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Monday surprise: Jeffrey Warren named research director of NC Policy Collaboratory

Jeffrey Warren, former science adviser to Sen. Phil Berger, is now the research director of the NC Policy Collaboratory. (Photo: LinkedIn)

Jeffrey Warren finally got the job he wanted. After a national search, the soon-to-be former science adviser to Sen. Phil Berger, Warren has been named the research director of the NC Policy Collaboratory, a environmental think tank at UNC Chapel Hill. Warren will report to Brad Ives, the director of the Collaboratory, who also serves as the university’s chief sustainability officer and associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises.

Warren’s salary is $175,000 a year.

According to a press release issued today, Warren will “develop requests for proposals for research, as approved by the faculty-led collaboratory Advisory Board, supporting natural resource management issues within North Carolina. He will also support and monitor research on collaboratory projects; work with researchers to prepare reports for the General Assembly; and support other operational needs of the collaboratory.”

The collaboratory was a controversial creature of the General Assembly. Late in last year’s session, lawmakers appropriated $1 million for the project without any academic input. Behind the scenes, Warren was responsible for many pieces of deleterious environmental legislation, such as curbing local government power in regulating fracking, restricting the way scientists measure sea level rise. Academics and environmental advocates were apprehensive that, given Warren’s reputation, the collaboratory would become another instrument of obstruction.

“I can’t think of an individual whose had more of an impact on the environment in a negative way than Jeffrey Warren,” State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a six-term Democratic lawmaker from Guilford County, told NCPW last summer.

And as Berger’s right-hand man, Warren also had power to carve out a line item for the think tank and to potentially create the top job for himself. But that didn’t come to pass when Brad Ives, a former assistant secretary at DEQ, was hired as director last fall. An advisory panel of scientists also helps advise Ives on potential projects seeking funding.

Since then, the collaboratory has undertaken important work, including a study of pollution sources in Jordan Lake. How that academic pursuit will square with Warren’s history of advocating for a delay in the Jordan Lake rules remains to be seen.

The next meeting of the collaboratory is Tuesday, March 14, from 10 a.m. to noon in Room 311A of the South Building at UNC Chapel Hill.

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