A STEP toward safer oil trains?
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and 15 of her Senate colleagues want more money for oil train safety. In a letter sent last Friday to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, the senators asked for funding to create a "Safe Transportation Energy Products Fund" (STEP). The fund would cover the cost of oil train-related rulemaking, studies, inspections, accident response planning and first responder training. It would also support efforts by DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to improve safety standards for tank cars used to transport crude oil.
The request for the money comes as work begins on 2015 appropriations bills. The proposed fund would be included in the U.S. Department of Transportation's budget. There was no dollar amount in the letter, but President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget included a $40 million request for the fund. "Crude-by-rail" shipments have soared in the U.S. lately, driven largely by a boom in North Dakota's Bakken oil fields. The number of crude oil-filled tank cars originating in the U.S. rose by an estimated 1,251 percent from 2010 to 2013, according to the American Association of Railroads. The shipments have raised safety concerns. Crude oil trains crashed and burned last year in North Dakota, Alabama and — fatally — in Quebec. "The resurgence of American oil and natural gas production has created new opportunities," wrote the senators, "but also new challenges." — B.L.
Parks district gets a public hearing
The Seattle City Council hears public comments tonight (6 p.m.) about the Metropolitan Parks District proposal put forward by Mayor Ed Murray. Under the plan, the district would charge a property tax equal to $0.42 per $1,000 of assessed value, which would raise roughly $54 million per year, according to the Mayor's Office. Supporters of the district argue that tthe extra funding is needed to help pay a $267 million tab for parks maintenance backlogs. Opponents say voters would not have enough control over the district and think a levy would be a better option. Crosscut will have a story later tonight.
Bezos gives big to Fred Hutch
Jeff Bezos is on a local donation roll. Geekwire sez the Amazon CEO and his family just wrote a $20 million check (their second, the first was for $10 million) to Seattle’s renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The money is earmarked for the research into “novel cancer immunotherapies”— a Hutch specialty. Jeff B. has also donated $10 million to MOHAI's new Bezos Center for Innovation and, more recentrly, invested in local startup Juno Therapeutics, another cancer research outfit.
As for the Hutch gift, the Bezos family's 2009 contribution helped fund research that is paying off for patients with certain kinds of leukemia and lymphoma. “Seeing our initial investment translated into a therapy that is truly changing patients’ lives in a profound way is so motivating," said Jeff's mom Jackie Bezos, in a press release. "It gives us great optimism for the future.” Us too. (And have we mentioned Crosscut's Spring Member Drive?) — M.B.
First there was Thermobooth, a take off on the old photo booth. (Skin contact between subjects snaps the picture.) Now, there is the KISS-KAM. We’re not talking about (lower case) kiss cam here, like the ones at places like LA’s Staples Center where Lakers fans-in-love – most recently, Sir Paul McCartney and wife Nancy Shevell – smooch for the hoops crowd. We're talking a camera that is totally lip-operated. This no-button shooter comes with a see-through, multi-tasking OLED panel that triples as viewfinder, shutter and flash. Kiss the panel. Take the shot. "You look through the viewfinder, see something you love and give the viewfinder a kiss to capture the image," KISS-Kam designer Talia Radford told dezeen magazine. KISS-CAM and other Radford prototypes will be on display at the Confessions of Design exhibition this week in (where else?) Milan. — M.B.
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