Leading the News
Administration Considers Drilling Fee Hike On Federal Lands.
On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management announced “that it will seek public comment on rules making changes to royalty rates, rental payments, lease sale prices and other compensation for onshore oil and gas work on federal lands,” The Hill (4/18, Henry) reported. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that the regulations “have not kept pace with technology advances and market conditions” for onshore drilling. Jewell stated, “It’s time to have a candid conversation about whether the American taxpayer is getting the right return for the development of oil and gas resources on public lands.”
Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has “consistently questioned whether the 12.5 percent royalty now being charged is too low,” experts claim that “a low royalty rate also encourages oil and gas exploration,” the AP (4/18, Freking) reports. Further, stakeholders warn that “any increase would likely raise protests from industry and others that it will lessen production and increase prices at the pump.”
Study: Political Divide Over Keystone Pipeline Breaks Down Locally.
The Washington Post (4/18, Mooney) reports that, according to a study published in Energy Policy, the political divide over the Keystone XL pipeline “mainly holds on the national level — but not so much locally.” After looking at a series of three large Pew polls conducted in 2013 and 2014, researchers found that, “as you get closer to living near the proposed pipeline route, liberals and conservatives look less different in their views — and liberals as a whole become more in favor of the pipeline.” The study, conducted by Timothy Gravelle of the University of Essex and Erick Lachapelle of the University of Montreal, “suggests that anti-pipeline advocates may be losing the framing war to those who endlessly cite the pipeline’s alleged economic benefits.”
DOE Gives Out More Than $5 Million In Nuclear Energy Scholarships, Fellowships.
The Hill (4/17, Henry) reports that “91 college students” will divide more than $5 million in Department of Energy “scholarships and fellowships to study in nuclear energy fields.” DOE “officials awarded 59 scholarships worth $7,500 each and 32 three-year graduate fellowships worth $50,000 per year to students pursuing ‘nuclear engineering degrees and other nuclear science and engineering programs relevant to nuclear energy,’ the department announced on Thursday.” DOE “said the scholarships are part of the Obama administration’s ‘efforts to expand clean energy innovation.’” Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz stated, “by helping promote cutting-edge nuclear science and engineering, the Department is helping to advance American leadership in the safe, secure and efficient use of nuclear energy here and around the world.”
Nine Attorneys General, CFPB Back Corinthian 100.
MainStreet (4/20) reports that the group of debt strikers known as the Corinthian 100 have “garnered the support of nine state attorneys general and The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” and could be “poised rock the world of Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.” The attorneys general wrote to Duncan earlier this month calling on him to forgive the students’ Federal loans. The piece reports that it is as yet uncertain how ED will respond, quoting spokesperson Denies Horn saying, “The Department shares the attorneys general’s concern for the welfare of Corinthian students, and we look forward to responding to their letter.”
WSJournal Accuses California AG Of Killing Jobs By Targeting Corinthian.
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (4/20, Subscription Publication) hits California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who is running for the seat of retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), for targeting a subsidiary of for-profit Corinthian Colleges. The Journal says that the Department of Education cracked down on Corinthian last year, and the company agreed to sell 20 or so California campuses to a nonprofit, ECMC. However, the Journal says that Harris has refused to release those campuses from claims against Corinthian, making them a toxic asset, and ECMC backed out. The Journal argues that Harris is essentially putting the campus’ employees out of work.
WSJournal: Unionization Not Solution To Grad Student Concerns.
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (4/18, Subscription Publication) says unionization is not the best solution for private university grad students seeking to improve their teaching pay and benefits. However, the Journal supports a suggestion by Ohio University economist Richard Vedder who says universities should accept some responsibility for defaults on student loans or help pay loans for students who can’t find jobs.
Upward Bound Program Targets Disadvantaged For College Enrollment.
The Helena (MT) Independent Record (4/20, Deedy) reports that the TRIO program Upward Bound, one of the outreach programs the ED says was established to increase services for disadvantaged individuals, is created to enroll foster first-generation college students. In the Anaconda, Butte, and Helena county areas, students take college classes over the summer at Montana Tech and tour universities. The program has tripled four year bachelor degree conferral rates for disadvantaged youth, but has been hit with funding cuts, and faces funding renewal this year.
Graduate Student Enrollment Increases, But Domestic Students Decline.
The Kansas City (MO) infoZine (4/20) reports that graduate student enrollment in STEM programs climbed 2.4 percent in 2013, primarily due to an overwhelming increase in foreign students amid a decline in domestic students. Of domestic students, Hispanic and Latino enrollment has risen 25.8 percent since 2008. A “decade-long” decline in postdoc research continued as well, with enrollment falling 2.8 percent.
Research and Development
Marines Testing ‘Kamikaze’ Drones.
The Washington Post (4/18, Lamothe) reports the Marines are “experimenting with…Flying a kamikaze drone armed with explosives from the back of an MV-22 Osprey aircraft, and directing it right into the insurgent’s fighting hole.” The Post notes the recent test of a small unmanned aircraft known as the Switchblade in California “went off without a hitch.”
Hyten: US Needs To Plan For Future War In Space.
Reuters (4/18, Shalal) reports General John Hyten, the head of US Air Force Space Command, said the United States` needs to adopt new technologies and strengthen its relationships with allies in order to be better prepared to win a potential future war in space.
Lockheed Is Hiring The Most Tech Talent.
Forbes (4/17, Dill) provides a list of the companies with employment search site Indeed.com’s greatest number of postings for tech jobs in the US paying $60,000 or more annually. Lockheed Martin tops the list, with nearly 2,000 job openings posted, including openings for positions such as “Instructional Systems Designer, Aeronautical Engineer, and Network Data Communications Analyst.” Also of note, CSC ranked 24th with 605 jobs posted, CACI International ranked 19th with 703 jobs, Raytheon ranked 17th with 779 jobs, Booz Allen Hamilton ranked 13th with 826 jobs, Hewlett Packard ranked 11th with 849 jobs, Leidos ranked ninth with 895 jobs, General Dynamics ranked sixth with 1,154 jobs, Northrop Grumman ranked fourth with 1,571 jobs, and IBM ranked third with 1,169 jobs.
Engineering and Public Policy
DOT Issues Emergency Order On Oil Train Safety Measures.
On Friday, the Transportation Department issued an emergency order requiring oil trains “to slow down as they pass through urban areas,” the AP (4/18, Lowy) reports. In addition, DOT officials announced “a series of other steps to improve the safety” of oil trains, including an advisory “to use the latest technology to check for flaws in train wheels that can cause a crash” and a requirement that highly qualified inspectors “conduct brake and mechanical inspections before trains carrying oil and other hazardous liquids depart.” Although “major freight railroads” have voluntarily “limited oil trains to no more 40 mph in ‘high threat’ urban areas,” the emergency order “makes the speed limitation a requirement and extends it to trains carrying other flammable liquids like ethanol.”
Leading Republican Presidential Candidates United Against EPA Water Rule.
The Hill (4/17, Cama) noted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul announced the Defense of Environment and Property Act on Friday with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio “among the original co-sponsors,” indicating the presidential candidates are “are willing to cooperate on some priorities.” The Hill noted the bill would prevent what Republicans “have long lambasted” as a “massive overreach” by the Environmental Protection Agency to expand its jurisdiction to regulate the “small waterways that feed into bigger ones” around the country.
WPost Urges Congress To Move Forward With Yucca Storage Site.
In an editorial, the Washington Post (4/18) says it’s “crucial…that interim” nuclear waste “storage sites not become permanent ones,” and “the best way to head that off is to proceed with Yucca Mountain.”
Utilities Seeking Special Compensation To Keep Nuclear Power Plants Operating.
In a front-page article, the Wall Street Journal (4/18, A1, Smith, Subscription Publication) reports that utilities in New York, Ohio and Illinois are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in special compensation to help keep nuclear power plants operating. Although the electricity producers claim the funding is necessary to maintain the stability of the electrical grid, opponents question whether utility customers should be supporting these plants.
WSJournal: Electric-Grids’ Reliability Hurt By Rush To Close Coal Plants. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (4/18, Subscription Publication) says moving too quickly to close coal plants will negatively impact the reliability of electric-grids.
Hawaiians Embrace Solar Power Despite Utility Resistance.
The New York Times (4/19, Cardwell, Subscription Publication) reports Hawaii is “at the forefront of a global upheaval in the power business” thanks to “the growing popularity of making electricity at home” from solar panels. In response, the Times notes, many utilities are “trying desperately to stem the rise of solar,” adding these changes are “already remaking the relationship between power companies and the public while raising questions about how to pay for maintaining and operating the nation’s grid.”
Junior High Students Make Artificial Hand For Third-Grader With 3-D Printer.
The AP (4/20, Holsted) reports that a group of students in the Environmental and Spatial Technology class at Harrison Junior High in Harrison, Arkansas used a 3-D printer to craft a prosthetic hand for Cameron Little, a third-grader at Forest Heights Elementary School. Teacher Mary Beth Hatch said that her students used plans from enablingthefuture.org, and “emphasized that her students did all the work on the project, taking measurements of Cameron’s right hand, entering data into the computer, monitoring the printer’s progress as it made the individual parts, then assembling the parts into a hand.”
Project Lead The Way Expands STEM St. Louis Area Programs To Elementary School.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (4/20, Bock) reports that Project Lead The Way lessons are bringing STEM programming to elementary schools in the St. Louis area, the first year PLTW has conducted elementary school activities. Local teachers “are excited” to see how elementary through high school STEM education impacts students’ interest in the subjects. The paper then details an engineering lesson in the class based on Jack and the Beanstalk.
Iowa STEM Festival Draws Crowd.
The Dubuque (IA) Telegraph Herald (4/20, Becker) reports that the third annual Dubuque Area Family STEM Festival was held in Iowa Saturday. Between 1,500 to 1,800 visited nearly 50 exhibits, and featured a hugging humanoid robot. The Northeast Iowa Region Governor’s STEM Advisory Council at the University of Northern Iowa hosted the event.
Louisiana School System Will Add New STEM Academy.
The AP (4/20) reports that the Iberville Parish School System in Louisiana will add a new STEM-focused academy in the fall. Superintendent Ed Cancienne said that the school will help students “become independent learners” and to avoid what he said the Department of Defense predicts will be a STEM job market in which “(most) high-level jobs dealing with science and engineering will be held by immigrants coming into the country.” The program will be held in former North Iberville High in Rosedale, whose closure in 2009 was “bitterly opposed by the community.” The school will host a program with LSU’s College of Engineering and will feature active involvement from the university.
Students Compete At SeaPerch Challenge In New Jersey.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (4/20, Von Bergen) reports that 350 middle and high school students took part in the SeaPerch competition at Rowan University in New Jersey Saturday, while another SeaPerch event will take place at Drexel University in Philadelphia next weekend. The events are lead-ups to the national competition in Massachusetts next month, hosted by the Office of Naval Research of the US Navy. Navy representative Haidy Oliveira said that the service is “always promoting STEM” via “very hands-on activity.” The crews “represent a manufacturer” trying to receive a contract from the Navy by having their robots complete several challenges as quickly as possible.
Washington Students Visit Marina To Learn About Marine Ecology.
The South Whidbey (WA) Record (4/20, Daniel) reports that Washington students are taking field trips to a marina in Langley, which the paper called an “outdoor, hands-on learning environment” for marine ecology. The paper details the students’ trip, which included lessons on whales and pollution, and notes that the trips were funded by the non-profit South Whidbey Schools Foundation.
Friday’s Lead Stories
• Congressional Leaders Agree On Terms For “Fast Track” Authority.