Overall Rating Silver - expired
Overall Score 56.75
Liaison Enid Cardinal
Submission Date July 29, 2013
Executive Letter Download

STARS v1.2

Rochester Institute of Technology
PAE-24: Sustainability Policy Advocacy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Enid Cardinal
Senior Sustainability Advisor to the President
Office of the President
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Has the institution advocated for federal, state, and/or local public policies that support campus sustainability or that otherwise advance sustainability?:

A brief description of how the institution engages in public policy advocacy for sustainability, including the issues, bills, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated:

Independent College and University Eligibility for New York Power Authority Programs
The New York Power Authority (NYPA) has a program called “College & University Programs” that provides financing for demonstration and other capital projects that help to conserve energy and benefit the environment. After some initial discussions with NYPA about some projects at RIT that could fit with the goals of that program, it was brought to our attention that the agency did not have the legislative authority to enter into such projects with independent colleges and universities. They were only able to do so with the State and City universities. We identified the relevant authorizing legislation so that we could pursue a change that would enable independent colleges and universities to work with NYPA and to have access to these financing opportunities. We secured a sponsor in the Senate and Assembly and legislation was introduced with amended language. We also talked with agency officials to make sure that they would be supportive of the change and would respond affirmatively if asked by legislators or staff whether the legislation should go forward. The agency was very supportive. We also engaged the support of the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities and its member institutions. At one point in the process, we learned that part of the proposed language was objectionable to one house. Rather than sacrifice the entire bill by not amending it to meet that objection, we agreed to remove that language so that we could achieve a partial victory now, and pursue the other part of the language later. An amended bill was introduced, passed and signed by the Governor in 2011. We made our case based on three key points: (1) the inherent inequity in providing these opportunities for the public higher education sector and not the independent sector; (2) the benefits that would accrue to the State by enabling these institutions to reduce energy usage and implement other efficiencies that were beneficial to the environment in the State; and (3) the fact that independent institutions would also be able to leverage significant private sector dollars for such projects.

Increasing Awareness of RIT’s Remote Sensing Expertise to Address Federal and State Issues
RIT’s Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing group has significant expertise in applying remote sensing technology to critical state challenges and issues. The Information Products Laboratory for Emergency Response (IPLER) works with all levels of government to bridge the knowledge gap between users in the field and technologists. We have worked with this group to introduce them to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the federal Department of Homeland Security among others. Some of the critical challenges that this technology applies to are disaster assessment, pollution monitoring, wildfire detection, and border protection among others. In the fall of 2011, this group was tasked by New York State to map the flood damage in the Southern Tier region caused by Hurricanes Irene and Lee. The speed and accuracy of the information provided was indispensable to first responders and emergency management personnel. Similar work was done with New York State in 2010 to assess damage in the Schoharie Creek area. We have also submitted an unsolicited whitepaper to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation entitled “Study to Determine Effectiveness of Remote Sensing for Hydrofracking Pollution Monitoring”. The paper is based on the premise that airborne remote sensing technology has the potential to enable effective state-wide monitoring of waste products from hydrofracking operations.

New York State Pollution Prevention Institute
RIT is home to the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute (a partnership with the University at Buffalo, RPI and Clarkson University as well as the state’s network of Technology Development Organizations), funded by the NYS Department of Environmental Protection Fund through the State’s Environmental Protection Fund. While this program was awarded through a competitive process, we have had an ongoing advocacy effort to ensure that the program receives the level of funding required to achieve its mission, which is to make New York State more sustainable for workers, the public, the environment, and the economy through:
• reductions in toxic chemical use
• the efficient use of raw materials, energy and water
• reductions in emissions to the environment and waste generation
The Institute provides direct assistance to companies to enable them to reduce their environmental footprint, funds research projects that address broader environmental challenges, provides professional training and development and funds a community grants program for non-profit organizations that raise awareness and impact pollution prevention at the local community level. Examples of this work include a partnership with the Audubon Green Leaf Eco-Rating to assist lodging properties in reducing their environmental footprint and a demonstration project with a group of NYS dry cleaners to reduce the use of toxic perchloroethylene in the industry. The Institute was recently awarded additional funding for a new Green Initiative program that will propel nascent green technologies and products to the next step in commercialization and provide expertise in developing more sustainable manufacturing supply chains. NYSP2I also sponsors a student competition entitled “Greening Your Campus” for teams of university students to develop projects and/or products to promote sustainability on their campuses.

Our advocacy efforts in support of this program include building alliances with organizations such as the New York State Business Council and other environmental advocacy groups and companies. What makes this advocacy effort unique is that it is able to bring together a group of organizations that are not traditionally aligned, but with a mutual focus on the objective that sustainability is good for business.
The Institute has also received funding from the Environmental Protection Agency for several projects. The most recent award was through the highly competitive Jobs Accelerator Challenge for a project to work with the region’s food industry cluster to assist the industry in implementing economic and environmentally friendly technologies such as the development and use of bio-based fuels including ethanol and biodiesel.

The website URL where information about the institution’s advocacy efforts are available:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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