State / Local

  • HazmatLiving near railroad tracks? Prepare for crude-oil-train accidents, spills

    The Minnesota Department of Transportation(MnDOT) reports that 326,170 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks used by trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region. An area covering a half mile on each side of the tracks, public safety officials say, is the area from which residents are likely to be evacuated in the event of an oil train incident or explosion. The department urges all residents living near an oil train track to be prepared for a train accident.

  • Coastal infrastructureRising seas bring heavy burden to Florida coastal economy. Can it adapt?

    By Karl Havens

    Florida is a coastal state. Nearly 80 percent of its twenty million residents live near the coast on land just a few feet above sea level, and over a hundred million tourists visit the beaches and stay in beach-front hotels every year. The coastal economy in Florida is estimated to account for 79 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, a measure of direct revenue into the economy. It now is widely accepted that climate change is causing an unprecedented rise in sea levels around the world, and that locations such as Florida, where huge infrastructure and large populations live right on the coast, are especially vulnerable. An important reality is that sea-level rise is not a future phenomenon. It has been happening slowly over the past decades, at about one inch every ten years. That’s a half foot since the 1960s and already it is taking a toll.

  • Border securityTexas lawmakers propose bills to bolster border security

    On Monday, more than thirty Texas State House members joined local officials of border towns at the state Capitol to present their solutions to enhancing safety along the Texas border with Mexico. Three bills now being debated would add state police to the border, create a “DPS Officer Reserve Corps” using retired state troopers to assist police work like background investigations, toughen penalties for smugglers, build southbound checkpoints, and create a border protection unit.

  • Real IDIllinois scrambles to meet Real ID deadline

    State officials in Illinois are working to make driver’s licenses and identification cards comply with the Real ID Act of 2005before commercial air travel restrictions are implemented in 2016. Illinois identification cards do not meet minimum standards mandated by Congress in 2005. The Real ID Act requires states to verify personal information of applicants including birth certificates. The information is then electronically scanned and stored in a federal database, and data can be shared among states and the federal government.

  • Seismic early warningEarthquake early-warning system to be deployed in Washington, Oregon

    California has been testing ShakeAlert, an earthquake early-warning system. Emergency officials and first responders in Washington and Oregon have been working with their counterparts in California to design a similar system specifically for the Pacific Northwest. The project, estimated to cost roughly $16 million a year, has received $6 million from a private foundation, $5 million from Congress for the coming year, and the White House’s new budget calls for another $5 million.

  • Public healthMeasles outbreak sparks bid to strengthen California vaccine law

    By Jenny Gold

    State lawmakers in California introduced legislation Wednesday that would require children to be fully vaccinated before going to school, a response to a measles outbreak that started in Southern California and has reached 107 cases in fourteen states. California is one of nineteen states that allow parents to enroll their children in school unvaccinated through a “personal belief exemption” to public health laws. The outbreak of measles that began in December in Anaheim’s Disneyland amusement park has spread more quickly in communities where many parents claim the exemption.

  • CounterterrorismNYPD launches counterterrorism unit

    In the coming months, the New York Police Department (NYPD) patrol officers will spend more time visiting community members to learn about their public safety concerns, but the department has also launched a new unit, consisting of officers equipped with high-powered weapons that could be used for both keeping protests from becoming unruly and guarding terrorist targets such as Times Square. The Strategic Response Group (SRG), announced last Thursday, will soon respond to terror threats throughout the city, said Police Commissioner William J. Bratton. Since Bratton’s announcement, the NYPD has clarified that the SRG will only work on counterterror initiatives.

  • Coastal infrastructureCorps of Engineers’ report details North Atlantic region’s coastal storm, flood risks

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week released to the public a report detailing the results of a two-year study to address coastal storm and flood risk to vulnerable populations, property, ecosystems, and infrastructure in the North Atlantic region of the United States affected by Hurricane Sandy in October, 2012. The NACCS provides tools and information, including a nine-step Coastal Storm Risk Management Framework that can be used by communities, states, tribes, and the Federal government to help identify coastal risk and develop strategies for reducing those risks.

  • Chemical facilitiesChinese ownership of a methanol plant worries Louisiana parish residents

    Roughly 150 petrochemical companies and seventeen refineries operate in a zone between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, an area locals call “Cancer Alley” due to the health concerns that have arisen during the past few decades of industrialization. Residents of St. James Parish have voiced their opposition to a proposed methanol plant in the parish. The plant will be operated by Yuhuang Chemical Inc., a subsidiary of Chinese natural gas giant Shandong Yuhuang. Recently, Shandong Yuhuang, parent company of the proposed plant in St. James, has received bad press in China for reportedly neglecting environmental laws, including releasing toxic emissions in the city of Heze, which environmentalists have connected to rising cancer rates and contaminated water.

  • CybersecurityIdaho bolsters the state’s cyber defenses

    Idaho’s director of the Bureau of Homeland Security says that cyber threats remain the most important yet least understood risk to government and the private sector. He has announced plans to tackle that vulnerability in the state. The director of the Bureau says that cybersecurity will never be perfect, which makes it imperative for organizations like the Idaho Bureau of Homeland Security to focus on planning that incorporates not just defense, but also detection and the mitigation of damage that has already occurred.

  • Coastal infrastructureN.C. considering regulations to cope with sea-level rise

    Later this week, researchers peer-reviewing the latest draft report that investigates sea-level rise along North Carolina’s coast, will submit their comments to the state Coastal Resources Commission’s(CRC) Science Panel. The initial 2010 report faced criticism from climate change skeptics and some property developers who claimed the report’s 100-year outlook on sea-level rise was unrealistic. The new report looks at changes along the coast for a period of thirty years.

  • RadicalizationNYPD’s radicalization report criticized

    In a Sunday morning interview on 970 AM The Answer, New York Police Department(NYPD) deputy commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller criticized a 7-year old report on Islamic radicalization in New York City. The report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” published by the NYPD Intelligence Division under former police commissioner Ray Kelly, came under fire after a series of articlesdetailed some of the division’s counterterrorism operations, including the monitoring of prominent Muslims and Muslim communities in New York City. Those articles contributed to the closure of the unit, which conducted the NYPD’s surveillance operations on New York’s Muslim communities.

  • Coastal infrastructureMiami Beach to raise West Avenue in the face of sea-level rise

    City planners in Miami Beach will begin the first phase of a two-part project to raise West Avenue between 1.5 to two feet during the next few years in an effort to prepare the area in the face of sea-level rise. The project will coincide with stormwater drainage and sewer improvements which include installing more pumps to prevent flooding from rain and high tides.

  • InfrastructureBoston's aging pipes leak high levels of heat-trapping methane

    The aging system of underground pipes and tanks that delivers natural gas to Boston-area households and businesses leaks high levels of methane, with adverse economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Now a group of atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has produced hard numbers that quantify the extent of the problem.

  • Real IDWashington State to offer 2-tier driver’s license system to comply with Real ID Act

    State officials in Washington are looking to redesign the state’s driver’s licenses and ID cards to comply with the federal 2005 REAL IDact which requires proof of legal U.S. residency for access to federal government buildings and soon domestic air travel. At least twenty-four states and territories have yet fully to comply with the REAL ID act, but Washington is one of only nine states that have not received a compliance extension from the federal government.