Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • The recent ban on lead ammunition on Federal Lands may be overturned; few states have laws against lead ammunition so unraveling the federal ban will negatively impact wildlife (NPR).
  • A bill proposed in the House (H.R.1054) co-sponsored by Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) would create a botanical science research program within the Department of the Interior, introduce a student loan repayment plan, and encourage states to utilize native species (Quigley Press Release). Action: This bill needs cosponsors, contact your US Rep.
  • A new study (pdf) in Texas suggests that humans have been causing earthquakes for the last 100 years. The Railroad Commission of Texas responds saying that the methods were “arbitrary” because the methods revealed a correlation not causation; in any case, the Commission notes that they have tightened regulations in recent years (Dallas News).
  • A massive spill of coal ash from Duke Energy in North Carolina is killing hibernating turtles; regulations against this pollution are not being enforced, potentially because of the large sums of money that Duke has donated to the Republican party (Daily Kos).
  • Advances in alternative energy research will require availability of national energy and economic datasets (Nature).

Congressional Committees

  • The Congressional Review Act (CRA) allows a simple majority of congress to undo provisions issued within the final six months of the Obama administration. The CRA has been invoked to overturn environmental and public health protections, such as the Stream Protection Rule, and potentially the EPA Risk Management Plan and Methane and Waste Prevention Rule (UCS).
  • Rep. Lamar Smith sent a letter to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt asking him to remove a preemptive decision to limit the scope of the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay and allow it to continue through the normal permitting process. Smith argued it was an overreach of EPA authority and that findings were reached by predetermined conclusions (SST Press Release). The Bristol Bay watershed supports the largest sockeye salmon run in the world.

Higher Education

Federal Agencies

  • NASA may be losing funding for climate science research; Bob Walker, a Trump advisor, stated that the role of NASA is space-exploration, not “politically correct environmental monitoring” (The Guardian).
  • S. 442 passed the Senate on Friday funding NASA for $19.5 billion for 2017, the bill included goals for NASA including sending humans to Mars and expanding commercial space activity. It was introduced by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and urged for quick passage (Space Policy Online, Cruz Press Release).
  • The release of email communications between EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and oil companies did not explicitly show that he received campaign contributions in return for political action; however it does show a number of cases in which oil companies drafted documents that Pruitt presented relatively unchanged to the White House (NYT).
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has re-posted a fraction of animal welfare documents that it had removed from its website earlier this month when it cited privacy rights as its motivation for restricting public access to Freedom of Information Act requests. This recent USDA move comes after members from both parties and sides of Congress complained and a coalition of animal welfare groups sued (ScienceInsider).
  • In the UK, the number of Chief Science Advisors appointed to government departments has declined in the last year during the Brexit negotiations (Nature).

Public Health

  • A six-month daily mistake of watering down of an already diluted solution of the positive control for Zika in a D.C. lab caused it to miss at least nine potential Zika infections. This is the District lab responsible for screening bioterrorism threats (Washington Post).
  • The annual G-Finder investment report, an analysis of the trends in global funding for research on neglected diseases that disproportionately affect people in developing countries, finds that recent surges in Ebola funding mask a general decline. The fall in funding can be attributed to decreases in funds from high-income countries (Nature).

City of Austin

  • The codeNEXT draft has been released and is open for public comment, but relevant maps will not be available until April. The City Council expressed confusion at a recent meeting over how the proposed land development code changes will affect zoning in their individual districts (Austin Monitor).

Climate Change

  • Glacier melting on Greenland appears to be accelerating at a rate faster than before (Science).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • Science that is publicly funded is patentable by universities, but it hasn’t always been that way. Following last week’s patent ruling on CRISPR-Cas9, Michael Eisen, a geneticist running for Senate, argues “The soul of academic science is being destroyed, one patent at a time” (Michael Eisen).
  • Partner organizations for the March for Science (Saturday April 22), have been announced. Major partners include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Association of University Professors, and the American Geophysical Union. Organizers have launched a new social media campaign with hashtag #ScienceServes, showing scientists advance the public interest (March For Science Press Release, Science).
  • Five steps scientists can take against those that are waging the war on science (Scientific American).


Events this week (central time)

  • Tuesday February 28, 9:00 am. House Subcommittee on Environment and Subcommittee on Oversight Hearing-At What Cost? Examining the Social Cost of Carbon. Witnesses include a statistician at the Heritage Foundation, a professor from the University of Chicago, and Vice President from the Brookings Institute (SST Hearings)

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