Education News

M.P.A. in Environmental Science and Policy Students Present Their Fall Final Briefings

2009-12-16

On Wednesday, December 2, the students from the M.P.A. in Environmental Science and Policy program presented their final briefings for the workshop in applied earth systems management. The workshop final briefings are the culmination of semester-long projects on a proposed but not yet enacted environmental law or treaty with an emphasis on management issues. During the fall semester, these projects focus on the operational design of the program and the management issues central to program implementation. During this management simulation, students learn firsthand the importance of both interpersonal relations and strategic thinking in the process of completing projects in an effective manner. Fall workshops are a continuation of the students’ summer workshop projects, in which they focused on the scientific aspects behind these same environmental laws and agreements.

Steve Cohen, the director of the M.P.A. in Environmental Science and Policy program as well as an advisor for one of the five workshop groups, recognizes the value of the project: “The fall workshop builds on summer projects where students analyzed the science of a number of key environmental issues. In the fall workshop students focused on the implementation of governmental programs designed to address these issues. The workshops give students the opportunity to work on environmental problems from theoretical conception and policy formulation to actual implementation and organizational management.”

Projects this semester covered a range of topics including policies on clean energy, water management, and non-native species invasion prevention. The workshop brings together the expertise of experienced faculty who are practitioners in the field. Five faculty members advised the workshops this semester: Lloyd Kass, Kathy Callahan, Steve Cohen, Matthew Palmer and Andrea Schmitz.

Lloyd Kass joined the workshop faculty this fall. Professor Kass has served as the director of the Energy Department of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and a project manager at Wildan Energy Solutions. This semester, he worked with the group focusing on the Coastal and Ocean Observation Systems Act. Professor Kathy Callahan returns to the workshop this semester, bringing over 30 years of experience working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which included experiences managing the Superfund Program and Region II’s environmental planning division. Professor Callahan advised the team studying the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act. Professor Steven Cohen brings his expertise in public management to the workshop—his management books are indispensable guides for public management scholars and are especially useful for students in the M.P.A. E.S.P. and other M.P.A. graduate programs and related fields. Professor Cohen advised the cohort working on the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. Also teaching the workshop this semester is Professor Matthew Palmer, who has served as an advisor to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, NYC Parks, NY State DEC, NJ DEP, and several NGOs on conservation, restoration and ecological management issues and whose research focuses on conservation, restoration and ecosystem function. Professor Palmer advised the team analyzing the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act. Finally, Professor Andrea Schmitz, who serves as a senior manager for the Consolidated Edison Company of New York, Inc. (Con Edison), led the team working with a group on the American Renewable Energy Act.

Justin Mankin

Following the completion of these fall workshops, the spring semester for the M.P.A. program brings actual clients into the workshops. Working off of the foundational knowledge already established in the fall semester, the spring workshops aim to introduce the students to a new level of professional work while incorporating the students' research from the past two semesters. Below are summaries of the workshop projects that were completed this fall.

Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 S.171
Faculty Advisor: Lloyd Kass

Professor Lloyd Kass led the team analyzing the Coastal and Ocean Observation System Act of 2009 (S.171). S.171 aims to develop and implement a system to track and analyze coastal and oceanographic observations with the mission of improving the warning and reaction structure for extreme climate and natural hazards. Through these efforts, the act aims to enhance homeland security, support maritime operations, and improve management of resources from coastal and ocean areas. At the final briefing the group conveyed the goals of the act emphasizing the need for real-time modeling in shaping those goals, also taking into account the certification processes and previous case studies, such as the work of the Rutgers University Coastal Ocean Observation Laboratory (RUCOOL) and the projected budgetary plans needed to implement the act. The group also focused on developing a plan to track the work of the committee down through the work of regional organizers, in order to evaluate the accuracy and effectiveness of the systems.

Silvia Cruz

Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act
Faculty Advisor: Kathleen Callahan

The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act workshop, led by Professor Kathleen Callahan, examined the presidential allocation of $475 million in 2010 for multi-agency restoration of the Great Lakes. The bill provides a collaborative approach to tackling four critical environmental problems facing the Great Lakes: environmental degradation from invasive species, toxic substances, wastewater discharges, and wetland degradation. At the final briefing, students introduced the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, a two-part program designed to achieve natural habitat restoration and water quality improvement in the Great Lakes. The first component of the program involved the creation of a Grant Coordination Branch in order to centralize grant processing and administration, streamlining the funds allocation process for toxic remediation, wastewater facility upgrades, and wetland restoration. The second component of the program featured the Ballast Water Coordination Branch, which centralized responsibility by developing a federal capacity for ballast water management. The long-term goal of this program would be to reduce the introduction of aquatic invasive species into the area. While political, policy, and technological challenges are anticipated, the group’s performance management plan allows for ways to overcome the obstacles to maintain progress towards the program’s objectives. By bringing a diverse group of stakeholders together and centralizing the funding and enforcement process, reaching the program’s immediate objectives will contribute to the achievement of broader goals of natural habitat restoration and water quality improvement in the Great Lakes.

American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009
Faculty Advisor: Steve Cohen

Steve Cohen advised the group working on the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which seeks to promote clean energy, more energy efficient technology, global warming pollution reduction, and to create an economy based on these practices. Specific goals of the bill include: requiring utilities to use renewable energy for 6 percent of their power generation in 2012 and 25 percent by 2025, making clean coal a reality, providing greater incentives for electric vehicles, and furthering installation of Smart Grid and Electricity Transmission. This fall, the team focused on developing approaches for successful implementation, which included an agency staffing plan, comprehensive budget, and detailed program timeline. The group’s proposed program design shapes Title III of the act, which uses a system of Cap and Trade to restrict the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by selected industries and to create a market for pollution reduction. By enhancing existing structures within the Environmental Protection Agency, the program will fall primarily under the Clean Air Markets Division of the EPA’s Air and Radiation division. Furthermore, it will employ the Commodity Future Trading Commission, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and other agencies to be responsible for regulating aspects of the program, such as allowance trading and carbon offsets. The group also proposed a timeline for the implementation of the program, with the official launch of the mandatory trading phase beginning after two years of a preparatory phase and voluntary trading phase. To ensure the success of this program, the group listed several internal performance indicators, such as the adherence to a master calendar, outreach and education, and contract oversight, as well as external indicators, such as allowance trading volume and compliance with cap. Most importantly, they recognized that Cap and Trade alone cannot solve the complicated problem of global warming.

Britni Steingard

H.R.669: Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act
Faculty Advisor: Matthew Palmer

Professor Palmer’s Workshop group spent this semester learning about the Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act. This bill asks that the Secretary of the Interior establish a national strategy to assist native wildlife populations and habitats to adapt to environmental changes due to global warming. The bill aims to achieve this goal through research and creating new coping strategies for impacted species. The goals of the bill center around imperiled species; enhancing the monitoring of current and prospective programs, guiding restorative efforts with its newly established advisory board, establishing corridors for wildlife, reducing threats that are not related to climate, and improving the management of wildlife. This semester, the students in this group focused on the necessary requirements to implement the Act. They proposed that the Secretary of the Interior would need to create regulations establishing a process for assessing the risk of all nonnative wildlife species in the United States. If successful, there would be an observed decrease in invasions and associated damages. The team explored paths to increase public awareness about the dangers of invasive species, as well as outlets for expanding partnerships. The group also created a new set of guidelines, which includes a documented evaluation of the introduction of new and potentially harmful species. The group also addressed the enforcement of the policy, accounting for the need of a new enforcement staff and the creation of a new declaration, which would revise and update standing rules and guidelines concerning the wildlife in American ecosystems.

H.R. 890: American Renewable Energy Act
Faculty Advisor: Andrea Schmitz

Andrea Schmitz brought her expertise in the field of energy and her practical experience in management to her student group that focused on the American Renewable Energy Act. Professor Schmitz’s team examined the possibility for a federal renewable electricity standard for electric utilities and the growth of renewable energy. The act urges utility providers to develop renewable capabilities such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and landfill gas, marine and hydrokinetic, or new and additional hydroelectric sources. The program design would begin at the state program transition, then lead to credit racking and verification, improve the market exchange and increase supply and transition of renewable energy credits. The main challenges of this program design are: that state renewable requirements either vary or do not exist, the lack of standardization among regional renewable energy credit tracking systems and incomplete coverage, the difficulty in maintaining the integrity of renewable energy credit, that there may be no national market exchange to trade renewable energy credits, and that renewable sources are intermittent and far from population centers. If the act is successful, there will be an increase in renewable capacity and a decrease in both the price of renewable energy and air emissions.

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To learn more about workshop presentations and reports, please click here: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/mpaenvironment/pages/news_briefing_fall09.html