Sylas Horowitz | 2022 | Interns

Sylas Horowitz

Sylas Horowitz (’23)

Dix Hills, NY

Rich and Kathleen Levin Intern

Mechanical Engineering Major

Environmental Protection Agency

I interned at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE) which is under the Office of Policy. NCEE uses principles of applied economics to analyze environmental issues. This includes data driven statistical analysis to establish causal relationships between pollution and health outcomes in communities, determining the social cost of carbon, and how water utility and monitoring practices affect water quality. With the new executive order 12898 on environmental justice (EJ), the EPA has been working to incorporate EJ into their work. NCEE has been interfacing with the Office of Water, Office of Air and Radiation, and Office of Environmental Justice (which does community engagement) to understand how air and water pollutants disproportionately impact communities across the US. I have been able to sit in on air, water, and EJ meetings. Working at the EPA has been incredibly enlightening in giving me an inside scoop on how the interconnected systems work that drive our relationship with the environment.

NCEE wants to create a publicly available report on the state of EJ across the US. Understanding available data on air, water, and land pollution is crucial to painting this picture. For my summer project, I collated documentation on all available air and water datasets I could find. I identified the spatiotemporal scale and resolution of these datasets so we can understand where there are holes in data that would help us understand EJ trends over time and where there may be monitoring/reporting biases. I also conducted a literature review on EJ issues, monitoring and modelling techniques, and health outcomes for air and water pollutants. I focused a case study on pollutants related to oil & gas infrastructure from flaring and fugitive emissions, which disproportionately impacts BIPOC and low-income populations. I found that drinking water quality data is very limited. I researched issues of violations to tribal sovereignty over their water rights due to fracking and mining operations in the Sioux and Greater Chaco regions, compiling information from literature on the extent to which indigenous people are exposed to contaminants and what systemic issues in legal and regulatory procedures (i.e. NEPA permitting decisions) have caused great injustice to tribes' environmental sovereignty in the US. At the end of the summer, I presented my work to my colleagues at NCEE. I received amazing mentorship from my supervisor and really enjoyed the flexible, research-focused, close-knit culture of the NCEE office!