State / Local

  • GridCourt to decide a Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” case

    Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” law is the center of a case set for trial later this week, in which developers of CapX2020, the region’s power grid improvement project, will contest a lawsuit by Cedar Summit Farm. The state law requires utilities building high-voltage power lines to buy out farms along the path of the power line if the affected landowners demand it. CapX2020 argues the farm does not meet the buyout criteria set in the law.

  • Emergency alertsSmall Virginia town debates cost of emergency siren system

    Installing an emergency siren system in Danville, Virginia would be too expensive, Danville fire chief David Eagle said during a recent update to the Danville city council on emergency notification systems. The city’s last siren system was discontinued about twenty-five years ago. A new system would cost between $300,000 and $400,000 to install, and would incur annual maintenance cost.

  • Emergency managementNew York will issue red license plates for government emergency response vehicles

    Governor Andrew Cuomo last week announced that the Department of Motor Vehicles will begin issuing the first New York State emergency management red license plates for vehicles registered to state agencies and political subdivisions such as counties, cities, towns, and villages. Vehicles that serve a critical role will be given the new emergency license plates to assure they have immediate access to locations impacted during a state emergency as well as prioritized access for assets such as emergency fuel supplies.

  • Nuclear powerDebate over closing NY’s Indian Point nuclear power plant intensifies

    Indian Pointnuclear power plant, just thirty miles from New York City, has presented a conundrum for environmentalists who advocate clean-air initiatives, caps on carbon emissions, and increasing investment in non-polluting renewable energy sources — but at the same time argue that nuclear power poses a safety hazard to the surrounding area and demand that Indian Point cease operations. Closing the plant would require a long-term energy strategy to replace the 2,000 megawatts the plant currently produces.

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  • ImmigrationJudge rebukes Sheriff Arpaio, his deputy for mocking, defying court orders

    Grant Murray Snow, District Judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, earlier this week rebuked Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County and chief deputy Jerry Sheridan for defying and mocking Snow’s order, issued last year, to stop targeting Latinos during routine patrols, traffics stops and work raids. “Whether or not the sheriff likes it, there is a distinction in immigration law that was not understood by the population and, with all due respect to you, it is not understood by the sheriff, which is that it is not a criminal violation to be in this country without authorization,” Judge Snow said pointedly.

  • CybersecurityDelaware launches cyber initiative

    Delaware is joining the number of states that have decided to invest in a statewide cybersecurity workforce to combat the growing threat of cyberattacks directed at both private and public institutions.Delaware hopes its cyber initiative will accelerate current efforts to develop a stronger cyber workforce. The Delaware Cyber Initiative proposes $3 million for a collaborative learning and research network in the form of part research lab, part business park, dedicated to cyber innovation.

  • EnergyControversial Mississippi power station to cut emissions by more than half

    A new $5 billion state-of-the-art power facility is under construction Kemper County, Mississippi. It places a firm bet on the future of carbon-capture technology, and other technological advancements, including: it utilizes the gasification process with carbon in unique ways; it recycles treated wastewater to generate power; and it makes money from the carbon dioxide it has removed by selling it to oil companies for their own extraction. Critics say that investing so much money in untested technologies is too much of a gamble.

  • Plutonium processingS.C. sues DOE over Savanah River MOX facility

    South Carolina decided to go to court to prevent the Obama administration from cutting off funding for a troubled multi-billion dollar Savanah River plant in which weapons-grade plutonium would be processed and turned into suitable fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. The initial budget for the MOX project, when it was launched a decade ago, was just under $4 billion. Since then, construction costs have reached $8 billion, and DOE officials now say the plant will cost about $30 billion over the years it is in use.

  • CybersecurityHoward County, Md. attracts cybersecurity firms

    Howard County, Maryland boasts a growing presence of cybersecurity firms and specialists at a time when the industry is gaining attention. The proximity of the county to government agencies has helped cybersecurity firms gain federal contracts, and the proximity of large cybersecurity consumers like the NSA offers cybersecurity firms in Howard County a large pool of cybersecurity specialists to select from when NSA employees decide to shift to the private sector.

  • ImmigrationWashington State offers college financial aid to children of undocumented immigrants

    Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State yesterday signed legislation which will offer college financial aid to students brought into the United States illegally by their parents. California, Illinois, Texas, and New Mexico have passed similar legislations. The measure represents a shift in the position of State Senate Republicans: last year, the GOP-controlled Senate blocked a similar measure,called the Dream Act of Washington State, but earlier this month the Senate passed its own version of the bill, which the the governor, a Democrat, signed.

  • Homeland security educationState lawmakers question Cuomo proposal for a homeland security college

    Governor Andrew Cuomo last month earmarked $15 million in his state budget proposal for what he called “the nation’s first college dedicated solely to emergency preparedness and homeland security.” State lawmakers are generally in support of investing more money in preparing the state for natural and man-made disasters, but some question whether a new college for homeland security is the answer.

  • Chemical spillsNSF rapid response research grants to fund study of West Virginia chemical spill

    On 9 January 2014, crude 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), a chemical primarily used to clean coal, leaked from a storage tank near Charleston, West Virginia, and bled into a river upstream of a water-treatment plant. As a result, about 15 percent of the state’s residents were advised not to drink the water. Better to understand the properties of the chemical that contaminated the drinking water, and the plumbing and water-treatment systems surrounding the area, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grants to research teams at three universities. These grants also will provide STEM learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students on the research teams.

  • EarthquakesQuake-vulnerable concrete buildings in Los Angeles area identified

    Researchers have identified nonductile concrete buildings constructed before roughly 1980 in the Los Angeles area. This category of buildings is known from experience in previous earthquakes to have the potential for catastrophic collapse during strong earthquakes. Nonductile concrete buildings were a prevalent construction type in seismically active zones of the United States before the enforcement of codes for ductile concrete which were introduced in the mid-1970s. A companion study estimates that approximately 17,000 nonductile reinforced concrete buildings are located in the most highly seismic areas of California. More than seventy-five million Americans in thirty-nine states live in towns and cities at risk for earthquake devastation.

  • BiometricsFlorida mulling banning school collection of students’ biometric information

    Some school districts in Florida, including Polk County and Pinellas County, are using scanners to collect fingerprints and hands, eyes, and voice characteristics from students. Pinellas County school district allows students to use palm scans instead of cash to pay for meals in the cafeteria. The collection of students’ biometric information has alarmed many parents who are concerned that students’ identity or personal records may be stolen or sold to private companies. Florida state legislators are debating a proposal which would stop school districts from collecting biometric information from students.

  • SurveillanceArizona lawmaker pushes measure to limit NSA operations in the state

    Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward, a tea party Republican representing the Lake Havasu area, is pushing a bill in the State Senate which would impose limits on the ability of the NSA to operate in Arizona. In December Ward became the first legislator in the nation to declare she would introduce legislation to limit NSA activities in the state, and so far legislators in twelve other states have introduced similar bills. Arizona SB 1156 would. Among other things, prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from cooperating with the NSA and would prevent state or local prosecutors from using NSA-collected information which had not been obtained with a warrant. The bill would also withhold funds from state universities and colleges supporting the NSA with research or recruitment. Legal scholars say the courts would in all likelihood strike down Ward’s measure because Arizona, in essence, is trying to regulate the federal government.