UO Federal Affairs News

  • Student and professor write essay on Cascadia megaquake research

    First published in around the O on August 7th. Miles Bodmer, a doctoral student in the UO’s Department of Earth Sciences, and Doug Toomey, a UO seismologist, recently wrote an article for The Conversation revealing new information about the Cascadia Subduction Zone. A small oceanic plate called the Juan de Fuca plate is being forced underneath the larger North American plate. This creates an earthquake-prone subduction zone along the Pacific North Wes. Bodmer and Toomey discussed their recent research that used seismic energy caused by nearby earthquakes with a magnitude 6 or higher. “By measuring the arrival times of seismic waves, we create 3D images showing how fast or slow the seismic waves travel through specific parts of the Earth,” the researchers wrote. These signals allow geologists to understand unseen parts of the Pacific Northwest that may be more susceptible to a large seismic event. The research Bodmer and Toomey share shows that seismic waves moved more slowly than expected in the northern and southern regions of the subduction zone. “Unfortunately, our results can’t predict when the next large Cascadia megathrust earthquake will occur,” the article stated. “Our work does suggest that a large event is more likely to start in either the northern or southern sections of the fault, where the plates are more fully locked.” The article, originally published through The Conversation, has been posted on the websites of several newspaper outlets, including the Daily Mail, Los Angeles Times, Chicago, Tribune and Scientific American. To view the article, see “Parts of the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia fault are more seismically active than others – new imaging data suggests why” The research also was covered in an Around the O story.

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  • UO Students' Climate Change Lawsuit will move forward

    First published in the Daily Emerald on July 31st, 2018. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the Trump administration’s request for a stay, or a halting of legal proceedings, in the Juliana v. United States climate change lawsuit on Monday. The lawsuit, whose plaintiffs include two University of Oregon students and 19 others, claims that climate change and carbon emissions violate the plaintiffs’ fifth amendment rights to life, liberty, property and due process. The court also upheld the trial date of Oct. 29. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is set to retire today, stated that the “breadth of respondents’ claims is striking, however, and the justiciability of those claims presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion.” Julia Olson is the chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, the group helping to bring forth the lawsuit. “This decision should give young people courage and hope that their third branch of government, all the way up to the Supreme Court, has given them the green light to go to trial in this critical case about their unalienable rights,” Olson wrote in a press release. Oral arguments for the lawsuit took place at Eugene’s Wayne L. Morse Courthouse on July 18 and a crowd of about 40 supporters gathered outside of the building to support the plaintiffs. During the arguments, attorneys representing the government said that the plaintiffs’ claims violated the separation of powers, or the distinct constitutional duties of the federal government’s legislative, judicial and executive branches, because the courts would be dictating national energy policy. Olson, who represented the plaintiffs in court, said that the plaintiffs’ rights to life, liberty and property were compromised by the effects of climate change, such as flooding. Olson also offered a rebuttal to the government’s assertion that there was an issue with the separation of powers by bringing up previous cases that warranted the court’s intervention, such as voting, housing and prison. The Emerald will continue to report on this story as the lawsuit proceeds.

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  • Research sheds new light on tensions along Cascadia fault

    First published in Around the O on July 25th, 2018. UO researchers have found clues from seismic waves that shed new light on the location, frequency and strength of earthquakes along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The research, detailed in a paper online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, doesn’t deliver help for forecasting the next magnitude 9-plus, full-zone rupture of the fault, but it does provide context for the fault’s historical record. Off shore, but not Cascadia A series of earthquakes, ranging from magnitude 4.3 to 5.6, struck off the southern Oregon coast, about 124 miles southwest of Gold Beach, early Tuesday morning, July 24. These events, and others that frequently occur in that area, are not in the Cascadia Subduction Zone. The area involved is known as the Gorda Deformation Zone, a small plate west of Cascadia caught in a vice between the Pacific and Juan de Fuca plates, said UO seismologist Doug Toomey. “It is a region of intense deformation and seismicity,” he said. Earthquakes occurring there are unlikely to cause a tsunami. The 620-mile subduction zone, which hasn’t had a massive lengthwise earthquake since 1700, is where the Juan de Fuca ocean plate dips under the North American continental plate. The fault stretches just offshore of northern Vancouver Island to Cape Mendocino in northern California. From a comprehensive analysis of four years of data recorded by 268 seismometers on the ocean floor and several hundred on land, the UO team identified anomalies in the upper mantle below both ends of Cascadia. The anomalies are regions with lower seismic wave velocities than elsewhere beneath the fault line. They suggest that pieces of the Earth’s upper mantle, just below the crust, are rising and buoyant because of melting rock and possibly elevated temperatures, said UO doctoral student Miles Bodmer, who led a study. “What we see are these two anomalies that are beneath the subducting slab in the northern and southern parts of the subduction zone,” Bodmer said. “These regions don’t have the same behavior as the entire fault. There are three segments that have their own distinct geological characteristics. The north and south segments have increased locking and increased tremor densities.” Locking refers to how strongly two plates stick. “If they are stuck together tightly, as is the case here, they are building up stress and you have the potential for the release of that stress, or energy, in large earthquake events,” Bodmer said. Such quakes, while strong, are below that projected if Cascadia ruptures all at once, he said. The locking is weaker in Cascadia’s central section, which includes most of Oregon, where infrequent, smaller quakes tend to occur from creeping along the plates. Tremor refers to long-duration seismic signals often seen at subduction zones. “These happen deep and take more time than a typical earthquake as they rumble to release energy,” Bodmer said. The study helps explain long-recognized patterns in Cascadia’s historical record, said co-author Doug Toomey, a seismologist in the UO Department of Earth Sciences. “Our study is worse news for Portland northward to Seattle and for southern Cascadia, but central Cascadia is not off the hook,” said Toomey, who also is lead investigator for the Oregon component of ShakeAlert, the West Coast early warning network. “More frequent earthquakes to the north and south are seen in historical seismicity patterns.” The junction of the Cascadia-San Andreas faults, he said, has a lot of complexity and is the most seismically active part of contiguous North America. Seismic history also shows more earthquake activity in the Puget Sound area than in central Oregon. Both regions accumulate energy that eventually is released in large earthquakes, he said. The study involved deep imaging, similar to CAT scans, using different forms of seismic waves coming from distant earthquakes moving through the Earth. The ocean-bottom seismic stations, from which data were retrieved every 10 months, were part of the National Science Foundation-funded Cascadia Initiative. Older data from numerous onshore studies in the Western U.S. also were included in the analysis. The anomalies, Bodmer said, suggest that the buoyant ends serve to modulate plate coupling forces. The findings, he added, could apply to subduction zones elsewhere. “Knowing the timing and path of the seismic signals, we can look at velocity variation and equate that to the structures,” he said. “With large offshore data sources, we might be able to better understand how a large rupture in the south might extend into Central Oregon.” Moving forward, Toomey said, there is a need for real-time, onshore-offshore seismic monitoring and geodetic analyses, such as from GPS, to help plot spatial coordinates. That, he added, could feed efforts to project earthquakes in the fault zone. Co-authors on the study – “Buoyant Asthenosphere Beneath Cascadia Influences Megathrust Segmentation” – were Emilie Hooft, a professor in the UO Department of Earth Sciences, and Brandon Schmandt, a professor at the University of New Mexico who earned his doctorate from the UO in 2011. The study's publication quickly drew coverage from Temblor, a website dedicated to earthquake research, in the story: “New findings clarify the seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest.” —By Jim Barlow, University Communications

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  • Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici meets with UO faculty to discuss safety in high schools

    First published in the Daily Emerald on July 24th, 2018. U.S. House of Representatives member and University of Oregon alumna Suzanne Bonamici, D-OR 1st District, met with eight professors and researchers in the College of Education last Friday afternoon for a roundtable discussion. The discussion focused on research being done by UO faculty to improve safety in high schools. The research, which is in part funded by a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Education, encompasses a variety of different proposals for improving the safety and wellbeing of high school students. As a vice ranking member of the House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce, Rep. Bonamici says that school safety is something she feels passionately about. She is interested in learning about the research being conducted at UO, and disagrees with some of the school safety proposals meant to prevent school shootings that have been discussed nationally in recent months. “I’m hoping to hear from some of the experts here about what we can do in terms of policy that does not involve arming teachers, because I’m very much opposed to that,” Bonamici said. Rob Horner, professor emeritus of special education at UO, began the discussion by thanking Bonamici for her attendance. After faculty members introduced themselves, Bonamici then discussed her personal and professional background regarding education, including legislation she has worked on and her experiences with current school safety issues. Rep. Bonamici serves on the House’s Committee on Education and the Workforce and came to hear policy suggestions from UO faculty and researchers on July 20, 2018 (Brad Moore/Emerald). “What I’m hearing today concerns me — not only about gun violence in schools — but students being worried and stressed, discrimination, and students not feeling safe,” Bonamici said. “I’ve had students tell me they walk into a classroom and the first thing they do is figure out where they can hide and how they can escape.” UO faculty then took turns discussing research they had conducted or proposed. Senior research associate and associate professor K. Brigid Flannery talked about a proposal for adapting the Check-in/Check-out behavioral intervention protocol for high school students. Check-in/Check-out involves teachers meeting with individual students at various times during the school day to discuss behavioral improvements they’re working on. Flannery noted that many new high school students struggle with changes in context and expectations, and that this intervention method could help prevent the behavioral problems that often occur when they’re transitioning from middle school. Julia Heffernan, whose research primarily focuses on gender and sexuality issues in education, discussed how research has shown that inclusive curriculums and affinity groups, such as gay-straight alliance clubs, can mitigate the levels of bias and violence that marginalized high school students face. In an interview following the meeting, Heffernan described one successful example of an inclusive curriculum in elementary schools that sought to end the use of the word “retarded,” a derogatory term for individuals with physical, developmental or mental disabilities. “There were campaigns about banning the word ‘retarded,’ which was the most frequently used slur in elementary schools for any kind of deficiency,” Heffernan said. “And as teachers taught that inclusive curriculum about — who is this community? Who are these folks? You see a reduction in the violence that happens.” John Seeley, a member of UO’s Prevention Science Institute, discussed youth suicide intervention methods. Seeley’s research team is helping with the rollout and implementation of Oregon’s Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Plan. Their efforts focus not only on the prevention of youth suicide, but also on “post-vention” strategies that help communities cope with emotional trauma following a suicide. Bonamici remarked on the importance of these post-vention strategies, relating that she had spoken with students who were reluctant to speak with school counselors about emotional trauma. “They said there’s so much stigma that they don’t go to counselors at school,” Bonamici said. “They just don’t go talk to anybody because they’re afraid of being seen.” Horner then talked about the proven effectiveness of building positive social environments in schools, wherein all students know what behavior is expected of them. He said that research over the past 20 years has shown that improving schools’ social environments greatly reduces behavioral problems and increases attendance and academic performance. “When you actually teach those expectations, it shifts from something where the adults are controlling the agenda to where the students are simply expecting good behavior from each other,” Horner said. He also noted that due to budget limitations that schools often face, the UO research staff is taking into account the sustainability and costs of school safety interventions. “In education one of the things you’ve got to be worried about with funding, is how do we fund things not only that work, but that become easier the second year, easier the third year, and are likely to continue on?” said Horner. At the conclusion of the meeting, Bonamici thanked the UO faculty for their research efforts and promised to share their findings with her legislative staff for use in future conversations about school safety measures. “We have to come up with ways to make sure that all students have safety,” she said. “As we go forward, this will be helpful.”

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  • Affirmative action changes mean for UO

    First published in the Daily Emerald on July 23rd, 2018. On July 3, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would rescind legal guidelines for universities that use race as a factor in their student admissions process, and instead will begin promoting race-neutral admission policies. The guidelines, which were first published by the Obama administration in 2011, provided recommendations for how universities could use race as an admissions factor in a way that was consistent with federal law. The introduction to the guidelines also contains justification for race-based admissions, citing the benefits that diverse learning environments have on society. The decision to rescind the affirmative action guidelines comes amidst a lawsuit filed against Harvard by Students for Fair Admissions, a non-profit group that claims Harvard discriminates against Asian-American students by giving them lower “personality” scores even if their test scores outrank those of other applicants. The Department of Justice is also currently reviewing Harvard’s admissions policies on suspicions that it is illegally discriminating against Asian-American students. How exactly will the changes affect admissions at the UO? According to UO’s holistic review process for student admissions, the racial or ethnic identity of student applicants is taken into consideration. When asked if the university would be changing their admissions process following the Trump administration’s actions, UO spokesperson Tobin Klinger issued this written response: “No single factor determines admissions decisions and our process is carried out in accordance with best practices for university admissions, and with current federal rulings. The new guidance will not change our process at this time.” According to a recent Around the O article, since the year 2000 the percentage of UO students who are ethnic minorities has increased from 12.8 percent to 26.8 percent, with the class of 2017 being the most ethnically diverse in university history. Roger Thompson, vice president of Student Services and Enrollment Management, notes in the article that UO is more diverse than the state of Oregon itself. Equal opportunity or racial bias? Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos made the decision to rescind the guidelines, arguing that they strongly encouraged racial bias in admissions processes and downplayed the potential legal difficulties of implementing affirmative action. Affirmative action is a result of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement effort to create equal opportunities for minority groups that are historically underrepresented. The constitutionality of affirmative action has proven to be controversial in college admissions.   The Supreme Court has ruled that schools are not allowed to implement quotas for acceptance of minority students, but narrowly taking race into consideration, among other factors, is constitutional. Critics of affirmative action claim that the program gives preferential treatment to minority students and lowers standards for those students, making it easier for them to get into colleges. Oregon lawmakers criticize Trump’s decision The Emerald reached out to Oregon’s congressional representatives to get their response to the Trump administration’s actions. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, issued a statement criticizing President Donald Trump’s policies, and cited the repeal of affirmative action guidelines as an attack on “proven and needed policies.” “Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise that he is now taking his battle to colleges by plotting with Jeff Sessions and Betsy DeVos to attack proven and needed policies that promote diversity and improve the educational experience and campus life in Oregon and nationwide,” Wyden wrote. “Just as I have fought back against Trump’s moves to defend white supremacists and to implement cruel immigration policies, I will fight back against this deeply flawed and backward-looking scheme.” Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-OR, responded in an interview last Friday at UO’s HEDCO building where she held a roundtable discussion on high school safety. Like Sen. Wyden, she offered a rebuke of the Trump administration. “I see it as just another step by the Trump administration to attack opportunities for other people,” Bonamici said. “We all benefit when we have perspectives from different people, particularly in higher education.” Bonamici’s full statement on the issue can be read here. What’s next for UO admissions? Although the new guidance from the Trump administration doesn’t change any existing laws, it does indicate an opposition to affirmative action and reveals the challenges that universities might face from the Department of Justice if they continue to use race as a factor in admissions. Various news outlets, including CNN, Politico and the New York Times, have speculated that the pending litigation against Harvard may go to the Supreme Court, which could then issue a ruling that reverses past Court rulings on affirmative action, thereby making race-based college admissions illegal. Klinger acknowledged this legal situation in his response, writing that, ”The withdraw [sic] of Obama-OCR guidance that encouraged the use of programs designed to increase diversity does not materially change either the law or how UO should go about its admissions decisions, so we can’t really say when or how something might change.”

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  • Climate change lawsuit involving two UO students sees first arguments in court

    First published in the Daily Emerald on July 18th, 2018. On Wednesday, attorneys made oral arguments in Juliana v. United States — the case in which 21 plaintiffs, including two UO students, are suing the U.S. government over carbon dioxide emissions and climate change. The case, which begins trial on Oct. 29 and is presided over by Honorable District Judge Ann Aiken, could have serious consequences for the United States if the judge finds the government responsible for the plaintiffs’ accusation that the government’s use and production of fossil fuels endangered them. Juliana v. United States also raises questions as to how the Fifth Amendment, which ensures life, liberty, property and due process, should be interpreted in regards to climate change. The case is as much a question of constitutional law as it is about environmental sustainability. Oral arguments were set to begin at 2 p.m. The Register Guard reported on Tuesday that the government filed a stay with the Supreme Court of the United States, meaning that they intended to stop the case from proceeding; however, during oral arguments, the attorneys for the plaintiffs said that they would file a response for the stay application by noon next Monday. At 1 p.m., a crowd of roughly 40 demonstrators arrived at the Wayne L. Morse Courthouse bearing turquoise signs that read “LET THE YOUTH BE HEARD #YouthvGov.” Demonstrators sang a version of the song “This land is your land, this land is my land” that substituted the original lyrics for ones that promoted environmental activism and cheered when the plaintiffs and their attorneys entered the courthouse. Oral arguments began at 2 p.m. with opening remarks coming from the defendants. The United States’ attorneys argued that the case raises an issue with the separation of powers — or the distinct constitutional duties of the federal government’s legislative, judicial and executive branches. Juliana v. United States has a long list of defendants, which includes President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency and United States Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke. The government’s attorneys argued that the court ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor would be an example of the court system determining policy, instead of allowing Congress to pass legislation. The United States’ attorneys also argued that the plaintiffs were not able to clearly tether their symptoms of anxiety, asthma and natural disasters such as flooding to U.S. policy and government action. Julia Olson, the plaintiffs’ attorney, spoke after the defense and made the case that the plaintiffs’ Fifth Amendment rights to life, liberty, property and due process were infringed upon by the government’s actions. In a rebuttal to the government’s assertion that there was an issue with the separation powers, Olson pointed to past issues in which the courts have weighed in on policy, such as cases relating to voting, housing and prison. “The constitution is silent on the national energy system, but is loud on liberty,” she said. Despite the differences the parties had, both agreed at the end of the proceeding that President Trump can be dismissed from the case without prejudice — meaning that he is not involved in the case now, but can be brought back in at a later date if necessary. Olson said that because of the wide scope of the lawsuit, the court would be able to award the plaintiffs the remedy, or relief, they want, even if the president was not involved in the lawsuit. “The defendants say we can get the remedy we want without the president because we’ve sued other federal agencies and officials,” Olson said. “We’re saying ‘Fine, let’s narrow that issue; he can be out of the case. If we need him, we can move to bring him back in.’” Following the end of oral arguments, the plaintiffs and their attorneys held a press conference at 4 p.m. and addressed the demonstrators who filed into the courtroom to watch the arguments. One plaintiff, 21-year-old Jacob Lebel, spoke of the effects of climate change on his farm near Roseburg, Oregon. “This is only the tip of the iceberg and the beginning of the destabilization that climate change has instilled for me and my generation; it’s one of the worst things I can think of,” he said. Aji Piper, a 17-year-old plaintiff from Seattle, WA, said that the case can be a catalyst for change in other parts of the world. “The remedy that we’re seeking has to do with getting the courts to order the government to take responsibility through instituting a national climate recovery plan,” he said. “If we were to win this case and get the remedy and as a country start moving towards a renewable and sustainable economy, we would see the rest of the world follow along.”

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  • UO researcher influences federal quantum physics legislation

    Originally published in Around the O on July 4, 2018. A call to action by a UO professor has helped catalyze bipartisan legislation recently introduced in Washington, D.C. Physics professor Michael Raymer and University of Maryland physicist Christopher Monroe authored proposals for a National Quantum Initiative that is the basis for federal legislation introduced this week. The National Quantum Initiative Act will establish a comprehensive national program to accelerate research and technology development in this emerging area. Its goals are to advance the country’s economy and national security by securing the United States’ position as the global leader in quantum information science. “It’s vital for the U.S. to move into a national quantum science and technology program with a unified vision and approach, with the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy working collaboratively as equal partners under the leadership of a national coordinating committee,” Raymer said. The legislation calls for an investment up to $1.27 billion over five years. It would create a number of focused research and education centers around the country to advance quantum information science and technology and help create a workforce in this new area, Raymer said. The goal of quantum information research is to use the physical laws that apply to elementary particles of nature to revolutionize how information is stored, processed, communicated and retrieved. If successful, it could produce computers that store vastly larger amounts of data and carry out more complex calculations than today’s semiconductor-chip-based computers. And quantum computers would be impossible to hack, Raymer said. Quantum information science is an area of growing research expertise at the UO. In addition to Raymer, the university’s quantum information researchers include 2012 Nobel laureate David Wineland, who recently joined the Department of Physics as a Philip H. Knight Distinguished Research Chair; Brian Smith, newly recruited from the University of Oxford and part of the U.K.’s quantum initiative; Hailin Wang, who holds the Alec and Kay Keith Chair in Physics; and Steven van Enk, director of the Oregon Center for Optical, Molecular and Quantum Science. The House bill, H.R. 6227, was introduced June 26 and immediately referred to the House Science Committee for mark-up the next day. The bill advanced with unanimous bipartisan support.     On the Senate side, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation also introduced National Quantum Initiative legislation. The Senate is expected to consider the legislation sometime later this summer. Raymer noted that the National Photonics Initiative has led the advocacy effort for the National Quantum Initiative. The National Photonics Initiative is a collaborative alliance among industry and academia and raises awareness of the impact of photonics — the application of light — on the economy and on everyday life. This isn’t the first time Raymer’s work has been recognized by a member of Congress. In October 2017 U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, an Oregon Democrat, recognized Raymer’s work on the National Quantum Initiative during a hearing of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. In addition, in February Raymer hosted a visit by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, another Oregon Democrat and UO alumnus, to share groundbreaking photonics and quantum physics research being done by UO faculty members.

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  • Martha Walters Sworn In

    First published in the The Oregonian/OregonLive on July 2nd, By Lydia Gerike. For the first time in history, a woman is leading the Oregon Supreme Court. Martha L. Walters, 67, was sworn in Monday as chief justice and will preside over the seven-member court for the next six years. "It's just wonderful to have the support of so many people and the opportunity to serve," Walters said. After graduating from University of Oregon School of Law in 1977, Walters worked as a lawyer in Eugene and built up a specialty in employment law, according to the Multnomah Bar Association website. She was part of the legal team that won a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case on behalf of professional golfer Casey Martin, who sued the PGA Tour over its requirement that players must walk during tournament play. The court ruled that Martin, whose circulatory disorder made it difficult for him to walk, was protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and must be allowed to use a golf cart. Though she has spent years on the bench, Walters said her time as a lawyer has prepared her to make sure the people of Oregon are being properly served by the courts. "I know ... how important it is to have someone listen to them," Walters said. She said she plans to use her new role to ensure Oregonians have access to a fair and impartial justice system. "We are at the forefront of the problems the people in our society face," Walters said. Walters was elected by her fellow justices to succeed Thomas Balmer, who has served on the court since 2001 and will remain on the bench. "She's enthusiastic and smart and hardworking, and I think she has a terrific skill set to serve as chief justice," Balmer said. It is well past time for Oregon to have a female chief justice, Balmer said, noting there were no other women justices when Walters joined the court in 2006. Now there are five. "She will set a high bar for the next chief justice, whether it's a man or woman, because she will do a great job." Walters sees her role as chief justice as a chance to help change the norms of gender in government. The year she graduated law school, Betty Roberts became the first woman appointed to the Oregon Court of Appeals. Roberts went on to become the first woman on the Oregon Supreme Court in 1982. Walters said she looked up to Roberts and knows she may now become part of the dream of other women who wish to follow in her career path. "You're just an infinitesimal part of the cosmos, but just being able to be that part is a pretty special thing," Walters said.  

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  • UO's Urbanism Next research is featured in Capitol Hill briefing

    June 27, 2018 - 5:00am First published in around the O. Few American cities are prepared for the changes already taking place because of rapid shifts in transit and technology, a UO professor said at a recent briefing for lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Architecture professor Nico Larco, who also directs the UO’s Urbanism Next Center, discussed the potential collateral effects of autonomous vehicles and other transportation changes at the Capitol Hill briefing. The briefing was arranged by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and a longtime advocate for livable communities, who kicked it off with introductory remarks. Larco’s research centers on how changes in technology are reshaping the ways people “live, move and spend our time in cities,” according to the Urbanism Next blog. The research doesn’t address only city infrastructure needs once autonomous vehicles arrive but also secondary effects. Those include changes to retail business, city design and revenues, transit, and current planning and policies. “Most cities are unprepared for the impacts of new types of mobility,” Larco said. Even with bus ridership already diminishing due to the increased use of ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber, the conversations between the federal government and cities aren’t happening, he added. “Bus ridership in big cities is dropping, car ownership is dropping. What are governments doing to get ahead of this problem?” Larco asked. “Cities, states and federal governments are mostly focused on how to get autonomous vehicles on the road and are not thinking systemically at all. They are fixated on the technology itself.” During the briefing he presented new research, focusing on the positive and negative secondary effects of autonomous vehicles and new mobility in addition to proposing approaches to the technology Congress can use to shape cities of the future. “I talked about Urbanism Next work and focused on federal, state and local regulatory needs,” Larco said. “We had a great list of attendees, including people from a number of congressional offices as well as research entities from around D.C.”  After the briefing, Larco met with staff members from Blumenauer’s office and the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to discuss federal policy initiatives that could help communities prepare for changes. The staff of U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, the top Democrat on the committee, arranged to hold the briefing in the committee’s hearing room. Larco also discussed his research and possible urban changes with Washington, D.C., city leaders, speaking with 30-40 people about the effects of emerging technology on cities and how Washington should be preparing for the coming shift. The group included the directors of the city’s planning, transportation, and energy and environment departments and several chiefs of staff from the mayor’s office.   Larco, who was recently featured in Wired magazine in a story about the effects of autonomous vehicles on municipal budgets, also gave a June 21 TEDx Talk in College Park, Maryland, just outside Washington. Entitled “How Will Autonomous Vehicles Transform Our Cities?” the talk was a chance to “pull back the curtain to preview how autonomous vehicles will shape the future planning of our parks, cities and life as we know it.”  Afterward, Larco said he’s enthusiastic about sharing Urbanism Next’s research and using it to plan for shifting city landscapes. “There is a growing awareness and interest in the serious impacts emerging technologies are going to be having on cities,” he said. “This series of meetings and presentations in D.C. was a great example of how Urbanism Next and the University of Oregon are shaping the conversation with the federal government, cities and the general public.” —By Laurie Notaro, University Communications

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  • Landmark climate lawsuit will proceed

    First published in Around the O on May 8, 2018. A lawsuit filed by 21 young people, including two University of Oregon students, will move forward to trial after a federal appeals court rejected a government motion for dismissal. The suit seeks to compel the government to take more aggressive steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, arguing that the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights have been violated because federal agencies have failed to protect “essential public trust resources.” It claims the government created a national energy system that is doing long-term damage to the environment, imperiling their futures. An Oct. 29 trial date has been set. The suit was filed by 21 plaintiffs who were between 8 and 19 years old when it was filed. Two of them, Kelsey Juliana and Tia Hatton, are now students at the UO. The plaintiffs are represented by Our Children’s Trust. The Trump administration sought to stop the suit with an appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But a three-judge panel unanimously rejected the request, saying the issues raised by the government could be better dealt with at the trial level. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken is scheduled to hear the case at the federal courthouse in Eugene. The appelate decision was covered by numerous media outlets. For a sample, see "Trump administration just failed to stop a climate lawsuit brought by 21 kids" in The Washington Post. Information also is available on the Our Children's Trust website.

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