ASEE First Bell – Breaking news in the engineering and technology field

Leading the News

EPA Proposes New Methane Emission Standards For Oil And Gas Industry.

On Tuesday, the EPA released  (8/19) its proposed standards to limit methane and VOC emissions from the oil and gas industry. The agency will accept comments on the proposals for 60 days. As news accounts make clear, the proposal is part of the Administration commitment to reducing methane emissions from the sector to below 45% of 2012 levels by 2025. Generally speaking, reaction from the environmental groups to the news was to cautiously welcome the move, while arguing that more could be done. The industry, meanwhile, took the view that more regulation was unnecessary, pointing out that companies already have an incentive to reduce methane emissions as it costs them money in the form of waste.

According to Reuters,  (8/19, Volcovici) the proposal would expand standards set in 2012 and the EPA reckons they would reduce the equivalent of 7.7 million to 9 million metric tons of CO2 in 2025 at new and modified facilities. However, the proposal, in addition to 2012 standards would only constitute a 30 percent reduction in methane emissions, short of the Administration’s goal.

Bloomberg News  (8/19, Drajem) explains that the proposal would require oil and gas companies “to upgrade their pumps and compressors on new wells, and expand the use of methane-capturing equipment now required for gas wells to oil wells.” In a separate rule, the agency proposes “limits on ozone-forming pollutants from oil and gas wells in areas prone to smog.” Bloomberg added that API President Jack Gerard said, “The oil and gas industry is leading the charge in reducing methane.” He added, “The last thing we need is more duplicative and costly regulation that could increase the cost of energy for Americans.”

More specifically, Rigzone  (8/19, Boman) says the proposed standards would require O&G companies to “find and repair leaks; capture gas from the completion of hydraulically fractured oil wells; limit emissions from new and modified pneumatic pumps; and limit emissions from several types of equipment used at natural gas transmission compressor stations, including compressors and pneumatic controllers.” The EPA will also “propose guidelines for states to reduce VOC emissions from existing oil and gas sources in certain ozone non-attainment areas, as well as mid-Atlantic and Northeast states that are part of the Ozone Transport Region.”

The New York Times  (8/19, Harris, Davenport, Subscription Publication) reports that in a call with reporters, EPA acting assistant administrator Janet McCabe “said the rules were designed to ensure that oil and gas companies reduced waste and sold more gas that would otherwise be lost, while protecting the climate and the health of the public.” McCabe “estimated” that the proposals would cost the industry “up to $420 million to carry out by 2025, but that there would be savings, including reduced waste, of as much as $550 million during that period.” The Wall Street Journal  (8/19, B3, Harder, Ailworth, Subscription Publication) observes, however, that the impact across the industry is likely to be varied as companies have implemented differing levels of methane emission reduction strategies ahead of the proposed rules.

NYTimes: Study Says EPA Underestimates Methane Leaks. The New York Times  (8/19, Schwartz, Subscription Publication) reports that a study  published Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology that finds that “natural-gas gathering facilities, which collect from multiple wells, lose about 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year, about eight times as much as estimates used by the Environmental Protection Agency.” The Environmental Defense Fund sponsored the research. If the leaks were he counted in the EPA inventory, says the Times, the inclusion would increase the agency’s “entire systemwide estimate by about 25 percent.”

Colorado Adopted More Robust Methane Controls Than EPA’s With Little Industry Opposition. Bloomberg News  (8/19, Buurma, Olson) reports that Colorado “became a test case for similar controls” on methane leaks “last year when a coalition of energy companies and environmental groups agreed on measures to cut the pollution.” In Colorado, the state faced “little opposition” from industry, which was “already voluntarily curbing emissions” when the rules were adopted. Gas production rose while implementation costs were less than one percent of annual revenues for drillers. What’s more, the methane rules put in place there “are more stringent than those proposed Tuesday” by EPA.

Higher Education

For-Profit Colleges Target Vets For Cash.

The Los Angeles Times  (8/19, Kirkham, Zarembo) reports that while many of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges have seen enrollments decrease, military veterans have remained consistent as a “crucial source of revenue.” According to a Times analysis, $8.2 billion from the latest GI Bill has been collected by for-profit colleges since the legislation went into effect in 2009. The industry has “aggressively targeted veterans, and often hired them to help recruit their brethren returning home from the battlefields,” in order to “keep the GI Bill money flowing,” the Times says, describing the bill as “a godsend to for-profit colleges.”

WSJournal A1 Analysis: Swelling Of Graduate Loans Causes Concern.

In a front-page story, the Wall Street Journal  (8/19, A1, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports the debate over college debt often overlooks postgraduate borrowers, who account for about 40 percent. The Journal says federal programs now allow students to borrow large amounts and have much of it forgiven later. Critics argue the system allows schools to raise tuition and gives some high-earning graduates a chance to avoid payments they can afford.

From ASEE
UPDATE – Deans Pledge Diversity Efforts
Over 130 deans of engineering signed a letter pledging support for diversity initiatives. The letter was presented by University of Southern California Dean Yannis Yortsos at the first-ever White House Demo Day.


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Research and Development

MIT Engineers Developing Teams Of Robots That Deliver Beer.

The Los Angeles Times  (8/19, Harris) reports that engineers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory are “making big robots that place beer cans in little robots, who then bring that beer to you, on the couch, at your desk, or by the pool.” The piece explains that the engineers recently made a presentation at the Robotics Science and Systems conference, with the goal of creating “a team of robots that can deliver items in different situations,” and reports that “the robots were used to deliver beer in the researchers’ lab-turned-bar.”

MRI Scans Could Be Used To Steer Tumor Killing Treatments To Hard-To-Reach Targets, Early Research Suggests.

BBC News  (8/19, Roberts) reports that a “scan normally used to detect cancer could be used to steer tumour killing treatments to hard-to-reach targets in the body, say” researchers. The investigators “deployed the magnetic power of MRI scans to control the movement of a specially designed injectable cancer therapy.” According to BBC News, “Early trials in mice suggest the novel delivery method works.”

Global Developments

Atlas Robot Sparks Concern For Possible Tech Arms Race.

Fox Business Making Money with Charles Payne (8/18, 6:52 p.m. ET) describes Google’s “incredible” Atlas robot developed as part of the DARPA program, which can walk on its own and is designed to assist in disaster situations. Charles Payne considers whether robots are the “future of the military,” and warns of the potential for an arms race with regards to new technology. Belpointe Asset Management chief strategist David Nelson advocates for US robotics research in order to stay ahead of America’s enemies. Payne expressed concern for the development of robots that can build other robots, and Nelson concedes the technology could “spin out of control.” Lockheed Martin is said to be a “big name” in this market.

Industry News

American Systems Acquires EMBH To Boost Engineering, IT Services.

Washington (DC) Technology  (8/18, Hoover) reports on Tuesday American Systems closed a deal to acquire EM Business Holdings (EMBH), adding to its portfolio of engineering, IT and professional services, and adding over 160 employees. The article notes this is American Systems’ first acquisition since its 2012 purchase of legacy SAIC’s test and evaluation business. The article improperly refers to legacy SAIC as “SAIC.”

In its “FedBiz Daily” blog, the Washington (DC) Business Journal  (8/18, Bach, Subscription Publication) also notes American Systems’ “key acquisition” of the Testing & Evaluation unit of legacy SAIC in 2012. American Systems Corp. CEO Peter Smith is cited asserting EMBH agreed to sell to American Systems’ because of its commitment to “pursuing programs of national priority.”

Air Force Projects Long-Range Strike Bomber Contract At $41.7 Billion.

Air Force Magazine  (8/19, Tirpak) reports the Long-Range Strike Bomber contract is expected to be awarded in September. It will be a cost-plus arrangement, but will reportedly include options for “five aircraft production lots” on a fixed-price basis. If the USAF goes ahead with its plan to purchase 80 to 100 LRS-Bs, “that means production lots of potentially 16-20 aircraft each.” The service also revealed in its annual “1043 report” to Congress that the LRS-B would cost $58.4 billion, but this figure was later revised as $41.7 billion. This figure includes “research, development, test and evaluation, operations and support, and personnel, but not overhead.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Opinion: Clean Power Plan Hurts Economy.

In a “Congress Blog” post for The Hill  (8/19), Sarah Magruder Lyle, vice president of Strategic Initiatives, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, and Alfredo Oritz, president and CEO of the Job Creators Network, argue that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan “is bad news for American citizens, the economy, and job creation.” Lyle and Oritz note that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Economic Research Associates estimated last year that the original proposal “would cost the economy tens of billions of dollars each year.”

Foxx Meets With New Jersey Officials On Hudson River Rail Tunnels.

The New York Times  (8/19, Fitzsimmons, Subscription Publication) reports that the plan to build new rail tunnels under the Hudson River “appeared to gain some traction” when Transportation Secretary Foxx met with New Jersey officials “in an attempt to jump-start the project.” The meeting included Gov. Chris Christie, along with the state’s two senators, Cory Booker and Robert Menendez, and focused on how to pay for the project.

Clinton: Arctic Oil Drilling “Not Worth The Risk.”

Reuters  (8/19, Gardner, Becker) reports that in the wake of the Administration on Monday approving oil exploration in the Arctic, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday – via Twitter – expressed her opposition to the move, tweeting, “The Arctic is a unique treasure. Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk of drilling.” The New York Times  (8/19, Rappeport, Subscription Publication) reports that Clinton’s break with Obama on the issue represents “a rare disagreement” between the two Democrats. The Times adds that Clinton’s position drew applause from environmentalists.

Analyst Condemns Feds’ Lack Of Protection For Eagles From Wind Industry.

In a Wall Street Journal  (8/19, Subscription Publication) op-ed, Manhattan Institute senior fellow Robert Bryce criticizes the federal government’s lack of policies regarding how to prevent the death of eagles from wind turbines, while also praising a federal judge for not approving a Fish and Wildlife Service proposal that would have allowed the wind industry to kill bald and golden eagles legally for up to 30 years.

Elementary/Secondary Education

Students Use Coding Courses To Develop Mobile Applications.

York (PA) Daily Record  (8/14, Mason) reported that as Central York High School looks to progress its STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) initiatives, it has introduced more programming skills courses for all age levels. As a result, students are developing mobile applications inside and outside of the classroom. Many students have gone on to compete in national competitions with the applications that they learned to code through the school’s courses.

Hands-On Projects Used To Advance Girls In Science.

WBUR-FM  Boston (8/18) reports that hands-on projects are being used at schools to encourage girls to advance in science courses, and ultimately careers in the science field. Taking on this approach, girls recently competed in a cardboard box regatta as a part of a week-long STEM summer camp at Rice University.

Tuesday’s Lead Stories

Obama Administration Gives Final Approval For Shell To Drill In Arctic.
CFPB Investigating Possible Student Loan Contractor Abuses.
South Dakota Student Wins Research Competition With Cold-Spray Alloy Repair Technology.
Demand For Cybersecurity Professionals Expected To Rise In Coming Years.
FAA Administrator Huerta’s Influence On Drone Industry Profiled.
Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Speed Limits for Trains Carrying Crude.
Duncan Touts Focus On STEM Education.

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