Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines are moving forward (NPR).
  • “Wind provided 40 percent of Texas’s electricity for 17 straight hours one windy day in December” (Scientific American).
  • The effort to ban lead bullets at wildlife refuges may be stymied (Wall Street Journal).
  • Texas Water Symposium will be 7pm on Thurs, Feb 23 at Texas State University Student Center in San Marcos, TX. The event is free and open to the public (Hill Country Alliance)
  • Texas water resources are regulated differently depending on their source type. Surface water is owned by the state and regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality; learn more at The Eagle.
  • Some good news- this year Texas State Parks’ annual first day hikes had record breaking attendance! (Hill Country Alliance)
  • The Alaska Legislature is attempting to pass a bill requesting Congress open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling (Bloomberg). This is essentially destroying an ecosystem the size of Rhode Island, a key habitat for hundreds of migratory bird species, and would have a multiplying effect on climate change (NewsMiner).

Congressional Committees

  • The House Science Committee has added six new climate science-denying members (Scientific American). The stances of each new member (all Republican) range from extreme to moderate in their denial of climate science.
  • Related: Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Science Committee and the House Freedom of Press caucus, stated this week that people should get their news directly from the President, rather than the media (Washington Post).

Higher Education

  • The Texas State Board of Education is meeting Tuesday, Jan. 31st to discuss streamlining the standards for science textbooks by removing four standards reflecting a creationist agenda (e.g., examine all sides of scientific evidence, analyze data on the sudden appearance of groups in the fossil record). Action: register to provide public testimony before Monday at 5pm (TFN)
  • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will vote Tuesday, Jan. 31 on whether or not to nominate Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. Action: call your senators.
  • HEB Chairman and CEO has founded the Holdsworth Center for Excellence in Education Leadership that will offer leadership training to public school educators in Texas (Rivard Report)
  • The 2018-2019 Texas budget will be billions of dollars shorter than previously. The Senate’s initial draft removes higher ed “special items”, including research dollars (KXAN).

Federal Agencies

  • Action: Write to your senators or representatives to express your concern about the actions taken by federal agencies that impede the dissemination of scientific information (AIBS).
  • The EPA may be undergoing drastic changes in their oversight, funding, and ability to address the public (Axios, Huffington Post, Popular Science, The Hill). The temporary freeze on grants was lifted, but a social media gag order is still in place (USAToday).
  • Many bills related to science were introduced this week (Ecoroulette). S.53 would authorize/strengthen NOAA’s tsunami program. H.R.589 (Sponsor: Rep. Smith, Lamar [R-TX-21]) would establish new programs and policies at DOE such as research initiatives on electricity storage and solar fuels. S.83 would “authorize the National Science Foundation to support entrepreneurial programs for women”.
  • A Senate committee will vote Wednesday Feb. 1 on the confirmation of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA (The Hill).
  • The Dept of the Interior proposed the Paleontological Resources Preservation Act, which would create a new permitting process for researchers collecting fossils on federal land (AIBS).
  • The Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act was passed by the House. This bipartisan effort allows labs to more easily partner with industry and authorizes the $6 billion DOE Office of Science, among other things (Daily Energy Insider).

Public Health

  • A scientist’s take on “when life begins”, i.e., probably not at fertilization (Medium).
  • Our own Lamar Smith has praised Trump for reinstating the Mexico City Policy, which withholds federal funding for non-government agencies abroad that provide women with information about abortions (PRI). In practice, this policy actually increases abortions abroad when implemented.
  • Lamar Smith then proposed, and the house passed, HR-7 which permanently prevents insurance companies for paying for abortion services because it would drop health care subsidies for women who choose insurance plans that include abortion, even if that insurance plan is private (Slate).

City of Austin

  • Action: track your water usage with the Dropcountr app, provided through City of Austin Utilities.
  • Officials released a draft of Austin’s new land development code in response to Austin’s rapid growth and development. The existing code has been in place since the mid-80s.

Climate Change

  • While actions against climate change will be necessary to save farms in much of the U.S., using the words “climate change” evokes anger and resentment in many of these communities. Some people in the midwestern US are effectively discussing climate change without using inciteful language (NY Times).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • Geneticist Michael Eisen announced that he will be running for US Senate in California in 2018 (Nature, Science).
  • A public rally supporting science in Washington, DC is in the works, but no date has been set (Washington Post). Ex-director of the American Physical Society in DC suggests that organizers “Make it a march for science, not a march by scientists” (Science).
  • Many scientists are negatively affected by Trump’s temporary immigration ban (Nature, Science). Action: Join over 12,000 academics and sign this petition again the ban


Events this week (central time)

  • Tuesday January 31st, 11am: Texas State Board of Education hearing to streamline Texas TEKS standards; open to the public. Location: 1701 N Congress Ave
  • Tuesday, January 31st, 6-8pm: What’s Next? Community Engagement Forum. Panel discussion with the 4 local Texas House Representatives during which they will discuss what they’re working on, what they’ll be looking out for, and what community members can do to advocate during the 2017 Legislative Session. Location: Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, 1156 Hargrave Street Austin, TX 78702
  • Wednesday February 1, 1-2pm: Union of Concerned Scientists Webinar, Rewriting the Narrative with Science. Register to attend.

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