirements may sound like technical jargon, but the real impact of this legislation on our lives will be more open, more effective government.”
There will be a markup for the DATA Act (S.994) in U.S. Senate today. The bill, which passed the House, would standardize federal spending and publish it in a similar way as the Recovery Act, which proved to be a successful test case for open data. A proposed amendment to the DATA Act, however, is facing opposition from the same good government groups that supported its passage in the House of Representatives.
Update: The DATA Act passed markup with the amendment.
— Data Coalition (@DataCoalition) November 6, 2013
— Data Coalition (@DataCoalition) November 6, 2013
The amendment, which removes the “accountability platform” from the legislation, faced criticism from the author of the original bill, Hudson Hollister. Hollister emailed the following comment to Federal News Radio:
“Without the accountability platform, there will be no mechanism for inspectors general to use the newly-standardized federal spending data, combined with public and private data sources, to suss out waste and fraud. If the final version of the bill fails to expand the Recovery Operations Center to cover all federal spending, taxpayers’ interests will be hurt in two ways. First, waste and fraud that could have been illuminated and eliminated will go undetected. Second — and perhaps more important — without any internal government effort to use the newly-standardized spending data for any purpose, there will be no internal pressure to improve the quality of data published on USASpending.gov. We recognize that the accountability platform was removed in order to reduce the bill’s Congressional Budget Office score. We hope that an offset large enough to restore those provisions can be included in the bill at a later stage.”
A coalition of good government groups are calling for the the DATA Act to be passed as introduced, not “as amended,” submitting a letter to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to that effect. (Below.)
Prospects for the DATA Act’s passage in the Senate do appear improved over last year, where it foundered in committee, but the form it will emerge from today’s markup in is unclear.
Hollister is warning that the removal of the requirement for a data analytics platform from the bill, modeled on Recovery.gov, would be a mistake and lead to same kinds of data quality issues that exist at the SEC.
Citing a study from Columbia Business School which evaluates the state and future of interactive data at the SEC, Hollister says the platform is a key tool for government inspectors general to examine spending data, which then creates an internal incentive to correct errors. Given the reality that “armchair auditors” have yet to emerge in the United Kingdom to look at similar data, improving the capacity of the IGs to find fraud, waste and abuse is critical.
In advocating for retention of the platform (the “accountability hub”), Hollister suggested that its estimated $20 million dollar cost will be more than balanced by the amount of fraud detected.
“Open data is no good unless it’s accurate,” writes Hollister. “The SEC’s experience shows that the only way to generate internal pressure for accurate spending data will be if the federal government is actively using that data.”