Leading the News
Judge Orders Temporary Halt To North Dakota Pipeline Work.
The AP (9/6) reports that U.S. District Judge James Boasberg has temporarily halted work on a section of the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. The AP explains that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe requested “the stoppage after a weekend confrontation between protesters and construction workers near Lake Oahe due to workers allegedly bulldozing sites that attorney Jan Hasselman said were ‘of great historic and cultural significance to the tribe.’” The judge “said he’ll issue a decision by the end of Friday on the tribe’s broader push that challenges federal regulators’ decision to grant permits.” The Hill (9/6, Henry) points out that “the tribe had hoped to block construction along a bigger stretch of land, but Boasberg ruled the Army Corps of Engineers – the subject of the tribe’s underlying lawsuit – doesn’t have jurisdiction over those lands.”
Earlier, the AP (9/6) explained that Energy Transfer Partners opposed the request and “said in court documents that workers have not destroyed any cultural sites.” Meanwhile, “the Army Corps of Engineers said in court documents that said it won’t oppose it in the interest of ‘preserving peace.’” NPR (9/6) reports that the Corps also “said it was comfortable with the process it followed when it permitted the project in first place and that the tribe was unlikely to succeed with its lawsuit.”
The AP (9/6) also reports that “North Dakota authorities plan to pursue charges against Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein for spray-painting construction equipment at a Dakota Access Pipeline protest.” Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said “the charges would be for trespassing and vandalism.”
Tribal Leader: Energy Transfer Partners Destroyed Sacred Sites. David Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, writes at The Hill (9/6) in its “Contributors” blog that over the holiday weekend – only days away from a decision in a case filed by the tribe – Energy Transfer Partners used bulldozers to ravage and ruin sites sacred to the tribe. He says that “as the Chairman of my Tribe, I sent numerous letters to the Corps, requesting consultation and expressing our concerns that the proposed pipeline would threaten our lands and contaminate our water” but that their concerns were ignored. Archambault concludes that “when leaders of governments – or corporations like Energy Transfer Partners – threaten to repeat the mistakes of the past, our people and our supporters have a duty to raise their voices.”
McKibben: Native Americans Leading Fight For “Environmental Sanity.” Bill McKibben, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org, writes at the New Yorker (9/6) that thousands of Native Americans have gathered at the Stand Rock Sioux reservation to protest the proposed oil pipeline and that “their foe, most directly, is the federal government, in particular the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has approved a path for the pipeline across the Missouri under a ‘fast track’ option called Permit 12.” He explains that “the tribe says the government hasn’t done the required consultation with them—if it had, it would have learned that building the pipeline there would require digging up sacred spots and old burial grounds.” McKibben concludes that “the fight for environmental sanity – against pipelines and coal ports and other fossil-fuel infrastructure – has increasingly been led by Native Americans, many of whom are in that Dakota camp today.”
ITT Closes After ED Sanctions Prevent It From Admitting Students Using Federal Aid.
The announcement of the closing of all ITT Technical Institutes campuses was covered in major newspapers and local media outlets across the country. Most coverage quoted Education Secretary John King and Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. Themes include the displacement of 8,000 employees, the future of the chain’s students, and the ED sanctions that precipitated the closures. The Indianapolis Star (9/6, Mack) reports ITT Educational Services Inc. of Indiana has announced that it will close all campuses, “in the wake of devastating federal sanctions.” The Education Department ruled that the school could not enroll any “new students who depend on federal aid,” and must inform all of its students “its accreditation is in jeopardy.” The company announced Tuesday, “The actions of and sanctions from the U.S. Department of Education have forced us to cease operations of the ITT Technical Institutes.” Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said the actions were “necessary to protect students and taxpayers.”
The Wall Street Journal (9/6, Korn, Subscription Publication) reports about 40,000 students and over 8,000 employees will be affected by the news, presented as the latest in a run of large school chains that have had to cut back or close including Corinthian Colleges, DeVry Education Group Inc., and Apollo Education Group Inc.
The New York Times (9/6, Cohen, Subscription Publication) reports Mitchell “dismissed assertions that ITT was the target of a political agenda,” explaining, “Over time, the risk was just too high,” to let the school continue as it was. Mitchell explained that the “roughly 35,000 current students and those who withdrew in the last 120 days” may choose either to “transfer their credits to another school” or to “apply for a loan discharge,” which could add up to as much as $500 million if everyone eligible chose that option.
The Los Angeles Times (9/6, Puzzanghera) reports the closings “will affect about 35,000 students” and “more than 8,000 employees.” In addition to ED’s sanctions, California’s Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education ruled that ITT could no longer accept “new students at its 15 California locations.” Secretary King wrote in an online letter to ITT students, “We made a difficult choice to pursue additional oversight in order to protect you, other students and taxpayers from potentially worse educational and financial damage in the future if ITT was allowed to continue operating without increased oversight and assurances to better serve students.”
NPR (9/6, Kamenetz) reports the schools have been charged with poor “recruitment and financial practices,” and with having “misled students about future job prospects.” Mitchell said the students will be eligible for a “closed school discharge” of student loans, though they may transfer their earned credits, in which case they cannot have their loans discharged.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (9/6, DiStefano) reports in its “Phillydeals” blog that the schools’ students had received “$5 billion in U.S. aid and student loans since 2007.” According to data, “96% of ITT students received federal loans or grants, but only 36% of fulltime students completed their programs.”
DENSO Donates Funds To Help University Of Tennessee EcoCAR Team.
The Maryville (TN) Daily Times (9/2) reports auto parts manufacturer DENSO “has provided The University of Tennessee’s EcoCAR team with $50,000 to assist in the purchase of a truck to transport their competition car — a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro that has been modified to the point that it’s not currently street legal.” The piece notes that Denso has supported the team for over a decade and has given over $400,000. EcoCAR “is a four-year collegiate engineering program that builds on the successful 26-year history of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Vehicle Technology by giving engineering students the chance to design and build advanced vehicles that demonstrate leading-edge eco-friendly automotive technology.”
Analysis: Political Pressure Undid Amazon-Wells Fargo Partnership.
The Wall Street Journal (9/6, Andriotis, Subscription Publication) reports that the Amazon-Wells Fargo partnership to promote private student loans as a benefit to the online retailer’s members was called off after sharp public protest from The Institute for College Access & Success, which contacted Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and others to express their opinion that the deal was “a cynical attempt to dupe current students” into taking out costly loans. Brown’s office contacted the OCC and CFPB in early August to raise concerns about the potentially deceptive marketing practices related to the deal, according to Brown’s spokesperson; Warren met with Amazon to discuss the partnership; and Durbin also spoke with Amazon, expressing concerns that the partnership may steer borrowers to more expensive loans.
Research and Development
Virginia Tech Professor Gets DOE Grant For Nuclear Radiation Energy Harvesting Research.
MyInforms (9/5) reports the Department of Energy has given Virginia Tech mechanical engineering professor Lei Zou a $1 million grant “to develop nuclear radiation energy harvesting and through-wall wireless communication for enclosed metal containers in nuclear environments, like pressure reactor vessels or nuclear spent-fuel canisters.” The goal is “to create a way to monitor the contents of storage containers used for spent nuclear fuel rods.”
NSA Has Been “Quietly” Working To Build Quantum Computer.
In an editorial, Bloomberg Business (9/6) highlights work being done around the world on quantum computers, saying that “governments see applications for space exploration, medical research and intelligence-gathering. America’s National Security Agency, in fact, has been quietly trying to build a quantum computer for years, in the hope that it would make an unstoppable code-breaker.”
NASA To Land Probe On Asteroid.
Bloomberg News (9/6, Roston) reports that last week, an asteroid missed the Earth by 50,000 miles, but there had been no warning that it was approaching. The asteroid passed days before NASA planned “to launch an $800 million probe that will land on a much larger asteroid.” The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security–Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) is scheduled to take off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on September 8. Mission scientist Jeffrey Grossman said “the mission ‘advances our more practical goals of understanding the resources of the near earth Solar System–as well as the hazards.’”
Tech Warrior Event Provides AFRL Personnel With Much Needed Field Experience.
Defense Systems (9/6, McCaney) reports the Air Force recently held its Tech Warrior event with the purpose of providing “responders with realistic training while also letting personnel from the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), who might not have much field experience, to get a feel for what it’s like on the ground” and to get a better sense of what personnel need in the field. Lt. Col. David Shahady, AFRL Tech Warrior commander, said that the event “allows our scientists and engineers to walk in the shoes of the warfighter,” which would then result in them building “better products, better capabilities and [empowering] our warfighters to continue to be the best in the world.”
DARPA Awards Lockheed Martin $36M Contract For SoSITE Phase Two.
Military & Aerospace Electronics (9/6) reports that on behalf of DARPA, the Air Force Research Lab awarded the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics segment in Fort Worth, TX a $36.4 million contract “for phase 2 of the System of Systems Integration Technology and Experimentation (SoSITE) program.” The program aims “to develop architectures for distributing functionality across networks of manned and unmanned aircraft for future experimentation, and to develop tools to enable this distribution to be done quickly and reliably.” In its second phase, “engineers will develop system of systems architectures to maintain U.S. air superiority in contested environments; demonstrate how a rapid-integration mission system can be integrated into architectures; and demonstrate the combat effectiveness and robustness of those architectures.”
Engineering and Public Policy
AP Analysis: Changes In Energy Usage Moved Country Toward Obama’s Emissions Goal.
The AP (9/6, Borenstein, Lederman) reports shifts in US energy usage away from coal and “toward cleaner fuels like natural gas, nuclear, wind and solar,” have moved the country toward President Obama’s goal of reducing “emissions by more than a quarter,” though it may still be “nowhere near enough” to stop global warming. Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, argues Obama focused on “sweeping pollution limits on coal-fired power plants,” which have been stopped by the courts, while emissions have decreased because of the shift to natural gas. White House senior adviser Brian Deese argues that is trying to have it both ways – arguing against the Clean Power Plan as being too costly, while embracing the shift to cleaner fuels that the plan favored. The AP says Obama “had little to do with the fracking boom,” but instead used the 2009 stimulus bill to boost “spending and research in renewables,” and raised efficiency standards for cars, trucks, appliances, and buildings.
DOE Releases Proposed Standards For Residential Gas Furnaces.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (9/6, Wolff) reported the Energy Department on Friday “quietly released new proposed efficiency standards for residential gas furnaces after more than a year of outcry from the industry and its allies on Capitol Hill.” The new proposal “includes a separate ‘small furnaces’ product class that the industry had asked for and promised sharper emissions reductions than a March 2015 version. But the changes apparently weren’t enough for gas utilities, which were seeking a more expansive definition for small furnaces.” In a statement American Gas Association President Dave McCurdy his group was “profoundly disappointed” that agency “ignored flaws in the proposal that would disadvantage low-income consumers, particularly in the South.” McCurdy stated, “If we do not see major changes to this proposed rule before it is finalized, AGA will absolutely look for recourse in the courts and we are fairly certain we will not be the only organization to do so.” Greenwire (9/6, Marshall, Subscription Publication) reports a lawsuit is also being threatened by the American Public Gas Association. The association said, “The proposed rule will cause uneconomic fuel switching as many consumers — especially in southern states — will be compelled to change their natural gas furnaces to electric heat pumps.”
Clean Power Plan To Be Argued Before Key Court At End Of Month.
The “Morning Energy” blog of Politico (9/6, Wolff) reported “oral arguments over EPA’s Clean Power Plan” are fast approaching. The arguments on Sept. 27 “before the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals (minus two expected recusals) are slated to be at least three-and-a-half hours of knock-down, drag-out legal fisticuffs.” It is unclear “when a ruling will come down, but it’s a safe bet the election will have occurred first — and given the complexity of the issues and the nine judges involved, we could be looking at a ruling in 2017.” The plan “is widely expected to end up before the Supreme Court, but the justices can review the specific issues they choose when the time comes, so it’s unknown for now how extensive that appeal will be”
US Electric Utilities Investigate Potential Cybersecurity Risks.
E&E Publishing (9/6, Subscription Publication) reports an attack on Ukrainian electric utilities last December highlighted the security weakness of the serial-to-Ethernet converter, which plays “an outsize role in power grids by translating signals between control rooms and far-flung substations.” Since the attack, North American companies have started analyzing potential cyber security risks, including “vulnerable Lantronix converters.” Search engine Shodan states that “nearly 5,000 of these Lantronix devices freely broadcast their passwords to would-be hackers.” A spokesperson for Lantronix stated the devices allow for “secure connectivity ‘when properly installed and maintained per Lantronix recommended guidelines,’” also urging “companies reach out for tech support if in doubt about their deployments.” Edison Electric Institute executive director for security and business continuity Scott Aaronson highlighted the importance of the recently equipment-sharing program, called “cyber mutual assistance.” Aaronson said “at least 50 percent of U.S. electricity customers are now covered under the mutual assistance program.”
Offshore Wind Companies To Use New Bedford Terminal.
The AP (9/6) reports Dong Energy, OffshoreMW and Deepwater Wind “have agreed to use a New Bedford facility as a staging area for future offshore wind projects.” The three companies “signed a letter of intent of intent Tuesday with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration to lease the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal for staging and deployment for any future projects.” They “already hold leases in federally-designated wind energy development areas south of Martha’s Vineyard.” According to the AP “the announcement could breathe new life into the $113 million, state-run terminal.”
The Boston Globe (9/6, Chesto) reports the agreement was prompted by “Baker’s signing last month of a new state law that will push big electric utilities to buy as much as 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power over the course of a decade.” Proponents of the law “hailed it as a way to kick-start a new industry in the state.”
Girls Code Club To Start In Lancaster Next Week.
LNP Media (PA) (9/6, Negley) reports a Lancaster chapter of Girls Code Club will “give girls a chance to learn how to design their own website, video game or computer program.” The initial meeting is Sept. 17 and they will “meet monthly and finish their coding club with a week-long summer camp next year.” The club was founded after “Lancaster Science Factory staff recognized the need to get more girls interested in computer science.”
Experts Call For Expansion Of CTE Partnerships In Missouri.
The Kearney (MO) Courier (9/6) reports Missouri educators and CTE experts believe students should “have more opportunities to participate in career and technical education through partnerships between secondary and post-secondary institutions.” A release from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education states that because of a lack of skilled workers in fields such as welding, mechanics, HVAC and transportation, local agencies are in need of workers who hold technical training from post-secondary institutions. According to the Courier, the state’s 57 area career centers have “relationships with local community colleges and four-year higher education institutions, providing Missouri high school students with the opportunity for dual credit as early as their junior year.” Educators are advised to “continue to work with local business and industry leaders to try and meet their needs.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• Sioux Tribal Leader Heads Protest Against Dakota Access Pipeline.
• California Blocks ITT’s Access To GI Bill Funding.
• Michigan State Professor To Test Stress Sensors On Mackinac Bridge.
• Sempra Energy Unit Acquires Mexico’s Largest Wind Farm.
• Google, Uber Appear To Be Preparing For Competition Over Ride-Sharing Space.
• Quake Prompts Oklahoma To Shut Down Wastewater Wells.
• Wells Fargo Apologizes For Ad Suggesting Teens Choose STEM Over Arts.