Conservation and Alternative Energy

  • A U.S. District Judge of the 5th Circuit ordered ExxonMobil to pay nearly $20 million for not complying with clean air act rules and regulations at its Baytown complex (east of Houston).  The citizen suit was brought forth by the Sierra Club and Environment Texas (Texas Tribune).
  • An executive order has placed under review 25 existing national monuments that were established under the 1906 Antiquities Act. This list, including major marine areas, includes any national monument created since Jan 1. 1996 that is at least 100,000 acres. President Trump claims designation of national monuments are federal power grabs (Washington Post).
  • The Brookings Institution has released a report that shows a decline during 2016 in patents in fields related to cutting carbon emissions. The number of patents has been steadily climbing since 2010 when the Obama administration provided federal research dollars for renewable energy (ScienceInsider).

Federal Agencies

  • Without notification or explanation, there has been a halt in grant processing of research funded by the Department of Energy Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (DOE ARPA-E).  Many fear it’s intertwined with President Trump’s 2018 budget plan to eliminate the agency. Without funds, many research projects underway cannot get extensions, and newly awarded projects have not received confirmation they will actually be funded in the future (ScienceInsider).
  • The spending deal that will fund the government through September includes a $2 billlion funding boost for the NIH. The plan increases funding for fighting opioid addiction, researching Alzheimer’s, the National Cancer Institute, and President Obama’s Precision Medicine and BRAIN Initiatives. Despite President Trump’s steep proposed cuts to the NIH, the message of this spending agreement is that medical research has strong bipartisan support (STAT).
  • Since 2001, the partisan gap in those who believe the government should increase its spending on funding on scientific research has grown, although both parties back increasing spending at a greater share than in recent years. Almost half of Americans say that spending should increase, while 4/10 say it should stay roughly the same (Pew Research Center).

Public Health

  • Persuading parents about the merits of vaccination is not a one-size fits all approach.  Emotional appeals (e.g. pictures, stories) are more effective on parents who are on the fence and do not hold strong underlying political views. Providing information on herd immunity is important in individualistic societies. When persuasion doesn’t work, implementing changes that make vaccinations more convenient while introducing stringent exemption rules will increase vaccination rates (Science).
  • HB 2249, the “Parent’s Right to Know” bill moved out of the Public Health Committee of the Texas Legislature with a 7-3 vote. Action: Email members and thank them for voting it out of committee (The Immunization Partnership).  

Climate Change

  • The People’s Climate March on Saturday April 29 coincided with President Trump’s 100th day in office. The original People’s Climate March was in 2014, preceding the Paris Climate agreement.  This year’s march was focused on President Trump’s move to reverse President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and other reversions of environmental air and water protections (Washington Post).

Science Communication / Miscellaneous

  • The group 314 action aims to help scientists and engineers prepare for running for office. In the days leading up to the March for Science on April 22, 314 Action organized a bootcamp in D.C.  The reactions of attendees were mixed, with some worried about repercussions over being involved in politics (ScienceInsider).

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