Leading the News
Interior Department Issues New Rule On Methane Emissions On Federal Lands.
The Wall Street Journal (11/15, Harder, Subscription Publication) reports that the Interior Department issued regulations on Tuesday designed to cut methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations on federal lands. The rules propose limits on flaring and require companies to regularly inspect for methane leaks.
The Hill (11/15, Henry) quotes Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider saying, “The rule responds to recommendations from several government studies, as well as stakeholder and tribal input. The result is an effective rule that not only gets more of our nation’s natural gas into pipelines but also reduces pollution and cuts greenhouse gas emissions.”
Reuters (11/15, Volcovici) reports that the Interior Department released a fact sheet that showed between 2009-2015, oil and gas producers vented, flared and leaked 462 BCF of natural gas, worth as much as $23 million annually. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, “We are proving that we can cut harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, while putting in place standards that make good economic sense for the nation.”
The AP (11/15, Daly) says that a government report last year found that 40 percent of the gas being flared or vented could be captured economically and sold.
The Washington Post (11/15, Mooney) reports that the new rule will take hold weeks before Donald Trump takes over with plans to deregulate the energy industry. When a draft of the rule was released earlier this year the American Petroleum Institute said that the “unnecessary proposed rules for venting and flaring could stifle energy development on federal lands with few benefits.”
Natural Gas Intelligence (11/15, Subscription Publication) reports that the rule “drew an immediate lawsuit by two industry groups, which claim the broad air quality regime goes beyond any authority granted by Congress.” The Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) “filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wyoming, claiming the rule is beyond the scope of BLM’s authority granted by Congress.”
Politico Pro (11/15/) reports that they also argue that it “places arbitrary limits on flaring, relies on flawed scientific, engineering, and economic assumptions and methodologies to estimate regulatory impacts, improperly relies on EPA air quality rules and the administrative record underlying those rules, which themselves are being litigated; and conflicts with or unlawfully usurps the primary jurisdiction of state and tribal governments.”
Additional coverage was provided by ABC News (11/15), the Albuquerque (NM) Journal (11/15), the Houston (TX) Chronicle (11/15, Daly, Press), the Washington (DC) Post (11/15, Daly), the Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette (11/16), the Dallas (TX) Morning News (11/15, Mosier), the Washington (DC) Times (11/15, Daly), the Washington (DC) Times (11/15), the Denver (CO) Post (11/15), CNBC (11/15), the San Francisco (CA) Chronicle (11/15), Platts (11/15), Law360 (11/15), Upstream Online (11/15), Sputnik News (11/15), and Rigzone (11/15).
Colorado State To Rename College Of Engineering After Major Donor.
The Denver Post (11/15) reports that Walter Scott Jr., “a business icon and Colorado State engineering graduate,” is giving the school $53.3 million, the largest gift the school has ever received. The gift “will provide wide-reaching support for student scholarships, faculty excellence and research, the school announced Tuesday morning,” and the school is renaming its College of Engineering after Scott.
Trump Presidency Could Mean Less Regulation Of For-Profit Sector.
Vice (11/15) reports that “the for-profit college sector loves” the election of President-elect Donald Trump, saying shares of several firms and of Navient Corporation “shot up sharply after Donald Trump’s election,” indicating that investors believe “a Trump administration would loosen an array of regulations that could boost profits for a sector accused of shady practices, including misrepresenting graduation and job placement rates, exploiting loopholes for federal funding, and worsening the student loan crisis.”
NSF Gives Illinois College $650,000 Grant To Support STEM Education.
The Chicago Tribune (11/14) reports that the National Science Foundation has given the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois a $650,000 grant “to support STEM education at the College.” Administrators say they “hope the funding of the new S-STEM Student Success program will further the emphasis COD is now beginning to put on STEM education.”
CBS News: Millennials “Drowning” In Student Debt.
The CBS Evening News (11/15, story 8, 2:20, Pelley) reported, “College graduates are drowning in debt. In fact, in the past 20 years, the average student debt has more than tripled, and now tops $30,000.” CBS’ Jill Schlesinger interviewed 23-year-old Anthony DeCandia, who graduated with $80,000 debt. Schlesinger said that “for the first time, more millennials are living with parents than with spouses or partners. And since the recession, young adults have been slower to buy homes.” Millennials are also struggling to save for retirement, Schlesinger said.
Research and Development
Physicians And Engineers Collaborate On Project To Better Diagnose And Predict PVL.
U.S. News & World Report (11/15, Leonard) reports physicians at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and engineers at Villanova University have collaborated on a project to improve the diagnosis and prediction of “periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL, a type of brain injury that most commonly affects premature newborns but is also seen in babies with congenital heart issues.” The project was funded by a five-year $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health through 2015, and the group says it will apply for a new grant.
Optical Surfaces Delivers Beam Expanders To Thales.
R&D Magazine (11/15) reports Optical Surfaces has provided “the first of 10 high performance beam expanders” to Thales for the Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) project, which aims to develop “the world’s most powerful laser system.” The lasers are due to be delivered to the Horia Hulubei National Institute of Physics & Nuclear Engineering (IFIN-HH) in Magurele, Romania.
Texas Railroad Commissioner: ‘Possible’ For Injection Wells To Cause Earthquakes.
The AP (11/15) reports Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton “says it’s ‘possible’ oil and gas wastewater being injected deep underground can cause earthquakes.” The statement “signals a small but potentially key shift in discussion of seismic activity in the nation’s largest oil producing state.” Sitton “announced Tuesday that he was joining a research consortium that studies natural and ‘potentially induced’ quakes.” Sitton said “the science is clear that it is physically possible for injection wells” to “cause earthquakes in certain rare cases, given the right set of conditions.”
Boeing Announces Restructuring And Consolidation Of Its Defense Work.
Boeing has announced major restructuring plans in order to consolidate its defense and space costs, with cuts running through 2020. The changes will include the closure of plants in Texas and Virginia and a reduction of work at the company’s location in Huntington Beach, California. The Wall Street Journal (11/15, Cameron, Subscription Publication) reports the strategy will cut nearly six percent of the company’s manufacturing and office space, or 4.5 million square feet, with work in current facilities to be transferred to other, existing locations. Other companies in the defense sector, such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, have reduced real estate holdings by about 10 percent. Some of the workers will be offered new roles elsewhere in locations such as Missouri, Alabama, and southern California, with up to 2,500 additional jobs expected at those sites. The new restructuring plans are part of Boeing’s overall staff reduction of 7,000 positions this year.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (11/15, Brown) reports Boeing “is moving 500 jobs to its north St. Louis County campus” from its facilities in Huntington Beach, California, and cites El Paso, Texas, and Newington, Virginia as the home to the other plants to be closed. The jobs are “professional-level positions ranging from engineering to finance.” In total, according to the AP (11/15, Salter), Boeing will move around 2,500 positions to new locations and reduce the workforce by around 500 people overall. Three of the company’s locations in Southern California – El Segundo, Long Beach and Seal Beach – will receive 1,600 of the displaced Huntington Beach workers, while 400 will move to Huntsville, Alabama. The El Paso facility currently employs 290, while the Newington location has 70 employees. The company’s Boeing Defence Australia, Boeing Defense Saudi Arabia, and Boeing Defence United Kingdom organizations will be moved to a global operations division, which will be run by David Pitchforth.
The Puget Sound (WA) Business Journal (11/15, McIntosh, Subscription Publication) reports 1,000 employees from the Boeing Puget Sound Defense, Space and Security division will be shifted from Kent to Tukwila starting in 2017, with the move anticipated to run for three years and result in no net loss of jobs, according to Defense – Seattle spokeswoman Kimberlee Brattain.
Boeing Vice President of Strategic Defense and Intelligence Systems Chris Raymond’s comments on the new positions in Huntsville were carried in WZDX-TV Huntsville, AL (11/15, Sheahen), where Raymond was quoted saying the changes were “mostly driven by customer needs.” He added that “the customer puts a lot more emphasis down here with Redstone” Arsenal, and said there “will be a lot of excitement here” following the changes. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley was quoted by the Athens (AL) News Courier (11/15) saying that the state “look[s] forward to a long relationship with Boeing and ensuring their continued growth and success.”
Boeing To Move 500 Positions From California To St. Louis.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (11/15, Brown) reports Boeing “is moving 500 jobs to its north St. Louis County campus” from its facilities in Huntington Beach, Calif., as part of “a consolidation of the company’s Defense, Space & Security business,” and also plans to close its sites in El Paso, Texas, and Newington, Virginia. The jobs are “professional-level positions ranging from engineering to finance.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Energy Transfer Seeks Federal Court’s Permission To Move Forward With DAP Completion.
The AP (11/15, Macpherson, Nicholson) reports Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners and a subsidiary asked a federal court Tuesday for permission to move ahead with completing the Dakota Access Pipeline project by allowing them to “lay pipe under a Missouri River reservoir.” The AP says the delay “has already cost nearly $100 million, the company said in court documents, ‘and further delay in the consideration of this case would add millions of dollars more each month in costs which cannot be recovered.’” In a statement Tuesday, the company “blamed the Obama administration for ‘political interference’ in the pipeline review process.” Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R-ND) said Tuesday that an additional delay “does nothing but prolong and intensify the public safety issues,” adding that a decision on the project easement “‘is long overdue’ and that the pipeline would be safe.”
The Wall Street Journal (11/15, Maher, Subscription Publication) reports the companies are seeking a declaratory judgment that would allow them to finish the project, characterizing the filing as the latest development in a months-long dispute that has been narrowed to a 1,100-foot crossing under a Missouri River reservoir, which had previously been approved by the Army Corps. The companies argue that the Corps has finished their review, which means the project should be allowed to move forward. The Washington Times (11/15, Richardson) reports Energy Transfer Partners asked a federal court on Tuesday to confirm their right to complete the $3.8 billion project and to provide declaratory relief “to end the administration’s political interference in the Dakota Pipeline review process.”
In an editorial, Reuters (11/15) says that while protesters are gathering in opposition to the pipeline’s completion, Energy Transfer asked the court “to declare that the project had the legal right to proceed and needed no further government approvals.” Energy Transfer’s CEO Kelcy Warren is quoted saying, “To propose, as the Corps now does, to further delay this pipeline and to engage in what can only be described as a sham process sends a frightening message about the rule of law.” The Los Angeles Times (11/15, Yardley) also quotes Warren, who said the decision to delay “is motivated purely by politics at the expense of a company that has done nothing but play by the rules it was given.”
The Hill (11/15, Cama) reports that the filing came after the Army Corps of Engineers said the pipeline meets the easement qualifications it needs, but wants to consult with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe before granting approval. PennEnergy (11/15) also reports on the government’s decision to delay further work on the Dakota Access Pipeline. The article quotes National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons saying, “Americans demanded change last week. Disregard for the rule of law and bad decisions from Washington, like the one today, are why so many have been frustrated and sought change.”
Professor Says Reviving U.S. Coal Industry “Impossible.”
In an op-ed for the New York Times (11/15, Subscription Publication), Dr. Michael Webber, a mechanical engineer and professor at UT Austin, says restoring the profitability of the American coal industry is impossible, no matter what president-elect Trump promises people in Appalachia and other coal-mining centers. Thanks to “cheap natural gas, cheap renewables, air-quality regulations that got their start in the George W. Bush administration and weaker-than-expected demand for coal in Asia,” as well as myriad market changes over the past century that “Trump cannot reverse,” nothing but an “enormous market intervention like direct mandates to consume coal or significant tax breaks to coal’s benefit” could save the industry today.
Seattle Bridge Pilot Project Designed To Sway With Earthquake, Then Bounce Back.
KCPQ-TV Seattle (11/15) reports a pilot project has been launched in Seattle to test a new technology that allows a “bridge to sway and return back to normal” in the event of a strong earthquake. The technology is being used on the new State Route 99 exit ramp in Seattle, “after 15 years of research at the University of Nevada Reno’s Earthquake Engineering Lab.” GeekWire (11/15, Schlosser) reports that the bridge is “being built with memory-retaining metal rods and a bendable concrete composite” that “are up to 90 times more expensive than standard steel and concrete,” according to the Washington Department of Transportation. WSDOT adds “that the Federal Highway Administration approved the construction and a federal grant paid for much of the additional costs.” Construction is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2017.
Trump Can Easily Reverse Obama On Keystone Pipeline.
The Washington Times (11/15, Wolfgang) reports that the Trump Administration can easily “reverse the Obama administration’s course on the Keystone XL oil pipeline and put the once-shelved project on a fast track to completion.” According to analysts, “the key” to the President’s rejection of the pipeline was an executive order from the George W. Bush era “giving the State Department a say in energy projects that cross international boundaries.” If the order is voided, the decision would return “to energy regulators, who have been far more amenable to Keystone.”
Billionaire Environmentalist Steyer Vows To Spend Big To Fight Trump Agenda. In an “exclusive,” Reuters (11/15, Valdmanis) reports that billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer, “who has spent more than $140 million on fighting climate change,” on Tuesday said “he will spend whatever it takes to fight President-elect Donald Trump’s pro-drilling and anti-regulation agenda.” Steyer told Reuters “he ‘is putting together a strategy that will ‘engage voters and citizens to fight back’ once Trump” is sworn in as president, though he emphasized he doesn’t plan to battle the Republican “through the courts.” Rather, Steyer said he would concentrate “on ‘trying to present an opposite point of view and trying to get that point of view expressed, and communicated to citizens.’” In response to a question about “how much money he was willing to spend to oppose Trump’s agenda,” Steyer said, “We have always been willing to do whatever is necessary.”
Permit Denied For Timbermill Wind Farm In Eastern North Carolina.
The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer (11/15, Murawski) reports a “proposal” to construct the “tallest wind energy turbines” in the US “in Eastern North Carolina is on hold after Perquimans County commissioners denied a local permit to the project developer, Apex Clean Energy.” On Monday, officials in Perquimans voted “against the permit for 57 turbine towers, concluding that the proposed 599-foot tall structures were not in harmony with the timber-harvesting region and could substantially harm property values for surrounding farmers, retirees and other landowners.”
Georgia Teen Named To International Team Making Miniature Formula One Racers.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/15) reports that Ajinkya Sawant, a student at Wheeler High School’s Center for Advanced Studies in Marietta, Georgia, is “the only American selected to join an international team that practices STEM skills by making miniature Formula One race cars.” Sawant “was one of the nine students from five countries asked to join the Randstad Williams Engineering Academy.”
Florida International University Researchers Seek To Prevent Smart Device Hacks.
WSVN-TV Miami-Dade, FL (11/11, Armas, Williams) reported that “at Florida International University, researchers are hacking in to smart devices like phones, watches, even fitness trackers, to find new ways to keep the bad guys out.” According to Dr. Selcuk Uluagac, Florida International University cyber researcher, “We are looking at the potential threats, and we are developing solutions and defense mechanisms.” Aaron Paz, FIU student researcher, demonstrated how light from a cellphone could be used to attack “smart watch sensors, triggering the malware hidden inside the watch.” WSVN says that team is working to prevent hacks like this using “a half-million dollar grant from the National Science Foundation.”
Researchers Developing Cancer Imaging Technology Inspired By Mantis Shrimp Eyesight.
WAMU-FM Washington (11/15, Kennerson) reports that a group of engineers and wildlife biologists are “working on a set of imaging technologies inspired by the ability of the mantis shrimp to detect polarized light.” Team co-leader Viktor Gruev at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says that with the camera the team is developing “cancer surgeons might one day be able to much more clearly see the margins of the tumors they need to remove.” WAMU explains that “doctors have long known that, at the cellular level, fast-growing cancer cells are disorganized in comparison with healthy cells.” WAMU says that “because of the structural differences, it turns out, some diseased tissues also reflect polarized light differently from healthy tissue.” Meanwhile, “one day, Gruev believes, polarization imaging will be part of every surgical oncologist’s toolkit, bringing the power of a mantis shrimp’s eye to the operating room.”
Students Tour Amazon’s Etna Township FC, Amazon Donates $10,000.
The Newark (OH) Advocate (11/15, Klimack) reports “more than two dozen wide-eyed Watkins Memorial High School students” visited the Amazon fulfillment center in Etna Township, Ohio on Tuesday, where they had the opportunity “to see some of the internet giant’s operations up close and personal.” Matt Krough, the FC’s operations director, took the students on a tour and let them witness Amazon’s robotics in action. During their visit, the company donated $10,000 to the high school’s robotics program, which the nascent program’s advisor said would “make a big difference for us.” Krough told the students, “We like to invest in our communities and be as local as possible.”
Ohio Schools Spark STEM Interest With 3-D Printer Clubs.
The Cincinnati Enquirer (11/15) reports on the increased interest in STEM subjects generated by 3-D printer clubs in the Cincinnati area, saying there have been marked increases in students’ technical skills, perception of the usefulness of STEM skills, and understanding of the “value of learning new technology.”
Philadelphia Robotics Club Attracting Donors.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (11/15, Graham) profiles the RoboLancers, the “acclaimed robotics team” at Central High School in Philadelphia, which has “landed tens of thousands of dollars in grants to relaunch robotics programs – and, in some cases, start new ones – at schools around the city.” The team has formed a Central Robotics Coalition, “which has already attracted $25,000 in funding for this year and up to $50,000 more in total over the next two years from the Neubauer Family Foundation.”
Tennessee Teachers Take Part In STEM PD Workshop.
The Jefferson City (TN) Standard Banner (11/15, Clelland) reports that middle school teachers in Jefferson County, Tennessee took part in a professional development workshop held by the nonprofit Cyber Innovation Center. Teachers taking part in the aerospace module “began by researching the history of gliders, then built a model themselves.”
Tuesday’s Lead Stories
• NASA To Launch Hurricane Microsatellite Fleet In December.
• Report Points To Record Numbers Of International Students Fueled By STEM Interest.
• IBM, Modiface Develop Tech To Diagnose Skin Issues.
• Nvidia CEO Sees A “Two-Decades” Long Relationship Blossoming With Nintendo.
• Administration Delays Dakota Access Pipeline.
• SCOTUS Won’t Hear Kansas Appeal Over Next Gen Science Standards.