Every week our Center team of 12 people convenes for updates and check ins. We usually touch upon the key developments of the previous week, on research, legislative action, outreach, and communications as well as discuss and make decisions on impending urgent actions and activities. Since our staff is spilt in 2 of the 4 UCS offices, and while a handful of staff do travel back and forth between offices periodically, the weekly check ins give all DC and Cambridge CSD staff an opportunity to see and talk to each other over video conferencing.
Today our conversations centered around two main pieces of our work: fracking and scientific integrity. We have been working on fracking – a relatively new way of extracting oil and gas from previously inaccessible rock formations. It’s become a hugely divisive issue in communities in areas that are faced with oil and gas development. Since fracking expanded throughout the country at such a rapid pace, the scientific information on the risks associated with the full suite of operations as well as the regulatory structure has been unable to keep pace with this growth. So last year we held a forum where we convened scientists, engineers, legal experts, policymakers, community and corporate leaders, and citizens. We discussed what we know and don’t know on the topic, and what might be the best way to advance evidence-based decision making on fracking, how to manage the associated risks or whether to allow it to take place or expand in one’s community at all. I lead the organization of this forum, and then followed the event with a report and information toolkit, both of which I coauthored.
A year later, fracking remains controversial and recent developments in Colorado put it back on the agenda for us. Yesterday, the Governor announced that he’d be putting together a taskforce to make recommendations to reduce the land-use conflicts between communities and oil and gas companies. At the time of the announcement, we contacted the Governor’s office to encourage him to include scientific expertise on the taskforce and provided him with suggestions of local relevant scientists. Finding very limited scientific expertise on the taskforce membership the Governor announced, we discussed our follow up steps and decided on speaking with the regulators and elected officials about convening a scientific advisory panel to inform the work of the taskforce. We’ll find out in the next few days whether this will have traction.
The other issue on our plates was to finalize and submit a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Energy to draw his attention to the firing of a contractor for publishing an article on the elimination of nuclear weapons. That case raised scientific integrity concerns for us, and we want to get a meeting with the Secretary to offer our expertise in improving his agencies policies.
The CSD check in meeting ended just in time for a webinar I was registered for: Reaching Outside-the-Beltway Policy Influencers. Following this I had a conference call for a small nonprofit in Chicago that works to reduce the use of pesticides in public places. I sit on the board of this organization and today’s call was to discuss the finance and budget of the organization ahead of the full board meeting.
I managed to squeeze out some time to work on an upcoming meeting we are organizing on food equity with our collaborators in Minnesota. The goal of the meeting is to understand the research gaps and barriers that food justice and equity groups face as they work on improving their food environments, and how we can bring scientific resources to bear on these. We are in the process of putting together an advisory group for it, and I needed to review and propose names of scientists to sit on the committee.
The big news of the day was hiring one of my current colleagues into a fulltime year-long position. I’d been working with our Human Resources and Finance staff for the past couple of weeks to get this position finalized and was delighted to get the news that we got the approval for it. I broke the news to my colleague over a quick walk over to the Charles River, 5 mins away from our office. She was equally pleased to hear about it and accepted the offer right away—what a great way to end the day!