Leading the News
Army Corps Of Engineers: Dakota Access Pipeline Decision Still Under Review.
The Washington Times (2/1, Richardson) reports that the Army Corps of Engineers on Wednesday sought to “rein in reports that the Dakota Access pipeline easement has been granted, saying the project isn’t yet a done deal.” Chief of public affairs Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost “said the pipeline is still under review” despite claims from North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven and Rep. Kevin Cramer “that the corps is proceeding with the easement.” Frost said in an email, “The Army has initiated the steps outlined in the January 24th Presidential Directive which directs the Acting Secretary of the Army to expeditiously review requests for approvals to construct and operate the Dakota Access Pipeline in compliance with the law. … These initial steps do not mean the easement has been approved. … The Assistant Secretary for the Army Civil Works will make a decision on the easement once a full review and analysis is completed in accordance with the directive.”
Reuters (2/1, Volcovici, Sylvester) says the lawmakers’ claims that the final permit had been granted prompted “alarm” and “anger” from “native Americans and activists protesting the” pipeline. The Los Angeles Times (2/1, Tolan) reports that while pipeline supporters say the project “is back on,” opponents are vowing “to continue to fight against the hotly debated project, most likely in court.”
Auburn University To Break Ground For New Engineering Building.
The AP (2/1) reports Auburn University “a groundbreaking ceremony will take place Thursday afternoon to celebrate the beginning of construction on the” Brown-Kopel Engineering Student Achievement Center, “which will be part of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.” The center “is being funded through a $30 million gift from John and Rosemary Brown” and “construction is expected to be finished by the spring of 2019.”
Trump Taps Falwell To Lead Higher Education Task Force.
USA Today (2/1, Toppo) reports Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. says President Trump has tapped him to “lead a presidential task force — possibly a pair of them — charged with trimming college regulations and curbing interference by the Department of Education.” Falwell recently “declined Trump’s invitation to become U.S. education secretary.” The paper notes that the White House “did not immediately confirm the formation of the task force or Falwell’s appointment.”
Noting that Falwell is the evangelical Christian leader of what “bills itself as the world’s biggest Christian university,” Reuters (2/1, Simpson) reports that a Liberty spokesperson said he “is keen to cut university regulations, including rules on dealing with campus sexual assault.” The Hill (2/1, Calfas) and the Chronicle of Higher Education (2/1) also cover this story.
Liberty Stands To Gain From Falwelll’s Initiatives. The New York Times (2/1, Subscription Publication) reports that Falwell said this week that his goals include “rolling back a series of initiatives that the Obama administration viewed as preventing abuses by predatory for-profit colleges.” However, the nonprofit Liberty University also “could benefit from this kind of regulatory retrenchment.”
Warren Tells Accreditors To Step Up Enforcement Of Bad Actors In Higher Education.
Diverse Education (2/1) reports Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), speaking on Wednesday at the annual conference of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, “called for accrediting agencies to play a more active role in fighting fraud, waste and abuse in higher education.” The piece quotes Warren saying, “Don’t sit on your hands as states and the federal government go after schools for fraud.” Warren urged attendees to “be more aggressive and work with the federal government to share information and determine if schools are cheating students.”
California Estimates Cost To Provide Debt-Free College At $3.3B Annually.
The Los Angeles Times (2/1, Watanabe) says a new report by California state’s “Legislative Analyst’s Office laid out different ways the state could help students at the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges cover both tuition and living expenses,” and found the state “could help students get through college without debt – but at a hefty potential cost of $3.3 billion annually.” The Times notes this “analysis comes as concern rises over spiraling student debt, which has topped $1 trillion nationwide.”
Nearly 40 Percent Of Student Loan Borrowers In Default Or Past-Due, Report Finds.
Marketplace (2/1, Scott) says a new report from the think tank Demos found “nearly 40 percent of student loan borrowers are either in default or more than 90 days past-due on their payments.” In addition, “students who borrowed less than $10,000 were about as likely to default as those owing more than $100,000.” The article says this data underscore the “growing student loan crisis.”
Research and Development
Navy Making Progress On Autonomous Countermine Systems.
SIGNAL Magazine (2/1, Jontz) reports that while unmanned mine countermeasures (MCM) technology solutions are “likely a decade off,” US Navy researchers are pushing “full speed ahead to create platforms that take humans out of the mission loop” and support service’s latest vessels such as the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine and antisubmarine warfare module. Last year, the Defense Science Board said that the Navy has “kept pace” in foundational research, but added that “there is significant value yet to be realized in operationalizing military systems.” ONR Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department Program Officer Jason Stack said that that the “foci of the operational MCM community” is aligning the delivery of technology with needs. The Navy is pushing ahead with its Knifefish surface MCM UUV despite criticism over cost overruns, and testing is set to begin this year. Other programs include the Remote Multimission Vehicle (RMMV) and the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) in the LCS program.
Jackson State Settles Allegations Of Science Grant Fund Mismanagement For $1.17M.
The Jackson (MS) Clarion Ledger (2/1) reports US Attorney Gregory K. Davis and NSF IG Allison Lerner announced Jackson State University “agreed to pay the federal government $1.17 million to settle allegations that they mismanaged science grant money.” The government claimed a 2012 audit “identified expenditures that were not allowed or lacked proper documentation” and “a subsequent investigation determined that, in preparation for the audit, and in response to the preliminary audit findings, JSU employees fabricated time and effort reports and provided them to the auditors.”
University Of Wyoming To Use Supercomputer “Cheyenne” To Better Understand Weather.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle (2/1, Orr) reports, “One of the world’s fastest and most powerful supercomputers,” named “Cheyenne,” has begun operations at the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Wyoming Supercomputer Center. University of Wyoming researchers will use the machine to “project electricity output at a wind farm” and “predict such things as fire behavior.” The article notes that “UCAR manages NCAR on behalf of the” NSF, and that Silicon Graphics International, part of HPE, built the machine.
Researcher Invents Breath Monitor To Detect Flu Virus.
Science Daily (1/31) reports research published in the journal Sensors by University of Texas professor Perena Gouma “describes her invention of a hand-held breath monitor that can potentially detect the flu virus.” Gouma’s NSF-funded research resulted in the invention of a device that uses semiconductors to “isolate biomarkers associated with” virus. Gouma’s use of nanotechnology may reduce the need for “very expensive, highly-technical equipment in a lab” that is currently required to detect the virus, Science Daily says.
Airbnb Introduces Tool To Help Developers Add Animations To Apps.
The Verge (2/1, Garun) reports Airbnb on Wednesday launched Lottie, “an open-source tool that helps add animations to native apps.” According to the Verge, Lottie is “an iOS, Android, and React Native library that renders After Effects animations in real time.” Airbnb engineers said in a blog post, “Lottie allows engineers to build richer animations without the painstaking overhead of re-writing them. … With Lottie, digging through frameworks for reference, guessing durations, manually creating Bézier curves, and re-making animations with nothing more than a GIF for reference will be a thing of the past.”
Forrester Research VP: Wearables Growth Limited By Lack Of Effective Apps.
In a Huffington Post (2/1, Schadler) op-ed, Forrester Research VP Julie Ask discussed Fitbit and the wearables market, saying that Forrester forecasts that the adoption of wearables will continue to grow, but lamenting that “too few wearables offer apps that utilize effective mechanics, such as gamification, competition, community, coaching or support.” According to Ask, wearables’ growth drivers include “falling price points, improved UI’s, consumer accountability for the cost and outcome of healthcare, expectations of improve employee productivity, and lower abandonment rates that drive repeat sales.” Ask warned that wearable apps “fall short of enabling outcomes consumers expect,” and lack integration “with the consumer’s broader ecosystem.” Ask advises smartwatch manufacturers to include apps for “notifications, payments, voice assistants (and chatbots), identity, and health” to become truly indispensable to the consumer.
Engineering and Public Policy
Lawmakers Look For Ways To Pay For Trump’s Infrastructure Plans.
The Washington Post (2/1, Halsey) reports that while President Trump “campaigned on a promise of a $1 trillion investment infrastructure,” the question of how to pay for repairs to the nation’s roads, bridges, and transit systems continues to vex lawmakers as it has “since the existing source, the gas-tax-funded Highway Trust Fund, began to run below meeting the need.” During a hearing of the House Transportation Committee Wednesday, none of the assembled corporate chief executives “said they thought sufficient private money would surface to meet the need.” While Rep. Peter A. DeFazio proposed raising “new revenue by indexing the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax,” Chairman Bill Shuster “has said he anticipates that a massive tax reform bill will be a necessary first step, and he hopes that will be finalized before this summer so infrastructure plans can move forward.”
Gosar Resolution Would Repeal Park Service Authority To Manage Drilling In National Parks.
The Washington Post (2/1, Fears) reports that Rep. Paul A. Gosar “submitted a resolution Monday that threatens to repeal the National Park Service’s authority to manage private drilling for oil, gas and minerals at 40 national parks, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.” According to the Association, “The resolution is just the latest in a series of moves by federal lawmakers to weaken environmental protections for national parks under the Congressional Review Act. … If these repeals are signed into law … it will not only stop these protections, it will also prohibit agencies from issuing similar rules and protections in the future, unless directed by Congress.” Gosar denied that he is “trying to open the parks to more drilling,” and called claims that he is “utterly false.”
Gerald Desmond Bridge Project Addresses Utility Lines, Oil Wells, Seismic Zone.
In a piece on the $1.5-billion Gerald Desmond Bridge replacement, the Engineering News-Record (2/1, Cho) reports that the project has tackled many obstacles and is set to be completed in 2018. Besides the discovery of 1930s-vintage oil wells and the bridge-to-be’s location in a seismic zone, the project reportedly encountered difficulties with “the significant amount of utility lines in conflict with the proposed construction,” according to Port of Long Beach senior civil engineer Wayne Smith. Port authorities collaborated with Southern California Edison planners to keep costs under control, said project executive Al Moro.
Renewable Energy Industry Urges Trump To Consider Green Jobs In Rural Areas.
Bloomberg News (1/31, Martin) reports the renewable energy industry wants the Trump Administration to know that when it comes to “bringing energy jobs to rural communities: get out of the coal mines and look to the sky.” The US wind power industry had over “100,000 workers at the end of the year and the solar industry had more than double that,” and they are “a significant source of employment in many of the rural red states that supported Donald Trump’s campaign.” At the beginning of last year there were 65,971 coal mining jobs, the Energy Department reports. Renewable energy industry leaders “say the rural areas that missed out on economic growth under President Barack Obama are benefiting from the expansion of clean energy.” The article mentions that while Trump Administration will be “more fossil-fuel friendly,” former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Trump’s choice to be the next energy secretary, “helped his state become the largest producer of wind power.”
DOE Testing Procedures For Central AC’s, Heat Pumps Delayed.
The Hill (2/1, Devaney) reports the Energy Department “is delaying Obama-era efficiency standards that were ensnared by Trump’s regulatory moratorium.” The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE “finalized new test procedures for compressors, central air conditioners and heat pumps last month.” The Hill notes “the test procedures will now go into effect on March 21.”
New Mexico Lawmakers Propose 80 Percent Renewable Energy Target.
The AP (2/1, Lee) reports the New Mexico Legislature will consider legislation increasing the state’s renewable energy target to 80 by 2040 for utilities, a four-fold increase. Co-op would have a target of 70 percent, while municipal utilities would continue to be exempt. The proposed legislation “has the support of a broad coalition of environmental and civic groups,” and annual targets could be waived temporarily if costs exceed acceptable thresholds.
North Dakota Lawmakers Proposed Wind Tax To Boost Coal.
The AP (2/1) reports that North Dakota state Rep. Roscoe Streyle is proposing a tax on wind power. “Streyle says the tax breaks going to wind generation are affecting the coal industry, which is producing less every year.” Streyle proposes a $1.50 per megawatt-hour fee and a tax equal to 10 percent of the production tax credit granted to wind facilities.
NRG’s Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant Now Producing Enough Power.
Bloomberg News (2/1, Ryan) reports that NRG Energy’s Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is finally producing enough electricity output and is no longer at risk of defaulting following performance adjustments. “We are currently in compliance with the contract,” NRG spokesman David Knox said in an interview. “The generation has improved dramatically.” PG&E is reviewing Ivanpah’s performance and contracts with remains in place.
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Apple Reclaims Title Of Top Smartphone Seller Due To iPhone 7 Sales In Record-Setting Quarter.
• DeVos Expresses Willingness To Discuss Changes To Student Loan Forgiveness Program.
• NASA Simulates Orion-SLS Launch’s Impact On Crew Members.
• US Tech Companies Worry About H-1B Changes.
• New H-1B Bill Raises Concerns In India.
• Air Force Considering Use Of Commercial Technology For Satellites.
• Lawmakers: Army Corps To Grant Dakota Access Pipeline Easement Permit.