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Q&A with Martin Heintzelman

– Originally published on Sustainable Prosperity


Martin D. Heintzelman is the Fulbright Visiting Chair at the University of Ottawa’s Institute of the Environment. He is on partial leave until April from his post as Associate Professor of Economics and Financial Studies and the Fredric C. Menz Scholar of Environmental Economics in the Clarkson University School of Business, as well as Director of the Clarkson University Center for Canadian Studies. He also serves on the executive committee of Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment. Martin has an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Economics and an M.S. in Natural Resource Policy and Behavior from the University of Michigan as well as a BS in Economics from Duke University.

Martin’s research focuses on the valuation of environmental amenities and disamenities, primarily using revealed preference methods. Topically, his work focuses on the property value impacts of water quality and ecosystem health, as well as on the impacts of wind turbines and other forms of energy infrastructure. He also studies land use and other local environmental policies, seeking to explain both their implementation and impacts.

Recently, Martin took the time to talk to SP about his post at the Institute of the Environment, his research, and connections to Canada.

SP: What does it mean to you to be named a Fulbright scholar?

MH: I am honored to have received a Fulbright, and thrilled to able to spend this time in Ottawa. As someone who works at the intersection of economics and the environment, and with a background in Canadian Studies, this scholarship truly brings all of my academic interests together in one package. I am excited to be able to focus on doing policy-relevant research on and in a country that I love.

SP: Fulbright is about a cultural exchange and reciprocal learning as much as research. What are you hoping to learn from your peers while here at uOttawa’s Institute of the Environment?

MH: I am really hoping to learn a lot about the environmental and energy policy environment here in Canada, as well as gain insight into the political process in this arena. In addition, coming from a rural University far from the policy centers of the United States, I am excited to be at Canada’s policymaking hub, and in an institution that is dedicated not just to theorizing about policy innovations, but working to get those innovations applied.

SP: Similarly, what do you think you can bring as a U.S. scholar to the work, debate, collegiality at the IE?

MH: I hope that I can bring a knowledge of and experience with U.S. policies at various scales (local, state, national) to broaden the discussion here at the Institute of the Environment. I have a focus on local policies and impacts which I think meshes nicely with many of the issues on which SP is focused.

SP: As Director of Clarkson’s Center for Canadian Studies, how does it feel to be in Ottawa at a time with such a massive shift in Canadian politics?

MH: It has certainly been an exciting time! I was, of course, following the election as best as I could, but it is a different feeling to be here just as the new PM and his cabinet are sworn in. This is likely to be an exciting time as the new government reconsiders many policies currently in place and considers new policies informed by scientific evidence. I was excited that one of the first moves was to reinstate the mandatory long-form census – this is an important step for social science research in Canada.

SP: Your research focuses on the valuation of environmental amenities and disamenities, using revealed preference methods. What will you be researching as a Fulbright Chair?

MH: I am really hoping to look at the intersection of energy infrastructure, local policies, and property values. In particular, I want to focus on how local policies influence the siting and expansion of energy facilities (pipelines, power plants, etc.) and how these facilities, and policies, impact property values. I am also looking to engage on issues related to local land use and urban redevelopment, which is something that has interested me since I was writing my Ph.D. dissertation.

SP: Clarkson’s Center for Canadian Studies looks at cross-border issues, what do you think Canada and the U.S. can learn from each other by looking at these issues?

MH: It is critical to understand that, for all of their differences, Canada and the United States are, perhaps, more similar than any other pair of countries in the world. As a result, there is a lot that we can learn from each other. We face many of the same challenges, and it is likely that some of the solutions will be the same too. It is also true that many policies and developments have important cross-border impacts. For instance, a wind energy facility built along the border is sure to impact citizens on each side. These are the kinds of impacts I am interested in examining.

SP: Is there a Canadian connection to your research?

MH: Absolutely. I am hoping to focus on the Canadian context for energy and land use development. Also, as a resident of a border region, just 20 or so miles south of the border, I am particularly interested in digging into the issues that span the border.

SP: Interesting. You’ve mentioned wind power earlier, could you give us an example of another cross-border issue you’ll be researching?

MH: I am interested in the public perception of pipelines and rail lines which are used for the transport of oil and natural gas. Of particular interest is how people value these facilities and any risks associated with them in the context of real estate, and how these values/perceptions change after accidents or spills. A related issue that has lots of local policy implications is fracking which has been banned in New York State despite some high potential shale deposits. There is also some potential for this kind of resource extraction in parts of Canada.

SP: What do you think you will find through your research? Is there a policy relevance to your work?

MH: Since my days working as a research assistant at Resources for the Future, I have tried, as much as possible, to focus on applied and policy-relevant work. The environmental (dis)amenities on which I will be trying to place a value have important implications for local communities faced with tough choices about energy and other forms of development. In turn, policies at higher levels can be designed to assist these local communities. One of my favorite talking points has become the divide between global environmental public goods and local public bads. That is to say that some of the most challenging environmental and resource issues we face pit the best interests of the globe against the best interests of local communities, and as a global society we need to figure out how to overcome local resistance to developments and policies that benefit society-at-large.

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