Career Story: Environmental Protection Engineer At A State Agency

Environmental Protection Engineer At A State Agency

Job Title: Engineer

Type of Company: A state environmental protection agency.

Education: BS, Engineering, SUNY-Buffalo

Previous Experience: I started in my current position right out of college.

Job Tasks: I am one of several people who's working on the implementation plans for attaining the National Ambient Air Quality Standards as prescribed under the Clean Air Act. I develop emission inventories in support of these plans and write state regulations to obtain the emission reductions required under the plans.

There are two primary plans, one for ozone and one for fine particulate matter. Each makes use of the same annual inventory, but regulations for criteria pollutants that contribute to the states current non-attainment status are not necessarily the same. For example, regulating the VOC (or volatile organic compound) content in paints is great for helping with the ozone problem, while reducing the sulfur content in diesel fuels helps with the fine particulate issue.

Every five years EPA is required to review its standards and issue revised ones that protect the public health. Their latest standards affect large areas of New York for ozone and the New York City metropolitan area for fine particulate matter. EPA is in the process of designating areas in the state as "non-attainment" under the new standards.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: the best part of my job is helping protect the health and welfare of the state's citizens. Through the development of state regulations, my division reduces the amount of pollution in the air which in turn makes the air healthier for all to breath.

The worst? Government civil service rules limit promotional opportunities. They also protect problem employees who do not contribute or carry their weight.

Job Tips: Work hard in school with an emphasis on environmental engineering. I recommend engineering because that is the primary position available in my department. The department has geologists and environmental technicians, but the primary responsibility falls to the engineering staff.

Additional Thoughts: How political air pollution is as it travels across state lines! It is amazing how two states can blame one another for the other's air pollution problems and how political any fair settlement can become.

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