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Boise State Students Tops at National Environmental Challenge Competition

“Frac-Safe Consulting” and Boise State students Tim Burke, Kim Gallagher and Dinko Miljkovic.
“Frac-Safe Consulting” and Boise State students Tim Burke, Kim Gallagher and Dinko Miljkovic.

Boise State has done it again – this time on a national stage.

After taking first place at the regional Environmental Challenge Competition last November in Harrison Hot Springs, Canada, a team of Community and Environmental Health students traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to compete in the Air & Waste Management Association’s national Environmental Challenge Competition held June 19-21.

“Student success is our No. 1 priority and it is faculty and student dedication such as this that makes me proud to be a part of Boise State University,” said Dale Stephenson, incoming department chair. “This type of result, on a national stage, enhances Boise State’s ‘beyond the blue’ reputation and validates our commitment to provide students with real-world experiences that are of benefit as they embark on health and environmental careers post-graduation.”

Calling themselves “Frac-Safe Consulting,” the team of Tim Burke, Kim Gallagher and Dinko Miljkovic earned first-place honors for their technical and social solution to a mock, yet not unheard of, world environmental issue that involved the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also known as “fracking,” the technique is used to harvest fossil fuels from a geologic site in rural Texas called the Eagle Ford Shale Play.

At the heart of the issue were concerns raised by local citizen action groups demanding that all aspects of the proposed oil and gas operation be conducted in an environmentally sound and cost-effective manner in order to ensure protection of public health and welfare, while also ensuring that any land lease royalty payments and tax revenues flow to the community and the local school district to the maximum reasonable extent.

The deliverables for each competing team were a technical report and poster outlining solutions to the raised concerns, and an oral presentation delivered during a mock town hall meeting, with role-playing city commissioners serving as judges.

The Boise State team took home the $4,000 grand prize. The competition was stiff and included undergraduate and graduate teams representing Western Washington University’s Huxley College, Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada), Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, University of Central Florida and the University of Pennsylvania. The team was under the mentoring guidance of Community and Environmental Health faculty member Tom Turco, who traveled with the students and used his vast experience in environmental health to help them as they formulated a solution to the problem.