M.P.A.-E.S.P. Students Present Their Fall Midterm Briefings

M.P.A.-E.S.P. Students Present Their Fall Midterm Briefings

On Wednesday, October 8th, the students from the M.P.A. program in Environmental Science and Policy presented their midterm briefings for the workshop in Applied Earth Systems Management.  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 are a continuation of their summer workshop projects in which they focused on the scientific aspects behind these same environmental laws and agreements.

Projects this semester cover a range of topics including energy, global warming wildlife adaptation and water resource management. Four faculty members are working with students through this semester: Kathy Callahan, Steve Cohen, Tanya Heikkila and Andrea Schmitz.  Kathy Callahan, who recently stepped down from her position as the EPA deputy regional administrator of Region 2, has been working with a group that is examining a water commission act for the twenty-first century.  Steve Cohen, director of the M.P.A.-E.S.P. program and executive director of the Earth Institute, advises the team looking at climate change adaptation.  Tanya Heikkila, the associate director of the Columbia Water Center and an assistant professor at SIPA, has been advising the team addressing water resource management in Coastal Louisiana ecosystems and the team focusing on wildlife adaptation to global warming.  Andrea Schmitz, director of environment, health, and safety at ConEdison, has been working with the team examining solar energy research. 

Following the completion of the 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 for this fall.


H.R.2774 Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act of 2007
Faculty Advisor:  Andrea Schmitz

The Solar Energy Research and Advancement Act of 2007 workshop group, led by Andrea Schmitz, has been exploring the problems with current energy resources such as coal. The group researched issues such as exposure to heavy metals and run-off from mines and air-polluting emissions of coal burning energy plants. The bill proposes an alternative to coal and other pollution emitting energy sources.  Since the summer briefings, the workshop group has been analyzing the proposed solution of solar energy and focusing on the marketing and technical issues that will play a part in their finalized operational plan.  The group has been working on an operational design for this act and will continue to develop an operational plan to increase investor confidence and decentralize the market. In the coming weeks, the group will develop a contracting and staffing plan and create a budget.

S.2204 Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act
Faculty Advisor: Tanya Heikkila

The Global Warming Wildlife Survival Act workshop group, led by Tanya Heikkila this semester, will continue to create a management plan to establish the national strategy for facilitating the adaptation of wildlife populations and habitats to the impact of global warming that the act proposes.  The fall workshop group is researching and working on topics surrounding the bill.  The goals of the bill center around imperiled species. They include: 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 wildlife management. The group has focused the design of its management plan on the ability of certain options to fulfill criteria such as administrative efficiency and data collection and have compared multiple operational plan options.  In the coming weeks, the group will continue to develop a contracting and staffing plan and create a budget.

Title VII of the Water Resources Development Act:
Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Restoration
Professor Heikkila

Professor Heikkila has also been leading the fall workshop on the Title VII of the Water Resources Development Act: Coastal Louisiana Ecosystem Restoration. The legislative goals of the act are to protect and restore the Louisiana coastal ecosystem while minimizing infrastructure and economic damage from storming and flooding.  The legislative mandate on which the group has focused is the Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, for which the group has been creating an operational and staffing plan.  Professor Heikkila's group has analyzed the politics behind the protection that this task force seeks to implement.  The group has outlined objectives to balance protection and restoration and to strengthen assessment systems.  The group's next steps are to focus on contracting and staffing, to create a master calendar, and to plan the act's budget and revenues.

S 2355 The Climate Change Adaptation Act
Faculty Advisor: Steven Cohen

This fall’s Climate Change Adaptation Act workshop, led by the director of the M.P.A.-E.S.P. program Steve Cohen, has been exploring government policy, procedure and urgency in addressing climate change on coastlines.  The team aims to create an operational plan that will reduce the vulnerability to climate change in the U.S. The workshop group outlined its expected results at the midterm briefing: to establish new and more effective procedures to periodically assess risks from climate change; to incorporate adaptation to climate change into the planning, management and organization of the public and private sectors; and to carefully monitor results from these assessments and adaptations.  The group’s next steps will be to define the organization, contracting and staffing plan as well as to design the process of performance management.  The cohort will also spend time creating a budget and revenue as well as a cohesive master calendar to effectively apply the Climate Change Adaptation Act to the private and public sectors of vulnerable zones.

S. 2728 Twenty-First Century Water Commission Act of 2008
Professor Kathleen Callahan

Kathleen Callahan leads the fall workshop group that deals with the Twenty-First Century Water Commission Act of 2008.  This act proposes to establish a commission to develop a national water strategy that will address water quality and quantity issues that the United States faces and will face over the next 50 years.  At the midterm briefing, the group discussed how the committee will aggregate information using existing studies, assessments and regional hearings to achieve the goals of the commission.  The team’s presentation also outlined the goals, activities and actions involved in this process, such as creating an organizational structure, conducting research and tracking the progress of this research and hearings.  The team outlined both a first-year plan and five-year plan that included establishing a strong staff in the short term and reporting on research and conducting regional hearings in the long term.  Throughout the rest of the semester, Professor Callahan’s group will continue to work on the organizational, contracting and staffing plan.

To view the archives of Workshop Final Briefings, presentations and reports, please go to For more information on the M.P.A.-E.S.P. program, please contact Louise Rosen, associate director of the M.P.A.-E.S.P. Program at 212.854.3142 or via email at