Washington & Jefferson College Opens New Energy Center

by Duane Nichols on August 26, 2012

W & J College, Washington, PA

Michael Bradwell authored the following article in the daily Observer-Reporter of Washington, PA:

When Washington & Jefferson College’s Center for Energy Policy & Management officially opened in April with an agenda of policy issues through 2013, at the top of the list was something that was actually begun a year earlier on the campus. The CEPM began working with a group of parties interested in fostering the use of compressed natural gas as a vehicle fuel in Western Pennsylvania.

The idea was launched in May 2011 by W&J President Tori Haring-Smith, with the goal of evaluating the mechanics and economics of converting existing gasoline-powered vehicles and establishing a sufficient number of CNG fueling stations to support the vehicles.The initiative, which is ongoing in CEPM’s collaboration with Clean Cities Pittsburgh, Range Resources, Giant Eagle and others, seeks to encourage the use of natural gas vehicles, or NGVs, and create the region as a demonstration site.

While CEPM director Diana Stares credits Haring-Smith for the NGV initiative Stares became the first person to head the new center last October several months after the NGV initial meeting she is also moving ahead with several other projects designed to take a big-picture view of the many ways the natural gas industry is impacting the region’s economy, its workforce and the educational requirements posed by an endeavor that many in the industry say is just getting under way.

Prior to taking the helm of CEPM, Stares practiced as an environmental lawyer for 30 years with the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Pittsburgh office, where she ultimately supervised the work of staff attorneys responsible for counseling and representing all of the DEP’s professional staff in the region who administered environmental programs, including those involving water, air, waste, mining and oil and gas development.

The CEPM is collaborating with the Environmental Law Institute to research the social, economic and environmental ramifications of the boom and bust cycles associated with various industries in the United States, including the mining, timber, steel and automotive industries. The goal of the project is to identify strategies that communities can implement to avoid or minimize long-term harms and maximize long-term benefits of the economic growth associated with these industries without compromising the economic value of the industries.

The center has undertaken research of the economic impacts of the Marcellus Shale development on Washington County, which is currently experiencing unprecedented economic development and ranks third in the nation in employment growth. Dr. Yongsheng Wang, assistant professor of economics at W&J, is conducting the research along with several student research assistants.

The CEPM will evaluate offering certificate programs in areas such as energy economics, energy regulation and energy policy. These four-course certificate programs will be designed to serve professionals in the energy business and legal profession, as well as those seeking entry into these fields.

Periodic reports based on CEPM’s Energy Security Index, a one-of-a-kind logarithm that measures the energy security of the United States. Created by Dr. Leslie Dunn and her husband, Dr. Robert Dunn, both assistant professors of economics at W&J, the measurement tool is intended to provide the public with an unbiased barometer for measuring the progress of the United States toward energy independence and energy security.

Despite its name, Stares said CEPM won’t be writing policy so much as coordinating it through a number of ways that let the energy industry, regulatory agencies, others in business and the public sector and the public itself interact on energy-related issues.

 “We wouldn’t be developing the policy but working with corporations, politicians and others,” she said. “We would be a convening place” for groups to meet and discuss energy-related issues and their direction, she added. “The goal is to be as neutral as possible.”

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