Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • Several science societies and organizations wrote a letter to Trump endorsing the Clean Water Rule (Ecological Society of America).
  • The wind energy industry is booming in Texas under laws signed by Rick Perry, who is currently the head of the Department of Energy, suggesting that renewable energy may have a positive future in the US (NPR).

Congressional Committees

  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the Scientific Integrity Act (S.338) which would prevent suppression and distortion of scientific data by the government (The Scientist).
  • This week, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing on overview and oversight of NSF (watch the full hearing here – starts at about 19:00).

Higher Education

  • Ted Cruz (R-TX) sent a letter to Texas state representatives urging them to pass the “school choice bill” (TX SB3, Tribune analysis), which would provide tax dollars to parents who wish to send their children to private school (Texas Tribune).

Federal Agencies

  • Trump’s budget slashes discretionary funding for all non-defense programs by 10% across the board, but he has singled out some agencies for extra cuts, such as the EPA (25%) and NOAA (17%) in order to pay for increases in defense spending. This budget is a request made by the president to Congress and therefore non-binding (Washington Post).
  • Head of the EPA Scott Pruitt questioned the established science of climate change and  contradicted the EPA website by explicitly denying that climate change is caused by humans (Washington Post). His comments drew outrage from scientists and citizens in areas affected by climate change, including Florida (The Hill). Action: Call Pruitt’s office at 202-564-4700.
  • Water standards on the EPA’s website were previously described as “science-based”, but now this language has been changed to “economically and technologically achievable standards” (New Republic). Critics worry that the focus on “economically achievable” would favor business profit over public health.
  • The EPA has dropped its requirement for operators of oil and gas wells to report methane emissions, citing the financial burden on the oil and gas industry (Washington Post).

Public Health

  • The new GOP plan for healthcare reform (H.R.1275) was introduced last week in the House. It has received a lot of criticism.
    • Both conservative and liberal representatives from many aspects of the healthcare industry expressed their lack of support for the proposed healthcare plan, stating that it would result in a loss of coverage for many and will be too expensive (AP News).
    • It is being criticized as “food stamps for insurance” (Redstate).
    • Some conservatives criticize it for not doing enough to repeal Obamacare (National Review).
    • Rep. Joe Kennedy III revealed that it does not ensure care for mental illness for Medicaid recipients (Twitter).
    • Cuts to medicaid could have substantial impact on low-income populations (NPR).
  • A new bill in congress (H.R.1313) introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) would allow workplace wellness programs to access genetic data on their employees (Stat News).

City of Austin

  • Action: Sign up for action lists and newsletters from Indivisible Austin in central Texas.
  • UT Austin has received an award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for installing a new, more efficient irrigation system to help meeting University goals of water conservation (Texas Environmental Excellence Awards).
  • The city of Dripping Springs applied for a permit to dump wastewater into Onion Creek. A recent proposal would plan to divert most of the water to land applications rather than direct dumping, but doesn’t include any limits on wastewater dump. A coalition of six local environmental groups wrote a letter to the Austin City Council to allow unrestricted dumping (Save Barton Creek press release; KXAN News).

Climate Change

  • Two more Congressmen joined the Climate Solutions Caucus this week, Darrell Issa (R-California) and Juan Vargas (D-California). The bipartisan caucus now has 26 members (Darrell Issa press release). Action: ask your representative to join the caucus here.
  • Spring came up to three weeks early this year in the USA (NYT).

Outreach / Professional Development

  • Two bills promoting women in STEM fields became law this week: The Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act (H.R.321) directs NASA to support women and girls in STEM. The Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act (H.R.255) directs NSF to encourage women to become commercial entrepreneurs outside of the lab.

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • The Union of Concerned Scientists has assembled a toolkit (called the “Science Watchdog Toolkit”) that helps scientists get resources for actions they can take right, how-to guides for advocating, and other resources/support. Read information about the toolkit and a link to download it here.
  • The first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), William Ruckelshaus, suggests that the Trump administration take into account public support for clean air and water, and that industry will suffer if people believe the government isn’t protecting their health (NYT op-ed). He says “the laws that the EPA administers create a strong federal-state partnership that has worked well for over 40 years”. This sentiment was echoed by the Shell CEO (Axios).
  • The Society of Neuroscience, the American Association of Geographers, and the Society for Freshwater Science joined the growing list of organizations that have officially endorsed the March for Science (Science).
  • Kaggle, an online community of data scientists interested in machine learning, will be joining Google (Google).
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