in Applied Earth Systems Management
On Wednesday, December 2nd, the students from the MPA program in Environmental Science and Policy presented their final briefings for the Workshop course 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 first-hand the importance of both interpersonal relations and strategic thinking to the process of completing projects in an effective manner. Fall workshops are a continuation of the students’ summer workshop projects, in which they focus on the scientific aspects behind these same environmental laws and agreements.
Following the completion of these fall workshops, the spring semester for the MPA program brings actual clients into the workshops. Building on 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.
The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act workshop, led by Professor Kathleen Callahan, examined the Presidential allocation of $475 M 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 allowed 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 would 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
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% of their power generation in 2012 and 25% 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 shaped Title III of the Act, which uses a cap-and-trade system 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 would fall primarily under the Clean Air Markets Division of the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. Furthermore, it would 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 program implementation, 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 the emissions cap. Most importantly, they recognized that a cap-and-trade program alone cannot solve the complicated problem of global warming.
H.R.669: Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act
Professor Palmer’s Workshop group spent the past two semesters learning about the Nonnative Wildlife Invasion Prevention Act. This semester, the students in this group focused on the requirements necessary to implement the Act. As part of the proposed program design, the Secretary of the Interior would create regulations establishing a process for assessing the risk of all nonnative wildlife species in the United States. If successful, the process would result in observed decreases in invasions and associated damages. The program design also included the creation of a new set of guidelines, such as a documented evaluation of the introduction of new and potentially harmful species, in addition to possibilities for increasing public awareness about the dangers of invasive species and expending partnerships. To address the enforcement of the policy, the group accounted for the need of a new enforcement staff as well as 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
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 of a federal renewable electricity standard for electric utilities and the growth of renewable energy. By creating federal renewable energy credits that can be traded among utilities to comply with the standard, the Act encourages 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 main challenges of the Act include the following: 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 renewably energy credits, and that renewable sources of energy are intermittent and far from population centers. To address these challenges, proposed program design would begin by helping states transission to the federal program, lead to tracking and verification of renewable energy credits, improve the market exchange of credits, and ensure that issues of supply and transmission of renewable energy credits are addressed. If the Act is successful, there will be an increase in renewable capacity and a decrease in both air emissions and the price of renewable energy.