Category: Rick Reibstein
By Rick Reibstein
Seven students this semester participated in a new directed study course performing research tasks related to climate change for state agencies. Each week they met and went over progress, reporting to each other on their work. They were supervised by Rick Reibstein, lecturer in environmental law and policy, who used his contacts from his career in state government to arrange the projects. On April 19, three of the students made an extended presentation to officials at the Department of Environmental Protection, and on April 25, all seven students will present their work to Matt Beaton, (a former student of this program), who is now the Commonwealth’s Secretary of the Environment.
Celia Simpson and Tara Moore used the “Tier 2” database, which includes information about chemical storage, to identify facilities in areas of high flood risk. Their work will be of help to the state’s Office of Technical Assistance (OTA), which is now engaged in training fire departments in how to reduce the vulnerability of communities to contamination from chemicals dispersed by more frequent and intense storm events. Qiyuan Fu and Sophia Xiong searched out reports of net-zero building projects and produced an analysis of the range of construction costs for the specialist at the Department of Energy Resources in charge of promoting net-zero buildings. Zach Schmidt, Sam Campbell and Sari Klein sorted through various approaches to determining the cumulative impact of environmental and health threats to communities, and mapped the vulnerability of communities to the increased risk of storm events disrupting ongoing cleanups at already contaminated sites. Their work will help DEP to evaluate approaches to identifying at-risk communities and their presentation was very well received.
In our last meeting the students shared these comments on their experience. Zach noted that it was an opportunity to understand how the government of Massachusetts works, and to get to know what is expected of you when working in the environmental field. The topics they covered were “very real topics facing state governments now”. Sari said that it was the “first professional experience in the environmental field” that she had participated in thus far at BU, and Sam noted how valuable it was to work with the state employees, and that the experience allowed for a lot of freedom in how they could approach the problem, while the advice received helped to maintain focus.
The students learned about waste sites and waste cleanup, chemicals used and stored in the state, flood risk, environmental justice, existing environmental information, relevant laws, and how buildings can become zero-energy and the practical aspects of that effort. They know a good deal now about how state governments do their work and they have had a taste of how good it can feel to contribute to the effort to protect the public, because their work will be used for that purpose. They made a real contribution. Celia and Tara learned how hard it is to download and access the Tier 2 data. This may help explain why fire departments have largely failed to use it, and how OTA can focus its efforts. Qiyuan and Sophia have done pioneering work, as it appears that no one else has pulled together the information that they found, and they have come up with some ideas for standardizing such reports. Zach, Sam and Sari showed DEP how they could use Google Earth in conjunction with the department’s GIS system to produce maps correlating information. Mark Smith, Director of DEP’s Office of Research and Standards, has thanked the Earth and Environment Department for the help given to DEP, noting that the students’ “work and presentations to MassDEP were fabulous and very helpful. I look forward to continuing collaboration with your Department and exploring other ways for students to do similar projects.”
Students interested in participating in this directed study course next year should contact Rick Reibstein at email@example.com. He will be in contact with state agencies through the summer and ready to describe potential projects relating to environmental topics, at the beginning of the Fall semester. Contact him to be on a list to be notified of specific information about these topics. They will likely include continuing some of the work described above, as well as new research tasks.
Richard Reibstein, who has been providing courses on environmental law and policy in the College of Arts and Sciences since 2000, now as part of the Earth and Environment department, was recently declared a “P2 Champion” of 2015 by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR), the premiere group for pollution prevention (P2) professionals. Congress declared in the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 that it is “the national policy of the United States that pollution should be prevented or reduced at the source whenever feasible”, before recycling or treatment or disposal.
Reibstein worked for twenty-seven years for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the state’s Toxics Use Reduction program, in an office that provides free technical assistance for pollution prevention. In that capacity he launched programs for environmentally preferable purchasing, training for schools and hospitals, and business environmental networks, and many events and publications to help companies and others reduce the use of toxics, energy and water.
According to the NPPR, the P2 Champion Award “celebrates an individual whose work has had an outstanding impact on implementing pollution prevention in one or more of the following areas: Setting pollution prevention vision and strategies; Leading and directing pollution prevention programs; Implementing pollution prevention projects; and/or Significant impact on pollution prevention achieved.” The most recent report by the NPPR on the achievements of P2 programs throughout the nation found that “From 2007-2009, approximately 90 P2 programs in the U.S. reported almost $6.6 billion in economic benefits; more than 7 billion pounds of pollution minimized or eliminated; approximately 16 billion gallons of water conserved; energy usage reduced by almost 2.5 billion kilowatts; over 33 billion pounds of greenhouse gases (GHG) no longer being released into the earth’s atmosphere associated with P2 activities.”
Reibstein told the Department of Earth & Environment that the fact that there are so many government programs having these great results is not widely known. He said that nearly two thousand companies and organizations used the program’s help, when none of them had to, and many had to overcome a fear of contact with government environmental agencies. It was only because the idea of reducing pollution by reducing the use of toxics that become toxic wastes, emissions, and discharges makes so much sense, and so often saves money, that businesses were happy to use the assistance service.
The article “Commentary: Our legislators are right, industry leaders have toxic reasoning” can be found online here.
To learn more about Reibstein’s work, check out his profile page.
Earth & Environment Lecturer Rick Reibstein has been featured in a new Huffington Post article. The article, “This Rocker Has a Heavy Metal Warning for Fellow Parents,” focuses on Jon Fishman, the drummer for the band Phish, and his campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of lead paint.
Reibstein and his research on the Regulated Community Compliance Project are featured prominently in the article. The article also recognizes recent work performed by Reibstein’s students who surveyed public awareness on lead-paint-related issues.
To read the entire article, click here.
In the report, Cleveland and Reibstein outline their argument for why universities should divest in fossil fuels. To read the executive summary to the article click here. To read the full report, click here.
To learn more about Cutler Cleveland’s work, check out his profile page.
To learn more about Rick Reibstein, check out his profile page.