State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Environmental Science and Policy Students Focus on Management Issues

Members of the Waste-To-Energy Technology Act of 2011 group after their Final Briefings.

On Wednesday, November 30, students in the Master of Public Administration program in Environmental Science and Policy presented their final Workshop briefings for fellow students and staff at the School of International and Public Affairs. Students in the program conduct research and analysis in the Workshop course for each of the three semesters they spend in the program. By shifting the focus of their research each semester, students are able to gain a variety of skills and experiences addressing such issues as management, funding and legislative initiatives.

The Environmental Science and Policy program’s curriculum was developed by the Earth Institute and the School of International and Public Affairs and is designed to train students to become sophisticated public managers and policymakers. The Workshop course is just one component of the program that is designed to give students a more complete understanding of sustainability issues while gaining valuable professional experience.

Workshops are designed around a set of proposed state, federal or local environmental laws or international agreements that are selected by faculty advisors at the start of the program. Beginning in the summer semester, students work to convey scientific aspects of the proposed legislation to non-scientists. During the fall semester, the projects are focused on the operational design of the program and the management issues central to program implementation. Students examine issues related to budgets, grants and hiring staff, among other potential management issues.

Faculty advisers work with individual groups as advisors and mentors. The broad professional experience of this expert faculty gives students a sense of the challenges they will face as administrators and policy analysts and the understanding necessary to overcome these challenges.

“The Workshop challenges students in a simulated professional working experience where success is measured by the group’s ability to deliver quality work in accordance with the simulated client’s demands,” said Professor Irene Nielson.

The faculty includes Professor Kathy Callahan, associate director of the Columbia Water Center, who is a former deputy regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2; Matt Palmer, a full-time member of the faculty and an adviser to organizations such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NYC Parks, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and non-governmental organizations on conservation, restoration and ecological management; Irene Nielson, a 2005 graduate of the MPA Environmental Science and Policy program who serves as innovations coordinator for the EPA Region 2; Lloyd Kass, director of operations for the New York office of Willdan Energy Solutions and adjunct assistant professor of International and Public Affairs at SIPA; and Steven Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute and professor in the practice of public affairs at Columbia.

Students work in groups of 12 and select managers from their peers to guide them through the project.

“Managing the workshop has been a valuable experience in understanding the big picture of the many components that go into designing a program, as well as keeping together the many threads of input from my group members,” said Mea Halperin, a manager for the group focusing on Waste to Energy Technology Act of 2011.

Current workshop projects are detailed below. Next semester, students will take on projects working for “real world” clients, using the skills they’ve learned in these policy-making simulations to find the most efficient and sustainable solutions for them.

Workshop projects from previous semesters are available on the ESP Website. Fall Workshop presentations will be posted when they come available. Below are short summaries of the projects for the summer and fall semesters.

H.R. 965: Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act

Faculty Adviser: Matthew Palmer

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act focuses on concerns about the overuse of antibiotic drugs in agriculture and associated threats to human health. Heavy use of antibiotics in industrial agricultural facilities can lead to the development of an antibiotic-resistant pathogen. This resistance poses a threat to the health of both humans and animals. This act will require a thorough review of agricultural antibiotic use by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Under this act, any new drug use must be shown to be harmless to human health, and approval of existing uses will be withdrawn until all safety standards are met. This act plans to protect not just the American public, but also recipients of exported American meat.

H.R 66: Waste-To-Energy Technology Act of 2011

Faculty Adviser: Irene Nielson

The Waste-To-Energy Technology Act addresses both the provision of sewage and solid waste management and the demand for energy generation. The bill will allow 30% tax credits for investment in waste-to-energy facilities, and will also certify landfills and waste water treatment facilities as qualified waste-to-energy facilities. The act plans to establish a certification program that focuses on balancing economic and environmental goals. Facilities will be assessed for certification based on criteria such as commercial viability of projects, net impact in avoiding or reducing air pollutants, cost of generated and stored energy, and possible risks posed to environmental and human health.  This bill will create new tax credits for qualifying waste-to-energy investments that produce affordable energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting air quality and human health.

H.R. 594: The Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011

Faculty Adviser: Lloyd Kass

The Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011 is a bill designed to promote sustainable coastal development, creating coastal jobs by supporting sustainable fisheries and fishing communities and by revitalizing waterfronts. The goal of this act is to create a Coastal Jobs Creation Grant Program, implemented by the Secretary of Commerce. The program will include initiatives for research of economic and social data related to the management of recreational and commercial fisheries. Efforts will also focus on establishing and implementing state recreational fishing registry programs, as well as training and deploying observers authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The proposed program will also seek to preserve coastal resources and restore waterfronts and ports. This program provides more opportunities for research into improvements in coastal observation technologies, as well as collection of fishery and marine mammal stock assessments data.

S 4178. New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act of 2011

Faculty Advisor: Steve Cohen

The New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act of 2011 is dedicated to funding solar energy efforts in New York. Designed to enable the rapid and sustainable development of a robust solar power industry within New York State, the act promotes the creation of a diverse and competitive solar energy market by encouraging energy providers to invest in solar energy resources. The act will require New York energy providers to purchase solar renewable energy credits from solar panel owners. With a steadily rising percentage of credits that must be purchased, the act strives to increase the use of renewable energy in the state. Among the many goals of the act are the creation of jobs, reduction of long-term costs of energy generation, increased reliability of the state’s grid, and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, or The FRAC Act

Faculty Adviser: Kathleen Callahan

The FRAC Act focuses on the drinking water resources, public health, and environmental concerns surrounding hydraulic fracturing wells. Hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, is a process that involves pumping fluids into underground shale formations in order to extract oil and natural gas from the rock pores. This act seeks to repeal the exemption of hydrofracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act in order to provide a safer environment for the areas surrounding hydrofracking wells. The act will require full disclosure of all chemical constituents to be injected into the ground for the purpose of hydrofracking. This will keep the public well-informed, and provide for better treatment in the case of a medical emergency.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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12 years ago

[…] joining the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) Class of 2012. After completing his Capstone Workshop project for the program, in which his group had to analyze and create an implementation plan for […]