North Central College - Naperville, IL

Schafer influences policy through “green” legislators

From a one-man office in Washington, D.C., Adam Schafer ’96 has the potential to affect water quality of the Great Lakes, greenhouse gas emissions in New England and climate change in the West.

Schafer helps shape policy in state legislatures across the country as executive director of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL). About 700 state legislators from 50 states are members of the nonpartisan caucus—roughly 10 percent of all state legislators—and they rely on Schafer for strategies and information so they can propose and pass environmentally beneficial legislation. He receives some help from consultants, but takes primary responsibility for grant-writing, member recruitment, research, education and organizing meetings. In the past five months, he’s traveled to 16 states.

“The goal is to provide updates on forthcoming policies at the state and federal levels and propose ideas for legislation,” say Schafer. “These legislators want to be up-to-date and proactive on ‘green’ issues but most do not have enough staff to assist them.”

One major project that Schafer worked on was the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Water Resources Compact, designed to protect these important bodies of water. To implement the compact, all eight bordering states had to pass identical legislation without changes or amendments. It was signed into law during 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions. “This required NCEL educating and updating our legislators in these states and asking them to take the lead in ratifying it without changes,” says Schafer.

Now Schafer’s priorities include initiatives in New England and western states related to capping emissions of greenhouse gases and addressing climate change. He recently held a meeting in Portland, OR, for members of the Western Climate Initiative.

While at North Central, Schafer majored in political science and sociology, and recalls the important influences of David Frolick, professor of political science emeritus, and two former sociology professors, Doug Timmer and Kathryn Talley, who “shaped my worldview.” Other important experiences were participating in Model UN and spending a semester in Washington, D.C. After graduation, Schafer returned to his home state of Montana and worked on state legislative campaigns. By 2000, he was running the state legislative campaign committee for the Democratic Party in Montana. In 2001, his connections to Washington, D.C., resulted in learning about the caucus, which was in need of a part-time director. The position soon became full time and along the way, Schafer has become passionate about the environment, an interest he never realized would become so important to his career and life.

“After years of dealing with these issues, now it’s clear to me that the way we produce and use energy is crucial to our future.”

North Central NOW Spring 2009