Summer 2012 Update

Frontier Group added new information and perspectives this summer to debates on issues ranging from global warming to health care to land conservation, capturing the attention of decision-makers and the media and forwarding efforts to address these critical issues in ways that advance the public interest.

Frontier Group added new information and perspectives this summer to debates on issues ranging from global warming to health care to land conservation, capturing the attention of decision-makers and the media and forwarding efforts to address these critical issues in ways that advance the public interest.

Tracking Extreme Precipitation and Global Warming

Frontier Group partnered with Environment America Research & Policy Center to document the increasing frequency of heavy rain and snowfall events in When It Rains, It Pours. The report – an update of an analysis we produced five years ago – discussed the links between a warming planet and increases in extreme precipitation that threaten communities and the environment, earning coverage from CBS and other media outlets.

  • Key fact: Extreme downpours are now happening 30 percent more often on average across the contiguous United States than in 1948.[1]

Comparing Health Care Costs in California

Tapping a California state database on hospital charges, Frontier Group worked with CALPIRG Education Fund to produce Your Price May Vary – a report revealing massive variations in the prices charged for common surgeries across regions of the Golden State. The report drew attention to the continuing challenge of containing health care costs, earning coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times.

  • Key fact: Hospitals in California’s highest-priced hospital region charge 2.7 times as much for surgery as do hospitals in the lowest-priced region.[2]

Setting a New Course for Conservation in North Carolina

Frontier Group researchers assisted Land for Tomorrow – a coalition of North Carolina land conservation groups – in producing a five-year conservation needs assessment for the state. Securing North Carolina’s Future used GIS analysis of conservation data from state government and non-profit groups to track the decline in land preservation activity in the state in recent years, and called for revitalizing the state’s land protection efforts.

  • Key fact: Between 2005 and 2008, an average of 75,160 acres of land were protected in North Carolina per year. Between 2009 and 2011, an average of only 29,582 acres of land per year were protected.

Identifying Solar Leaders in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ Solar Leaders, produced with Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, compared cities and towns based on their adoption of solar power – helping to create a competitive “race to the top” for solar prominence among the state’s municipalities. The report was based on a similar Frontier Group report on solar adoption in California – an example of how Frontier Group research ideas are often adapted for use in multiple states and in multiple policy contexts.

  • Key fact: Since 2007, solar energy in Massachusetts has grown 30-fold – from less than 4 megawatts of solar panels to more than 110.[3]

Other Highlights

Solar Works for Oregon (released with Environment Oregon Research & Policy Center) identified Oregon’s vast potential for solar energy and proposed an ambitious pathway for turning that potential into reality … Shining a Light on the Arizona Commerce Authority (produced with Arizona PIRG Education Fund) examined the practices of Arizona’s new quasi-public economic development agency and challenged the Arizona Commerce Authority to improve the transparency of its decision-making … Charging Forward (produced with Environment America Research & Policy Center) spotlighted the role electric vehicles can play in meeting the nation’s environmental and energy challenges … Frontier Group has continued to take part in the media and policy discussions initiated by our April report, Transportation and the New Generation, which documented the trend away from driving by young Americans. The report was recently highlighted in stories in Motor Trend magazine, on the Reutersnews service, and in Canada’s MacLean’s magazine. The report’s co-author, Tony Dutzik, will be traveling to Washington, D.C., and Paris this fall to share the report’s findings and implications with national and international transportation experts.

Looking Forward . . .

Frontier Group reports this fall will highlight the many environmental and public health costs imposed by “fracking” for fossil fuels and explore policy tools that states can use to ensure that oil and gas companies – not taxpayers – are held accountable for paying those costs … Other reports will review state-level policy options for promoting the development of sustainable food systems; address the costs of offshore tax havens and propose solutions for holding recipients of business tax breaks accountable; and highlight companies that are adopting “green chemistry” practices that reduce the use of toxic chemicals.

We also welcome two new staff – recent college graduates Tom Van Heeke and Judee Burr – to the Frontier Group team and say a fond farewell to Rob Kerth, who is pursuing social change work in a different vein.

Thanks for your continued interest and support.
Susan Rakov, Director
Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst
Travis Madsen, Elizabeth Ridlington, Ben Davis, Jordan Schneider, Policy Analysts
Tom Van Heeke and Judee Burr, Policy Associates


[1] We defined extreme events as those expected to occur no more than once per year on average at a particular location based on the historical record. In other words, we identified the 64 events at each weather station with the largest 24-hour precipitation totals across the 64-year time period of the study.

[2] Based on an analysis of data about charges by hospitals for some of the most common, planned, inpatient procedures from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning & Development, 2010 Public Patient Discharge Data.

[3] Calculated from information on solar PV systems that were registered as in service in the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Production Tracking System as of May 24, 2012.


Tony Dutzik

Associate Director and Senior Policy Analyst, Frontier Group

Tony Dutzik is associate director and senior policy analyst with Frontier Group. His research and ideas on climate, energy and transportation policy have helped shape public policy debates across the U.S., and have earned coverage in media outlets from the New York Times to National Public Radio. A former journalist, Tony lives and works in Boston.