Clean Air Carolina’s 2019 Interns Look Back on Busy Summer

Aug 22, 2019

by Robert Wear, Emma Frantz, and Kelby Welsh

As the summer draws to a close, so are the summer internships of Rob, Emma, and Kelby, though we are excited to announce that Kelby will be staying on at Clean Air Carolina as a fall intern!

Here are some of the highlights of what Rob, Emma, and Kelby have been working on the past few months:

Robert Wear

Working with Clean Air Carolina this summer was an educational and eye-opening experience. I got to see how much policy can drive change, and all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into that. I am grateful that I had this opportunity, and it has encouraged me to continue pushing for progress.

Over the past few months I worked on a number of projects. I helped develop environmental justice reports for all 100 counties in the state, and wrote an executive summary adapting a Maryland Clean Jobs Initiative to North Carolina that we can present to a sitting senator. I also attended several larger events, such as the Climate and Transportation Summit hosted by the Southern Environmental Law Center, two public hearings, a DEQ Interagency Council Executive Order 80 update, and two MAHA luncheons. I  met numerous allies and partners at these events, and learned a great deal about environmental advocacy and policy making.

One of the best experiences I had was attending and speaking at a public hearing hosted by DEQ regarding the potential expansion of Enviva’s wood pellet operation in Sampson County. Approximately 200 people attended this meeting, with over 70 speakers representing both sides of the issue. I made comments about the detrimental environmental and health  impacts the wood pellet industry is causing through its devastation of natural forests throughout the state and the emissions it releases into the air at each step of the process. It was very interesting to hear the range of arguments presented and to get a sense of the challenge involved in slowing down this devastating industry.

Participating in these debates from the front lines of environmental advocacy has given me a greater understanding of how important this work is, and the role of this coalition and others like it. This summer has motivated me to continue my legal education with a strong focus on the environment so that I can maximize my impact on this issue.

 

Emma Frantz

Working as an Environmental Health Associate this summer gave me the opportunity to both develop materials and conduct trainings that help medical residents learn how climate change and poor air quality can impact patient health. I updated a comprehensive training module that is given to residents in Durham and Charlotte, conducting research on the most up-to-date data on the relationship between health and the environment. I was able to work directly with residents by leading a presentation of the updated module. The residents were so grateful to learn about strategies to discuss these health impacts with patients and how they could use their medical expertise to advocate for cleaner air policies.

My internship gave me practical experience in real-world policymaking and environmental advocacy. I wrote and submitted public comments on DEQ’s proposed ambient air level standards for methyl bromide. During this process I collaborated with Clean Air Carolina’s medical partners to learn about the health risks of overexposure to methyl bromide. I also attended public hearings on the proposed rule when our policy manager, Daniel, and some of my fellow interns presented Clean Air Carolina’s comments to a DEQ panel.

This summer was a wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from the people who are working to improve environmental health. Robert, Kelby, and I toured the EPA campus in Research Triangle Park, home to the agency’s center for air quality research. We learned about innovations in sustainable building practices the EPA is developing, and explored laboratories to see cutting edge air quality research in action. I also attended several conferences, including the Charlotte Sustainability Summit, SELC’s Transportation and Climate conference, and the Sustainable Fleet & Technology Conference and Expo.

The experiences I have had this summer were all incredibly informative, and they gave me the chance to meet and network with many of the people working in this field. I am so thankful to Clean Air Carolina for this opportunity, and look forward to applying what I’ve learned over the past few months to my future endeavors.

 

Kelby Welsh

This summer has flown by! Over the past few months I have gotten to know, and grown to love, the organization and the wonderful people behind it. Clean Air Carolina is structured into very unique programs that allow each employee to take ownership of their work while also collaborating with the team, highlighting the intersectionality of key environmental issues.

As an environmental policy intern, I spent part of my summer tracking air quality legislation in the General Assembly and the work of state and federal environmental agencies. I worked with Robert and Daniel to develop model legislation that will help North Carolina improve air quality, mitigate climate change, and strive for environmental justice. I researched and gathered data for environmental justice reports for all 100 counties in the state, and redesigned a 100% renewable resolution toolkit to help local governments transition to a sustainable future. I was also actively engaged in Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 effort through phone calls and interagency meetings.

This summer I learned how wood pellet manufacturing, methyl bromide fumigation, and highway construction can negatively affect our ambient air quality, and had the opportunity to work with allies and partners to reduce these sources of emissions. I wrote and delivered public comments at DEQ meetings, and attended several conferences and webinars on behalf of Clean Air Carolina.

My experiences this summer have deepened my understanding of environmental policy, and have helped me gain relevant skills and develop a network of peers and mentors in this field. They have also motivated me to continue working and advocating for progress. While my summer Stanback internship is sadly coming to an end, I am excited to continue my work with Clean Air Carolina into my senior year as a fall intern!

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