WASHINGTON, PA (Aug. 10, 2015) — Now in its fourth year, the Center for Energy Policy and Management (CEPM) of Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) is quickly becoming a major player in local energy research and policy, and the future is bright for this young program.
With two major studies already under its belt, a successful Energy Lecture Series now planning for its fourth year, and the creation of a public resource center on shale gas development underway, program director Diana Stares said CEPM is focused on honing its current offerings and expanding its projects and research opportunities into new areas.
“I’m thrilled with how far we’ve come,” Stares said. “One of the key things that has been instrumental in our success is building relationships with other organizations – NGOs, other academic institutions, professional and business organizations, and private entities – that have enabled us to broaden our impact, allowing us to do more than we could have done on our own.”
The first of CEPM’s major research projects, “Getting the Boom Without the Bust: Guiding Southwestern Pennsylvania Through Shale Gas Development,” looks at ways to soften the impact of a boom-and-bust scenario through economic strategies and community planning. The second, “An Analysis of the Economic Impact of Unconventional Shale Development in Washington County, Pennsylvania (2011-2013),” estimates the economic impact of drilling, production, gas gathering and processing activities in one of the most active areas of shale gas development.
“The initial blueprint [of CEPM] was designed to be a guidepost, and it still is,” Stares said. “One of its most valuable ideas was the creation of an Advisory Board of energy professionals, which provides advice and direction to the CEPM. With the support of the Advisory Board, we are increasingly included in important discussions about energy development and consumption in the region, such as the Energy to the Power of 32 initiative, which aims to create a regional energy plan…We are a player in that world, and are being seen as having the wherewithal to weigh in on these kinds of issues and help advance the public discussion and development of public policy.”
The program’s research projects are complemented by a growing Energy Lecture Series, which since 2012 has brought industry experts and field research professionals from energy companies, universities and government offices to W&J’s campus. The lectures are always free and open to the public, and the new series, The Grid Academy, which will be presented in partnership with the National Academy of Science’s Science Ambassador Program, begins on Sept. 10, 2015.
In 2014, CEPM also held its first research competition, which challenged W&J students to highlight issues of energy, natural resources, the environment or sustainability through research papers and poster projects. W&J alumnus Jonathan Stehle ’04, served as a judge for the competition along with several other W&J alumni, and said the College has done a wonderful job highlighting and engaging in one of the area’s most current events.
“[CEPM] is engaging the public in a real-time issue and that’s one of the values a smaller institution like W&J can bring to the table,” said Stehle, who serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association for Budget and Program Analysis, a non-profit organization designed to help federal, state, and local government managers and analysts, corporate executives, and academic specialists meet the unique challenges of their careers. “As this question about new energy resources and all that surrounds it – the good and the bad – becomes a growing conversation topic, W&J has a way of focusing the students on it, and that’s important. They’re going to be the next generation of leaders from the local level on up.”
CEPM is also planning to expand its internship and research opportunities for students, which, in addition to the research competition, includes an internship with the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs (JHCGA) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, an Energy Policy Fellowship in the CEPM program, and to create more collaborative relationships with alumni engaged in the energy and energy-related fields.
Stehle said CEPM’s research approach and specific programs like the research competition serve a dual purpose: providing research and analytical skills necessary in this and related industries, and keeping them connected with alumni in those fields.
“Thinking about your research is important. There needs to be a lot to back that up, but at the end of the day you often have a very short window of time to make your point. That’s a hard skill to learn,” he said. “Analytical ability and concise communication are skills in demand, and those are things the research competition was designed to highlight. If you drive just a few miles outside of W&J, you’re in a locale where there’s a million-dollar industry and there needs to be discussion around it. That’s a tricky discussion to have, but our students can do it.”
In the next year, CEPM’s projects will expand to include the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub, a resource center already underway that will serve as an information center of objective, credible sources of information about the shale gas industry and will incorporate independent research from CEPM’s staff and W&J faculty members. The project is funded by a grant from the RK Mellon Foundation, and CEPM has two partnerships in the venture: The Local Government Academy, and the Environmental Law Institute.
Work on the Energy Index, a public research tool designed by W&J professors Robert Dunn, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics and business, and Leslie Dunn, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and business, will also continue throughout the year, with plans to expand the project.
CEPM’s staff has also expanded: Corey Young ’11 is the Program Coordinator for the Shale Gas Knowledge Hub, and James Graluka is CEPM’s Web Application Developer.
“So often it’s the vision that guides you, and its having that vision and understanding of where you ultimately want to be that’s so important,” Stares said. “We’ve got it, and we’re moving forward on all fronts.”
About the Center for Energy Policy and Management
The Center for Energy Policy and Management (CEPM) of Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) is dedicated to fostering the development of a national energy policy that minimizes environmental and public health impacts and promotes economic growth. CEPM’s programming brings together scientists, industry leaders, elected officials, advocates and citizens to engage with policy related to the country’s full array of energy sources, while ensuring that these conversations take place in a spirit of mutual respect and concern for the common good. For more information, see the Center for Energy Policy and Management on the W&J College website.
About Washington & Jefferson College
Washington & Jefferson College, located in Washington, Pa., is a selective liberal arts college founded in 1781. Committed to providing each of its students with the highest-quality undergraduate education available, W&J offers a traditional arts and sciences curriculum emphasizing interdisciplinary study and independent study work. For more information about W&J, visit www.washjeff.edu, or call 888-W-AND-JAY.
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