Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • Texas HB 3036 will be heard on Tuesday 4/11. This bill would prohibit the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from discharging additional wastewater in the contributing zone of the Edwards Aquifer (LWV). Action alert: sign this petition in support of TX HB 3036 (change.org).
  • At the start of this month, San Antonio City Council met to consider the purchase of a conservation easement that would protect areas (primarily Bexar, Medina, and Uvalde counties) where rainwater enters and replenishes the Edwards Aquifer by maintaining the area as private property (Hill Country Alliance)
  • Current water policy proposals under consideration in the Texas Legislature could negatively affect Hill Country waterways including Jacob’s Well, Fern Bank Springs and the Blanco and Guadalupe rivers. Estimates suggest that if too much groundwater is pumped out of will be depleted (Hill Country Alliance).
  • A Kentucky coal museum has put up solar panels, “a symbol of the state’s efforts to move away from coal as its primary energy source” (NBC).
  • Trump gave three months of his yearly salary to the National Park Service (Slate).

Congressional Committees

  • Head of House Science Committee, Lamar Smith, has staged another hearing with invited climate scientists. While all the scientists were in consensus on anthropogenic climate change, Smith attempted to capitalize on personal disagreements among them (Houston Chronicle).

Higher Education

  • In Brazil, federal funding for research was cut by 44% (Nature).
  • The Texas House budget provides more funding for higher education than the Senate budget does. The House did not eliminate all special item funding, provides for the new Dell Medical School, and partially funds major research initiatives like the Governor’s University Research Initiative (Statesman).

Federal Agencies

  • Under the Obama administration, the EPA tightened the limit on ground-level ozone, but now the EPA is seeking to postpone oral argument in a related case to review that rule (Washington Post).
  • In response to EPA’s Scott Pruitt’s decision not to ban chlorpyrifos (EPA), a widely used pesticide considered more harmful than BPA, going against the EPA’s own scientific own assessment, the EPA has been sued by the Pesticide Action Network (The Guardian).
  • Following proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Congress passes H.R.353, which protects and guides funding for research into predicting high-impact weather events (Washington Post).

Public Health

  • The Texas House passed its budget after a marathon session. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) lost $10 million, which will be shuttled to anti-abortion programs (Texas Tribune).
  • Scott Gottlieb, President Trump’s nominee to head the FDA, is a proponent for adaptive trial designs, in which researchers can build in options for adjusting the trial as it goes as the data is collected (Science Insider).

City of Austin

  • The City of Austin’s Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities released a report his week on deep and systemic racism in the city of Austin, including school segregation, “separate and profoundly unequal” housing, and income disparity (Austin Chronicle).
  • UT’s President Gregory Fenves is rethinking the future of Brackenridge Field Laboratory (Statesman).

Climate Change

  • A Salon opinion piece warns that failure to back out of the Paris Agreement does not mean compliance with it (Salon).
  • Polar ice is melting from warm Atlantic currents (Sciencemag).

Outreach / Professional Development

  • The American Geophysical Union is adding sexual harassment to the definition of scientific misconduct (Sciencemag).
  • About one-third of PhD students has or is at risk for mental illness, such as depression (Sciencemag).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • In light of the March for Science, a few scientists are trying to revive an organization from the 60s-70s: Science for the People. The group was critical of some other scientists for “serving the ruling class”, and their tactics were seen as controversial (Sciencemag).
  • A new ad campaign by Microsoft supporting women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) was not well-received; critics say it blames women for leaving STEM rather than blaming the reasons they leave (MonicaCatherine).

 

Events this week (central time)

  • Tuesday, April 11th, 8:00am: TX HB 2249, the “Parents’ Right to Know” bill will be heard in the Public Health Committee of the Texas Legislature. The bill address the need for transparency in epidemiological reporting and immunization exemption information.
  • Thursday April 13th, 12-1pm: join a rally at the office of Ted Cruz to protest the cutting of the EPA budget and the Department of the Interior (Indivisible Rosedale Huddle).
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