MPA-ESP Students Present Their Fall Midterm Briefings

MPA-ESP Students Present Their Fall Midterm Briefings

posted: October 18, 2007

On Wednesday, October 10th, the students from the MPA program in Environmental Science and Policy program presented their midterm briefings for the Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management course.  The workshop midterm briefings are delivered at the midpoint of semester-long projects on a proposed but not yet enacted state, federal or local environmental law or international agreement, 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.  They follow as a continuation from their summer workshop projects, where they focused on the scientific aspects behind these same environmental laws and agreements.

Projects this semester range from national ocean policy to global warming, energy to biological diversity. Four faculty members are working with students through this semester, including Kathy Callahan, Steve Cohen, Tanya Heikkila, and Andrea Schmitz.  Kathy Callahan, working with the National Ocean Policy Group, is the EPA Deputy Regional Administrator of Region 2.  Steve Cohen, the Director of the MPA-ESP program and Executive Director of the Earth Institute, advises the team looking at global warming.  Tanya Heikkila is an Assistant Professor at SIPA and a researcher for the Earth Institute and advises the teams addressing the Great Lakes Water Resources and the Convention on Biological Diversity.  Andrea Schmitz is the Director of Environment, Health, and Safety at ConEdison, and works with the team examining energy policy. 

Energy for Our Future Act

With energy needs constantly on the rise, the Energy for Our Future Act is attempting to increase the reliance on solar energy and decrease the use of coal.  Coal, a nonrenewable resource, accounts for pollution ranging from smog to acid rain, mercury to carbon dioxide emissions.  Focusing on solar power, this group looked to encourage utilities to produce renewable electricity through minimum renewable generation requirements and research and development.  In deciding to focus on solar power, they considered the pros and cons to this resource, the pros including that it is highly endorsed by numerous powerful companies (including Sierra Club, NRDC, etc), it is a bipartisan company, and the technology is viable.  The Cons to solar energy include that is .1% of the electricity market, it lacks investment since the 1970s, and solar lobby lacks political power.  This teams plan includes making solar cost competitive by 2015, following a ‘hands off’ approach.  In the coming weeks, they will develop a contracting and staffing plan and create a budget.

Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s goal is to preserve biological diversity and ensure equal resource sharing.  In creating a management plan for this convention, this group chose to house this convention through the Coral Reef Task Force, as it is low cost, has a fast implementation, and addresses long term goals.  After creating an organizational hierarchy, this team developed a monitoring protocol and reporting mechanism.  Three goals they focused on included identifying components of biological diversity critical to maintaining ecosystems, developing concrete efforts in areas of greatest need or potential gain, and recognizing actions with an adverse impact.  This team will continue through the semester to organize a staffing plan and budget and review plan. 

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact

This team began their presentation by introducing the compact they are working with, which is a US agreement between eight states that aims to improve management of water resources, promote sustainable and responsible use of the water, and avoid future conflict.  This compact is crucial because declining lake levels has led to climate change and global water shortages.  The goals of the compact are to improve scientific knowledge of the basin, limit diversions and other withdrawals, and coordinate and enhance conservation efforts.  After evaluating the different options for approaching a plan for this compact, this team focused their efforts on enacting at the state level and created a program design.  The will continue with their staffing plan, budget, and performance management for the remainder of the semester.

Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act

An ever-increasing international topic, global warming is the general increase in average global temperatures due to a build-up of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.  The US is the largest emitter of these greenhouse gases and thus this Act looks to incrementally cut back on emissions within the US.  Its goal is to cut to 1/3 of 80% of 1990 levels by 2030, cut to 2/3 of 80% of 1990 levels by 2040, and cut to 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.  This bill has wide support from many NGOs, including Environmental Defense, NRDC, and Union of Concerned Scientists, as well as many members of the Senate, some private sector insurance companies, and over 670 mayors.  This team began by looking at what would need to be done in the first year, which includes establishing renewable/low-carbon/efficiency requirements for electric generation, establishing a schedule for emissions standards for vehicle emissions, and establishing five grant programs within 180 days. For the remaining weeks, this team will create a staffing plan, budgeting allocation, performance measurements, and a year calendar. 

National Ocean Policy

The National Ocean Policy Act was developed to address the problems of unwise land use and eroding soil leading to land sinking and land loss.  In creating an implementation plan for this act, the team opted to use NOAA to house the act and identified three-month deliverables and one year deliverables.  Their program design goals include maintaining stakeholder support, prioritizing short-term mandates, and preparing for long-term initiatives.  Their six design elements are arranging funding, initiating research, educating managers, writing regulations, finalizing appointments, and submitting deliverables.  Having created a program design, in the coming weeks the team will develop a staffing plan, budget, performance metrics, and one-year timeline.