Week 1 - Washington DC, Dept of the Environment

Started my first week of internship in the Office of Policy and Sustainability within the District of Columbia’s Department of the Environment, DDOE, and it has been a very fine week

This office was charged with writing and spearheading the implementation of the city’s sustainability plan. The plan, ‘Sustainable DC’, was published in February to much acclaim for its bold ambition. And, although they are a small staff they share a building with the other several hundred DDOE staff who serve all the functions of a state dept of environment in meeting federal regulations.  All staff seem to cooperate and interact across disciplines.

My focus is on policies and regulations that can effectively drive and support sustainability throughout a community, with a particular regard for the measures by which these changes can be accounted for.

Attended a mtg last week with the Chief of Staff, legislative liaison to the Mayor’s office, and the two lead policy analysts of the writing team to define what my exact contributions would be. Attended another weekly planning meeting with same two policy analysts and Office of Planning (another dept and one typically called Community Development) liaison. Purpose of this meeting was to review and update the status and action steps of the Governance Element of the DC Plan, the part of the plan designed to make the plan a reality.

So far, I have assumed responsibility for reviewing and rewriting two portions of existing acts. One is a portion of the Renewable Energy Portfolio that designates Biomass as a Tier 1 renewable; eligible for the maximum in purchasable RECs (the city does not currently produce any of its own power, having closed their only coal burning plant some years ago). There is concern about this allowing the inclusion of inefficient burning of black liquor from paper mills. The question is whether to delete it or specifically qualify that it may only include use of such if from a high efficiency gasification process.  The other legislative project is to write a section allowing beekeeping within the city.

Next larger ongoing project is working on accountability measures within the DC Plan to align them with those of the STAR Community Index, a matrix of measurables developed through the international organization of local governments for sustainability or ICLEI.

DC is definitely a city on the move with very progressive plans coordinated from several different depts. and numerous agencies all working towards sustainability. It is amazing how many people regularly walk, bike, ride buses and take the metro. They have 110 bike share stations throughout the city and all are heavily used. Zip Car and Car-to-go meet the occasional needs for automobiles.

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