Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Center for Brownfield Studies - Smoke and Mirrors?

According to the 9/15/02 O-D a "regional state-of-the-art brownfields training and research center ultimately destined for Utica's Harbor Point has close to 100 students ... 'We're making progress. It's becoming a reality,' said State Sen. Raymond Meier."

However, a visit to the websites of the five involved institutions reveals very little on this "center." The Utica area institutions MVCC and HCCC don't even mention the brownfields program, and SUNY Tech only mentions its participation and posts what appears to be an 11/01 press release. You have to visit Morrisville and the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University before you can pull up course descriptions that are supposedly linked to the center.

Reading over the course list, there does not appear to be much conscious effort to design a curriculum that would give one a sound academic background to deal with brownfields problems. One gets the impression that someone merely went through existing course offerings at the institutions, picked those that appeared relevant to brownfields remediation, and stuck them in a brochure. There doesn't appear to be anyone in charge of the program (no "center"), since 6 contact persons (one at each institution and one at Niagara Mohawk) are mentioned in the only documentation that could be found.

Are the 100 students mentioned in the OD article consciously working toward a concentration in brownfields related courses (the implication), or did they merely happen to pick those courses?

According to the article, a Niagara Mohawk official said the center is submitting a grant proposal to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency for money to inventory and prioritize brownfield sites state-wide. That is interesting because the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has ALREADY inventoried all of the state's contaminated sites and prioritized them for cleanup.

Like the "Emperor's New Clothes," the reality of the Center appears to be that it doesn't actually exist. Utica is given the impression that it is getting an educational institution (without really getting one). NI-MO looks like it is helping the environment (while Harbor Point is still contaminated DECADES after the problem is known). And the State University has an excuse to apply for Federal Grants (to duplicate work already done).

Smoke and Mirrors! The only beneficiaries of this "Center" appear to be the politicians and NiMo who can claim they are doing something, and the insiders who can apply for grants. The local taxpayers are left with what they've always had .. nothing.


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