• Border funding bill passes U.S. House; Texans vote along party lines

    The U.S. House on Thursday passed about $800 billion in federal spending, including $1.6 billion worth of funding that will go toward constructing a border wall. While there is almost no chance this legislation will become law, Republican lawmakers can head back to their home districts pointing to the wall funding as a legislative step toward a tenet of the Trump presidential campaign.

  • Dust Bowl redux: Increase in dust storms in the U.S.

    Could the storms that once engulfed the Great Plains in clouds of black dust in the 1930s once again wreak havoc in the United States? A new statistical model developed by researchers predicts that climate change will amplify dust activity in parts of the United States in the latter half of the 21st century, which may lead to the increased frequency of spectacular dust storms that have far-reaching impacts on public health and infrastructure.

  • Maintaining the safety of California’s natural gas system

    California has 14 underground storage facilities in 12 fields with a capacity of 385 billion cubic feet of natural gas. There are about 350 active wells at those fields, many of which are used currently for natural gas but were designed for oil and gas production and constructed prior to 1970. The massive natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon shined a light on California’s aging natural gas infrastructure. And five years of extreme drought also exacted its toll on transmission pipelines.

  • Fracking-induced earthquakes in Oklahoma

    Oklahomans are no strangers to Mother Nature’s whims. From tornadoes and floods to wildfires and winter storms, the state sees more than its share of natural hazards. But prior to 2009, “terra firma” in Oklahoma meant just that — earthquakes rarely shook the state. Then, after decades of seismic quiet where the state averaged less than two quakes of magnitude 3 or greater a year, Oklahoma suddenly saw a sharp uptick, to twenty such quakes in 2009. NASA says that the earthquakes were human-induced, resulting from wastewater injection, rather than a naturally caused quakes.

  • Attorneys spar over Texas immigration law in federal court

    Monday was the first day of what could be a lengthy legal battle over Senate Bill 4, which has been billed as the toughest state-based immigration bill in the country. Opponents of Texas’ state-based immigration law told a federal judge that allowing the controversial measure to stand would pave the way for a nationwide police state where local officers could subvert the established immigration-enforcement powers of the federal government.

  • Cost savings of LA county crime reform initiative uncertain

    While a California ballot initiative reducing penalties for some criminal offenses promised to save local governments money, quantifying such savings will require significant changes in the way local agencies track workloads, according to a new report. The researchers concluded there was too little information available to create credible estimates of cost savings, despite there being evidence that many of the departments saw a drop in workloads.

  • Helping repair California's water infrastructure

    Recent extreme weather has put increased stress on California’s aging water infrastructure and highlighted the fact that the state must invest billions to improve and repair its civil infrastructure. The California Policy Center reports the infrastructure is currently designed to serve 20 million people in a state with a population of 40 million. The state relies on CSU water management, engineering, agriculture, and construction management experts to renovate aging dams, canals and aqueducts.

  • Lawyers convention leaves Texas over state's new immigration law

    A 15,000-member association of attorneys and law professors said on Wednesday that it is relocating its 2018 convention out of Texas in response to the state legislature passing Senate bill 4, a sweeping and controversial immigration enforcement measure. About 3,000 people were expected to attend the event.

  • After 18 months, hurricane vulnerability documents arrive — but they're thin

    During Hurricane Katrina, rushing water caused one refinery’s oil tank to rupture, sending oil into more than 1,700 homes a mile away. And the Houston area has many schools and neighborhoods that are less than a mile from large refineries and oil storage terminals. Eighteen months ago, we asked the government for documents that should have shed a lot of light on Houston’s vulnerability to a massive hurricane. After finally receiving them, it turns out the documents are basically useless.

  • Lawmaker criticizes closure of biodefense lab

    President Trump’s FY2018 budget, released last week, zeroes out funding for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) in Frederick, Maryland and calls for its closure. NBACC, operated by DHS, supports preparedness planning, intelligence assessments and bio-forensic analysis. The lab often assists the FBI in investigating bioterrorism and bio-crime and employs over 180 people.

  • ACLU issues Texas “travel advisory”

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a “travel alert” informing anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement. The ACLU says that the alert comes amid the passing of a Texas law known as SB4. The law gives a green light to police officers in the state to investigate a person’s immigration status during a routine traffic stop, leading to widespread racial profiling, baseless scrutiny, and illegal arrests of citizens and non-citizens alike presumed to be “foreign” based on how they look or sound.

  • Lawsuit over sanctuary cities bill is just a matter of time, opponents say

    The question isn’t whether or not the Texas attorney general’s office will be hauled to court over a Texas Senate bill to ban “sanctuary” policies in Texas — but, more likely, when they’ll be asked to defend Senate Bill 4 (SB4) in a federal court. The legislation makes sheriffs, constables, police chiefs and other local leaders subject to a Class A misdemeanor and possible jail time if they don’t cooperate with federal authorities and honor requests from immigration agents to hold inmates who are subject to deportation. It includes civil penalties for entities that violate the provision that begin at $1,000 for a first offense and climb to as high as $25,500 for subsequent infractions. It also applies to public colleges.

  • Local, federal focus on deadly gang violence on Long Island

    There has been a surge since 2014 in the number of unaccompanied minors coming to the United States, mostly from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Most of the minors are entitled to federal anti-trafficking protections, and subsequent resettlement. Suffolk Country is ranked fourth in the U.S. in the number of unaccompanied minors resettled in the county, and neighboring Nassau County ranks tenth. Violent gangs such as MS-13 actively recruit these unaccompanied minors. Local and federal leaders say there is a need to do more – from better vetting to gang prevention programs to better law enforcement – to address the growing gang violence.

  • Rising flood insurance costs a growing burden to communities, NYC homeowners

    Flood insurance is already difficult to afford for many homeowners in New York City, and the situation will only worsen as flood maps are revised to reflect current risk and if the federal government continues to move toward risk-based rates, according to a new study.of-its-kind study by the RAND Corporation.

  • Seismic monitoring network helps locate, determine origins of earthquakes in Texas

    Almost a decade ago, the ground around the densely populated Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex started shaking. As the frequency and intensity of earthquakes increased in a region poorly prepared for the seismic activity, the risk became a priority for the state. Residents, politicians, and oil-gas industry leaders reached out to the Bureau of Economic Geology. The bureau is the oldest and second largest research unit at the university, made up of more than 250 scientists, engineers, and economists. The organization also functions as the State Geological Survey of Texas — a broker of information among industry, academia and government agencies.