Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.01
Liaison Patrick McKee
Submission Date March 6, 2020
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of Connecticut
EN-14: Participation in Public Policy

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Richard Miller
Director
Ofice of Environmental Policy
"---" 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, including the issues, legislation, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated:

From 2009 through March 2018, Office of Sustainability (OS) (then called Office of Environmental Policy (OEP)) Director, Rich Miller, served as a voting member of the Town of Mansfield's Sustainability Committee (MSC). In this capacity, Rich used his experience as UConn's sustainability officer to advise about, and advocate for, certain town policies, such as plans, ordinances and regulations pertaining to sustainability. For example, in 2016, Rich worked directly with town staff to recommend several faculty members for appointment to the town's Climate Change Task Force. These members comprise the bulk of the membership on the task force, which has since recommended various local carbon reduction and climate resilience measures to the MSC. In turn, the MSC moved many of these recommendations forward, through the Town Council and/or appropriate local committees of cognizance, such as the Planning & Zoning Commission or Board of Education, each of which is represented on the MSC (including the town's mayor).
Other local policies stemming from the MSC, where Director Miller was able to advise and influence more sustainable outcomes, include: incorporating sustainability factors into local school siting and/or consolidation and renovation decisions, energy efficiency measures at town facilities, and development of the town's overall "visioning" process, which had received a HUD grant for incorporating multiple sustainable development factors into many aspects of the town's 10-year Plan of Conservation & Development.

With significant input from the MSC and OS Director, Rich Miller, the "Mansfield Tomorrow" Plan of C&D covers town land use regulations and policies but also sets policies pertaining to many other town boards and commissions, and identifies a "focus on sustainability" as one of nine broad themes.
http://www.mansfieldct.gov/filestorage/1904/1932/2043/mansfield_tomorrow_pocd.pdf

Also, the University of Connecticut has a community-campus public policy committee, known as the Town/University Relations Committee (or Town/Gown) with a mission to facilitate collaboration between the University and larger Mansfield community. The committee is co-chaired by the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and the Mayor, respectively. Goals of the committee include facilitating open, ongoing discussions on community issues, and serving as an advisory group on town and university initiatives. Because, when UConn is in session, we literally double the population of the town, the Town/Gown Committee is the source of many local ordinances and regulations that pertain to the environment, as well as social and economic policies, in the town.

The Town/University Relations Committee promotes and sustains positive relations between the two entities. Through 2017, Jason Coite, the environmental compliance manager from UConn’s OEP), was one of the UConn representatives on the committee. Examples of projects and initiatives our representative has partaken in include the water supply connection project along a major corridor and the water conservation measures in place, construction of new sewers for Storrs Center and Mansfield Four Corners, which sewer lines connect to UConn's WWTF, and the creation of the major new road, Discovery Drive, that leads into campus. Although UConn projects are regulated by state agencies like DEEP, UConn strives to be consistent with any local rules and regulations when they are more stringent, thus working closely with the town council ensures a smooth operation. Additional information, including meeting minutes, can be found here: http://www.mansfieldct.gov/towngown


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, including the issues, legislation, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated:

During the Connecticut General Assembly’s legislative session, the Director of the Office of Environmental Policy, Rich Miller (sustainability officer), receives copies of all environmental and sustainable energy legislation being tracked by UConn’s Government Relations department, for his review and comment. As a former legislative attorney at the State Capitol (Deputy Counsel, House Majority Office) and former registered environmental and energy lobbyist for more than 10 years, Rich has drafted legislation and negotiated the provisions of numerous state regulations and policies.

At UConn, Director Miller has testified at the State Capitol on legislation and spoken with state agency (e.g., DEEP, DPH) legislative liaisons and other state agency staff responsible for drafting and advocating those legislative proposals. UConn advocated for stronger renewable energy requirements in the state's Renewable Portfolio Standards, which amounts to a state cap-and-trade law for greenhouse gas emissions. We have also advocated for full-funding of the CT Energy Efficiency Fund and other State incentives for energy efficiency projects. That kind of policy advocacy work at the legislature, and in coordination with members of CT’s congressional delegation is coordinated through UConn's Office of Government Relations.

We have also worked with DEEP and other state agencies on advocacy for state regulations pertaining to clean diesel, biodiesel, and high performance building regulations, and have encouraged state financial incentive programs for initiatives such as the procurement of electric vehicles. A number of UConn faculty, staff, technical, and scientific experts serve on state advisory committees for topics such as Climate Change Adaptation, Low Impact Development and Storm water Management, brownfield remediation, the Long Island Sound Study, Solid Waste Advisory Committee (where OEP Director Miller has been a speaker on sustainability topics) and air quality (State Implementation Plan Revision Advisory Committee). All of these advisory committees develop policy, typically through proposed regulations and guidance documents that advance environmental sustainability goals and standards.

Also, as a member of the former President's Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (PCCSR), the OS Director helped UConn exemplify and advocate for certain sustainability policies. Among other things, the PCCSR (dissolved in 2017) examined fair trade and "green" standards for various products, goods and services. The committee was more focused on social and economic sustainability issues and occasionally met or corresponded with representatives of major UConn vendors and/or the certifying agencies or NPOs (e.g., Rain Forest Alliance, Green Seal cleaning products) to discuss, compare, and suggest revisions to these kinds of standards, or changes to the products offered by the vendors (e.g., bottled water, RFA coffee).

During the 2018 legislative session, OS Director Rich Miller worked through UConn's government affairs department to advocate for the legislation that would enact the Governor's Comprehensive Energy Strategy. This included advocacy for extending the state's RPS law and requiring 40% class 1 renewable energy as part of the standard offer for all state energy providers by 2030. In addition to extending the virtual net metering program, this legislation would increase UConn's incentive for pursuing a utility-scale purchase power agreement for renewable energy via VNM into the foreseeable future.

Director Miller also helped UConn's government affairs office engage with technical experts/staff in the University's Energy Management and Landscape Architecture groups in order to promote LED retrofits as a significant GHG-reduction and energy efficiency measure. A legislative proposal would have needlessly restricted exterior LED retrofits.


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, including the issues, legislation, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated:

In February 2019, Susan Herbst, former President of the University of Connecticut, took an important step toward achieving an equitable, environmentally conscious future by signing UConn on to the Second Nature’s Call to Action and Guiding Principles for Accelerating Equitable and Just Climate Solutions. Read her statement on our website:
https://ecohusky.uconn.edu/tag/second-nature/

Susan Herbst, also formally joined presidents from more than 220 colleges and universities in signing a letter urging the current president of the United States and Congress to support the United Nations’ Paris Climate Agreement, ongoing climate research, and investment in a low-carbon economy. She stated on January 16th, 2017 in her “Welcome Back!” email to the UConn community:
“On Dec. 9, I joined presidents from more than 220 colleges and universities in signing a letter urging the president-elect and Congress to support the United Nations’ Paris Climate Agreement, ongoing climate research, and investment in a low-carbon economy. But it is not enough to merely advocate for change-we should also be the change we want to see.” Later she also committed UConn to join the We are Still In (WASI) Coalition which is the largest and most influential sub-national entity working to meet carbon reduction goals and participating in the UN's Climate Change policy-making process, including the annual COPs. UConn has been a leader among colleges and universities in advocating for climate action policies through the UConn@COP program, including OEP Director's role as an AASHE Board liaison to COP21, 22 and 23, the Climate Leadership Steering Committee to Second Nature, and through our organization of Colleges United for Climate Action and higher ed. networking events held at COP 21, 22 and 23.

Progressive states like Connecticut that have transitioned away from coal stood to gain both an environmental and an economic advantage through the enactment of the Clean Power Plan (CPP); therefore, our state and others joined the EPA in the legal defense of the CPP in 2016. OEP worked with UConn law school and Second Nature to strategize about an amicus brief but this became a moot point when President Trump and EPA withdrew support for the CPP in 2017.


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, including the issues, legislation, and ordinances for or against which the institution has advocated:

UConn has sent a cohort of dedicated students to represent the university at COP21 in Paris, France, COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, and COP23 in Bonn, Germany, COP24 in Katowice, Poland, and COP25 in Madrid, Spain. These students sat in on panel discussions and observed stakeholders engage in policy making, adjusting, and advocating for sustainability and ways to combat climate change. Susan Herbst, President of the University of Connecticut, as well as members of the Office of the Provost, held formal meetings with the contingents to both Climate Conferences to discuss ways to improve our university’s international relationships and global climate commitment. In 2019, UConn hired Tom Katsouleas to replace Susan Herbst as the President of our university. President Katsouleas has continued thepractice of meeting with UConn@COP Fellows to learn about their experience upon returning from their trip. Additionally, the Office of the Provost sent one of its Vice Provosts as a representative to the conference as part of the UConn@COP22 cohort. While in Bonn, at COP23, the contingent co-hosted the Colleges United for Climate Action networking event, at the We Are Still In Pavilion with AASHE, Tufts, and Second Nature. The UConn Office of Sustainability Director gave opening remarks at that event, which promotes conversation and collaboration among students, administrators, and other leaders on US climate action policies in the absence of leadership by the federal government (Trump Administration).

When students return from the UConn@COP trip, they must complete a one-credit independent study project with the intent of sharing or further developing their knowledge gained abroad.

The university also participates in the UI Green Metric World University Ranking and has been invited to speak at the University of Indonesia's annual conference about best practices and international policies for sustainability.


A brief description of other political positions the institution has taken during the previous three years (if applicable):

The Office of Government Relations promotes effective communication between representatives of the University of Connecticut and representatives of local, state, and federal government. During each session of the Connecticut General Assembly, the office develops the University's legislative agenda, actively supports any legislation of interest to the University and the Health Center and monitors development and passage of the University's operating and capital budgets. In addition, the office monitors federal legislation and serves as a liaison between members of the Connecticut Congressional delegation and University faculty and administrators.

Government Relations also emails copies of proposed bills on environmental, energy and other sustainability topics to the OS (Director Miller) for review and comment, and for further dissemination to the appropriate managers within UConn. Miller has advised Government Affairs about UConn policy positions on these topics and has testified for UConn at legislative hearings on several of these proposals.


A brief description of political donations the institution made during the previous three years (if applicable):

As a public university, we are unable to make political donations.


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
---

The OS director is a former legislative attorney, as well as a former environmental and energy lobbyist, so he understands how to read and interpret legislation and regulations, and how to prioritize issues and influence policy during the legislative and rulemaking processes. This is a strength that benefits UConn's sustainability policy advocacy efforts.

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.