State of the Planet

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Uncovering the Science behind Environmental Legislation

By Maria Gracia Aguilar

The Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy (MPA-ESP) is a one-year program focused on developing sustainability professionals ready to solve complex environmental problems through public policy. Every semester, as part of the core curriculum, MPA-ESP students embark on a series of Workshops in Applied Earth Systems Management and Applied Earth Systems Policy Analysis. These courses aim to mirror real-life work conditions through which students are given problem-solving exercises to work on as a team. Students learn by doing, taking on the toughest sustainability issues in both class simulations and for real-world clients.

The MPA-ESP Class of 2019 presented the preliminary results of their Summer Workshops on June 27, 2018.

The cohort was divided into five teams of 10 – 12 students each and received a proposed but not yet enacted state, federal or local environmental legislation that addresses an important public policy problem. Each team has been delivering weekly outputs that take an in-depth look into the environmental problems addressed in their bills while also explaining the science behind that problem. Their research has included possible solutions, scientific issues and controversies that may arise, and indicators required to define and measure success. The students delivered their midterm briefings on June 27, and presented the preliminary results from each team’s scientific analysis. Here is a brief description of the bills being addressed this summer:

H.R. 1674: Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act

Julia Koppman Norton, Class of 2019, presenting the preliminary results for the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act.

Faculty Advisor: Professor Howard Apsan

This bill amends the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in order to direct the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Management Conference of the Long Island Sound Study to strengthen the implementation of a comprehensive conservation and management plan for Long Island Sound.


The New York State Clean Energy Technology Production Program

Faculty Advisor: Professor Steven Cohen

New York State has ambitious goals to reduce its greenhouse gasses and transition to a renewable resource-based economy. In order to achieve this, the bill creates an energy program focused on large business and institutions that are normally not able to qualify for energy efficiency and renewable energy funding from the state, such as hospitals and universities.

958: Coral Reef Sustainability Through Innovation Act of 2017

Faculty Advisor: Professor Bob Cook

This bill amends The Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000 due to an immediate need to continue to innovate and provide novel solutions to scale. S. 958 authorizes federal agencies that serve on the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force to establish and manage prize competitions to protect coral reefs. The goal is to foster greater understanding, monitoring and sustainability of this ecosystems, prioritizing those communities, environments or industries in distress from reef degradation.

H.R. 3444: Food Recovery Act of 2017

Faculty Advisor: Professor Matthew Palmer

Between one third and one half of all food produced is never eaten. In order to address this, the Food Recovery Act of 2017 looks to decrease the incidence of food waste by focusing on five sources: farms, retail and restaurants, schools, food date labeling requirements, and consumers.

H.R. 4417: Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2017

Faculty Advisor: Professor Louise Rosen

Every U.S. coastal state has reported the occurrence of harmful algal blooms. To tackle this problem, H.R. 4417 amends the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 to reauthorize the national harmful algal bloom and hypoxia program and the action strategy of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia.

Students will be presenting their final results this Wednesday, August 8 in Kellogg Center, International Affairs Building–register here!

Additionally, you can review the final reports and presentations developed in previous years for the summer, fall and spring semesters.

Don’t forget to follow MPA-ESP on social media: Facebook, InstagramTwitter.

Maria Gracia Aguilar is an alum of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy, Class of 2018.

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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