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

Leading the News

Interior Department Delaying Compliance Date For Methane Emissions Regulations.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Gardner) reports an Interior Department document indicated the Trump Administration is suspending compliance dates on a regulation that limits methane emissions from oil and gas companies working on public lands. Compliance dates will be suspended until a federal court in Wyoming considers litigation on the rule.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Eilperin) reports in a filing, the Bureau of Land Management entered a notice in the Federal Register saying it would delay compliance with the rule limiting methane flared from drilling operations on federal and tribal lands. Interior officials did not issue a public statement on delaying the rule, but deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management Katharine MacGregor wrote, “While the BLM believes the Waste Prevention Rule was properly promulgated, the petitioners have raised serious questions concerning the validity of certain provisions of the Rule.”

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Henry) reports the BLM wrote in the register that is was delaying the rule limiting methane waste “in light of the regulatory uncertainty created by the pending litigation and the ongoing administrative review.” The agency wrote, “Given this legal uncertainty, operators should not be required to expend substantial time and resources to comply with regulatory requirements that may prove short-lived as a result of pending litigation or the administrative review that is already under way.” Environmental groups sued the EPA earlier this month when it was considering delaying the rule, saying the agency overstepped its bounds.

Platts Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Scheid) reports Lena Moffitt, senior director for the Sierra Club, said, “Once again, Donald Trump and [Interior Secretary] Ryan Zinke are showing where their priorities lie: the profits of corporate polluters above all else, including the health of our communities. … BLM’s methane rule would protect our public lands and communities, and it has already withstood legal challenges and an attempted repeal in Congress.” The Daily Caller Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Follett) reports the EPA justified its review of rule citing a new study by NOAA researchers, which said the agency used inflated methane emissions estimates to justify the regulation. The study said that the research used daily peak emissions, rather than daily averages.

Additional coverage was provided by the Washington (DC) Examiner Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Siciliano), the Grand Junction (CO) Daily Sentinel Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/15, Webb), the Santa Fe New Mexican Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/15, Moss), the Natural Gas Intelligence Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Passut, Subscription Publication), and Greenwire Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Subscription Publication)..

Higher Education

DeVos Suspends Obama-Era Rules On For-Profit Colleges.

In what the Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Strauss) describes as “a victory for Republican lawmakers and for-profit colleges,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos moved Wednesday to suspend two Obama-era rules “that were intended to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges, saying it will soon start the process to write its own regulations.” A statement from ED said “that it was going to create new committees to rewrite rules covering borrower defense to repaying (BDR) and gainful employment (GE).” The Wall Street Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Mitchell, Subscription Publication) reports that DeVos argued the suspended rules created an undue burden and would have been expensive for taxpayers. Said DeVos, “It’s time for a regulatory reset. … It is the Department’s aim, and this Administration’s commitment, to protect students from predatory practices while also providing clear, fair and balanced rules for colleges and universities to follow.”

The New York Times Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Cohen, Subscription Publication) says ED said that while it develops “fair, effective and improved regulations to protect individual borrowers from fraud, ensure accountability across institutions of higher education and protect taxpayers,” it will “continue to process nearly 16,000 claims for debt relief being made under existing rules, and said some borrowers could expect loans to be discharged within the next several weeks.”

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, McCoy) reports that the plan “drew criticism and predictions of legal challenges,” and quotes DeVos’ Obama Administration predecessor, John King, as saying the decision was “deeply worrisome and wrong.” The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Danilova) reports explains that the borrower defense to repayment rules allowed students to “have their loans erased if their college misrepresented the quality of its programs or broke a ‘contractual promise,’” while the “gainful employment rule was designed to ensure that graduates would be able to earn enough money to pay off their student loan debt.” However, DeVos said the rules “were ‘overly burdensome and confusing’ and need to be streamlined,” and “said many colleges have complained that the definition of misrepresentation and breach of contract is too broad and that institutions lacked meaningful due process.” The AP reports ED has scheduled hearings on the rules in July.

Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Lambert) reports DeVos “pressed pause on a rule intended to speedily cancel the student-loan debts of people defrauded by for-profit Corinthian Colleges Inc and others, so that it can be rewritten.” The piece notes that the issue has been the root of a conflict between DeVos and congressional Democrats who say “thousands of student have been caught in limbo as the Education Department slowly grants discharges.”

Other news outlets covering this story include U.S. News & World Report Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Camera), The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter(6/14, Wheeler), Consumer Reports Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Kieler), the Chronicle of Higher Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14), CNN Money Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14), Inside Higher Ed Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14), The Street Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14).

AGs Pursuing Legal Action To Fight Rule Rollback. The Boston Globe Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) reports Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said “she intends to sue US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the federal agency over the decision to halt student loan borrower protections,” quoting her saying, “Once again, President Trump’s Department of Education has sided with for-profit school executives and lobbyists who have defrauded taxpayers of billions of dollars in federal loans.”

Politico Morning Education Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) reports, “eight states and the District of Columbia are seeking to block” the rollback on the rules, “as well as a ban on mandatory arbitration clauses.” The AGs “of Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C., all Democrats, cite the Trump administration’s possible delay of the regulations as one of the reasons they need to be granted permission to step in and defend the Obama-era rules.”

Report: Federal Agencies Failing To Stop Fraudulent Student Debt Relief Companies.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Read, Nykiel) reports according to a review by NerdWallet, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission “in recent years have closed only seven companies that lured consumers with rosy promises to reduce or forgive student loan debt.” However, over 130 such firms “operating during the period had records of questionable or illegal behavior,” and many have been “hit by lawsuits, court actions or negative Better Business Bureau ratings – or had owners who couldn’t manage their own debts.” Meanwhile, consumer advocates “fault the U.S. Education Department for enabling what they identify as the root cause of the scams – bad practices of loan-servicing companies such as Navient.”

Drew Gilpin Faust To Step Down As Harvard President.

The Washington Post Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Larimer) reports Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust has announced that she will step down at the end of the next academic year. Faust, a historian and author, is the first female Harvard president, and “worked to make Harvard more accessible to students who previously might not have been able to afford the ultra-selective school.”

Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, McDonald) reports Faust’s 11-year tenure was “marked by record fundraising and an effort to bounce back from the financial impact of the credit crisis, especially on its lagging endowment.” Faust “presided over a capital campaign that has raised more than $8 billion for Harvard, the nation’s wealthiest and oldest university, which was founded in 1636.”

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Research and Development

Clemson Professor Gets NSF Grant To Create Operating System To Defend Against Cyber Attacks.

The Greenville (SC) Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) reports Clemson University computer science Professor Hongxin Hu is “working to create an operating system that can better defend against cyberattacks.” Hu said he “recently received a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation and VMware, a software company, to create an operating system for large computer and network systems” that “could make data stored and transmitted in computer and network systems more secure.”

University Of Texas At Arlington Researchers Working On Twitter Bot Detection Tool.

The Hindustan Times (IND) Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/13) reports researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington “are developing a new computer tool that can detect Twitter bots which create and spread false information, an advance that may help counter the growing menace of fake news.” The piece explains that Twitter bots are “accounts run by computer programmes that automatically publish and forward content, follow other accounts, leave comments and conduct seemingly ‘real’ activity.” The piece quotes UTA’s Chengkai Li saying, “Right now, you don’t know what is coming from a real person and what’s coming from a computer, sometimes for malicious, or at least, misleading reasons.”

Researchers Test UAVs For Medical Emergencies.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) posted video by Newsy Newslook which reported that a research team in Sweden “ran a few simulations and found that defibrillator-carrying drones responded quicker than ambulances in heart-attack situations.” Still, Newsy Newslook adds that “more extensive testing is needed before medical drones would go live.”


Study: Female-Founded Tech Start-Ups Hire More Women.

USA Today Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Sandler) reports that “technology start-ups with at least one female founder have more women employees than major technology companies and twice as many women employees as start-ups with no female founders, a survey has found.” USA Today adds, “The survey from FundersClub underscores research that shows women in leadership positions are crucial for the advancement of other women.” The article adds that the survey is “also a signal that more women are pursuing entrepreneurial paths and that young companies may be more becoming more open to recruiting diverse workforces in an industry widely criticized for being a boys club and for having a widening gender gap.”

Industry News

Airbnb Executive Discusses Impact Of AI Technology In Home-Sharing.

Venture Beat Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) reports on the new potential uses of artificial intelligence and the “measurable impact that machine learning has had on Airbnb’s unique technological challenge,” with Airbnb VP of Engineering Mike Curtis. Curtis says that part of Airbnb’s challenge is to create a match between hosts and guests that leads to a “great experience out there in the real world,” and to do this Airbnb relies on “personalizing rank search results for guests” through machine learning. Airbnb’s software produces listings based on the listings users click on to view, taking into account things like location and level of luxury. Airbnb also invests in AI technology for hosts in its predictive pricing model, which uses the technology to account for supply and demand in real time. Curtis adds that Airbnb’s technology and innovation is getting “better all the time.”

Engineering and Public Policy

Judge Orders Army Corps To Redo Part Of Dakota Access Pipeline Analysis.

The AP Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/15, Kolpack) reports from Fargo, ND that US District Judge James Boasberg “has handed a lifeline to efforts to block the Dakota Access pipeline, ruling Wednesday that the US Army Corps of Engineers didn’t adequately consider the possible impacts of an oil spill where the pipeline passes under the Missouri River.” Judge Boasberg “said in his decision that the corps failed to take into account how a spill might affect ‘fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.’” The judge “said the Army must redo its environmental analysis in certain sections and he’ll consider later whether the pipeline must halt operations in the meantime.”

EIA: Wind, Solar Produce 10 Percent Of US Power For First Time In March.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Henry) reports the Energy Information Administration on Wednesday reported that “wind and solar produced 10 percent of the electricity generated in the United States for the first time in March.” The EIA “monthly power report” found “wind produced 8 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S. that month, with solar producing 2 percent.” The two renewable sources “combined to have their best month ever in terms of percentage of overall electricity production,” according to the EIA. Bloomberg News Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Ryan) reports last year, “wind and solar accounted for about 7 percent of power generation in the U.S.”

The Houston Chronicle Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Hunn) reports “wind power varies widely by state” and “Texas often has its highest wind output in the spring, the EIA said: California, in the summer.” And “regardless of location,” solar power production “is highest in the summer…because of the greater number of daylight hours.” Approximately “half of all utility-scale solar plants in the U.S. use sun-tracking technology to improve output.” Reuters Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) reports a “separate report” released yesterday “by Deloitte found that consumer and business preference will continue to drive demand for renewable energy.” Deloitte “found that 61 percent of customers wanted a certain percentage of electricity to come from renewable energy.”

Wind Power Campaign Aims To Win Over Trump.

The Hill Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Cama) reports the group American Wind Action “is launching a major new advertising campaign to convince the Trump administration and lawmakers of the industry’s benefits to the economy.” The group “said it is spending millions of dollars on what it’s calling an education campaign.” The aim of the campaign is “to appeal to what it believes to be the values that President Trump and Republicans in Congress hold dear, like jobs and rural America, above more Democratic values like mitigating climate change.”

Ohio Legislators Pressed To Ease Restrictions On Wind-turbine Locations.

The Columbus (OH) Dispatch Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Gearino) reports wind energy supporters are urging “Ohio lawmakers to revise a three-year-old rule that put new restrictions on where wind turbines can be placed.” The “proposal is in the form of an amendment to the state budget.” Leaders in the Senate “could decide as soon as this weekend whether to include the provision, which is supported by major employers such as Amazon.” Proposal opponents, “including some key lawmakers, say it would interfere with property rights of people who live near wind farms.”

Elementary/Secondary Education

Gubernatorial Candidate Argues Maryland Needs Coding Classes.

Alec Ross, a Democrat running for governor of Maryland, writes at the Baltimore Sun Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) to propose “that we require that all Maryland schools offer computer science and coding classes by 2022.” He says teachers can be trained to teach computer science “by creating a private-public consortium of technology companies, universities and government agencies, in which private investment drives teacher training programs.” Meanwhile, he says that state should “convene a team of leaders in education, technology and government to establish statewide curriculum standards for computer science course work, to ensure that teachers have high-quality materials and a clear framework for instruction.”

Many STEM Professionals Moving To Teaching Jobs In California.

The Atlantic Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14) reports on a “growing number of science, technology, engineering, and math professionals in California” who are transitioning to new jobs as high school teachers. The piece notes that many such teachers have “only intern credentials when they start their teaching careers.” Teachers in California usually “earn a bachelor’s degree and then enroll in an intern teacher-credential program…before earning a preliminary credential.” However, “alternative routes” allow “people to take a few short, intensive classes before becoming a salaried classroom teacher.”

National Flight Academy Plans Cybersecurity Camp.

The Pensacola (FL) News Journal Share to FacebookShare to Twitter (6/14, Gabriel) reports that “students will practice writing computer code, encrypting messages and thwarting hacking attempts in a new camp planned by the National Flight Academy in July.” According to Cody Grogan, a 24-year-old University of West Florida student and Army reservist who helped design the camp, “Our goal is to get (kids) interested in cybersecurity, computer programming and encryption.” The News Journal says “the three-day camp will be the first of its kind for the academy, which is housed in a mock aircraft carrier adjacent to the National Naval Aviation Museum on Pensacola Naval Air Station.”

Wednesday’s Lead Stories

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