Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • The CEO of Energy Transfer Partners (a Texas company that is also building the Dakota Access Pipeline) is Kelcy Warren, who is also currently serving on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Action: Fill out this form to message your State Senator to tell them it is unacceptable for an oil CEO to have a voice in our park system (Sierra Club).
  • Action: sign up to be a volunteer for the Texas Water Protectors, a group fighting the Trans-Pecos pipeline that is planned for the Big Bend Area by Energy Transfer Partners (Volunteer form, Austin EcoNetwork).
  • The new planning process of the Bureau of Land Management, passed in December 2016, was hailed by both the public and officials (Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership). However, it may be repealed under the Congressional Review Act (H.J.Res. 44) on the grounds that it does not take into account local government input (Murkowski Press Release).

Higher Education

  • Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of religious Liberty University, has been tapped by Trump to lead a new education task force to reduce “overreaching regulations” in higher education, such as those allowing defrauded students to seek financial relief (The Chronicle of Higher Education).
  • Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced a bill (H.R.899) to end the Department of Education (The Hill, Massie Press Release).
  • The upcoming Texas budget may continue to cut funding for higher educatino – will tuition continue to rise to mitigate? (Texas Tribune)
  • House File 140, introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives, and referred to the Iowa House Education Committee, would, if enacted, prohibit the state board of education from “adopting, approving, or requiring implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards by school districts and accredited nonpublic schools.” (NCSE)
  • Two-fifths of Texas students lose all credits when transferring from a cost effective community college to a less affordable four-year university. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board asked lawmakers for an added $500,000 in the next two-year budget to better facilitate alignment of course blocks to address this issue (Texas Tribune).
  • The Idaho House Education Committee voted Thursday [February 9, 2017] to remove references to climate change and human impact on the environment from a new set of state science education standards (NCSE).

Federal Agencies

  • The nominee for head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, does not support any EPA regulation (Natural Resources Defense Council, Environment and Public Works Committee).
  • A former assistant administrator of the EPA, Jeff Holmstead, states that the EPA can be sued for not “doing its job”, which could lead to a mess if the EPA were dismantled (Bloomberg). He suggests that the main targets of the current administration will be dismantling the Clean Water Rule and Clean Power Plan, as well as loosening restrictions on coal mining, rather than ending the agency entirely (NYT).
  • Regulations from the EPA have spurred innovation in curbing emissions (National Geographic).
  • Current and former EPA employees protested the nomination of Scott Pruitt (Washington Post).
  • The USDA removed public access to reports on animal welfare in research labs. Reports have been publicized in the past, leading to sanctions and closures of some facilities (Science).

Public Health

  • Fukushima radiation has reached “unimaginable” levels (Huffington Post).
  • Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline may begin soon if the Army Corp of Engineers does not recommend a full environmental review (Reuters).
  • Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) had a substantive debate on the future of Obamacare on CNN (YouTube).

Climate Change

  • Lamar Smith claims (based on an article in the Daily Mail) that he has evidence that a pause in global warming has been covered up by NOAA scientists using “flawed data” in order to “push their costly climate agenda” (Scientific American, New York Times).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a bill this week (S.338) to safeguard scientific integrity and prevent censorship of scientists by politicians. The bill amends provisions originating in the America COMPETES Act of 2007 (Science).
  • This blog post describing how to read a scientific paper to non-scientists has been circulating social media this week (London School of Economics).
  • Scientists speak about the pros and cons of participating in a national “March for Science.” Those critical of the march warn about the dangers of politicizing science and argue that the “data should speak for itself,” while those in favor argue that politicians are the ones who have politicized science (climate change, vaccines, etc.) and that it is the aloofness of the scientific community that has caused public disregard of data (NYT).
  • A global interactive map of April 22 science marches is available including @SciencemarchATX (Science).

 

Events this week (central time)

  • Tuesday, February 14th, 6-8pm. Learn about Austin caves and the bats at the Austin Sierra Club monthly meeting. Location: Scholtz Garden, 1607 San Jacinto Blvd., Austin, TX. Event Information
  • Wednesday, February 15, 6pm. Regular Meeting of the City of Austin Environmental Commission. Location: 301 W. 2nd Street, Austin, TX. Agenda
  • Sunday, February 19th, 12pm – 1pm. Cities Leading Climate Action. Come learn about the big picture, what Austin is doing, and what you can do to help ensure a climate safe future. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX. Event Information

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