• Corps 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.

  • Chinese 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.

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  • Idaho 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.

  • N.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.

  • NYPD’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.

  • Miami 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.

  • Boston'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.

  • Washington 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.

  • N.C. panel releases much-anticipated draft of sea-level rise forecast

    Last week, the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commissionadvisory science panel released its draft copyof sea-level rise forecast for several regions along the North Carolina coast over the next thirty years. The state’s General Assembly rejected a similar report in 2010 after coastal developers and some Republican legislators claimed that the report was biased. A 2012 state law bans state agencies from taking any action based on the sea-level forecast until 1 July 2016.Analysts say that the18-months wait untilstate agencies can take sea-level rise forecast into account may put North Carolina behind other East Coast states which have already begun to adapt to sea-level rise by updating their zoning laws, construction elevation requirements, and major infrastructure plans.

  • Washington State seeks better responses to landslides

    The March 2014 Oso landslide in Snohomish County, Washington State, killed forty-three people. A state commission, including experts in emergency management, land planning and development, geology, and hydrology, appointed by Washington state governor Jay Inslee to determine how better to avoid and respond to landslides released seventeen recommendations on last Monday.

  • Complaints grow about New Mexico’s handling of emergencies, disaster relief

    New Mexico’s Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM)wasformed in 2007 by consolidating the state’s Office of Homeland Security and the Emergency Management Division. It is responsible for coordinating emergency and disaster relief efforts with all levels of government, providing training to emergency managers, and analyzing security threats. DHSEM, however, has a history of failing to respond swiftly to disaster related requests, according to internal reports, e-mails, audits, and interviews with current and former employees.

  • California Hasidic group must refund misused DHS security grant money

    The California branch of the Hasidic Jewish group Chabad-Lubavitchhas been ordered to pay $844,985 for misappropriating federal funds.In 2008, Chabad applied for a DHS grant as part of the Urban Areas Security Initiative: Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides funding for security upgrades to nonprofits that are at high risk of terrorist attacks.Chabad spent $272,495 of grant money on payroll, utility, and other expenses, but now has to pay penalties and damages triple the grant amount under a mandatory provision of the False Claims Act.

  • Congressional funding allows partial roll-out of Calif. seismic early warning system

    California officials applauded the U.S. Senate approval of the $1.1-trillion spending package, which allocated $5 million to fund expansion of the state’s earthquake early-warning system dubbed ShakeAlert.In 2015, a select number of schools will receive earthquake alerts to warn students and teachers to drop and cover before shaking begins, fire stations will be alerted to open their garage doors before electricity goes out and prevents doors from opening, and some hospitals will receive notice to suspend surgeries.

  • Power grids in coastal U.S. cities increasingly vulnerable as a result of climate change

    Cities such as Miami are all too familiar with hurricane-related power outages. A new analysis finds, however, that climate change will give other major metropolitan areas a lot to worry about in the future. Johns Hopkins University engineers created a computer model to predict the increasing vulnerability of power grids in major coastal cities during hurricanes. By factoring historic hurricane information with plausible scenarios for future storm behavior, the team determined which of twenty-seven cities, from Texas to Maine, will become more susceptible to blackouts from future hurricanes. The team’s analysis could help metropolitan areas better plan for climate change.

  • Texas Ebola task force calls for revamping state’s preparations for epidemics

    The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Responsehas called for the establishment of two specialized Ebola treatment centers in Texas, and for new methods to monitor vulnerable health care workers, especially those returning from West Africa.The state acknowledges that it alone is unable to handle an infectious disease outbreak like Ebola. The task force wants federal health and disease authorities to provide actionable information during disease outbreaks.