Environmental science and policy students start their summer policy analysis workshops


Environmental science and policy students start their summer policy analysis workshops

by Allison Day
|June 23, 2021

Photo: David Maiolo

Columbia University’s Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy Class of 2022 students have just started their workshop on Applied Earth Systems Management. Students spend this summer workshop doing an in-depth analysis of a piece of proposed, but not yet enacted, federal, state, or local US law.

The five teams in this year’s cohort are each assigned a different piece of legislation to review under the direction of a pedagogical advisor. Each week a rapporteur from the team reports to the rest of the cohort on their findings on different issues related to the implementation of the bills, such as the environmental problem the legislation is addressing, the science behind it and the science behind the proposed solution to the problem.

Each workshop team works with the legislation assigned to them throughout the summer semester so that they can understand the bill backwards and upstream and downstream. Legislative texts under scrutiny this year focus on identifying environmental justice communities, financial support for clean energy projects, cleaning up water and habitats, proliferation of plastic waste and carbon emissions. from agriculture.

HR 516: Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act, 2021

One of the many unfortunate realities of the climate crisis is that it does not affect everyone equally. Environmental justice communities are those that have been disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change and other environmental issues. Historically, there has not been a comprehensive central registry of environmental justice communities in the United States.

A workshop team led by Professor Louise Rosen will review the Environmental Justice Mapping and Data Collection Act 2021, which promises to create an up-to-date database of vulnerable communities that will be maintained by the Agency for Environmental Protection. Under this bill, a committee made up of several different federal agencies will be responsible for identifying and directing investments in these communities.

By identifying environmental justice communities through this legislation, investments in climate resilience and pollution reduction can be used where they are needed most.

HR 806: Clean Energy Acceleration and Sustainability Act

The transition to renewable energies is arguably one of the most important steps that must be taken to avoid catastrophic global warming. However, finding funding for renewable energy projects can be a significant obstacle.

The Clean Energy and Sustainability Accelerator Act will strengthen the United States’ position as a leader in renewable energy by providing financial support for low and zero emission projects. This bill will be examined by the team from Professor Steven Cohen’s workshop.

A non-profit company created by Bill will invest in clean energy projects and start-ups through a series of programs. The bill also provides that 40% of investments will go to communities disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.

With this bill, the United States will take one step closer to the transition to a fair, clean energy economy.

HR 610: San Francisco Bay Restoration Act

San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary in North America. It is home to an extraordinarily diverse ecosystem, a rich human history, and is a popular recreation site. Unfortunately, human development in and around the area degrades the environmental quality of the bay. Some examples are pollution from shipping, agricultural runoff and the detection of fire retardant chemicals in the bay, which can cause neurological damage.

The team at Professor Howard Apsan’s workshop will review the San Francisco Bay Restoration Act, which was proposed as an amendment to the Clean Water Act to address these environmental concerns. focusing on habitat restoration, protection and enhancement. The San Francisco Bay Restoration Act will achieve its goals by building on the work already done by stakeholders in the counties and municipalities that all depend on the bay.

The bill provides funding for four key areas: habitat restoration and protection, pollution prevention, reduction and elimination, climate change resilience and ensuring equitable solutions to the problems facing the environment. San Francisco Bay faces.

S. 984: Plastics Liberation Act 2021

It is a well-known fact that the United States produces more plastic waste than any other country, but what is less known is that less than 10% of American plastic waste is collected in the country for recycling, and about 50% of US plastic waste is shipped overseas. .

The Break Free From Plastics Act of 2021 goes beyond to address this massive plastic waste problem. The team at Professor Robert Cook’s workshop will examine this omnibus bill which covers a wide variety of issues, including single-use plastic packaging, standardization of recycling and labeling requirements without rinsing, and studies. on pollution by microfibers.

The bill has several parts that each provide solutions on how the federal government can change America’s unhealthy relationship with plastic. Some of the more innovative solutions included in the bill are requiring plastics producers to create non-profit organizations responsible for managing plastic waste, reducing greenwashing by banning non-compostable bags from being tinted green or brown, and grants for innovative projects aimed at reducing plastic waste.

S. 1072: Climate Management Act

Agriculture has always been an important facet of the fight against the climate crisis. Traditional farming practices have resulted in carbon emissions and mismanagement of forests and coastal areas which are essential for capturing carbon. In addition to this, the impacts of non-environmentally friendly agriculture tend to have a disproportionate impact on low-income, indigenous and minority communities.

Professor Matt Palmer’s workshop team will analyze the Climate Stewardship Act, which aims to improve the health of vital ecosystems to reduce and capture carbon emissions. Beyond nature-based solutions, the bill also focuses on developing employment to put young Americans to work and places a strong emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. looking for solutions.

Some notable programs under this bill include funding for socially disadvantaged and first-time farmers, major reforestation efforts, and restoration of coastal wetlands. All of these aspects are necessary to improve the resilience of the United States to the impacts of climate change.

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On June 30, the workshop teams will each give a mid-term briefing on the progress they have made in the scientific research behind their teams’ invoices. This will be followed by a final briefing on August 11 which will be the culmination of their summer analyzes. These information sessions are open to the public to attend virtually. RSVP here for mid-term briefings and here for final briefings.

While these bills may not be enacted in reality, the work of the workshop teams on these pieces of legislation will continue until the fall as they simulate what it would be like to put them in place. artwork.

Allison Day is an alumnus of the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program, class of 2021.

If you would like to know more about the MPA-ESP program, please contact the Deputy Director, Stephanie Hoyt ([email protected]).

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