Leading the News
House Votes To Limit Impact Of Administration’s Coal-Fired Greenhouse Gas Rule.
The AP (6/25, Daly) reports that on Wednesday, the House voted 247-180 for a plan to allow states to opt out of the Administration’s plan to “limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants if the state’s governor determines it would cause significant rate hikes for electricity or harm reliability of service.” The bill, which the White House has threatened to veto, would also “delay the climate rule until all court challenges are completed.”
The Hill (6/25, Cama, Marcos) reports in its “Floor Action” blog that the bill is a “major blow to the main pillar” of the President’s effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The GOP “believes that the rule will not withstand judicial review, so the delay is designed to ensure that the regulation never takes effect.”
WSJournal Highlights Schumer’s Backing Of Carbon Tax. In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (6/25, Subscription Publication) reports that Sen. Chuck Schumer is in line to be the next Democratic leader in the Senate, and he is already predicting that in 2017, there will be bipartisan support for a carbon tax. The Journal says that it would see a carbon tax as acceptable as long as it was part of broader tax reform that eliminated other sources of revenue entirely, such as corporate taxes or payroll taxes.
ED Officials Say College Rating System Will Not Compare Schools.
Inside Higher Ed (6/25) reports that ED officials said on Wednesday that the department’s forthcoming college rating system “will not compare colleges or pass judgment on their relative merits.” The piece reports that Under Secretary Ted Mitchell said that the system “will be more of a consumer-facing tool that students, their families and high school guidance counselors can use to learn more about how undergraduate institutions stack up.” The piece quotes Mitchell saying, “We want to empower them to make comparisons based on measures that matter to them.” The piece characterizes the announcement as a “significant shift” in ED’s plans for the ratings, and quotes Deputy Under Secretary Jamienne S. Studley saying, “It’s a chance for institutions to get better.”
National Science Foundation Issues Grants To Overhaul Undergraduate Engineering Education.
USA Today (6/24, Schmidt) reports that the National Science Foundation has given six universities a total of $12 million in grants “to revolutionize the ways engineering and computer science are taught at the undergraduate level.” The agency released a statement saying that the grants “are part of NSF’s multiyear effort to help universities substantially improve the professional formation of engineers and computer scientists — the formal and informal processes and value systems by which people become experts in these fields.” The piece quotes NSF program director for engineering education Donna Riley saying, “We wanted people to really go bold or go home here. We wanted big ideas that would really change how we’re thinking about engineering education.”
CFPB’s Chopra Joining Center For American Progress, Will Push ITT For Reforms.
The Washington Post (6/25, Douglas-Gabriel) reports in its “Wonkblog” blog that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau student loan ombudsman Rohit Chopra has announced that he is stepping down to join the Center for American Progress “with a plan: To get embattled for-profit ITT Educational Service to change its ways.” Chopra on Wednesday called on the firm’s top investors to “push for reforms at one of the largest operators of for-profit technical schools,” which “is facing multiple lawsuits from state and federal authorities for steering students into predatory loans and lying to investors about the high rates of defaults on those loans.” The piece notes that Chopra “played a key role in exposing abuses within for-profit colleges and the student loan market” during his time at CFPB.
The Huffington Post (6/25, Nasiripour) reports that Chopra “sent a scorching letter to Wall Street warning money managers about their investment in a troubled for-profit college chain,” noting that ITT is one of the biggest for-profit college companies in the nation. Chopra’s letter “contains stark warnings about the value of the investors’ stake in ITT and the company’s ability to survive,” and “unfavorably compared the company to Corinthian Colleges Inc.” In listing the company’s woes, the Post reports that ED “has recently stepped up its scrutiny of the company by limiting its access to federal student aid.”
Research and Development
Drexel University Researchers Collaborating On Nanobot Artery Surgery Project.
The Discovery Channel (6/25) reports that researchers at Drexel University have announced that they are joining a partnership of 11 other institutions across the globe in a project to replace “traditional methods of treating blocked arteries.” The researchers are working on “drilling through blocked arteries with corkscrew-shaped nanobots.” The piece explains the concept in which a “string of nanoscale iron oxide beads is delivered into the patient’s bloodstream” and is then manipulated with magnetic fields.
UT, St. David’s Researchers Working On New Way To See The Brain; Products In The Works.
The Austin (TX) Business Journal (6/25, Subscription Publication) “Techflash” blog reports that the University of Texas, Cockrell School of Engineering has been awarded a four-year, $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a new brain imaging technique using lasers to “help neurosurgeons identify blocked arteries in patients undergoing treatment for an aneurysm.”
Israel Hires Lockheed To Create STEM, Cybersecurity Educational Curricula.
The Times Of Israel (6/24, Shamah) reports that on Wednesday Israel’s Science and Technology Ministry signed a second agreement for Lockheed Martin to produce educational curricula in science and technology, with an emphasis on cybersecurity principles. The article says the program aims “to create a new generation of tech experts who will ensure that Israel remains a leader in technology development,” as the country already hosts 300 cybersecurity start-ups that account for ten percent of all cybersecurity investments worldwide. The Times of Israel asserts Lockheed is a good choice for the program because it has “amassed a great deal of experience in educating Israeli kids on STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – programs.” The article describes Lockheed’s STEM work in the country and considers the challenges of raising youths’ interest in STEM studies.
Engineering and Public Policy
Arizona Public Service Settles Pollution Suit Over Coal Plant.
The AP (6/25, Fonesca) reports that electricity generator Arizona Public Service has settled a lawsuit with federal agencies over charges that they ignored permit regulations and violated the Clean Air Act. Negotiations began when environmental groups filed suit in 2011 after the EPA found permit and pollution irregularities in a 2007 inspection of the Four Corners Power Plant that sits on Navajo land. APS will not admit to any wrongdoing, but will pay a $1.5 million civil penalty and spend millions more on pollution control upgrades. Jared Blumenfeld, administrator of the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region, also noted that APS will pay $2 million in healthcare costs for the Navajo people who live near the plant and have long complained that pollution has made them sick. APS Vice President Ann Becker said that the company has “a long and strong history of environmental stewardship and compliance.”
DOE Guarantees $1.8B In Loans For Georgia Nuclear Plant.
The Hill (6/25, Henry) reports that the Department of Energy on Wednesday announced it will guarantee $1.8 billion in loans for the construction of two nuclear reactors at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia. According to the article, the guarantee follows previously approved guarantees of $6.5 billion, and the DOE said the latest measure will help the first nuclear facility in 30 years to be fully financed. “As we move towards a low-carbon future, the Department’s loan guarantees will play an important part in expanding the role of nuclear energy as a part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy… The Vogtle project has put the U.S. at the forefront of a new generation of advanced nuclear reactors, incorporating numerous innovations resulting in significant operational and safety improvements, and helping to train a world-class workforce with expertise in building nuclear power plants,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in a statement.
Politico (6/24, Dixon) reports in brief coverage that the guarantee is the last of three parts in an $8.3 billion total commitment, and “is being made to three subsidiaries of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia” more than a year after the Energy Department approved “the roughly $3.5 billion and $3.1 billion Southern Co. and Oglethorpe Power portions of the guarantee.”
EPA Enters Final Review Stage On Methane Leaks.
The Hill (6/25, Cama) reports that the EPA has begun final review of regulations seeking to minimize methane leaks in the oil and gas industry. The proposal was sent to the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday. Agency spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said that “This routine step is part of EPA’s January 2015 commitment under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to address methane and smog-forming emissions from the oil and gas industry.” Though not public yet, the rule is expected to apply to new or modified wells. Environmentalists criticize that strategy, demanding that regulations apply to the more than one million existing wells.
Indiana Governor Says State Will Resist EPA Unless Rules Are “Significantly Improved.”
The Hill (6/25, Cama) reports that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) has sent a letter to President Obama informing him that the state has not decided if it will follow the federal government’s climate change regulations. “If your administration proceeds to finalize the Clean Power Plan, and the final rule has not demonstrably and significantly improved from the proposed rule, Indiana will not comply,” the letter reads. Pence maintains that the regulation is an illegal overreach, and thus his state would not have to comply with the constitutional supremacy of the federal government. The Indianapolis (IN) Star (6/25, Groppe) also notes that Pence writes that the state “will also reserve the right to use any legal means available to block the rule from being implemented.”
The plan would be a serious blow to coal-fired electricity production, which comprises 85 percent of the Indiana electric supply. Pence is supported by his state’s senators and the National Mining Association. The AP (6/25) notes that EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in a statement that the regulations are enacted under authority granted to it by Congress in the Clean Air Act.
NASA Modeling Explores Causes Of Global Warming.
Bloomberg Business (6/25) features an interactive article using charts derived from NASA’s climate data, which explore the possible causes of global warming. The models were developed by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and they helped to inform the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Two New York City Schools Helping Teachers Improve Their Math Teaching.
Education Week (6/25, Heitin) describes how two New York City schools are helping teachers with math anxiety improve their math teaching schools. At PS 26, teachers are being taught that they can improve their own math skills through hard work and are passing on their training to their students. At PS 63, teachers are learning to rely less on their textbooks and meeting together to “relearn the math they learned as children” and talk about their concerns teaching the subject.
Iowa Committee Recommends High School Computer Science Requirement.
The AP (6/25) reports that Iowa’s STEM Support of Computer Science working group recommended a high school computer science requirement for graduation. They also called for “an endorsement to recognize teachers and technology professors qualified to teach courses.” However, the governor’s STEM Advisory Council will vote on the recommendations before presenting them to the governor’s office.
Pittsburgh To Restart Public Safety Career And Technical Education Program.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/25, Chute) reports that Pittsburgh’s public school board voted to reopen its public safety career and technical education program, which seeks to serve students seeking to become police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. Board members favored different locations for the program, and one has not yet been selected.
Academic Camp Uses 3-D Printers To Interest Girls In Science.
The Knoxville (TN) News Sentinel (6/25, Shearer) reports that Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee hosted the weeklong MakeHERSpace academic camp in which middle and high school girls learned “how to put together and use 3-D printers” in an effort to get them “more interested in science or just to enjoy the subject.” The program was helped by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Federal Court Approves ED’s Gainful Employment Rule.
• Student Loan Interest Rates To Be Lower This Year.
• Utah State Professor Gets Grants To Study Macular Degeneration, ROP.
• Pew Study Shows International Students Dominate US STEM Doctorates.
• Summer Engineering Experience for Kids Pairs Students, Mentors.