Monday, September 19, 2022

Short Takes – 9-19-22

Deal averting railroad strike has potential to fall apart. article. Pre-election strike could cause problems for Democrats with swing voters. ““I would be surprised if the bargaining committee misread what the rank and file would support. That doesn’t mean that it will pass with supermajorities,” Bruno said. “That will signal a level of continuing grievance on the part of the membership. It wouldn’t surprise me if a fairly substantial number of members voted ‘no’ in part because of how genuinely abused they feel.””

China has returned helium-3 from the moon, opening door to future technology. opinion piece. Somewhat simplistic look at US-Chinese moon competition. Pull quote: “Many reasons exist for returning to the moon: science, commerce and the bragging rights that translate into soft political power. However, China’s return of helium-3 suggests that the moon could become the Persian Gulf of the mid to late 21st century. Clean and abundant fusion energy would change the world in ways that can barely be evaluated.”

Better Human-Machine Coordination to Thwart Growing Threats to the U.S. Power Grid. article. Pull quote: “The U.S. grid is far more complicated than it was a few decades ago, something Srivastava attributes to the competitive electricity market created in the late 1990s and to the rise in small-scale power sources like home solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations, both of which have tangled the paths power takes from plant to substation to consumer.”

The Inflation Reduction Act Is the Start of Reclaiming Critical Mineral Chains. article. Pull quote: “China refines 68 percent of the world’s nickel, 40 percent of its copper, 59 percent of its lithium, and 73 percent of its cobalt. More importantly, China holds 78 percent of the world’s manufacturing capacity for EV batteries, the bulk of the world’s production of solar panels, and three-quarters of the world’s lithium-ion battery factories.”

Building a Robust Drone Security Framework for Safer UAS Integration into National Airspace System. article. FAA puff piece. Pull quote: “The FAA continues to work extensively with our security partners to build a robust drone security framework that will enable safe and secure drone integration into the NAS, and the National Action Plan is part of that. Further, mandatory registration, remote identification, critical infrastructure protection, and drone detection and mitigation testing are vital steps forward to ensure the safe and secure integration of these systems into our nation’s airspace.”

Whisky Boom Stresses Remote Scottish Island. article. Pull quote: “While its thriving distilleries mean it has more jobs than many of its island neighbors, locals say young families often leave the island because they can’t afford houses. People from the British mainland can afford to pay more, while tourism—most of it whisky related—has swallowed up much of Islay’s housing stock for use as vacation rentals.” And what happens when the taste for scotch drops off for the next new fad?

Private Drillers Are Hitting Their Limits. article. More problems in the oil patch. Pull quote: “The constraints will likely lead many private producers to level out activity or sell themselves to larger companies that would temper their growth, executives and analysts say. A pullback could crimp overall U.S. oil production. Private producers hold around one-fifth of the Permian’s most valuable acreage, analysts say.”

EPA OIG: CSB Continues to Struggle. article. Nice, short review of CSB’s troubled past. Pull quote: “The EPA OIG’s review will serve as additional ammunition for the agency’s critics. It also will most certainly shape the early tenure of CSB Board Member Steve Owens who joined the agency earlier this year. Owens presently serves as the agency’s Interim Executive Authority. President Joseph Biden recently nominated Owens to serve as CSB Chair. If Owens is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he will be taking the helm of an agency that profoundly struggles to carry out its important statutory mission.”

1 comment:

Rosearray said...

There is an under-appreciated problem with hiring Investigators (and perhaps other staff positions) at the CSB. A recent article in Chemical & Engineering News by Jeff Johnson includes interviews with the CSB's Mr. Owens and Dr. Johnson that show they have a recognition of the bureaucratic "hiring problem" at the CSB:

In the Discussion Central on the AIChE Engage website, retired CSB Investigator Steve Cutchen provided the following comments:

When I was working for the CSB, hiring investigators was problematic. The office of personnel management had definitions for spots that we had to fit in to. Investigator could end up with an applicant from the military (that gave them priority) that had experience in investigating roadside IEDs. Not really what we were looking for, but priority because they were ex-military.

We had to try to craft and manage our open positions in order to limit applicants to people that had background in CSB-specific subject matter. That did not mean everyone was a chemical engineer. We had chemistry majors, human factors majors, law school graduates... but that diversity brought broad perspective. All of my colleagues, regardless of degree, were sharp witted and quick to grasp safety concepts. Being open-minded, we really worked better as a group than my experience in industry with a full engineering team might suggest.

At the time, the agency would skirt the process by hiring engineering college students as interns under a special government program, and then offering them jobs as a result of their performance. We would then mentor them to full investigators. We had some wonderful folks as a result. But I'm not sure that process still exists.

I came into the agency as a 31 year chemical industry engineer/manager with expertise in process control, process engineering, hazard analysis, and as world-wide instructor for advanced incident investigation, specializing in human factors. Yet I had to wait for a slot to be designed that would allow the agency to make me an offer that would exclude non-experienced but otherwise priority candidates.

It seems that the recent cadre of new investigators are well qualified. But they don't have the luxury of working as a "back-bencher" on major incident investigations while being taught and mentored to the level needed to be investigators-in-charge. They are thrown into the deep end simply as a result of a numbers issue.

I really hope that the new board members will embrace the history of the CSB and set a workplace environment that allows for the re-creation the type of investigation cadre I was so honored to work with.

I correspond with Jeff Johnson, and included Steve's remarks about the hiring process. Jeff had the following response to me:
The hiring problem came up in interview several times. It is even tougher than you and Steven describe. ... Oh and this is one reason looking for rehires.

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