Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 66.33
Liaison Sarah Tulga
Submission Date March 6, 2020

STARS v2.2

Northwestern University
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Sarah Tulga
Sustainability Program Coordinator
Facilities
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the municipal/local level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the municipal/local level:

Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic houses more than 20 clinics within 13 centers, the Bluhm Legal Clinic is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive and effective clinical programs in the country. Through Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's clinical program, students gain direct experience representing clients and fine-tune their skills as advocates. Students also work with clinical faculty and staff to challenge the fairness of our legal institutions and to propose solutions for reform. These centers have the full support of Northwestern’s top administrators.

The Environmental Advocacy Center represents the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke—a coalition of local community residents and non-profit organizations of the Southeast side of Chicago. Along with partner not-for-profit organizations, the EAC successfully advocated for a Chicago ban on new storage facilities for petroleum coke (“petcoke”) and removal of all existing outdoor petcoke storage piles.

Petcoke is a black, oily dust that is a byproduct of the oil refining process. When the EAC first got involved in this fight, companies were storing uncovered piles of petcoke as high as 60 feet in southside residential neighborhoods, even directly across the street from peoples’ homes. The most immediate concern about petcoke is the danger to residents’ health. Particles from petcoke dust’ pass though peoples’ throats and noses and into their lungs, causing acute and chronic respiratory and cardiovascular illness or distress. The petcoke problem has also caused property damage and impacted residents’ ability to enjoy living in and using the outside of their homes. Petcoke dust has blown onto neighboring properties on a regular basis, ruining picnics and requiring daily cleanup of outside and inside surfaces.

EAC students, working under the guidance of the EAC lawyers, have advocated tirelessly at all levels of government and employed a variety of strategies to push for action including planning for and participation in meetings with the City of Chicago and drafting comments presented during the Chicago Department of Public Health’s rulemaking concerning petcoke storage in Chicago. Students also participated alongside community members in press conferences and protests and drafted press releases to support media strategies.

Currently, only one petcoke facility remains in Southeast Chicago, and it will no longer be permitted to store petcoke outside. The Coalition remains concerned that the facility’s operation as a direct-transfer facility—where petcoke will arrive in rail cars and be transferred through a closed conveyer to open barges—may still lead to the harmful release of petcoke dust. The EAC continues to represent the Coalition on these concerns. The fight against petcoke is also part of the larger effort to promote a healthier community for residents of southeast Chicago, who have been overburdened by the harmful, polluting effects of big industry for many decades. We continue to represent the Coalition in these broader efforts.


Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the state/provincial/regional level:

Northwestern’s Bluhm Legal Clinic houses more than 20 clinics within 13 centers, the Bluhm Legal Clinic is widely recognized as one of the most comprehensive and effective clinical programs in the country. Through Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's clinical program, students gain direct experience representing clients and fine-tune their skills as advocates. Students also work with clinical faculty and staff to challenge the fairness of our legal institutions and to propose solutions for reform. These centers have the full support of Northwestern’s top administrators.

The Environmental Advocacy Center (EAC) represents the Village of DePue, a town of 1,800, largely low-income and diverse residents, located in north central Illinois, which was left contaminated with dangerous heavy metals after decades of industrial operations—including a zinc smelter, fertilizer manufacturing operations, and lithopone paint manufacturing—ended in the 1980’s. DePue was named a Superfund site in 1999 - a designation that means DePue is one of the most contaminated and dangerous places for people and the environment in the United States.

EAC students have worked extensively to develop advocacy strategies to push enforcement agencies and the responsible companies to conduct an appropriate cleanup of the contamination at DePue. Students efforts have included information gathering and analysis, consultation with scientific experts within both the Northwestern University academic community and the outside scientific community and work with experts on preparing reports, preparation of numerous comments and advocacy pieces, and promotion of media coverage. With help of the Northwestern Chemistry Department faculty and students and Groundswell Educational Films, the EAC created an interactive website www.cleanupdepue.org, that enables users to click on specific locations on a map of DePue to determine what contaminants are present and the dangers the contaminants pose.

Growing out of its work at DePue, the EAC has advocated extensively to state and federal agencies for adoption of a more protective standard for clean up of lead in soils on residential properties and areas where children can be exposed to lead contamination at Superfund and other hazardous waste sites.

Protecting Productive Farm Land from Environmental Degradation
The EAC has also employed other advocacy tools to push the local governments in Illinois to undertake more thoughtful planning concerning sand mine development. With support from the clinic’s long-term Northwestern partner, the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN), the EAC convinced the LaSalle County Board to undertake a groundwater survey being performed by the United States Geological Survey to assess the availability of groundwater in the area where new mines have opened and additional mines are planned. The EAC expects the survey results to provide important information to LaSalle County and local towns as they consider future mines and also to be a model for other regions considering permitting of mining and other industries that use water intensively.


Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the national level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the national level:

Northwestern conducted annual formal advocacy through the Government Relations department for federal research funding accounts related to sustainability:

Northwestern engages with Congress, the Administration and federal agencies to advocate for federal research funding that has potential to address sustainability issues. Northwestern is an active member in the Energy Sciences Coalition and has signed onto 17 letters since 2017 in support of increasing the Department of Energy’s research portfolio which includes funding research to address the nation’s energy challenges.

Two ESC letters on support of ARPA-E which funds energy technology research, FY19 for example (April 2018 and August 2019)

https://energysciencescoalition.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/esc-arpa-e-support-of-reauthorization-act-of-2019-final.pdf

https://energysciencescoalition.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/esc_arpa_e_statement_fy19_final.pdf

Northwestern conducts solar fuels legislation advocacy:

Northwestern formally supported the DOE Research and Innovation Act [PL 115-246] in both the House and Senate (signed into law September 2018) and was instrumental in drafting legislative language related to a federal solar fuels research initiative.

The Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) leadership sent a formal letter of support for the Senate version of the DOE Research and Innovation Act (S. 2503). (February 2017)

Northwestern joined the Energy Sciences Coalition in supporting S. 2503 (May 2018)

https://energysciencescoalition.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/esc-statement-in-support-of-s.-2503.pdf

Northwestern conducted advocacy for DOE to support large-scale research grants in clean water and desalination and then advocacy for the DRINC proposal, which included Northwestern researchers:

January 2017: Accompanied Aaron Packman, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and representatives from Argonne National Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and Idaho National Lab, for congressional meetings to discuss federal funding for a DOE research efforts, including a Clean Water Hub.

October 2017: Hosted Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09) on campus in Evanston to meet with Northwestern leaders of the DRINC Consortium to discuss energy and water research.

March 2019: Accompanied faculty from the Northwestern Center for Water Research to meet with the Illinois congressional delegation to discuss the DOE water desalination hub and request a joint delegation letter of support for the Desalination Research & Innovation Consortium (DRINC) proposal.

April 2019: Secured a congressional letter of support from the Illinois congressional delegation for the DRINC research proposal, signed by Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, as well as Representatives Danny Davis, Rodney Davis, Bill Foster, Dan Lipinski, Bobby Rush, Jan Schakowsky, and Brad Schneider.

Northwestern participated and/or hosted in a variety of events and hearings on sustainability-related topics:

October 2016*: Hosted Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) as keynote speaker for the 2016 Climate Change Symposium on the energy-water-climate nexus.

March 2019: Hosted speakers Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Bill Foster (IL-11) on our downtown campus for the 2019 Science-Policy Confluence Conference: Understanding and Addressing Climate Change Impacts on the Great Lakes hosted by the Environmental Law & Policy Center and Northwestern Institute for Sustainability and Energy.

April 2019: Submitted hearing questions to Representative Dan Lipinski (IL-03) in advance of a hearing organized by the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee’s Research and Technology Subcommittee on “Emerging Technologies in Plastics Recycling” on recycling, microplastics, and the importance of interdisciplinary research teams to address this complex issue.

May 2019: Dr. Dan Horton was invited to give expert testimony at an in-district congressional discussion hosted by Representative Brad Schneider (IL-10) focusing on the national security implications of climate change.

July 2019: The Northwestern Center for Engineering Sustainability and Resilience (CESR) competed for and secured an NSF grant hosted an NSF-funded workshop on “Sustainable Urban Systems: Predictive, Interconnected, Resilient and Evolving” (SUSPIRE) which addressed natural and climate, technological, and societal disruptions that transform urban systems and brought together more than 100 Chicago and Great Lakes area community members and stakeholders from academia, industry, foundations, community organizations, government, technology and environmental organizations, and the arts and humanities to identify new research questions and methodologies to advance a sustainable urban systems research network that addresses not only science and engineering topics, but also social, behavioral, and economic considerations.

August 2019: Dr. Aaron Packman was invited to give expert testimony at an in-district roundtable hosted by the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Roundtable, focusing on: impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes region, including flooding, heat waves, changes to the Great Lakes themselves, and threats to public health.

September 2019: Hosted Representative Sean Casten (IL-06) on a visit to the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) where he toured ISEN’s new lab facilities, met with ISEN Executive Director Dr. Mike Wasielewski, and discussed solar renewables, microplastics and water quality, and energy usage required for quantum computing.


Does the institution advocate for public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability at the international level?:
Yes

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability at the international level:

Northwestern President’s statement to the Northwestern community on the Paris Climate Agreement (June 2017) https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2017/june/northwestern-backs-initiative-on-climate-change/


A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years (if applicable):
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A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):
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Website URL where information about the institution’s sustainability advocacy efforts is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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